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

Friday, February 4, 2011

IT Service Management in the Cloud

When most CIOs start to think about their cloud strategy, the thought of "losing control" of their IT environment is usually the first big concern.  Most are not comfortable with handing over control of the services they deliver, primarily because they don't have a clear understanding of what services they deliver and therefore cannot look for the right opportunities to use the cloud as an advantage.

This makes a good IT Service Management strategy ever more important.  Instead of the older ITIL V2 methods which manage specific assets, you need to be focused more than ever on IT Service delivery whether that service is managed in-house or some mysterious location in the cloud.

Before moving your infrastructure to the cloud and realizing the potential savings of doing so you really need to have your IT service management in place and running smoothly.

A mature ITSM practice will have a good understanding of what services are being provided, exactly how they perform, how much it costs to deliver the service and, most importantly, exactly what is required to deliver the service with the quality expected by your customers.

Knowing how much the services cost and what is required for them to be considered of value to the business puts organizations in an excellent position to move parts of their platform to the cloud.  Vendors you deal with for any cloud solution can then be held accountable for ensuring the service delivery by your own internal IT Service Management team.

Your ITSM team should know how to measure the delivery, how to ensure costs are in line with expectations and that the vendors are capable of delivering consistently or held accountable when they don't.

So the operational role of IT is changing from managing all the nuts and bolts required to support your business to managing the vendors and support processes required to ensure consistent service excellence.

For more information on how Tony Denford can help your organisation manage it's IT Service Management practice, contact

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why your Service Transition needs to be institutionalized

If, like most IT organizations, you have a strong project management culture, the importance of a strong service transition process should be a priority especially if service excellence is your goal.

A common scenario that I see all too often is that your PMO spends months or even years managing that industry busting project and then it comes to implementation time.  The customers are happy, it tested well.  You have a strong implementation plan and everything seems to be in place for the project to be declared a success.  But then almost as soon as pat each other on the back for a job well done something goes wrong.

Something small at first, maybe an IP address changed and the application is unavailable.  Easy enough, you identify the issue and fix it pretty quickly.  Then another issue where a file is surprisingly over capacity.  Whoops!  Easy, fixed in a matter of minutes.

Here's the real problem.  Your project resources that are troubleshooting the issues are saying things like "Oh, it was only a small issue",  "There's no way we could have tested that" or "It wasn't our fault, it was the infrastructure team who screwed up" while your customers are all saying "This new system is worse than what it replaced!".  The fact you just had a successful project carries no weight with your now disenfranchised customers.  What matters is whether they can do what they want to, when they want to.  they feel like you don't value their concerns and that IT is inefficient and even infighting.

So how does a good service transition process solve this problem for you?  If your process is thorough you'll know who is supporting every aspect of the new service as well as every component that needs to be in place, monitored and exactly what the service level expectation of the customer is.  Everyone involved will know what is chaning, when and what the expectation is on them.

If you ensure the service transition process is institutionalized into your PMO requirements for all projects and included in your change management process you'll have everything in place to give consistent service delivery.  If you find something that wasn't put in place you can always fix it through your continuous improvement process!

To find out more information on Service Transition best practices, contact

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Continuous Improvement Vs. Big Bang

So your in the business of making money and you're doing OK but your shareholders expect more. 
Sure, projects usually start with an ROI calculation but we all know that these projections are often optimistic or misleading to benefit your system integrators and do your shareholders really want to wait 2 to 5 years to see a return on their money?

While big bang projects can be great to get your organization into a new market (think iPod) they are far less effective at making you money at your core business and more and more these days, by the time you've waited 5 years to see your return on the project, the technology is obsolete.

So what's the alternative? 

Strategically you will be much better off with a continuous improvement methodology rather than starting a project to do everything differently.

