SDI Software Showcase: Here Comes the Sun

sun
No more cloud… please!

Wednesday 23rd October was SDI’s Service Desk Software Showcase held at ThinkTank Birmingham.

A crash on the M5 motorway and some technical difficulties meant that things kicked off a little later than scheduled, but it gave me a good chance to mingle and find out what other attendees were hoping to take away from the day even if that was just a nice Danish (which didn’t materialise).

Kick off

Ken Goff, Owner at K GOFF M LIMITED kicked off with his usual exuberance reminding everyone that this is ‘serious stuff’ as “you’re not buying a tin of beans” and to make sure you tackle this with a strategic vision. Your criteria should cover what you will need in the future not just what you need now.

He continued to say that it’s not just about finding a Vendor that’s right for you but about you being the right Client for the Vendor, and that on your hunt for the right tool you should be led by capability not money. Lovely sentiment, but as one of the attendees said, what’s the point of finding what you think is the perfect tool just for the man holding the purse, to say no?

Hornbill Systems

The first of the Vendors to present was Abdi Hamisi, Senior Sector Manager at Hornbill Systems who had apparently been dropped in it at the last minute to give a presentation. He drew the comparison between ITSM Tools and F1 cars. I personally know next to nothing about F1 but the point he seemed to be making was that like F1, ITSM Tools are built to the same set of standards but garner very different results. However this was hotly debated on Twitter by Greg Sanker, Field Services Unit Manager at Oregon Department of Transportation.

Abdi showed possible configuration of the tool and talked us through some of the available integrations, not forgetting of course to mention that it’s available on the cloud.

Sunrise Software

Next up was Neil Penny, Product Director and David Bullivant, Business Consultancy Manager from Sunrise Software showcasing their product Sostenuto ITSM. There was all the usual kind of stuff, but David spent some time going through the Wallboards which you can set up to give real time information to the business rather than having to send millions of reports. He also discussed how their tool incorporates Gamification to help with Reward and Recognition. David was clearly very passionate about the product, which frankly was missing from most of the other presentations.

I was taken with the simplistic buttons down the left hand side of the screen rather than the worded menu the majority of the other tools had. In my opinion these types of menus take up a lot of space and when you’re doing the same thing day in day out won’t a simple button/icon do? Generally I felt it just looked so much fresher than the other products, and left the other Vendor offerings looking dated and tired.

Oh and good news people… it’s available in the cloud.

TOPdesk

Luis Soares, Accounts Director from TOPdesk followed confirming that he is not the famous footballer and promising that he wouldn’t bite. I wish he would have as it would have made the experience at least a little entertaining.

One of the few things I took away from the presentation was the ability to book resources such as equipment and rooms from within the tool which seemed sensible. Oh and you guessed it… it’s available in the cloud.

Bomgar Corporation

William Culbert, Senior Solutions Engineer from Bomgar Corporation was up next with a cheesy video (his words not mine) of how Bomgar can help you remotely support your staff in a safe and secure way. I have used this product before in my previous incarnation but still enjoyed the show.

Frontrange

Chris Powell, Senior Pre-Sales Consultant from Frontrange opened with talk of the cloud but I persevered and tried not to hold it against him. The main area of interest to me was the ability for customers to rate KB articles that they have found useful to help you to keep relevant.

Cherwell Software

I unfortunately missed the name of the chap at Cherwell Software (though it wasn’t Tony Probert who was billed) who in a slightly ‘ranty’ (if this isn’t a word then I’m making it one) way stated that you always have to compromise with ITSM tools and that you will never be able to do everything.

He went on further to quote the University of Wolverhampton in their assessment that the tool is ‘Funky’. Presumably this is because of their colour coded screens and Dashboards, which are more like Powerpoint presentations than the usual graph filled spaces. Oh and guess what? It’s available in the cloud.

LANdesk

Andy Parker, Pre-Sales Consultant from LANdesk lambasted attendees for sending through reams of tender documentation when Vendors that are Pink Verified have already answered it. Perhaps this particular tirade should be directed at Procurement though Andy and not the people that don’t usually have any say in it?!

The interesting takeaway from this presentation was the concept of ‘Software Loading’, using the tool as a library to borrow what you need when you need it, keeping licencing requirements to a minimum. Nice idea.

