Are your IT Services becoming stale?

I am sure that your organisation strives to offer your customers (internal and external) a consistently reliable standard of IT service – and why not?

The accepted usage of the word (Wikipedia) is as follows:

Consistent behaviour or treatment.

“the consistency of measurement techniques”

Synonyms: evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, dependability, reliability, lack of change, lack of deviation.

We certainly want to give our customers the feeling that they are dealing with a business that is dependable, orderly, reliable but not to the extent of being boring and perhaps too predictable.

But let’s look at that Wikipedia definition again – it includes the phrases “lack of change, lack of deviation”. Is that what we really intend? Static, not improving, not moving with the times?

The emerging methodologies of DevOps and Agile demonstrate an increasing requirement for us to deliver business benefit quickly. However, we do want to be consistent in the way that we deal with our customers.  They need to feel that there will be no negative surprises in the product, quality of service that we offer so that they will have above all that very desirable outcome for any customer or client – peace of mind.

This means that all those great qualities of which we are justly proud like service, product and above all quality should be taken as givens. This is why the well-established disciplines of ITIL® service management are so valuable. But we need to ensure that these disciplines are not set in concrete. The dynamics of today’s business drivers require swift, responsive adjustments to the way we work.

Modern, effective IT organisations do need to invest in the DevOps & Agile way of working. In doing so they will quickly appreciate that neither replaces the ITIL® disciplines – more they depend on them for underlying quality and direction.

The guidance given in the recent AXELOS practitioner publication goes a long way to squaring this particular circle. For our part, at Sysop, we have taken care to make sure that our Practitioner training course helps our students to better understand the need for a flexible approach whilst maintaining, indeed improving, service quality.

Positive change is a necessity of the modern IT organisation. Make sure your consistent approach encompasses a consistent desire to improve, change and innovate.

stuart.sawle@sysop.co.uk

http://www.sysop.co.uk

I am indebted, once more, to my good friend Ivan Goldberg for the inspiration for this blog (www.ivanjgoldberg.com).

Demonstrating Value to the Business

For many years the ongoing mantra emanating from IT journals, blogs from so called IT evangelists and IT conferences has been ‘the need for IT to demonstrate VALUE to the business’.

As IT Service Management professionals, we understand the commercial importance of IT needing to demonstrate business value. However the topic is often expressed in fiscal and business school language that resonates with the senior members of the IT directorate, i.e. Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) but sadly excludes our IT colleagues.

Typically for most IT professionals involved in day to day IT service provision this fiscal and business school view of value seems somewhat divorced from the day job. In fact, when we better understand the concepts of value and how customers ultimately determine whether the IT service provision is providing business value, then we can see a direct and strong connection between our day to day ways of working and the delivery of value for money IT services.

This connection has been recognised and emphasised in the new ITIL Practitioner Guidance publication. ‘Focus on Value’ now being defined as one of the new 9 guiding principles that help distil the core messages of ITIL.

However, to focus on value requires us to first better understand what actually constitutes value from the customer’s perspective. We can gain a good insight from the ITIL Service Strategy core publication which defines the characteristics of value as:-

• Defined by the customer
• Affordable mix of features
• Achievement of objectives
• Changes over time and circumstances

It further expands our understanding of value by explaining the ‘structure’ of value. The book explains how the customer view of value is derived from 3 aspects:-

• Value Creation – To deliver value, the IT services provided must enable the business to achieve their business outcomes. This is a given and is not influenced by low cost. Consider if you buy a cheap rail ticket the desired outcome for you is the train departs and arrives on time. The reduced fare is of no relevance if you arrive 2 hrs late and this completely disrupts your plans.

• Value Add – The terms value added, adding value, value add inter-alia are used where additional benefits have been provided to the customer which they were not expecting and have been provided typically at no additional cost. Consider here how CSI can make a significant contribution in demonstrating to customers the value add being provided from the IT service providers people and their capabilities. The greater the value add provided the more this begins to influence the customer perception of value for money.
• Value for Money – It is only when the customer starts to consider the ‘Cost’ incurred against the ‘Value’ and benefits gained that a sense of ‘Value for Money’ is formed. As stated above, business outcomes have to be achieved before value for money is considered. The additional value provided will also strongly influence customer perception. However, If customers believe their IT costs are too high and not competitive then regardless of how well their business outcomes have been met and the additional value provided, this will create a feeling of poor value for money and a view they could get the same service at a lower cost elsewhere.

