How to Transition from a Reactive to Proactive Support Center

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

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

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

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

Here are four ways you can get started:

1) Set up server alerts

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

2) Monitoring automation

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

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

3) Get smart with ChatOps

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

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

4) Deflect repetitive issues with self-service

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

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

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

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

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

ITSM Conferences & Events

3021209322_dd7f06856d_zI find attending conferences and events extremely useful. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in the shape of industry experts, vendors and people like you and me who have already gone through those pain points we are currently dealing with. All we have to do is listen, take notes and grab handouts.

Useful as conferences are I, like many of you, do not always have the ability to take a day or more out of my working life to attend and as for getting money from the boss to travel to, attend and in some cases stay over at events, well lets just say I’m getting lots of practice at writing business cases with persuasive arguments.

To save you some energy for that impressive and compelling business case here is my list of the events, conferences and experiences for the first half of 2015 that are worth your time and (your bosses) money*.

 

Working 9-5 with ITIL, itSMF Norway – 3rd-5th March

Those Nordmenn know how to entertain! If you think that all ITSM symposiums are stuffy and boring then you have clearly never been to one of the itSMF Norway conferences.

Don’t let the title fool you, you will still find lots of useful content even if you don’t follow the ITIL methodology.

At $1,676 for non-members (just over £1,000 at time of writing) it compares favourably with other ITSM conferences.

 

Knowledge Exchange: Service Management in Action, London, itSMF UK – 24th March

The first of a new series of Knowledge Exchange seminars sees itSMF UK looking at Service Management today and how industry experts and leaders are dealing with the current big challenges we’re facing and promises to help us prepare for the intense changes ITSM is currently undergoing.

At £400 (+VAT) for non-members it’s not as cheap as some of the others but the line up is seriously impressive with the likes of Stuart Rance, Philippa Hale and David Wheable all speaking.

 

SITS15: The IT Service Management Show, London, Diversified Communications UK – 3rd-4th June

Despite being a trade event SITS has a fantastic amount of useful info you can take away with no less than 36 seminars being held over the two days from the likes of the fabulous Andie Kis who should have a conference all to herself and everyone’s favourite Texan Daniel Breston.

What’s more if you book before Tuesday 2nd June entry is free!

 

Public Sector Think Tank, Birmingham, SDI – 17th June

If you are a public sector service desk then this one is for you. SDI events are always well thought out with the mixture of presentations, case studies and interactive activities making for an enjoyable, engaging and worthwhile experience.

At £185 (+VAT) these days are fantastic value for money and are particularly good at focusing on a particular subject or issue.

 

If these all sound great but you just don’t have the time then there is an alternative…

Conference in a Box – 24/7/365

Every 2 months Conference in a Box send out a package covering a different subject with Metrics, Social IT, Best Practice, Gamification and Kanban being covered so far. In your box you’ll find a collection of learning materials, access to the speakers online and some goodies to ensure you don’t miss out on one of the best bits of trawling the exhibition floor.

Conference boxes are between £29.99 and £59.99 and have the added bonus of you being able to attend in your pajamas!

 

*All conferences/events etc above have been attended/test driven by either myself or a team member. If you run or know of a conference that you think would be beneficial to the ITSM community please let us know via this link

 

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Industry News Roundup Incl IT4IT Forum Launch

14452224395_c539043c05_qNo time to read all the interesting news and info floating around social media and appearing in your inbox? Read our news roundup of what we’ve found interesting this week.

