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5 Tips for Creating a Successful Service Catalogue

Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Service Desk
Self-Service A service catalogue offered as a self-service facility can bring a number of benefits to both the IT organization and their customers. For example, it can provide IT with an opportunity to streamline the interface between itself and end users. And in doing so, IT can potentially improve business user productivity and reduce costs. It sounds almost too good to be true. By providing end users with a go-to hub for “everything IT”, you can take the strain off the service desk and keep your IT customers happy by giving them another option. No more waiting in call queues. Now they can order services and get status updates at the click of a button. Do it right and you have an efficient digital interface for business users. Do it wrong and all you end up with is another piece of expensive shelfware. The truth is that many service catalogue projects fail to deliver the predicted benefits because they are handled as technology projects.

Start with Business Benefits

Thinking about what the business needs should be the starting point for any IT project – and a service catalogue is no exception. A service catalogue is an end-user tool, so it needs to work for end users. What IT people think it should look like doesn’t really matter. They don’t have to use it. Ultimately it’s about improving business user productivity by making it easier and faster for business people to source the technology they need to do their jobs better, not reducing IT costs by forcing them through an automated channel. A reduction in IT costs is a bi-product of a successful service catalogue, not the primary objective. In most cases, an IT service catalogue that is built purely to serve ITs' purposes is likely to become shelfware because business people simply won’t use it.

Involve Business People – It’s Their Service Catalogue

It is of the highest importance to engage the end user community from the start to give your service catalogue a better chance of success. After all, it’s their service catalogue. Getting the business involved might prolong the implementation timescale, but it’s better to take your time and do it right than end up with a tool that nobody will use. The first job for IT is to explain exactly what it is – in business language. The most important question to answer is “what’s in it for me?” – how will it benefit business people. If IT can communicate this well, business people will back the implementation and provide feedback which will guide the early stages of implementation. Questions you should think about:
  • Do they actually want a service catalogue?
  • Do they understand the value in it?
  • Can they envision using it instead of calling in to the service desk?
  • Is the end user community familiar with web portals and how they work?
For some organisations it just might not fit, so it’s best to get a handle on what uptake might be like as soon as possible. The user community should be involved throughout the process to ensure the end result is aligned with what they need – and what they can use. Think “are we building the right service catalogue” before “are we building the service catalogue right”.

Design for End-User Experience, Not IT Cost Reduction

Business people are focused on optimising their own productivity, so they’re always seeking the line of least resistance. If your service catalogue is easier and faster to use than calling in to the service desk, they’ll use it. If it’s not, they won’t. Usability is the number one factor for creating a service catalogue that business people want to use again and again. It has to be quick, intuitive and frictionless. Too often, IT people make assumptions about the technical skills of the users they support, so it’s important to validate a prototype of the tool using a user beta group before even thinking about launching it to the whole community. You only really have one shot at launching a service catalogue, so running some upfront prototyping is a good way to make sure it’s a viable end product. If it doesn’t do the job for your end users, they will revert to default behaviour – calling the service desk – and it becomes exponentially more difficult to “channel shift” them back over to your service catalogue. You have to take a truly customer-oriented approach, and remember that an alternative route to services is only a phone call or an email away, so the service catalogue needs to be the most efficient of a range of options.

Gamification Helps Drive Uptake, But Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Just like any other technology, “build it and they will come” is not a mantra you can rely on. People are creatures of habit and changing habits takes effort. People have to be motivated to try new things. Curiosity might get your service catalogue a first visit but usability keeps them coming back. If end users get the positive outcomes they’re looking for from it they are more likely to return, but old habits die hard. Gamification can add an extra level of motivation by rewarding end users with points every time they use the service catalogue instead of calling the service desk. However, this creates another challenge for IT – integrating game mechanics into the service catalogue to operate a reward system. Most organisations haven’t got to grips with gamification yet so launching a gamified service catalogue is often too much too soon. As part of your planning, you should devise a short and long-term strategy for optimising uptake of the system. Gamification is a proven strategy for driving long-term engagement, so you should consider it as an option for driving success in your service catalogue initiative.

A Service Catalogue Is a Service in Itself

A service catalogue needs to be treated like a service, not a technology project or an application. A technology project has an end point. An application needs only the occasional upgrade. Providing digital access to IT services and information is itself a service. It is a service that end users want. That’s not going to change, so once you have one, a service catalogue becomes a permanent fixture. As an ongoing service, your service catalogue will need to be monitored and managed as such. It should be managed for availability, capacity and performance, and it should be subject to continual service improvement, just the same as any other service. There is always room for improvement. It’s a good idea to set up a steering group (comprised of stakeholders from IT and the business), meeting regularly to discuss performance, changing business needs, and how things can be done better.

