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