HP

The penultimate Vendor was Eileen O’Mahony (no LinkedIn profile…) from HP and that’s pretty much all I can tell you as I fell asleep (well… almost).  It could be Eileen’s lilting voice that did it, as there were several people making their excuses and sneaking out. Or perhaps it could have been that people were leaving to avoid being taught how to suck eggs?

Autotask

The final Vendor was Aaron Gayle, Business Development Representative from Autotask who I assume had been given two minutes at the eleventh hour to prepare, as he looked somewhat like a rabbit in the headlights trying to sum up the tool quickly with no visual aids. It did however make me want to go and find out more about the tool, whereas the majority of the other presentations had not.

Finishing up

Ken returned to close with the reminder to take the holistic approach and not just concentrate on the tool and to involve everybody in the process.

Having not attended a software showcase before I was thoroughly expecting to be hit with the razzle dazzle and to have to really concentrate on picking up the differences in the tools from the slick and entertaining presentations. In reality the concentrating was mostly to avoid falling asleep and snoring in a room full of people (although judging by the attendees I have spoken to since I certainly wouldn’t have been the only one).  By the time I looked up at the end of the last presentation (I was just resting my eyes) the right hand side of the room had dwindled dramatically.

SDI do a great job putting on this very useful showcase, I just hope next time the Vendors treat it as the opportunity it is and put more effort into. Well done to Sunrise Software in being the only Vendor to keep me interested through almost the whole of their presentation, not much of a feat admittedly but more than the others managed by quite a way.

Oh and one final note… for the love of God people no more cloud talk, it’s pretty much the same as being able to log an Incident now it’s not a USP!

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Patrick Bolger talks "why we have to do Agile NOW"

Patrick Bolger, Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management, provides a summary of his presentation for the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Agile”. Patrick discusses the need for Agile, it’s benefits, and why it’s not just for software development.

He also looks at how the IT landscape has changed in the past decade – it was once highly unlikely to see a company going from an idea to market captialization of $100bn in the space of ten years. This is now possible, we’ve seen it with the likes of Facebook, and Patrick talks about how companies need to keep up to stay in the game.

As well, Patrick discusses why Hornbill Service Management works with itSMF UK and the benefits the annual conference brings to his company.

Learn more about Agile at Patrick’s session at the itSMF conference in November:

itSMF UK BIG4 Twitter Chat

twitteritSMF UK’s new initiative for 2014, ‘The Big 4 Agenda’ kicked off last week with the first of the five scheduled Twitter Chats taking place. The chat featured Big4 Agenda Speaker and itSMF UK Vice-Chair John Windebank and was moderated by Kathryn Howard the pioneer of the #leadit Twitter Chats for itSMF Australia.

The Twitter Chat Model

The Twitter Chat model shows that itSMF UK are taking strides to be more current (using social media to engage with the community) and give new and exciting ways for people to get involved. One of my uber pet hates is that Service Desk staff have limited ways to involve themselves in the industry, being able in most cases to only attend one event per year if they’re lucky and in some cases never being unchained from their desk.

The direction itSMF UK is heading seems to be more inclusive and for that I am delighted. Now, if only we could get them to do something about their website!

The point of the Twitter Chats, in itSMF UK’s own words is ‘…firstly to identify the top four issues that you are facing in IT and then to provide discussion/help/expert opinion on each of these topics.’

People from all over joined in the chat, not just from the UK, suggesting that ITSM issues are the same regardless of where you connect to your WIFI.

The Twitter Chat itself

It started off with a few technical hitches and a lot of forgetting to add the hashtag #itSMBIG4, but once all were settled in comments started to flow, albeit with the slightly disjointed manner typical of many people discussing several things at the same time. The hour passed surprisingly fast and below is an overview of what I picked up as the main topics of the event:

Tweets from several contributors show that Problem Management is still a big issue in the industry with it being perceived as the Invisible Man to the Service Desks Superman…

And a general agreement that collectively we’re totally crap at defining the value that ITSM gives to the business

Then there was that ITIL discussion that never ends. Time to face it people, at the end of the world there will be cockroaches, Cher & ITIL.

Overall

I really like the way that itSMF UK are looking at new ways to engage and what’s more, not just with their members but with everyone in the industry and I hope that this will continue and at the next Twitter Chat and that more people will get involved.

