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The Future of Communication

I recently had the chance to encounter a very telling situation about the modern world. A presenter was talking about how the college age generation (the future employees of IT and business) was moving away from what he called “old style web pages”. That is full web sites and pages overloaded with content and information that requires someone to commit time to actually “reading”. The preferred communication approach for the upcoming generations is rather the “text” or “tweet”—140 or so characters of information or knowledge spun into the universe as snippets of data, information, knowledge and wisdom. Older generations are capable of producing such ‘text bites” of knowledge, but generally see them as links or parts of a much bigger activity called a conversation. For the future those “texts” and “tweets” will be the whole conversation or story: beginning, middle and end in 140 characters or less. It brought to mind the importance of coupling existing knowledge management with new or…

Service Vs. Project

A question arose recently concerning the relationship between Service Management and Project Management. This is a topic of interest to many people since on the surface both approaches seem to be fighting for some of the same work space in organizations. When we go back to the basic definitions of each we can see that the two are not in conflict, rather are very complementary. However, the relationship may not be as many people expect. I have found that the relationship is one of time: short term bursts of creation activities (outputs) inside a larger ongoing management lifecycle (outcomes).

Let us start with the definition of service and service management (according to ITIL®): Service: A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks

Service management (SM): A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services. Both of these definitions imp…

Managing Knowledge

I recently had the opportunity to chat with a practitioner about the importance of knowledge management and had to smile when she declared that ‘knowledge management is back.’ The premise of the comment was that early attempts at knowledge management were unsuccessful as organizations seemed to think that the knowledge was going to ‘magically’ appear. Gartner speaks to the fact that organizations also often focused on collecting knowledge, rather than dispersing it.

It has taken the IT industry a while to understand that there needs to be a strategy for knowledge management that culminates in the right information being delivered to the right place or person at the right time. Doing that successfully requires a process, methods, policies, procedures, tools, and metrics.
Another consideration is the shifting of generations in the workforce. Think about it. How do young – or young at heart – people solve problems today? They Google or Tweet and draw upon the knowledge and expertise of ot…

Pain Management

Picture this: A patient walks into the doctor’s office and says “doc, every time I raise my arm it hurts”.Of course you know the punch line.But can you see the analogy?Fill in the blank:Every time we _____, our customers/services/users hurt (how?)

To identify and improve pain areas, you must analyze the overall performance and capabilities of your services, processes, people, partners and underpinning technology.Do you know how they support desired business outcomes and where they fall short? The first step is to identify the “as-is” state in order to document current performance and justify the need for improvement.Part of this step will involve determining what needs to be measured and who is going to collect, process, analyze and synthesize the data into useable information.Key stakeholders will need to be identified and engaged in order to understand the intensity of their pain, the residual impact and their input into possible opportunities for improvement.

The “as-is” state can …

Unsourcing

I recently read a very interesting article in the June 2, 2012 Technology Quarterly edition of The Economist magazine.  There is a new trend in technical and customer support that relies heavily on the contributions from actual customers,“Unsourcing” involves the use of online communities to enable peer – to – peer support among users.Instead of speaking to a paid internal or outsourced service desk analyst, customers post issues to a central forum and wait for answers from experienced users.   To create unsourced communities, companies are setting up discussion groups on their website or leveraging social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  As you can imagine, the savings can be considerable.

Gartner estimates that user communities can reduce support costs by as much as 50%.When Tom Tom, a maker of satellite navigation systems, switched to social support, members handled 20,000 cases in the first month , saving the firm around $150,000.Best Buy has instituted an online support group …

Institutionalizing Continual Service Improvement

In this age of the global economy we repeatedly hear about how organizations must continually innovate and change to meet the challenges of global competition.Does your organization have a plan of continual service improvement (CSI)?Has the executive level defined how CSI will be part of the overall business strategy?Is there alignment, from IT management?How much time, resources and budget is being allocated towards improvement?Is it a structured corporate program or an ad-hoc initiative with little direction and no defined benefit? 

Institutionalizing CSI is one of the critical success factors for the 21st century.

A well-defined and managed strategy is necessary when confirming that all resources and capabilities of the organization are aligned to achieving business outcomes and that those investments are lined up with the organization's intended development and growth.It also safeguards that all stakeholders are represented in deciding the appropriate direction for the organiz…

Control Charts

In the 1920’s while working at ATT Bell labs, Dr Walter Shewhart (mentor of W Edwards Deming) sought a way to improve telephone transmission systems. Seeking to reduce variations and failures, on May 16, 1924 Dr Shewhart wrote an internal memo introducing the concept of the control chart [Wikipedia]. Today the control chart (AKA process quality control chart or Shewhart chart) has become the standard statistical tool for finding variation that lead to continual improvement. As with other continual improvement tools, the control chart can be understood in a short time, yet takes a lifetime to master as a truly powerful tool for statistical and incremental improvements.

The control chart is a tool that tells us whether a process or system is in a state of statistical control. The state of statistical control is one in which a minimum or acceptable amount of variation is acceptable while still meeting the desired output of the process. Shewhart recognized that every process and system has…

How Do You See ITIL?

As with most things, ITIL® can be viewed from multiple perspectives. I have found that many people seem to take a polarized view of the set of best practices. They either see ITIL® from a very literal, functional and operational focus or they see ITIL® from a more figurative, conceptual and strategic perspective. The interesting thing about ITIL® is that it is both of those things and everything in between all at the same time!

After spending many years reading, thinking, teaching and using ITIL® I have found that one of its greatest benefits is its flexibility. The set of best practices can be seen from strategic, tactical and operational perspectives. In addition it is my firm belief that to be a true expert in the best practices one must be able to think at all three of those levels at the same! Because ITIL® takes a lifecycle approach (cradle to grave for the life of a service) it operates very strategically. Because ITIL® provides a set of processes for achieving value for customer…

Keeping People Engaged

One of the most important questions we can ask in ITSM is “How do we keep people engaged and excited about ITSM?” This question is fraught with danger. If too little energy is put into keeping people engaged then ITSM has a chance of withering and dying. If too much energy is put into the people aspect then other important efforts gets sacrificed. So how do we find the right balance? How do we know what is the right level of energy to employ in an effort to keep ITSM on a steady path for your organization? The answer lies in the concept of engagement. The term means to hold the attention or efforts of a person. To keep people engaged we must therefore keep everyone involved, active and attentive to ITSM in our organizations. How do we keep people engaged? By giving them new opportunities to learn, demonstrate capabilities and new challenges to overcome. We can provide new areas for exploration and engagement by using process and maturity assessments to identify current levels of maturi…

The Meaning of IT

What does the IT in ITIL® stand for? This question may seem easy to answer. The IT stands for “information technology”. But what does that really mean? Is there more than one way to answer the question of what the IT in ITIL® means? I believe there are more than one context or meaning for IT and we must be aware of the distinct meanings. Let’s take a look at some of the ideas or concepts behind IT.

·IT as “information technology”: This most basic use of IT refers to the physical and technological pieces and components made up of electronics and operating/machine software. E.g. A desktop computer is IT as “information technology”.
·IT as “management information systems (MIS)”: Computerized components that are used to manage, control and govern information used to run a business or organization. E.g. A customer relationship management system is IT as “MIS”.
·IT as “collection of applications and infrastructure”: This umbrella use of IT encompasses anything technological or computerized r…

Reference Models

In 1999 the US Federal Government took a step toward improving the quality, performance, delivery and support of IT-based services. This step was the creation of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF). 

This framework consists of five reference models. A reference model is an abstract or logical framework or structure that describes the interconnections between ideas, concepts, elements or components that make up a whole system. We can look to the FEAF reference models as a guide for how we might approach an ITSM implementation regardless of industry or organizational structure.
Performance Reference Model: Used to measure the performance of major IT investments  This equates to a CSI or Metrics Program  Business Reference Model: Process-driven structure that describe business operations regardless of the organization that performs them This equates to a Service Portfolio framework Services Reference Model: Classification of service components and elements with respect to ho…

Service Measurement

Before my life as an ITSM professor, I was responsible for delivering the monthly reports on IT at a large specialty retailer organization with multiple remote locations in several states across America.I delivered many of the standard reports for Service Desk, Change Management and System Availability.System availability was a standard report that reviewed from a system / hardware perspective just how available the systems and their supporting components were throughout the month.This was delivered in percentages and the goal was to maintain 100% infrastructure availability.

Even though many of the individual systems and components were meeting their required SLAs, our customers were still not satisfied with the availability and performance of critical services.  We needed to re-address what should we be measuring and how should we be reporting achievements back to the business and customers. We decided to report on the end to end delivery of our services and the actual customer e…

The Myth of Metrics

The world record for the 100 meter dash is 9.58 seconds. The world record for the mile is 3 minutes 43 seconds. The record for running a marathon is 2 hours and 3 minutes. The 100 meter freestyle swimming record is 44 seconds. The world land speed record is 760 miles per hour (1223 KmH).And the list goes on and on. So what do these records have to do with ITSM? First these records are metrics: results of measurements. They measure the performance of processes (structured steps or actions undertaken to achieve an objective) and indicate the level of performance of people and vehicles doing the process. Second these data points reveal the myth of metrics. This myth is the belief that a person or organization can pick a data point or metric (desired result) before doing a process and through sheer willpower or force of action achieve that point. For example a person could not pick a time such as one (1) hour and say they are going to run a full length marathon in one hour. The only way…

Process Improvement Paths

When it comes to processes, W. Edwards Deming stated that there are only two choices: execute the process or improve the process. When it comes to improving a process we have three basic paths we can follow: develop the process (if it does not exist), redesign the process (if it is sore need of fixing) or improve the process (tweaking it in incremental ways). So let’s explore each of these paths in a little more depth.
Develop the Process: This path occurs when you really do not have a process. You might have some loosely followed procedures or perhaps steps that people follow in their heads. There is no formally defined, developed or documented process. This path allows you to start from the beginning by gathering requirements for the process, creating a process definition document and then implementing the process. This path takes the longest time and in some ways the most work.

Redesign the Process: This path occurs when the process you have in place just does not provide the outco…

Single to Double Loop Learning

Chris Argyris is one of the most important and influential thinkers in the last 100 years. Yet, few people are aware of his efforts in organizational development and human behavior. Argyris wrote about a number of different areas of organizational change management. Perhaps one of his most important contributions has been in the area of Single-loop and Double-loop learning for individuals and organizations.
Single-loop learning is when an individual or group undertakes an action and the result is not what they expect or believe be the result should be. So they go about “correcting” their approach on the assumption that they must have done something “wrong” the first time. As a result of the “correction” they expect a different result. Some of you may recognize this as the classic definition of “insanity”. Others have called these “self-fulfilling” prophecies. Doing the same kinds of things over and over and expecting different results. Single-loop Learning results from creating what A…

Questions about OLAs and SLAs

The Professor was recently asked about the following very interesting situation.

In my organization, we have a service desk that is not part of the main IT department.  Since we are a service desk solution provider, it is actually in one of our businesses units.  So our IT department has chosen to take advantage of that in-place service desk to effectively also be the service desk for internal employees.   Is this a situation where an operational level agreement (OLA) applies?    Or are the “parts” of the internal organization too far apart and a service level agreement (SLA) is more appropriate? I think the idea is that the OLA applies to different internal groups within IT?   Is that true?Let’s first define these terms and then apply them to this situation. An SLA is an agreement between a service provider and a customer. In the case of the service desk that is in one of the company’s business units, that service desk is a Type I (internal) service provider. Since ITIL is non-presc…

ITIL at the Service Desk

Trends such as mobile computing, consumerization (also known as bring your own device (BYOD), and cloud computing are having a dramatic impact on the service desk. These trends are prompting many organizations to evaluate and improve their existing service management processes, or implement new processes where needed, and to rethink the role the service desk plays in implementing, executing and improving these processes.

It would be easy to look at these trends and think of them only as the deployment of new technologies but there are bigger considerations at stake. What services are these technologies enabling? What business processes do these services underpin? How is the business impacted when these services are interrupted?
An important key performance indicator (KPI) for service catalog management is whether the service desk has the information that it needs about those services and their associated interfaces and dependencies. This is because the service desk plays an importan…

Strategies for Managing IT Services

When I teach ITIL foundation classes and we start talking about aligning IT strategy with business strategy, I usually see some puzzled looks on the faces of my students.So I thought I would give some basics on what we are trying to establish here.

The purpose of strategy management for IT services is to create a process for defining and maintaining an organization's perspective, position, plans and patterns related to its services and the management of those services.The purpose of a service strategy is to communicate how a service provider will enable an organization to achieve the desired business outcomes and establish the criteria and mechanisms to decide which services will be delivered, to whom they will be delivered to and to establish the most effective and efficient way to manage these services. The objectives of strategy management for IT services are: Analyze the internal and external environments in which we (the service provider) exist and to identify any opportunities …

Designing and Documenting a Process

Designing and documenting a process enables an organization to move from the initial level of the ITIL Process maturity Framework (PMF) through the repeatable level to the defined level.To undertake this task without adequate resources can be quite daunting especially given the fact that it must
Identify needed changes to job descriptionsDevelop and document work proceduresIdentify work requirementsEstablish the data to be collected and the format to report accomplishmentsDocument the necessary vocabulary to be utilized within the processThe following ten process design and improvement steps can be used to create an easy to use and repeatable approach to help move your organization from one level to the next.The ten steps are grouped into four phases.Each phase will produce a deliverable that serves as an input to the follow phase. Phase: Requirements Definition.Output: Requirements Definition Document. 1.Determine the management’s vision and level of commitment 2.Establish a project and …

Service Level Management Objectives

Service Level Management (SLM) is the process that is responsible for the overall agreeing and documenting Service Level Targets (SLT) and the responsibilities within Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Service Level Requirements (SLRs) for every service and related activity within IT.
The SLA is effectively a level of guarantee or warranty with regard to the level of service quality delivered by the service provider for each of the services supplied to the business.The accuracy of the SLAs, SLRs and SLTs and the overall success of SLM is very dependent on the quality of the service portfolio and service catalogue and their contents because they provide the detailed information on the services to be managed within the SLM process. With that said the purpose of the SLM process is to certify that all current and planned IT services are delivered in accordance with agreed achievable targets.This is normally accomplished by SLM through a continuing cycle of negotiations, agreements, in conj…

First Call Resolution

I was recently asked
"Do you have an average for the service desk of first call resolution?  We are trying to set a target for the team and I cannot find any data which gives me any indication what a good target would be."First call resolution (sometimes called "first contact resolution" or FCR) is an industry recognized metric for the performance of the Service Desk.   Analysts are measured on their ability to restore service to a user and close an incident during the first call or contact.    

This is a difficult metric to benchmark across all organizations and all incidents.   Factors such as incident complexity, service desk skills and empowerment,  outsourcing and remote control capabilities can influence the ability (or inability) to restore service during the first contact.

While ITIL acknowledges FCR as an important Service Desk metric, it steers clear of offering a target or benchmark.  Industry experts generally accept a FCR range of 65 to 80 %.   Despite t…

Six Reasons to Read the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)

The Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) is a well written, meaningful, asset-rich framework that is often overlooked in favor of its higher profile cousins ITIL, Cobit and ISO/IEC 20000.   Unfortunately, the big "M" that stands in front of the framework has created the perception that MOF is only relevant to Microsoft environments.  Nothing could be further from the truth - Microsoft has invested a great deal of resource and effort in creating MOF intellectual property and assets - giving it all away for free for anyone, in any environment, that is interested in learning more.  In fact, Microsoft considers you a Microsoft customer if you are working at a desktop or laptop running a Microsof operating system.

Microsoft's goal in developing MOF was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of IT service providers, thereby enabling those providers to get a better return on their infrastructure, applications and tools.  
Here are six good reasons to consider learning more a…

Conducting Productive Meetings

When we think about ITIL® we think about being able to manage the delivery of value-laden IT services to customers. But are there other, less obvious ways we can use and gain from the best practices and ideas contained within ITIL®? One of the areas that ITIL® and ITSM can help us with is by making conversations and meetings more effective and efficient.
One of the ways that ITIL can help us with meetings is by using the concepts embedded in RACI. Traditionally the ideas of being responsible, accountable, consulted and informed have been for use with process activities and levels of authority and accountability. However, once we identify those levels and assign them to roles we can use them to help us establish the proper attendance at a meeting. When sending out a meeting announcement or invite we can indicate that the meeting is for those roles holding particular levels within the RACI models. In this way we have the appropriate roles and individuals at the meeting. Another way we ca…

Building a Community of Practice (Part 2)

Part 1 of this series introduced the idea that a community of practice (CoP) is group of people who are bound together by similar interests and expertise. CoPs are an extension of the blended learning strategy being adopted by many organizations that combines formal, informal and social approaches to learning.
Like service management, communities have lifecycles – they emerge, they grow, and over time they become institutionalized. Also like service management, the plan-do-check-act cycle can be applied to each of these stages. Plan involves identifying the audience for the CoP and defining its purpose. It is also critical to ensure the needs and goals of its members are understood and that its purpose and goals are tied to the vision, mission and values of the greater organization. For example, you could have a service management CoP that brings together all of the practitioners in your organization, or you could have CoPs that focus on individual lifecycle stages but occasionally col…