Hiring the right people for your Service Desk

276639499_f2b002ceaa_zHiring people for a service desk is a major challenge, but an important one. Without good people, even the best processes and tools will fail to deliver high quality services and support.

So where do you start?

Planning out a recruitment process is critical to helping you find the right person quickly. IT Recruitment is complex and requires good project management (although it is a process that rarely gets the attention it needs). You will need to set out clear stages and tasks, create supporting documentation, and involve people from across the organization, including IT, HR and perhaps even the marketing department.

Work out who you need

Recruiting for any part of an organization tends to fail when the business doesn’t have a clear understanding of what they need. Most often this is due to assumptions made. It might look like an easy option to recycle an existing Service Desk Analyst job specification but your requirements might have changed since it was used. In the end, you’ll get what you ask for, so if you’re asking for the wrong person, you’ll get the wrong person. It will pay dividends later in the process to start with a clear picture of what you need.

The service desk is the friendly face of IT, so an effective service desk analyst requires a mix of interpersonal, technical and problem-solving skills to succeed. In general, an analyst should be polite, considerate, patient, calm and respectful. The technical skills they require will depend on your own organization. What applications do your business people use? How do they communicate with the service desk? What tools do the service desk use? The technical problem-solving skills they will require will depend on where you draw the line between the service desk and 2nd line support e.g. which issues will they be expected to handle on the front line and which will they escalate to the technical support teams.

Work out what you need to pay

People cost money, so you’ll need to work out how much money is available to hire someone new for the service desk. You might already have a “default” salary range for analysts, but salaries change over time and you get what you pay for, so you might need to revise your budget.

If you are going to have to pay more to get somebody who is up to the job, you will probably need to justify this, so you might need to articulate the business case. What value do you need a new analyst to bring? The trigger for recruiting a new service desk analyst is usually one of two things: to replace somebody who is moving on, or to scale up support capacity to handle increased demand from the business. By presenting the case in terms the business can understand – such as an increase in the number of incidents/service requests logged per month, or an increase in the number of SLA breaches – it should become clear as to exactly why a new analyst is required, and the difference they will make.

Work out what they need and expect

Try as you might, if you’re paying under market value you won’t net the right people for your service desk – and support quality will suffer. But salary is just one component of the package. A prospective employee will also want to know about incentives, benefits package, training and career path. They might also check the reputation of the company using social sites like Glassdoor, so it pays to keep an eye on who is saying what about you so that you can respond to any negative comments. Talk to your HR department for guidance on expectations you need to meet as an employer, as well as any reputation issues you might need to counter.

Where do you find good service desk candidates?

The chances are, the best service desk analysts are currently working in a service desk elsewhere. Most service desk’s have a high turnover of staff (much higher than average across the organization)  but this is more reflective of the absence of a staff retention strategy, rather than down to the general calibre of people on the service desk. With analysts changing jobs frequently, they will eventually settle in to an organization that both recognizes and rewards their talents, so this is where you will find the star employees. Companies need to compete for the best staff, but the pay-off is outstanding IT support and happy end users. You’re going to have to pay to get them, and work hard to keep them. Remember, it’s not just about you finding the right employee. It’s also about the employee finding the right company.

In order to reach these star candidates, you’ll need to use a mix of channels. Consider how you can use your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, specialist forums, industry events and word of mouth – as well as outsourcing to recruitment agencies – to let people know you’re hiring. Wherever service desk people are hanging out, that’s where you need to get your message. Your marketing department may be able to help you spread the word across an array of digital and social channels.

It was highly possible that not paying the market rate was having a detrimental affect on service
It was highly possible that not paying the market rate was having a detrimental affect on service

Candidate Shortlisting

If you are offering a competitive package and you’re putting word out in the right places you can expect a flood of responses. With such a high turnover of staff happening across the service desk industry there are always plenty of people looking to move to an organization that provides better career prospects. Some people are just not good at writing a CV that really sells their potential value (particularly in IT where the focus is still very much on technical skill sets), so a short phone interview will help you get a clearer picture. Depending on your corporate vetting policy this might be done by HR, so make sure they have a clear list of criteria to work with and a set of poignant questions to ask.

After all of this, if you’re still not getting CVs of the calibre you require, it might be time to ask the HR department to headhunt candidates who are not actively/openly looking for a new role.

The interview process

Make sure you have a plan for a structured interview. Too often, organizations waste time talking through the candidate’s CV, instead of focusing on meeting their specific requirements. If you have spent the time documenting your requirements to begin with, interviews should be a simple process of “checking off” the skills of the candidate against what you need them to do. Going beyond the set of technical, interpersonal and problem-solving skills you have specified, you should also look at:

  • Qualifications: What qualifications do they have that support their application e.g. ITIL Foundation, the SDI Service Desk Qualification or one of the many more general customer service qualifications? Qualifications aren’t everything, although they will give you a quick indication of capability. Make sure you balance qualifications against real-world experience to ensure you will gain value within a reasonable timescale – without putting too heavy a burden on the rest of the service desk.
  • Culture: You will need to assess whether they will be able to operate effectively within your organisation’s own unique culture. Are they from a similar size of organisation in the same industry? You may favour hiring from similar organisations. A proven track record in the same area of business will be of value, but analysts who have spent time in a number of different types of organisation will have experienced a higher variety of support and are likely to be more adaptable. They may also bring more ideas for improvements with them, so if this is something you’re looking for, gaining some insight into their background will be important. By nature, large organisations tend to emphasis rigid processes and escalation paths to handle the challenges of scalability, whereas Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups foster greater flexibility and problem-solving. How much will a new analyst need to work within the constraints of your existing framework? And how much room is there for more creative approaches to problem-solving? Many large businesses are seeing the value in recruiting people with problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial attitudes that are bred by necessity within start-ups and SMEs.

