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What is a Service?

This is perhaps one of the most important yet challenging questions in all of IT Service Management. In fact it makes ITSM possible (given the realization that it is IT Service Management). I pondered this question while having lunch and catching up on some industry reading about value and customers.

The ITIL© V3 definition of a service is as follows:

A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.So given this definition, how do we know what exactly is a service? As a result of my pondering (and some sauce spilled on my blazer from my lunch) I came to a conclusion. Simply, a service is anything you do to help other people accomplish a goal. In other words it is “work done for other people”. If a person could accomplish the work themselves, would they need service provided to them? Maybe, but often, they can’t do it as well, as cheaply, etc. As an example, let’s go back to the sa…

Evaluating and Selecting ITSM Tools

I am often asked, what is the best ITSM tool? Which tools are ITIL compliant? The answer is, of course, “it depends!” Every organization has different needs, budgets and resources. For now, there is no officially recognized “ITIL Compliant” designation. The OGC and APM Group have recently introduced a Software Assessment Scheme that will audit ITSM toolsets against specifically defined ITIL criteria. Going forward, you will be able to easily identify the tool suites that have met those requirements.The starting point is a list of generic requirements. An integrated suite is preferable and should include as much of the following as possible: Service PortfoilioService CatalogService Design ToolsDiscovery/Deployment/Licensing TechnologyWorkflow or process enginesCMDB’SConfiguration Management Systems (CMS)Self Help for UsersRemote ControlDiagnostic UtilitiesReporting Tools/DashboardsService Knowledge Management System (SKMS) Depending on your requirements, goals, budget, ITSM maturity le…

Who was Bloom and why should I care?

Benjamin Bloom (1913 – 1999) was an American educational psychologist who developed a taxonomy, or structure, through which educational objectives could be organized according to their cognitive complexity. The cognitive domain deals with a person's ability to process information and use it in a meaningful way. Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain, from the simple recall of facts, through increasingly more complex and abstract levels of thinking.

Simply put, Bloom’s Taxonomy helps teachers categorize learning objectives and, from there, assess learning achievements.

Why should you care? Many popular certification exams – such as the ITIL V3 exams – are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Understanding the Bloom level at which you will be tested and using appropriate study techniques greatly increases your ability to Engage effectively in class Prepare properly for the exam Achieve success on the exam It is also useful to understand your learning style, or approach to learn…

Change Management People

“Those Change Management people make my life so difficult sometimes!”
I heard this from one of my students the other day. In this person’s organization they have made a common error. They have confused the process of Change Management with the Service Desk, Technical, Operations and Application Management functions. In other words the people who use the Change Management (and other processes) have become the same as the process itself. This is an often misconstrued and misinterpreted idea.

We must remember that ITIL makes a distinction between Functions (groups of people who use processes to complete similar types of work) and Processes (sets of activities used to complete various types of work). I like to remind my learners that Functions use Processes (or people do activities). Functions are not Processes and Processes are not Functions.

There may be groups of people or work teams who use a process as their main tool. As an example, the Release Implementation Team could use Release Man…

Celebrating National Customer Service Week (Part 2)

It’s National Customer Service Week (NCSW). Held every year during the first week in October, NCSW provides an excellent opportunity to explore ways to better serve your customers. A great starting point is ensuring your policies, processes and procedures are customer friendly.

What does that mean? Be a customer for a moment. What are the things that drive you crazy? Here is my list of pet peeves, along with a few suggestions.

Limited options – Every process begins with a trigger. For IT organizations, a common trigger is a call to the Service Desk to report an incident or submit a service request. Times have changed. Increasingly customers want the ability to use other channels such as email, self-help via the internet, chat, and in many cases, all of the above. There are currently four generations in the work place, all who have very different expectations and desires in terms of how they obtain support. Are your processes keeping up with the times? Surveys, focus groups and needs ass…

Celebrating National Customer Service Week (Part 1)

