Support Provision & the Changing Landscape of the Service Desk

Graph With Stacks Of CoinsService desk teams provide support and service to company employees, helping them to make the most of the IT assets that the company provides. At least, that was always the role that IT Service Management teams saw themselves providing. The overall goal may not have altered, but how this is fulfilled has been changing.

The traditional methods that service desk teams use to demonstrate their value don’t effectively capture all that the ITSM function can deliver. At the same time, new initiatives like Bring Your Own Device, cloud applications and self-service portals are entering business IT. This means that key performance indicators (KPIs) have to be changed. However, are we changing our approaches to keep up, or are we being forced into this? As the service desk landscape changes, how can we take back control and demonstrate more value?

 

Where are we today?

Many service desk teams will still use first-time fix as their number one demonstration of value. However, while this metric is still valid, it’s very quantitative, and only one step above looking at the overall volume of calls being handled. Service desks today have to deal with a larger number of channels than before, so how calls are categorised is a good place to start thinking differently.

The key questions to ask here are: “How do my customers want to interact with me? Are they happy with more traditional email and phone requests, or would they like more options such as chat?” For many teams, answering these questions can be difficult, as options are grafted on over time rather than being thought through strategically.

For a service desk manager looking at all the different traffic coming in, it can be difficult to assign weighting on the requests that come in. Should social media or chat interaction be counted in the same way as a phone request? A lot of this will depend on the process that customers go through as their incidents are handled. This will also affect how success is measured in the future as well.

 

Where do we go from here?

There are two avenues open to the service desk manager here – one is prescriptive, and one is to allow more freedom in how incidents are handled. The first approach would be based on mapping out all the most common problems that are encountered by users, and then looking at the workflow for those incidents across different communication methods.

This can work well when you have a large number of service desk operatives and need to get consistency on customer support experience. Putting this together would provide both guidance on how to handle requests that come through, and also ensure quality of service.

However, there is one issue with this approach, it takes away a lot of the flexibility that service desk professionals can have in solving problems and ensuring that the customer is happy at the end of the call or interaction. Now, for regulated industries where security and compliance are important, this is something that will just have to be accepted but for other businesses, allowing more leeway on how calls and requests are handled can be both better for the customer and for the service desk personnel. Allowing service desk staff to help customers in the way that best suits them – and the customers that make the request – can help to provide better service, both in terms of quality and service levels.

 

Looking at a bigger picture

Thinking about specific targets for the service desk team also involves looking at how ITSM is incorporated into the overall business or organisational goals. Is the service team delivery part of external-facing, “paying customer” work, or more around internal customer or employee satisfaction and keeping users productive? Building up metrics around customer retention and satisfaction leads to a very different set of KPIs compared to this internal service delivery, where efficiency is paramount.

Setting out new KPIs involves looking at what the customer expectations are around service, as well as what the company or organisation wants to deliver. This is a very different approach to the quantitative approach that many service desks are used to. Instead, it has to be more qualitative. Often, there will be larger company goals that will help frame KPIs in the right way.

As an example, your company may provide a product with premium branding. Service delivery around this should therefore match that perception. Creating a measurement KPI around delivering “five star service,” with personnel encouraged to go the extra mile, would be more effective than simply looking at how many calls or requests were handled. Conversely, companies that pride themselves in efficiency would want the same approach to be reflected in their service strategy.

For public sector organisations, efficiency and call handling will still be important metrics to track as well. However, the growth of online and digital service delivery means that requests that might previously have been calls can be answered either through information on websites or email/chat requests. This will leave more personal interaction time for staff, providing a better quality of care for those that really need it.

Alongside these changes in KPIs, the way that service desk teams manage themselves may have to change as well. For too long, the tiered service desk approach has been less about dealing with front line problems and more about managing how skilled professionals can provide support where it is needed. The change from solely supporting phone and email over to using multiple channels should be seen as an opportunity to increase skills for everyone.

 

Managing service interactions more efficiently

It’s also worth considering how sessions are handled. For requests that have a technical or specialist knowledge requirement, playing telephone tag and having the customer explain their issues multiple times can be a painful process. Instead, it should be possible to use those with specialist knowledge in a more efficient way through collaborative sessions.

This approach involves letting third parties join calls securely – particularly if there is a remote access session involved. Rather than depending on the third party and customer to get connected, the service desk can manage this themselves, cutting down on time taken and providing a better experience for the customer. Bringing together assets in this way does mean that the front-line staff have to be aware of what challenges they may face that are intricate or require outside help, but that does not mean that they have to hand a call straight over to someone else.

The growth of online support and services is only going to go up, as more people prefer to work directly through chat or social channels rather than more traditional phone systems. The make-up of the workforce is changing as well. In the higher education sector, research by the Service Desk Institute found that 76 per cent of students preferred using the web form for raising a request rather than picking up the phone or emailing directly, while 37 per cent were happy to use social media channels to contact the service desk.

As these students move from university and enter the workforce, their expectations of support will be very different to what has gone before. Maintaining a consistency of approach when trying to keep all these options open is a real challenge, but it can be delivered by thinking through the problems that are due to come up.

Rethinking your KPIs so they are more aligned with the needs of the business is a good first step. From this, you can then look at how to work more closely with line of business teams, too. Ultimately, the service desk can start to think about changing the perception it has within the organisation, from one of only being there when things go wrong to providing more guidance about how to make things go right in the first place.

There seem to be as many choices on how to manage interaction with customers as there are service desks, particularly as customers want to interact in new ways. However many channels you have to support, the important distinction is around customer service, not just IT support. ITSM teams have to look beyond their role as IT professionals and think about displaying their acumen around other areas, too.

Setting out KPIs is one way to achieve this aim. By linking the aim of the business to the quality of service that is delivered, ITSM teams can look to demonstrate more of the value that they create for the business every day.

 

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ITSM Review Reader Analytics

This article provides a summary of the visitor analytics for the ITSM Review over the last twelve months (See also ITAM Review reader analytics)

First of all, a sincere thank you to our readers, contributors and followers for your continued support. Our humble little blog served up ITSM content to a mind-boggling 312,963 readers in the last twelve months from just about every country on the planet. This articles provides a high level summary of the hot topics and reviews that are proving popular on the ITSM Review.

264,023 unique visitors from 203 countries.
312,963 visitors from 203 countries.

ITSM Review Reader Analytics: Where do visitors come from?

Top 10 visitors by country:

  1. USA 31.35%
  2. UK 15.25%
  3. India 10.98%
  4. Canada 4.69%
  5. Australia 4.54%
  6. Germany 2.78%
  7. Netherlands 2.19%
  8. France 1.81%
  9. Switzerland 1.21%
  10. Sweden 1.19%
  11. Long tail of 195 other countries 23.09%

New visitors to The ITSM Review arrive via search engine, word of mouth or social networks. Our top 10 external sources of visitors are as follows:

  1. Google
  2. Direct (e.g. bookmark)
  3. Twitter
  4. Bing
  5. The ITAM Review
  6. LinkedIn
  7. Buffer
  8. The ITSM Review Newsletter
  9. Yahoo
  10. Facebook

Other ITSM sites also send us visitors, here are the ten largest contributors by volume:

  1. itskeptic.org
  2. realitsm.ru
  3. servicenow.com
  4. aits.org
  5. pinkelephant.com
  6. Forrester.com
  7. itsmf.co.uk
  8. smartsourcing.ru
  9. serena.com
  10. itsmnapratica.com.br

Social sharing is important for spreading our content, here are the top 10 social sources with approximate % of volume:

  1. Twitter 56.1%
  2. LinkedIn 25.6%
  3. Facebook 8.4%
  4. Google+ 2.2%
  5. reddit 2.1%
  6. DZone 1.8%
  7. Disqus 1.3%
  8. Pocket 1.1%
  9. paper.li 0.4%
  10. tinyURL 0.2%

What are visitors looking for?

Top 10 ITSM practice and process related searches (Top 10 of 100,000 search terms)

  1. KEDB
  2. Proactive Problem Management
  3. Knowledge Management
  4. Process Owner
  5. Obashi
  6. Structured Problem Solving
  7. Agile Service Management
  8. ITIL Process Owner
  9. ITSM certfication path
  10. Kanban vs Scrum

Top 10 vendor or tool related search terms:

  1. ITSM Tools
  2. Knowledge Management Tools
  3. Assyst Pricing
  4. ITSM Software Vendors
  5. Axios Assyst
  6. BMC Footprints
  7. EasyVista Reviews
  8. BMC Footprints Pricing
  9. ServiceNow pricing
  10. Cherwell Review

Most Popular Reads

Top 20 most popular articles by volume of impressions in the last twelve months:

  1. 7 benefits of using a known error database [Simon Morris]
  2. Back to basics: why do the ITIL foundation certification? [Ros Satar]
  3. Process Owner, Process Manager or Process Engineer [Stephen Alexander]
  4. Axelos: Capita and ITIL joint venture lift lid on new brand [Martin Thompson]
  5. ITSM Universe Preview [Martin Thompson]
  6. A structured approach to problem solving [Simon Morris]
  7. Twelve IT helpdesks for under $1,000 [Martin Thompson]
  8. Quick guide to Knowledge Management tool selection [Barclay Rae]
  9. Planning for major incidents [Simon Morris]
  10. Proactive Problem Management [Rob England]
  11. Free ITIL training [Ros Satar]
  12. IT Knowledge Management – spreading the word [Liam McGlynn]
  13. Trust me: The DevOps movement fits perfectly with ITSM [Gene Kim]
  14. Four problem management SLAs you really can’t live without [Simon Higginson]
  15. ITSM career paths [Kirstie Magowan]
  16. Applying Agile principles to Service Management [Simon Morris]
  17. How to conduct an ITSM assessment that actually means something [Liam McGlynn]
  18. How to segment and prioritise vendors and suppliers [Martin Chalkley]
  19. What is a technical service catalogue? [Rob England]
  20. Problem Management challenges and critical success factors [Tõnu Vahtra]

Many of the articles above were not published in the last twelve months. The most popular articles are the perennial, always useful guides based on real life experience.

Many expect that blog posts disappear after the initial bubble of social media, but for many ITSM Review articles the opposite is true. See the monthly views for Simon’s KEDB article below, note that visitors increase after six months then continue to attract readers for over 18 months:

KEDB

Product reviews also stick around receiving readers several years after publication. See the visitors to this review of ServiceNow’s Service Catalogue capabilities by Barclay Rae:

ServiceNow-Service-Catalogue

Most Popular Product Reviews

Top 20 most popular product reviews by volume of impressions in the last 12 months:

  1. ServiceNow: Service Catalogue [Barclay Rae]
  2. Service Catalogue Review: Summary [Barclay Rae]
  3. Incident and Problem Management Review: Summary [Ros Satar]
  4. BMC: Incident and Problem Management [Ros Satar]
  5. Axios: Incident and Problem Management [Ros Satar]
  6. ServiceNow: Request fulfilment [Ros Satar]
  7. TOPdesk: Incident and Problem Management [Ros Satar]
  8. Integrations Review: Summary [Ros Satar]
  9. Cherwell: Incident and Problem Management [Ros Satar]
  10. Knowledge Management Review: Summary [Barclay Rae]
  11. Cherwell: Integrations [Ros Satar]
  12. ManageEngine: Integrations [Ros Satar]
  13. Solarwinds Technology Review [Rebecca Beach]
  14. Request Fulfilment Review: Summary [Ros Satar]
  15. BDNA: Integrations [Ros Satar]
  16. Change, Config and Release: Summary [Rebecca Beach]
  17. Axios: Service Catalogue [Barclay Rae]
  18. Easyvista: Integrations [Ros Satar]
  19. LANDESK: Integrations [Ros Satar]
  20. Matrix42: Service Catalogue [Barclay Rae]

If you have any questions or would like to see any topics covered on the ITSM Review please contact us.

Social IT in the enterprise: Getting past the hype

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Can social IT crack open information stuck in departmental silos and improve IT department to business communications?

Social IT has generated a lot of hype over the last few years but many organizations have been left wondering how to turn the grand theory into practice – in a way that delivers tangible results for the business. People know what social media is; they just don’t know how to transfer the principles of social media into the world of IT operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase IT customer satisfaction.

Start at the top

The trick with social IT (as with any new technology) is to start with what you want to achieve. That means taking a top-down view of the challenges you are facing and examining how social IT principles and tools can help you face those challenges. You have to have a good understanding of the issues to begin with, as well as understanding the “toolbox” of social mechanisms that are available. If you start by looking at social IT technology, you won’t get the results you need. You’ll simply be implementing technology for technology’s sake. Focus effort by thinking about where social principles can help you to improve services, reduce costs and improve business satisfaction with IT.

Make it part of your strategic ITSM roadmap

Social IT isn’t something that you can do in isolation. Social IT should be implemented as part of your strategic ITSM roadmap, not as a separate IT initiative. It’s not something you can implement with a big-bang approach and then say “We do social IT.” Social IT isn’t something you can buy in a box (although you will need technology to make it work). Nor is it the answer to all of your problems. What social IT provides is some new ways to improve communication, problem-solving and decision-making across geographical and departmental boundaries. Better communication is something that most IT departments will benefit from. Social IT is already happening in your organization, in a limited way and at a local level. People frequently collaborate and share knowledge offline to solve problems. The challenge for IT is to “digitalize” this social behaviour and facilitate it on a global scale.

The “toolbox” of social mechanisms

  • Collaboration sessions/discussion boards – open forums that enable collaboration between groups around whatever issues, problems and projects they’re working on.
  • Follows – By letting staff follow the people, services, projects and devices that are relevant to them, they can stay informed without being overwhelmed with information.
  • Status updates – “Short-form” announcements that help people stay connected.
  • Wikis – User-generated knowledge bases that are maintained by the whole community to keep them in alignment with your live environment.
  • Likes – User-ratings for content, knowledge or services that indicate quality and usefulness
  • Hashtags – Tagging improves searchability by grouping different types of content with similar topics.
  • Social profiles – A who’s-who for your organization, helping people to pick suitable collaborators.

Scope of social IT

The scope of social IT isn’t restricted to within the IT department. There are two other angles you need to consider. There is a lot of value to be gained by harnessing social mechanisms to encourage and improve interaction between IT people and end users. Social IT can also be applied to the broader end user community by facilitating knowledge sharing and peer support (and empowering end users to take some of the day-to-day strain off the service desk). With all these new interactions going on, you will need to define policies to maintain a sensible level of control and set out which social mechanisms are appropriate in which situations. For example, a peer support forum is not the right place to report a critical application issue that is affecting an entire business unit. Sometimes it is still best to pick up the phone and call the service desk.

Mapping challenges to social solutions

Organizations can help ensure they gain business value from social IT by mapping business challenges to social solutions. Every organization is different, but there are many different ways in which social IT can help to improve efficiency, reduce costs and minimize risk. The way you map challenges to solutions will depend on your business structure and priorities, but here are some examples of how you can derive social IT tactics from strategic business drivers:

Challenge

Barrier

Social Solution

Resolve IT issues faster. Support knowledge is locked up in departmental silos. Facilitate collaborative discussions and the crowd-sourcing of solutions to issues.
Expose a searchable record of historic collaboration sessions to boost the knowledge base and helps support staff (and end users) to find more solutions more quickly.
Reduce negative impact of change. Lack of transparency between IT and the business prevents proper understanding of business risk and impact. Let end users follow the services and devices they use so that they are aware of planned changes and disruptions. Use microblog status updates to announce changes and linked blog posts or wiki articles to describe detail.
Use open collaboration sessions to consult with business stakeholders/end users to crowd-source a full impact analysis.
Drive continual improvement of services. IT doesn’t understand current business needs, or how business needs are changing over time. Social engagement between IT people and business people promotes better understanding of business demands and the issues that affect productivity. With collaboration tools, IT people and business people can discuss where and how improvement is needed to meet changing demand.
Drive business innovation with new technology. The IT department is bogged down with firefighting common issues relating to current technology. Facilitate peer support by enabling the sharing of fixes and best practices within the end user community. Collaboration sessions, wikis and a searchable knowledge base empower end users to find information and solve problems without intervention from IT.
Improve IT process efficiency. Geographical and departmental barriers restrict the flow of information. Integrating social collaboration into ITSM processes means IT staff can tap into an enterprise-wide knowledge/resource pool.

Conclusions

  • Social IT helps you get the most out of your people by creating collaborative communities and transforming the way people communicate and share knowledge. Collaborative problem solving is both more efficient and effective – and translates into higher productivity, lower costs and lower risk for IT and the business.
  • Social IT doesn’t start with buying new technology, it starts with examining the challenges that IT faces and working out how social mechanisms can help improve productivity and efficiency. However, tools play a vital part in facilitating open collaboration on a global scale.
  • Social IT helps you bring offline collaboration and problem solving activities online – to create a system of engagement that will help you optimize the activities that make up your IT processes.
  • Social IT is a “fuzzy” way of working that IT isn’t very familiar with. The open nature of social media requires IT to embrace new ways of thinking and let go of the need for such strict control of data and interactions. However, some governance policies are required.
  • Social IT doesn’t require a big-bang approach. You can apply social mechanics to small corners of IT to test the water and demonstrate value before a larger roll-out.

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New CEO of itSMF UK says, “ITSM needs to broaden its outlook”

ITSM needs to broaden its outlook
“…ITSM does need to broaden its outlook. ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile. If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes. “

I recently chatted to the new CEO of itSMF UK, Mike Owen, about his perspective of ITSM and challenges the industry faces.

In this interview Mike shares a great vision of where to take the forum and changes being discussed to the itSMF’s founding chapter. 

Q. ITSM Review: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Mike Owen: My background is primarily in marketing and then general management.  The first 15 years of my career were spent working in various companies including Time Warner, BT, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Grant Thornton – mostly in sales and marketing roles.  After I did my MBA, I then worked for a national NHS authority as head of strategic planning.  For the last 10 years I’ve worked across the commercial, non-for-profit and public sectors in various operational director, interim CEO and consultancy roles, specializing particularly in business-to-business sectors and membership organizations.  I’ve worked with professional membership bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, trade associations, and general business groups like Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

What interested me about the role at ITSMF UK was the opportunity to join an established membership body operating in a vibrant, exciting sector that IT clearly is – but where there was a fresh management challenge and an opportunity to further develop the organization, build its profile and help shape a new wave of growth.  I’ve previously been MD/CEO of three small member-based enterprises – including one in the field of facilities IT – and I have always liked the shared ethos of membership bodies, but where there is still a commercial imperative to make things happen and develop for the future.

What are you making of the world of IT service management (ITSM) so far?

I’m finding it very interesting so far!   I’m learning quickly and meeting lots of new people.   Although I’m new to ITSM, I actually see that as quite a good thing as it means I’m inclined to ask questions that perhaps some more technical people might not. It also makes me more interested in looking for the context of how ITSM fits in with the rest of IT and wider business management.

A few things that have particularly struck me so far are:

  1. ITSM is quite process and operations focused.  Certainly, it is very valuable for people working in ITSM to have good models and frameworks to indicate effective practice and how to carry out tasks, but I wonder if there is a need to increase focus on wider and more strategic areas affecting IT and service delivery – like business strategy, IT architecture planning, operational process design, business structure and culture, staff skills/job design, relationship management with partners/suppliers, client satisfaction measurement, risk management, service quality management and so on.
  2. ITSM currently appears to revolve substantially around ITIL.  Although this is, of course, a well established and proven approach, I don’t think one framework can fully suit every organization out there; in my opinion the field needs to be seen more as an overall suite of different tools and methods to suit different contexts and a constantly changing IT environment.  Other models already exist, of course, for example ISO 20000, COBIT, SIAM, Lean IT, and DevOps, but I think more needs to be done to present – and develop – ITSM as a discipline with a larger, richer, more flexible set of concepts, tools and methods.
  3. There is a lot of potential to take ITSM beyond the IT department and relate it to wider business functions.   I definitely get the sense that more and more people working in ITSM consider that the field needs to be seen in a broader and more holistic light than has been the case historically.  As IT is nowadays such a key driver and enabler of business strategy, operational processes and customer-facing products/services, I think perhaps ITSM needs to relate to that wider frame of relevance more, not just serve as a template for running and delivering internally-focused IT operations more effectively.

Do you think ITSM is in danger of becoming irrelevant?

Not totally, but it seems to me that ITSM does need to broaden its outlook.  ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile.  If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes.  IT often places too much emphasis on technical or operational processes.  How many people in IT currently stop to think “how does this process link to our customers?”  It’s pivotal that IT understands that it needs to have an outward, not just inward looking view of how to define the services that they are managing.

So in your opinion the future of ITSM lies outside of IT?

ITSM’s heritage is in the IT department, but I would say, yes, its future lies more outside of IT than in it.  I believe that the future of ITSM is more to help organizations manage and deliver their overall customer/market-facing services and operations where they have a high dependency on sound and effective IT. Today, ITSM is more often than not about running internally focused IT operational services.  Tomorrow has the potential for ITSM to evolve to be more about running IT-enabled, externally centred business/customer services.   As such, ITSM professionals will need to work more closely with marketing and service operations colleagues and complement their deep technical/IT knowledge with wider business knowledge.  In time, perhaps the sector will lose the “IT” from “ITSM”, but we need to careful we don’t stretch ourselves into being too generic!

So with regards to ITSMF UK, what do you see as the biggest challenge you have to face in the next 12 months?

Well, we need to continue operating a good day-to-day service for our members, of course, but there’s also a need to refresh the organization and put it in a strong position for the longer-term.  This year, priorities for us include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do things; improving our engagement with members; starting to develop and enhance our services and benefits to members; and building our marketing, profile and connections within the ITSM sector.   ITSMF UK has a very valuable role to play in the sector – as the leading membership body for organizations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.  Like any organization, we just need to keep moving and adapting to suit the world around us.

How do you intend to provide better value to your members?

Overall, itSMF is about providing value in several ways:  particularly:  boosting professional knowledge and learning to help organizations and their staff get better results from ITSM; networking and sharing between ITSM professionals; providing news, information and objective guidance about ITSM matters; helping to develop and promote ITSM as an overall discipline; and bringing together and representing the different parts of the ITSM sector.   We’ll be looking to steadily build value on all these fronts and we’ll be seeking to do this in some cases by working in partnership with other professional bodies and groups in the sector.

Furthermore, we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” membership approach to presenting a more tailored offer and service approach to the different parts of the community.  For example, we’ll be doing more to provide value to and support senior ITSM managers and leaders in our member organizations.   We’ll also be doing a lot more online.

What can we expect to see from ITSMF UK over the next 6 months?

We’ll be moving forward on all the development areas I referred to earlier, but the areas of marketing and member communications will see some of the earliest changes.  For instance, we have already introduced a much better Forum website whose functionality we will be developing steadily over the coming months – including expansion of our online reference resources. We’re refreshing the look and feel of our communication materials and tools and we’re revamping the editorial approach to our main publication, ServiceTalk to integrate it better with online media and cover ITSM issues, news and topics in greater depth.

Mike-Owen
Mike Owen, CEO itSMF UK

The other major thing happening in the next six months, of course, is our 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition.  We’re also continuing to run our wide range of regional meetings, specialist topic seminars, and advanced masterclass events.

We’ve also started successfully to expand our membership base – that’s both our number of member organizations and the number of individuals registered to use our Forum’s facilities.

In the past resource has been an issue for ITSMF UK, how do you intend to achieve all these planned changes and updates?

By running a tight ship and moving forward in a careful but steady manner.  We’ll prioritize what we do, always staying close to what members want, and we’ll work with our members and external partners as effectively as possible.      I should stress that you don’t need to have lots of people to do more things. It’s about better utilizing the talent you have and involving members and appropriate external partners where necessary.