The insight provided from the above provides us with some essential learning about the customer and how they determine value. What emerges is that the ultimate decision on whether the IT services utilised have provided business value and value for money remains solely with the customer and that their view of ‘value’ is a judgement that is significantly influenced +/- by perception.

There is no point telling the customer the worth of the IT services provided and the fantastic capabilities of the IT service provider organisation if the customer doesn’t see, feel and sense the value provided.
Remember the famous saying that “perception is reality”? Where customers are unsure of the value provided by their IT service provider then their perception is set accordingly. The danger here is that in the absence of value, then this brings into sharp focus cost. Being viewed by your customer as a cost is a precarious position to be in and likely to lead to low levels of customer satisfaction and being viewed as providing poor value for money. Loss of business is a possibility.
Good IT service providers will recognize the importance and relevance of positively influencing the customer perception of value and value for money as this is more likely to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, instill over time customer loyalty and retain their customers’ business.

Managing customer perception and their expectations is now such a commercial imperative that this should be an essential tenet of the IT service providers Service Management strategy.

When we consider ITSM strategy the ITIL guidance offered is to base this on the four pillars of service management. The ‘Four P’s’ recognizes that the value to customers in the form of high quality IT services cannot be achieved without the ‘alignment’ of all People, Processes, Products and Partners. This in essence is the ‘raison d’etre’ for IT Service Management to ensure value is delivered to customers from affordable IT services that provide good value for money.

However, as we have already seen value and value for money are interesting concepts in that they are ultimately determined by the customer and significantly predicated on perception. An extreme view to make a point could be, that for the IT service provider regardless of how well they execute their service management capabilities, how reliable their IT services are and how cost effective they are at IT service provision, that this doesn’t guarantee that their customers will feel they have had value for money. This requires the IT service provider to be proactive in positively influencing their customers perception so they see, feel and sense the value being provided.

So for the IT service provider to be successful requires more than just the Four P’s. It also requires a good understanding on how customer perceptions are formed and how these can be positively influenced so that customers can more readily recognize value and value for money from their IT service provider.
We therefore contend that Perception’ is now the Fifth P. How perceptions are positively influenced needs to be factored into your Service Management strategy and planning. In practical terms this should include:-

• Stakeholder analysis to identify and segment customer stakeholders into those who pay for the service, those who agree the SLA and those who use the service to help shape a targeted approach to 2-way communications.

• A communications strategy is required to ensure key stakeholders across the business receive timely and appropriate communication to enable the IT service provider to proactively demonstrate where they are making a difference to the customers IT services.

• Communications plans are devised for each Stakeholder grouping making use of the most appropriate communications channel, i.e. Face: Face, Email, Reports, Flyers.

• Reward and Recognition systems are geared to encourage people to focus on value to the customer and using their insight, knowledge and skills to identify and drive the low cost or no cost opportunities that help optimise service and costs for the customer.

• A CSI register(s) and supporting process is implemented to ensure all CSI improvements are captured, mapped to the relevant IT services and customers groups with benefits quantified in business terms.

To summarise and provide some final food for thought….. there is no value in value of your customers don’t recognise it and therefore no matter how good you are, if your customers can’t see, feel, or sense it, then you’re not delivering value and you are now seen as a cost!
This blog is a precis of a white paper “Recognising Customer Value” written by leading Sysop consultant Ian MacDonald and qualified as a finalist in the 2017 itSMF awards. To see the full paper, follow this link: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=1

ITIL Practitioner – The Lessons for Business Relationship Management

I’ve been really busy these past several months: first of all developing Sysop course material for the new ITIL® Practitioner course, getting it accredited, getting qualified myself and finally delivering the initial outings of, what is becoming, a really useful and very practical course.

It has also set me thinking about our Business Relationship Management Workshop. The Practitioner syllabus and material has made me reconsider many of the practical areas of IT service management and how organisations can make sense of the documented best-practice and successfully adopt and adapt it to the benefit of their the employer organisation.

I have absolutely no doubts about the importance of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role to the successful provision of IT services but I do wonder if the artificial segregation of the business and IT into customer and service provider is the most effective way of handling this critical relationship.

The Practitioner material does at least recognise two models of service provision – covering outsourced as well as insourced IT. In all it stresses the importance of stakeholder management and communication – vital activities regardless of which model is most appropriate for you as a service provider.