Unfortunately a lot of the points raised were, as Claire Agutter said, just the same old issues that have been floating around for years.

Having said that I’m very interested to see the results of the Big 4 Survey (voting now closed) and hope that it’s given some new and exciting insights into the current and future struggles of ITSM.

The comments from the Twitter Chat together with the results of the Big 4 Survey will confirm the 6 key topics that itSMF UK will take to the itSMF UK conference and Exhibition (4-5 November, Birmingham). These 6 topics are due to be announced this week. Then at the event a series of roundtable discussions will take place to narrow down those 6 topics to the top 4 – i.e. the Big 4 that itSMF UK will concentrate on in 2014.

Once announced a Twitter Chat for each of the individual topics will be held as follows:

  • November 13 – Big4 Topic 1
  • December 11 – Big4 Topic 2
  • January 15 – Big4 Topic 3
  • February 12 – Big4 Topic 4

I hope to see you either at the conference, or involved in the Twitter Chats, preferably both!

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Announcing the winner of our itSMF UK Conference competition…

ICC
The entrance to the International Conference Centre

We recently gave all you lovely people the opportunity to win a FREE ticket to the upcoming itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition (4-5 November at the ICC in Birmingham), and now it’s time to announce the winner.

The instructions were simple: Tell us why you deserve a free ticket in less than 200 words.

And the winner is…

Gregory Baylis-Hall, IT Service Management Analyst at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP!

Greg’s entry was chosen because we felt, based on his submission, that not only would he benefit from attending the event, but that other attendees would benefit from him being there too.

Greg’s attitude of learning, sharing, and helping is exactly what the ITSM community needs, and something that we at ITSM Review strongly believe in.

The Submission

I’ve been a member of the itSMF UK for over two years and every year it’s held I always feel I’m missing out on something big. I’m refurbishing my house which has meant I can’t pay for the event myself.  Interacting on the twitter streams is the nearest I get to actually being there. To remedy this, some years ago I got involved and joined the committee for the BCS SMSG. This includes voluntary work organising and promoting events. Producing an audio cast of the sessions and sharing it amongst the ITSM community. Being an active member is rewarding and glues my professional and personal life together.

I’m reviewing our ITSM tool – and doing more for less all-round is a familiar trend  “keeping the lights on” isn’t good enough for me personally or the place I work! As a practitioner I need to grow and develop. Learning how others in the industry are innovating so I can aspire to be like them is fundamental for my attending the conference.  ITSM13 is a mini ITSM universe.  Everything and everyone connected to ITSM will be there and I’d like to get involved, share my experiences and be a small part of it.

We look forward to catching up with Greg at the event, and hope that he doesn’t mind being photographed / videoed / generally harrassed by us throughout the conference as we broadcast to the universe (ok to the ITSM community) how wonderful we are for giving him a free ticket how he is finding the event etc.

With a bit of luck *hint hint nudge nudge* Greg may even write a post-event review from a Practioner’s viewpoint for us to publish here at ITSM Review.

And to all the others…

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone else who submitted an entry.  We hope to be able to run similar competitions for other exciting ITSM events in 2014.

Oh and a special mention…

To Daniel Billing, Senior Solution Architect at Symfoni for his entry, which almost deserved to win simply for giving all of us here at ITSM Review a good giggle:

Unicorns, Jesus and silverbullets are things people are constantly searching for, but I will make sure that this event will at least get the chance to experience and say “now that’s a nice beaver”. Beavers have poor sight but a strong sense of smell and good hearing, which makes them great at digging the dirt at the event. This beaver also knows how to write and would publish the highlight and lowlights.  Between one animal and another – I simply want to go there to hangout with ITSM Pengi.

And finally…

Whilst there are no further free tickets available, there is still plenty of time for you to book your place at the conference.  If you can’t make it, then keep on top of the event by following the Twitter hashtag #ITSM13.

We hope to see you there!

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Introducing Rebecca

Rebecca-Beach
Rebecca Beach, ITSM Research Analyst (bringing balloons to Analyst briefings is strictly prohibited)

I am very pleased to welcome Rebecca Beach to the team!

Rebecca is joining as ITSM Research Analyst.

SDI IT Service Excellence Professional of the Year 2012, Rebecca is a self-confessed geek and ITSM fangirl.