  • Why Shell, BP & PwC Teamed Up To Launch Platform-Neutral IT4IT Forum – Archana Venkatraman at Computer Weekly reports that Shell, BP and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), along with IT suppliers Microsoft, IBM and HP, have launched the IT4IT Forum – a supplier-neutral consortium that provides enterprises with a reference architecture to simplify their IT management, cut costs and improve IT efficiency. Read more here
  • Watch Out for Suspicious Microsoft Office Files…It Could Be Malware – Microsoft recently announced a security advisory warning of specially crafted Microsoft Office files that can give an attacker the same user rights as the user that opens it. Read more here
  • Ask A Superhero! Q&A With Jenny Jordan, Service Desk Superhero 2013 – As part of IT Service Week 2014 Service Desk Institute (SDI) held a webinar with Jenny Jordan of Edge Hill University who was the winner of last year’s Service Desk Superhero award. Listeners’ questions were put to Jenny and she was probed for tips on being a super-star on the service desk. Read/listen here
  • A New Kind of Service Catalogue? Robin Goldsbro proposes an alternative approach to the service catalogue that better represents the business. Read more here
  • Twitter Wants To Be Your Gatekeeper – Twitter makes a move designed to do just what Facebook does…but with less data sharing. Read more here
  • Why CFO’s Should Embrace SysAdmins – CFOs often see Devs as creating innovation while sysadmins are there to make sure that innovation runs and runs efficiently with their view of technology coming down to this: Invest in innovation, and cut your infrastructure costs. Bill Koefoed explains why this way of thinking should change. Read more here

Vendor News

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

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Podcast Episode 5: SDI Winners "Less about IT and more about Service"

Thanks to our friends at SysAid for sponsoring this podcast.
Thanks to our friends at SysAid for sponsoring this podcast.

Episode 5 of the ITSM Review podcast hosted by Barclay Rae and Rebecca Beach.

Guests:

Agenda

This podcast was recorded live at the SDI Annual Conference. See more details and all the winners here

The three winners discuss the SDI awards and SDI certification process, the business benefits of exceptional service, Forrest Gump (see video below) and the evolution of Service Management careers.

“It is less about IT and more about the service” Kirsty Watson, O2

“There is no operations and the business – you ARE the business” Sarah Lahav, SysAid

“High Five! You Rock!” Rebecca Beach

Thanks to our friends at SysAid for sponsoring this podcast.

ITAM Review and ITSM Review Feeds

Podcast Episode 5

CoSocius Winning Video

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SDI Annual Conference

Last year's conference
Last year’s conference

We are excited to announce that we will be the Social Partner for the annual SDI Conference, 17-18 June 2014, at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham, UK.

What you can expect

  • 6 keynote presentations covering a multitude topics – motivation, customer service, change, team building, IT challenges and the future of work
  • Hear from practitioners and industry experts on topics such as problem management, IT costs, service catalog, the future of the service desk, IT security, metrics and KPI’s, delivering service excellence and more
  • Networking opportunities with peers

Both Rebecca Beach and I will also be in attendance. If you would like to schedule a meeting with either of us at the conference please email me. We are interested in hearing from all attendees whether you are a vendor, practitioner, consultant or other!

We hope to see you there!


Event Summary

WHAT

SDI Annual Conference

WHERE

Hilton Metropole, Birmingham, UK

WHEN

17th-18th June

BOOKING

Booking rates are available online

Change Management – Surviving Implementation

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The super power of a change manager is an “invisible shield”, just like Violet from The Incredibles

One of the things I’m getting asked about most this year is about getting the basics right – how to actually do change management in the real world. We all know that having good processes in place protect us all, ensures we meet regulatory guidelines and are generally just common sense, but what about using them so that we can build a better, stronger IT organisation? In this article, I’m going to talk about getting started and surviving the implementation phase. I’ll then follow it up with another article on how to actually run your change management process.

Let’s start from the beginning. change management sits in the transition stage of the service lifecycle. ITIL states that the objective of change management is “to ensure that changes are recorded, evaluated, authorised, prioritised, planned, tested, implemented, documented and reviewed in a controlled manner. In a nutshell, change management is about putting things in, moving things round or taking them out, and doing it safely and without setting anything on fire.

When describing the change process, I call change managers the guardians or protectors of our network. They ensure all changes are sanity checked, tested, reviewed, approved and scheduled at a sensible time. Their super power is an invisible shield (like Violet in “The Incredibles”) that protects the rest of the organisation from the adverse impact of change.

