Barclay Rae: The Service Desk Inspector

Barclay Rae, The Service Desk Inspector
Barclay Rae, The Service Desk Inspector

ITSM Industry stalwart Barclay Rae has been working with SDI to produce some short, digestible video clips sharing news, rants and opinion on all things service management.

Barclay’s latest feature is the “Service Desk Inspector” whereby Barclay visits real organizations and offers his advice:

“Programmes will follow real organizations as they work with our ‘inspector’ Barclay Rae – an experienced ITSM consultant – to tackle their biggest service delivery challenges and improve overall performance.”

UK readers of a certain age might remember ‘The Troubleshooter’ or similar fly-on-the-wall documentaries digging into business issues. Barclay  follows a similar theme and does a sterling job. It is great to see some real life ITSM coverage with all of the ITIL framework and IT geekery stripped away.  Kudos to Mirus IT Solutions for being so candid and opening their business kimono for the entire world to see.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Moving Beyond ITSM Maturity Assessments

Maturity assessments are popular for kick-starting ITSM initiatives. It allows an organization to spot gaps and prioritize areas for improvement.

However, the half-life of a maturity assessment is remarkably short and the impact of the glossy report can quickly fade. The key messages and compelling recommendations can soon be lost in the noise of other projects and new fires to fight.

What stops the shiny benchmark report from collecting dust on the shelf?

Michael Nyhuis, Managing Director of Australian firm Solisma, claims the answer to keeping assessments alive is to transform them into continual service improvement projects.

Their solution Service Improvement Manager (SIM) provides a workspace for teams to baseline their maturity against various standards or frameworks, identify areas for improvement, document risks and then assign tasks to ensure progress.

Built-in assessments include ITIL, ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 27001, ISO 9001, COBIT, and ISO/IEC 20000.

Service Improvement Manager (SIM)
Service Improvement Manager (SIM)

The hosted solution has four main areas:

  1. Assessments – Compliance and Maturity, Baseline Reporting, Benchmarking, Prioritized Improvements
  2. Registers – Improvements and Risks Registers
  3. Initiatives – Activity Planning, Define Costs and Savings, Benefits Realization, Initiative Scoring
  4. Explorer – Management System, Policies and Procedures, Roles and Functions, KPI’s and Metrics

Elevator Pitch Video (<2 min):

I like this collaborative way of working; spreadsheets and email ping-pong are replaced with progress (Assuming the team jumps on board with the idea). No great ideas are allowed to slip through the cracks and an audit trail of improvements and staff suggestions are kept in one place. SIM also allows users to track improvement projects according to weighted scores and ROI.

This is a good presentation framework for benchmarking against standards and ensuring good ideas and opportunities for improvement are put into action. It would be good to see the team behind SIM put more depth into the Assessment libraries; the current questioning format is open to subjective opinion and the individual rigor of the auditor. Since it is a cloud based offering, surely there is the opportunity shared intelligence and the ability to benchmark organizations against each other as well as standards? For example a company could benchmark themselves against companies of a similar size in a similar vertical sector as well as a standard.

Further info at http://www.Service-Improvement.com

If you have experience with SIM or a similar offering I would be pleased to hear about it, please leave a message in the comments below.

Introducing Aprill

Aprill Allen, 'Knowledgebird'

I am very pleased to announce that Aprill Allen is joining The ITSM Review.

Aprill is passionate about Knowledge Management: capturing corporate knowledge and sharing it effectively.

She has 13 years of helpdesk experience under her belt; working in tier 1, tier 2 and tier 2.5 roles for ISPs, Telco’s and financial institutions and has written an award winning eBook (A Simple Guide to Creating a Knowledge Base).

Social Media and Community Management

Our goal is to be the number one online destination for news, reviews and resources for worldwide ITSM professionals.

Aprill will be helping us with this goal by engaging with our readers, ensuring our content remains on-topic and encouraging conversations around key ITSM industry issues.

Aprill will also be helping with Twitter (@itsmreview) and the new ITSM Review LinkedIn Group. Things are a little bit quiet in the LinkedIn Group at the moment, but if discussions in the ITAM Review LinkedIn Group are anything to go by it will soon be filling up with good stuff (without the spam!).

Welcome Aprill!

Event Listing: Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios Seminar, itSMF UK, 18th April, Solihull

National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull

What?

itSMF UK Seminar – Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios

“Service catalogue, service portfolio and service level management are the essential elements of the relationship between IT and the business.  Without these processes in place, it is increasingly difficult to define what IT services are available to the business and on what basis.

But the relationship between service catalogues and service portfolios is often poorly understood, and this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. This seminar explains how these concepts inter-relate, and helps attendees to build a solution that suits their specific business needs. “Problem management is often the most under used process, and is described by some as the “If we only have the time” process. In reality it is a process that if used correctly adds real value to the business, and supports all of the other service management processes. To get there, there is a need to invest both time and resource – the very things that problem managers have little of.”

When?