“Rebecca is very passionate about providing the best possible service to her customers. She is the model service professional, striving to improve herself as an individual while selflessly supporting and helping to develop the team. She cares greatly about people and gives above and beyond in all aspects of her role. There is no better deserving winner.” ‘Hanover Service Desk Analyst wins national service excellence award

ITSM Universe

The first project Rebecca will be sinking her teeth into is a global view of the entire ITSM market with particular focus on:

  • ITSM Tool Vendor market share
  • The key market focus areas / average customer size
  • Competitive strengths and weaknesses

More news on this soon – In the meantime you can read more about our ‘Universe’ research methodology here.

Who is Rebecca?

Rebecca joins us following roles as ITSM Tools Engineer at Capita and Service Desk Analyst at Hanover Housing Association.

With fear of setting off political correctness fire alarms; I’ll inform you that Rebecca is affectionately known as the ‘Gobby Midget’!

In her own words:

One thing you might not know about Rebecca:  

“I’m scared of balloons. Makes being the owner/operator of a small child rather troublesome because apparently these are their favourite things in the whole world and they’re not very careful with them.  I have tried to overcome this debilitating illness by ‘facing the fear’ and letting the small one have them but it usually ends with me in the foetal position in the corner with my hands over my ears. An ex-colleague found out about this once and chased me around the car park with a bunch.  He’s dead now.”

When not working Rebecca is most likely to be found:

“When i’m not working, reading or sewing I love to cuddle up on the sofa under a blanket with the family and watch Disney films.  The Toy Story series and Monsters Inc are favourites at the moment…Disney Princesses have been knocked from the top spot. My daughter has decided that she can do it all right on her own without a Prince and kissing is yucky!”

The first record Rebecca bought was:

“Kylie Minogue – Kylie.  I believe I was about 11 at the time and my Dad took me into town to buy it from the record shop and I got my first ever cassette tape.  This is making me feel old, shall we move on?”

Rebecca has a soft spot for:

“I have been racking my brains and can think of nothing.  I’m not even that keen on kittens and can take or leave puppies. I’m assuming this means I am a horrible, terrible person but i’m actually okay with that 😉 “

Connect with Rebecca on Twitter or LinkedIn. Come and see Rebecca at #ITSM13

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca to the team ~ Martin

Kepner Tregoe: Working together on Problem Management

Steve White, Senior Consultant at Kepner Tregoe discusses his interactive session at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition entitled “Igniting Problem Management with Pre-emptive Successes”.

In this video Steve invites people to come along to his session to share both their Problem Management successes and current issues. With powerpoint banned, Steve’s session aims to facilitate conversations on the topic of Problem Management and help practioners do Problem Management more effectively.

He also discusses his role in the itSMF UK Problem Management Special Interest Group, explaining how his role is to actively drive discussion and engagement, ensuring that people get the most they possibly can out of the group.

Catch Steve at the itSMF conference in November:

Service Management at the speed of light

ServiceNow recently held a three-city European forum. The event was a compact version of the larger ‘Knowledge’ event held in the US and a chance for customers to share experiences and hear from ServiceNow bigwigs.

I found the most fascinating session of the day was from Reinoud Martens, Service Manager at CERN, the home of particle accelerators and clever physicists searching for the origins of the universe.

“At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.” About CERN

Reinoud’s session was entitled ‘ITSM also works outside its comfort zone’ and explored how CERN implemented IT Service Management best practice across IT and many other business functions. Reinoud kindly answered some follow up questions via email below.

Service Management beyond IT

Reinoud is Service Manager for a group called ‘General Services’ at CERN.

General Services serves IT services but also a myriad of other business services at CERN such as Civil Engineering, Facility Management, Medical and Fire Protection.

A user at CERN can log a password reset or seek help with a faulty laptop – but they can also rent a car, alert facilities to a blocked drain, book a hotel room, have an old filing cabinet towed away or log an expense claim – all from the same Service Management destination; the CERN Service Portal. In total CERN supports 282 active services across 494 operational functions.