Getting started: Common Excuses and Ways Around Them

Change management is an incredibly important process because it enables you to manage, control and protect your live environment. Since the credit crunch, I’ve had more and more people coming to me saying that their change departments would either have to endure massive cut backs or stop improvement works. Here are some of the most common excuses I’ve come across for this along with some possible ways around them.

Excuse number 1: “We don’t have the time”. Ok, what about all the time wasted dealing with the impact of failed or unmanaged changes, firefighting incidents and dealing with the big angry mob camped outside the IT department waiting to lynch us for yet another mistake? Let’s be sensible, having a strong change process in place will lead to massive efficiency savings and the use of standard changes, models and templates will make the work involved repeatable.

Excuse number 2: “We don’t have the resources”. What about all the time spent going cap in hand to the rest of the business explaining why a key service was unceremoniously taken out by a badly executed change? Spin doctoring a major incident report that has to go out to external customers? I’d argue that you’re wasting resources constantly firefighting and if you’re not careful it will lead to stressed out departments and key individuals burning out from the stress of trying to keep it all together. Instead of wasting resources and talent – why not put it to good use and start getting proactive?

Excuse number 3: “We don’t have the money”. What about all the money spent on service credits or fines to disgruntled customers? Then there’s the less tangible side of cost. Reputational damage, being front-page news, and being universally slated across social media – not nice and definitely not nice having to deal with the fall out. Finally, what about compliance and regulatory concerns? Failing an audit could be the difference between staying profitable or losing a key customer.

Excuse number 4: “We can’t afford expensive consultants”. Ok, hands up. I used to be a consultant. I used to work for Pink Elephant UK and for anyone out there looking for an amazing consulting / training company then go with Pink – they rock. That aside, if you can’t afford outside help in the form of consultancy, you still have lots of options. Firstly, you have the itSMF. Again, I’m biased here because I’ve been a member, as well as a speaker for, and chair of, various sub groups and committees, all in an attempt to champion the needs of the IT service management community. Here’s the thing though, it’s useful war stories, articles, white papers and templates written by the members for the members. There’s also ISACA which focus more on the governance and COBIT side of things. There’s the Back2ITSM movement – lots of fantastic help support and information here. There’s the ITSM Review and blog sites from the likes of The IT Skeptic – lots of free resources to help you sort out your change Management process.

Excuse number 5: “I’m probably going to be made redundant anyway so what’s the point?” Yes, I am serious, this is an excuse I’ve come across. There’s no way to sugar coat it, being made redundant or even being put at risk is (to put it mildly) a rubbish experience. In that situation (and believe me, I’ve been there) all you can do is keep doing your best until you are told to do otherwise. Having a strong change management process can be a differentiator on responses to bids. Tenders as SOX compliance, or ISO 20000 accreditation can set you apart from competitors. Bottom line, we have to at least try.

Planning for Change Management

So how do you get started? First things first: you need to get buy in. Most management guides will tell you to focus on the top layer of management as they hold the purse strings, and that’s very true, but you also need buy in from your guys on the front line – the guys who will actually be using your process. Get their buy in and you’re sorted, because without it you’re stuffed.

So, starting with the guys at the top, you need to speak to them in their language and that means one thing – a business case! This doesn’t have to take forever and there are lots of templates out there you can use. The key thing is to explain clearly, in their language, why change management is so important. Things to cover in your business case are introduction, scope, options, deliverables and benefits. Now get your techies on board. There’s no “right” way of doing this. As someone with a few war stories to tell, things that have worked in the past include:

  • sitting down with your techies
  • templating everything
  • using the umbrella argument (more on that later)
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Krispy Kremes can help

I’ve also found that bribing support teams with doughnuts can be very effective, as a former techie I can confirm that Krispy Kreme ones work particularly well.

Once you’ve got your buy in, gather and confirm your requirements.  At the risk of playing management bingo here, a good approach is to set up workshops. Engage with both IT and the rest of the business so that there are no surprises. If you have an internal risk or audit department now is the time to befriend them! Using the aforementioned donuts as bribery if necessary, get their input as they will have the most up to date regulatory requirements you need to adhere to such as SOX or Basel 3.