We also want to do more to facilitate and encourage more ‘peer-to-peer’ member activity and more support between members themselves.  A membership body like ITSMF UK shouldn’t just be about a central office doing things for members ‘out there’:  a Forum is equally about members networking and sharing with each other directly.  That’s the beauty of a body like ours and something we want to expand further, making more use of our website and social media.

What’s happening with the Big4 agenda? Will you be planning a Big4 for 2015?

The Big4 agenda has been about trying to stimulate discussion, support and information around a particular set of ITSM topics that members told us last year they were particularly concerned about: back to basics, skills, managing complexity, and ITSM and agile.  The initiative has been very useful, with activity ranging from dedicated seminars, online discussions, and articles in ServiceTalk and, of course, shaping many of the sessions at our upcoming 2014 Conference.

Of course, though, there are always many, more topics and issues on the minds of ITSM professionals at any one time and the Forum always needs to relate to those wider topics too.

In terms of thoughts about 2015, it’s a bit early to tell how we’ll approach the initiative next year, but certainly we’ll be minded to keep it as a useful way to help engage with members and assist in focusing our activities.

You mentioned the ITSMF UK Annual Conference and Exhibition, what can we expect from the event this year?

Well, we’re very confident it’s going to be another great event – the premier exhibition, conference and awards event for the UK ITSM sector!   Still three months ahead of the event, we’re already delighted with the level of bookings – from delegates, sponsors and exhibitors.  We’ve got a wide range of major and leading organizations who will providing speakers this year, including:  Aviva, EE, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Telefonica, Axelos, Capgemini, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy, and the NIHR Clincial Research Network.  The conference will have over 30 separate presentations and workshops and the ITSM Exhibition will have over 40 exhibitors from major product and service providers across the ITSM sector.  I’m really looking forward to the event. 

What can we expect from ITSMF UK in the future, above and beyond just the next 12 months?

What I can say at this stage is that we will continue the journey I outlined earlier of steadily building the Forum and adding more and more value to both members and the wider ITSM sector.  We need to be realistic, it’s going to take 18 months to two years to do everything we want to best fulfill the role of being the leading membership body for organisations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.   Everything will come in steady steps, but the overall goal is to better support our members, to help people adapt and succeed in this new age of ITSM, to represent the ITSM community, and help promote the overall value of ITSM.

It’s an exciting mission for ITSMF UK.  Everyone at the Forum is motivated by it and we view the future, with all our members, with a great deal of confidence.

The ITSM Review team welcomes Mike to his new role and looks forward to collaborating with itSMF in the future.  

 

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.

 

itSMF UK BIG4 Twitter Chat

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

The Twitter Chat Model

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

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

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

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

The Twitter Chat itself

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

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

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

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

Overall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit

Do you clog your social media channels with useless crap?

True value or ego massage? '64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour...'
True value or ego massage? ’64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour…’

Do you care what you share or clog your social media channels with useless crap?

In this article Tobias Nyberg explores why people share at all.

Sharing and caring

Is there a way to tell if what I’m sharing actually has any value to others? Do my followers, readers and community peers have any use for the information I share or am I guilty of clogging the social media channels with useless crap?

Out of the 239 twitter followers, 158 Facebook friends, 93 Google+ circlers, 343 LinkedIn connections I have, a very small percentage interact with me frequently when I share stuff with them. How can I tell that they and the ones that are silent find value in my contributions?

Is sharing caring or is it a way to feed my ego?

I asked myself, the Google+ Back2ITSM community and friends of mine this question some time ago since I wanted to try to understand if I bring any value to the community in these areas or if I should just stop spreading worthless information.

The answers were, of course, not simple or even all in the course of what I expected. And just to set some prerequisites straight, I wasn’t necessarily looking for hard fact metrics on value (even if it would be nice), a good feeling about the value takes me close enough.

There are some basic tell tails to see if you bring value through the social channels. If people follow you on twitter, have you in circles on Google+, friend or follow you on Facebook connect with you on LinkedIn they at least think that you at one point or another brought them value. The problem is of course that most people don’t un-follow, un-friend or un-circle you if you no longer bring any value. They’ll either ignore you or mute you from their streams.

Another thing is if your followers re-share your contributions, you would expect them to find your information valuable to them, and in some cases it probably is. But as it turns out, the main reason people share stuff from others, is to either look smart themselves or in other ways boost the image of them. (See also ‘Suffering with consumption‘)

An old study I found on how word of mouth advertising works is probably possible to apply on social media as well. At least for the sake of argument in this situation. That study shows that 64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour, etc.

There is of course value in that, maybe just not the kind of value I was hoping to bring to the community.

Writing and sharing for your own sake

Some of the people I’ve spoken to about this says that they aren’t that interested in what value to others they contribute with. They write, share and interact for their own sake. And I guess that’s a perfectly fine standpoint as well. It can be a way to collect and sort out thoughts and ideas and put it into structure for use, now or later on. And if someone happens to read it and find it valuable, well, good for them. But will they continue to create and share content if no one ever uses it or find value in it?

Some people believe that value from what you contribute with will come out eventually, for someone, and you won’t probably even know it. So their strategy is to keep sharing what comes to mind (and perhaps what make them look smarter) and then let the information be valuable, or not. I guess that would be sharing without caring.

I’ve also been told that it’s impossible to know if you bring any value if you don’t know what your followers want and find value in. And that is a bit tricky to say the least when you don’t know them at all, or even know who they are besides a screen name.

One method that I’ve found to be more used than others is a pragmatic approach of loosely collecting vibes on the channels on what kind of value you bring. Most of us probably do that but some even have methods of sorts to create an perception or understanding on what social media channels to use because they bring more value (as well as gain more value as it turns out) to their followers. Some people write it down to track changes and to see their “vibe-trends” over time.

In the end, it seem to be hard to measure the value of what you share on social media and it’s hard to even create a perception of the value of your contributions to others. I think it’s safe to say that much of what many people share is valuable for ego boosting though, may it be mine or your ego.

