Thursday, April 14, 2011

Service Catalogue Project Pitfalls

One of the most difficult things to do when approached to create a service catalogue for an organization is to help them realize that it's almost impossible to quote them on the amount of work to be done when you don't know where they currently are or where they want to go.

Companies are often rightfully hesitant in engaging consultants in time-and-materials contracts when they cannot quantify the volume of work or the deliverable.  Often they have been burned by consultants who promise high value service catalogues only to deliver worthless documentation.

I struggled with this for a while.  Not knowing what documentation they currently have and not knowing what level of maturity they hope to obtain from their service catalogue makes quoting for a service catalogue creation or improvement project almost impossible.

My solution is to offer a fixed price or capped price project for the initial phases and then depending on the situation at the client, offer a fixed price or time and materials engagement for the production of the service catalogue processes and documentation.

The first phase is always a discovery phase.  Find out where the client is with respect to their service catalogue's maturity.  They always have some form of catalogue, even if they haven't identified it as such.  This phase also involves educating the client in what they could do with a highly functional catalogue and let them decide how far they want to take it and how many of their ITSM or ITIL processes they want to integrate into the service catalogue.  Usually the deliverables for this phase are strategy documents, a road map, SWOT analysis and RACI charts.  This phase identifies where they are and where they want to be and makes planning for all future phases much more accurate.

I am a big believer in the teach a man to fish philosophy so my next phase is for process definition.  Here is where we define the KPIs, catalogue update processes, governance structure, management processes and SLA measurement processes.

The third phase I recommend is for the actual production of a service catalogue entry as well as the education of the managers of the service catalogue processes.  By this point I usually have a good understanding of where the client is and wants to be as well as the capabilities of all the process participants. The client can be fairly confident in the scope of the number of catalogue entries they need me to mentor their staff into producing.

This phase is where we implement the service catalogue management processes and integrate them into other processes like change management, PMO requirements, incident management etc.  This also gives us a chance to implement the governance structure and measure for the KPIs while fine tuning any issues that arise.  This is also where catalogue entries start to get published for their intended audience.  This is also where you ensure that continuous improvement is built-in so that the process evolves as it needs to or as the situation changes.

This hopefully is where the engagement ends.  The client should have the capability to produce all other entries and to maintain a fully actionable service catalogue.  Some clients also prefer to expedite the production of their catalogue entries by extending the engagement to produce a fixed number of services or even their entire portfolio.

For more information on Service Catalogue engagements please contact

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Don't settle for a service list when you wanted a service catalogue

Recently I've been approached a few times by organizations looking to put together a service catalogue.  My first question to all of them is "Why?".

Their answer is very important as it will determine if I will take the engagement or turn it down.  My rule of thumb is that if the person asking for the service catalogue cannot tell me right away the advantages of an actionable service catalogue then the engagement will be an educational consulting engagement.  If the person says "Because my boss told me we need one!" then I will probably walk away.

These engagements will typically fail or will offer little to no value to the customer and if I cannot add value to a client, I won't accept the engagement.  Not knowing what they could do with a service catalogue is a sign that they have unrealistic expectations and even the statement of work will probably be a waste of time for me to produce.

A fully functional service catalogue is a powerful tool for IT service management and can significantly improve your organizations service delivery, help you with the service strategy and service design and can be fully integrated into your continuous improvement initiative.  Not only can it make your IT team more effective, it can also act as a communication medium with your customers helping them understand what IT does and what expectations they should have with your levels of service.

All too often I'm contacted to fix an existing service catalogue.  Someone who doesn't understand the usefulness of a service catalogue has gone down a long and expensive road to produce a 'list' of existing services.  Although this can quantify the services provided it provides very little value.  More often then not, the list is from the viewpoint of IT not the consumer of the service and will become out of date almost as soon as it's published.  If you are producing a service catalogue from the point of view of implemented components then you have produced data that should probably reside in your CMDB.