I learned a lot about continuous improvement or kaizen during my time at Toyota.  Continuous improvement allows you to add quality or value to your product or service and reduce the cost of providing that product or service.  Effectively you can give your customers more for less which increases your margin.  And it doesn't just increase your margin once.  Every time you provide that service you are getting an immediate return and the more times you're doing it, the more you're adding to your bottom line.
So how do you introduce a continuous improvement culture? 
Unless you know how a service is performing now, it's impossible to know if any improvements you make have actually had the desired results so step one is measure the service.  At a bare minimum you should know how often it is performed, the cost of performing it, the benefit from performing it and the affect not performing it would have on your business.  You can also measure more intangible thing like, for example, the affect on reputation.
Once you know how your services are performing you must take some time to look over the data.  Try to identify areas for improvement.  Where can you improve quality, lower costs, reduce waste, remove customer frustration, improve reputation, whatever is important to your business.
Don't necessarily try to fix all of these things at once.  Look for improvements that are easy to implement first, implement them, continue to measure the service as it's provided and then review the data to see if it had the desired affect.  If service improved, leave the change in place.  If not, remove the change and go back to how it was done before.
Now do the whole thing again!  Look at your data, make an improvement, measure it's effectiveness, keep it or go back.  If you can introduce this cycle into your day-to-day operations you will be well on your way to continuous improvement.  Also have larger cycles to look for larger improvement opportunities.
Try to encourage everyone, at every level to suggest improvements.  Make it part of their process.
What about the risk of all that change?
Look at it this way... If you on a boat going from point A to point B would you rather have a big bang project that spends a year planning the route and sets off only to find out later that the projections of wind strength were not accurate or that someone didn't take into account that you competitors are firing cannon balls at your boat?
Continuous improvement allows you to declare where you want to go, set out and then repeatedly make adjustments in your route as conditions in the marketplace change.  It is far more adaptable to the change going on all around us.  As long as you manage your change process you can control the risk.
Do you sometimes need a big bang project to bring something to market?  Of course but once it's implemented keep ahead of the market using continuous improvement.
For more information on getting more from your services, contact

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do your business partners value the IT services you provide?

Why do so few people in the business world value their IT departments?  The answer is that the IT departments don't value their business partners, at least not in the way they want to be valued.  Business units expect IT to deliver high quality service every day, continually add value and support them in delivering end-products and services to their customers.

Throughout the relatively short period that IT has been in existence they have had a laser like focus on one thing... Project Management.  Project Management is great at delivering new products to market but does almost nothing to improve the service that IT provides to it's customers.  PM's often focus on delivering on-time and on-budget but all too often this results in a lack of quality or a redefining of the initial scope so that the original vision is often cut back until the customer cannot recognize the product or realize their original hopes for the new product.

Don't get me wrong.  Project Management is an important part of IT's function.  When done well it can buy a lot of forgiveness from your user base for other shortcomings in service delivery.  But that goodwill fades over time so it's extra important now for IT as an industry to mature and realise that they could go a long way to improving the services delivered to their business partners.

The first step would be to understand what services you provide for your customers and what services they think you provide.  Get on the same page because most IT departments don't even have the same view as their customers so it's important to synchronize the understanding and then to quantify it in a service catelogue.

Once you've quantified your services you will need to define the measure of success for those services.  Each one could be different so define what measurement makes sense for each service and measure it.  Now you know how you're performing, you can work to continually improve the service or at least maintain the service at acceptable levels.

By now you know what services your customers expect, what services you're providing and have an understanding of what improvements are needed.

If you get it right you'll have excellent relationships with your business partners, be providing world class service and have a foundation to keep your costs under control and provide added value to the business on an ongoing basis.

Ignore service management and you may have just delivered the best new product to market but will your business partners be happy forever?

For more information on measuring the value of your IT services, contact

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is your IT Support structure "Upside Down"?

I've consulted at enough clients to know a pattern exists out there where the support structure in place is what I call Upside Down.  What I'm referring to is that the wrong people are placed in the wrong roles.    You have your highest value workers doing the lowest value work.

Here are some of the symptoms of an upside down support structure:
  • Service desk analysts resolve too few calls.  They typically log the tickets and pass them on to a second line support team.
  • Your SMEs are spending all their time resolving incidents and have done this role for some time.
  • Your customers are frustrated about the length of time it takes to resolve issues and that each time they request a major enhancement or project they get dumped with an IT team who doesn't seem to know what they're doing.
  • Your entire support staff are stressed up to their eyeballs.
It's not that your IT staff are incompetent but it sure looks that way to the people you are servicing.

What IT as an industry needs to do is take a look at the healthcare industry.  If I have a cold, for example, I can go to any pharmacy and buy something to relieve my symptoms.  I don't need to go and wait in a doctors office if I know how to fix the issue myself.  This is similar to self-serve within IT.  If the user knows what's wrong and what to request to fix it, let them do it themselves.

If my symptoms are uncommon to me, I'd go to my GP.  This doctor knows how to fix all of the most common issues.  How?  They have the training and knowledge available to deal with a vast majority of issues that the general population has to deal with.  And when they don't, they know who to refer the patients to.  They also know how to recognise critical cases and refer them to the local ER.

The ER is another important role within healthcare.  The first person you see in the ER is a triage nurse who quickly assesses the impact of your symptoms and then deals with the most critical cases first.  The triage nurse doesn't usually treat the patient but refers them to the specialists.

The specialists are the last line of defense in healthcare and usually manage the patients until their specialty is no longer needed.  They resolve those issues which need critical attention as well as work longer term to ensure the issues are fully resolved or can be managed reasonably.  They are also often consulted by the earlier lines of defense in the healthcare team

That's a nice overview of healthcare but how does it relate to IT Support?

Lesson 1 - Give self-service wherever it makes sense.  If your service desk is spending a large percentage of it's time resetting passwords for users, make it self-serve.  Understand how much it's costing you in both in financial terms and in terms of reputation and if it makes sense to implement a password reset function then do it.  Look at all your most common services and do a cost benefit analysis on whether it can be automated.

Lesson 2 - Make sure your generalists have the knowledge to deal with the most common issues.  This means passing knowledge to the service desk as it becomes available and making sure they understand what is going on in the organization and what changes are happening.

Lesson 3 - If you're not sure how bad the issue is, have effective triage methods in place to deal with the most critical issues first.  Have pre-determined protocols in place to quickly establish the severity and priority of any issue.  Don't let this happen on-the-fly because we all know that the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the oil.

Lesson 4 - Let your subject matter experts focus on truly fixing the root cause of the issue.  Each time a root cause is fixed properly, it will never recur saving everyone time and effort.  If the subject matter experts are spending all their time patching issues and moving onto the next one, the cost will never go away and you may not know when it's going to come up again.  If your SMEs are not fighting fires, they will have time to work on fire prevention techniques or developing a new way to limit the impact of future fires.

Lesson 5 - Give your less skilled second and third level support staff a chance to learn.  Most teams are set up so the SME is the first to see every issue and then passes the easier tasks down to more junior team members.  By doing the opposite (less skilled members see the issues first and then refer to more skilled members if needed) you will give the lower skilled team members a chance to learn hands on and the SME has a chance to see what knowledge other team members are missing and find more effective ways to share that knowledge.  This does mean that the SME also needs to play an oversight role and will look over the shoulder of others to ensure no mistakes are made.

If you put these methods into place your service delivery will improve significantly.  Incidents will be resolved more quickly.  Service requests will be handled more efficiently.  Problems will get resolved so the incidents don't recur.  You will be able to have your SMEs consult on projects and major enhancements and ensure new solutions build on what you have in place rather than produce more overhead and integration issues.

For more information on how to best manage your IT Service Delivery team email me at

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Welcome to 2011 - The year you turn your IT services around!

Well another year has started and it's looking like it's going to be a busy one. 2010 was an interesting year and despite the continuing recession it was my best year ever in terms of consulting and speaking engagements.

So far 2011 is shaping up to be even better.  My pipeline of consulting opportunities is bigger than it's ever been and I will be developing some very useful tools, courses and keynotes over the next few months.

If you're considering talking to me about consulting, speaking, IT service auditing or course delivery in the next few months, do it now as dates are starting to fill up.

Don't forget, if you want your organization to strive for Service Excellence it's not going to take care of itself.  Talk to me about what can be done to turn your dissatisfied business partners into your biggest advocates.

Contact for more information.