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Usability or "User-Ability" Requirements

Too often, IT professionals jump from strategy right into implementation without doing the proper due diligence in collecting, analyzing and recording detailed customer requirements. The ITIL Service Design book defines three levels of requirements: Functional, Management / Operational and Usability. It gives us in-depth descriptions of Functional requirements and Management/Operational requirements but leaves me a bit empty when it comes to Usability requirements. The definition is as follows, “The primary purpose of usability requirements is to ensure that the service meets the expectations of its users with regard to its ease of use. To achieve this: Establish performance standards for usability evaluations Define test scenarios for usability test plans and usability testing. I like to define this as “User-ability”. Service Design (Section 5.1.1) describes this as the ‘look and feel’ needs of the user that facilitates its ease of use. Usability requirements ar

Making the Case for Self-Help

HDI (formerly Help Desk Institute) recently released its 2009 Practices and Salary survey and reports that an incident resolved via the telephone costs $22, while an incident resolved via self-help costs $12. Furthermore, 11 percent of the organizations surveyed report that self-help tools are prompting a decrease in the number of incidents reported to the Service Desk. Having said that, these organizations also report that only three percent of incidents are resolved via self-help. With the Baby Boomers retiring and technically savvy Gen Y joining the workforce – and, oh yeah, the economy – the time has come to get serious about self-help as a support channel. Many think the solution lies in finding and installing the right technology; however, new technology projects often fail from a lack of preparation and management. Here’s where the four Ps come in to play. Introduced in the ITIL Service Design publication, the four Ps – in the context of self-help – include: People – How can

Standard Operations and Maintenance

Sandy, if you have any more questions, just let me know! Standard Operations and Maintenance is really something that gets defined in the Service Level Agreement in consultation and negotiation with the customer. It is not really a determination made solely by IT or Operations. It is the customer or receiver of service that helps to establish whether an “outage” has occurred. Because we want to adhere to the terms and conditions set forth in the SLA we want strong controls in place. I think it is not a question as to whether the Change Management process will be used or not used. It is more a question of the degree of Change Management that will be used. A solid approach would be to establish a clear definition of a Service Change in the organization. ITIL says it is any “addition, modification or deletion of elements of the delivery of service” [paraphrased]. This is a broad definition and covers just about everything we do in IT. So, next we need to identify what we actually do in

ITIL and PMBOK

Thanks for the great question Beverly. ITIL V3 and PMBOK Project Management are both best practices that fall under the larger umbrella of IT Service Management (or really just overall Service Management). ITIL focuses on the lifecycle of services, while PMBOK focuses on the lifecycle of projects. Services are all of the things we do to deliver value to our customers. In effect services are a type of product. Projects are temporary (short term) endeavors we undertake to accomplish specific outputs. So we can look at projects as one mechanism or vehicle for establishing and delivering services, products, solutions, etc. The decision as to undertake a project will be made as a result of ITIL Service Strategy and Service Design. The project team may then use PMBOK best practices for accomplishing the goal, objective or output identified during Strategy and Design. Conceptually this places Project Management roughly equivalent to ITIL Service Transition activities (with some overlap to

Where to start with SACM? Service Asset and Configuration Management

I often get asked the questions, "Where do I start with SACM? How do I implement this process?" In my experience, this is one of the most difficult processes to implement correctly. Let’s discuss the first activity of the SACM process of Planning . In this activity, decisions will be made about the scope of what needs to be controlled in your organization. What level of configuration management is required? How will that desired level is achieved? Do you gather information about a service or about specific components? Do you need to control assets which are causing your customers the most pain points? When do you establish a controlled configuration, how do you change a controlled configuration, and what amount of resources are you going to expend to manage configurations? All of these decisions must be documented and formalized within the configuration management plan. Configuration Management Plan: · Context and Purpose · Scope · Requirements · Applicable policies and

Collecting and Analyzing Requirements

Every ITSM framework and standard references the need to meet "customer requirements". Unfortunately, there is less attention paid to the process of collecting and managing those requirements. I am happy to report that the ITIL Service Design book contains some good high level guidance on "Requirements Engineering" (Section 5.1). Requirements Engineering is defined as "the approach by which sufficient rigor is introduced into the process of understanding and documenting business and user requirements and ensuring traceability of changes to each requirement." The section goes on to to describe a Requirements Catalog for documenting and managing changes to requirements. It also describes techniques and tools for gathering, analyzing and validating requirements with customers. ITIL defines three levels of requirements: Functional, Management and Operational and Usability. The Service Design book is particularly good for those who do not have a background

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 th

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 Portfoilio Service Catalog Service Design Tools Discovery/Deployment/Licensing Technology Workflow or process engines CMDB’S Configuration Management Systems (CMS) Self Help for Users Remote Control Diagnostic Utilities Reporting Tools/Dashboards Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) Depending on your requirements, goals, budget, ITSM

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 le

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 Re

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

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 4.0 Using MOF for ISO/IEC 20000 I 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 no

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 proc

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

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 matching Second- and third-level escalations Workflow management Self-service decision tree logic Priority definition Knowledge base searches Trend and root cause analysis Metrics production SLA 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,

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 chang

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 Tr

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 ser