So what should you keep in mind when producing (or engaging to produce) a service catalogue?
  • All services should be from the viewpoint of the consumer.  When I go through the drive through at a coffee shop I order the coffee, pay for it, receive it and walk away.  I don't care about how many coffee machines they have, how much water they consume, if they have enough sugar, etc.
  • Determine what information is useful in a service catalogue.  What the service is, what the expected service levels should be, cost, how to initiate the service, etc.
  • Determine how the catalogue will be produced for new services or kept up to date for existing services.  It needs to be an integrated deliverable through PMO and change management processes.
  • Determine the KPIs for each service.  Use the consumers experience of the service as a guide.  Was my coffee delivered in a timely manner?  Was my order correct?  Did I get the correct change?  Also base the KPIs on your your service strategy.  If the strategy to be fast, accurate, friendly, high quality or a combination of those things make sure your KPIs reflect the strategy.  If your strategy does not reflect the wants of the consumers then you may need to revisit the strategy.
  • Ensure roles and responsibilities for management of the service catalogue are well documented and understood.
  • Ensure the integration points for other IT service management practices are in place. Incident management, change management, capacity management, financial management, etc.  This is where you will get the full value of a catalogue.
  • Develop the content for the catalogue and publish it.  Use automated tools if costs are not prohibitive and allow self service wherever possible.
  • Once the catalogue is in place, measure it's effectiveness and continuously improve.
Hopefully these tips will help establish a useful service catalogue instead of another document that will sit on a shelf and be forgotten.

For more information on producing an actionable service catalogue, contact

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shut up and drive!

ITSM is a complicated beast. There are multiple disciplines all interlinked and a general lack of understanding from those outside the industry as to what it is and why they should care.

The big issue is that ITSM practitioners very often feed into this confusion by using too much jargon and too many promises of service excellence without articulating just how it will happen.

As ITSM consultants we need to do a better job of understanding the viewpoint of our customers. For example, if I am paying the bill I don’t want to necessarily be promised “Service Excellence”. Service Excellence sounds expensive and do I need excellence or is there an option to offer superior or right-sized levels of service? If I’m purchasing a car for example, do I want to but the fastest car on the market or do I need to balance my wants with my needs and my available budget?

We also need to do a better job of not over-complicating what IT Service Management is. The first conversation should not be about configuration items or integration between the incident management process and the service catalogue although you better be able to explain these concepts if the customer is interested.

Back to my car analogy; I don’t really care about every component and how they work but I do care that when I need the car to work, it starts, operates safely and can facilitate me getting from point A to point B in an efficient manner. I also like to know that if I have an issue that I have a trustworthy mechanic available to restore the service and hopefully spot issues before they occur through regular maintenance.

If ITSM practitioners can concisely describe the concept of managing IT services in business terms then I think the industry will be recognized as an enabler rather than a misunderstood expense.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Use metrics to improve service not punish the delivery team

To improve service delivery, you must measure it but before you start there are a few things you should think about.

If you just use metrics for Service Level Agreement Management to ensure vendors are delivering agreed-to levels of service you are missing out on an opportunity to make your organization more competitive and reduce business risks.
Firstly define what measurements are important to your organization.  Are you trying to improve service quality,  the cost or value of service?  Whatever you decide you should measure these factors consistently and make sure you report on measures consistently.  This consistency will ensure that the audience sees the metrics as legitimate.

Ensure those resources being measured understand why and the goal of the measurement. Primarily use metrics to improve service not punish the delivery team and make certain that the delivery team understands that this is what's happening.  Without this you will not get their buy in and probably find that if they have control over the measurements there will be a lack of consistency that we already noted needs to be in place.
Ensure the audience of metrics understands what is presented, how the metrics support the goal of the organization and that the metrics are presented in context to the goals.

Increase morale with the good news stories from metrics.  There's bound to be some so make sure that the good press gets out there.

Capture metrics in as few places as possible as they happen.  The fewer places used to capture metrics in your processes, the more consistent they will be.

Utilize real time metrics for better and faster business decisions.  Do metrics show a pattern?  Do metrics show a change in business environment?
Use metrics to control costs by looking at factors like, are your most expensive services producing their share of revenue?

Build a continuous improvement culture from your metrics.  Use trending to identify areas of improvement.  Value metrics can help make governance decisions.  Use your metrics to set metric based goals.  Set future goals on improvement of current metrics.
Use metrics to control change.  Implement change when it makes sense to do so and ensure changes stabilize before additional changes are made.

Be aware of “cause and effect”.  Measurements can cause unwanted behaviour.  I once had a client who wanted to improve their service desk's "Resolve on first call" metric.  They did this by spending much more time on each call and the net result was dropped calls.  Sure, the percentage of calls answered that were resolved without the need for a callback increased but customer satisfaction dropped through the floor and caused the user community to bypass the service desk altogether.