A key objective of the IT Service Management training that we offer is to foster an increased awareness of business priorities within the IT service provider organisation. Taking account of the key messages from the Practitioner material will add considerable value to our current BRM workshop and help bring ever close our ultimate goal of everyone taking ownership of the business, its mission and its goals?

This will certainly keep me busy over the summer months!

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

Attaining Service Management Maturity

I enjoy the conversations I have with students attending our ITIL® courses. They normally revolve around the maturity of their organisation compared to documented best practice. This has led Sysop to put a survey in the field to see if we could establish the overall take-up and maturity of IT service management. The results are somewhat alarming:

OVER 50% OF COMPANIES ARE NOT READY FOR MAJOR INCIDENTS!
• Over a third have an IT-business alignment problem
• 37% point to low or no IT professional development
• 13% have no Change Manager

33% of respondents say they ‘need to do more to align their IT with the business’, with 4% admitting that their IT-business alignment is ‘poor’. Almost two in ten also say that management has ‘no understanding’ (5%) or a ‘poor understanding’ (14%) of the importance of IT to the business.

You can read the full report here: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=10.

So what do you do if you think your organisation is deficient?

Remember that IT Service Management is, for the most part, a cultural change. To bring about this level of change requires patience and tenacity. I would endorse the methodology suggested by Dr. John Kotter – it has just eight steps.

Step 1: Establish a Sense of Urgency
Help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately.

Step 2: Create the Guiding Coalition
Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team. Make sure this group includes a senior management sponsor, management buy-in is key.

Step 3: Develop a Change Vision
Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision for Buy-in
Make sure as many as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.

Step 5: Empower Broad-based Action
Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions.

Step 6: Generate Short-term Wins
Plan for achievements that can easily be made visible, follow-through with those achievements and recognise and reward employees who were involved. If you are a million miles from having a Configuration Management System, despite the fact that it would be wonderful, to have one in place don’t even try to start with this! Look at the areas that you already do pretty well but could do better, this will give you a good starting point.
Approach the task by trying to see which gaps in your processes you could bridge with least effort.

Step 7: Never Let Up
Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

Step 8: Incorporate Changes into the Culture
Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession. Remember the advice of W. Edwards Deming: gradual, incremental changes are most easily assimilated.

Check out our acclaimed Service Management Workshops. http://www.sysop.co.uk/training-courses/69/tutorled-courses#c72

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.

Is the Service Provider / Customer Model Flawed?

I’ve been busy of late preparing our recently announced Business Relationship Management Workshop. The workshop programme has set me thinking about many of the practical areas of IT service management and how organisations can make sense of the documented best-practice and successfully adapt it to the benefit of their the employer organisation.

I have absolutely no doubts about the importance of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role to the successful provision of IT services but I do wonder if the artificial segregation of the business and IT into customer and service provider is the most effective way of handling this critical relationship.

There are numerous other examples of specialist service departments within business organisations: HR, Finance, PR, Estates, and CSR. The heads of these departments would be horrified if they were not considered to be part of “the business”. So why does IT continually place itself at arms-length?

I am reminded of the story of the US politician who visited NASA. A keen gardener himself he was interested in the activity of the man working in the neatly-tended flower beds. Approaching this man, the politician enquired as to what he was doing. “Sir”, came the reply “, I’m helping to put a man on the moon!”

Part of the answer is our attempt to design one model that covers outsourced as well as insourced IT. Part of it could be the sheer size and intensely specialist elements of IT. Part of it could be the attitude of the business itself – not understanding IT and therefore introducing intermediaries to translate business language into technical requirements and vice versa.

A key objective of the IT Service Management Training that we offer is to foster an increased awareness of business priorities within the internal IT service provider staff. Should we not, therefore, strive to achieve the ultimate goal of everyone taking ownership of the business, its mission and goals?

There lies the rub!

I suspect that even if we achieved this magnificent goal, the business would still want to deal with the ‘techies’ at arms-length. It is an imperfect world. This is why we need IT professionals who can bridge the divide. We need IT professionals to fill the role of Service Owners, Service Managers and Business Relationship Managers. These professionals essentially take on the responsibility for continually seeking opportunities to exploit Information Technology to further the aims and objectives of the business.

Until the day dawns when the technology is understood by everyone, when business objectives can be achieved without whole armies of technical staff, we will need these vital intermediaries.

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