Define the scope otherwise it will creep! Plan what you want to cover carefully. Do you want to cover all production equipment? What about test and DR environments? Whatever scope you agree, make sure it is included in any SLAs, OLAs or underpinning contracts so that you have documented what you are working to.

Keep your end users in mind

When writing your policy, process and procedures, keep your end users in mind. Don’t try to cover everything in red tape or people will find ways to circumvent your process. Let’s start with your policy. This is your statement of intent, your list of “thou shall” and  “thou shall nots”. Make sure it’s clear, concise and is in alignment with existing company standards. I know this might sound counterintuitive but also, prepare for it to be broken. It might sound strange but there will be times where something will need to be fixed in the middle of the night or there will need to be an urgent update to your website. It’s important that changes are raised in enough time for them to be reviewed and authorised, but exceptions will pop up so plan for them now when you’re not under pressure. Examples of when an emergency process could be used are:

  • Something’s broken or on fire (fixing a major incident)
  • Something’s about to be broken (preventing a major incident)
  • Major commercial reasons (in response to a move by a competitor)
  • A major risk to compliance has been identified (e.g. base rate changes, virus patches)

When looking at your process, make sure you have all the bases covered. This will include:

  • Recording and processing the change
  • Change assessment
  • Change Advisory Board (CAB)
  • Build and test
  • Implement
  • Review and close

I’ll talk about these in lots of detail in part two of this article.

Training & Communications

You’re about to go live with your sparkly new change management process and you want it to be a success so tell people about it! First, attend every team meeting, management huddle and town hall that you can get away with! Get people onside so that they know how much help change management can be and to reassure them they won’t have to go through lots of red tape just for the sake of it. Another way of getting your message out is to use posters. They’re bright, cheerful and cheap – here is one that I’ve used often.

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Pelt front line teams with coloured balls if necessary! Not too hard though!

In terms of training you need to think about your change management team and your stakeholders, the people that will be raising changes using your process. For your change management team there are lots of practical courses out there that can help – a few examples could include:

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL – Service Transition
  • ITIL – Release Control and Validation (RCV)
  • COBIT
  • SDI Managers Certificate
  • ISO 20000

Other important considerations include:

  • On the job training
  • Shadowing

But what about your front line teams who will be raising the changes and carry out the work? Again put some training together – make it interactive so that it will be memorable – in the past I have been pelted by brightly coloured balls by a colleague in the name of explaining change management so there really is no excuse for death by PowerPoint!

Things to cover are:

  • The process, its scope and the definition of a change
  • Raising a change record to include things like implementation plans, back out plans, testing, risk categorisation (“no it is not ok to just put medium”) and DR considerations
  • Templates & models
  • Benefits

I’ve done a fair few of these in my time so if you would like some help or examples just ping me on my contact details below.

Go Live

So you’re good to go. You’ve gathered your requirements, confirmed your scope, got buy in and have written up your policy, process & procedures. You’ve socialised it with support teams, ensured everyone has been trained up and have communicated the go live date. So deep breath time, go for it! Trust yourself, this is a starting point, your process will improve over time.

Metrics

I’ve written lots about metrics recently and have spoken about the basics in a previous article on availability, incident and problem management but in short:

You need to have a mission statement. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it does need to be a statement of intent for your team and your process. An example of a change management statement could be “to deliver changes effectively, efficiently and safely so that we put the customer at the heart of everything we do”.

Next come the CSF’s or critical success factors. CSFs look at how you can achieve your mission and some examples for change management could include:

  • To ensure all changes are carried out effectively and safely.
  • To ensure all changes are carried out efficiently, on time and with no out of scope emergency work.
  • To work closely with our customers & stakeholders to ensure we keep improving while continuing to meet their needs

Finally, we have Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These give you the detail on how you are performing at the day to day level and act as an early warning system so that if things are going wrong, you can act on them quickly. Some example KPIs for change could include:

  • More than 98% changes are implemented successfully
  • Less than 5% of changes are emergency changes
  • Less than 10% of changes are rescheduled more than once
  • Less than 1% of changes are out of process

So you’ve survived your change process implementation – smile,  relax and take a deep breath because now the real work starts! Come back soon for part two of this article which will give you some practical advice on running your new change management process.

