Software Asset Management – the Missing ITSM Ingredient

When I’m talking to customers, I’m continually reminded that many (or should I say “most”) of them have no accurate records of what IT assets they have or where they are located. For the most part, of course, I’m referring here to physical items of hardware. The problem is worse, much worse, when one considers software assets – for here there is a question not just of good management control but a legal obligation to adhere to licence and intellectual property agreements.

One of the most productive ways of helping a customer to reduce their IT costs is to carry out a hardware and software audit. So often we find hardware maintenance contracts in place for hardware assets that were disposed of years ago and of course the same is true of software assets.

However there is a massive sting in the tail in the case of software assets – Licence types and rights to use.

Probably the most common gotcha is the over-deployment of a software item. How many active copies is your company licenced to deploy, how many are actually deployed and where are they?

Another of the more common “gotchas” with licensing, is that sometimes people have purchased upgrade licences, but not considered the whether the base licence is already in place to upgrade from. No base licence – no rights to upgrade!

Another one of the “gotchas” is accounting for deployments. E.g. thinking that Microsoft Server 2008 (Standard Edition) can be virtualised as many times as a company likes. (Technically, it can be – providing you are prepared to pay for it!) Unlimited virtualisation rights are the preserve of the Datacenter edition of the product!

Take the time to research Product Use Rights and licence metrics – not least in the development environment: does your licence permit the installation for the purposes of testing, demonstration and evaluation or are further licences required?

The standard ITIL programme of courses covers service asset & configuration management but goes nowhere near the specialist requirements of software asset management. Let’s hope that the new AXELOS arrangement gives due prominence to this very important IT discipline.

For your information our next Software Asset Management courses are 9th June in Heywood (Manchester) and 7th July in London. Click here for more information.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

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

 

Adopting ITIL® Best Practice

One of the recurring themes of questions from budding ITIL® Experts is what’s the best way to go about implementing ITIL® – putting into practice what I’ve learned on the courses?

Well the first thing you should remember (and I’m sure your Sysop lecturer will have pointed this out) is that you don’t ‘implement ITIL®’ ……..whatever your boss says! Your task is actually to think about implementing (or better still adopting) best practice Service Management.

Where do you start? We will have talked you through well over twenty processes and a variety of functions. How are you supposed to implement all that? Well again, remember what you were taught, implementing the processes is about adopting the ideas and adapting them to fit the needs, culture and requirements of your organisation. It’s not about applying the guidelines in the books word for word!

Remember that IT Service Management is, for the most part, a cultural change. To be successful, regardless of the focus — innovation, growth, culture, cost structure, technology — a new methodology of change leadership is required. That suggested by Dr. John Kotter is an excellent methodology with 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.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk
ITIL® is a registered trademark of Axelos Limited.

An ITIL Process Conundrum

A student brought me up short on a recent course when we were discussing the distinction between incident management and problem management. We had been talking about the need for Incident Management to resolve the user’s issue quickly and the purpose of Problem Management to identify the root cause and provide a workaround or a permanent solution.

The scenario surrounding this particular conundrum goes like this. . . .

• A user contacts the service desk and complains that a particular document he is trying to print fails when sent to his local departmental printer.
• The service desk asks the user to redirect the print to a different printer (different manufacturer) two floors down.
• This is successful albeit very inconvenient. The service desk agrees with the user that this issue has been resolved and the incident can be closed.
• The service desk agent believes that this issue needs to be investigated further and raises a problem record.

• The problem management team eventually identify that there is a deficiency in the printer firmware and ask the manufacturer to provide a fix.
• Meantime, based on the experience from the incident, a Known Error record is generated containing details of the workaround that was successfully employed by the originating user.
• This is used on several occasions in the following months to resolve further similar incidents albeit with considerable inconvenience to the users concerned.

• Eventually, the printer manufacturer comes up with an updated version of the firmware. This is tested, found to be a valid solution and a change request is raised to roll the new version out to every printer of this make and model.
• No further incidents are raised.

• Sometime later the original user, based on prior experience, is directing his printed output to the printer two floors down. A colleague asks him why he is doing this. “Because our departmental printer can’t cope with this particular type of document” he replies.
• Well, I don’t have any trouble says the colleague – prompting to original user to try the local printer which, of course, works perfectly.