Conclusions

  • Upfront planning and analysis is critical to successful recruitment. Bring members of your service desk team in at an early stage to help you work out exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Finding the right person takes time, money and effort, but the legwork is essential to net somebody who will fulfil the requirements in the long term. You don’t want to have to go through the process all over again in six months.
  • IT recruitment doesn’t work well if it only involves IT people, nor if it only involves HR people. You need both to find and recruit the right person.
  • Once you have your team of service desk superstars, you’ll need to work hard to keep them. Work with the HR department to put together a staff retention strategy that sets out an ongoing process of evaluation, engagement and reward.

Image credit Image Credit

The Top Five Worries for IT Service Managers

Stressing
What keeps you up at night?

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.

What keeps you up at night? People love to ask business leaders this question. You can find the worries for IT service managers in the headlines of your favorite news sources every day.

IT service managers have to contend with everything from routine service tickets to critical connectivity outages. However, IT service organisations are no longer just incident response customer service representatives. Today, they are strategic departments working closely with IT resolution teams and other business units.

What we believe to be the top five worries for IT Service Managers:

Alert Fatigue

When a major retailer suffered a data breach in 2013, more than one IT employee on the front lines saw alerts but nobody acted. Why? Large IT organisations can receive up to 150,000 alerts per day from their monitoring systems. How are IT employees supposed to sort through them all to pick out the one or two legitimate threats? They can’t, of course.

So many similar alerts come in, many of them routine notifications, that alert fatigue sets in and IT service workers move them to alternate folders or just delete them. Some 86% of data breach victims had the alerts in their logs at the time of attack, but didn’t act because they had too many alerts. Some IT organisations have backup call center employees. On-call employees sometimes take advantage and let calls and emails go through, and as a result no one takes action.

Your IT organisation can be more strategic by establishing rules and automating which alerts reach a threat threshold that requires review by IT resolution teams. Establish clear escalation processes to maintain open communication.

Another good strategy is to automate proactive communications. Often one event can cause hundreds of alerts and notifications from employees, partners and customers. If your service providers are too overwhelmed by inquiries to fix issues, proactive communications can limit these inquiries and enable more effective resolution.

BYOD

There is little value in resisting the BYOD movement. Embrace it so you can manage it. And it’s happening – most large enterprises now allow their employees to bring their own mobile devices to work.

The good news is that employees who bring their own devices are happy and productive. In fact, a study by CIO Magazine indicates that employees who use their own devices work an extra two hours and send 20 more emails every day. One-third of BYOD employees check work email before the workday between 6-7 am.

The downside is that IT departments can’t ensure that employee devices are one the same platform versions, are using only approved apps, and are visiting only approved websites. Mobile phones are no longer immune from malware and if you don’t know their own mobile landscape, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining a safe environment.

Trust your employees to use good judgment, but inform them of best practices and be vigilant about alerts. Calls to your IT service desk for mobile issues can be very time-consuming because your representatives might have to test issues and fixes on mobile phones in the office.

Job Changes

Business continuity and disaster recovery situations used to revolve around whether the building would still be standing after a storm or a fire. Today the building is just where the data happens to reside. And the data is what matters.

Major issues like data breaches or malware attacks can threaten the future of a business. For large global enterprises, the challenges can be enormous. Business continuity situations require issue resolution and communication, combined with the pressures of speed. Time, after all, is money, and downtime is frequently estimated at more than £5,000 per minute. So pressure is squarely on IT service providers to be prepared when critical incidents cause alerts and notifications. Gathering disparate information sources, assessing the causes and communicating with departments around the world requires technology, flexibility and strategy.

Conditions can change frequently, so be organised and prepared. If you and your front-line service representatives are calm, your company will likely stay calm, and eliminating panic could be the difference between disaster and recovery.

Your processes have to be agile as well just to deal with business change. Re-organisations happen all the time, and your people will have to learn new skills and work with new people. Make sure they can.

Finally, the cloud is changing the way IT departments provide services too. Cloud-based infrastructure was once an afterthought. As of September 2013, DMG Consulting estimates that more than 62% of organisations were using some cloud-based contact center application as part of their operations, and nearly half the hold-outs were planning to convert within the next year.

Will I Even Have a Job?

The role of the IT service desk continues to evolve. Just a few years ago, IT desks were very reactive. They fixed issues, implemented updates and prevented disasters. Today they must play a more strategic role, aligning with other business units to address fixers with clients in today’s more distributed workforces.

More and more clients expect to use self-service tools to resolve their issues. In its Q2 2014 Benchmark Report, Zendesk says 27% of customers have tried to resolve an issue using self-service tools in the last six months.