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Is there such a thing as the "ITSM Community"?

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Does a happy, successful “ITSM Community” exist?

As you may know in February Rebecca and I attended the annual Pink Elephant conference in Las Vegas.  Post-event there is always (as you would expect) a lot to talk about, such as how well the event was run, the content, the amazing people and networking opportunities. But I’ve done that already, so now I want to focus on something a little different for this article. I want to talk about the “ITSM community”.

We are a ‘community’

By “we”, I mean members of the global ITSM industry and, by putting the word “community” in quotation marks I’m asking, well are we really?

This topic came up on several occasions at the PINK14 conference (granted it usually involved bar snacks and a cocktail, but then again all the best conversations usually do right?). Not least when the topic of the future of SMCongress came up. There were daily conversations about how to “help the community” (be it in the shape of SMCongress or any other initiative). There were debates, and many ‘aha moments’ too, but one unanswered question remained throughout: What is it that we (the people who refer to said “community”) are actually trying to achieve?

Who is the “community”?

At ITSM Review we consider ourselves to be a “community” where ITSM professionals (and ITAM professionals over at the ITAM Review) gather to consume helpful content, discuss best practice, occasionally meet-up in person, and share opinions.  Furthermore, my job title includes ‘community manager’, which means I manage the content, encourage discussions, arrange meet-ups, and try to get people to share their opinions.

Are we successful in delivering helpful content, encouraging discussions, organizing meet-ups etc.? Yes (our growth certainly doesn’t suggest otherwise). Are we a community? Yes, but we’re only a tiny proportion of the larger ITSM community.

When we (and by we, I now mean the ITSM industry) refer to discussions on social media, whether it be on Twitter, in back2itsm groups, LinkedIn or anywhere else, we refer to them as “discussions amongst the “ITSM Community””.

When we attend conferences such as PINK14 and ‘we’ meet up in sessions, at lunch or in the bar at the end of the day, we refer to ourselves as the “ITSM community”.  Or we have discussions about how to help the “ITSM community”.

I’m the worst offender by the way, I use the term “ITSM community” like it’s going out of fashion. But the question is this: does the “ITSM community” (as we refer to it) actually exist?

Opening a can of worms

So I’m the community manager at ITSM Review yet I’ve just questioned whether or not an ITSM community actually exists. I could quite easily be out of a job by the time I finish this article.

I do believe that the ITSM community exists, I just don’t think it exists in the way that we think it does.  We talk of the ITSM community as an intangible entity made up of people in different ITSM roles from around the world, who want to benefit from, and contribute to, the collective wisdom of other members.

You may disagree with my definition but bear with me while I look at a few issues: Is there really a need? Are we sharing? Are we global?

Then there is the issue with  ‘people in different ITSM roles’. That is where our current “global ITSM community” really falls down.  Consultants, check. Vendors, check. Analysts, check.  Practitioners? Not so much check.  At one point at PINK14 we were a group of 15 people discussing this topic, and only one of those was a practitioner. So that means 6.7% of the group represented practitioners, and what’s worse is that figure is quite high. Often there is no practitioner representation in these discussions at all.

Furthermore, we have to ask, what is the purpose of our community? To help others, right? But currently the vendors, consultants and analysts are trying to help without necessarily understanding demand. Whilst the people who we believe really need the help are usually nowhere to be seen? Do you think that is a fair statement? Probably not, but I think it isn’t far off.

When Stephen Mann kicked off the back2itsm initiative he said it was about “the reaping of the knowledge and experience held within the ITSM community (ITIL’s creators, publishers, trainers, consultants, software vendors, ITSM practitioners, and ancillary roles such as analysts) for the benefit of all.” 