When I share things with the community I would like to think I care about what I share and what the information bring in form of value. But to be frank, sometimes I share value and sometimes I share crap. But even more importantly, sometimes, quite often, I don’t share at all. Because I care what I share.

Reader Census – Your Opinion Counts

Visitors from Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Cuba remain elusive (Google Analytics)
Visitors from Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Cuba remain elusive (Google Analytics)

A BIG thank you to all ITSM Review readers, supporters and contributors. We’ve just passed the 16,000 17,000 visitors a month threshold in May.

I’m proud to say our growth has been 100% free range organic (Roughly 50% social media and 50% folks accidentally stumbling across us somewhere on the web). i.e. People have chosen to visit us, we have not paid them to do so or lured them with advertising.

Being an online only publication without a paywall or restrictions our content has spread via social networks and word of mouth to a mind boggling 172 countries since August 2011. According to Google Analytics data our largest audiences are USA (29%), UK (17%) and India (10%). The heat map in the diagram above shows visitor countries, darker colours receive more visitors, grey countries receive no visitors. Unfortunately, ITSM enthusiasts in Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Cuba remain elusive. I shall persevere.

Please give us your feedback - Good, Bad or indifferent.
Please give us your feedback – Good, Bad or indifferent.

Your Opinion Counts

Our content is driven primarily from reader requests, the curiosity of authors and interesting trends in the market.

We want to remain relevant and useful to the ITSM industry. Your opinion counts and is very valuable to the ongoing development of our community.

Please let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what you’d like to see.

I would be very grateful if you could help me by completing a very quick reader census.

7 REASONS TO COMPLETE THE CENSUS

  1. It only has six simple questions
  2. It only has one page
  3. It is very easy to complete
  4. No salesman will call
  5. It will NOT be followed up by 50 webinar invites
  6. It will help us improve the ITSM Review!
  7. We will be eternally grateful 🙂

Click here to complete the Reader Census

Thanks very much in advance for your time, Martin.

Power to the People

How Social IT Rebalances the People Process Technology Equation

A remarkable transformation is taking place in the world of information technology today. It reflects a new generation of knowledge workers utilizing social media to improve problem-solving, foster collaboration and spark innovation.

However, despite the continued reference to the traditional triad of success encompassing people, process and technology, the IT world has typically focused more on the process and technology sides rather than emphasizing the ‘people’ component.

This has been particularly true of IT products, consultants, and executives who have emphasized a command and control approach to IT that tends to downplay and minimize the people factor.

While a highly industrialized, mechanistic view of IT over the last five plus years has led to enormous gains in automation and productivity, the IT industry has now reached a point where differentiation around process and technology has become smaller and smaller. At the same time, innovations such as tablets and smartphones have introduced a new era of enterprise IT consumerization that is dramatically changing workplace habits and forms of communication and collaboration within and between organizations worldwide.

Get on board the collaboration economy!

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, among others, has proclaimed a paradigm shift to a new “collaboration economy” that allows people, teams and companies to effectively organize and focus their activities on creating value and driving profitability. Thus, the traditional IT emphasis on process and technology is giving way to new ways of thinking that recognize the increasing importance of the social or people component in IT in order to unlock new sources of productivity and value through greater knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The following five key behavioral attributes are necessary to increase people engagement and rebalance the IT operations equation for success:

  1. Divide and Conquer – Overcome limitations of traditional mechanistic approaches to IT information discovery and share the knowledge and expertise of IT staff across the enterprise
  2. Feed and Engage – Facilitate new ways of engagement to break down traditional barriers to communication and collaboration among IT teams and stakeholders
  3. Assign and Trust – Foster accountability for knowledge, so that individuals take on responsibilities that go beyond traditional IT processes and systems and their peers trust in the knowledge captured
  4. Make it Second Nature – Use approaches that feel natural and interact intuitively to increase adoption and value
  5. Reinforce and Reward – Compel executives and IT managers to recognize and reward collaborative behavior among IT staff and stakeholders

Behavior #1: Divide and Conquer

Most IT organizations today conduct operations with a heavy emphasis on machine-driven automated discovery and monolithic configuration management databases (CMDBs) that attempt to capture all information about the IT environment. In many cases, these tools and databases are managed by a specialized team charged with keeping information current. However, these teams often have far less institutional knowledge and expertise than others within the IT organization. Those who do have the most knowledge are either blocked from directly accessing and updating these tools and databases, or they refuse to do so because they are already comfortable with their own personal spreadsheets, wikis, and other tools.

This results in a situation where IT departments all too frequently spend limited budget dollars to staff full- time resources to establish a “single source of truth” that is, in fact, either out of date, not trusted by many in their own organization, or both.

As a consequence, IT departments either do not use these tools and databases for their intended purposes, or IT professionals are forced to rely on inaccurate information to assess issues or problems and make decisions.

In contrast, social knowledge management gives everyone in IT a stake in contributing to and verifying the accuracy of the knowledge about the IT environment. The “burden” of maintenance doesn’t fall on any single person or team, but is the collective responsibility of everyone participating.

This is not to say there isn’t value in machine discovered knowledge. Instead, machine knowledge must be augmented by human knowledge and validated so that the organization can confidently make decisions. Stated another way, rather than trying to eliminate the human factor, as traditional approaches have done, social IT actually encourages all knowledgeable individuals to share their expertise and contribute to the knowledge pool by creating and following a new breed of “social objects” that leverage well-known principles from Wikipedia and Facebook-style news feeds.

Behavior #2: Feed and Engage

IT organizations that emphasize process and technology at the expense of people often tend to erect boundaries between individuals and teams in an effort to strictly manage operations through a hierarchical command and control structure. This approach reinforces the traditional technology silos in IT and exacerbates them by creating new process silos. For example, if the network is up and running, why should the network group worry if an application is slow? “It’s not our problem” is a typical reaction when IT behavior is siloed and not collaborative.