Conclusion

As ever, technology should be deployed with a clear business purpose behind it. Too often the IT department takes a technology-oriented approach and focuses on the “what” without considering the “who” and “why”. It’s also important to remember that deploying technology to end users is very different from deploying it amongst IT people. A service catalogue might be part of IT’s service management system, but it is a part that is exposed to end users – a very different community. IT needs to take an “outside-in” approach to the process – putting themselves in the end user’s shoes - to ensure a service catalogue is fit for purpose. Image credit
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SysAid 14.3 – It’s Your Voice that Matters

Posted by on July 14, 2014 in SysAid
SysAid 14.3 – It's Your Voice that Matters For me, one of the greatest things about introducing new features in new releases is the fact that they get even better - and it’s all because of YOU! SysAid 14.3 is a prime example, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I cannot stress enough how important it is for us at SysAid to listen and get feedback from all of you out there. The best place to get this feedback is in our Community, where we communicate on a daily basis and the conversations are priceless. I encourage you all to join in - find the forum(s) and discussions that you’re curious about and hop on, or start something new. I’ll be there in addition to many of our staff from Product and Customer Relations, plus our dedicated Customer Community Manager, Michael Slabodnick, who is THE man to go to if you’ve got any questions or ponderings. He can be very philosophical at times.
Of course there are also additional communication methods to communicate with us (as well as with your peers), such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, for example. And obviously there’s always the old-school email :).

So what features did we improve in SysAid 14.3 you ask?

I’ll take you through some of them.
  • Category-driven templates
A few releases ago, we introduced category-driven templates, based on your requests to be able to set up a customized form for various use cases based on categories. We developed this and allowed you to set up specific templates for categories and a default template to be used in case there isn’t a specific one selected. We were thrilled to get positive feedback from those of you who started using this feature right away. I specifically enjoyed hearing that for some of you it was exactly what you needed in order to enhance your IT service management (ITSM) experience. Again, I encourage you to share your experience in our Community and inspire others to do the same! Those who used what the category-driven templates had to offer found that in order to improve it further, it could use a small enhancement - being able to select a “don’t change” option. So, as part of our commitment to deliver valuable features to you and to follow up (check if any adjustments need to be made), we added this option in 14.3 - solely based on customers’ requests for this enhancement. This may seem like a small adjustment, nevertheless, it’s an important tweak for many of you. I would like to thank those of you who requested it - you just helped improve the processes for thousands of other SysAid customers that utilize this feature, and you should be proud!
  • Large window for notes
Let’s move on to another small, but important, adjustment. During a SysAid On The Road visit in the UK, we straight-out asked our customer what suggestions they had to improve the product. We insisted to get inputs, no matter how big or small. They told us that it would be nice if the size of the window that opens when you add notes was bigger - because they like to write long notes and, by default, SysAid opens a small window for notes. This is truly a small request, but it helps make the experience for this customer and others so much better. These examples are just some of the improvements we are committed to delivering to you; all we ask from you is to speak up and suggest improvements. After all, most of you are very familiar with SysAid and utilize it in an admirable way, so your suggestions really are a contribution to the product, and as you know we even thank you within the product with a “contribution star” :). SysAid Contribution feature direct from customers
  • New checkbox in Patch Management
Not all features we add are small. In fact, one of the latest additions in 14.1 was a rather large one – Patch Management - a functionality that had one of the leading amount of votes in our feature request forum, and many of you are already enjoying the integrated patch management capabilities we introduced. When delivering such large-scale functionality, it is natural that during the process of prioritizing and defining the scope of the feature, the time for adjustments and improvements comes post-launch. Luckily for us, this feature was swiftly adopted by many of our customers who gave us important inputs to help make Patch Management even better. One of these inputs included adding a checkbox to decide whether our agent is allowed to access the Internet to fetch the patches during the patch management process, or whether it should work only against its proxy (RDS). When we originally planned Patch Management, we built it in a way that covers most cases automatically, which is why it attempts to download from its proxy and retries 5 times before giving up and going directly to the Internet. Some of you requested that in this case they would prefer that the patch process fail - feeling comfortable with the fact that in these cases, it is planned to automatically open an incident so you can check out what went wrong. So in SysAid 14.3 we added a new checkbox exactly for this purpose, which can be found under Patch Management Settings: SysAid Patch Management enhancements
  • Remote Discovery Services (RDS) enhancements
Other improvements were added behind the scenes as well to improve the experience, such as a feature to “warm up” the RDS cache to speed up the scan process. We also added automatic alerts when RDS machines go offline so you can proactively check what goes wrong before actions fail. Automatic alerts with SysAid RDS Some of you suggested that it would be nice to be able to fetch the logs from the RDS from within the user interface, so we enhanced the RDS list with the action “Get logs”. This zips all the relevant logs from the remote machine and makes them available for download from within the RDS list as a link. Enhanced SysAid RDS list, with "Get Logs" button While our Cloud customers enjoy several releases per year, we are paying full attention to our On-Premise customers as well. As you recall, our previous On-Premise release was at the end of March 2014, and as promised, we were able to put together a quick additional On-Premise release due out in a couple of weeks (we are currently in Beta stage), which addresses many of the points you raised. If you read through the release notes and bug fixes of 14.3 (these pages will be updated after the official On-Premise release), you’ll find plenty of enhancements and fixes that were raised by you and other SysAiders around the world. So, enjoy SysAid 14.3, use the new features, tell us what you think, and then we’ll get quick to work with yet another On-Premise release before the end of the year - one that will include additional small and large enhancements for all of you to keep enjoying.
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Debunking the Top 3 Customer Service Myths

Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Service Desk
Effective listening allows consumers to feel acknowledged, understood and accepted. The less complaints from customers, the better, right? Well, not exactly. When it comes to customer service many companies believe that receiving fewer complaints means their customers are indeed happy. However, research proves that it’s quite the opposite. In fact, the majority of unhappy customers never complain, they simply leave and never come back.   Moreover, companies today have an extremely skewed sense of their ability to deliver top-notch customer service. According to this American Express survey, only one-third of survey respondents think businesses have made steps to improve customer service, while the businesses themselves think otherwise. That being said, companies that encourage a two-way dialogue with customers stand to do better, while those left in the dark are guaranteed to suffer. Despite the many theories around the subject of customer service, many “myths” are still abound. In order to clear the air once and for all, we’ve debunked the top three customer service myths below. The “truths” may shock you.

Myth 1: The majority of customers complain when they have a problem

Debunked: The truth is that less than 25 percent of customers actually complain when they have an issue, while an astounding 70 to 90 percent never complain at all. Moreover, instead of complaining to their provider, customers will tell an average of three people “bad” things about their provider. So why are customers so hesitant to complain? Most customers won’t bother to complain because they feel it’s either too difficult to reach the appropriate representative or they are not confident in the companies’ ability to quell their concern. Resolution: To avoid having customers silently walk away, make a concerted effort to reach out to them on a regular basis. After all, the best way to measure customer satisfaction is by simply asking them. Moreover, give consumers a variety of channels in which they can engage and interact with you. Having a customer service phone line is no longer enough as more consumers are turning to live chat, social media, and videoconferencing as ways to communicate with companies. The more options you provide the more likely they will reach out for help.

Myth 2: Customers no longer prefer live agent interactions

Debunked: Despite social media and self-service portals becoming increasingly popular, consumers still prefer to interact with live agents. In fact, according to the aforementioned American Express survey, 65 percent of consumers prefer speaking to a live agent via phone or in-person for issues like product assistance or returns, which increases to 76 percent as issues get more serious. Moreover, less than 10 percent prefer web or email assistance and only one in five have used social media for customer service within the past year. Resolution: As evidenced by the statistics above, quality personal connections still matter most to consumers. So how do you ensure that consumers receive the best service? Teaching customer service agents to really listen to consumers is the key to unlocking customer satisfaction. Effective listening allows consumers to feel acknowledged, understood and accepted. Moreover, it encourages consumers to be more open and forthcoming with their problems.

Myth 3: It’s better to invest in marketing and advertising than customer service

Debunked: The best way to grow and sustain a business is to keep your existing customers happy. In fact, it costs at least five times as much to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one and 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers, making them a extremely important part of your businesses’ success. Resolution: Your customers are the greatest contributors to your bottom line. So why are so many companies hesitant to invest in customer service? Instead of throwing significant funds into a new marketing campaign, in hopes of gaining new consumers, invest in the ones you already have. Give your employees the customer service tools, such as desktop and speech analytics, to help improve the customer experience. Invest in your customers and your customer service initiatives, your bottom line will thank you. While there are many myths when it comes to customer service, one thing remains true: the better the customer service the healthier the bottom line. Tell us… did we miss any important customer service myths you would like us to debunk? Image source
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SysAid Support is About to Get Even More Supercalifragilisticexpiali-Help-You!

Posted by on July 7, 2014 in SysAid
SysAid Support is About to Get Even More Supercalifragilisticexpiali-Help-You! We're very excited – because SysAid has further upped its commitment to exceptional customer service. We've made some structural changes to enhance the way in which we deliver support – splitting general customer support away from technical support – and, as a result, our personal service to you will improve. It's not because our service wasn't great before, but because you – our amazing customers – deserve better than just "great" service. You deserve exceptional service that's simply supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! We want to ensure that you get maximum value from your investment in SysAid and we firmly believe that part of this is receiving the greatest customer experience possible. We value your loyalty, and we understand that without you we wouldn’t exist.

What will change?

We're introducing a new team dedicated to “Business Services,” where every customer will have a dedicated Account Manager for non-technical inquiries. Your Account Manager will be responsible for:
  • Managing your relationship with SysAid
  • General queries and questions about the product and/or service
  • Assisting with implementations and upgrades
  • Handling complaints
  • Facilitating any training/advisory requirements
  • Providing information, such as changes to service, new releases, etc.
Ultimately your Account Manager will be responsible for ensuring that all your needs are fulfilled. By providing you with ONE point of contact we hope to build a superior relationship that helps us to better understand and anticipate your needs. By splitting customer support (“Business Services”) out from the Technical Support team, Technical Support will be able to focus 100% of their efforts on fixing technical issues, resulting in a quicker response time and a quicker recovery time for any technical issues encountered. Overall, we’re dividing support responsibilities to improve our services and our service.

Is this change for everyone?

The only customers unaffected by this change are “Gold customers” and customers of SysAid FREE.
  • Gold customers will continue to be served by their current Account Manager
  • SysAid FREE customers will continue to receive support via the SysAid Online Community
If you're unsure as to whether or not this change affects you, just give us a shout. We’re only too happy to help clarify if the change will impact your organization.

So who is my new Account Manager?

In the next few days you’ll receive an email detailing all the changes specific to YOUR account. If you currently already have an Account Manager this email will be sent from them. This will then be followed by an introductory email from your new Account Manager.

Our ongoing commitment to you

We're here for YOU and we’re 100% committed to delivering first-class technical support and a service experience personalized to your business requirements. This is exactly why we’ve made this minor, but significant change, to improve the way in which we interact with you to deliver a more valuable service.

In a nutshell

  • Look out for two emails highlighting changes to your account and introducing you to your new Account Manager
  • For Technical Support contact support@sysaid.com or helpdesk@sysaid.com
  • Whilst you wait for your new Account Manager’s details feel free to contact care@sysaid.com with any queries

And don’t forget

SysAid is still very much ON THE ROAD, travelling to your offices to help ensure that you are getting maximum value from your investment in SysAid. With a focus on developing a deeper understanding of, and resolution to, any open issues that you may have, gathering feedback for future feature requests, and listening to your implementation stories, we’ll come to you wherever you are in the world. All you have to do is ASK. Email your request to us at ontheroad@sysaid.com or liaise with your Account Manager to schedule a visit.

Let your voice be heard

You’re only ever one click away from helping us make your experience with us even better. Why not share your thoughts on these new support changes in the SysAid Online Community, or give us your recommendations for improvements to the product? Perhaps there’s an IT Service Management (ITSM) process that you are struggling with? Why not let us know so that we can write a best practice blog just for you? Whether in the community, or by contacting care@sysaid.com, we want to hear from you! The future developments of the SysAid solution and related activities are in your hands! It’s your voice that matters.
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High Touch, Transparency, and Good Customer Service

Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Service Desk
High Touch, Transparency, and Good Customer Service Quick word association. I say “Customer Service” and you say....
  • No wait time
  • High 1st call resolution
  • Rapid issue resolution and service delivery
  • Friendly, knowledgeable support staff
All good stuff, to be sure. But these days, it's just expected. I mean, no one's writing home about good, basic customer service when you call for support.
Richard Nugent wrote an excellent piece on Do What You Say and Say What You Do. The article is about leadership, and he makes an excellent point about the relationship damage caused by a disconnect between what you say and what you do. It's no different in IT Service Management. If customers are expecting one thing, and get another, or if IT says they will deliver a service at an agreed level, and do not – the relationship will be damaged. The sad truth is, it takes a lot of time and effort to build the relationship, but very little time to damage it. Not new news, you say? Perhaps not, but things are changing rapidly in technology. Your users have unprecedented options for enterprise-grade IT services on the open market. They experience incredible levels of delivery in the services they consume outside their jobs. They're also increasingly social online, and have instant access to global opinions on technology and service. Like it or not, you're in competition with both the services and the perceptions to which your users have access. The bar's been raised. Long gone are the days when their only experience with technology is what they get from corporate IT.

High Touch Service

Not to worry. IT also has new options to radically change the face of customer service. But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Customer service is still about people and relationships. From your own experience with providers, for example from the phone company or appliance repair technicians – what is most annoying to you? I think I know. Think communication, or more accurately – the lack thereof. Relationships are built on open, honest communication. Same thing mother taught you. Tell the truth. Treat people with respect. Call if you're going to be home late. That sort of thing. Amazing, then, that so many service desks still leave their customers in the dark. Nothing says 'you don't matter' more than leaving them wondering what's happening with their request, or missing commitments, or not calling back when promised. We've all experienced good and bad customer service. Ask yourself, “what would I want?” Call back when you said you would? Maybe an email when there's progress or status change on my ticket? How about a scheduled commitment for a technician visit, and a text message confirming the technician is en route? And don't underestimate the value of a follow up call after an issue is closed. If there are any remaining issues, you'll be able to correct. If the customer is satisfied, they'll appreciate the call. Either way, the message is very clear – “you really are important to us”. So, what kinds and how much communication is right? It all depends, of course; but one thing is certain - it's a relationship, so ask your customers. A surprising (well, maybe not so surprising) comment I once heard: “How about not sending me a ‘we're happy to report your issue has been resolved and we're closing your case' email when no one's called and I still have the same problem?”

Transparency

This is where transparency comes in. I've talked before about how an SLA is needed for good customer service. But that's only half the equation. The other half is openness in how well you're meeting that SLA. Transparency. Open Kimono. The good, the bad, and the ugly of how well IT is delivering services. It's how you build healthy relationships with your customers. Don't wait for monthly or quarterly reviews to give them a rehearsed song and dance about how well you're doing, skillfully dodging the uncomfortable bad news. Dare to make service level performance information readily available on a customer portal, available for all to see at any time.

Dude, Where's My Package?

Tracking packages is a great example of high touch transparency enabled by high tech. Technology allows customers to have 24/7 access to the exact whereabouts of their shipment from anywhere in the world. This just wasn't possible a few short years ago. Now it's expected. High-tech enabling high touch. We like to know what's happening with our stuff. Knowing my package is on a truck for delivery this morning allows me to make the best use of my time and manage my business. It transforms me from a helpless victim of The Shipping System to an empowered, respected customer. IT customers are no different. They are busy professionals who have a business to run.

Good Customer Service

Your customers have never had more options for technology providers. Smart IT organizations are working hard to differentiate themselves as the highest value-adding provider. Effective use of technology for high touch transparency makes all the difference. Thankfully there are some really great service management tools out there. And you don't need to spend a ton of money for bells and whistles. Get a solid tool that covers the basics well, and use it for all its worth. It's not the technology that builds relationships. People do. Put yourself in your customers' shoes. What do they need, and how can technology help deliver that? Don't make it complex. Focus on your customers, and find ways to improve high touch and transparency. That's the bridge that connects what you say to what you do.
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A Guide to Problem Management Metrics

Posted by on June 24, 2014 in ITIL
Defining Metrics for Problem Management Many people define KPIs for their IT service management processes by looking in books (such as ITIL Service Operation) or by copying metrics that other organizations use. This is rarely going to give good results, because KPIs need to INDICATE the PERFORMANCE of the KEY things you care about (that’s why they’re called Key Performance Indicators). In the worst cases I have seen ITSM processes with huge numbers of so-called KPIs that are measured and reported even though nobody uses the values to drive any changes in behaviour or improvements in business outcomes.
I recently wrote a blog titled Defining Metrics for Change Management in which I explained how you can create KPIs that support what you are trying to achieve. A number of people contacted me after reading that blog to ask for examples of how to derive KPIs for other ITSM processes. I decided to write this blog about problem management KPIs because this is one process where many organizations I have worked with had very poor KPIs. Remember you shouldn’t just copy the outcomes, critical success factors (CSFs) and KPIs that I am describing here, you should use them to understand the approach and methodology I have used, and then think about what is important to you and derive metrics that measure the things you care about. The first step to defining good KPIs is to identify the objectives of problem management, what outcomes does problem management help us to achieve? For me there are two key outcomes of a good problem management process:
  • Reducing the number of incidents that occur
  • Reducing the business impact of incidents that can’t be avoided
We could just measure the number of incidents and the overall business impact of incidents. These would certainly be valuable things to know, but I’m not sure they’d show how well problem management has been working, because so many other factors could have contributed. So I will break these down a bit and identify some problem management CSFs that could contribute to these outcomes:
  • Identify problems that have caused multiple incidents
  • Implement workarounds that reduce the impact of incidents
  • Initiate changes that reduce the number of incidents
It’s worth noting that I didn’t mention root cause analysis (RCA). I see many problem management people who only think about RCA, but this doesn’t actually deliver any benefit, it’s just a technique that we use in problem management. The worst problem management KPIs that I see are “Average time to root cause”, “Percentage of problems with RCA complete in 3 days”, or similar. These KPIs drive behaviours that we really don’t want, by encouraging problem management people to declare that they have found “the” root cause of a complex situation rather than continuing to analyse and understand it even after they have identified one significant contributory factor. One of my customers has a process for prioritising problems that takes account of the frequency and business impact of the problem, including the mitigation provided by any workarounds that are in place. They then have a KPI of “Average time to reduce problems to P3 priority.” This reduction can be achieved by resolving the problem, or by implementing a good workaround. The point is that they are measuring problem management based on how well they are reducing pain to the business. I’m not going to suggest that KPI here because it requires a fairly sophisticated approach to problem prioritisation, which not many IT organizations can achieve, but if you can measure this then it’s certainly something you could think about. Here are some suggested KPIs that might help to demonstrate the CSFs I have listed above. Remember you shouldn’t just copy these – use a similar process to identify KPIs that will measure what you care about. CSF1 - Identify problems that have caused multiple incidents
  • Increased percentage of incidents associated with a problem record or known error
  • Top 5 problem report created every month
CSF2 - Implement workarounds that reduce the impact of incidents
  • Increased percentage of incidents for which a knowledge base article provided the solution
  • Increased percentage of incidents closed by users using self-service incident management
  • Reduced impact of incidents associated with previous months’ top 5 problems
CSF3 - Initiate changes that reduce the number of incidents
  • Reduced number of incidents associated with previous months’ top 5 problems
  • Reduced backlog of outstanding problems
I have worded these KPIs as “Increased…” or “Reduced…” because I don’t have the data needed to set explicit targets. As you make use of metrics like these you can put in place numerical targets, based on the baseline that you create when you first start measuring and reporting. How well do your problem management metrics measure what your customers care about? Is it time to review your problem management KPIs and align them with your CSFs and objectives?

Learn how easy it is to configure SysAid's out-of-the-box problem management process to meet your exact needs.

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We’re Challenging IT Pros Across the Globe to Let the World Know What It Is They REALLY Do

Posted by on June 16, 2014 in General IT
The IT Log We're celebrating our successes of 2014 with the initiative "The IT Log," a video collaboration challenging IT professionals to show the world what they really do. The IT Log invites all IT pros (or appreciators) to submit 90-second ‘day-in-the-life-of’ videos through our iOS or Android app. The videos will be compiled into a crowd-sourced documentary in time for the New Year on January 1st, 2015, and $4,000 in cash prizes will go out to the top five submissions.
At SysAid we feel that outside the industry no one seems to really know what IT professionals do. The IT Log is an opportunity for everyone in IT to get creative, challenge the stereotypes, and win respect for the entire industry. Whether you keep a datacenter up and running or take on hilarious help desk requests, it's time to show the world who you are and what you do. To participate in The IT Log, you need to download The IT Log app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Using the app, you can record a 90-second (or shorter) video and submit it directly to The IT Log. Videos will be posted on The IT Log website and Twitter (#TheITLog). At the end of every week, our IT Log team will announce the "Best Video of the Week." From this selection, we will be inviting the IT community to vote on a "Fan Favorite of the Month." When submissions close in November, a vote will be held to determine the top five videos, and the following cash prizes will be awarded:
  • 1st Place: $1500
  • 2nd: $1000
  • 3rd: $750
  • 4th: $400
  • 5th: $350
We know that IT pros work incredibly hard and are often responsible for a lot more than people think. IT Administrators maintain network security, update websites, manage enterprise computer systems, back up data, serve on the help desk, and juggle many other roles. Ultimately, our goal with The IT Log is to showcase this work and to create something that the entire IT community can be proud of. Over the years, movies, TV shows like The IT Crowd, and office culture have perpetuated the stereotype that IT professionals are “nerdy”, “socially inept” and somehow separate from the rest of the business. While the IT industry generally has a good sense of humor about the jokes and stereotypes, The IT Log has been created in the belief that IT professionals deserve more respect and appreciation. With The IT Log we hope to change attitudes towards the IT community and show the business world what people working in IT really do. We also believe that it's important to push this initiative as far as possible in the IT community, and for that reason we are welcoming other IT vendors to join in to be part of this initiative (at no cost). If you are a vendor and you are interested in being part of The IT Log, please contact us directly. Learn more about the The IT Log here. To download the IT Log App, visit iTunes or the Google Play. Join the conversation on Twitter: #TheITLog
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What To Do When the CFO Says, “You Need to Reduce Costs”

Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Service Desk
What do you do when the boss yells at you that you need to cut IT costs? Your Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is responsible for the financial health and prosperity of the company. In very simple terms, the future of the company depends on more income and outgoings. These days IT is a major cost center, underpinning many aspects of the business. So if the CFO comes to visit, thumping the table to reduce our IT costs – what can we do?

What Options Do We Have and What Should We Do?

In an ideal world, all of our IT costs would be closely aligned and paired with the IT services they enable. Each of our services would be quantified in terms of value, and the components parts required to deliver the service (partners, services, people, assets, and so on) would be measured and quantified against the value they deliver. In this case, when the CFO says cut costs, we can reply and say “what services do you want cut or reduced?” Reducing the number or quality of services would theoretically reduce costs.

So Much for IT Management Theory…

Back down here on earth, IT management is not usually that closely aligned or organized, and many organizations lack the maturity and management controls to manage value closely. If your IT Value and IT Services are not yet aligned, the best target to aim for - to reduce IT costs in this short term - is to identify WASTE. Here are three tactical projects to eliminate waste and save money. These projects are ‘low hanging fruit’; they can be acted upon even when your company is not spending big money on new projects and growth. They just need a bit of planning, perseverance, and people power!
  • Focus on renewals, maintenance, subscriptions, and lease agreements. Even when an organization has a financial lock down on new projects – it still has many on-going financial commitments in terms of maintenance agreements, service contract renewals, and other on-going subscriptions. A quick win is to assess all renewals and agreements and analyse which of them can be reduced or removed. Maybe the project is no longer active, the service was retired, or people have moved on. It takes some investigative work but is worth the effort.
  • Avoid new software purchases. If you receive a new software request, try to fulfil it by removing an unused copy from another user. This cost avoidance technique can save millions. It does not necessarily mean deployment of tools – it just takes investigative work and perseverance.
  • Avoid new hardware purchases. Hunt for all the hardware you can to hold as stock. Hold an amnesty at the office to bring out old hardware that’s sitting in dusty cupboards. As staff leave or move roles, don’t allow managers to hold desktops and laptops in their drawers, claw them back to be used to fulfil new hardware requests. This is another cost avoidance technique to freeing up budget for other projects or to demonstrate savings.
By working on these tactical projects IT staff can free up IT budget and demonstrate savings. This can build momentum for longer term IT Asset Management initiatives and efficient IT spending.
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If We Could Just Talk to Our Customers

Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Service Desk
Service and service catalog There is currently a lot of good industry guidance and advice around how IT organizations need to get out and engage with their customers. This is essential in order to develop a positive and effective customer/supplier relationship, to also identify customer needs, and to set practical service-level expectations for delivery. All of this is a vital although often missed area of service management and service delivery, as part of service strategy and design, service level management, service catalog, business relationship management, and service portfolio management. One difficult challenge with this is around how to actually get customers to engage and participate in this process. This can be used as an excuse sometimes, but it is a difficult topic – i.e. who do we engage with and how do we get them interested and involved? The cry of ‘we tried this before and no one was interested’ is a familiar challenge to any project trying to get moving and do the right thing by engaging and listening to customers. It’s not of course acceptable to use this as an excuse (although granted in some rare situations it can be very difficult), particularly if this only then serves to prolong an IT-centric set of service level targets that don’t add any value to either the service provider or the customer – so here are a few tips to make this work.

1. Who to Talk to

There are no absolute rules for this, however it’s important to try and get a cross-section of customers (senior, bill payers) and end-users (daily recipients of the service), in order to get strategic and operational perspectives. Some key requirements and points of view can be missed if only one set of views is heard. There is also a need to cover different departments, customer groups, locations etc., as well as recipients of different technology services.

2. How to Overcome Apathy and Cynicism

There’s no magic bullet here and if these feelings exist, this may be due to poor or failed communications in the past, so, at the very least, a new communications approach will be needed. The best advice is simply to be as open and positive as possible, making it clear that this is not the same old IT ‘take it or leave it’ approach, but a genuine and constructive initiative to improve the relationship and quality of service. Any reasonable person should respond to that, particularly if the content and approach to the meeting (and the subsequent planned actions) is also clear in advance.

3. Engaging with Customers and Arranging Meetings

Business people can often see IT projects and meetings as long-winded, jargon-filled talking shops and of little relevance to them – they also can feel that they are talked over and given choices that don’t mean anything to them (i.e. response times, system availability targets, etc.). Most of all they often feel that they are not listened to – perhaps by an over-keen IT organization that goes into solution-mode too quickly. So, meetings should be short (15-30 minutes), with a clear summary agenda (provide simple questions in advance), plus the IT representatives should try to avoid jumping into defensive or solution mode completely, avoid all jargon (including ITSM jargon) and focus on listening – let the customers have their say, it’s important to them.

4. Ask Some Simple Questions of the Customer from Their Point of View

What services do you use? What technology is important to you/ when? Who uses this, are there some specific times or business functions that we would know about? What would you like to see improved? How could we help you by delivering this service better? What could we measure (e.g. moments of truth) to identify the success or otherwise of the service? You can provide these in advance of the meeting – sometimes customers will use this as a guide for the meeting, or they may provide some written answers. Do still insist on having the meeting even if they send you their answers in advance – it’s an important stage in the development of the relationship, not simply a fact-finding exercise. Don’t put customers off by telling them the meeting will be about ‘ITIL’ or SLAs’ or ‘Service Catalog’ etc. Frame the meeting simply as part of your improvement process, which will give your customers the opportunity to discuss their feedback and views on your service – outside of day-to-day issues, incidents, or problems, and also not part of projects. The meeting is simply about service quality and service improvement.

5. Be Prepared to Follow Up

Finally – this is just stage 1 of this process, so it’s important to set out clear plans and actions from the meeting and any follow-up documentation or other meetings – that will start to build trust and belief in the relationship and get your customers on-side. Promises need to be kept and consistent communications delivered as part of this (re)-building process. Of course it may also be difficult to hear negative criticism and the desire to defend or solve all ills at the meeting must be tempered with the needs of the customer to have their say. In fact, if the meetings are difficult, then you are doing the right stuff - the customer feels able to give you their views and you are listening!

Like this article? You may also like: Top 5 Tips on How to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.

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Do You Have Paraskavedekatriaphobia?

Posted by on June 5, 2014 in General IT
Turn the scary into rewarding this Friday the 13th! Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the scientific term for a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Chances are you’re not afflicted with this particular phobia, but with next Friday being June 13th, you may just have a teeny tiny bit of the jitters. So we want to do something for you to change the scary into the rewarding.

A Reward for Your Scariest IT Disaster

Share with us your worst or scariest (I guess which one depends on your personal outlook on life ;)) IT issue that you’ve had to deal with in your career. Post your story by any means you see fit – written words, video, cartoon, etc. – on our Facebook page, or if you’re really shy, you may email us at community@sysaid.com. Make sure to get your entries in by Tuesday, the 17th of June. Our panel of judges (aka our marvelous marketing team) will sit together on Wednesday, June 18th and declare a winner based on the true depth of catastrophic disaster and misfortune that you describe to us. So give it your best shot. Multiple entries – if you are unfortunate to have so many misadventures – are absolutely acceptable and welcome. Tip: A video entry, perhaps a re-enactment – yikes! – has high score potential. The winner will receive a $100 Amazon Gift Card, and we promise to have some cool consolation prizes as well. So please get going – disclose those stories that you probably only really want to forget. Imagine yourself on a psychiatrist’s couch – you talk, we listen, and instead of you paying big bucks when the session is over, we pay you!
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