When I asked Charles Araujo what was the reasoning behind launching SMCongress he said “we formed the ‘RevNet’, which ultimately become SMCongress, to bring together some of the brightest minds in the ITSM community to explore where the future of our industry was going and what it would mean to ITSM professionals everywhere.  Our aim was to provide valuable insights and ideas to the entire ITSM community.”

So many questions, so few answers

Thus far, I’ve highlighted several questions, none of which I have specifically answered. This is ironic, because none of us could answer them at PINK14 either.

This is the biggest flaw in any of our attempts to either build a community or serve/help an existing community. We don’t really know what it is that we are trying to achieve. We (i.e. those of us who actively take part in these kind of discussions) might think we know what we want to achieve, but then is what we’re trying to achieve actually of any value to anybody? For example the news announcements surrounding AXELOS was “big talk” in our group of 15 at PINK14, but one of those 15 people wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. Can you guess who? Yes, the practitioner.

You can see that I am going round in circles here with question after question. I’m dizzy, so you must be too. Apologies, but please bear with me.

The main phrase that kept reoccurring on this topic at PINK14 was “how do we help the community?” This was in relation to SMCongress, back2itsm, and the ITSM people active on Twitter. In my opinion, this question cannot be answered in our current position. Why? Because there are so many other questions that need to be asked (to our target audience) and answered first:

  • Do you think there is such a thing as an ITSM community?
  • Do you feel part of an ITSM community?
  • Would you like to be part of an ITSM community?
  • What would you expect to input to and receive from an ITSM community?
  • How would you expect to communicate with an ITSM community?

The only thing that everybody seems to be in agreement on is that we want to help practitioners and that they are our target audience, but even that leads to further questions such as “are we talking about the people on the front line of a service desk say, or IT managers, or both?”

Where on earth do we go from here?

Wow, yet another question that doesn’t have a clear answer. There was a lot of debate at PINK14 about what next steps any community initiative should take, and one thing that was clear is that it’s not a one-man-band job.  There were discussions about involving the likes of itSMF, AXELOS or other high-profile industry names. There was also talk of creating ways to encourage vendors to actively engage their customers on the topic.

I think all of the above are great ideas, and much needed, but I also believe that it is likely to be difficult to pull a united force together to drive any community initiative forward. I’m not saying that such an approach will fail, I do strongly believe said approach is needed and can succeed, but it will take a lot of time to bring it all together. In the meantime there are things that everyone can be doing to help.

Next time you meet with a practitioner (in my view, anybody working in IT who is not a consultant, analyst or vendor), ask them the five questions listed in the bullet points above. Take the answers and share them across any ITSM channel, with us, on social media, in forums etc, or ask them to complete our online form.

If you are a practitioner reading this, pretty please share your own answers with us.

Together we can start to crowd source the answers we need, because without answers from the people we are trying to help, how can we ever move forward and build the existing ITSM community into something more beneficial?

Where does ITSM Review fit in all of this?

A large amount of our readers and subscribers are practitioners and they keep coming to our site because they find it useful. We therefore already have an existing relationship in place with a small proportion of the ITSM industry. They might not all actively engage with us, but it is a huge starting point.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

We can ensure that we nurture the community that we already have. We can also utilize said community to gain the feedback required to help move any global initiative forward.  We’re going to continue with everything that we already do, as well as push for more continuous feedback. We’ll start by pushing for as many responses to our online survey as possible. We can then feed this back into any larger initiative.

Unfortunately as much as we hate to admit it, we’re a small fish in a very large pond. It’s going to take more than feedback from our readers alone to get enough feedback to start being able to answer the long list of questions. This is why having other institutions and companies involved will be the key to success.  Pink Elephant, HDI, SDI, itSMF’s… they all need to take the same approach.

It’s also worth mentioning here that ITSM Review isn’t looking to build something to go up against SMCongress, back2itsm or anything else. We don’t care what the initiative is called or who owns it – so long as it gets the job done.