Social IT-based crowdsourcing and peer review of knowledge, on the other hand, taps into the human instinct to fill in the gaps of known and unknown information. Then, when confronting incidents, problems, and changes, the organization can make better decisions by better coordinating team effort where individuals contribute to issues they feel connected to and care about based on their responsibilities, their expertise, or simply their individual interests. This can be accomplished by leveraging familiar social media principles and “following” the objects IT manages (such as servers, network devices, applications, etc.) and by automatically assigning experts to collaboration activities around incidents, problems, and changes. With this approach, individuals can also be alerted and fed new information as social objects are updated leading to an organization that is continually current on the latest IT environment reality.

With such an approach, rather than hoarding knowledge for job security, individuals are encouraged to take ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and responsibility, keep those objects updated with new knowledge, create new objects when performing daily tasks, and then automatically share their activities with others who are affected by or depend on them.

Behavior #3: Assign and Trust

If the people potential of IT is to be fully realized by pooling collective knowledge and continuous engagement via social media types of communication and collaboration, then individuals must be accountable to others for their contribution and actions. In other words, you can crowd source knowledge but all knowledge is not created equal. Even though multiple individuals can contribute knowledge, a single individual or role should have sole ownership of a “social object.” In this manner, the organization can increase its trust of the knowledge about that object, or, if it is not being accurately maintained, replace the individual who is responsible.

Behavior #4: Make it Second Nature

IT organizations and bookshelves are littered with the bones of projects that have tried to enforce processes that individuals pay lip service to and then promptly ignore in their daily operational activities. What’s more, IT professionals are usually some of the busiest employees in the organization, so adding on a new set of activities can easily be met with skepticism.

The real potential and promise of social IT stems from its ability to foster ways of communicating and working that feel natural and intuitive to human beings without adding more to the plates of those who already feel overworked. The fact is, IT organizations are inherently social already. IT teams just haven’t had tools that are designed to support collaboration and the capture of knowledge.

IT teams that use email or instant messaging, conduct daily SCRUM meetings, or hold regular Change Advisory Board reviews, are ripe for the benefits of Social IT. But to leverage social IT requires products that fit naturally into the work IT professionals are already doing, and that augment existing processes and practices without being seen as another thing that must be done in the course of a day.

By taking this approach, IT organizations will find that “offline” communication methods like email and instant messaging will be used less and less in favor of the social knowledge management system. They will also find that SCRUM meetings are more productive and CAB meetings focused more on the changes that have the biggest risk.

Behavior #5: Reinforce and Reward

As human beings, we pay close attention to the kinds of behavior that are actually valued and rewarded in the workplace by management. Therefore, it’s imperative that executive and IT management understand and reward social IT activities that contribute to the knowledge and collaboration necessary to improve problem-solving and decision-making among IT staff members.

IT leadership must create a culture of collaboration that encourages and rewards individuals who participate in social IT by assuming responsibility and ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and actively contributing on a daily basis. One IT organization that I know of set a goal for getting a specific number of social objects into their knowledge management system by a certain day, and then paid a bonus to those who contributed to meeting that objective. You might consider providing incentives through bonuses like this and/or as part of annual performance reviews for those who make decisions by consulting the social IT knowledge management system.

Finally: An unprecedented opportunity to improve IT productivity

The introduction of social technologies into the IT workplace presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve productivity and even job satisfaction of IT professionals. Taking advantage of that opportunity, however, requires that IT leaders rebalance the people, process, technology equation by driving behavioral change and equipping teams with the proper tools and incentives to achieve success.

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Getting Started with Social IT (Part 1 of 2)

Today’s post from Matthew Selheimer of ITinvolve is part one of a two-part feature on Social IT maturity, part 2 will follow soon. 

"Most of your customers, employees and stakeholders are actively using social media"

Today, 98 percent of the online population in the USA uses social media sites, and worldwide nearly 6 out of every 10 people use social networks and forums.

From a business perspective, this means a very large percentage of your customers, employees and other stakeholders are already participating in the social media universe where smartphones, tablets, video communication and collaboration are a part of daily life. It almost goes without saying that, if you want to connect with new audiences and marketplaces today, there is no other platform that compares to social media in reach and frequency.

In fact, a recent McKinsey & Company report suggests that the growth businesses of tomorrow will be those that harness the power of social media and its potential benefits not only externally but internally as well:

Most importantly, we find that social technologies, when used within and across enterprises, have the potential to raise the productivity of the high-skill knowledge workers that are critical to the performance and growth in the 21st century by 20 to 25 percent.’

We are social by nature

How might IT departments take advantage of this social media potential? IT organizations are, in fact, quite social by nature. Knowledge and expertise reside in different teams, and specialists must frequently come together and collaborate to plan for changes and resolve issues. These social interactions, however, are typically ad hoc and take place across a wide variety of methods from in-person conversations and meetings, to email, to phone calls, to instant messaging, to wiki sites, and more.

How can IT build upon its existing social culture to deliver new value for the broader organization?

To be considered as more than just a ‘nice to have,’ social media must provide tangible benefits. The good news is that social media principles do provide real benefits when applied to IT – and they do so in a big way. For example, IT organizations that are using social media principles are finding that their staff can interact with users and each other in new and more immediate ways. They are also finding that they can much more easily capture and share the collective knowledge residing across their systems and teams; and then armed with this knowledge, they are able to better understand their IT environment and the complex relationships that exist among their IT assets.

Being social brings risks and rewards

This, in turn, is leading to increases in staff productivity and is making day-to-day tasks like resolving incidents and planning for changes more efficient and more accurate. The results include faster time to restore service when outages or degradations occur, a higher success rate when executing changes, and a greater overall throughput of IT process management activities – just to name a few.

But the adoption of social media principles in IT also has the risk of certain pitfalls. In this article, we will explore a four-level model of social IT maturity, (See Figure 1) including how to avoid the most common pitfalls.

