Surviving the end of a Change Freeze

Happy New Year to all our readers and especially to all the Change Managers out there. Why especially Change Managers? Well this week is “back to work” week for most people following the end of the Christmas break as well as the end of any Change freeze / restrictions. This means that not only are our poor Change Managers dealing with the January blues; they’re dealing with the floodgates opening and a deluge of Change activity. With the best will in the world, we try to ensure Changes are transitioned seamlessly into our live environment but the reality is, more Changes equal an increase in Incidents so here’s our guide to surviving the end of the Change freeze whilst keeping your sanity in check.

 

Step 1: Stick the kettle on

I know, I know, I’m a caffeine addict but in all seriousness, you’re facing a busy week, might as well rock it powered by Starbucks.

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Step 2: Have a look at your Change Schedule

Look at your FSC and see if you can identify any bottlenecks or pain points. You know the ones, that business critical service that needs a software update but the rest of the business will be after you with flaming torches and pitchforks if there’s any unforeseen downtime, the server that takes forever to come back up again following a maintenance reboot or that router that’s so twitchy it falls over if someone even looks at it the wrong way. Look at your areas of highest risk and give them an extra sanity check to make sure all the due diligence has been done, the implementation windows are at sensible times and that everyone is happy with the action plan.

Step 3: Get Proactive

As the late, great Bob Hoskins once said, “it’s good to talk”. Now is the time to pre-warn your Service Desk, support teams, Service Delivery Managers and management teams that Change activity will be returning to normal and that it will be an extra busy week or so while the backlog that will have invariably have built up during the Christmas break is dealt with.

Step 4: Turn on the charm

Talk to your Relationship Managers and Service Delivery Managers so that they’re pre warned of any additional risks. By making them aware, you’re enabling them to pre warn customers of any potential blips and if you’re really lucky they may even be able to negotiate a relaxation of any SLAs during busy periods – yay teamwork!

Final Thoughts

Keep smiling, it will be fine, all will be well because you’ve got this. If all else fails – at least you’re not this cat:

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Happy Christmas!

In the immortal words of Noddy Holder, it’s Christmaaaaaaaas!!  Happy Christmas to all our fabulous readers from everyone here at the ITSM Review. We hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a brilliant 2016.

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For shift workers and all our readers who have to work over the Christmas break, we’ve put together a little care package to keep you going. Some of it’s work, some of it’s fun and we’ve even thrown some funny cat videos into the mix; if you’re working over the holidays, consider this a Christmas hug from us here at Enterprise Opinion towers:

Work Content

Here is the link to some of our most popular articles this year, from DevOps to SIAM and from Shadow IT to Knowledge Management, we’ve got you covered. You can also check out our sister sites, the ITAM Review and Tools Adviser. For everything itSMF related, check out the itSMF UK and itSMF Ireland websites (hi @BarclayRae and @itSMF_ie) and for ITIL towers check out the AXELOS website here.

The British and Irish computing societies are always full of interesting content as is the Back2ITSM group on Facebook and a big hello to some of there other ITSM sites out there in particular All Things ITSM and Service Desk 360. For a geektastic look at anything techie related, check out vulture central at The Register and if you fancy super charging your ITSM qualifications check out our friends at Pink Elephant.

 

Fun Stuff

Because I’ve worked in IT forever, I’ve done my fair share of Christmas on calls or working over the holidays so here are some of my favourite sites:

 

Remember guys it’s Christmas so if all else fails, Quality Street for breakfast (but the green triangles are mine OK?) stick The Pogues, Band Aid and Slade on the radio and check out this video (nothing to do with Christmas but was the best thing on the internet this year): 

 

Happy Christmas!!

 

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DevOps and ITIL: Why Can't We Be Friends?

6347903993_4d1370e4d8_zThe IT world we know and love exists today thanks to the bedrock of the IT community: ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library. Since ITIL’s inception 26 years ago, the world has changed and an app exists for everything – shopping, messaging, ride sharing, or just staying connected via social media. We’re in the midst of a new technological age. This evolution has been guided by agile methodology and now, with the rise of cloud computing, many teams are embracing DevOps.

The consumerization of technology is changing expectations of IT. And IT has pressures to live up to these expectations. Because the pace of innovation is largely driven by DevOps and agile methodologies, IT must adapt. To do this, ITIL must support an agile environment. By working together, these practices reinvent how IT teams deliver reliable services to the business, faster.

DevOps and ITIL working together

Developers want an agile process – and it’s best for the organization that they have one. This means having a frictionless release process, and continuously improving software for customers.

ITIL’s framework is hyper-focused on reliable service delivery and support, with its feedback loop based on incident management. ITIL can combine with agile to get the best of both worlds: better software and a reliable, stable environment.

How agile saves the day

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Real world example – the Service Desk received reports of a slow loading login page. The underlying issue is confirmed by a bad Apdex score (a user satisfaction score reported by New Relic). The problem might be a runaway query so the development team implements the bug fix into their next sprint, which happen on a weekly basis. From incident to resolution, turnaround time is two weeks.

Using ITIL to support Agile and DevOps

Agile incident management

Maximize your team’s bandwidth with sprint planning. Reserve 30-40% of your team’s capacity for operational tasks, where priority 1 and 2 incidents are resolved immediately, and lower priority incidents are resolved within bandwidth. This means that incident management doesn’t affect sprint goals.

Agile problem management

Trim down on time-wasting administrative work. Manage problems as user stories in a product backlog. Don’t separate “incidents” and “problems” – everything should be cohesive. If a problem occurs more often, it should have higher priority in the backlog.

In ITIL orgs, there’s an assumption you’ll need multiple instances of an incident before starting problem analysis.

Instead of waiting for incidents to pile up, detect and solve problems faster with automated monitoring. Link monitoring tools to your incident management system to identify the cause of problems earlier and get it restored faster.

Agile change management

When it comes to change and releases, many IT orgs drown in bureaucracy related to heavy processes. That can change.

In a DevOps environment, releases are frequent. ITIL framework combined with DevOps means development, operations, and support are always collaborating. It means change requests link from incidents and problems. Issues related to changes are added to a developer’s backlog and allocated to their sprint.

In the end, there’s no budding conflict when it comes to these methodologies. It’s all about making processes leaner, making data visible and enabling faster resolutions. With the right practices, the ITIL framework supports the agility of DevOps.

Author bio:

Sid Suri is the Vice President of Marketing for JIRA Service Desk. He’s worked in various technology roles over the last fifteen years at Salesforce.com, Oracle (CRM), InQuira (acquired by Oracle) and TIBCO Software. An expert in the intersection between IT Support and DevOps, Sid helped create the detailed ebook, “How to Enhance IT Support with DevOps”.

 

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Injecting some ITSM goodness into the itSMF UK

After an action packed few days at the itSMF UK conference last week, I was lucky enough to catch up with itSMF UK CEO Barclay Rae for a quick chat about life the universe and everything, or in our case, IT, SDI, AXELOS and the sparkly new ITIL practitioner qualification.

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

The Conference has been a big focus over recent weeks and has been generally seen as a huge success.For those of you that didn’t manage to go, some of the highlights were SIAM, winning elephants and cute penguin videos so it was all kinds of awesome! Barclay’s focus is now on taking that energy forward. So what has Barclay been up to over the last few months? Well firstly, his role is part time which means that as well as itSMF, he’s also had the day job and some exciting work with the Service Desk Institute to get on with.

The Service Desk Institute

Barclay is part of the author team for the SDI standards and was heavily involved in updating both Service Desk training and Service Desk Certification (SDC) standards. For those of you not familiar with the SDI, it’s a professional body for anyone working in the IT service and support industry. It sets the standards for the analyst and manager exams and runs a Service Desk certification program.During our chat Barclay talked about how the Service Desk in St Andrews University went from no stars to four stars with the support of the SDI. It’s a really inspiring journey and you can read more about it here.

ITIL Practitioner

Barclay was also an architect on the new ITIL Practitioner qualification. His take on it? “given the constraints we had, it’s pretty damn good”. The idea behind the practitioner course is that it provides real life guidance, which can be bundled with the ITIL foundation course so that delegates get 5 days of ITIL fun. As an ex trainer, I think combining the two courses will work brilliantly as delegates will be able to spend a decent amount of time learning and getting a really solid grounding in ITSM. It will also ease the transition from foundation to intermediate qualifications, again with my training hat on for a second, the first day of any intermediate course was always a shock to the system for attendees as there’s such a big jump from foundation level to intermediate level. Anything that eases that pressure has got to be a good thing.

itSMF UK

So what is Barclay’s mission for his 6 months as head of the itSMF UK? To boost performance and reinvigorate the business side of things so that it can provide more value to members. Barclay wants to make more services available so that being a member gives tangible benefits to both individuals and companies. Barclay wants to build positive, constructive partnerships with other key players in the industry as well as complementary relationships with other organisations such as the BCS, and also vendor organisations.

Key to driving more value for members is the new leadership council. The leadership council is made up of senior, C level people who are experienced practitioners in ITSM. Having the right people with the right skills in place will enable the itSMF UK to provide more accurate industry analysis, better and more detailed briefings as well as driving new products and services for ITSMF, e.g. for career frameworks and benchmarking tools.

In summary, Barclay’s aim is to make a positive contribution to the itSMF UK, so that it’s seen as a vibrant industry contributor. An announcement on the dates for the 2016 conference will be announced soon for those of you that can’t wait a whole year there’s a tooling event in early February. 2016 promises to be an exciting year for the itSMF UK, more events, better value for members and exciting new partnerships so let’s get this party started!

 

A mature process doesn't necessarily meet customer needs. A quick guide to Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Dave O'Reardon (Left) itSMF Australia Innovation of the Year award winner, and Aprill Allen (Right) - @knowledgebird
Dave O’Reardon (Left) itSMF Australia Innovation of the Year award winner, and Aprill Allen (Right) – @knowledgebird

Many IT leaders are already familiar with the kinds of surveys the common support tools send out on ticket closure. But, it turns out, we may not be going about it the best way. This year’s winner of itSMF Australia’s Innovation of the Year was Dave O’Reardon. Dave has had 25 years’ experience working in IT and his award-winning transactional Net Promoter service, CIO Pulse, provides a whole new way of looking at how IT leaders can improve their services and start creating value for the businesses and customers they support.

After I photo-bombed Dave’s official awards photos, he gracefully agreed to an interview.

Can you explain the fundamentals of Net Promoter?

Sure! Net Promoter is a proven way of improving customer loyalty, or satisfaction, with a product, company or service. And its a metric – a Net Promoter Score – for understanding your progress toward that goal and for benchmarking your performance. It is not a piece of software and it is not Intellectual Property – it’s free for anyone to use.

If you’ve ever been asked a question along the lines of “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”, then you’ve come across a company that’s using Net Promoter. This question is usually followed by one or two open-ended questions. These follow-up questions ask the reason for the score and what could be done to improve. Based on a customer’s score (in response to the first question), they are categorised as either a Promoter (they scored 9 or 10), a Passive (they scored 7 or 8), or a Detractor (they scored 6 or below). Net Promoter then recommends a number of practices that can be used to convert Detractors and Passives into Promoters.

A Net Promoter Score is simply calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. This calculation results in a score of between -100 (all your customers are Detractors) and +100 (all your customers are Promoters).

Net Promoter is commonly used in two different ways – transactional (also called operational or bottom-up) and relationship (also called brand or top-down). Transactional NPS is used to measure and improve the customer experience following a specific interaction (e.g. after an IT support ticket has been closed). Relationship NPS is used to measure and improve overall loyalty or satisfaction with a product, brand or service, e.g. via an annual survey.

Why is it important for IT teams to use a customer service improvement approach like Net Promoter?

There’s a few reasons.  First of all, IT teams often rely too much on service level agreements, such as incident response and resolution targets. These targets are great for helping support staff determine what to work on and when, but tell you nothing about the customers’ perceptions. If you’ve ever had a wall of green traffic lights for your SLAs and yet the customer still isn’t happy, then you know what I mean.  I like to call this the Watermelon Effect – SLA performance indicators are all green, but on the inside customers are red and angry.  Traditional SLAs don’t measure the customer experience and customer perceptions, Net Promoter does.

The second reason is that process maturity assessments – formal and informal – don’t help IT teams prioritise in any way that is meaningful.  We’re at maturity level 2 for Configuration Management, so what?! And on the flipside, even mature processes can be crap and fail to meet customers’ needs. Your Request Fulfillment process might be very mature – documented, automated, measured etc – and yet customers are still frustrated that hardware provision takes so long and that Jim is always gruff when asked for an update. A mature process doesn’t necessarily meet customer needs.

Bodies of knowledge like ITIL and COBIT are stuffed full of solutions. They are great to turn to when you’ve got a service issue and you want some ideas on how to solve it.  But how do you know you’ve got a problem and how do you know which problem is the most urgent?  If you want to improve service (and if you’re in the field of Service Management and you don’t, then you might be in the wrong field) you absolutely have to understand customer perceptions. Things such as service quality and value stem from customer’s perceptions.

Net Promoter is very widely used by consumer-facing organisations. How do you modify the typical Net Promoter format to suit internal teams like IT, HR and  so on?

That’s a great question. Net Promoter is often overlooked as an improvement methodology by internal service providers because of the first question – “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”. It just doesn’t make sense to an internal customer. Who’s going to tell one of their mates at the pub that their IT Service Desk is fantastic and that they should give them a call the next time they have a problem with their iPad!  The trick is just to reword the question so that it makes sense to the customer, e.g. “On a scale of 0 to 10, overall how satisfied are you with your recent support experience?”.

What’s wrong with the traditional transactional survey that we’re more familiar with?

Two things:

  1. Firstly, because internal service providers all use different surveys and different scales they can’t benchmark their performance against each other.  Their scores are calculated in different ways and so one organisation can’t tell if another organisation is doing better than them or worse. Who should get improvement ideas from who?
  2. The second thing is a bigger issue. Most organisations just don’t know what to do with the data they’re collecting. They survey, they calculate some sort of satisfaction score, and then they report on that score in a management report of some sort. But that’s all.  And that’s a terrible shame, because there’s a bunch of behaviors that the transactional survey should be driving that can result in a significant improvement in customer satisfaction. But if all you do is survey and calculate a score, don’t expect anything to improve. I call this the ‘Chasm of Lost Opportunity’ –  the powerful things that are not done between a survey being completed and a score being reported. By adopting the behaviors and activities recommended by Net Promoter – bridging the chasm – I’ve seen internal service providers make significant improvements to internal customer satisfaction in just months.

What sort of problems and improvement opportunities have you seen coming out of IT teams that start paying attention to customer feedback? Any particular areas that standout in common?

The most common feedback theme we see with transactional surveys comes down to poor communication – support calls that seem to disappear into black holes, customers not having their expectations managed re fulfillment/resolution timeframes, and tickets being closed without the customer first verifying that they’re happy that the solution has worked.

When it comes to the relationship surveys, every client is unique.  We see everything from issues with network speed, being forced to use old PCs, poor system availability, inadequate engagement of the business in IT projects, releases introducing too many defects, service desk hours that don’t work for the business.  Pretty much everything.  And that’s why the top-down relationship survey is so important. When Net Promoter is used for periodically surveying internal customers, it provides really rich information on what the customer sees as IT’s strengths and weaknesses. The results often come as a surprise to IT management, which is a good thing, because, without that information they were in danger of investing limited improvement resources in areas that just aren’t important to the customer.

If you could distill all the experience you’ve had with transforming IT teams, is there one high-impact tip you could suggest?

Yes, but it’s more of a way of thinking than a tip per se.  And that is – don’t dismiss customer feedback as something fluffy and unimportant. If you’re in the business of delivering service to a customer, then understanding customer perceptions is very very important. Dismiss customer feedback as fluffy and unimportant at your peril! Quality and value are both the result of perceptions, not objective measures like availability percentages and average response times.

Net Promoter-based transactional surveys are a great way to drive continual improvement in the Service Desk and IT support functions – improving the way IT is perceived by the large majority of its customers. And Net Promoter-based relationship surveys provide a valuable source of input to IT strategy, ensuring that IT is investing in the areas that are truly important to the business, not just because Gartner says so.

When IT teams don’t understand, and actively seek to improve, customer perceptions of IT, the end result is sad and predictable – IT is managed like a cost-centre, budgets are cut, functions are outsourced, and IT leaders are replaced.  And at pubs and dinner parties, no matter what job we do in IT, our friends grumble at us because where they work, their IT department is crap.

Dave helps IT teams, and other internal service providers, adopt Net Promoter and provide better customer service, improve their reputation and increase internal customer satisfaction. He’s worked in IT for 25 years and is the CEO and founder of:

  • Silversix.com.au – a management consultancy that helps IT teams measure and improve internal customer satisfaction)
  • and cio-pulse.com (a transactional Net Promoter service that kicks the ass of the survey modules of ITSM tools).

ITSM – Crossing the SAM Divide

As can be seen from the literature and marketing brochures of many Service Management tool providers, the appeal to cross the border and reach into the Software Asset Management space is proving very difficult to resist, and there is some merit to the approach:

  • Inventory agents for SAM report the same data as inventory agents for ITSM, so if an ITSM tool is already in place, why not use it and save a network manager a headache relating to network bandwidth?
  • If an end user has a query relating to licensing or software in general, their guided instinct would be to reach out to the Service Desk to resolve that question – so it would make sense to have SAM related data at the disposal of the Service Desk.
  • SAM could benefit from the practice of SLA adherence – as a discipline, it is too often rooted in getting reports “just so” rather than being able to offer reports “on time”. The repeated activity of generating compliance reports will see to it that a company is better placed to drive strategic and operational benefit through a company if it borrows such a concept from ITSM.

However, before anyone proclaims “I do”, it is also worth noting a few of the differences that will undoubtedly have to be overcome if a marriage is to proceed:

  • Except for the most basic of calculations, “one licence does not equal one install”. Reconciliation engines within SM tools are going to have to step up to accommodate upgrade rights, downgrade rights, rights of secondary use, multiple use rights etc.
  • If an SM systems provider proclaims “they do asset management” they should be able to demonstrate where and how to import proof of entitlement; IT already struggles obtaining such data from contracts departments as they (can typically) feel duty-bound not to share such data for fear of breaching confidentiality agreements between the company and the software vendor.
  • IT Processes will need an overhaul – Systems integration between SM and SAM are but just one aspect the bullets above allude to; Service Management processes will need to account for licensing deviations highlighted in the software asset management lifecycle if a successful union is to take place.

This final point is worthy of further attention, because regardless of whether you decide to unite SAM and ITSM under one entity within your IT organisation or not, SAM still needs to be woven into your IMAC activities so as to help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.

“Here and there” installations on your desktop may not peak your interest, however, a liberal approach to random installs, moves and hardware changes in the datacenter could lead to liabilities matching or exceeding the salaries of your entire IT workforce; and with the pace and speed with which virtual servers can be instantiated and hosted, due diligence should not be considered a “nice to have” business ethos.

In an article published on this site just over a year ago (ITSM thoughts from the world of Software Asset Management) I posed the question does your service management division assist in the generation of analysis pertaining to a software support and maintenance contract review? (A strategic function of software asset management) Service Management is the discipline sitting on this valuable data, and whilst SAM suites have the capability to record that software has support and maintenance associated with it, SAM suites are invariably not used to monitor the consumption of support and maintenance.

I would welcome your thoughts on this, but also on the forthcoming article – borrowed from the sister-site (ITAM Review) we will be offering a Process of the Month analysis of how support & maintenance analysis could be achieved; and the fringe benefits it offers both Service Management and Software Asset Management.

This article was contributed by Rory Canavan of SAM Charter.

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How to Transition from a Reactive to Proactive Support Center

 This article has been contributed by Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassians’s JIRA Service Desk. 

Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian's JIRA Service Desk
Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk

For years, support centers have focused on reacting to problems. According to research from SDI (Service Desk Institute), 67% of of a service desk’s time is spent firefighting. This reactive approach often leads to burnout and a lack of processes that can scale. On top of that, support centers are faced with the ever present challenge of scaling their services, decreasing costs and showing value to their business constituents.

We’d all prefer a situation where IT teams didn’t have to wait for their queue to fill up with angry tickets before they looked into a problem. What if a failing machine knew it was failing and sent out an SOS? Imagine seeing several of those SOSs as things got worse, so that all the right experts could spring into action, saving the poor server before it collapses completely. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not. It’s a new wave of IT and DevOps that aims to take a proactive approach to IT.

Here are four ways you can get started:

1) Set up server alerts

Often, support teams find out about problems after customers do. When it comes to servers, problems like high load, outages, or full disk space can be fixed before they snowball. Smart IT teams set up CPU or memory alerts to notify the team when things are heading towards a bad place, either by watching the server or running smoketests at regular intervals. This lets them correct an issue before it actually becomes a problem.

2) Monitoring automation

Along with setting up alerts, you might want the machine to do “something” according to every response. Proactive support means automating monitoring with the right combination of tools (application monitoring, service desk, chat and more). Here’s how you might automate the escalation process for a server issue:

  • Whenever servers hit a low threshold, send a chat message to the service desk room to notify all team members.
  • If it hits a second threshold, then open a service desk ticket and add a history log to the ticket.
  • If it hits a third threshold, then automatically contact the on-call engineer directly by phone or SMS.

3) Get smart with ChatOps

When urgent issues come in, they need fast answers. Often, managers aren’t notified right away, resulting in lost time. Other times, domain experts need to get involved and aren’t quickly reachable. Many chat applications help overcome these challenges with real-time messaging. This means you can collaborate and solve problems in real-time, involving all the right experts instantly.

More than just chatting, what the DevOps community is now calling ChatOps, is about integrating bots and plugins to a standard chat application to automate tasks. With a chat bot, you can get notified of any critical tickets that need to be assigned right away. Mentioned previously, you can also set up server monitoring bots that send out notifications if there’s ever a problem, so you stay ahead of issues. More advanced chat bots let you type commands that fetch information, execute deployments and more.

4) Deflect repetitive issues with self-service

Taking a break from bots and automation, an IT team can also be proactive when it comes to repetitive incidents (and there is no shortage of those).

Here are the costs of support, according to industry standard:

  • Level 3 support is around $100 per contact.
  • Level 2 costs are $45-$75 per contact
  • Level 1 is $12-27.50 per contact.
  • Self-service, or Level 0, is 10 cents or less.

As organizations grow, self-service reduces cost per incident whereas manned incidents will rise in costs with company growth. If growth and costs are concerns for your support team, implementing self-service is a great way to proactively solve repetitive issues. This means developing a knowledge base for customers to access and self-serve answers to their problems.

The transition from reactive to proactive IT support is happening now, and it’s more than just getting the right tools – it’s a cultural transformation. It’s about taking traditionally separate functions and encouraging cross-team collaboration – like passing information between IT and development teams. These two sides combined, tools and culture, help break down silos across the organization.

ITIL Roles – Which Roles Can Be Filled By One Person?

NevenZitek
Neven Zitek, SPAN

Just by looking at the sheer number of ITIL functions and roles may leave you wondering – how do you fit a limited number of IT staff into so many roles? It’s obvious that one person will act in several roles, but how do you optimally combine them? Of course, it all depends on the size of your organization, and which ITIL processes that you’ve implemented, but none of that changes the fact that some roles fit well together, and some of them don’t.

 

 ITIL roles that fit together within the Service Lifecycle

ITIL-CombinedRoles (1)

 

Figure 1: ITIL roles that can be managed by a single person, and the relationship between role and ITIL Service Lifecycle.

The Business Relationship Manager role is responsible for managing and maintaining good relationships with customers, and most importantly, ensuring that the Service Catalogue is adequately meeting customer needs. Because part of customer relationship is agreeing upon and respecting agreed Service Levels, the Service Level Manager and Business Relationship Manager roles fit well together. The Service Level Manager’s focus is more oriented toward initial negotiations of service levels, but that makes him a good candidate for Business Relationship Manager, as he will be very familiar with the customer’s needs.

Risk Manager and Service Continuity Manager are both oriented toward the future, looking for the best possible outcome in case of undesired events. They fit well together, as both roles are responsible for risk management, threat identification and mitigation, and ensuring minimum / or acceptable impact on service delivery in case those events actually occur. The difference is that the Service Continuity Manager is focused on Force majeure and disaster scenario events, and the Risk Manager is focused on risk assessment of individual assets and their vulnerabilities. However, even with those differences, these two roles can easily be filled by a single person.

The Capacity Managers responsibility is ensuring that all infrastructure and services (if provided externally) are able to deliver performance and capacity within agreed levels, in a cost-effective manner. These responsibilities match nicely with the Availability Manager role, adding responsibility for meeting the agreed service availability. Both roles include planning, measuring, analyzing and improving of available resources against agreed and expected service levels; however, Capacity Management is concerned with personnel resources as well (e.g., overnight backup not completed, as there was no technician to change tapes), and Availability Management is not. As both roles include monitoring / measuring performance of individual service components, this might be a perfect match to include the Problem Management role as well, as the Problem Managers main task is to prevent incidents from happening, and minimize the impact of incidents that do happen. Having insight into individual service components’ status should be a good argument for fitting the Capacity and Availability Manager roles within the Problem Manager role.

The responsibility of maintaining information about assets, Configuration Items (CI) and their relationship is upon the Service Asset and Configuration Manager. This very important, yet laborious role is very similar to the Knowledge Manager‘s role, whose responsibility is to maintain information about knowledge available. That similarity in processes justifies the decision to share those two roles within a single person.

And, as I mentioned before in an earlier post Incident Management: How to separate roles at different support levels, another good role-sharing fit is Incident Manager and Service Desk Manager. Even though the Service Desk Manager has a slightly larger scope of responsibilities, what those two roles have in common is the aim to resolve incidents as soon as possible. In general, Service Desk is the place where all incidents will be reported; therefore, it makes perfect sense to try and resolve them on the spot.

Combining roles is a challenge for both smaller and larger companies. Obviously, smaller companies are de facto forced to fit as may roles as humanly possible into a single person, as there is no alternative. Larger companies may have the luxury of splitting roles among as many persons as they find fit; however, with so many ITIL roles available, it may not be wise to dedicate a single person to ever single role just because you can. If you are so fortunate as to have all necessary personnel available to take all the roles, think about the workload across the lifecycle. For example, if you don’t plan on releasing new services on a daily basis, do you need one Test Manager and one Release Manager? (Note that you shouldn’t combine those two roles, so please continue reading to find out why.)

In my opinion and experience, combining ITIL roles is always an option, as long as you take workload and common sense into consideration.

ITIL roles that shouldn’t be mixed together within the Service Lifecycle

While these are good examples of a single person acting in a multi-role environment, there are some obvious and less obvious role combinations that should be avoided.

The obvious role combination that should be avoided is service Test Manager and Release Manager. While the Release Manager is responsible to plan, control and release a service into the live / operational environment, the Test Manager is responsible to perform all necessary testing to ensure that the service deployed meets requirements. It’s an obvious conflict of interest, as the Release Manager will strive to get the service operational as soon as possible, while the Test Manager will always want to take as much time as possible in order to test the service properly.

A less-obvious role combination that ITIL experts commonly agree should be avoided is Incident Manager and Problem Manager. The Incident Manger is responsible to handle an incident in a way that will result in fast incident resolution or workaround. The Problem Manager, on the other hand, is not interested in quick fixes, but rather on the root cause of the incident – which may take much more time than any Incident Manager is ready to accept.

Another less-obvious combination of ITIL roles that should be avoided is making a Service Owner (any) Process Owner as well. The Service Owner is responsible for delivering the service in question (e.g., e-mail service) within agreed service levels. A Process Owner (e.g., Change Management, Incident management, Service Portfolio Management, etc.) is responsible for ensuring that the process in question is fit for its purpose and is run in an optimal way. As Process Owner, this person is in charge of all other services he does not own for that particular process, and may start looking at other services through “Service Owner glasses,” which should be avoided if possible.

Combining ITIL roles – if at first you don’t succeed, try again

Just remember that ITIL is best practice framework with logical and easy to follow structure. Combining multiple roles for one person should be done using common sense – you wouldn’t appoint the same person to report to himself, or approve his own recommendations, budget, and technical solution, the same way you wouldn’t appoint a wolf to guard the sheep. Combining ITIL roles is a challenge, and it takes time and experience to understand and foresee potential pitfalls certain role combinations may bring upon you. On the other hand, you can use that time to notice and change eventual “bad fits” that may already exist.  Just don’t be afraid to make a change; if anything, ITIL is all about the change.

 

This article was contributed by Neven Ziteck of SPAN

Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

Image Credit

Untangling the threads of true service leadership

7 threads of activity – for all leaders of teams, projects and continuous improvement initiatives

Philippa Hale and Jean Gamester

We all have the choice of whether to lead or follow, whatever our title, whatever the situation. In IT Service Management, we often see providing support as following. However, evidence suggests that we considerably enhance our reputation and delivery if we take the lead. What does that look like exactly? Is it our remit? How will we bring others with us?

Look more closely at Service Management teams working on continuous improvement and changes. Authentic and effective leadership is happening at all levels; The person who inspires others to act quickly in an emergency, who admits a mistake promptly to minimise its impact or who speaks out when something has been bothering the team or great service isn’t being delivered; the person who mends fences between teams. All of this is leadership.

In our work with many 100s of IT departments, we have identified 7 threads of project leadership activity that anyone can do, at any stage of a change initiative.

Why ‘threads’? Because we want to get away from the idea of steps or stages where one finishes and another starts. Of course a project has a start, various stages and an ending, but the leadership activity and use of emotional intelligence (Goleman 2000) needs to flow all the way through. If these are used well – right time, right situation – it can prevent the project becoming a terrible tangle.

shutterstock_73210963

 

Thread 1 – Spotting and validating needs

Blue thread

 

This first thread of activity involves observing and evaluating, creativity and ideas. All projects and change initiatives begin with someone being curious, noticing needs or opportunities inside the organisation, with customers or competitors. That same careful observation and ideas generation needs to be sustained throughout the project, often combining gut feel, incisive questions and hard facts. Will this work? Is it still working? What could the costs, benefits and risks be? Have these changed? What else could we do?

Passionate about an idea? Get a ‘reality check’ with others. If you are unsure, get more information, from close colleagues, then from people with different perspectives and listen, don’t just defend your ideas.

Suggestion: Think about your processes and projects. Are they still valid? Based on what criteria? Could you save your and your team’s precious resources by stopping, refocusing or re-prioritising any part of your work?  

 

Thread 2 – Making the pitch

red thread

 

This thread involves presenting the idea and making it sound clear, practical and compelling, to get the support of a wide variety of audiences. An idea is pitched to senior management to get funding and approval, to new team members, partners, customers and suppliers, all with different opinions, needs, motivations and levels of understanding. Plus the people not actively involved but personally affected, through changes to roles, relationships, processes or even job security.

You may need to repeat information many times. People are busy, miss meetings and emails, or just don’t have your level of technical knowledge and experience. You will need to explain changes, progress and decisions made, in your audiences’ language, to manage expectations and perceptions.

Suggestion: Next time you prepare a project communication, stand in your audience’s shoes, think how your message will land and what you want them to think, feel, do. A few extra minutes planning a message can significantly increase acceptance, reduce delays and improve decision making.

 

Thread 3 – Get going

Yellow thread

 

This is the continual reflecting and planning thread. In the business simulations we run and on live client projects, no matter how experienced the groups, they jump in without doing enough planning. “Never plan alone” is the true project leader’s motto, at all stages. We can make planning activities fun and engaging – visibly laying the foundations of the project. Involve others with diverse specialist knowledge to open up ‘black boxes’, help with estimating, sequencing, interdependencies and workload management.

Find out who needs what information on progress, when, in what format so you can manage expectations, and agree who will be consulted or informed over changes.

Ensure everyone knows the checkpoints that will show progress and if there is something that can’t not be done, then just do it.

Suggestion: Put a simple graphical image of your plan (1 A4 page in a font size you can read) on a real or virtual whiteboard so all can see, and a dashboard to highlight main achievements, risks and opportunities, goals and deliverables.

 

Thread 4 – Build the team

purple thread

 

Build a team of people not just with skills but enthusiasm, a willingness to engage and to support each other. Then we need to create and sustain a bond between people who may not have worked together before, who come from different backgrounds and functions. They may be working remotely. Building relationships of trust and respect is a real job and needs constant work. It doesn’t happen by itself. Make managing the team dynamic everyone’s responsibility. Don’t avoid the ‘storming’ stage. Trigger it by reviewing regularly, openly and without blame so the stakes of raising issues aren’t too high. Be realistic about team’s skills and knowledge – allow for the learning curve and different learning styles – yours and theirs. Some like being thrown in at the deep end. Others want support. Be as willing to stand up to poor behaviour and commitment as you are to poor performance.

Suggestion: Add an item to your team meeting agenda: ‘What’s working well and what needs work?’ Demonstrate constructive discussion. If there are some sensitive issues, discuss these 1:1.

 

Thread 5 – Get engaged

turquoise thread

 

This is where we track the wider impact of our project on the organisation, navigate the politics, mitigate disruption and resistance to change, rather than being too internally and technically focused.

Even small changes to IT Services and business processes, need to do be done with our colleagues/customers, not to them. It is a myth that everyone resists change. What people don’t like is the unknown, the ambiguous, the arrogant or aggressive. No-one is obliged to collaborate so we need to understand what would make them want to. The strongest human drivers at work are enjoying a sense of belonging, seeing we are making an effective contribution and feeling appreciated/recognised.   So find ways to involve people in ways that genuinely meet these universal needs. You can’t reach everyone so build a strong network of reliable advocates who know each community affected by the project well and can involve them and give support.

Suggestion: Are your stakeholder needs being met? Could they help you succeed if you engaged with them? Consider who could act as advocates and get them on board. Create a ‘stakeholder map’ to better understand who you need to engage with, and work out a plan to build those relationships and get support.

     Level of  understanding        Spectators
(or saboteurs)
 
          Advocates
Unengaged

Enthusiasts

 

Level of emotional engagement

 

Thread 6 – Making it happen

orange thread

 

This thread focuses on personal resilience and ability to handle the flow of project activity, challenges and changes. Skilful use of different leadership styles is key: when to push for action and when to open up the debate. When to set the pace yourself and when to coach others to lead. When to focus on the task or relationships to get the job done.

We need to look after ourselves, manage stress levels and workload, emotions and needs and be there for others. Under stress we can get tunnel vision which affects our judgement, relationships and decision making, even our health. We need to be right inside the project, but also keep a helicopter view. Keep taking the pulse of the project: yours, the teams and the organisation around you.

Your Action: Take a step back and make sure you are leading your initiatives and they aren’t driving you. We are all human, so ask for help if you need it.

 

Thread 7 –Review, learn, celebrate

Green thread

 

This is the thread of ensuring lessons are being learned, knowledge shared, activities properly finished, all the way through to the end. Take time to ensure each new tool or process is embedded in day-to-day practice and has actually been an improvement. Innovation is fuelled by cycles of improvement, each building on the successes and lessons of the previous cycle.

Good project leaders know that expectations are best managed by dividing a large project into manageable chunks, then visibly signalling completion of each chunk. Regularly recognise effort, remind all of what the project has contributed to the organisation and agree what still needs fixing, without blame.

Your action: Consider how often you have reviews, what they feel like and what they deliver. Don’t accept, long, dull and unproductive meetings. Make them short, inspiring and productive!

About the Authors

Philippa Hale and Jean Gamester are senior consultants at Open Limits and on the Associate Faculty at Henley Business School. They work with organisations including Harrods, FT, British Transport Police and many regional police and local government IT departments, Orient Express (now Belmond), BG Group, Vodafone, SunGard, ACE, Which? and CIPD. They are regular writers, advisors and speakers to itSMF, SDI and the BCS. They help IT organisations in particular weave the threads of leadership and team skills and continuous improvement into their day-to-day delivery. Through team workshops and coaching, business simulations, training and action learning, they help teams make change happen.

 

shutterstock_249416608

 

About the Authors

Philippa Hale and Jean Gamester are senior consultants at Open Limits and on the Associate Faculty at Henley Business School. They work with organisations including Harrods, FT, British Transport Police and many regional police and local government IT departments, Orient Express (now Belmond), BG Group, Vodafone, SunGard, ACE, Which? and CIPD. They are regular writers, advisors and speakers to itSMF, SDI and the BCS. They help IT organisations in particular weave the threads of leadership and team skills and continuous improvement into their day-to-day delivery. Through team workshops and coaching, business simulations, training and action learning, they help teams make change happen.

Philippa.hale@openlimits.com
Jean.gamester@openlimits.com
Open Limits – 01202 473782