Serving the Customer

I live in the foothills of the Pennines. Just a short walk from my house, up t’hill, is a pub/restaurant that has superb views of the Roche Valley and further beyond to Merseyside and East Lancashire. Not for nothing is it called the Fair View.

One summer evening, I decided to take some friends there for an early dinner. We walked in to an almost empty restaurant and asked if the upstairs facility (with better views) was open. “Not on Tuesdays” was the response. “OK”, I said, “we’ll eat downstairs”.

“Have you reserved a table?” I was asked only to be turned away from the almost empty restaurant when I said I had not. This was no up-market gourmet establishment. It was a cheap and (not so) cheerful family joint. Needless to say I’ve never been back. To this day, I cannot fathom what possessed them to turn away six hungry customers.

Sometimes I’m asked to summarise just what IT Service Management is all about. It’s a very difficult question to answer in just a sentence or two and the answer is likely to vary depending on the background of the person who is asking.

ITIL® provides a framework for the best-practice management of IT services. Its starting point is the shared understanding of what the business’s goals and objectives are and how IT can help in their achievement. It emphasises that IT exists to support the achievement of business objectives and that well designed and delivered IT services are a vital element of this.

When I’m speaking to service management students, I emphasise how crucial “good IT” is to the well-being of the business – how important are the skills and capabilities of the IT team.

At the same time, I emphasise that the IT team rarely generates direct revenue for the business. They don’t manufacture the products the business sells. They don’t achieve sales to the business’s customers. They aren’t in the supply chain for the business’s goods and services.

Their role is to support their colleagues that do!

For the most part, the colleagues at “the sharp end” cannot do their jobs of manufacturing, selling or delivering the products of the business without IT. It is up to IT therefore to ensure that the IT services are there, fit for use and fit for purpose whenever the business needs them.

And that’s where somewhere we go wrong, failing to see our colleagues as customers. We obstruct rather than facilitate. We cite the change process as the reason we can’t help expedite a change. We quote the SLA’s “agreed service hours” as to why we can extend them today.

Our processes need to be enablers of service to our customers not barriers. Successful IT service management is more about a customer centric service culture than it is about processes and targets. Let’s not let down those revenue earners that depend on us. They bring the pennies in – not us!

Stuart Sawle
http://www.sysop.co.uk

Is giving 100% too much?

I read an article in the Financial Times (Rhymer Rigby, 16th March 2014) that asked the question “Is giving 100% too much?” The article focused on productivity and effort but it struck me that the general thrust applied equally to the ITIL® Continual Service Improvement process.

The Ft article quoted Graham Allcott, author of How to be a Productivity Ninja, saying that people often look at tasks the wrong way – they focus on the detail of what they are doing, rather than the impact it has. “It is actually far more practical to think in terms of the 80-20 rule and focus ruthlessly on doing things that have the greatest impact.”

That, of course, is the essential point of the first stage of the CSI improvement process – “Understand the Vision”. What is the business mission? What are the business goals? Are the improvements we are contemplating going to deliver justifiable business value?

Just because we can make an improvement doesn’t mean that we should. The effort expended might achieve a better return if it were directed elsewhere. The cost might not be justified by the benefit to the business.

There’s an old, light-hearted, quality question. Which is the better bag: a designer leather hand-bag; or a supermarket carrier bag? The answer, of course is that it depends on the use to which it is to be put. A designer hand-bag won’t carry very many groceries and ladies would look pretty silly in the night-club dancing around a supermarket carrier bag.

The primary purpose of Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is to continually align and realign IT services to the changing business needs by identifying and implementing improvements to IT Services that support business processes. Of course, any improvement comes with a cost which must be justified by the value of the improvement.

Continual service improvement needs to consider the degree to which the portfolio meets the business needs. The value of continual service improvement is realised when there is closure of the gap between what has been promised and what is delivered. There needs to be a deliberate effort to recognise when requirements have changed and respond accordingly.

This is where we need to challenge ourselves. Is enough, enough? The law of diminishing returns and the Pareto 80:20 rule both indicate that there will be a point when further improvement is not justified. The (Act) point in the Deming cycle that directs us to seek out other opportunities – gradually and incrementally improving all that we do – for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Stuart Sawle

www.sysop.co.uk