In summary

Let me be clear here – I’m not trying to be harsh on the existing “ITSM community” (as we refer to it) and I am also meaning to sound negative. I realize that non-practitioners are always going to be more active in things, and maybe that’s fine? But then when “we” should stop saying that it’s practitioners that we are trying to help. I also want to stress that this post is not an “attack” on SMCongress and I fully support the official announcement (due out shortly) that will be issued about moving SMCongress forward.

Anyway, neither I, nor ITSM Review have all the answers or the power to drive any true global community forward alone. That said, we’re successful in what we’re currently doing in our own community and we plan to continue, because feedback leads us to believe that we are making a difference to multiple people around the globe. In addition to this we will do whatever we can to support any larger initiatives.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what all of this is about? Regardless of who has the answers, or who’s opinion differs to the next persons, don’t we all just want to help make the lives of ITSM professionals easier? You may not agree with all of my opinions in this article, but surely we can all agree on this?

It’s time to stop debating, and time to start gathering answers.

SDI Software Showcase: Here Comes the Sun

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No more cloud… please!

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

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

Kick off

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

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

Hornbill Systems

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

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

Sunrise Software

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

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

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

TOPdesk

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

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

Bomgar Corporation

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

Frontrange

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

Cherwell Software

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

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

LANdesk

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

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

HP

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

Autotask

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

Finishing up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Makes a Career in IT so Interesting Right Now?

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

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

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

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Don’t be the faceless IT Crowd

Yet there’s something there isn’t there?

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

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

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

 Benefits of Face to Face, Personalised Service

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

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

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

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

The Personal Service Desk

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

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

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

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

Is That It?

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

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

Above all… DO

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

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

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

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CGI/Logica gains 5-star Service Desk Institute accreditation

Tessa Troubridge, Managing Director, SDI
Tessa Troubridge, Managing Director, SDI

Logica is positively beaming with a friendly welcoming smile this month after receiving news that it has been awarded 5-star certification by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) for its UK service desk.

Now part of CGI Group Inc. as a trading entity, this is apparently the first time that any organisation has achieved the 5-star standard.

The CGI/LogicaUK service desk team, based in South Wales, supports more than 180 clients across the public and private sector. To award the 5-star certification SDI carried out a four day audit incorporating feedback from clients and staff, and worked alongside members to understand the how the team provide services to a broad range of organisations.

NOTE: In terms of form and function, the 5-star service desk certification (introduced by SDI in 2012) is said to be a definition of the “ultimate levels” of quality and delivery for world-class service desks.

It found true integration of the service desk with the wider service management functions demonstrated combined strength and committment to delivery excellence.

Tim Gregory, UK President, CGI, said: ”The SDI Service Desk Certification is testament to the hard work of the team and their commitment to providing outstanding levels of service. We invest a lot of time in our members with in-depth training upfront so they have the skills to best help meet client’s diverse needs. We also encourage the team to spend time with our clients to greater understand their overall objectives and how their business works. Investing this time from the outset, allows us to offer our clients an unrivalled level of service and, as is proven by our accreditation.”

Tessa Troubridge, Managing Director, SDI, said, “Achieving 4 star on two consecutive occasions for the SDI Service Desk Certification programme is a tremendous accolade in its own right and to be recognised as a 5* world class service desk is a truly outstanding achievement. I am delighted and proud that we have been able to certify CGI/Logica as the first 5* world class service desk.”

Troubridge also said that the service desk here is extremely impressive with a remarkable people culture. Every team member displays a tangible passion, enthusiasm and drive to deliver not only excellent customer service but to provide added value as part of every single customer engagement.

Talking of Logica’s WOW factor, Troubridge says that the culture here is evidenced throughout the fabric of the organisation, the processes in place and the unique approach to team work to enhance the customer experience.

“It is in the DNA of each of the team members, their team leaders and across all levels of management and is driven both top down and bottom up.  This exceptional people culture is one of the real WOW factors of the service desk of which they should be extremely proud and which all other service desks should aspire to achieve.”.