Service Management Singularity

The goal at CERN, as Reinoud eloquently described is to:

 1. Make life simple for users and supporters by providing:

  • ONE point of contact (One #, One URL, ONE place)
  • ONE behaviour; Unified processes for all services
  • ONE tool shared by all service providers (sharing information and knowledge)
  • ONE service description in a business service catalogue

2. Improve efficiency and effectiveness

  • Alignment with good practice (ITILV3 and ISO20K)
  • High level of automation
  • Framework for continuous improvement

And do this for ALL SERVICES (not just IT).

Interview with Reinoud

Q. What drove the initiative for one Service Portal across all these disciplines? Could you describe what existed before?

Aerial View of the CERN taken in 2008
Aerial View of the CERN taken in 2008

Before there were many numbers to call or people to know to get your needs fulfilled or to report a problem. There was an IT helpdesk, and a facilities management number to call, but their respective scopes were not 100% clear and there was a lot not covered by either of these numbers.

The most common way to find the right help was a Google search on the cern.ch domain that would return a lot of obsolete or wrong information (Every service published it’s own pages which were not removed after reorganizations or updated after changes).

Many people published their own service catalogues with numbers to call. So there was a lot of confusion and chaos, although there might have been some islands of excellence hidden here and there.

IT used a ticketing system with which they had difficulty upgrading; this system was also partly used outside IT for example Application Support. Even within IT some groups had their own systems. Outside IT there was no real ticketing system in place.

Some requests that have to follow strict authorization rules were and are supported in a custom workflow system developed at CERN where people fill out request forms by themselves (e.g. for taking leave, or for ordering equipment).

The initiative was driven by:

  1. The realization that CERN needed to become more customer/user focused, also as we moved from a project phase (building LHC) to an operational phase (running LHC).
  2. The need to support an exploding user population with less or at best constant resource levels.

Q. Did you face any political resistance when IT joined General Services (I’m thinking that certain departments might not want to relinquish control)?

An event showing characteristics expected from the decay of the SM Higgs boson to a pair of photons (dashed yellow lines and green towers).
“Approximately 600 million times per second, particles collide within the Large Hadron Collider(LHC). Each collision generates particles that often decay in complex ways into even more particles. Electronic circuits record the passage of each particle through a detector as a series of electronic signals, and send the data to the CERN Data Centre (DC) for digital reconstruction. The digitized summary is recorded as a “collision event”. Physicists must sift through the 15 petabytes or so of data produced annually to determine if the collisions have thrown up any interesting physics.” Computing at CERN

It happened the other way around, as the ‘chaos’ was probably bigger outside the IT area. The initiative started in general services during first half of 2009. In 2010 IT joined forces to propose a potentially CERN wide (for infrastructure services) solution. HR and Finance were to join later.

Obviously we encountered a lot of resistance, scepticism and ‘other attitudes’. Many predicted this project would fail, so they adopted a very passive attitude, but after one year of ‘production’ these people also realized the benefits invested effort to make things work. It’s not something you can do overnight.

Q. From your presentation it was very clear that you have taken best practices from ITSM (ITIL and ISO20000) and applied them to other business disciplines. Can you cite any examples of where IT can learn from these other disciplines? Do such best practices exist in other areas?

There are no examples where the standard needs to be ‘extended’ for IT based on our experience for non IT. There are ‘small implementation detail examples’ where IT could ‘profit’ from the ‘culture’ in other areas. For example business services that are person facing will like to hide the fact that there is an automated process and tickets behind requests and incidents as much as possible; so they wish to make the system ‘more human’ with special notifications, or service dependent ‘signatures’.

We have been looking at other standards but really found no alternative … including external consultants. There may be standards for libraries for instance; but we can’t support a standard per service (with over 280 services), and in the end these alternative standards for very specific domains contain the same ‘common sense’ that can be found in ITIL and ISO20k.

Q. Can you elaborate on the section of your presentation regarding ‘Cultural Change’? In particular I recall how you used a combination of Knowledge Management (this is how things work around here) and Service Catalogue (and this is how things get done). What led to this approach?

The culture change has to do with technicians that are focused on solving technical problems (say fix a water tap) but really don’t caring about the ‘caller’ at all. They will close a ticket not when the work is done, but when they want to bill their work; this can be much later. As a result the caller gets out-dated feedback and thinks the system does not work.

