The Challenges of Managing Change Effectively

One of the significant improvements with ITIL v3, way back in 2007, was recognition of the need to move the change authorisation window further up the lifecycle. No longer, we thought, would change authorisation be sought when the development work had been completed and operational running was imminent. No longer would changes be “thrown over the wall” giving service operation scant notice – virtually blackmailing them into accepting the change.

Some progress has undoubtedly been made. Most customers tell me that operational acceptance is a key part of their change management process. But it still appears that change management is not considered until major investment of resources to design, build and test the change have already been committed.

Consider, if you would, what the core volumes say about the change proposal. It describes it as: “A document that includes a high-level description of a potential service introduction or significant change, along with a corresponding business case and an expected implementation schedule. Change proposals are normally created by the service portfolio management process and are passed to change management (i.e. the CAB) for authorisation. Change management will review the potential impact on other services, on shared resources, and on the overall change schedule. Once the change has been authorised, service portfolio management will charter the service.

Wouldn’t our services be managed more effectively if all major changes were reviewed and authorised at this stage. Consider the impact on the authority and reach of the change advisory board.

The reasons cited above all others for the failure of changes is lack of planning; lack of appreciation of the complexity; inadequate timescales; and inadequate budget for the change. How much better would we handle these matters if due consideration to change was given early enough?

Our purpose in service management is to facilitate change; to allow our organisations to adapt to changing business drivers speedily and effectively. We also have a duty to ensure that changes are implemented smoothly; without any detrimental impact on the business – i.e. get them right first time. Proper and timely scrutiny of change proposals will go a long way to achieving our objectives.

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

Demonstrating Service Desk Value

My good friend Michelle Major-Goldsmith and I have had many discussions about how to make IT service management more relevant to the business. We know there are many IT professionals out there that are working their cotton socks off delivering real value to their organisations and yet they are only too aware that their efforts and the value delivered are not fully appreciated.

This was brought home to me at the recent Service Desk Show in London. As you might expect there was a particular emphasis on the Service Desk and this was highlighted by discussions initiated by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) around demonstrating Service Desk value and the meaningful metrics that have to be gathered to achieve this.

So what aspects of Service Desk performance matter to the business?

Well, as you might guess, the business isn’t particularly concerned about how many functional or hierarchical escalation rates or call abandonment rates. They are concerned about the percentage of incidents resolved within agreed service levels and the level of overall customer satisfaction with the service.

They are concerned too with one element that we’re not that good at measuring: Cost!

How much does it cost to provide support services? How much does it cost, on average, to resolve a call? How can the costs be reduced whilst maintaining (or even improving) the levels of service offered?

Daniel Wood, Head of Research at SDI, has produced a really valuable paper “Demonstrating Service Desk Value Through More Meaningful Metrics” that is essential reading for anyone engaged in the management of IT services.

Daniel’s paper re-affirms the conclusions that Michelle and I came to. If you want to engage with the business you have to talk to senior management in the language that they understand. Tell them how they can reduce cost and increase revenue. How much user/customer time is lost waiting for calls to be resolved? That is a key measurement that directly impacts the productivity of the business. What is the cost of down-time in business critical applications – particularly those that are customer facing?

It’s time to grow-up and ask the questions that will lead us to a more mature dialogue.

Stuart Sawle

www.sysop.co.uk

The CMDB – a Green Dimension

Whenever I speak about Green IT, I assert that most IT Managers don’t know how much electricity their IT infrastructure consumes. Some challenge my statement and state categorically that they know exactly how much electricity they use because it is separately metered. Usually, however, this turns out to be the Data Centre alone. It does not include the vast amount of infrastructure out there on the network: user desktops; switches; routers; departmental printers; etc.

It’s an almost impossible task to keep track of the power consumption of everything out there – or is it?

We have a powerful tool at our disposal in the CMDB. We only need to ascertain the power usage of a device once and can record that in the CMDB and very quickly total the power usage of all of those devices across the network. Sure, we need to factor in service hours (likely switch-on time) and our model will never be as accurate as direct measurement. However it will give us a pretty good estimate and, more importantly, it will help us determine trends – are we getting better or worse – and will help us model the effect of changes to the standard roll-out.

I fully appreciate that not all service management tool-providers will include this level of detail at the moment; but with the rapidly rising cost of electricity and the increasing importance of a green agenda; it won’t be long before they do.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

Achieving that Change in Culture

I was reminded this week of some of the barriers to the successful deployment of service management best practice. We tend to think, rather simplistically, that attending the training courses and gaining the qualifications will empower our teams to get on with the deployment of ITIL®.

If one were to attend a Microsoft Excel course, we could be confident that we would be able to carry those skills into the workplace. We would understand how to use the advanced functions and facilities of Excel and be able to explain and demonstrate them to our colleagues.

Service Management, however, cannot be deployed by one person in isolation. It’s something that has to be adopted right across the organisation. It requires the co-ordinated information and process flow from many roles and responsibilities. It also needs a deep understanding of why ITIL is so important. In fact it needs a culture change that places the emphasis on customer service and delivered value.

We were engaged in a project at major hospital where this realisation was brought home to us very forcibly. We had conducted some ITIL Overview training in preparation to a roll-out of what we thought would be a fairly straight-forward Incident & Problem Management process design.

What became clear, from blank expressions, was that although the team involved understood the words and diagrams of ITIL processes – they just couldn’t grasp how it would apply in their highly specialised functions within the hospital. There was an almost total culture gap. We weren’t on their wavelength and therefore our illustrations of how ITIL worked in practice were incorrectly aligned.

To overcome this, we engaged the team in an Apollo 13 simulation workshop. The difference was amazing. The team engaged almost immediately, motivation levels were clearly much, much, higher and the communication barriers eliminated.

The success was so striking that our client authorised the publication of the case study in IT Training magazine which is reproduced on our website. Here is the link: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=8. You may need to register to access it and I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the trouble. Some good lessons for us all in how to bring about the culture change needed to make a real go of ITIL.

Stuart Sawle
www.sysop.co.uk

What’s Next?

So, you’ve been on an ITIL® course. You returned to work bustling with enthusiasm. It was all very interesting and thought provoking but now there’s a reality check. How do you actually start putting what you’ve learnt into practice?

Well the first thing you should remember (as emphasised by your Sysop Trainer) is that you don’t ‘implement ITIL®’ – – whatever your boss says! Your task is actually to think about implementing best practice Service Management.

So, where do you start?

We will have talked you through over 20 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!

Most people take time to apply new knowledge. And often work priorities mean that trying to make improvements takes second place. If we are fortunate enough to have the time to implement new ideas, things seem not as clear as they did when we attended the training. Also, the situation in our own organisation is different from that illustrated during the training.

If you also attended our free short day Overview, you’ll know we talk all about focusing on those quick wins and maintaining momentum for the initiatives. The first to remember here is that you need to demonstrate success and gain stakeholder buy in. Think of how this can be achieved in your organisation. It’s usually by going for the easy things first.

Look at the areas that you already do pretty well but could do better. This will afford you a good starting point. Sysop offer a base-lining and benchmarking service that thoroughly examines how closely an IT organisation aligns itself with ITIL® best practice. Not just a point-in-time snapshot of the state-of-play but also an identification of where the quick-wins are to focus the initial effort.

Regardless of whether this service is used or not, a starting point does have to be identified and a baseline established – whether this be of ITIL® overall or just one specific area. This ensures that evidence is available to demonstrate service improvements at a later date.

Typically we find our customers will get those ‘quick wins’ and from the areas where they have already been successful in reaching a certain level of maturity. These tend to be; although not exclusively, things like improving the Service Desk; establishing formalised Incident Management; handling Change more effectively and adopting Service Level Management to define customer requirements; set agreements; manage expectations and measure performance.

Here are six simple steps that can kick-start your review.

Step 1 – Look at your Service Desk – Are abandoned calls an issue, do people tell you they can’t get through as promptly as they feel they should?

Step 2 – Do you just keep putting out the fire without finding out why it occurred and preventing further outbreaks?

Step 3 – Is Change being appropriately authorised?

Step 4 – Compare your customer’s values with your SLA targets and measurements.

Step 5 – Evaluate your Change Management process – does it enable or hinder?

I wish you well. If you need any help, remember Sysop offer much more than training courses. Thanks also to my good friend Michele Major-Goldsmith who’s article on the Sysop website was the inspiration for this blog. http://www.sysop.co.uk

The Value of IT Services

You may recall from basic ITIL training that the definition of a service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.

Everyone understands what we mean by value, or do we?

This week I attended a Vistage presentation given by Mike Wilkinson of Axiavalue, an organisation dedicated to helping sales professionals, in particular, add value to their propositions. Mike says “We help businesses defend and grow their revenues and margins by understanding the things their customers truly value”.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s a key objective of Service Strategy.

Whether we are providing services internally or externally, we IT service providers must never lose sight of the fact that our customers always have a choice. We can only be sure of their continuing commitment to us by demonstrating the value of the services we deliver. So what do we mean by value?

The first thing we need to take on board is that our definition of value is irrelevant. It’s our customer’s definition that matters. They probably won’t be able to articulate it as a simple definition – and that’s why we need to bring our professional skills to bear, to identify and understand those things that our customers really value and then shaping our service offerings to offer those things. It’s called differentiation.

Value is all about the customer’s perception – which is why it’s important to communicate the value of our services to our customers. We need to continually remind our customers that our services are worth the money they pay for them.

We need to be aware that value, and the perception of value, changes over time.

IT services in the eighties and nineties tended to focus on delivering business functionality more efficiently. There was a fairly simple equation: does the business save more from these services than it has to pay for them (return on investment)? Nowadays, it’s more about competitive advantage. Can the business deliver value to its customers that its competitors can’t? It’s the job of IT services to support the business in achieving this objective. That’s value!

All we have to do now is deliver it!

Stuart Sawle   http://www.sysop.co.uk

Continually Improving Performance – Just like Olympic Athletes

I guess, like me, you’ve been watching the TV coverage of the Olympics. I managed to attend just one live event – the football semi-final at Old Trafford. I’d hoped for a Team GB appearance but, alas, they were knocked out one round earlier.

Football aside, I’m sure you were struck, as was I, by the total dedication, commitment and perseverance of the athletes. They have clearly worked relentlessly at improving their performance – day in, day out striving to be better, faster, or stronger than they were the week before or the month before. And yet, on the day, many of them found even greater reserves to deliver personal best and record-breaking performances.

In the IT service management world we rarely gain plaudits or gold medals for outstanding performance. In our world, outstanding performance simply means that the service we deliver has been delivered reliably; consistently; without drama; without fuss; day in day out. Boring is good!

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t needed to put effort in to deliver first-class services. Like these wonderful athletes, we will have worked hard at continually striving to improve what we do and how we do it.

Lasting improvements come from small, incremental steps – taking care to consolidate the progress made before moving on to the next activity. That way we can be more certain that we won’t slip back into old ways.

However, even greater gains can be achieved if we set about CSI with a purpose. We need to think about transforming what we do, rather than continuing to do the same things just more efficiently.

We should consider the outcomes that are valuable to our customers, and consider how these may have changed over time. We need to look at what markets and customers our organisation is serving, and whether these will continue to be right in the future. This will help us move from the ordinary “doing things right” to the exceptional “doing the right things” – an essential element of a successful Service Strategy.

Many ITIL professionals, I talk to, find it difficult to have a conversation with representatives from the business about ‘what they need’ or ‘how best services should be adapted” to deliver the value and outcomes they need to achieve together.

If we can persuade our customers that we’re working on “doing things right”, and demonstrate a track-record of consistent high-performance, we can use that credibility to open up the conversation and ask the challenging question “are we doing the right things?”

Ask the question. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fruitful and purposeful the responses are.

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