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Five Reasons Why You Need to Embrace Virtualization

Posted by on June 2, 2014 in General IT
Companies across all verticals are tightening their belts in IT spending Though many leading economists across the globe agree that the economy is indeed recovering, albeit slowly, many business owners may still feel otherwise. In fact, companies across all verticals are tightening their belts as they navigate today’s still reeling economic climate. In addition to smart spending, many IT decision makers are implementing technology solutions designed to increase operational efficiencies while reducing costs.
One such solution is virtualization, the process in which virtual versions of infrastructure and hardware, operating systems, computer networks and more are used in data centers instead of physical equipment. Virtualization allows companies to realize substantial operational efficiencies that simply aren’t possible when using only physical equipment. It provides companies a variety of benefits, including the following five:
  • Lowered energy consumption: Virtualization allows companies to consolidate their physical servers by migrating them to virtual versions. Whereas physical servers, generally speaking, never run at maximum capacity, virtual machines can be fully optimized, allowing companies to only use the resources they need. Anyone who has been inside a data center knows how loud and cool such environments can be. Virtualization frees companies from having to spend lots of money on the costs associated with energy and keeping equipment that cool—something especially attractive in an era of rising utility bills.
  • Reduced expenditures: In addition to the aforementioned cost savings, businesses that choose to virtualize their data centers are able to operate in the same capacity with far less equipment, such as network gear, servers and numbers of racks needed. Less equipment means businesses can get by with less physical space in the data center. That means more room is freed up at offices that have data centers on-premises, and for those businesses that collocate, less room is required to be rented.
  • Quicker server provisioning: In today’s fast-paced business world, the needs of a company can change on a dime. In the past, when new servers were required, businesses had to fill out orders and subsequently wait for equipment to be shipped before provisioning it. Thanks to virtualization, however, new servers can be provisioned in a matter of minutes, granting companies the ability to deploy resources in an elastic fashion when demand dictates.
  • Increased uptime: While not uncommon—recent research indicates that 73% of businesses have experienced unplanned outages over the last five years—unexpected downtime can be crippling for any business. In fact, downtime can cost small- to medium-sized businesses an average of $12,500 per hour. When factoring in organizations of all sizes, that number balloons to $212,100 per hour. Some of the features of virtualization include fault tolerance, high availability and storage migration, which allow virtual machines to quickly recover from downtime or avoid getting knocked offline altogether. Additionally, virtual machines can be shifted from one physical server to another in minutes, liberating businesses from worrying about enduring extended unplanned downtime. And that’s of the utmost importance, as 87% of businesses that can’t access their data for more than a week close their doors within a year.
  • Fortified disaster recovery: With the cost of downtime fresh in your mind, it’s important to realize that when disaster does occur, virtualization allow companies to get back online faster. Businesses that virtualize free themselves from hardware lock-in, meaning less-expensive hardware can be installed at the disaster recovery site as it’s rarely used. Additionally, because less space is required to store equipment, companies are able to create a smaller backup location than in the case of a business relying solely on physical machines. Lastly, most virtualization solutions are equipped with failover software that is automatically triggered in the event systems go down. Many of them are testable solutions that allow owners to see beforehand if their disaster recovery solutions are indeed working rather than having to hope for the best should they face such a situation.
The benefits of virtualization don’t end there. Companies that leverage the technology are also putting themselves in the best position to prepare for a migration to the cloud as they become increasingly familiar with running networks that no one is able to physically touch in the office. As more businesses realize the power the cloud provides and migrate computing resources there, moving forward with virtualization becomes that much more sensible. Image credit
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Smart Ways to Dispatch Your Service Records

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Service Desk
Smart Ways to Dispatch Your Service Records If you’ve ever attended one of our courses, then you must have heard the term Let SysAid Work For You. This might sound like a slogan we use in order to sell SysAid, but I promise you, it is just a description of the reality. SysAid can help reduce your response time dramatically if you implement the automation features it contains. Let’s start from the beginning. The foundation for providing a customer with good service starts with receiving the service request or incident (service record) and dispatching it to the right group of people in the shortest amount of time. SysAid can help with this goal.

Know Your Service Desk

The first thing you need to do is research and understand your organization’s IT needs, and construct your service desk processes accordingly. This can take some time to do, but it’s worth investing the time in the long run. Start by taking two sheets of paper. On the first one write everything you are doing today, for example: what stages does a service record go through from the minute it appears in your list until someone starts working on it, what categories do you have in your service desk today and who normally handles them, etc. Look at your list and see what you would want to change. Then write down the new and improved process on the other sheet of paper. Sometimes we do things not in the most efficient way, just because we are used to it. Be brave, and remove all your obsolete processes. Once you finish your homework, it will be clear how to proceed and start implementing some smart and automatic dispatching processes in SysAid.

Manual Can Be Semi-Automatic

If your organization has a dedicated person in the role of dispatcher for your service desk, it does not mean he/she has to go through each and every service record in order to assign it to the right person. If your service records are categorised properly (you can make sure they are, by using the End-User Portal, or the Email Rules feature), the dispatcher can simply look at the category and description, and use the check boxes to select a batch of service records. Then, simply select the status, assigned to, and priority of the service record, and click the Set button. Incident Management screenshot

If You Know It In Advance, Route… Route… Route…

If you have used routing rules before in SysAid, a question comes to mind - if we know it in advance, why not automate it? Well…you’re absolutely right, but... it is crucial you do it in a smart way. Depending on the way you run your service desk, you can choose the way you automatically route your service records. For example, if you are running a tier-based service desk, you can create a rule that will route a service record from a specific set of categories to a designated admin group called Tier 1. Routing Rules in SysAid Service Desk Routing rules can also be determined by SLA. If you get a little creative with SysAid’s customization capabilities, you will be able to set it up so that the service record is routed differently based on the SLA and the operating hours. This way you can handle urgent service records that come in after your working hours; they can be routed automatically to your on-call team, for example. If you would like to learn how to set that up, make sure to watch the routing rules topic in the webinar recording below.

Holding Both Ends of the Stick

Most of the time in life we are forced to make choices, but don’t you just love to “hold both ends of the stick”? With our new Email Business Rules feature you can actually do that. You can set up keywords that SysAid is going to look for in an incoming email message and then route the new service record accordingly. This basically gives you a full automatic dispatching ability. For example, say you have departments that handle specific issues. You can set up a rule that will look for specific error numbers, and automatically route the service record to the right group of admins. All you need to do is go to Settings > Service Desk > Email Rules. You will find more information on how to create a rule in the Email Business Rules topic in the webinar recording below. Email Rules in the Help Desk

Webinar Recording

In February, I hosted one of our Professional Services engineer, Gil Blinov (@GilBlinov), to discuss smart ways to dispatch your service records. Check out the 20-minute recording below. [embed=videolink]{"video":"","width":"400","height":"225"}[/embed] If you have any questions, please comment below or find me on Twitter at @SysAidAcademy.
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What Does The Word Service Mean To You?

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Service Desk
The word service means a lot of different things to different people Service. For such a simple word it sure can mean a lot of different things to different people. For sports fans a good service is a critical part of tennis success. For the religious, a service is a ceremony of worship. For the military, it’s their employment, i.e. military service. And in other vocations it’s the length of time that they have stayed with that particular employer. For lawyers, it’s the formal delivery of legal documents such as a summons. For homeowners, it can be a utility such as gas, electricity, or water. For car owners, it’s the annual maintenance of their vehicle. And (you can tell I’m running out of steam here), it could even be a set of matching crockery of all things. So service can mean different things to different people. And service in the context of the corporate IT organization is no different.

So What Should the Word "Service" Mean to IT?

For those that work in the IT organization, service can mean multiple things. For some, service relates to technology domains like network or storage services. For others, particularly those schooled in IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL, it relates to an IT service, i.e. something that is consumed by an end user. Or some might view service as the S in SOA. But for me, even in my role as SysAid CEO, it relates to service as in service delivery and customer service. And while we deliver a set of products and services to our customers:
  • Technology
  • Professional services, although most customers don’t need much of this, if any, at all
  • Support services
We do all this with a focus on great service - that’s customer service and the service experience. But where do internal IT organizations stand when it comes to customer service or the service experience?

Customer Service and the Service Experience

English isn't my first language so I'll avoid the use of terms such as verbs and nouns, and other stuff that will get me into trouble with the social grammar police. Instead I prefer to think of this in terms of the what and the how. The internal IT organization needs to consider more than just the what when delivering its IT services, the how is just as, if not more, important. Sometimes I think that it's easier to look at this through a personal life lens than a workplace one, so think about your personal mobile phone if you have one. You might have a competitive price, a sexy handset, and a great service in terms of voice and mobile data. But you still might be unhappy with the service. In fact you might have recently changed service provider or refused to go with a particular provider because of service. And by this I mean poor customer service, for example:
  • The in-store staff might have been rude or disconnected from your customer needs as you tried to buy a new service or required post-sales support. Maybe they were too focused on the merits of the technology or their sales revenue numbers. In fact you might have felt like a number rather than a customer.
  • You might have called the service provider's helpline to find them less than helpful – 40 minutes in a queue before speaking to someone reading from a script that didn't match your issue. We’ve probably all been there. And doesn’t it sound familiar to the corporate IT experience?

So Consider How You Deliver Your IT Services In Terms of the What AND the How

Your customers' needs probably go way beyond the technology itself. In fact their expectations of you might be driven by their consumer experiences - the great ones rather than the ones I referred to above. Scarily, they might also rate the quality of your IT services based more on the service experience than on the IT services themselves. Just think back to the two examples I provided above. So how is your customer service or service experience? Do you even think of your end users as your customers or care about their service experience? And would you dance for them? OK that last question probably took it a little too far but this might make you smile. It might also make you think more about service. It's time for internal IT organizations to think beyond the technology, and even to think beyond the IT services they deliver, it's time to think about the service experience.
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What’s the Point of Configuration Management?

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in ITIL
Configuration Management – How to do it right! I have been working with a customer who wants to improve their service transition processes, and I came across a situation which I’ve seen too often in the past. The configuration manager was working very hard to maintain information in the service management tool. There were regular updates whenever changes happened, lots of auditing and verifying the accuracy of records, and regular reports showing how well configuration management was working, but nobody I spoke to was making any use of the configuration information. I spoke to a wide range of people in the IT organization, asking them what configuration information they used, and how they accessed it, and they all told me that they didn’t use any of the official configuration information because they didn’t trust it to be accurate, they couldn’t use the tool, and anyway it never had the information they actually needed.
This company had implemented what I sometimes call a "write only database”. They were investing time and money in creating and maintaining configuration information but getting absolutely no value whatsoever from their investment. It is situations like this that result in the bad reputation that ITIL and ITSM sometimes have in IT organizations. People see lots of bureaucratic work but no value coming from it, and they naturally rebel against this. If nothing is done about it then this can result in people starting to lose respect for other service management processes, because they perceive them all to be very similar. It would be easy to mock this situation, but I have seen many similar things in other IT organizations. It’s too easy to get into a position where we focus on the process and the tool, instead of thinking about customers and service outcomes. This is particularly true if a lot of time and money have been invested in the tool and the supporting processes. So how can this situation be remedied? One suggestion was that they improve the process to increase the amount of configuration information that was stored, and make sure it was more accurate. I pointed out that this would make no difference at all. People had given up on using the configuration information, they wouldn’t trust it any more after these increased efforts, and they still wouldn’t be able to use the tool effectively. The improvement plan that I suggested was to:
  • Identify the stakeholders that could be getting value from configuration information
  • Talk to those stakeholders about how they work, and what configuration information would help them to work more effectively and efficiently
  • Document use cases showing how configuration information could be used to create real value for the IT organization and for their customers
  • Use these use cases as a basis for a complete rewrite of the configuration management policy, ensuring that configuration management focusses on how it should be creating value
  • Redesign the process, based on the new policy and the documented use cases
  • Ensure that the tool supports the required use cases, and document how it should be used to implement these
  • Design a communication and training program, based on the use cases, to help people understand how they could use configuration management to help them work better
  • Implement monitoring and reporting, again based on the documented use cases, to find out what value the new process is creating
How confident are you that your configuration information is creating value for your organization? Why not go and talk to the people you think should be using it and get them to show you how they work; you might be shocked by what you find. If you do discover a situation similar to this one then you really do need to stop what you have been doing and start again. Think about outcomes and value creation rather than about populating a CMDB, and you will get much more value from your investment in configuration management. When did you last review your configuration management process to ensure it is creating real value for you and your customers? Image credit

Like this article? You may also like: Continual Service Improvement (CSI) - The Most Important Service Management Process.

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If You Don’t Have an SLA, You’re Delivering Bad Service

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Service Desk
Delivering good service requires an SLA Seems like everybody's talking about Service Level Agreements these days. What's the big deal? Can't we just deliver good service, and not waste all this time with Service Level Agreements? Not if you want to give good service!

Simple Human Nature

Human nature is a funny thing. Remember back to Economics 101 with supply and demand, and all that jazz? One thing I remember very well: human wants are unlimited. Customers always want more. It’s how it works. In economics, it's counter balanced with limited supply, and the tension in the middle sets the price that the market will tolerate. It’s an agreement, if you will. It's no different in delivering IT Services. Did you ever hear that customers want it all, and they want it all for free? Left to their own devices, customers will always want more than IT is able to deliver. It comes down to this - you will never have satisfied customers until you:
  1. Have clarity of what the service is (and is not!)
  2. Agree on Service Level Requirements
  3. Monitor and Report delivery against requirements
This is the basis of a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Keep reading to find out why you have to have an SLA to have good service.

Clearly Define Services

We all know about assumptions. About how, well, you know, how they're not good, and breed misunderstandings? Good service starts with a clear understanding of the service to be delivered. Without clarity, you're fighting human nature to want more than you can deliver. Start with developing a service description by talking with your customers. What do they need? What are the critical requirements? It's a great opportunity to see IT Services through their eyes. You might be surprised what you find out. The goal is to have a straightforward description in plain language. It needn't be lengthy, but should be easy for both customers and IT to understand. Be on the lookout for unstated assumptions. It's important to include enough detail where there's the potential for misunderstandings. There a bit of an art to this. You don't want to come to the customer with a blank page, but you also don't want to come with a jargon-laden document written in legalese.

Agree on Service Level Requirements

Once you have a solid service description, it's time to reach an agreement on the required performance. An SLA must have measurable targets for service levels. Some questions to ask when creating requirements:
  • If the service meets the stated requirements, will the business needs be met?
  • Are there any unstated/assumed requirements?
  • Are there circumstances where requirements may be different than stated (i.e. end of month, holiday season)?
  • Can the requirements be measured?
  • Is the description clear to both the business and IT? (Does it use terms that have different meaning to either?)
With solid service descriptions and agreed service level requirements, you now have a basic SLA!

Monitor and Report

Service metrics are how we know if the service is meeting the agreed-to level of service. Sadly, far too often they are little more than a running history of numbers achieved. Things like:
  • Provisioned and delivered 213 new PCs last month
  • Service Desk took 2,794 calls
  • Average time to create new accounts was 10 business hours (down from 18 last month)
While these are interesting, they do nothing to demonstrate whether services are performing as agreed. What you want instead are metrics that directly address the service requirements in the SLA. Things like:
  • Number and percentage of PCs delivered within 3 business days
  • Number and percentage of calls answered within 2 minutes wait time
These types of metrics show actual performance compared against established targets (i.e. “less than 3 business days”). They directly address what was spelled out clearly and agreed to in the SLA. Keep in mind that business requirements change over time. Just because you are meeting established targets doesn't mean it always will. Don't hold tight to ‘we're meeting the SLA,’ as that's a relationship killer, and a sure way to make very unhappy customers!

Bringing It Together

Here’s a quick example to pull these ideas all together. The business states that they need 90% of all incidents resolved within 4 business hours. A service description is created that describes what services are supported, contact information, and hours of operation. Add a service level requirement to have >90% of incidents resolved in 4 business hours, and you have a basic SLA. Once agreed, service metrics are defined that measure how many incidents are resolved within 4 hours. (It might also be good to show the average resolution time.) At the monthly customer review, the conversation goes something like this: This month 98% of incidents were resolved within the SLA target, with an average resolution of 3 hours (down from 3.5 hours last month.) Well within target; excellent service! Unfortunately, the conversation goes on: “But what about the ABC outage? We were down all day on the last day of the month, and it kept us from making our monthly sales goals! I don't care what your numbers say, you failed us (again).” The stated goal was achieved. So, why isn't the customer happy? Because while most incidents were resolved in target, the most important one - the one that had the highest business impact - did not. The customer assumed we were talking about the important ones, because, to them, it's just common sense. It never occurred to them that we would average high impact outages along with minor PC problems. Rather than standing behind ‘we met the SLA,’ which only infuriates the customer, go back and take a closer look. Where are we lacking in clarity? In this case, it's obvious that some incidents are more important than others. Sound familiar? By defining and getting agreement for an incident priority process, each incident can be given a priority based on business urgency and impact. Metrics can now report resolution by priority, and we get closer to what the business actually wants: All high priority incidents must be resolved in 4 business hours. In our example, the resolution rate drops to 50% for high priority incidents. Now we're not looking so good, but we're seeing it the way the customer does. We can now start having discussions around what we can do to improve. Bottom line is that the business sees we understand what they need, and are working to meet it. What's not to like?

Good SLAs Make Good Service

Without a clear understanding of what the service is, and what level of service is required, you can never make customers completely happy. They will always want more. To give good service:
  • Talk with your customers
  • Clearly define what they need in a service description
  • Establish and agree to service level requirements
  • Measure and report service level performance
  • Continually improve services not meeting requirements
  • Look for changing service level requirements
You need to leverage human nature. Use SLAs to build clarity with your customers. Customers who know what to expect, and consistently get it are happy customers!
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It’s All About You – A Huge Thank You to Our Customers

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in SysAid
Customers at the Service Desk and IT Support Show Last week we attended the Service Desk and IT Support Show (SITS) in London, and by far the best thing about the entire event was getting to catch up with so many of our customers at our booth. We were also incredibly fortunate that many of them joined us for dinner in Kensington on the evening of Tuesday 29th April. Whilst other vendors were out partying with the SITS organizers (standard protocol for exhibitors the first night of SITS) we were spending time with those that really matter – our customers.

A Huge Success

The evening was a great success and one that we hope to replicate across the globe in the near future. The informal setting, the drinks flowing, the delicious food, the incredible passion for ITSM bustling round the tables – it was a brilliant night. What I love most about spending time on a personal level with customers is listening to them talk about the challenges they are facing and getting to know what real day-to-day IT looks like. When we understand that, then we can do everything possible to improve their lives. SysAid customers from Guardian and OMNI ISG

Thanks Also to Our Friends

We don’t exist without our customers (nobody in business does), but it’s also important for us to remember who our friends in the industry are and how they help contribute to our success. Whether it be people who simply actively share our articles and insights on social media, people who contribute to our content, or those who just openly share feedback and advice with us – they all make a difference. I therefore personally want to extend my thanks to James Finister and Andrea Kis (TCS), Stuart Rance (Optimal Service Management), and Glenn Thompson (ITSM Review) for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us for a delightful evening with our customers. Service Desk and IT Support Show Dinner

Do You Want to Spend Time With Us Too?

We shall be aiming to arrange evenings similar to this whenever the opportunity arises to do so, but in the meantime don’t forget about SysAid On The Road. Want me to spend the day with you in your offices to ensure that you’re getting the most out of our technology and services? Then please let us know – I would be delighted to come visit you (no associated costs) wherever in the world you may be. At the end of the month, we’re excited to be visiting a customer in Mexico. Next month, in June, we’re heading back to London to visit more customers and then we’re off to Canada and the USA, where we have scheduled visits in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Florida. Then in October, we’ll be in Washington DC, Boston, and Upstate New York. It’s a journey around the world and we love it! Once again, thank you to all our customers – those who saw us at SITS or attended the dinner, as well as all of you across the globe. Remember SysAid loves you. Thanks for being a part of our family. Selfie with Bacardi! SysAid Customer/Friends Dinner at the Kensington Marriott Swag for SysAid friends and customers SysAid Customer/Friends Dinner at the Kensington Marriott
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Like a Virgin – ITSM for the Very First Time

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in ITSM
Joe and Dena – Service Desk Show Well I’m finally back in the real world after the whirlwind experience that was the Service Desk and IT Support Show in London (SITS14) last week in London. Whilst it wasn’t the first time that SysAid was exhibiting, it was personally my first visit to the show, and I’m pleased to say that it lived up to the hype. The great thing about SITS is that its free, so even with travel costs from outside of the UK you're likely to find that it's a more cost-effective option for you to attend than other high profile ITSM events. If you haven’t got yourself to an event like this yet, get talking to your manager. The learning experience and opportunity to interact with peers and industry superstars (including Joe the IT Guy of course) is priceless.

Let’s Start With a Low and End With a High

First of all, I need to highlight one downside to this particular event. The busy exhibition hall made it incredibly noisy in the speaker rooms, which meant that it was often very hard to hear the presentations if you didn't get the right seat. Everybody had told me that I was not to miss Patrick Bolger’s session on Reimagining the Role of IT, but unfortunately I did - not because I wasn’t in his session, but because I was sitting off on the side and could hardly hear anything he said. The event is obviously first and foremost an exhibition, and the content comes second, but the content (what I saw of it) is really good – it seems a shame to ruin it by having it drowned out by the likes of us noisy vendors on the showroom floor. I can only hope that this will change as the event moves to a new venue next year.

Key Takeaways

It's hard to provide an overview of all the “ITSM Goodness” (I might need to check if that term is copyrighted by the ITSM Contributor of the Year – Barclay Rae – congratulations by the way) in one article without it turning into an essay, but I’ll do my best to sum up with a few snippets of advice from two of my favorite sessions. Service Desks: Step Up Your Game – Dave Jones, Pink Elephant
  • Officially there are four P’s (People, Product, Process and Partners) but it will serve you well to remember that there is also a fifth – Performance.
  • ITSM must always remember to ask “are we making a difference?”
  • In order to make improvements you need to know what you’re doing now and where you want to be. Only then will you be able to find a quick resolution in the shortest amount of time.
  • Metrics are of course critical to improvement in ITSM, but you need to measure more than just the technical. Do you measure people and performance?
  • When it comes to customer satisfaction rates it will always vary from one company to another, but if your rates are below 70% then alarm bells should be ringing.
Is ITIL Ready for a DevOps Approach? – Kaimar Karu, AXELOS
  • Remember that DevOps is most definitely NOT:
    • A process
    • A job description
    • A piece of software
  • Common goals between ITIL and DevOps are:
    • To increase business value
    • To remove silos that separate the different arts of the organization
    • To enable business to work with IT
  • Key takeways to be gained from this approach:
    • Get rid of silos
    • Get rid of blame
    • Bring pain forward, meaning involving the managers and operations, e.g. if the CIO is on pager duty and gets woken up in the middle of the night, it’s unlikely that he is going to allow that same issue to happen again
  • Cloud benefits:
    • Flexibility
    • Scalability
    • Focus on non-commodity
Kaimar's final words of wisdom were to "automate everything" but that this comes with a caveat - only automate the stuff that it actually makes sense to automate.

The Wonderful Sarah Lahav and Joe The IT Guy

Of course it goes without saying that the best presentation was delivered by SysAid! Sarah and Joe gave practical advice on how to adjust your service desk to BYOD. Rather than provide you with an inadequate overview that won’t do the double act justice, I suggest we wait for the live video that we will be publishing in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! SysAid Dream Team at Service Desk and IT Support Show

We Had a Blast

The event was a huge success for SysAid, and in particular I personally loved my time working at the booth. Nothing in the world of ITSM beats talking with IT professionals about their challenges, goals, aspirations, etc, regardless of whether or not they are interested in our technology. It was also an absolute delight to finally meet some of my ITSM heroes in person, like the lovable and effervescent Andrea Kis, her funny and smart colleague from Tata James Finister, fellow Yankee with a twang Daniel Breston, the always stylish Kaimar Karu, the seasoned moderator and creator of ITSM Goodness Barclay Rae, the most awesome guy in India (and maybe the whole world) with the biggest smile Suresh GP, and of course the man I most adore besides my husband ;) who truly knows how to explain ITSM and ITIL simply and logically - Stuart Rance (always a pleasure, sir!) To the entire SITS team (and in particular Laura Venables – we are so sad that you are leaving) thank you for putting on a brilliant event. I’m already working on my bribery plan to ensure that the SysAid team brings me along next year (the weather in the UK should be better in June right?). Save the date now for next year’s event. It's on 3-4 June 2015 at Olympia, London.
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How to Take Your Help Desk Career to the Next Level

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Service Desk
How to Take Your Help Desk Career to the Next Level Did you know that the recruitment of skilled labor in specialized areas like information technology has become highly competitive? According to a recent CareerBuilder study, IT is one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs this year. For rookie IT workers, the help desk can be a launching pad for a rewarding career in IT. Help desk employees must balance customer service skills with technical know-how, and learn business processes and crisis management alongside technical hardware and software skills.
This unique combination makes the help desk a true roadmap to a promising career, teaching inexperienced IT professionals the diverse skills they will need as they advance in their careers. Below are a few of the skills you’ll need to perfect in order to make the transition from help desk to senior-level IT:
  • Customer service aptitude: The help desk teaches soft skills such as patience, communication, conflict resolution, and leadership as well as hard skills such as troubleshooting, applications, and operating systems. These skills are a requirement for almost every job a help desk technician might advance to down the road.
  • Tech Savviness: As a help desk technician you learn an array of valuable technical skills, such as opening and closing tickets, tracking and organizing customer issues, and utilizing Web-based tools. However, in order to take your career to the next level you have to continue your training and earn certifications and credentials. For example, finish off your CompTIA A+ certification
  • Crisis management abilities: People often call the help desk in a panic, and count on technicians to calm them down and walk them through resolving the issue. Learning to keep your cool in tough situations is a skill that will undoubtedly serve you throughout your career.
As with any entry-level position, your experience working the help desk is what you make of it. Savvy help desk employees leverage their position to gain knowledge, skills, and credibility that will help them advance up the ladder to senior help desk positions, management, or other areas of IT. Best of luck in climbing the corporate ladder!
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Defining Metrics for Change Management

Posted by on April 28, 2014 in ITIL
Ideas of change management KPIs I was working with a customer recently and they asked me what key performance indicators (KPIs) they should use to measure IT change management. After thinking about this for a while I offered them some suggestions, and I’m going to share them here, because the ideas may be useful to other people. Please don’t just copy the KPIs that I suggested for this customer, but look at the way we derived them and think about what you need to measure. The first thing to do when you are thinking about KPIs is to decide what they are for. Who are the stakeholders for any reports that you will generate? In this case we wanted to measure the effect of process improvements that we were planning. The reports will be used by the change manager, the IT operations manager, the project management office (PMO) and the service level managers.
We spoke to the various stakeholders, to understand what was important to them and identified four critical success factors (CSFs) for change management. These CSFs were:
  1. Protect the business from the adverse impact of IT change
  2. Facilitate the rate of change that the business needs
  3. Provide knowledge and information about new and changed services needed by IT and business staff
  4. Make efficient use of IT resources
Your critical success factors may be very different to these, but you should be able to come up with a list that works for your stakeholders. Another good starting place to help you think about CSFs is the examples in the ITIL Service Transition book (but don’t copy these either). The CSFs don’t have to be directly measureable, it is more important that they are words that the stakeholders agree with, and that summarize the outcomes they want from the IT change management process. The next step is to identify up to 3 KPIs that could help to demonstrate that you have achieved each CSF. The KPIs won’t “prove” that you achieved the CSF, but they will help to indicate how well you are doing against that CSF. It’s quite acceptable to have the same KPI for multiple CSFs, and it’s important not to define too many. While we were thinking about change management KPIs we realized that we needed better data about change success. Every change was being marked as successful unless it had been backed out, but this didn’t give us the information we were going to need to establish our CSFs. We decided to evaluate each change based on:
  • Was the changed fully implemented, without needing to be backed out?
  • Did change implementation use the time and resources that were predicted?
  • Did the change cause any incidents?
  • Did the change deliver the results that the customer expected?
This resulted in us defining a number of change closure codes, to distinguish between changes that fully succeeded and those that had one or more issues. We also added a new incident closure code to indicate when an incident was caused by a change. We could now define KPIs to support our CSFs. CSF1 - Protect the business from the adverse impact of IT change
  • Reduced number and percentage of changes that cause incidents
  • Reduced total business impact of incidents caused by changes
CSF2 - Facilitate the rate of change that the business needs
  • Increased number and percentage of changes that used the predicted time and resources
  • Increased number and percentage of changes that delivered the results the customer expected
  • Increased satisfaction rating for change management from PMO and from end customers
CSF3 - Provide knowledge and information about new and changed services needed by IT and business staff
  • Increased percentage of changes that provided knowledge articles for the service desk
  • Increased satisfaction rating for change management from IT staff and from end customers
CSF4 - Make efficient use of IT resources
  • Increased number and percentage of changes that used the predicted time and resources
  • Reduced number and percentage of urgent and emergency changes
This resulted in a fairly small number of KPIs to measure and report, which were focused on what the stakeholders cared about, and could be used to help us understand the effect of process improvements that we were planning. When did you last review the KPIs you use for change management? Why not review your change management KPIs and reporting and make them more valuable for you and your stakeholders? [Image credit]

Like this article? You may also like: Defining Metrics for Problem Management.

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What Is SysAid’s Service Level Agreement?

Posted by on April 23, 2014 in SysAid
SysAid’s SLA: Bronze, Silver, and Gold Support Lineup My customers ask me this question all the time – what is SysAid’s SLA? Up until recently my answer was always, “We don't have an official SLA but we strive to reply within 24 hours." Today, I am thrilled to change my answer because now SysAid does have an official SLA!!! Countless hours have been spent in meetings, planning, rethinking our work processes, changing the way we answer phone calls and chats, fixing replies to emails, creating new routing and escalation rules, adding new functionalities by using the new Email Rules feature, and much more. All our investment in this reform was done in order to bring a better service experience to our customers.

Introducing SysAid’s Bronze, Silver, and Gold Support Lineup

We divided our customers into three SLAs: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The customer's SLA is determined by their license value, including the SysAid edition, number of admins, and number of assets. Internally, within Customer Relations, we completely reorganized the department according to the new SLA, and now we have four separate teams: Bronze, Silver, and Gold who are dedicated to service the customers in their respective SLA, plus the Cloud Infrastructure team of course. We’ve been working within the new structure for a few months already, learning and adjusting the work process all the time. From this experience, we came up with the following:
  • Bronze customers usually need more tech support than account management so that is why we decided to allocate to all Bronze customers a team of support engineers to provide quick and effective support. With the help of Professional Services, we developed a round-robin mechanism that assigns the new SR to the next available support engineer at any given point in time.
  • Silver and Gold customers will have a dedicated account manager who will be in charge of all aspects of the account: tech support, administrative issues, coordinating activities with Professional Services if needed, and basically cater to all the customer needs from the beginning. This means help with the initial setup, implementing different modules, and providing support advice when needed.Gold account managers will have half the number of accounts to manage than a Silver account manager giving them the ability to provide a much more personal service…I would allow myself to even say - an intimate relationship with each customer.
  • SysAid Panic Button - App for Gold customers only. We asked one of our mobile developers to write an app for iOS and Android devices that will allow you to alert your account manager (or someone from the team) 24x7, when you have a Priority 1 crisis. SysAid Panic Button app
  • We added the ability for customers to self-escalate the priority of submitted SRs. On the new SR notification that you receive (each time you send an email), if the SR is not already in Priority 1 then you’ll get a link that allows you to escalate the priority to Priority 1.Note: We have a very precise definition to Priority 1, so using this new feature does not automatically mean that the SLA for Priority 1 will be enforced. What is Priority 1 is detailed in the SysAid SLA.
With this new SLA all our customers are winners :-).

UPDATE July 7, 2014: SysAid Support got even better with the new Business Services team. Read all about it here.

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