Looking a little further ahead, your clients might be expecting to use virtual agents in their attempts at issue resolution. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2015, 50% of online customer self-service search activities will be via a virtual assistant. ICMI research shows that 64% of contact center leaders feel that advanced self-service options such as virtual agents improve the overall customer experience.

If you’re going to provide virtual agents and self-service options, though, do it well. In 2013, Zendesk stated that 72% of customers were going online to serve themselves, but only 52% were finding the information they needed.

M2M (Machine-to-Machine)

Are you tired of hearing about the Internet of Things and connected devices? Are you tired of the #IoT and #M2M hashtags? Well, sorry. Just when you thought you had your world on a string, connected devices are creating a future you could never have imagined just a few years ago.

Your servers are monitoring appliances, devices and machines. Something as innocuous as a down printer can seriously impact the ability of sales or finance to do their jobs. Servers, laptops and mobile devices have obvious business productivity consequences. At hospitals, equipment and wearable devices have to be connected to monitor patient health.

It’s important that the machines are not separate from the IT departments. In other words, your IT service teams should have intimate knowledge of all the connected devices, and the ability to apply swift resolutions.

Conclusion

In today’s business and technology environment, there is always a lot to think about when it comes to managing IT departments. The above list of our suggested top five worries for IT Service Managers could go on for much longer. IT Service Managers have to contend with basic routine service tickets to business critical connectivity outages. Within that spectrum, the sheer volume of alerts, the increasing workforce demands of BYOD, job uncertainty along with M2M & IoT continue to challenge the Service Manager.

However, as we have outlined, you have to manage this workload and uncertainty, so take control, be organised, and continue to be a strategic partner to your business. Today, there are a number of strategic departments working closely with IT resolution teams and other business units, in harmony, to plan for and manage the burden. To do so will help you reduce the stress and worry that this challenging and exciting role brings.

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.

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ITSM Industry Roundup

Fetching you the news!
Fetching you the news!

No time to read all the interesting info floating around social media and appearing in your inbox? Read our round up of what we’ve found interesting this week.

  1. Firms failing on security basics, says Websense – Businesses still failing on the basic requirements for information security such as visibility of their data assets, says security firm Websense. Read more here
  2. ITIL Exam Figures Dropping – ITIL Exam figures for the first half of show a considerable loss compared to 2013. Read more here
  3. Cherwell release major new version – Oooh shiny! check out version 5 here
  4. People Who Jump From Screen To Screen Have Less Gray Matter In One Brain Region, Study Finds – As if we needed any more reason not to multi-task! Read more here
  5. Get More from Difficult People by Shaping Your Requests as Questions – Who doesn’t have to deal with someone on at least a semi-regular basis who lives to be just plain awkward? Read more on how to deal with it here
  6. You’re building what?! More bad CIO decisions – Not focused on the areas where technology will have the greatest impact? Then you’re doing it wrong. Read more here
  7. Employees waste 54 minutes per day as IT systems keep businesses in the slow lane – read more here (Via @knowledgebird)
  8. BMC sues ServiceNow – things are getting nasty between the two ITSM industry giants, read more here.
  9. Around 35% of Australian workers complain they are hindered at work by issues with legacy IT systems. Would be interesting to see the numbers in the UK. Read more here

Got some interesting news to share – say hello via @gobbymidget 

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Ranking ITSM tools by customer satisfaction

We are introducing a new directory for ITSM tools called Tools Advisor.

The aim is to build a definitive industry directory of ITSM tools in one place to help prospective buyers with tool selection.

We’ve begun our directory with a review of 14 different ITSM tools.

See www.toolsadvisor.net

Write a review

Do you agree with our rankings?

As well as our own independent reviews of tools, we also want to collect verified customer satisfaction ratings from customers.

Please help by writing a review and helping your peers in the industry make smarter purchasing decisions based on the real experiences of customers.

  • The review process is quick
  • If you prefer it can be completely anonymous and private – no details will be shared with your provider

SUBMIT YOUR REVIEW HERE

https://itamreview.wufoo.com/forms/review/

Thanks very much in advance for your help. We look forward to sharing honest, verified reviews with you in the future.

Enterprise Opinions
Enterprise Opinions

Futures

More ITSM tools and a dedicated section for ITAM tools will follow over the coming months.

A Partner Advisor directory will also follow – the planned hierarchy is as follows:

Plans for Enterprise Opinions
Plans for Enterprise Opinions

If you have any questions about the directory or writing a review please shout! Thanks, Martin

Competition: itSMF UK 2014 Ticket!

Win a ticket to the itSMF UK 2014 Conference
Win a ticket to the itSMF UK 2014 Conference

As part of our Media Partnership with the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition, 10th – 11th November at Novotel London West, we have a free ticket worth £1,090 to giveaway to one lucky reader.

Last year reader Gregory Bayliss-Hall triumphed with his submission and you can read his experiences of the event here.

The free ticket will include:

  • Entry to the pre-conference networking event on Sunday 9th November
  • Entry to both days of the conference and exhibition (Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th November) containing four dedicated tracks of service management presentations, numerous opportunities to meet with other service management professionals and an ITSM exhibition featuring over 40 exhibitors and sponsors
  • Entry to the fabulous Awards Dinner hosted by comedian, radio and TV personality Paul Sinha on the evening of Monday 10th November

The ticket will not include:

  • Accommodation
  • Travel expenses

The ticket may include:

  • Embarassing dancing (yours and ours)
  • A hangover

The competition

Let us know why you deserve to attend itSMF UK. Share with us the fabulous things you have achieved within ITSM this year, how this conference will help you in your day-to-day job and how this ticket will change your ITSM life!

Please keep it short and snappy with 200 words or less please.

Submit your entry here.

The Rules

  1. Deadline to enter is Friday 17th October
  2. You don’t have to be an itSMF UK member to participate in this competition
  3. This competition is open to readers all over the world however travel to and from the event will be your own responsibility
  4. How to enter: Post your reason why you deserve to win this free ticket here
  5. The ITSM Review will choose the winning entry
  6. The ITSM Review’s decision is final
  7. We reserve the right to change the rules retrospectively at any point, because… well because this is our competition and we said so.

GOOD LUCK and we look forward to reading your entries!

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Are you passionate about ITSM?

Serving worldwide ITSM professionals since 2011
Serving worldwide ITSM professionals since 2011

ITSM Review is a well-respected and independent voice in the ITSM market. As a high growth business we are now on the hunt for a talented and passionate individual to join our growing team.

Who are Enterprise Opinions? 

Enterprise Opinions owns and operates two niche IT communities: The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review.

Our mission is to provide independent industry news, reviews, resources and networking opportunities to worldwide vendors, partners, consultants and end users working in ITAM or ITSM.

  • The ITAM Review was founded in 2008, sister site The ITSM Review followed in 2011
  • 100% organic growth through social media and word of mouth
  • 7,000+ opt-in verified newsletter subscribers, 70K+ impressions a month worldwide (Typically 35% USA, 15% UK, other large audiences in Germany, Australia, Canada, France and India)
  • We are privately owned and proud to be vendor and service provider independent and impartial.

ITSM Analyst 

We’re looking for an ITSM Analyst who can act as a spokesperson and representative for the ITSM Review – online, in person and at worldwide events. The role involves creating high value ITSM analyst content and conducting reviews of products and services.

Our goal is to help ITSM Review readers navigate and understand the market – in terms of explaining or curating the latest news, explaining key concepts and navigating new technology and innovation.

Content published on the ITSM Review is driven by engaging and supporting our readers – so a key part of the role is to engage and assist with our readers and identify opportunities to help them via high value media in various formats.

Role Details

  • Employment Type: Full-time
  • Location: Remote and flexible working
  • Working style: Being a self-starter is essential. The role is based on delivering against objectives not hours on the clock
  • Travel: Maybe 10-15% of the role requires international travel to conferences or consulting engagements. You own your diary.
  • Salary: Dependent on experience

Ideal Qualities

  • A curious technologist
  • An ITSM Industry enthusiast
  • Knows how the IT industry works
  • Can write clearly and concisely
  • Can explain things, help readers join the dots, build frameworks and generally educate our audience
  • Good public speaker
  • Is willing to take a stand
  • Can take and leverage criticism
  • Likes to roll up sleeves, play with technology and trying to break things

How to Apply

  1. Provide a one-minute video review of a product, service, event or ITSM concept
  2. Provide a 500-800 word written piece of work to accompany the video
  3. Send both via social media (publicly or discreetly)

Any questions, please shout.

Martin (Twitter, LinkedIn)

A five step framework for business oriented metrics

A practical look at why some metrics programs fail while others are successful, along with some tips you can use to kick your metrics up a notch.

Introduction

I was math-challenged as a child and hatred of anything having to do with numbers followed me into adulthood. This hatred remained with me until I became a manager and needed to begin proving the work my team was doing or understanding where we were failing. Actually, the turning point may have been the now-overused adage “you can’t move what you don’t measure,” a powerful concept that has a lot to do with the metrics programs I’ve created over the years. I’ve worked hard at this, mainly because of my math aversion. While Excel certainly helps, it’s all still “funny math” and through practice I’ve learned how to justify any story I want to tell using the numbers available from the IT Management tools my organizations have used.

Ultimately, if you can a story with metrics, how do you decide what is the right story? That’s the focus of this blog: determining the story to tell and to whom. 

Building a Business Oriented Metrics Framework 

Ultimately, if you turn to ITIL for help with metrics, you can be led astray pretty easily unless you read all of the books (or at least Service Strategy (SS) and Continual Service Improvement (CSI)). This is because at the end of each process described, there is a list of Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). These are great sample metrics for the process you might be implementing and are critical for measuring that process’ success, however providing them to business partners will have you producing the same type of metrics IT’s been producing for years, the type that are not of real interest to the business. You’ll also be led into a false set of security because they came from ITIL, didn’t they? YES!

While these process metrics are one of the three types of metrics ITIL recommends you produce (Process, Service and Technology) and while they are important metrics to produce, they’re of little or no interest to business partners outside of IT because they don’t tell you how well IT is doing at delivering on the key strategic initiatives of the business.

To craft a metrics program that is of interest to the business, you need to start with the business. To help you get started, you can use the informal framework for building business-based dashboards and scorecards presented here (If it seems familiar, it is. It’s based on ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement approach):

Linium-Metrics

This framework is very simple:

  • Know the vision of the organization or line of business
  • Document the goals that support this vision
  • Discover those Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) the organization feels are needed to be successful
  • Create Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) or measurable indicators of the Critical Success Factors. Include target levels for these, so success is clearly shown.
  • Organize them into dashboard views for each audience that may be viewed live (on-line).
  • Develop scorecards that may be used for trending, historical reporting.

Three Steps to Using this Framework

This framework can be delivered using five basic sets of activities or steps, which are described below.

In addition to these steps however, some of this can only be demonstrating using examples. For these, let’s use a sample organization that is expanding into web-based sales to demonstrate the concepts. In this organization, the new Web Sales department and the Audit/Control group are tasked with delivering on three goals that support the organization’s vision of “providing the best shopping experience on the web.”

These goals include:

  • Providing Customers with an Excellent Web Shopping Experience
  • Giving Customers the ability to do shop any time of day (or night)
  • Guaranteeing credit card security

With this in mind, let’s look at the five steps:

Step 1Create a Focus Group

To ensure alignment, create a focus group consisting of key stakeholders from several lines of business and a few IT Managers. For the organization in the example, this would include managers from Web Sales, Audit/Control and the IT teams tasked to develop and deliver the website.

Step 2: Understand the vision, goals of the organization

With the focus group, take a look at the organization’s strategic plan. Typically the strategic plan includes a set of initiatives designed to support the organization’s vision, similar to the web sales initiative. These are often stated as goals so review the business goals associated with the initiatives and define the ways in which IT supports these goals.  Think of the goals as the pillars that support the organization.  This will ensure your program aligns with these goals and the strategic initiatives.

To move to the next step you will need the vision and goals, similar to the ones provided for the sample organization.

Step 3: Identify your audiences and their contribution

Next, working with the focus group, create a matrix to document the goals and critical success factors for each of the organizations to which you’ll be reporting. This matrix will be used to plan the dashboards and scorecard measures you need. Using the sample organization, the matrix would look like the one that follows.

Audience

Goals

CSF

KPI

(with target)

Web Sales department (1) Excellent Web Experience(2) Ability to do shop anytime
Audit/Control (1) Confidence when using credit cards
IT (1)    Service Operations Excellence(2)    “Fort Knox” security

Step 4: Make the goals measurable

To quantify the goals, you’ll need to work with your focus group to determine the Critical Success Factors that will demonstrate the fulfillment of their goals. The best Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) will be: “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Once your and the focus group have agreed on the CSF’s, you’ll be able to develop Key Performance Indicators, or measures that support the CSF. It’s extremely beneficial to develop KPI’s along with targets, so you and your business partners are clear on whether you’re successful in delivering on each of the goals. The best part about this approach is that when IT and the business agree on measures and targets, it’s easy to tell when IT has delivered or when IT is not meeting the needs identified by the business.

The ITIL books demonstrate this process clearly at the end of each process documented. The last section of the process description includes a list of Critical Success Factors for the process and Key Performance Indicators that support them.

For example, the Incident Management process (ITIL Service Operation 2011, p. 109) has a Critical Success Factor to “minimize the impact to the business of incidents that cannot be prevented.”

This is not measurable by itself, but four Key Performance Indicators follow it:

  1. The number of known errors added to the Known Error Data Base (KEDB)
  2. The percentage of accuracy of the KEDB
  3. Percentage of incidents closed by the service desk without reference to other levels of support and
  4. Average incident resolution time for those incidents linked to problem records

At the end of this stage, your matrix will be complete, similar to the one which follows for the sample organization:

Audience

Goals

CSF

KPI

(with target)

Web Sales department (1) Excellent Web Experience(2) Ability to do shop anytime (1)    Customers are satisfied with the website design and functionality(2)    Web site is available 24×7 (1) 85% of customers give the site a 5-star rating on exit(2) Web site is 100% available
Audit/Control (1) Confidence when using credit cards (1)    Web site is PCI compliant(2)    Security patches are up to date (1) 100% PCI Audit pass rate(2) 90% of patches applied within 24 hours
IT (3)    Service Operations Excellence(4)    “Fort Knox” security (1)    Web site is available 24×7(2)    Web site is PCI compliant(3)    Security patches are up to date (1)    100% site availability SLA(2)    99% performance SLA(3)    100% PCI Audit SLA(4)    No Security Breach SLA(5)    90% on-time patch SLA

You might notice several things when reading this list:

  • A qualitative measure (5-star rating by customers) is used to determine the customer’s view of the website. This is a critical measure as the CSF points to the customer’s experience.
  • The quantitative measures that sound like IT performance measures are translated to SLA’s for reporting purposes under the IT list of KPI’s. When creating the dashboards and scorecards in the IT Service Management tool, these SLA’s may be configured to demonstrate IT’s achievements against the business KPI’s.
  • Most of them sound like technology metrics. While this is true, these are a short list of technology metrics that these audiences care about. Notice some frequently reported, but missing measures: average speed of answer at the service desk, mean time to restore service etc. These would be IT metrics that support teams would need, but not IT management or the business, unless IT is failing to deliver on the metrics listed in the matrix and management wants to dig down to discover the reasons.

Step 5: Build the dashboards and scorecards

Once the matrix is agreed on and the method of measuring each KPI is defined, documented and agreed on by the focus group, the final step is to design dashboards and scorecards that represent these KPI’s. These are both graphical views of the Key Performance Indicators listed above, showing the result in comparison to the target. The main difference between the two is in the delivery:

  • Dashboards are dynamic: live representations of the data, often provided via a web portal that is integrated either to a measurement tool or directly into an ITSM tool.
  • Scorecards are static: they provide a historical look at the data including trending over a period of time.

Sustaining Success 

There are two final aspects of using this framework:

  • Continual improvement
  • Measurement retirement

As these dashboards and scorecards are used by the business, it’s important to come back to the focus group to evaluate the results. This may lead to creating new KPI’s or tweaking the ways in which they are measured, depending upon the focus group’s satisfaction with performance. In the case of the sample organization, it’s possible that the business is not meeting their objectives and may initiate changes to their critical success factors that will drive a need to change the measures. The point here is that you should not build the dashboards and scorecards then forget about them. Rather, you should meet with the focus group quarterly to review the metrics programs and IT’s achievements. This is a great opportunity to talk about service improvements that the business might need to support the initiatives as well.

Knowing when to stop delivering a dashboard or scorecard report is the last critical piece to a successful program. Once IT is reliably meeting the targets set by the business for a particular goal, it’s a good idea to discuss this result with the focus group during the quarterly review.  In this case, you’re not looking at changing CSF’s and KPI’s to address a business need, but rather you’re reviewing the KPI’s to see if the business still needs to see them continually and if any of the targets need adjustment.

Bear in mind that once you are achieving targets reliably, the business might want to work with IT to “up the game.” So in the sample organization, once the security patches and PCI audit result SLA’s are being met consistently, the business might want an shorter SLA for deployments of new features to the website. Thus, the matrix would be adjusted and the appropriate changes made to the dashboards and scorecards.

Benefits of the program

Providing metrics that are responsive to your business’ needs rather than the same stale set of IT metrics they don’t really care about will have a significant impact on the relationship between you and the rest of the business. Looking back at the reasons to measure, you can expect the following results:

  1. Direct: Live dashboards also provide the ability to determine the activities needed to drive success of an initiative and whether these activities are providing the expected result,
  2. Validate: You and your stakeholders are able to use the metrics you provide to validate whether IT’s performance is contributing to the business’ ability to meet their goals and objectives,
  3. Justify: IT is able to produce metrics that support a business case for infrastructure or development projects related to the delivery of a service,
  4. Intervene: Live dashboards provide IT and the Business to know when there is a performance issue and they can intervene immediately to turn the problem around.

This helps an organization move from a purely reactive mode to a more proactive approach that is integrated with the success of the business’ initiatives in mind.

Linium’s 5 Box Model – You Cannot Manage What You Cannot Measure from Linium on Vimeo.

Book Review: Kanban from the inside

Kanban-from-the-inside
Kanban from the inside by Mike Burrows

Over the weekend I read through Mike Burrows’ new book “Kanban from the Inside” which was hot off the press, newly released this month.

Mike works as UK Director of DJAA – David J Anderson & Associates, relevant because David is considered to be the father of Kanban as it’s applied to knowledge work and IT.

I’ve followed David’s writing and presentations since reading his seminal book “Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your Technology Business”. I was definitely interested in buying Mikes book after I saw his announcement on Twitter.

I’ve previously written about Kanban for The ITSM Review. I described the differences between Kanban and Scrum, preferring the former for it’s more pragmatic approach towards roles and ceremonies and it’s wider application across a range of types of work.

“Kanban from the Inside” defines a model for managers wishing to introduce an evolutionary shift towards business agility, improved quality and to achieve flow.

The Kanban Method, as codified by David Anderson, focuses on existing business processes and introducing change through focus on quality and reducing work-in-progress. The work itself remains unchanged at least initially. Done by the same workers in the same way but being measured and visualised in an effort to find “flow”.

Inspecting quality and reducing work-in-progress leads to a shift in work being delivered more often, where organisations can then focus on balancing business demand against throughput and improving prioritisation techniques.

You can see that Kanban doesn’t require a revolution in the way that you work, it’s a series of steps taken over time.

In his book Mike describes four “Foundational Principles” and six “Core Practices” that teams work through.

The Foundational Principles describe the mindset and attitude that leaders take towards adopting Kanban

  1. Start with what you do now
  2. Agree to pursue evolutionary change
  3. Initially, respect current processes, roles, responsibilities, and job titles
  4. Encourage acts of leadership at every level in your organisation – from individual contributors to senior management

Throughout the book Mike provides real-world, pragmatic, examples that support these foundational principles.

With chapter titles such as “Understanding”, “Agreement” and “Respect” he deals with the dangers of changing workflow without first understanding (remember… evolutionary change), how to secure a commitment to change, and how to deal with existing roles and responsibilities respectfully. Always a challenge whilst you are acting as an agent of change in an organisation.

The six “Core Practices” are more hands-on and dogmatic.

  1. Visualise work
  2. Limit work-in-progress (WIP)
  3. Manage flow
  4. Make policies explicit
  5. Implement feedback loops
  6. Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally

Following the existing literature about Lean and Kanban, Mike talks about how to apply techniques to work to shift an organisation to focus on quality, flow, learning and experimentation.

Kanban
Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your Technology Business by David J Anderson

Mikes “Kanban from the Inside” is in no way an alternative to Davids “Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your Technology Business”. I was thinking of the best way of describing why you should buy both books to read.

The best I could come up with was this. If you enjoyed Robert Downey Jr in the Sherlock Holmes movies you’re more likely to enjoy Benedict Cumerbatch’s portrayal. Watching one doesn’t detract from the other.

Mike’s book is a great accompaniment to David’s. If you are interested in starting with Kanban I would seriously recommend buying both and starting with the Blue book (David’s).

The blue book is a little more gentle on the beginner I feel. It takes you through the introducing change into a organisation in a very thorough way. Mikes book is more formulaic and is a hands on guide to the individual techniques involved.

Although Mike takes his readers through a journey, it takes some effort and concentration to keep up with him. This isn’t a criticism of writing style or narrative – it’s because this is a practitioners guide and goes deep into some very interesting areas.

The book progresses through three parts: Explaining the Kanban method; describing other methods that are useful in applying Kanban more effectively; a step-by-step implementation guide in part 3.

In an evenings reading you aren’t going to progress from Drum-Buffer-Rope to Critical Chain Project Management without going to bed with an overactive mind. This is more a manual that you’ll keep referring back to as you progress through your adoption.

This isn’t taking anything away from “Kanban from the Inside”. It’s a great book and it’s already earned a place on my desk. I’m buying more copies for my team leaders.

If you are looking for more quality and efficiency from your teams I’d absolutely recommend this book and David Andersons “blue book” as a pair of books that have the potential to change your organisation for the better.

Getting your ITSM questions answered

Do you have questions about ITSM?
Do you have questions about ITSM?

At The ITSM Review, we come across a range of IT service management professionals, covering the full spectrum of experience.

Within our community of contributors and visitors, you’re rubbing shoulders with experienced ITSM practitioners, industry analysts and commentators, and those who may have been assigned their first service management improvement project.

Where do you go when you have a question about ITSM and all of its related frameworks, processes and methodologies?

Maybe you’re googling or hitting up one of the dozen-or-so LinkedIn groups. It’s hard to know where to put your trust; and when we saw the same sorts of questions come up day in and day out in all those LinkedIn groups, we felt there must be better way to help you find out what you need to know.

And more than that: it’s not very gratifying when you’ve taken the time to respond to someone’s call for help, only to watch that conversation sink down the page into a black hole when you know your answer could have helped the many others that would come afterwards!

The ITSM Review Q&A has been established as an industry knowledge base where you can access industry experts and practitioners whenever you’ve got a burning question in mind. Browse by topic, or start posting your question and existing answers will be suggested to you.

http://itsm.answerbase.com/

Join at no cost, and get instant access to the expertise you need. See who you can help today.

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Scrum vs Kanban

Is this an Alligator or Crocodile? Read this article to find out (Oh... and you might learn about Kanban and Scrum too!)
Is this an Alligator or Crocodile? Read this article to find out (Oh… and you might learn about Kanban and Scrum too!)

What are the differences between Scrum and Kanban anyway?

When you’re studying two similar animals from different species – I don’t know, lets use crocodiles and alligators – it’s easier to spot the similarities than the differences. I’ll give you one now and reward you with another difference for reading all the way to the end of my article.

Crocs can lift their bodies off of the ground, gators can’t. Did you know that?

This is a similar problem for those of us that are beginning to explore the world of Agile, Scrum and Kanban. Are they the same? From the same species? What are the differences?

It’s so easy to see the commonality, because the distinctions are nuanced and harder to spot. If you’re not careful you’re unable to spot one from another.

Let me help you explore some of the diversity between Agile/Scrum and Kanban

Back to the beginning…

Before examining Agile/Scrum and Kanban it is worth pointing out that there are many distinctions to be drawn between Agile and Scrum. They aren’t one and the same thing and there is probably a whole other article for a whole other day to write them up.

For the purposes of this article I want to draw your attention to the suitability of Kanban in IT Operations and to achieve that I can leave Agile and Scrum lumped together.

The first place to understand the contrast between Scrum and Kanban is to look back at the roots of each method.

Scrum was born out of a line of iterative software development methodologies stretching back to the 1960’s and ‘70’s but coming into prominence in the 1990s as a pushback against the heavyweight Waterfall project management practices. In the ‘90’s methods such as Scrum and Extreme Programming became popular and in 2001 the Agile Manifesto was written to bind these disparate practices under a common banner.

But remember that Agile/Scrum was initially formulated to solve a Software Development Lifecycle problem.

Kanban incorporates a number of practices codified by the automobile manufacturer Toyota as part of TPS – The Toyota Production System – a precursor to the wider Lean movement which emerged in 1990.

These roots are based in business process, in manufacturing, in the process of refining raw materials into a valuable product through manual and automated labour. In converting chunks of rubber, steel and glass into gleaming, shiny cars rolling off of the production line.

Whereas Agile/Scrum was formed to provide an alternative to heavyweight Software Development Lifecycle methodologies, Lean has been more aligned to core business processes – seeking efficiency gains and quality improvements.

My objective here is to speak to you as IT Professionals considering adopting a Lean or Agile approach to IT Operations. It’s worth pointing you towards the works of David J Anderson who in 2010 wrote “Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your technology business”, informally known as “The blue book”. This is the specific variant of Kanban that you want to study and learn more about.

So wait.. Kanban is not Agile?

If we are following strict definitions and examining Agile/Scrum and Kanban as if they were two separate animals… no, Kanban is not an Agile practice. It is a Lean practice.

But Kanban delivers a lot of the same benefits into an organisation that Agile promises to. And, as we’ll discover later in this post, does it in an evolutionary way rather than throwing the rule book out and introducing strange, new practices.

You could say that Agile, if done correctly introduces Agility into an organisation. Notice the capital “A” there. Kanban introduces business agility with a small “a”

More importantly where Agile/Scrum promotes product development agility, Kanban is positioned to make the whole organisation more agile.

Kanban practices can be used across the organisation from marketing, sales, product development and customer support and value chains can be found stretching between these organisations. Best of all heavyweight processes such as Waterfall, change and release management can happily exist with the wider Kanban framework.

This is the “evolutionary” part of the description in Davids book. Taking existing business processes, defining them as part of a value stream and finding ways to optimise the work.

OK – tell me more about Scrum

Scrum is a lightweight framework that defines roles (like Product Owner and ScrumMaster), artifacts (like Product Backlog, Release Backlog and Sprint Backlog) and practices (like Daily Standups, Sprint planning and Sprint review meetings).

Teams following Scrum take a body of work – typically a list of features that are required to build a software product – and break them down into discrete units of work (called User Stories) that can be re-prioritised according to business needs.

By taking a small section of those units of work and committing to finishing them before a short-term deadline (known as a sprint – often 10 working days) the team can focus on building the next small increment of the product before stopping, replanning and committing again.

Scrum is great! I’ve been successful with teams that have used Scrum to build products. But it is a fairly disruptive method and you won’t get 50% of the benefits by putting in 50% of the effort.

To be successful at Scrum you have to allocate people roles, train them and arrange your work according to the methodology. Expect to have backlog grooming sessions, to measure your work in story points and so on.

Scrum is a fairly prescriptive method that requires the team to bend around the rules in order to follow it correctly.

Much of the work in IT Operations is driven by external factors – servers experiencing hardware issues, ISP’s having intermittent connectivity issues. Although it’s nice to plan around the stability that Scrum promises – with a fixed sprint backlog of work – the reality is that teams have to deal with interrupt driven work and absorbing this isn’t a strong characteristic of Scrum.

There is another characteristic of Scrum that appears to make this activity very similar to Kanban… that is if you didn’t understand the difference between crocodiles and alligators.

The last thing to mention is that Scrum teams often maintain a “Scrum board” visualising their work on cards into lanes.

Scrum Board

OK! Tell me more about Kanban

Well, the last thing to mention is that Kanban teams often maintain a “Kanban board” visualising their work on cards into lanes.

Kanban Board
Kanban Board

Herein lies the difficulty in distinguishing between Scrum and Kanban when the most visible artifact for either method is exactly the same.

But there are significant differences with Kanban. Firstly it is an evolutionary method to introduce change in an organisation. Meaning that no additional roles or practices are introduced by organisations that adopt the method.

Existing roles and processes are kept but are wrapped into Kanban. Workflows are investigated and visualised to provide control around the work but we don’t change how people do their jobs or interact.

Scrum deals with the problems associated with Product Development and introduces methods to increase Agility.

Kanban examines the value stream upstream (perhaps into the sales and marketing departments where leads are generated) through the manufacturing/development/technical departments down to the point where value is released to the customer – how products are shipped or released.

It’s similar to the same way that a manufacturing process for a Toyota car is defined all the way from the raw steel arriving at one end of the factory through the refinement process until a car rolls off the other end. Kanban maps and provides controls throughout the whole value stream.

Imagine you are in control of new laptop builds in an IT department. Surely you have a value stream which starts with a request from HR notifying you of a new employee. Actions are taken – laptops ordered, imaged, configured, added to the various management systems. At some point later (much later??) the laptop is delivered to the employee. You’ve just described a value stream that can be visualised, managed and incrementally improved with Kanban.

Here is a visual outlining the differences between the two animals.

Scrum versus Kanban
Scrum versus Kanban

In summary

I promised to reward you with the last difference between crocodiles and alligators. Look at the snout – but presumably from a distance. Crocs have a longer, sharper “V shaped” snout. There you go!

But this isn’t the action that I want you to take away from this article. Your IT organisation should be investigating new ways of working and building a culture of high performance and continuous improvement.

Agile/Scrum and Kanban are all worth investigating. My call to action in this blog post – if you are in a position to suggest work improvements in your department – is to buy David J Andersons Kanban book and see how evolutionary change is possible in your corner of the world. (Amazon Link)

Most successful Kanban adoptions are lead from the “middle out”. That is junior managers taking the initiative and adopting Lean practices influencing those that carry out the work. Their successes often influence upwards as senior managers identify the resulting service improvements.

Who knows – buy the book today and in a few months you could be blogging your IT transformation using Kanban on the ITSM Review. I’m looking forward to that!

Image Credit

…It’s a Crocodile