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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 tech

Using CSI to Meet Customer Needs

I recently posted a blog about returning to a service desk I had managed and spoke about how the changing business environment had impacted management’s ability to sustain the current list of Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance indicators (KPIs). The 1st question was “What should we measure?” Within the new business reality, we reviewed how the corporate vision, mission, goals and objectives had changed. We spoke with service owners, business process owners, business analysts and customers and asked what was critical to them.  We could then determine the services that were creating the most value  and enabling them to meet these new goals and objectives. Management then identified the gaps of “what we should measure”, to “what we can measure”. From this, a more customer-centric list was developed. The overriding objective of these new service measurements was to provide a meaningful view of the IT service as experienced by our customers. The three key areas that cu

ISO 20K Certification Process

Thinking about ISO/IEC 20000 certification? Here are the steps involved. 1. Questionnaire : The service provider contacts one or several Registered Certification Bodies (RCBs). Each RCB will send a questionnaire with information needed to submit a quotation. Based on the quotations, the provider can select a RCB. 2. Application for assessment : An application form is completed and returned to the chosen RCB. A lead auditor is assigned and an initial visit scheduled. The auditor will explain the assessment process, an audit program will be agreed and the assessment date selected. 3. Optional pre-audit : This is a high-level evaluation to determine where the company stands in compliance with ISO/IEC 20000. The auditor will point out any areas of concern to give the provider an opportunity to improve before the initial audit. 4. Initial audit : In this session the scoping statement is agreed upon and the auditor plans the certification audit. Documentation and evidence of com

Achieving ITSM Balance

In speaking with colleagues and practitioners, I have found that one of the greatest difficulties for companies to overcome in a Service Management implementation is the desire to be more complex and unbalanced than is absolutely necessary. One of the most basic and underlying elements of good Service Management is the achievement of balance in how we approach the delivery of value to the customers and users through services. Balance helps us to find an equitable point that brings value to the customers and users without throwing out the efforts and actions needed to keep IT going. When I speak of balance, I am referring to finding the middle ground between extremes. These include balances like the amount of time and effort spent between Incident Management and Problem Management; or perhaps the balance between flexibility and stability; or even the challenges of being proactive versus reactive; customer/service-centric versus technology-centric. There are a multitude of these types

Enterprise Glossary

As a Professor, I realized long ago how important words can be. Not just the words themselves but also the definitions and contexts in which those words should be properly used. When we think about the vocabulary of ITSM (and it is quite an extensive technical vocabulary) we must remember that it is vital that we are all using the terminology in the same way. To help us get on the same page for the language of ITSM, one thing an organization can do is to create an enterprise glossary. Such a collection of terms helps people to use terminology and vocabulary correctly and in its proper context. Common usage of terminology also leads to consistency of thinking and action. A glossary is defined as: A list of words relating to a specific topic with the definitions of the words provided. An enterprise glossary is therefore a collection of words used throughout and across an organization or enterprise to help establish consistent definitions wherever the vocabulary might be used. A single

Incidents when a Defect is Involved

Question: We currently track defects in a separate system than our ticket management system. With that said, my question is does anyone have suggestions and/or best practices on how to handle incidents when a defect is involved? Should the incident be closed since the defect is being worked on in another defect tracking system if it is noted in the incident ticket? I am considering creating an incident statuses of 'closed-unresolved' so the incident can still be reported on in our ticket management system but know it is being worked on/tracked in the defect system. With defects, it is possible that we may never work on them because they are very low priority and the impact is low to the user. However, in some cases a defect is being worked on. Should we create a problem ticket instead? Thanks, RenĂ© W. Answer: RenĂ©. In ITIL, the activity you are describing is handled by the Problem Management process. ITIL does not use the term “defect” but it does use the term “known er

Service Desk Metrics

Earlier in my career I had the pleasure of managing a Service Desk. This function is the unsung hero of IT support! We had a multitude of measurements and metric that were taken every day and then meticulously charted, reported and analyzed. At the time it’s what we did. I recently had the opportunity to visit my old Service desk and found to my horror, that many of these metrics were no longer being used. I also was informed that customer satisfaction had not dropped significantly and that some of the KPI still being measured were well within an acceptable range. Now that I no longer am in the thick of it, I took some time to really think about what was it we were measuring and what did it really mean. As an organization we did all of the industry best practices measurements. Speed of answer Call duration Number of calls per day/week/month and analyst Abandoned calls Number of tickets opened versus number of tickets closed Percentage 1st call resolved Customer satisfaction

Managing Data

Data is a critical asset of every business. It needs to be managed properly in order to deliver services effectively. If we do not manage our data, we will be maintaining and collecting data that is not needed. Data quality, integrity and security of information may be compromised. We are painfully aware of identity theft and the risk of unprotected data to our business. To effectively manage our information we must be able to answer the following questions: What data do we currently have, how is it classified, what if any are the security constraints? What data needs to be collected or created to support our business? What are our current and future needs for data storage and maintenance? Who will access the data, how will they access it? What are our disposal considerations, how long does the data need to be kept?  In the ITIL Service Lifecycle, during requirements gathering, answering these questions is essential for the implementation of new or changed services.

Deming's 7 Deadly Quality Diseases

Often, when we talk about implementing IT Service Management we refer to one of the Founding Fathers of the Quality Management movement, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Most people focus on the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Perhaps lesser known but just as important is the fact that Dr. Deming spoke of the changes needed within an organization’s culture to make the Deming Cycle work to its greatest effectiveness. Dr. Deming wrote and spoke of Seven Deadly Diseases that infect an organization’s culture and prohibit it from truly succeeding in achieving quality for the customer. Lack of constancy of purpose: You must remain focused on doing the right things because they are the right things to do for your customer and to achieve quality. ITSM is not a fad it is a way of behaving. Emphasis on short-term profits: Cutting costs can bring short-term profits and are easy to achieve. But cutting costs can only go on for so long, before you have cut to the bone and have nothing left to cut.

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