  • At Level 1, organizations begin to explore how social IT can contribute by defining a milestone-based plan with clearly established benefits as their social IT maturity increases.
  • At Level 2, IT takes specific actions to add on social capabilities to existing operations, and begins to realize projected benefits around user intimacy and satisfaction.
  • At Level 3, social IT becomes embedded into and enhances IT operational processes, providing relevant context to improve collaboration among IT professionals thereby making IT teams more efficient and accurate in their daily work.
  • Finally, at Level 4, IT evolves into a socially driven organization with a self-sustaining community, recognition and rewards systems that further incentivize the expansion of the community, and a culture that harnesses the power of social collaboration for continuous process improvement.

 

Figure 1 - A Proposed Social IT Maturity Model

Level 1 Maturity: Social Exploration

The first level of social IT maturity is Social Exploration. The goal of Social Exploration is to learn, and the value delivered comes from defining your plan to improve social IT maturity.

Such a plan must include specific key performance measures that can be tied to financial or other tangible business benefits. Otherwise, your social IT plan is bound to be greeted skeptically by management.

Start by asking yourself simple questions like ‘How can social tools improve my ability to provide better IT service and support?’ and ‘What social IT capabilities are available in the market that I should know about and consider for my organization?’ If you’ve not started asking these types of questions, then you aren’t even on the social IT maturity scale yet. Exploring what social IT could mean for your IT organization is the critical first step.

To exit Level 1 and move to Level 2 on the maturity scale, you must have a documented plan for how you will improve your social IT maturity that incorporates specific key performance measures. The following sections will discuss a variety of elements and performance measures that you should consider.

Social IT Pitfall #1: Ungoverned Broadcasting

In your transition from Level 1 to Level 2 maturity, a common pitfall is to look for a ‘quick win’ such as broadcasting via Twitter or RSS. A number of IT management software vendors include this capability in their products today, so it seems like an easy way to ‘go social.’ However, if you haven’t taken the time to define your communications policies clearly, you could end up doing more harm than good. Posting IT service status to public feeds could leave your organization exposed or embarrassed. You wouldn’t want to see ‘My Company finance application unavailable due to network outage’ re-tweeted and publicly searchable on Google, would you?

You can do more harm than good if you try for a ‘quick win’ approach to social IT by broadcasting via Twitter or RSS. Posting IT service status to public feeds could leave your organization exposed or embarrassed.

Level 2 Maturity: Social Add-ons

The most important thing about getting to Level 2 maturity, Social Add-ons, is that you are now taking specific actions to leverage social capabilities as part of your overall IT management approach.

While some organizations may choose to move directly to Level 3 maturity, because of its greater value, a common next step in increasing social IT maturity is the adoption of one or more social capabilities as add-ons to your existing IT processes. The goals at this stage are typically to leverage social capabilities to improve communications with users and, to a lesser extent, within IT.

The value of Level 2 social IT maturity is defined in terms of metrics such as user satisfaction, the percentage of incidents or requests that have been acted upon within their prescribed SLAs, and the creation of formal social IT communications policies that clarify what should be communicated to whom and when.

A logical place to start is to evaluate the social add-on capabilities of your current IT management software. You may find that your current vendor offers some type of 1:1 chat (instant messaging, video-based, virtual chat agents, etc.), often with the ability to save or record that chat. You may also find support for news feeds and notifications (e.g. Twitter, RSS, Salesforce.com’s Chatter, Yammer, or Facebook integration). You might also consider using these approaches on a standalone basis outside of your current IT management software if your current provider does not offer these capabilities.

Define your communication policies

Remember the first social IT pitfall of broadcasting, though. Before you start communicating, you must define your formal communications policies. Most likely, you already have a policy that pertains to email or Intranet communications to users and employees. If you do, that’ll give you a head start to work from. In any case, here are a few good rules of thumb to follow:

  1. Only communicate externally what you are comfortable with the entire world knowing about. In most cases you will find there are very few things, if any, which fit into this category. For example, you might push out a tweet to a specific user’s twitter account that their incident has now been closed, but without any details about the nature of the incident.
  2. If you do want to communicate using social tools externally in a broader way, consider using private groups that are secure. For example Twitter, Chatter, and Facebook all support private groups, although there is administrative overhead for both users and IT departments to request to join them and to manage members over time.
  3. Make sure what you communicate is focused on a specific audience.Don’t broadcast status updates on every IT service to everyone. If you create too much noise, people will just tune out your communications defeating their entire purpose.

To exit Level 2 and start to move to Level 3 on the maturity scale, you need to shift both your thinking and your plans from social add-ons to how social capabilities can be embedded into the work IT does every day. This means expanding your social scope beyond IT and end user interactions, and working to improve collaboration within IT.

Social IT Pitfall #2: Feeds, Walls, and Noise – Oh My!

One critical success factor for social IT communications is to ensure you are targeting specific audiences. Some vendors offer a Facebook-like wall in addition to the ability to push updates out via Twitter or RSS. In addition to the exposure risk previously discussed, these approaches can also create a tremendous amount of noise, which will make it difficult for both business users and IT to identify useful information in the feed or on the wall.

Relying on a solitary Facebook-like wall for social IT, as well as pushing updates out via Twitter or RSS, can create a tremendous amount of noise, making it difficult for both business users and IT to identify useful information in the feed or on the wall.

There is a simple analogy to illustrate this point. Imagine you are invited to a dinner party and arrive as one of twenty guests. As you enter, you hear many conversations taking place at once, music playing, clinking of glasses behind the bar, the smell of food cooking. What’s the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you look around the room to find someone else you know, someone who appears interesting, or maybe you head toward the bar or the kitchen. What you’ve just done is to establish context for the party you’re attending. A single IT news feed or wall doesn’t provide useful context. It’s like listening to random sentences from each of the conversations at the party and contains a lot of noise that a business or IT user just doesn’t care about.

While news feeds and walls typically have a keyword search capability, both users and IT users will end up spending too much time trying to locate relevant information. As a result, they will likely over time start avoiding going to the feed or wall because it contains far too much information they don’t care about. What’s more, the feed can grow so long that it needs to be truncated periodically causing useful information that was posted a long time ago to become lost to the organization.

Stay away from one-size fits all walls or feeds. They’re not useful and will hurt the credibility of your social IT project.

This is part one of a two-part feature on Social IT maturity, part 2 will follow soon.