It gets worse if they need a spare part; they will not inform the caller or update a ticket; they will maybe note in a piece of paper they have to get a spare part and the user thinks nothing is happening. It’s this customer/user awareness and what it means in the day-to-day life of workmen that are ‘supporters’ for the infrastructure services that is the problem. The sharing of knowledge between supporters and with users (FAQ’s) is something that came ‘automatically’. We had many local FAQ’s and wiki’s but now we provide a global infrastructure.

Service Catalogue is what is available to the users, not how things get done. The focus is on the what (scope, when available quality) then obviously there is a link to support teams. So it orchestrates how things get done as an additional benefit.

Note: Sample of CERN Service Portal users:

  • Engineers
  • Physicists
  • Technicians
  • Administrators
  • Computer scientists
  • Craftspeople
  • Mechanics

But also:

  • Computer illiterate support staff
  • Candidates for job opportunities from around the world
  • Suppliers

Q. What does ‘Coaching’ look like for non-IT supporters? I remember you mentioned taking supporters through the equivalent of ITIL foundation for business services, but not using ITIL foundation – can you elaborate on this point?

We organized awareness training for non-IT people, a sort of shortened ITIL foundation course not referring to IT situations. E.g. configuration management for a medical service is understanding who your ‘patients’ are, what their ‘status’ is in terms of health parameters etc. If a medical service has not a good register of this they are bad in configuration management.

Explaining the ITIL concepts, naming conventions, processes and ideas but staying away from IT examples… this is not always easy in areas as release and deployment management for a cleaning service or a materials management service…so you must be ‘creative’ and maybe skip some very specific areas in certain cases. Most areas however are relevant to most services (if you take a step back and ‘reinterpret’ the concepts).

This is not enough, you also need to explain again and again what the underlying ideas of the processes are, and how they should use the system (e.g. impact and urgency priority; not closing a ticket that is wrongly assigned, but assign it to the right function, or return to service desk, etc..). This is more laborious for non-IT people than for IT ‘supporters’.

Q. Why ServiceNow?

We looked at the market second half of 2010 once we knew what we wanted to deploy (Single point of contact, unified processes and single web based tool shared by all with in the heart this business service catalogue driving the automation and a service portal); we started with a long list of around 40 tools, quickly shortened down to 6 which we evaluated in more detail based on a long questionnaire; ended up with two for which we did a POC at CERN and some reference visits.

We took into account lots of criteria covering: functionality, configurability/flexibility, architecture, interface, future evolution, etc. The fact that ServiceNow was a SaaS solution played a role (this was an ‘experiment’ for CERN’s IT department and they were ready to test it; it certainly helped dramatically reduce the time between the choice and being operational).

Obviously total cost of ownership also played a key role. Anyway things may have evolved in the last 3 years, so although we don’t regret this choice a second, the outcome could be different today. I have no idea of what is going on in this area on the market today (I am no IT guy anymore and have other things on my mind lately).

Q. Finally, your advice to organizations looking to embark on a similar journey?

Top Three Takeaways from Reinoud’s presentation:

1. ITSM is RELEVANT beyond IT and it WORKS

2. Essential for success are:

  • A comprehensive Business Service Catalogue
  • To know what you are supposed to be doing
  • To understand how these services are provided (by whom)
  • To drive automation and smooth assignment & escalation
  • A Service Portal to hide the complexity of all of this
  • A good tool  (that lets you be ‘agile’)
  • Extra coaching for non IT supporters

3. You can do this in your own organization

CERN Service Portal

Images of the CERN ‘Service Portal’ below:

Service Portal Features:

  • User access to all services
  • Search function
  • Browse the catalogue
  • Report issues
  • Follow-up issues
  • Access knowledge base
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

About CERN in 3 Minutes

Accelerator Event Image Credit, Aerial View Image Credit

itSMF UK: The Big 4 Agenda

itSMF UK recently announced it’s new initiative for 2014 entitled “The Big 4 Agenda”, and in this video Ben Clacy, CEO of itSMF UK provides an overview of what this new intiative is and how you can get involved.

Ben also explains the role that the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition has to play in helping determine the four key topics that will drive itSMF UK’s agenda in 2014.

Everyone is invited to get involved (regardless of whether or not you are an itSMF UK member), and you can do so by completing the Big 4 survey and/or joining in with Twitterchats on this topic.

