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Simplifying Service Management

One of the things that troubles me at times is how often people try to make the world more complex than it needs to be. The world is really a rather simple place if you take the time to step back and avoid complexity. I recently read a statement that made think upon this problem again.
The opposite of “simple” is “elaborate”, not “complex”— Dan Roam, The Back of the Napkin
What people call complex, may in reality be elaborate. They confuse the two ideas. This can lead to issues in the delivery of Business and IT Services to customers. If someone believes a service is too complex they can often be less willing to make the effort to provide the service, or support it or improve it. Most likely the service is just elaborate (having lots of underpinning elements and components), not really complex (being of a nature that is difficult to understand).

So how do we move away from complexity and towards seeing Service Management in terms of simplicity and elaboration? Here are several techniques that might help:

1. Visualize: Draw out concepts, topologies, hierarchies, structures, models etc. on paper or using a tool like Microsoft Visio. Seeing the idea put into a visual structure can help someone see the paths and interconnections that make up a system or service.

2. Quantify: Put numbers and facts to systems and services using measurement and metrics techniques like the 7-Step Improvement Process found in the ITIL© Continual Service Improvement publication. Having factual data and information tied to systems and services can help show volumes, durations and frequencies associated with systems

3. Qualify: Use Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Map terminology and actions into the four steps of the cycle to see how the process or flow of actions or steps can be simplified to some basic ideas.

4. Analyze: Use deductive and inductive reasoning techniques to break apart (deduction) or recompose (induction) structures, processes, steps, models, etc. to see the interrelations and structures

5. Map: Use mind-mapping or brainstorming tools to again visualize the ideas and concepts, or parts and pieces of a system or service. These diagrams show how elaborate systems and services often point back to a single central idea.

Each of these techniques has its own uses and appropriate place and time. The key with any of the techniques is to maintain the approach that delivery of service is at its most basic a simple idea. By keeping in mind the goal of finding the simplicity rather than focusing on the complexity, these techniques can be very powerful.

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