Be willing to refine measurements as more information becomes available or the situation changes.

Understand how the metric related to either revenue or cost.  If a service is 5% less stable does that cost you $10 or $10,000?

Record metrics so they can be presented at different levels of abstraction.  The same metrics should be able to be presented at a team level, department level and corporate wide.

If you follow these tips you can really use your service metrics for service improvement.

For more information on service metrics contact

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Everyone can innovate, so why aren't they?

At a recent engagement I was told that the team I was about to lead was VERY seasoned.  I thought this was great.  An opportunity to leverage their combined expertise to build a world class ITSM practice for this client.

What I found though was not a team eager to innovate and impress their customer.  I found a team that were paralyzed by fear.  They were being held back by two things.  The first was a fear of making a decision without prior management approval, the second was the fear of any type of change.

It's easy to see that years of mismanagement or micro-management was the cause of these two issues but how do you get them out of this cycle and even better, to a place where they innovate?

The first step is to set a direction, let them know what your overall vision is for the team and then empower them to make working level decisions based on their knowledge of that vision.  If they are the slightest bit intelligent, they should be able to make decisions to direct you all towards a single goal.  Yes they will occasionally make mistakes but don't threaten to splatter their blood on the walls if they do.  Instead either clarify the goal or direction or, if necessary, change it!  As long as you clearly set some direction they will follow it and if they don't you have an HR issue to deal with.

The second step is to give them the time to innovate.  The team I inherited were told they could ONLY work on something if the request came from an approved client.  The result of this was periods of padding the time spent on approved work to cover time spent waiting for more approved work.  This is a great example of someone taking something they read in an ITIL book and applying it without the filter of common sense.  Yes everything they work on should be recorded but it should also be realistic.  If there are points of inefficiency in your process, how are you going to find them if the numbers have been changed to show 100% utilization of all resources?

If there is any downtime, find some way of using it to innovate.  Allow the team to look for continuous improvement opportunities.  If there is absolutely no downtime then you need to build some innovation time into the work flow.  Without it, the current situation will never get any better and if your business picks up you will not have the resources to cope.

If you're leaving the innovation to management, you are wasting a huge amount of capacity that the team possesses.  Letting everyone know what the team is trying to achieve and not only enable but expect the team to innovate will not only provide results, it will increase engagement, morale and ultimately customer satisfaction.

For more information on building effective ITSM teams, contact

Friday, February 25, 2011

Time to Rescue your ITSM implementation?

Tired of not seeing the promised benefits of your ITIL implementation?  Tired of ITIL consultants documenting processes that nobody follows?

ITSM Rescue is an innovative way to pull your ITIL implementation out of the hole it's fallen into.

Full IT Service management means collaboration between several ITIL practices with the right interfaces to see the full potential of an ITIL based ITSM solution. Done right, your IT department will purr along with;
  • faster issue turnaround
  • better responsiveness to your business partners
  • improved efficiencies
  • improved quality
  • excellent customer service
  • better communication
  • improved relationships and partnerships with the business
  • lower total cost of ownership
  • better control over operational spending
  • continuous improvement culture
Instead of just trying to implement individual ITIL processes without a view of the big picture, ITSM Rescue uses ITIL principals to coach and mentor your IT Service team in the latest techniques while correcting the mistakes which have been holding your implementation back.

So, What is ITSM Rescue?

ITSM Rescue is a process whereby we assess your current IT Service management practices and work with you to define a service strategy. Once the current situation is understood we perform a complete gap analysis and develop a road-map to service excellence. The next step is to implement a governance structure to determine priorities and then systematically correct the pitfalls that have been stopping you from realizing the promised benefits of ITIL. Using the best Incident and Problem Management techniques we correct the behaviours that are ineffective for best in class ITSM delivery. We use change management techniques to improve the teams Service Management Maturity Level while simultaneously developing a comprehensive service catalogue for ITSM Services.
This hands-on mentoring approach will develop your team and teach them the techniques needed to roll out a world class ITSM practice that your business partners will notice.
ITSM Rescue was developed by Tony Denford, an ITSM implementation expert who specializes in improving under performing ITIL and ITSM implementations and coaching IT Service Management teams to be high performers.
For more information on ITSM Rescue, contact