If you have any questions about the Big 4 Agenda, how to participate, it’s aims, or other then please leave your enquiries in the comments section of this article. Keep on top of the Big 4 Agenda by following the #itsmbig4 hashtag on Twitter.

You don't need to be a Genius or a Guru to offer a Personal Service Desk

genius
A Genius Bar for the Service Desk, could it work?

You’ll surely be familiar with the ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. Well, those working in IT these days are so beset with “interesting” challenges that they might be justified in feeling that they accidentally offended some Chinese ancestors in a previous life.

One thing about working in IT – it’s not boring and it keeps changing. Unfortunately it’s easy to develop a defensive mentality when faced with some of the challenges I describe below.

In this article I will describe one way that you could possibly rise to the challenge and innovate in a simple way to overcoming many of these interesting challenges – and hopefully have some fun too.

You may well be familiar with the Genius Bar in Apple Stores, and you may even have heard talk recently of IT Departments that are implementing the same concept. I’d like to describe some steps that you could take to offer your own version – a Personal Service Desk

First, let’s look at some of the more interesting challenges in corporate IT these days:

What Makes a Career in IT so Interesting Right Now?

  1. Windows XP goes end of life in April 2014. Many companies out there are still running XP for business usage and are trapped through legacy applications and beaurocracy, in a position where they cannot change to Windows 7 for the foreseeable future, certainly beyond 2014.
  2. Yet the employees, some still using XP, come to work carrying their shiny mobile devices, with their own-purchased cloud services, and an expectation of a level of service learned from the ‘consumer experience’. And many IT organisations struggle to match that expectation with technology, or service.
  3. And technology is driving forward at a startling rate. It may be becoming simpler, but there is so much more of it, everywhere, pervasive and dramatically changing.
  4. Oh, and most organisations see IT as a cost centre, constantly driving to reduce headcount, to do ‘more with less’.

I think a quote from a panel debate at the SDI conference earlier this year sums it up, Rob England summarised the situation that most IT departments are in when faced with demands from an employee/customer base for a consumer experience, yet are tied and hindered by a massive volume of IT project and firefighting work with tight resources and limited staff.

To quote Rob: “No you can’t have a bloody genius bar!”. Basically IT is too busy to rise to the challenge. Or is it?

it crowd
Don’t be the faceless IT Crowd

Yet there’s something there isn’t there?

The ‘genius bar’, or the ‘guru bar’. I’d like to suggest – with respect to Rob’s experience – that it might not be that hard, and actually a closer look at this concept could help IT cope a little better in these “interesting times”.

 First, I think I’ll call it the “Personal Service Desk”. It’s a physical location, with IT support staff visible and  available, so employees / users / customers (use your terminology of choice) can walk in and bring their IT  issues with them. Anyone that’s been in an Apple Store will be familiar with that concept.

 It allows you to break down the barrier between the faceless IT “techies” – anyone seen the IT Crowd? – and move  to a customer-facing model where you actually see the faces and actually speak directly to your end users . Scary?  It shouldn’t be. Why should it be? Providing productivity through IT service is what an IT department exists for.

 Benefits of Face to Face, Personalised Service

In theory, providing a service such as this should have a few clear and immediate benefits.

  1. Reduced number of incidents received at the Service Desk, or, to be accurate, reduced number of incidents that  require traditional Service Desk attention.
  2. Increased employee/user/customer satisfaction.
  3. Increased perception of the value of IT by the business.

But it sounds hard. It sounds like a massive restructure and surely your IT technology cannot currently support this? It sounds like something fanciful that the clever industry analyst people talk about as happening in the future.

Lets scrutinise that criticism. Is it hard and heavy and complicated? I’m not so sure it is. Lets take a look at what you need to build and operate a “Personal Service Desk”?