  • Wednesday 18th April 2012, 9am – 4pm

Where?

Who?

  • itSMF UK

Agenda

  • Service catalogue – all things to all people?Not only is the service catalogue a way to orientate your organization and processes around services, it is also a user facing service itself. This is Unilever’s experience of delivering a user-friendly catalogue that is part of improved customer satisfaction. ~ Andrew Davies, Unilever
  • Unlocking the potential of service portfolios and service catalogues, and measuring the right thing This presentation will destroy some myths, make you think differently, and give you the tools to continually improve both IT and the business by integrating portfolios, catalogues and measures. ~ Kevin Holland, UK Public Sector Consultant.
  • Magic wand session: Service catalogues and service portfolios in your organizationTake part in one of our interactive round table discussions, led by Dr Don Page of Marval, and discuss the answers to some key questions concerning service catalogue and service portfolio implementation. ~ Don Page, Marval
  • The service portfolio – the new tool in your service management toolset Just when you have finally understood the concept of the service catalogue and managed to produce a useful addition to your service management toolset, along comes ITIL v3 and the service portfolio. What is it, how does it help us? This presentation will give you some answers. Rob Young, Fox IT

Further Info…

Image Credit

Free Access to Ten Gartner ITSM Research Papers

Cracks in the Paywall?

It appears Gartner are banging the new business drum and are a offering 90 day trial access to their online research.

I’m not a Gartner client so I took advantage of this offer to gain access to the following:

  • How to Assess ITIL Effectiveness With a Balanced Scorecard Strategy Map ~ Tapati Bandopadhyay & Patricia Adams
  • IT Metrics: New Economic Rules of IT Spending and Staff Metrics ~ Kurt Potter
  • Use the Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Map to Link ITIL initiatives with Business Value ~ Tapati Bandopadhyay & Patricia Adams
  • How to Influence the Collective Mind to Adopt ITIL for IT Service Management ~ Tapati Bandopadhyay & Patricia Adams
  • Service Management, ITIL and the Process-Optimizing IT Delivery Model ~ Colleen M. Young
  • ITIL and Process Improvement Key Initiative Overview ~ David M. Coyle
  • How to Identify Key Pain Processes to Prioritize ITIL Adoption ~ Tapati Bandopadhyay
  • How to Create an I&O Cost Optimization Process and Improve Financial Performance ~ John Rivard
  • Best Practices for Supporting ‘Bring Your Own Mobile Devices’ ~ Nick Jones, Leif-Olof Wallin
  • IT Budgeting: Fundamentals ~ Michael Smith

See also: Free Access to Ten Gartner ITAM Research Papers

The offer includes ten research papers. It is not immediately obvious which papers are paid for and which are free to access, but if you click on the search preferences you can filter out any paid content.

Photo Credit

How to Provide Support for VIPs

One of the outcomes of IT Service Management is the regulation, consistency and predictability in the delivery of services.

I remember working in IT before Service Management was adopted by our organisation and realising that we would over-service some customers and under-service others. Not intentionally but we didn’t have a way of regulating our work and making our output predicatable.

Our method of work delivery seemed to be somewhere between “First come first served” and “She who shouts loudest shall get the best service”. Not the best way to manage service delivery.

Chris York tweeted an interesting message recently;

It’s a great topic to talk about and one that I remember having to deal with personally in previous jobs.

I have two different views on VIP treatment – I think it’s a complex subject and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

if your names not down you're not getting support
if your names not down you're not getting support

The Purist

Firstly IT Service Management is supposed to define exactly how services will be delivered to an organisation. The service definition includes the cost, warranty and utility that is to be provided.

Secondly, there is a difference between the Customer of the service and the User of the service. The Customer is characterised as the people that pay for the service. They also define and agree the service levels.

Users are characterised as individuals that use the service.

There are loads of great analogys to reinforce this point – from local government services that are outsourced (The local Government is the customer, the local resident is the user), to restaurants and airports. The IT Skeptic has a good discussion on the subject

It’s also true to say that the Customer might not also be a user of the service, although in organisations I’ve worked in it is usually so.

This presents an interesting dilemma for both the Provider and the Customer. Should the Customer expect more from the service than they originally negotiated with the Provider? I think the most common example that this dilemma occurs is end-user services – desktop support.

The people that would “sign on the dotted line”for the IT Services we used to provide would be Finance Directors, IT Directors, CFOs or CIOs. Very senior people with responsibility for the cost of their services and making sure the company gets a good deal.

Should we be surprised when senior people that ultimately pay for the service expect preferential treatment? No – but we should remind them of the service warranty that they agreed would be supplied.

Over-servicing VIPs has to be at the cost of someone else – and by artificially raising the quality of service for a few people we risk degrading the service for everyone.

The Pragmatist

The reality is that IT Service Management is a people business and a perception business, especially end-user services.

People call the Service desk when they want something (a Request) or they need help (an Incident). Both of these are quite emotional human states.

