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).

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

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

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