The Personal Service Desk

  1. Location – OK, this is probably the hardest. You need space somewhere close to IT that can be opened up to allow end users to walk in. Tables, chairs, a ‘bar’, although not literally stocked with alcoholic drinks unless you really want to raise the IT experience to a new level. Tea and coffee is probably fine – well why not? Make it free. A few PC’s running common operating systems and standard desktops in the corner will be very helpful.
  1. Staff – Do you have people who are sometimes not covering incoming phones in your Service Desk? Working on resolving incidents or fulfilling requests. Great. Put a simple rota in place that allocates one or two people into the new space instead of at their desk. The important point here to remember is that a good Personal Service Desk has SCHEDULED APPOINTMENTS. There will be quiet times when there are no appointments, or times when the user is a ‘no show’. So your allocated IT staff can still do their work – at a slower rate – between appointments.
  1. Brand ­– Get a logo for IT. You’ve probably got one. Print some T-shirts and posters. Done. (OK, yes that’s a bit flippant, but it’s as hard a task as you choose to make it). Anyone scheduled to cover the Personal Service Desk must wear the t-shirt.
  1. Online Self Service – This is critical. You must have an online presence for your Service Desk. Just like every store has a web site, your Personal Service Desk should be tightly aligned with your self-service and even help you with the uptake of Self-service. Your Self-service should:
    1. Advertise the existence of the Personal Service Desk
    2. Provide appointment booking
    3. Provide satisfaction surveys from each visit
  1. Appointment Booking – Yes it’s presented in Self-service, but it goes beyond that. It needs to provide:
    1. Presentation to the end user of available time-slots for appointments.
    2. Ability for the end user to request an appointment time slot and to fill in details of the reason for the visit.
    3. Bookings into Calendars (Outlook or whichever is used in your business) for an appointment, so that the end user see’s the appointment time in their schedule of bookings for that day, with email reminders and the ability to cancel an appointment.

Obviously an appointment needs to generate or link to, or ‘be’ the start of a support process, which may require an incident to be logged, a request, or multiple. I’d recommend that an appointment is a process in itself, so it can conclude with a survey to the end user as a part of the same process.

  1. Mobile Support – Buy a couple of iPads. Staff in the Personal Service Desk can then view and update the appointments on their iPads. Why? So that they can move to sit at a table, or walk around and get away from the barrier of the ‘bar’. They must be social and visible and mobile in that space.
  1. Easy creation of tickets – During an appointment with a customer you are likely to need to create – and hopefully resolve – one or many incidents or requests. No one wants to be sitting around waiting while you fill in categories and priorities and impact and urgency. Template your most common incidents and requests and configure them to be created from a URL and then convert that URL into a QR Code (I use goo.gl). Then print out a sheet of the different QR codes so that your IT support technician in the Personal Service Desk need only scan the required code with his mobile device/iPad to create the required ticket. They’ll still need to put the user name in there but it’s a lot quicker. Push button ticketing. But make sure they have the option to go straight to resolved so that you can easily capture each thing done, and keep open those items that cannot be done.
  1. Reports – Not many. Just enough to show number of appointments, number of incidents, and number of requests all processed through the new Personal Service Desk. And don’t forget surveys. Basically enough to demonstrate the activity and value of the new function.

All of the above can be achieved with good ITSM tools, and the exact way you implement the above is up to you.

Is That It?

You could consider going further – one idea is the use of basic loan equipment immediately to hand so that you can just swap out a bad machine to keep the user productive. That’s harder to implement but the benefits there are clear. Laptop broken? Swap it out.

Then you’re ready to go. Advertise, drop flyers on every desk, put posters in the canteen, include an email footer on every support email, place an announcement on your Self-service site etc. Maybe even have a fun countdown every day to the launch. No one will discover this service by wandering around – they need to be told that it is there, and how to get there.

Above all… DO

But remember, all of this will fail unless you have the most essential piece of all – the willingness to act.

Get a team together in IT, brainstorm the above points, and work out your own version. Have fun with it, get IT people involved in the definition, creation and operation. Make it a team initiative. Enjoy doing it, and care about it! And don’t forget to let us know how you get on!

What have been your experiences in this area? Have you implemented a Personal Service Desk, a Guru Bar, an IT Genius Bar? What did you learn? Be brave and tell us all about it in the comments.

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Virgin Media: 'Problem Management is not just for IT'

Amanda Kirby, CSI Manager at Virgin Media, provides a summary of her presentation for the UK itSMF conference entitled “10 steps to problem management – a real life journey”.

Amanda describes how the remit for problem management extends beyond IT to include networks, power and engineering. Problem Management even extends to the ‘My Virgin Media’ where consumer customers can manage their telecom and broadband accounts.

The problem management team has grown from 1 to 10 staff and is now taking a more proactive role. Learn more at Amanda’s session at the itSMF conference in November: