Assessment Criteria: Outside IT Product Review

In March of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Outside IT”, which will take a look at the use of ITSM technology outside the IT department.

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Overview

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed ITSM software in use outside the IT department, highlight key competitive differentiators and provide readers of The ITSM Review with impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Proactive Problem Management.

Assessment Criteria 

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Outside IT – How can service management software, traditionally used to underpin the IT service desk, be applied to other area of the business to streamline operations and deliver more efficient services?

Main topics areas

  • How can new systems be built outside IT?
  • What expertise is required, what templates or processes are required?
  • How do end users / customers interact with the system?
  • How can engagement / interaction with customers be customized?
  • How are systems maintained – especially for non-IT users?

Solutions that do not include all of the criteria above will not necessarily score badly – the criteria simply define the scope of areas will be covered. The goal is to highlight strengths and identify differences, whilst placing every vendor in the best light possible. 

Please note: The assessment criteria are just a starting point; they tend to flux and evolve as we delve into solutions and discover unique features and leading edge innovation. Identifying key competitive differentiators is a higher priority than the assessment criteria.

Confirmed participants

Vendors who wish to participate in this Outside IT product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools outside IT (although this feedback will not directly impact this review).

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Availability, Incident and Problem Management – The New Holy Trinity? (part 1)

So here’s the thing. We all know that incident and problem management, if working well, can reduce interruptions to the end user and improve service quality for the business. From an end user’s perspective though, availability is the name of the game. While most organisations have the basics covered with incident management, how many use problem & availability management to look at the underlying cause of Incidents at a service as well as a component level?

Working together effectively, availability, incident & problem management can improve both quality of service and the business perception of IT. Getting back to basics, incident management is a purely reactive process. We sort things out so that the business can carry on as usual. Problem management is both reactive and proactive. We look at what went wrong but also how to stop it from happening again. Availability management looks at all availability issues at both a component & service level, ensures that we consider availability at the point of service design as well as monitoring up time during normal operations.

When describing the three processes, I call incident management the superheroes of ITIL. They save the world several times a day, fighting fires and making people smile. Problem management are detectives. They get to the root cause and sort it out to stop the same issues from recurring. Availability management are the scientists of the ITIL world. Like the guys from The Big Bang Theory, they design the service to keep it up & running as much as possible based on user requirements.

Today, IT service issues are constantly in the news. With the advent of social media, news of service downtime can be spread globally in minutes – kind of embarrassing especially if you are a highly visible entity such as a bank or government department. Putting aside the embarrassment factor for a minute, what about financial implications such as fines, service credits? Or regulatory impact such as failing to comply with any standards mandated by your management. Lets not forget the angry mob waiting outside to make their dissatisfaction known if downtime is an own goal such as a poorly managed change. With this in mind, I’ve put together some tips on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness, with this article covering the first three of ten.

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Tip 1: Getting your facts straight

Have separate records for availability, incident & Problem Management. Incident Management records “fix it quick” should focus on getting the user details and a full description of the issue. Some of the information captured by Incident records could include:

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When managing an Incident, different support teams may need different views e.g.

  • Networks team – by location
  • Service desk – by customer satisfaction
  • Desktop support – by hardware
  • Development – by software application
  • Capacity management – by resource usage
  • Service delivery managers – by business impact
  • Change management – by date / time to compare with the change schedule

Problem management records focus on establishing the root cause and actions to prevent recurrence. Problem records can contain the following information:

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Availability records should look at planning for the appropriate level of availability and ensuring that availability & recovery criteria are considered when designing new services. Your availability plan should contain the following information:

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Tip 2: Identify roles & responsibilities

Be organised so there’s no duplication or wasted effort. In short the incident manager is concerned with speed, the problem manager is concerned with investigation and diagnosis and the availability manager is concerned with the end to end service.

Key priorities for the incident manager will include co-ordinating the incident, managing communications with both technical support teams and business customers, and ensuring that the issue is fixed ASAP.

The problem manager will focus on root cause investigation, trending (has this issue popped up before?), finding a fix (interim workarounds and permanent resolution) and ensuring that any lessons learned are documented & acted on.

The availability manager will look at ensuring the service is designed with the appropriate levels of availability, working with service operations to tackle issues at both a service and component level and using the extended incident cycle to look at trends and how the service can be improved.

Tip 3: Keeping up to date

It’s really important to keep an eye on the BAU as seeming small incidents can spiral out of control and have a negative effect on availability levels and customer satisfaction. Simple things can make a big difference for example, placing a white board near the service desk with a list of the top ten problems so that it’s easy for service desk analysts to link incidents to problems so that trends can be identified later on. If the service desk have a team meeting ask to attend and update them on any new problems as well as updates and workarounds on existing problems. Don’t forget to close the loop and let the service desk know when a problem record has been fixed and closed off, there’s nothing worse for a service desk to have to call a list of customers about an issue that was sorted out months ago!

Get proactive! Work as a team to view service availability through out the month. Have a process to automatically raise a new proactive problem record if availability targets are threatened so that things can be done to prevent further issues. Don’t just sit there waiting to fail the SLA!

 

In part two, I will continue with a further seven tips on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness.

Problem management challenges and critical success factors

Following his presentation on “problem management challenges and critical success factors” at the 8th annual itSMF Estonia conference in December, Tõnu Vahtra, Head of Service Operations at Playtech (the world’s largest publicly-traded online gambling software supplier) gives us his advice on understanding problem management, steps to follow when implementing the process, and how to make it successful. 

Tõnu Vahtra
Tõnu Vahtra

Problem management is not a standalone process

Incident management and event management

It cannot exist without the incident management process and there is a strong correlation between incident management maturity and problem management efficiency/results. Incident management needs to ensure that problems are detected and properly documented (e.g. the basic incident management requirement that all requests need to be registered). Incident management works back-to-back with the event management process, if both of these processes are KPI managed then any anomalies in alarm or incident trends can be valuable input to problem management. Incident management also has to ensure that in parallel to restoring service during an incident it has to be ensured that relevant information is collected during or right after resolution (e.g. server memory dump before restart) so that there would be more information available to identify incident root cause(s).

Critical incident management

Problem management at Playtech gains a lot from the critical incident management function, which is carried out by dedicated Critical Incident Managers who have the widest logical understanding of all products and services and years of experience with solving critical incidents. They perform incident post mortem analysis following all major incidents, and they also start with initial root cause analysis (RCA) before handing this task over to problem management. RCA is handed over to Problem Managers within 24 hours from incident end time during which the Critical Incident Manager is collecting and organizing all information available about the incident. Critical Incident Managers usually do not have any problems with allocating support/troubleshooting resources from all support levels as critical incident troubleshooting and initial preventive measures are considered the highest priority within the mandate from highest corporate management. All the above ensures high quality input for problem management on a timely manner.

Change management and knowledge management

In Error Control phase the two most important processes for problem management are change management and knowledge management. Most action items identified during RCA are implemented through change management, the stronger the process the less problem management has to be involved directly in change planning (providing abstract goals VS concrete action plan or task list for implementation) and the smaller the risks of additional incidents during change implementation. Change management also needs to have the capability and documented process flow to implement emergency changes in an organized way with minimum impact to stop reoccurring critical incidents as fast as possible.

Knowledge management is vital for incident management for ensuring that service desk specialists would be able to quickly find and action specific workarounds for known errors until their resolution is still in progress by problem management. Regular input and high attention is needed from problem management to ensure that every stakeholder for known error database (KEDB) would be able to easily locate information relevant to his/her role, all units would be aware of information relevant to them and that all the information in KEDB would be relevant and up to date. In Playtech problem management is also managing process errors identified from root cause analysis and process improvements only last when properly documented, communicated to all relevant stakeholders and additional controls are put in place to detect deflections from optimal process. Local and cross-disciplinary knowledge management for process knowledge has an important role here.

Defect management

Problem management has to go beyond ITSM processes in a software development/services corporation like Playtech and also integrate to software development lifecycle (SDLC). For this purpose in Playtech a separate defect management sub-process has been established under problem management. Defect management is managing the lifecycle of all significant software defects identified from production environments and aligning defect fixing expectations between business and development departments. Defect Managers ensure a consistent prioritized overview of all significant outstanding software defects, which warrants optimal usage of development resources and minimizes overall business impact from defects. They act as a single point of contact for all defect related communication and ensure high transparency of defect fixing process and fix ETA’s. Defect Managers define the defect prioritization framework between business and development key stakeholders and govern the agreed targets.

Software problem management

Problem management is leading the software problem management process through defect management. Under the software problem management process (which is usually being ran by a quality assurance team in relevant development units) development teams are performing root cause analysis for defects highlighted for RCA by problem management or raised internally. Every defect is analyzed from two aspects: firstly why the defect was created by development and secondly if the defect was created then why was it not identified during internal QA and reported from production environment first. Root causes and action items are defined from both questions and tracked with relevant stakeholders. This process ensures that similar defects will not be created or will be identified internally in the future. Even more importantly there is a direct feedback channel from the field to the respective developer or team who created the defect so that they get full understanding of the business implications in relation to their activities.

Important steps to take problem management to the next level

The problem management unit has to become more proactive, to get more involved in service design and service transition phases to identify and eliminate problems before they reach production environments. Problem management needs resources to accommodate contributing to pre-production risk management and even more importantly this involvement has to be valued and enforced by corporate senior management as it may take additional resources and delay time-to-market in some situations.

The Problem Management Team itself can get more resources for proactive tasks by reducing their direct participation in reactive Problem management activities. This has to be done via advocating the Problem management mindset across the entire corporation (encouraging people to think in terms of cause and effect with the desire to understand issue causes and push their resolution for continuous improvement) so each major domain would have their Problem Coordinators and identify root causes/track action items independently and problem management could take more a defining and governing role. To assert the value created from problem management and enlist more people to spread the word about problem management ideas for them to go viral, it is essential to visualize the process and explain the relations between incidents, root causes and action items to all stakeholders for them to understand how their task is contributing to the bigger picture.

There is a high number of operationally independent problem management stakeholders in Playtech and implementing KPI framework that would be fit to measure and achieve problem management goals and be applicable to all major stakeholders individually and cross stakeholders seems almost impossible a task. The saying ”You get what you measure“ is very true in problem management and no stakeholder wants to be measured by problems that involves other stakeholders and are taking actions to remove such problems from their statistics instead of focusing on the problem and its solution. At the same time problem management tends to be most inefficient and difficult for problems spreading across multiple division. A Problem Manager’s role and assertiveness in facilitating a constructive and systematic process towards the resolution of such problems is crucial. And still problem management needs to find a creative approach to reflect such problems in KPI reports to present then as part of the big picture and sell them to executive management to get their sponsorship for major improvement tasks that compete with business development projects for the same resources while the latter has a much clearer ROI.

No problem exists in isolation and the problem records in KEDB can be related to specific categories/ domains and also related hierarchically to each other (there can be major principal problems that consist of smaller problems), also specific action items can contribute to the resolution of more than one problem. Problem categories cannot be restricted to fixed list as it can have multiple triggers and causes, it should be possible to relate a problem record to all interested stakeholders, for this dynamic tagging seems to be a better approach than limited number of categories (for example list of problems that are related to a big project). Instead of looking into each problem in isolation each problem should be approached and prioritized in the right context fully considering its implications and surroundings. No ITSM tool today provides the full capabilities for problem tagging or creating the mentioned relations without development, not to mention the visualization of such relations that would be a powerful tool in trend or WHAT-IF analysis and problem prioritization. Playtech is still looking for the most optimal problem categorization model and the tool that would enable the usage of such model.

Advice to organizations that are planning to start the implementation of the problem management process

For organizations starting the implementation of problem management process  my advice is don’t take all the process activities from the ITIL book and start blindly implementing them, this is not the way to start the implementation of this process or any other. Problem management success depends mostly on a specific mindset and in an already established organization it may take years for the right mindset to be universally accepted. Problem management formal process should be initially mostly invisible to all the stakeholders outside of the Problem Management Team to avoid the natural psychological tendency to resist change.

It is essential to allocate dedicated resources to problem management (Playtech assigned dedicated person to problem management in 2007, and any problem management activities prior to that were ad-hoc and non-consistent). The problem management unit should start from performing root cause analysis and removing the root causes of present major incidents that have the highest financial and reputational impact on the organization. If such incidents are being closely monitored by senior management and key stakeholders, solving them can earn the essential credits for problem management to get attention and resources for solving problems elsewhere. Secondly problem management should look at the most obvious reoccurring alarm and incident trends that result in a high support/maintenance cost. By resolving such problems they gain the trust of support and operational teams whose workload is reduced and they are more willing to contribute and cooperate in future root cause analysis. Problem final review before closure is a task often neglected but to improve the process it is essential to assess if the given problem was handled efficiently and to give feedback about problem solution to all relevant parties. Proactive problem management or KPI’s are not essential to start with and Problem Managers should concentrate on activities with highest exposure and clear value.

In summary

There will definitely be setbacks in problem management and in order to make a real difference with this process and increase the process maturity over time it has to have at least three things. A strong and assertive leader who is persistent in advocating the problem management; a continuous improvement mindset throughout the organization; and the ability to find a way forward from dead-end situations with out of the box thinking. When there is no such leader then involving external problem management experts may also help as a temporary measure to get the focus back on the most important activities. However, this measure is not sufficient in the long-term as the problem management process constantly needs to evolve with its organization and adjust with significant operational changes to be fit for purpose and remain relevant.

You can download Tõnu’s presentation in full here.

2013: A Year in ITSM Review

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As 2013 begins to draw to a close, I thought it would be nice to finish off the year with a final article that’s an overview of what has happened at the ITSM Review over the last 12 months.  That’s right, this will be our last post for 2013 because the entire team is heading off to fill their faces with mince pies and sherry. But don’t worry we’ll be back in 2014 with slightly bigger waistlines and lots of exciting plans for 2014 (insight into which you can find at the end of this article).

Ironically I like neither mince pies nor sherry. 

Visits and Growth

  • We have had nearly 230,000 page views this year, an increase of a whopping 210% from 2012!!! A huge thank you to the circa 120,000 of you for coming to read our content.
  • Visits to our site increased by an astounding 58% between the end of June and end of July alone, and then continued to grow on average by 5.5% every month.
  • Our Twitter followers increased by 193%.

One thing that I think it’s worth pointing out here as well is that the bulk of our readers are not actually situated in the UK (which is what a lot of people presume given that this is where we are based). In 2013, 17% of our readers were from the UK, but an impressive 30% were actually from the USA. Perhaps we should open a US office?! A large proportion of visitors also came from India, Germany, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, France and Sweden, as well as plenty of other countries too.

Owing to us attracting more and more visitors year-on-year from outside of the UK and America, we are increasingly being asked to produce region-specific content. We are therefore looking for practitioners, consultants or analysts based in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe who would be interested in writing about their experiences of ITSM in other countries. If you are interested please get in touch.

What was popular?

The top 3 most-viewed articles of the year were:

  1. 7 Benefits of using a Known Error Database (by Simon Morris)
  2. Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (Martin Thompson)
  3. AXELOS: Capita and ITIL joint venture lift lid on new brand (Martin Thompson)

Of those articles only number 3 was actually written and published in 2013.

I have to say congratulations specifically to Simon Morris here as well, because his KEDB article was not only the most-read article of the year, but it achieved 37% more hits than the second most popular article of the year! (And that’s not counting the hits it originally got in the year it was published).

Of the articles written and contributed in 2013, the top 3 were:

  1. Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight (Stuart Rance and Stephen Mann)
  2. Four Problem Management SLAs you really can’t live without (Simon Higginson)
  3. 7 golden rules for getting the most from the Service Catalogue (Yemsrach Hallemariam)

Is there a specific topic that you would like us to write about? Are there are practical pieces that you would like to see us cover to help you in your day-to-day job? Please let us know.

Content Contributors

In 2013, we were pleased to welcome 3 new, regular content contributors to the ITSM Review.  These are people who now write for us on a regular basis (roughly once a month), so you can expect to see a lot more great content from them in 2014. They are:

We also published content for the first time from the following companies: Cancer Research UK; EasyVista; Fruition Partners; GamingWorks; LANdesk; Macro4; Oregon Department of Transportation; Service Management Art Inc; and xMatters.

A great big thank-you to all of our regular and ad hoc contributors for helping supply with us with such fantastic content.

If you’re reading this and think you might be interested in contributing content (we welcome content from all, including) please get in touch.

Top Searches

Given that we had over 230,000 pages view this year, I thought that many of you might be interested to see what it was that people were searching for on our site.  The top 20 searches of the year were as follows:

  1. KEDB
  2. AXELOS
  3. Known Error Database
  4. ITSM
  5. Issue Log
  6. Proactive Problem Management
  7. ITSM Software
  8. Gartner ITSM
  9. What is Service Management
  10. Cherwell Software Review
  11. Gartner ITSM Magic Quadrant
  12. ServiceNow Review
  13. ITSM Software Review
  14. ITSM News
  15. Major Incident Management Process
  16. Free ITIL Training
  17. RemedyForce Review
  18. BMC Footprints
  19. KEDB in ITIL
  20. Process Owner

Are there any search terms that you are surprised to see on there?  Or anything that you would have expected to see that isn’t?

Events

In 2013 we branched out and kicked off Media Partnerships at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition (Birmingham) and itSMF Estonia Conference (Tallin).

Our aim was not only to spread the word about The ITSM Review, but to spend time with delegates to find out what things they are struggling with and how we might be able to help them.

Next year you can expect to see us the PINK conference in Las Vegas, and we hope to announce some other new, exciting partnerships for 2015 in the New Year!

Launches

In May we launched the ITSM Review App (Search ‘ITSM’ in the Apple App Store). 

Then there is the ITSM Tools Universe, which we launched at the end of November. The Tools Universe hopes to shed light on the emerging ITSM players (as well as the major competitors) and, over time, the changes in the position of the companies involved and moves in market share. Most importantly it is free to participate and unlike any Magic Quadrant or Wave, the ITSM Tools Universe is open to ALL ITSM vendors. 9 vendors are already confirmed.

If you are a Vendor and are interested in learning more the ITSM Tools Universe please contact us.

Additions to the team

As of 1st January 2013 the ITSM Review was still simply just the man you all know and love Martin Thompson (he tried desperately to get me to remove what I just said there… modest and all that jazz).

However, ITSM Review finished 2013 with an additional 3 employees:

  • In January 2013 Glenn Thompson (you’d be right to suspect that they might be related) joined full-time as the company’s Commercial Director. For some reason there was no official announcement (we’ll blame Martin) so for some of you this might be the first you’ve heard of it! Without Glenn we’d struggle to continue to offer all of our content to readers free of charge, so despite the fact that he’s a Chelsea fan, you’ve got to like him.
  • In July, for some reason Martin decided it would be a good move to hire some strange blonde lady who liked penguins (that would be me) as the Marketing and Community Manager.
  • Finally, in October Rebecca Beach joined as a Research Analyst. Famous for being a “gobby midget”, Rebecca will be writing most of our ITSM research and reviews in 2014. Rebecca also spends time (in conjunction with me) making fun of Martin and Glenn on a regular basis (it’s not our fault they make it so easy).

So then there was 4.

If you’re interested in any upcoming job opportunities at the ITSM Review (or ITAM Review), then please let us know.  We certainly plan on increasing that number 4 in 2014.

What’s planned for 2014?

Next year we are hoping to broaden our coverage of the ITSM space even further by securing new content contributors; participating in more industry events; launching new products (such as video product reviews, webinars, and case studies); and more.

We’re also looking very seriously at the possibility of running regular ‘social meet ups’ like we recently did with the Christmas get-together.

In addition to the publication of our ITSM Tools Universe in the Spring we will also be continuing our Group Tests, and a full list of topics for the Group Test series will be published early January.

In addition to the above we also have some planned changes in the works for our website. Nothing too major (it will still look like the ITSM Review that you know and love), just some cosmetic updates to make it easier on the eye and increase your ability to easily find what you are looking for.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated of our plans throughout 2014!

Oh and if you’re interested in the 2013 review and plans for 2014 from the ITAM Review, you can read them here.

Is there anything you would like to see us doing in 2014 that we’re not doing currently? Are there any changes that you would like to suggest to the website? Would you be interested in a tooling event or social get-togethers? Are you a Vendor who is interested in our Group Tests? We welcome your feedback, so please get in touch.

And so…

2013 is drawing to a close. Our success and growth throughout the year has made everybody here happy bunnies; but most importantly we hope that our content / site / presence this year has made YOU a bunch of happy bunnies. The whole purpose of the ITSM Review is to help ITSM practitioners, and everything we do has that end goal in mind.  Even if we only gain an additional 5 readers in 2014, so long as our content aids those 5 people and makes their work lives easier then these bunnies will continue to have smiles on their faces.

So with that image of turning the entire ITSM industry into smiley rabbits, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Thanks for reading throughout 2013; without you… the ITSM Review doesn’t exist.

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itSMF Estonia Conference Round-up

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Beautiful Estonia

On Wednesday 11th December, in a very cold and snowy Tallinn, President of itSMF Estonia, Kaimar Karu kicked off the annual itSMF Estonia conference by introducing all of the speakers and encouraging delegates to ask questions of them throughout the day.

Kaimar had managed once again to raise attendance of the conference (by 10%), with representation from 10 different countries, and with a very good female representation in the audience too.

Delivering Service Operations at Mega-Scale – Alan Levin, Microsoft

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First speaker was Alan Levin of Microsoft whose presentation talked through how Microsoft deal with their vast number of servers and how, built into all of Microsoft products, is the ability to self-heal.

On the subject of Event Management Alan spoke about ensuring that alarms are routed to the correct people and how, in your business, any opportunity you have to reduce alerts should be taken.

Enabling Value by Process – Viktor Petermann, Swedbank

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Viktor opened his presentation by saying that 4 out of 5 improvement processes fail because people are not robots. You cannot just expect them to know what you want and how you want things to work.

He continued by saying that having the right culture, processes and learning from relevant experiences will enable you to do the right things the right way.

Viktor warned that like quitting smoking, change will not happen unless you really want it to.  Before embarking on any change make sure that you are willing to give it 100%.

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Oded Moshe

Benchmarking and BI, Sat Navs for Service Desks – Oded Moshe, SysAid Technologies Ltd.

After having to rest his voice for 24hrs due to contracting the dreaded man-flu Oded still managed to show how to use Benchmarking to improve your Service Desk.

His presentation contained useful guidance on what areas to look at and how to benchmark yourself against them.

He also explained how you can use SysAid and it’s community to gather global service desk metrics to measure yourself against.

Presentation words of wisdom from Oded: Don’t become fixated with metrics and benchmarking as they are not the only way to measure.

Service-Based Public Sector – Janek Rozov, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

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In contrast to the other presentations “Service-Based Public Sector” was presented in Estonian.  Although I do not speak Estonian I could tell how passionate Janek was about the subject and it was one of the most talked about presentations that evening in the bar.

The presentation covered how the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication are using ICT to fulfill their vision of supporting Estonians as much as possible, while they are using their rights but bothering them as little as possible in the process. Perhaps we could pay for Janek to spend some time with the UK Government in the hopes that some of this common sense might rub off?

If you would like to know more about Estonian ICT success in the public sector you can read Janek’s pre-conference article “Standardizing the delivery of public services”.

Service Desk 2.0 – Aale Roos, Pohjoisviitta Oy

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Aale spoke profusely about how service desk’s and the mentality of “break fix” is old fashioned and flawed.  He described how the service desk needs be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century, concentrating on proactive measures and outcomes.

He continued to say that ITIL has been outdated for over a decade and that unlearning ITIL and moving to a “Standard + Case” approach is the way of the future.

Networking

There was lots of opportunity for networking across the event, and at lunch I got the opportunity to speak to a few of the delegates and presenters to find out what they thought of the conference.

Quote from Oded Moshe:

I think the first session by Alan Levin from Microsoft was a great chance for us all to see the insides of one of the largest operational support organizations in the world! They are in charge of providing more than 200 cloud business services to more than 1 billion people with the help of more than 1 million servers. So Problem Management, Incidents, Monitoring – everything is on a HUGE scale – it is easy to understand why you must have your service processes properly tuned otherwise you are in a master-mess…

Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management
Peter Hepworth – CEO of AXELOS, Kaimar Karu – President of itSMF Estonia and Patrick Bolger – Chief Evangelist at Hornbill Service Management

Industry Leaders Agree IT is Revolting – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill Service Management

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Adapt or die was the message in Patrick’s session with references to high street names that didn’t and paid the price.

Comparing how we in IT think we are viewed and how the business actually views us was sobering but mentions of SM Congress and Arch SM show that the industry is ready to change and we are not doing this alone.

Problem & Knowledge, The Missing Link – Barclay Rae, Barclay Rae Consulting

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Presenting on the missing links in ITSM, Barclay hammered home why Problem and Knowledge Management are so fundamentally important.

Using his ITSM Goodness model Barclay showed how to move away from the process silo’s we so often find ourselves in and which processes to group together for maximum effectiveness i.e. Incident, Problem, Change.

Barclay also held well-attended workshops pre-conference in conjunction with itSMF Estonia.

DevOps, Shattering the Barriers – Kaimar Karu, Mindbridge   

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Kaimar’s message is unorthodox:  Don’t play it safe, try to break things, don’t mask fragility and plan for failure, for this is the road to increased quality and innovation.

He advised that we need to not forget that developers are human and not unapproachable cowboys riding round on horses shooting code.  Get to know them over a drink so that everyone can relax and say what’s on their mind without the fear of repercussion.

But most of all remember that “Sh*t happens”.  Stop the blame, it doesn’t help…EVER.

Problem Management Challenges and Critical Success Factors – TÕnu Vahtra, Playtech

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The penultimate session of the day was from TÕnu on how Playtech are working through Problem Management and the issues they have encountered.

The major difficulties TÕnu has found is the lack of practical information on how to actually do Problem Management, and Playtech have found themselves having to teach themselves learning from their own mistakes as they go.

It was a very useful case study with helpful pointers to information and literature such as Apollo Route Cause Analysis by Dean L Gano for others struggling with Problem Management.

The Future for ITIL – Peter Hepworth, AXELOS followed by Forum

Axelos Workshop small

Following on from the publication of AXELOS’ roadmap, and the announcement that they would be partnering with itSMF International, Peter talked through the progress AXELOS has made and its hopes for the future.

The forum was well attended and many useful suggestions were made for ways that ITIL and PRINCE2 could be improved.

You can learn more about AXELOS’ plans by reading our interview with Peter.

My thoughts

Considering the cost of a ticket to the conference I wasn’t expecting the content and presentations to be at the very high level it was.  I haven’t yet attended any of the other non-UK itSMF conferences but the bar has now been set incredibly high.

My main observation from the conference and the discussions that took place after is that the majority of delegates knew how very important Problem Management is, but are still struggling with implementation and making it work.  In the AXELOS workshop the main feedback seemed to be the need for ITIL to cut down on the number of processes available as standard and concentrate on the core areas that the majority of organizations have, or are trying to put in place.

Well done to Kaimar and team for the fantastic job and thank you for the wonderful hospitality. In addition to the conference I particular enjoyed the entertainment on the Tuesday evening, when some of the organisers, speakers, delegates and penguins ventured out in the snow for some sightseeing and a truly delicious meal at a little restaurant called Leib in the Old Town.

I highly recommend to anyone to attend the itSMF Estonia 2014 conference next December. With flights from most places in Europe less than £150, a hotel/venue that is less than £100 per night, and an amazing ticket price of less than £40, it is extremely great value for money. With outstanding content (90% in English), brilliant networking opportunities and excellent hospitality, it’s too good of an event to miss. I certainly look forward to being there again.

As a final note, thank -you to itSMF Estonia for having us involved as the Official Media Partner.  We are hoping to work with other international itSMF chapters in 2014, as well as on other worldwide ITSM events.  Watch this space 🙂

 

itSMF UK Conference 2013 – the practitioner perspective

Meeting the famous ITSM Penguin
Meeting the famous ITSM Penguin

When I got a tweet from Sophie saying I’d won the ITSM Review Competition for a free ticket to the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition I seriously couldn’t wait to tell people…especially my manager who was delighted. I’ve never been to Birmingham and I’d certainly never been to an itSMF UK conference and now I had the chance to be there in a more interactive capacity than the odd twitter stream comment…wow…time to get organised and get up there.

Drawing from my submission I hoped to get the following from attending:

  • Learning from others – practical hints, tips and experiences from other practitioners. Their journey using service management techniques to improve their company’s IT landscape. The sort of thing that money can’t buy – the sort of thing you don’t necessarily read about …rolling the sleeves up and getting to the nitty gritty.
  • Networking – I was going to be rubbing shoulders with the some of the most respected and nicest people from the global ITSM community. People whom I follow on various social media streams, the ITSM Review crew and people I’d got to know over the past couple of years. As well of course to make some new friends along the way…well I thought gregarious by name, gregarious by nature.
  • Innovation – finding out what’s new with the industry and what’s coming our way in the future.

Sunday networking

On sunday afternoon I beamed up to Birmingham to join everyone at the Hyatt hotel. The first thing that struck me was that so many people were there that are involved in the same IT discipline that I am…it was time to immerse myself and get involved.

The idea behind Sunday evening is to have informal drinks, network and enjoy your time getting a feel for what is going to unfold over the next couple of days. Take my example, randomly, I found myself sat at a table with fellow practitioners, consultants, trainers, mentors and even the Chairman of the ITSMF UK – Colin Rudd. Where else could this happen? Where else would all these Service Management experts be in one place? Where else I could I bump into Pengi? It was then that I realised the true value of being there…and I knew it was going to be good.

Opening Keynote

Monday morning came round fast and kicked off with an awakening electro charged sound track and video with Colin Rudd and departing Chief Executive, Ben Clacy introducing the conference.

Colin went on to say this was the 22nd ITSMF UK conference, featuring delegates from over 20 countries.

He discussed how Service Management will be more important than ever before through the use of service integration and the ability to demonstrate the value of IT services to the business – Service Catalogue will be key.

Looking jazzy with ITSM Review
Looking jazzy with ITSM Review

It was reassuring to hear that AXELOS (the new commercial owners of the best practice management portfolio) are engaging with itSMF UK and that they were to be a big presence at the conference.

Round table discussions to discuss the Big4 agenda were mentioned. The concept whereby delegates have the opportunity to share their views on what they think the four key topics in ITSM for itSMF UK to focus on should be for 2014.

Ben went on to introduce MONITOR, which is an online ITSM self-assessment and benchmarking tool that helps IT align with business goals. The contents of which have been “crowd sourced” from industry experts.

The opening session was then finished by Jo Salter, the opening keynote speaker. Jo is Britain’s first female fast jet fighter pilot and in my opinion re-defined the meaning of stress at work. If flying at the height of a tree wasn’t bad enough – try doing so at 600MPH – that requires not only fast thinking, but cat-like reflexes. She put the attribute of “speed and response” down to the sport of fencing in acquiring good hand to eye co-ordination.

Considering what Jo had done for a living she came across as being well grounded. When she was growing up she wanted to be a hairdresser, then an accountant and when the government decided women could fly jet fighters she took the opportunity to do just that. Along the way she faced much adversity – from old school boy scepticism to working out the easiest way to “pee” whilst flying.

Jo told several inspiring stories, each with a hint of tongue and cheek and doses of “eeek factor” and determination to succeed.

We’re only human and we all make mistakes. Jo was once preparing for take-off, something she had done countless times before.  The engineers were running final checks on the underside of her fighter. Due to miss-communication between them she accidently uncoupled a missile from the plane. It fell to the ground with a thud. Luckily nobody was hurt. Jo’s message was a simple one “be honest and open” It’s all about experiences -learning and moving on.

The sessions

Over the two days six topical presentation streams were provided. I mainly focused on two. Real World Learning – this stream covered the main reason I wanted to be there – learning from others and their journey – adversities they encountered and what approaches they took to achieve their end goal. The second stream, IT(SM) into the future – what disciplines and innovations are emerging.

Monday’s presentations came from a good mixture of companies such as Dyson, Accenture, Jaguar and Land Rover and Tata Consultancy Services. Between them they covered subjects such as Supplier Relationship, Business Relationship Management, Service Integration and End User Support.

Ingredients for Great Supplier Relationships

Cath Bartlett from Dyson gave practical advice gained from her experiences dealing with suppliers. My takeaways from her session were:

  • Ask the question – who are we? And who does our supplier think we are?
  • If you feel it’s not working request an account manager change – it can be a positive thing and bring value to the relationship
  • As the customer, define what matters to you, after all you’re the expert on what you want…but remember that the supplier is the expert on how you achieve it
  • From a customer perspective ask the supplier what you can do better, this will only encourage collaboration
  • Make sure your KPI’s are a true reflection on what the business wants from IT

Business Relationship Management

Andrea Kis was next on my list. She outlined “the Beauty and Simplicity of Common Sense for Business Relationship Management”. Takeaways from her session were:

  • BRM is a skill, an ability not just a job title – they’re enablers that can connect the business and IT
  • Make the business understand the value you bring, business perception is key
  • Common goals are the foundations to building a relationship – it’s not an enslaved deal, it’s a partnership
  • Have a positive effect and take responsibility
  • My favourite of six competencies that Andrea listed was  “established teams don’t work in silos” – have collaboration at all levels

Project of the Year

Midway through Monday’s presentations The Project of the Year award 2013 finalists from EE, Land and Property Services and QBE were showcasing how service management techniques over the past 12 months helped them reach their companies goals.

EE’s objectives were to maximise their stability, and recognise and mitigate the risks during the London Olympics with the influx of foreigners to the capital. I liked their use of capacity management whereby they measured against forecasts to ensure services met demands and how this was used to good effect to drive through changes quickly.

Land and Property Services was a great example of minimal budget in times of austerity. Using an Agile approach enabled them to improve their IT systems freeing up man hours and leading to better services.

QBE – who later went on to win the award with its zero to hero Service Desk implementation.  This was a classic case of turning around the business perception of IT. QBE’s IT asked the business (their customers) what they thought of the service given to them from IT. The response was shocking – their stats showed that IT wasn’t fit for service and the business didn’t have confidence in its IT department. Their customers felt that they’d lost that personalisation and that their incident tickets were falling into a black hole. Being customer centric they took the feedback seriously and set out to bring back their in house Service Desk. Jacqueline Brunett and Amanda Rutlege spearheaded the initiative and employed 10 new service desk agents. Training for the new staff included learning the nature of the business (which I feel all organisations should provide for their service desk).

Three months on from the rebirth of the Service Desk the stats improved and both agreed that being customer centric was key to this success.

Optimising the End User Support Model

The afternoon presentations started with Mel Tuke Griffin from Accenture. They have a huge user base of 275K that mainly work out of the office and generate on average 1 million incidents a year. Their drive was to help prevent users having to come into the office for repairs. This was achieved by incorporating an effective one-stop shop self-service experience along with improved IT remote tools.

Accenture have used self-service since 2001 and 61% of their incidents come from the self-service portal and it is treated as the front door to IT. Once logged in they can search a database for known issues, for example outage information on key services and general issues such as what to do when your mail box exceeds its size limit.

The Future of Supplier Management

Mark Hipwell of Jaguar and Landrover and Martin Goble of Tata Consultancy Services co-hosted a session on service integration.  With TCS’s help, JLR’s objective was to improve the IT supplier management process. These were my takeaways:

  • JLR outsourced the responsibility to TCS, but kept the accountability in house. This allowed for JLR to step in from time to time and allow the processes and procedures to be tweaked
  • A benefit of using the ITIL framework allowed everyone to talk the same language
  • An example of JLR working collaboratively with its suppliers was arranging with them to inform JLR of their own planned outages. JLR then analyse the risk and put mitigation and communication plans in place to take that risk away

AXELOS road mapClosing Keynote

Then onto the closing keynote from AXELOS the new owners of ITIL and PPM. “Think AXELOS think best practice” was Peter Hepworth’s message. Takeaways from this update:

  • Those going through qualifications, keep doing that
  • Quality, relevance, growth, innovation and collaboration through crowd source is key

Evening Entertainment

After an action packed day attention turned to the evening for the glamorous itSMF UK Service Management Awards Dinner – hosted by Edwina Currie. A special mention must go to the guru Stuart Rance who deservedly won the Paul Rappaport award for outstanding contribution to IT service management. When collecting the award Stuart was kind enough to let Edwina hold Pengi to have their photo taken, which was especially cheered and clapped from a certain couple of tables near the back of the awards hall.

After the awards, the dance floor was rocking, surrounded by casino tables, bars and hilarious photo booths – fun was had by all deep into the early hours of the next day.

Service Integration and Management

In a blur I arrived back at the ICC for the last day of the conference. My Tuesday agenda focused mostly on CSI, SIAM and Problem Management.

Presenter Kevin Holland asked the question…what is SIAM?…For starters it most definitely is not a breed of cat and … it’s a lot more than a new fancy acronym (Service Integration and Management) for ITSM. The fact is it’s not even new – but is something that we’re all going to be hearing much more about in the near future and this is why:

  • SIAM is a service integrator, it governs and links everything together consistently, ITIL doesn’t do this
  • SIAM takes problem, incident and change management and integrates them
  • It’s not the technology, it’s using soft skills such as relationship and conflict management – it’s people that make SIAM work
  • You need to build trust at every level, focus on customer outcomes and what value you provide

Interestingly Kevin asked a full room of attendees “Who has a service catalogue?” Only two put their hands up. In an ideal world you need a service catalogue to work out what you do. Without this you’re wondering what does what and how the information flows.

SIAM is coming but if the majority of companies don’t use Service Catalogues it will be interesting to see how SIAM gains momentum.

Implementing Problem Management

From one lively presentation to another – Amanda Kirby from Virgin Media gave a 10 step guide to successfully implementing problem management. Amanda’s enthusiasm shone through as well as the attitude of “screw it … do it”. During the session and with the help of other attendees (and myself) she used a fun game consisting of different coloured balls to demonstrate the conflict that can result from using the same resources for both problem and incident management.

These were my takeaways from her session:

  • Dedicate a team to underling root cause, separate incidents from problems
  • Record known errors and link everything, incidents, change and outputs
  • Elevate the profile of the problem team – Amanda insisted that problem management must challenge the status quo
  • Change the culture and embed the process

Continual Service Improvement

The next session that I attended was by Adam Poppleton, from BrightOak Consultancy Ltd exploring the requirements of a good CSI implementation.

Adam’s thought provoking presentation started with discussing someone he knows who embeds CSI in their personal life – this person would sit down and ask himself what is it he wanted and how is it he was going to get there. An interesting approach when you consider that as an industry we tend to be bad at taking our own medicine.  Adams view is that CSI should be the first process people consider.

These were my takeaways from his presentation:

  • Before you start, baseline otherwise how do you know how well you’re doing?
  • CSI shouldn’t be retro fitted, it’s applicable to everything and everyone is involved
  • If you have a CSI register communicate it out – if nobody knows of it nobody will use it, think crossover risks and opportunities
  • Where do you start? – where it’s hurting most … be brave
  • Keep CSI simple, what does the business need how can you help enable it to get there

Next up, Laura Jay and Steve Bowler gave advice on the journey so far into their service improvement programme at 3M Cognet. Laura and Steve’s story was similar to others, they needed to keep the service fresh, their challenge – lack of resources. Thinking adapt adopt – they didn’t use the full 7 step CSI process and instead they used the parts of CSI that works for them.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Include stakeholder engagement
  • Define corporate strategy and link to service strategy
  • Small improvements can have big results
  • ITIL un-alignment isn’t a bad thing
  • Use a CSI register for managing expectations after all it’s an evolving document

In Summary

Socialising with Stephen Mann from ServiceNow
Socialising with Stephen Mann from ServiceNow

Over the course of the two days I attended many presentations, that represented hours of insightful learning; but it didn’t stop there. Bubbling away under the roof of the ICC was an ITSM eco-system, which meant in-between all these sessions you could network and exchange “war stories” and using social media I was able to keep updated and find out what else was going on.

Over the course of the two days I attended many presentations, that represented hours of insightful learning; but it didn’t stop there. Bubbling away under the roof of the ICC was an ITSM eco-system, which meant in-between all these sessions you could network and exchange “war stories” and using social media I was able to keep updated and find out what else was going on.

My only criticisms of the event would be the woeful Wi-Fi – there would have been more twitter activity if it wasn’t for all the signal problems.

After speaking to several of the vendors they felt visiting numbers could have been higher. I would consider a venue that allowed for the vendors to be central and whereby traffic can flow through the vendor area to get to their sessions.

The delivery of training in my opinion leads the way for innovation. Whether it is board games, computer games or education via your smartphone it gives a student more options to learning service management. Otherwise I felt innovation was lacking.

When all said and done the question is would I come back again? Most definitely. There is real substance to coming to an event like this and learning in one place from some of the industry’s best.

Common threads that I picked up on were:

  • Engage with your business focus on their outcomes and what value you provide
  • Work collaboratively, create and build relationships
  • Be open and honest, learn from your mistakes
  • Change the culture and embed the process
  • Have a positive effect and take responsibility
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, if you’re interested in asset management find out if it’s being done somewhere in the business already under a different name
  • Small changes accumulate – don’t boil the ocean
  • If appropriate use ITIL

There is a core in the ITSM community that I tap into from time to time so I can hear and read about their thoughts and opinions on what’s happening out there in the world of ITSM. Going forward I will be doing so more often. Winning the ITSM Review competition enabled me to have the pleasure in meeting those acquaintances who I’m happy to say have now become friends.

See you at ITSM14.

 

Kepner Tregoe: Working together on Problem Management

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

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

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

Catch Steve at the itSMF conference in November:

IT Knowledge Management – Spreading the Word!

Anyone with experience in IT support knows the importance of knowledge in reducing resolution time. Anyone with math skills can extrapolate business value from rapid resolution. Despite its obvious benefits, Knowledge Management (KM) remains a frustration for a vast majority of enterprises. Why?

Because organizations continue to approach KM as a monolithic publication effort with ancillary inputs from Incident and Problem Management.

By combining principles from Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) with the ITIL framework and a few basic workflows, an enterprise with the right cultural mindset can make KM work with far less effort.

The Objective of IT Knowledge Management

IT’s need for Knowledge Management is not complex. Although ITIL lists five objectives to KM and KCS and boils it down to the “creation, use and evolution of knowledge”, this article, because of its focus on IT support, is more specific:

The objective of IT Knowledge Management is to create, maintain and make available concise and actionable information to users and IT support groups in order to resolve service disruptions quickly and respond to customer queries satisfactorily. 

The challenge is to collect, maintain, and make that knowledge accessible.

Flailing and Failing

How well are IT organizations managing their knowledge? Do support agents have rapid access to current knowledge for a vast majority of customer contacts?

Does the enterprise require waves of knowledge initiatives to address a stagnant knowledge lifecycle? Is there a group of knowledge authors scrambling to review and update solutions?  Are stale solutions common?

Gone are the days of separate knowledge applications run by a core team of authors. The monolithic approach to KM works no better today than it did 10 years ago but many organizations continue to flail about in an attempt to write the definitive support encyclopedia.

For organizations to achieve the objectives of KM, they must move toward distributed, open-source authorship.

If solution content originates at the point of problem support, where should authorship take place? This past weekend, I spent hours on the phone with a satellite TV provider trying to fix a problem on a secondary satellite receiver. After two hours, I noticed that the coax cable had a little red device on it and mentioned it to the support agent. “Oh my Gosh!”, she cried. “That device blocks the receiver from communicating with the parent receiver.  The instructions should have had me check that right away”. When I asked how hard it was to update the solution, she replied that she was already doing it. This is how to make KM effective.

One must drive content to the lowest possible level and implement a flexible, role-based approval mechanism that deploys the updated solution with minimal fuss.

Knowledge Management is Integral, Not Additional

Most organizations have implemented one or more repositories of “solutions” and most of those organizations struggle to encourage adoption by users and authors. The ineffectiveness of Knowledge Management derives from just a few basic misunderstandings:

  1. Centralized authorship simply does not work.
  2. If we look at Incident and Problem Management as recipes, Knowledge Management must be a primary ingredient rather than a garnish.
  3. Because the Service Desk is the face of IT and depends so heavily on an effective Knowledge Base, agent input must be dynamic and empowered.
  4. The Knowledge Management workflow must be flexible to support distributed authorship and review.
  5. Authorship and article utilization deserve meaningful rewards as an incentive for adoption.

To address these issues, one needs to employ a mixture of wisdom from several sources.  There are a number of standards for Knowledge Management.

So Many Knowledge Management Standards

Knowledge Management does not make standardization easy.  While this article discusses IT Knowledge Management, a standard cannot ignore the management of content and documents across the enterprise.  In general, the standards with broader scope will offer less prescriptive guidance for IT managers.

(ITIL) – ISO/IEC 20000 – ITIL’s approach to Knowledge Management is academic.  Though the inputs from Problem Management and Incident Management are clearly defined, ITIL is tentative in demanding the required participation and ITIL provides scant guidance in establishing a workflow.

Knowledge Centered Support – though not an official standard, KCS is comprehensive and its approach maps best to the real world.  KCS emphasizes that KM must be incorporated into the process flows of both Incident and Problem Management.  This paper draws heavily on KCS.

Other Standards

Though this article focuses on ITIL and KCS, there are other standards worthy of mention:

Standards Australia International is Australia’s non-government standards body and is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The SAI publishes “AS 5037-2005 Knowledge Management – A Guide”.

European Committee for Standardization has published standard “CWA-14924″ in five parts.  Part 1 lays out a framework and basic KM steps (Identify, Create, Store, Share, Use) but is weak on workflow guidance. There is considerable guidance on project management.

British Standards Institute publishes “PAS2001:2001 Knowledge Management”, a high-level document with limited value for process design and implementation.

KCS Plus ITIL

Though ITIL is weak in Knowledge Management guidance, the overall framework encourages integration. As the document “KCS Overview” states, “KCS is not something a support organization does in addition to solving problems, KCS becomes the process for solving problems.”  While ITIL talks about inputs and outputs, KCS incorporates Knowledge Management into the processes used for solving problems. When organizations “implement” ITIL, Knowledge Management is often a separate implementation driven by the Service Desk.  As for Incident and Problem Management, the processes and tools may allow integration but typically act as feeds to the monolithic Knowledge Management team.

Because the typical implementation of Knowledge Management relies heavily on one or a few core teams of authors to generate content, the process flow includes numerous points of review and approval. Each point represents a bottleneck.

When Knowledge Management drives rather than follows the problem resolution process, it transforms itself and its dependent processes into an elegantly simple and self-sustaining engine for efficiency.

Below is the simplified workflow for solution creation (with KCS states noted):

graph1
Figure 1: Knowledge Article Creation

This simplified flow relies heavily on issue responders (i.e. Service Desk, technical support) to initiate and update the “solution”.  For this to succeed, the tools and processes of the responders must efficiently enable contribution. Furthermore, the organization must meaningfully reward such contribution.

This approach is in stark contrast to the monolithic Knowledge Management group where a small number of “authors” provide solutions to issue responders. One need only tour the Service Desk of such an organization to gauge the success of such an effort. Support personnel maintain their own notes with yellow stickies, notebooks, and heterogeneous repositories. Hop rates (call transfers) are high. FCR (first contact resolution) is low. Customer satisfaction suffers.

Knowledge Creation Baked into Incident and Problem Management

In the “Knowledge Article Creation” diagram, steps 4 and 5 are pivotal.  Within these steps, the agent must have a quick way to create or update solutions. A single tool should allow the agent to respond to calls, create incident records, search knowledge solutions and update those knowledge solutions. The approval process should be simple while allowing for variation of depth.

graph2
Figure 2: Service Desk Role in KM

In figure 2, many organizations are concerned that step 8 (Document Solution) will encumber the responder, thereby increasing service costs. In the absence of prudent guidelines, such concern is well founded. One can address this concern by limiting input in step 8 to simple solutions and updates. Anything more should be deferred to a sub-process for Solution Review (step 10). Step 10 can be distributed across numerous organizational units, allowing the responder’s department to update the solutions upon which they depend. Basically, step 8 only works if the workflow and toolset enable the responder to complete the task very quickly.

Solution Creation Reward System

Rewards, an important contributor to Knowledge Management success, are based on Key Performance Indicators such as those listed below:

  • Most articles created/updated in past 30 days.
  • Highest average user rating in past 30 days.
  • Total articles deemed “useful” by at least 90% of users in past year.
  • Most articles used to solve a problem in past 30 days.

For a reward to have meaning, it must be deemed of high value. This does not mean that it must be expensive. Although, recognition is a major component of any reward, the organization can budget for gifts such as gift certificates, parking space, cash, merchandise, CIO lunch, group outing, etc. Be creative and make it desirable for employees.

Solution Creation and the Challenge of Outsourcing

By asking support personnel to create and update solutions, some organizations introduce a conflict. When an enterprise measures the value of an agent by call volume, what incentive does the agent have to take the time to produce solutions?

There are three parts to this answer:

  • First, it may be necessary, especially for service desk agents, to limit the time spent on each solution.
  • Second, the organization can use both call volume and solution updates as measures.
  • Third, keep the solutions simple.  The “KCS Practices Guide” provides excellent guidelines on article composition. More importantly, the KCS approach relies on both “Solve” and “Evolve” to maintain article health. Thus, an agent can start the article lifecycle with a quick but readable note and later, others can enhance the article with updates.
graph3
Figure 3: Consortium for Service Innovation

Let’s look at two examples:

  1. Quick Solution Update – an agent deals with an incident where the solution is correct but the steps are slightly out of order. Without delaying the resolution for the customer, the agent has already begun the update. The call ends and the agent spends less than five minutes to complete the update. Next call.
  2. New Solution – an agent cannot find a knowledge solution for the incident but is able to resolve the incident with quick input from another source. Recognizing that the issue is likely to recur, the agent take five additional minutes (after the call) to document the steps taken during the call and submit the solution for review. If the solution is incomplete, the reviewer can prevail upon the agent or another SME to enhance it. For the agent, such work would have no impact on call volume measurement.

Solution creation becomes more complex when suppliers are involved. Although the execution remains under supplier control, the client company should provide contractual incentives (and penalties) for knowledge participation based on KPIs. From past experience, it would be prudent to measure both knowledge contribution and knowledge quality while also reviewing the supplier’s workflow to ensure capability. This arrangement often requires an additional approval mechanism at the supplier level.

Key Takeaways

This is very broad guidance.  For more detailed instructions on KM project management, I have found CWA-14924 (mentioned above) to be comprehensive.

    1. Find the Right Partner – clearly, an organization needs more than a librarian and a tool. Consider partnering with an experienced service company. Your partner should have wisdom in the areas of ITSM strategy, solution taxonomy, Service Catalog, workflow design, Knowledge Centered Support, and ITIL Service Transition. Ideally, the partner can also provide deep technical expertise for implementation.
    2. Establish a Value Proposition – yes, this should probably be number one but, frankly, the right partner makes this much simpler and will often include such assistance as part of pre-sales. The point is to build an Initial Business Case. This is not terribly complex as it is often based on call center efficiency – an area where organizations typically maintain lots of measurement data. Again, the partner should assist with supportable expectations for improvement.
    3. Build a Coalition – combined with Knowledge Management thought leadership, present the Business Case to key decision makers and stakeholders in order to build a coalition for the initiative. Although the audience will participate in further planning, the overall initiative depends heavily on the enthusiasm generated here.
    4. Design a Knowledge Management Strategy – this is an opportunity to strengthen the coalition and spread the good news. If there is consensus that Knowledge Management is crucial to effective IT support, then any strategy will address the inclusion of Incident Management, Problem Management, and Service Desk in the Knowledge Management strategy. The strategy will address taxonomy (Service Catalog, Request Fulfillment and CMDB involvement), integration and task prioritization (roadmap).
    5. Toolset Review (optional) – the KM strategy may have identified issues around the current toolset(s). Which tools support the integration with (or perhaps subordination of) Incident and Problem Management? Which tools provide a flexible workflow? Does the business case support the replacement of current tools? How will tool replacement impact outsourcing arrangements? If called for, evaluate and select replacement software.
    6. KM Implementation– This step deserves its own separate article. Aside from the usual and extensive project management advice, the following points are worth noting:
  • Develop a comprehensive Communication Plan to market KM.The KCS requires a cultural shift to a distributed and empowered communication model.
  • Provide meaningful rewards for solution creation, update, and utilization.
  • The key to success may well be the changes in Incident/Problem Management.
  • Be wary of timelines greater than 4-6 months. If that seems incredibly short, either the scope or the supplier is off track.
  • This project is well suited to an “agile” approach (iterations rather than a big push).

Conclusion

Niels Bohr, Nobel physicist, philosopher and unheralded hero, wrote:

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.”

As I never seem to exhaust my capacity for error, I doubt that I am an expert in much of anything. Still, this article is an attempt to share a response to a series of missteps in Knowledge Management. If you have not already done so, I advise that you at least read the “KCS Overview”. If, as I maintain, we have been wrong-headed in our KM struggles, this may help set you on a more reasoned path. We should, in light of today’s emphasis on social media, understand that knowledge increases in value as the number of synapses (contributors) increase. In essence, I entreat you to spread the word!

 

Review: Axios assyst

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A tidy interface, driven by product hierarchies, and backed up with a potentially powerful CMDB.Work put in to configure the Info Zone, Guidance and FAQs can make the job of the Service Desk, Analysts, and even the end user interaction easier.
Strengths
  • Crisp and clean interface with not much clutter
  • From a self-service point of view, a nice touch in walking end users through investigation before logging a ticket
  • For those logging directly with the service desk pulls in pre-populated forms and guidance to make that role easier/more efficient.
Weaknesses
  • Very much rooted in the technical – with the product hierarchy very comprehensive.  Would be nice to see perhaps an incorporation of more business language – which can be achieved with further configuration.
  • The ability to record an analysts time against a charge code also seems to drive a specific cost as well – whilst this could just be a notional cost, some form of correlation between the two, removing the need for the analysts to know financials as well as resolving an incident, might be more beneficial – this can be achieved with further configuration,
  • There are some elements of earlier ITIL iterations in the tool, as nothing is taken out which could be cumbersome to customise out. – This can be achieved with further configuration.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Axios typically market to large/very large customers with a minimum of 1000 business users.They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide Event and Monitoring bridges as integration points.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Axios Systems
Product Axios assyst
Version reviewed V10.2
Date of version release December 2012
Year founded 1998
Customers 1000+
Pricing Structure The assyst solution supports both dedicated (named) and concurrent models to allow flexibility with all core functions covered under a single licence.
Competitive Differentiators
  • Our market leading Service catalogue – ranked number one in ITSM by Gartner in their recent Service catalogue Critical Capabilities report – ensures business deliver an outstanding customer experience
  • We focus on the business user with service catalogue, self-service, web and mobile
  • Highly Configurable Solution – flexible interfacing with third party tools, fully supported integrations
Additional Features assyst represents a functionally complete, fully integrated solution, that offers considerably lower lifetime TCO and therefore considerably faster ROI than the complex, technically challenging and costly solutions offered by other vendors.assyst comes truly out-of-the-box, with all service support processes delivered pre-integrated. This includes its own CMDB (also pre-integrated), which can federate from multiple external systems (Discovery tools, ADM tools, Asset and Inventory systems, Directory Systems, etc.)The assyst CMDB comes pre-integrated and sits at the heart of assyst, providing a single-source-of-truth for all configuration, relationship and asset management data required to support the Service Desk and ITIL processes.

As data is captured and shared between all the ITIL processes this allows assyst to streamline IT Service Management without the efforts usually associated with the integration of disparate modules for Incident Management, Problem, Change, etc.assyst offers powerful data and Process interaction, supported by a fully  integrated CMDB. All of the ITIL processes are fully Integrated within assyst.

Independent Review

This tool comes with everything you would expect from a well-established player in the ITSM industry, and has moved on a lot from its earlier versions to bring it bang up to date.

The interface is not cluttered, and focuses very much on driving efficiencies through the lifecycle of Incidents and Problems by providing mechanisms to automate as much as possible.

Pre-populating forms, scripted guidance for the service desk, and as much automation around the assignment to support groups for both incidents and problems is driven by a CMDB with is at the core of the product.

At a time, when customer experience is fast becoming the trend-de-jour, assyst can at least offer nice touches, for example FAQs that walk an end user through investigating their own issue before resorting to raising a ticket.

Interestingly, though, assyst’s foray into more social interaction with a Chat feature seems to be more popular among support staff, but not as attractive a feature for end users, based on their customer feedback.

It is not surprising why they market primarily to large/very large customer bases, but they might want to keep an eye out on the need to talk the business language too, as its next stage of evolution.

Logging & Categorisation

As well as the ability to directly log calls via a service desk and the end user self-service portal, assyst can offer automated logging from event management integration.

Because their CMDB is at the heart of the product, it can auto-populate many user information fields to speed up the process, of course dependent on the depth of information collated.

Also, as an up-front feature assyst provides the service desk with Model Incident templates to use for repetitive incidents (for example Password Resets).

The record displays a number of actions for the service desk to just log, or to log and assign the ticket, depending on the level of first-time-fix information that can be made available to them as part of an InfoZone and Guidance section on their home page.

Out of the box, the categorisation is firmly rooted in product and infrastructure related types and values.

Tracking and Escalations

assyst’s Event Monitor function, and an “InfoZone” area of the home page can dynamically display a number of on-going records related to the data being entered.

The Event Monitor can display time values relating to the record through its lifecycle, and can also relate that information to any SLAs associated with it, so that there is an on-going view of potential breach conditions.

As well as maintaining a complete audit trail of any updates carried out on the record, the number of assignments (or hops) can also be recorded.  Usefully, a value can be set after which point a senior person can be alerted to give the record more focussed attention.

Prioritisation

Tied in to the categorisation hierarchy, records are driven by business rules set up using their Event Builder capability, building the rules into their CMDB.

This can reduce logging times, whereby rules can link a configuration item to an SLA, the impact and urgency, its class, specific products, sites, buildings, business units or even a specific user.

Actions can then be displayed to the service desk by means of scripted procedures – all in the aim of making their job easier and more efficient.

Tying these down closely to the product hierarchy and the CMDB means that more can be automated up front.

Closure

When an incident or a problem has been resolved, it can be set to closed or pending concurrence (based on the permissions).

If set to pending, then typically the ownership transfers back to the service desk to gain that concurrence and close or, if required, re-open the record and continue with the assignment process as before.

Major Incident/Problems

All incoming incidents relating to the major incident can then be linked and (once resolved) closed in one action.

A problem record, and automated notifications to the relevant support groups can also be kicked off through the appropriate workflow, to ensure the right teams are working on identifying the root cause.

With respect to major problem records, assyst use updates to these more time-crucial events to help drive continual improvement, updating the quality of information they can provide the front line when logging similar events in the future.

As part of the record, there is a capability to record time and cost incurred in its resolution.

This is useful for charge back, but if an organisation chooses to use it, the specialist will need to know what the related cost is (although this could just be a notional value).

Conclusion

As you would expect from an established vendor, the capability of moving through Incident and Problem management has everything it needs to tick the process boxes.

But there are some interesting things around the periphery:

The use of the InfoZone with links to any knowledge base articles or even external links, or Guidance scripts to help drive first-time-fixes all look to improve efficiency.

The real potential lies behind the incorporation of their CMDB, and it is flexible enough to start slowly and build more and more, to be able to pull in the most pertinent information into a record.

assyst is very firmly rooted in driving the records through the technical route, with the hierarchical product structure at its heart.

Perhaps to get the best out of the product, a lot of strategic thought has to go around harnessing the power of that CMDB to help drive the other functions.

AssystService Management Customers

Screenshots

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From the Axios Brochure

  • 12 PinkVERIFY™ ITIl V3 processes
  • Robust enterprise-class ITSM technology with the simplicity of SaaS to deliver rapid business value
  • Designed for easy deployment and flexibility to support changing business needs
  • Helps customers manage services, assets and customer support in a fast-paced business environment.

Further Information

In Their Own Words:

Axios’s enterprise ITSM software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centres into profitable business-focused customer service teams

assyst enables better, faster, less costly delivery and support of IT services, and was developed to support current ITIL® best practices.

assyst is one of the most functionally mature ITSM software solutions on the market, with a proven track record spanning over 25 years for delivering measurable results in large organizations across the globe.

Available for SaaS and on-premise, assyst brings to market the latest in real-time dashboard technology, social IT management, mobility, reporting, resourcing and forecasting – offering a series of solutions and templates that enable an immediate return in the form of customer satisfaction and cost reduction.

assyst also provides integrated functionality to support IT Asset Management (ITAM), governance and standardisation within a single, rapidly deployable, application.

As an out-of-the-box solution, assyst delivers value faster than any other enterprise-class ITSM software available today.

In addition to recognition from leading organizations, including Gartner, Ovum and Forrester Research, who noted Axios has “robust, scalable offerings that could meet the majority of service management needs for the largest and most complex organizations,”[1] we have, likewise, been honored by the Service Desk Institute, PINK and HDI.

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Review: BMC Footprints

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch An improved interface and comprehensive coverage of Incident and Problem Management, with some added innovation to make scheduling work a little easier for Service Desks and support staff alike.
Strengths
  • Logging by Type, Category and Symptom adds a meaningful level of granularity.
  • Incorporates an availability of resources view by integrating to Outlook Exchange
  • Subscription function for end users for major incidents, as well as pop ups for potential SLA breaches.
Weaknesses
  • Design elements behind the scenes are still largely text based.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, BMC FootPrints typically market to customers with between 500 to 10,000 users (Medium to Large)They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling.They provide IT Operations Management integration with their own tooling.

Commercial Summary

Vendor BMC
Product BMC FootPrints ServiceCore
Version reviewed V11.5
Date of version release Autumn 2012 was the release date for this version of FootPrints. The previous version had been certified under the PinkVerify scheme to 10 ITIL 3.1 processes. This version has been re-verified to the same level.
Year founded BMC Software was founded in 1980 and today has revenues of $2.2bn
Customers BMC FootPrints has approximately 1000 customers across Europe and 5000 worldwide.
Pricing Structure BMC FootPrints can be provided as a Starter Pack and this includes 5 named or 1 named + 2 concurrent user licenses, LDAP, unlimited Self-service and unlimited project workspaces. All additional ServiceCore modules are licensed in the same way. AssetCore modules such inventory management, patch are licensed in blocks of 100 nodes. For SaaS and Managed Services subscription licensing is also available.
Competitive Differentiators
  • BMC FootPrints is widely regarded as an affordable and flexible solution which can address both IT service management and IT Operations Management from a single pane of glass. One view, one console, one solution.
  • BMC FootPrints is optimised for ITIL but provides a highly adaptive workflow environment (Workspaces) which quickly allows organisation to replicate own best practice support processes or design and launch other non-IT service desks. One view, one console, multiple service desks.
  • In its converged state BMC FootPrints provides seamless integration to ITOM capabilities with open process transparency and data integration. BMC FootPrints supports physical, virtual and mobile devices
Additional Features Additional integration is available with other BMC products such as End-User Experience Management and Network Automation.

Independent Review

BMC Footprints provide a comprehensive end-to-end flow for Incident and Problem Management, and is beginning to benefit from being part of a larger group of products, as functionality from products like RemedyForce add the ability to view process flows (Alignability Process Model)

The tidy-up of the workspace architecture makes the overall interface a cleaner and less confused dashboard view.

They have also incorporated a view of support staff resources by integrating directly with Outlook Exchange to show support staff availability.

Logging & Categorisation

Stand out features for FootPrints when logging a call is the Incident Type, Category and Symptom, which can bring up key problem determination questions.

Their consultancy approach to get that level of granularity focuses on working through what organisations look for in their reports, and working backwards from there.

Tracking and Escalations

As the record progresses through its lifecycle, there is an option to just provide Quick Edits (for example for the Service Desk) as opposed to pulling up the entire record.

FootPrints allows for skill-based routing of the record.

There was no means to look at incidents that seem to bounce around groups, but the audit logs are very comprehensive, and everything is contained within the record.

Any SLAs likely to breach will send a pop up to the agent’s screen and could be configurable in a variety of ways (pop-up, colour change etc.)

Prioritisation

The impact and urgency definitions can be defined in more business-focussed language, and the priority can be solely linked to those values.

Closure

On resolution, FootPrints triggers an email with two links to signify if the end user is happy or not that the issue has been resolved.

Records can be auto-closed.

FootPrints offers the option of re-opening previously resolved records or, if organisations prefer, to link a new incident to the previously closed one.

Major Incident/Problems

Major Incidents (and indeed Problems) can be logged from scratch or flagged from a number of incoming records.

As with a lot of US based vendors, the terminology can veer towards the reference “Global” but this is easily customisable.

The record is easily identifiable in a list with either a globe for the master ticket, or a globe with a chain link to show it is one of a series of records as part of the major incident.

A broadcast message goes out to everyone using FootPrints to notify them of a major incident.

But on the self-service side, an end user can see and subscribe to a major incident.

Incident and Problem Templates

Although none are provided out of the box, FootPrints comes with a Quick Template feature for both incidents and problems, where the record can be pre-populated.

Conclusion

The features to help speed up the process of logging records, and providing initial questions around investigation continue to be an attractive feature in FootPrints.

Adding the integrated Outlook resource view adds to their philosophy of making the Service Desk’s life a little easier.

With each successive release, FootPrints is becoming a crisper, more comprehensive tool, supplementing its functionality with additional elements such as Remote Control, Discovery and Software Deployment modules.

BMC FootPrints Service Management Customers

Screenshots

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From the BMC FootPrints Brochure

  • Increase first-call resolutions by quickly associating the incident to a known problem and the appropriate resolution
  • Improve organisational knowledge by providing the status of known issues and knowledge base solutions to ease troubleshooting
  • Track performance against service level agreements with configurable dashboards

In Their Own Words:

BMC FootPrints follows ITIL best practices and supports key processes like incident and problem, change, and configuration management. So what sets it apart? BMC FootPrints is designed for the evolving business with a just-right balance of usability, security and functionality. It’s flexible enough to configure, affordable enough to invest in, and powerful enough to grow with you. The BMC FootPrints family of IT Management products and solutions streamline, automate and improve IT operations. They have been designed to leverage your legacy IT management solutions and enable IT to optimize the management of PC’s, mobile devices, software and IT infrastructure by simplifying and automating the entire ownership experience. Our solutions uniquely integrate the processes that manage IT, not just the data generated by those processes. BMC FootPrints has been optimized for use over the web but equally satisfies organizations looking for a solid and secure on-premise solution. Certified to ITIL 3.1 it can be deployed quickly ‘out-of-the-box’ with minimal configuration and for those organizations seeking to facilitate non-IT service desks (such as Facilities Management or HR/Payroll), the easy-to-design workflow environment makes one-to-many service desks a reality from a single instance of BMC FootPrints. BMC FootPrints is one solution in the ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ ITSM portfolio and has been specifically designed for mid-sized organizations seeking to deliver excellent services internally and externally.

Further Information

Group Test Index

This independent review is part of our 2013 Incident and Problem Review. See all participants and terms of the review here.