The performance and usability of someones IT equipment is fundamental to their own productivity and their own success. It feels very personal when your equipment that you rely on stops functioning.

Although we can gather SLA and performance statistics for our stakeholder meetings we have the problem that we are often seen as being as good as our last experience with that individual person. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is.

I’ve been to meetings full of good news about the previous months service only to be ripped to pieces for a request submitted by the CEO that wasn’t actioned. I’ve been to meetings after a period of general poor service and had good reviews because the Customer had a (luckily) excellent experience with the Service desk.

Much as we don’t like it prioritising VIP support it has an overall positive effect when we do.

The middle ground (or “How I’ve seen it done before”)

If you don’t like the Pragmatist view above there are ways to come to a compromise. Stephen Mann touched on an idea I have seen before:

Deciding business criticality is obviously a challenge.

In my previous role, in the advertising world, the most important people in an agency are the Creatives.

These guys churn out graphical and video content and work on billable hours. When their equipment fails the clock is ticking to get them back up and running again.

So calculating the financial cost of individuals downtime and assigning a role is a method of designating those that can expect prioritised support.

As a Service Provider in that last role our customer base grew and our list of VIPs got longer. We eventually allocated 5% of each companies headcount to have “VIP” status in our ITSM tool.

I think there are ways to write VIP support into an IT Services contract that allows the provider to plan and scale their support to cater for it.

Lastly, we should talk about escalated Incidents. This is a more “formal” approach to Service Management (the Purist would be happy) where a higher level of service is allocated to resolving an Incident if it meets the criteria for being escalated.

When dealing with Users it is worth having a view of that persons overall experience with the Service Provider. If a user already has one escalated Incident should she expect a better service when she calls with another? Perhaps so – the Pragmatist would see that although we file each Incident separately her perception of the service is based on the overall experience. With our ITSM suite we use informational messages to guide engineers as to the overall status of a User.

Simon Morris
Simon Morris

In summary…

I think everyone would agree that VIP support is a pain.

The Purist will have to deal with the fact that although he kept his service consistent regardless of the seniority of the caller he might have to do some unnecessary justification at the next review meeting.

The Pragmatist will have to suffer unexpected drain on her resources when the CEOs laptop breaks and everything must be focussed on restoring that one users service.

Those occupying the middle ground will be controlling the number of VIPs by defining a percentage of headcount for the Customer to allocate. Hopefully the Customer will understand the business well enough to allocate them to the correct roles (and probably herself).

The Middle Ground will also be looking at a users overall experience and adjusting service to make sure that escalated issues are dealt with quickly.

No-one said IT Service Management was going to be easy!


Twelve IT Helpdesks For Under $1,000

Say What You See

ITSM folklore states that the helpdesk software market is heavily oversaturated. Companies don’t suddenly discover the need for an IT helpdesk – it is a replacement market.

That may be the case for large enterprises, but this overlooks the enormous market of small and growing businesses.

In the UK for example the Federation of Small Businesses claims that 99% of UK business activity stems from small and medium size companies.

The UK has 4.5 million SME companies that account for 58.8% of all private sector employment in the UK and 48.8% of private sector turnover (source).

I have used UK figures here but my bet is that the vast majority of countries have a similar balance – perhaps even more so in developing countries.

Similarly, teams or divisions within larger organizations are breaking free of the shackles of prehistoric software and taking IT support provision into their own hands.

With this is mind I have compiled a short list of companies offering IT helpdesk software offering an entry level for under a grand. All the offerings below are web-based (do start ups and small companies buy servers?).

Conditions of inclusion

  • Under US$1,000 per year per user
  • Pricing is readily available on their website
  • Delivered via the Web
  • The website is not scary

If I have missed any companies that meet the criteria above please leave a comment below. Thanks in advance for your help.

Company Marketing Blurb… Pricing (Named user / agent per month from…)
1 Beetil “Adopt best practices the easy way” $39
2 BMC RemedyForce “A simpler, more affordable IT helpdesk in the cloud” $79
3 Desk (Salesforce, formerly Assistly) “The simple, social, mobile, affordable Customer Support Help Desk” $49
4 Freshdesk “Deliver a refreshing customer support experience through email, your website, phone, your communities and even Facebook and Twitter. Take your support to where your customers are” $9
5 ITRP “Make IT service management work for you. Your customers will thank you.” $30
6 ITSmartDesk “Social IT Service Management” ~$80 (for whole company not per named user)
7 Kayako “Helpdesk Evolved. Never miss a beat. Manage your email, live chat, calls, remote support and self-service, all in one place.” $29
8 My Service Desk (Hornbill) “Best Practice ITSM that delivers in Days not Weeks” $59
9 SAManage “Thousands of people around the world use SAManage, the leading online IT Service Desk and IT Asset Management tool.” $800 per year
10 Web Help Desk “Powerful Software for Technical Support” $75
11 ZenDesk “The fastest way to great customer support” $24
12 Zoho “Great Customer Support Quick and Easy” $12