Times are tough and many organizations are looking for ways to reduce costs. However, even in difficult times, investing in the people, processes and technology used to serve customers is sure to reap a positive return. National Customer Service Week (NCSW), held October 5-9 in 2009, provides an excellent opportunity to explore ways to better serve your customers. It is also an excellent time to let the employees who serve your customers know how important they are to the success of your organization.
Always the first week in October, NCSW is designed to raise awareness of customer service and the vital role it plays within an organization. It is also an opportunity to say thank you to those who work in customer service for a job well done. Organizations take part in NCSW by hosting events in their workplace. These events can be large or small, serious or fun, they can be held all through the week or just on one day…. it's up to each organization to decide how to celebrate. …

MOF, ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000

Microsoft has recently published two interesting whitepapers mapping its Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) to ITIL V3 and ISO/IEC 20000:Cross Reference ITIL® V3 and MOF 4.0Using MOF for ISO/IEC 20000I have always been a big fan of MOF - it makes sense, is filled with question-based guidance and it's free. Microsoft has graciously provided free job aids, templates and whitepapers such as the ones referenced above. I like to think of MOF as "service management for the masses."

As the whitepapers describe, MOF can be used to complement ITIL implementations and/or fulfill the minimum critical activities required for ISO/IEC 20000 certification.

Frankly, MOF's biggest obstacle is the big "M" that sits in front of the framework. There is a common misconception that MOF only applies to environments that are heavily invested in Microsoft technologies. The truth is that the best practices in MOF apply to any environment. The guidance is very generic and is not tool…

Process Improvement is Like Driving a Stick Shift Car

Have you ever driven a stick-shift car?

At first, it feels as if there are way too many steps to remember just to move from park to drive. Step on the clutch, put the car into gear, ease off the clutch as you gently press on the gas. Once you are moving, you then have to upshift and downshift to navigate thru traffic, all the while hoping not to stall the car or strip the gears. What if you get stuck on a hill? It takes all of your skill not to slip into the car behind you.

You may have thought, "Is this really worth it? If I were in an automatic, I could just put it into "Drive" and go. This stick-shift is slowing me down".

So why do race cars choose manual transmissions over automatics? The answer is simple - it gives the drivers better control, helps them meet the challenges of the track and allows them to go much, much faster.

IT Service Management process improvement is similar to driving a stick-shift car. At first, you may perceive newly implemented processes as…

ISO 20K Can Be a Starting Point, Not a Destination

Since it's adoption, there has been a slow, but steady growth in the number of organizations that are seeking, or have achieved, ISO/IEC 20000 (ISO 20K) certification. For the most part, interest in the standard is being driven by RFP requirements or perceived competitive advantage. The certificate is seen as an "award" that an organization receives for achieving best practice ITSM. While ITIL is being actively adopted, many organizations are overlooking ISO 20K because they do not perceive any value in the certification.

I recently realized that we are looking at ISO/IEC 20000 in the wrong way. The standard has so much more to offer than just a certificate. It actually provides a starting place for an ITSM journey, not only the
destination.
ISO/IEC 20000 defines the "minimum critical activities" required to deliver high quality, aligned services. Once these activities are understood, an organization can assess which activities they already execute well and whi…

Defining Categories

I often hear from organizations that they are not reaping the expected benefits from their Incident Management Systems or integrated Service Management suites. One of the biggest reasons is that they are struggling to determine how to categorize incidents, problems, service requests, changes, and so forth. Coming up with the right categories for your organization is easier said than done. If you’ve had to do it multiple times, you’re not alone. Having said that, it is important to persist. Categories drive many process activities such as:
Incident matchingSecond- and third-level escalationsWorkflow managementSelf-service decision tree logicPriority definitionKnowledge base searchesTrend and root cause analysisMetrics productionSLA reporting Miscategorized records cause inefficiencies, ineffective reporting and can even damage the relationships between lines of support. For example, are your second-line support teams regularly asking “why was this record assigned to me?” If so, it may b…

Service Requests and Change Management

I was having a discussion with a learner this morning about the difference between Service Requests and Standard Changes.

This learner's organization publishes a list of standard services that users can request via a self-help tool. The Service Request will be routed to the Service Desk. The Service Desk will review the request. If appropriate, the Service Request may be fulfilled by applying a Standard Change that has been approved by Change Management.

By definition, a Standard Change is a pre-approved, low risk change (such as a new hire) that can be fulfilled almost immediately. Standard Changes must be recorded, possibly as a Service Request. They do not require operational oversight by the CAB.

It is important to note that not all Service Requests are Standard Changes. Service Requests can include questions, queries, complaints and compliments. Similarly, not all Standard Changes are Service Requests. Standard Changes can include batch jobs, patches and other low risk change…

Undervalued Evaluation

I have been reading Service Transition and am struck again that one of the most undervalued processes is Evaluation. The purpose of Evaluation is to provide a consistent and standardized method for determining the performance of a service change. The actual performance of a change is assessed against its predicted performance. Any detected can therefore be understood and managed. One of the goals of Evaluation is to provide effective and accurate information to Change Management. The objective is to: Evaluate the intended effects of a service change as well as the unintended effects of the change. For example, does the change meet the requirements agreed to in Service Design? Does this change have any negative effects on availability, capacity, etc…? Provide good quality outputs from the evaluation process so that Change Management can asses whether a service change is to be approved or not. Triggers for the Evaluation Process: Request for Evaluation from the Service Transition manager or …

ITIL V3 and MOF 4.0

Since 1999, Microsoft has offered its own framework for IT Service Management. The analogy with ITIL has always been clear, which is quite obvious as both frameworks offer documented 'best practice' guidance for IT Service Management. There are plenty of interesting differences though.
In a cross-reference document, Microsoft illustrates how MOF and ITIL play leap-frog. The document offers a detailed analysis of the similarities and differences of both frameworks.
More information: go to MOF or download the paper here: Cross-reference MOF-ITIL.

ITIL's Service Design 5

What does the Service Design stage actually design? Many readers of ITIL V3 assume that Service Design is primarily responsible for IT services. In fact, this stage is responsible for five different aspects: Service solutions Service management systems and tools Technology architectures and management systems IT and service management processes Measurement methods and metrics ITIL’s holistic approach to design ensures consistency and integration across the full portfolio of IT services. Consideration of each design begins with an assessment of the “as-is” situation, with a view to identifying relationships, dependencies, compatibility, and, especially, opportunities to leverage existing capabilities and resources (service assets). Both opportunities and gaps are identified. This may validate the design of the new service, or may indicate the need to modify or adapt the design of the new service or other existing services.

Service Design is charged with designing services that deliver busines…

What IS a Process?

Ross Wise here again…While I was working on some process improvements the other day it occurred to me that it could be very easy for people to get confused over the different elements that make up a process. So I thought I would jot a few down for everyone to help clear things up…
First we have the process itself. This is a collection of specific high level steps that can happen in either a linear or parallel fashion to achieve specific objectives or outputs. It consists of a number of elements: Procedures: detailed instructions for the completion of a given process step
Flowchart: a diagram showing the order and connection of process steps and decisions
Inputs: the raw materials you use to create the process output
Outputs: the end product or service resulting from doing the process steps and procedures
Triggers: events that initiate the process
Roles: the assigned responsibilities given to individuals using or executing the process
Resources: additional tools, templates, technologies, finan…

The 7-Step Improvement Process

One of the most interesting concepts that I've found in the V3 Continual Service Improvement (CSI) book is the 7 Step Improvement process. This process provides a structure for defining, analyzing and using metrics to improve services and service management processes.

Prior to beginning the process, it is important to determine the: Vision Strategy Tactical goals Operational goals These will be defined during Service Strategy (vision and strategy) and Service Design (tactical and operational goals).

With that in place, the process consists of 7 practical steps: Define what you should measure Define what you can measure (then do a gap analysis between this and Step 1) Gather the data Process the data Analyze the data Present and use the information Implement corrective actions This process provides a framework for ensuring that the data being collected and resulting metrics align with the strategic and tactical goals of the organization. It also allows an organization to prioritize and act on i…

COBIT User Guide for Service Managers

COBIT Download - Free for ISACA members, cheap for everyone else!
Aimed at providing specific guidance on how to use COBIT when performing a particular role, this guide focuses on service managers, providing them a better understanding of the need for IT governance and how to apply good practices in their specific roles and responsibilities. It facilitates easier use and adoption of COBIT and ITIL concepts and approaches, and encourages integration of COBIT with ITIL.
Download here

IT Ops or IT Slops? Definitions Matter: Part One

This blog was written by Kevin Behr, co-author of Visible Ops
You can visit Kevin's blog at: http://blog.kevinbehr.com/

“I wish we had dedicated project resources. I am so busy with operations that I just don’t have time for projects.”

“Why does every IT issue get escalated to my top network and security people?”

“I don’t care if you have enough time. I need this stuff done now.”

“It takes me more time to fill out a change request than to make the actual change.”

“We spend over 70% of our time doing operations which only leaves me 10-15% to work on projects after I read my email.”

Sound Familiar?

I love the provocative statement that Goldratt made (I paraphrase):

“Technology CAN (not does) provide value IF and only IF it diminishes a business constraint.”
Before you go off emailing me that technology has many other values please reflect deeply on this statement. Please reflect deeply on what business value IT provides.

I love the notion of continuity that the “diminishes” brings to the stat…

Payback time for ITIL

This article was written by Bob Mathers and printed in CIO Canada on March 8, 2009. Since it covers one of my favorite topics, the ROI of ITIL, I am sharing the whole article with you.


The ‘version 3’ updates of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, released in the spring of 2007, have breathed new life into ITIL. Certainly, it has sparked renewed interest from CIOs. By applying a common language and best-practice guidelines for managing basic functional processes, ITIL goes beyond a basic focus on infrastructure cost efficiency and personnel productivity. As such, it is especially popular within organizations that are committed to performance improvement and seek to take their strategies to the next level.
Increasingly, however, many executives are questioning the payback of investments in ITIL. It’s not that ITIL has failed. Indeed, evidence shows that a vast majority of executives involved in ITIL initiatives believe that the guidelines have produced benefits. However, f…

Change Impact Analysis

I've been spending time within the Service Transition book. Did you know that ITIL V3 has a prescription for performing an impact analysis of a proposed change in the form of 7 "R" questions? Who RAISED the change? What is the REASON for the change? What is the RETURN required from the change? What are the RISKS involved in the change? What RESOURCES are required to deliver the change? Who is RESPONSIBLE for the build, test and implementation of the change? What is the RELATIONSHIP between this change and other changes? Frankly, I would add or clarify a couple of questions: What is the COST of the change?" (broken away from the Resources question) What is the TIMELINE for implementing the change? Other than that, I believe that these are meaningful and well-rounded questions, They can serve as a good foundation for a Request for Change template and informed Change Advisory Board discussions.

ITIL Certification Builds IT Workers' Skills in Economic Downturn

By: George Spafford

The news is full of failing companies and lost jobs, and the IT job market has not been spared the current economic recession. It is a worrisome time for everyone. We can view the recession's effects on the IT economy from two different perspectives: (1) that of employees, who fear losing jobs and worry about having the right skills, and (2) that of employers, which need to improve operating effectiveness and efficiency. While separate, these views are not mutually exclusive. Continuing education and the pursuit of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)certifications can benefit both groups in terms of building IT skills and improving IT operational efficiency.

Building IT skill sets with ITIL certification
Firms hire workers based on their skill sets. While many organizations understand the value of developing IT workers' skills, others discard employees when skills no longer align with a company's needs. In their responses to employee surveys, it's no won…

Allstate's Catherine Brune talks about what IT should -- and shouldn't -- do in a recession

Interesting. The Wall Street Journal today (FEBRUARY 17, 2009), published an interview with Allstate's CIO Catherine Brune. The topic is "What IT should -- and shouldn't -- do in a recession."

In the article, entitled Shifting Priorities, Brune discusses the importance of having a Process Improvement Program (they use ITIL) in place, especially in a down economy. She is quoted, "Don't ever take your eye off continuous improvement."

To read the article... http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123447763114179467.html

How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3

eWeek published a pretty informative article today: How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3. "ITIL Version 3 introduces a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) whose goal is to provide meaningful information, knowledge and wisdom to appropriate IT or business users for quality decision-making." In the article, Knowledge Center contributor Linh C. Ho explains how the Service Knowledge Management System is achieved and how it relates to the CMDB. The article covers....How to Move Beyond the CMDB in ITIL Version 3How the SKMS Works Why the SKMS is Significant

Reducing IT Costs using IT Service Management

The most frequent question of the last few months has been "What are IT organizations doing to reduce costs in a downturned economy?"

With constrained human and financial resources, the answer to this question can be daunting. The business still expects the same level of service with fewer resources. What's an IT department to do?

IT Service Management best practices have always provided guidance for managing or lowering the cost of services without sacrificing quality. Frameworks, such as ITIL, advocate processes that net higher efficiencies and effectiveness, which in turn result in lower costs and higher quality. The better you are at doing something, the lower the cost of doing it. Here are some other ways ITSM can help reduce costs:
Understand your costs by calculating cost per service, cost per customer and cost per activity. You can't reduce costs if you do not understand what they are in the first place.Create and analyze a Service Portfolio of services in the p…

Baseline Magazine says ITIL Managers will be Hot Job #6 for 2009!

Baseline magazine, which is one of my old favorites, (although I don't like the website nearly as well as their magazine) recently published a very interesting article. Entitled 10 Hot IT Jobs for 2009, it lists ITIL Manager as Hot Job #6.

"The job market is brutal, but some IT specializations remain in high demand. Many of the hottest roles and skills address issues specific to survival, such as productivity, efficiency and process improvement.... Governance and standardization are key to getting automation efforts off the ground in an orderly fashion, and companies will be paying a premium for ITIL and business process experts in 2009." - Read full article

CIO Insight also recently published something I found interesting, 10 Books for Managing in Tough Times. While I have not personally had a chance to read all of these books, I have reviewed their list. Several look to be very interesting and potentially helpful. - Read full article

Knowledge Management and Social Networking

My students often ask about new advances in Knowledge Management. While Knowledge Management is not a new topic, it seems that there are still many challenges in implementing and managing this important process.

I was discussing this topic with an academic colleague last week, Dr. Stuart Diaz Galup of Florida Atlantic University. He explained that "Knowledge Management" is often confused with "Information Management". I thought that was a very astute observation. According to ITIL V3, "information" puts data in context; "knowledge" adds experience, ideas, insights and value to information. So how can organizations evolve into managing "knowledge" instead of "information?

Dr. Galup's observation brought me back to thinking about social networking and Knowledge Management. The introduction and acceptance of Wikis (wikipedia) has encouraged collaborative knowledge in that individuals can contribute their expertise to create or upda…

The Question

One of the most important tools in the toolbox for implementing Service Management is “The Question”. Effective questioning can help make both a new and existing implementation more successful. Good questioning techniques take practice and knowledge like many other skills. It can take years to move questioning from a skill to a talent. But learning how to ask and answer questions is a valuable instrument.

Questions go beyond just the closed (specific answer) and open (subjective or broad answer). Questions can fall into several other categories and each should be approached in different ways:

INDUCTIVE: there are designed to aggregate information and will be used effectively in Incident Management; Problem Management and Change Management.

How do a set of Incidents correlate?DEDUCTIVE: these are designed to break down or decompose information and will be used effectively in Problem Management and Service Level Management.

What are the elements that make up an existing service?

ABDUCTIVE: t…

Calculating ROI on IT Service Management

One of the questions I am often asked is, "How do we calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) of our ITIL Implementation".

This week, a new case study was introduced covering: ROI Calculator Case Study Synopsis Traditionally, ROI and TCO are touted by software companies as a means to sell software. Many of us have become hardened to these calculations, as experience has show they were grossly over-inflated. To help combat this, in 2006, ITSM Academy shared a realistic, un-biased ROI calculator which enables users to estimate potential costs savings of: Incident Management Availability Management Unplanned Work Existing calculations can be easily tailored to produce similar process area calculations. Case Study Synopsis

The case study also includes a collection of 25 published ROI statements and stories, broken out by industry type. The following is one of the quotes:"An ITIL program at Capital One resulted in a 30% reduction in system crashes and software-distribution err…