The IT service provider has clearly let down its customers/ users. But whose responsibility was it to advise the user-base in general, and this particular user in particular, that the workaround was no longer necessary. What went wrong? How would you change processes to improve the communication flow?
Stuart Sawle
http://www.sysop.co.uk

Towards a Better Service Desk

As a member of an IT service desk team you have a responsibility to your customers. You’re there to help your customers find solutions to their IT issues. Your over-riding concern is to help resolve their issues quickly and effectively so that they can fulfill the vital business function that you are there to support.

Sadly, so many IT service desks make common mistakes that detract from the service offered but, happily, they are easy to address.

In this blog I’m going to look at 5 tips to ensure that your customer is happy with the service that you’re providing. It isn’t rocket science; it isn’t something that you’ll have to practice for months to master. It’s something that you can implement today.

Let’s get started shall we…?

Listen

First and foremost let’s get one of the biggest responsibilities of the service desk out of the way – to listen.

To resolve your customer’s issue you first have to understand what they’re telling you. Don’t prick up your ears at certain points, don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t let your mind wander – as they say “be in the room”.

Listen carefully to their issue and resolve it. That’s the job.

Treat them with respect

Just because a customer is asking a question that you think has a very simple answer doesn’t make him or her stupid. Not everyone is well versed in IT and so, at times, they may need a little help. When you pick up the phone, reply to an e-mail or head out to conduct repairs – play nice, be professional, don’t patronise.

React and respond

When a customer turns to the IT Service Desk for assistance, they expect assistance. Once you have listened to their query you should strive to find a resolution. Even if you aren’t able to provide a direct resolution straight-away you should look to offer a way of working around their issue. Remember that customers need your assistance to run the business that returns the profits that justify your salary.

Keep them informed

If you’re conducting work for a customer that requires taking something ‘offline’; or you anticipate some length of time to elapse before the work will be completed; then let them know. Remember, they have to make decisions about how best to run the business despite their issue, give them time estimates as best you can.

Get feedback

Nothing helps you develop a service desk like feedback. Ask your customers what’s working and what isn’t. Ask what you could do better. The customer isn’t always right as they say, but the customer is always the customer. They are running the business, not you, so never ignore them. Get them on-side and you’ll find their criticisms helpful and constructive.

An IT service desk thrives on communication, efficiency and the ability to heed and act upon criticism. If you apply all of the above to your IT service desk then I guarantee that you’ll see a marked improvement in customer satisfaction.

Motivation – the key to success.

We have all experienced those days where we wake up feeling alive and alert. We head out to work and tackle everything at breakneck speed, not stopping for a drink of water. Once we’ve done that we move onto the next thing. Finishing work, we’re struck by the desire to continue. We get in and clean the house, put food on, head to the gym and so on.

We’re motivated.

Sadly, these days are a rarity for the majority of us. Sometimes getting out of bed is the most we do in a day.

Imagine a whole team working with that full tank of gas, powering through work like there’s no tomorrow, motivation in abundance. Think how much work you’d get through!

Creating and maintaining that motivation is the trick – the truly tough part.

Here I’m going to show you how to maintain that motivation in your team and increase their productivity.

Praise

Nothing helps motivate someone like praise. If your team have been working on a project for a long time and finally completed it, let them know how well they’ve done. Regardless of the size of the job completed you should always offer praise.

They’ll work harder next time to receive that praise again.

Reward

To keep the team happy you should always complement your praise with a reward. Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge reward. It can be anything from bringing in a cake for them or taking them up the pub. But make certain that it’s you that’s thanking them – not a faceless expenses claim.

Think about it, if your team start associating their hard work with a reward from you personally then they’ll be much more inclined to stay on point.

Keep them involved

If your company’s management team hold weekly meetings or something similar, why not invite one of your team members along with you? This will mean that they get to come and see how the company is working and give their input. Nothing helps motivate someone like feeling that they’re acknowledged at work.

The work environment

Although discipline and targets are important try and keep things as relaxed as possible. In my experience working in a relaxed environment encourages people to work. People tend to rebel against strict regimes so keep things loose. Your team will enjoy work a whole lot more.

Be happy

If you come in to work in a bad mood, that will reflect onto your team. You need to come in to work with the attitude that you want your team to come into work with. A happy team are much more likely to work hard. Keep them happy by giving them my first two points: praise and rewards.

There isn’t any really secret trick to keeping a team motivated. You simply have to consider their needs and wants. Tell them when they’ve done a god job, let them know that their opinion is counted and stay positive.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk