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

Green Festive Cheer from Doha

Last week, I lead a Green IT course. It’s always an inspiring event and the contribution from the attendees was high. There was considerable experience in the room and we all took something away from the course.

Day one of the course, as usual, looked at the reasons why an IT department needs to be more environmentally friendly; the dangers we face and the damage we’re doing to our planet. We also look at the progress world leaders have made from the Rio summit twenty years ago (1992) and “Rio+20” earlier this year. I mentioned that representatives from 195 countries were similarly engaged in Doha, Qatar. COP18 (Conference of the Parties) was actually taking place while the course was running.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been meeting annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The COP is the ‘supreme body’ of the Convention, its highest decision-making authority – so its deliberations and outcomes are important to us all.

One of the key learning points, on day one, is that climate change disproportionately affects poorer nations. Whilst we, in the UK, have suffered both drought and floods this year it has been nothing compared to the ravages of extreme weather elsewhere in the world.

“Rio+20” was considered, by many, to be a damp squib. So it was with some satisfaction that I read the Observer front page headline “Doha climate change deal clears way for “damage aid” to poor nations.

Poor countries have won recognition of their plight; richer countries have promised to fund aid to repair the loss and damage that those countries have suffered as a consequence of activities in the developed world. Even the US (which has not ratified the Kyoto protocol) accepted, albeit grudgingly, that the fund was a vital tool to help vulnerable countries.

The EU, Norway, Australia and others have agreed to new carbon-cutting targets beyond the Kyoto targets which expire at the end of this year. Unified discussions (i.e. that include the US) will now take place on a truly global climate treaty which, hopefully, will be signed in Paris in 2015.

It looks like, I’m going to be updating the course material while it’s quiet over Christmas and New Year. Please accept my very best wishes for peace and prosperity to you and yours for 2013.

To help Sysop in its support of the Rotary water projects in Kenya, please visit the My Donate website: https://mydonate.bt.com/events/kenyawaterprojects. With Gift Aid you can make a real difference.

Merry Christmas!

Stuart Sawle

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

The UK Energy Crisis

I’ve been banging on quite a bit lately about the looming energy crisis and why IT professionals need to act to reduce their energy use. I thought it would be useful to set out the background to the challenges we face.

Government Policy

In its annual energy statement (Nov 2011), the Department of Energy and Climate Change said government policies would increase the cost of electricity by 27% by 2020.

 Data Centre Growth

Data Centres continue to grow exponentially and even though the latest servers are more energy efficient, the number deployed is ever-rising. These large-scale data centres already exceed the capacity of some urban electricity sub-stations and organisations who have or had data centres in central London and Canary Wharf are already moving to the country.

Government Forecasts

In the supporting documentation for the UK Climate Change Bill, the government forecasts a 20% shortfall in electricity forecast for the years 2015-2017. This is due to a number of factors that create “a perfect storm”.

  • Dirty, coal powered power stations that fail to meet agreed emission targets must close by 2015.
  • Existing Magnox nuclear power stations are reaching the end of their life.
  • Wind, renewables and AGR nuclear plants will not cover the shortfall.
  • Reduced demand due to the recession has delayed the build of new capacity. Even if the building programme is restarted, it is unlikely that any new plants will be online before 2017.

This is why Sysop is working very closely with Lord Redesdale (Chairman of the Carbon Management Association) to develop a package of training courses to further spread the awareness and take-up of best practice energy management in ICT. Focusing on Financial Directors, we plan to educate and help transform energy management within UK organisations.

I am presenting at the itSMF conference in November – “Keeping the Lights On”, Tuesday morning, after coffee; and will set out some good practice techniques that can reduce IT energy demand by 40% or more.

Without a doubt, we need to get really serious about exploring the Green dimension to managing our IT. The ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT is a really good starting point. This link to the BCS website contains more information as does the Sysop website.

Stuart Sawle     www.sysop.co.uk

Keeping the Lights on

It’s been a week of Green initiatives that may have been lost in the excitement of Euro 2012 and the Olympics build up. It serves to remind me how Green issues and energy consumption are so vitally important to the IT Industry and also, sadly, how few of us are taking action.

  1. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (Rio+20) aims to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.
  2. The UK government has, this week, announced mandatory Carbon Reporting for top 1800 businesses.

Key aspects about this compulsory reporting of corporate carbon footprints are:

  • Carbon reporting to be part of the Annual Report
  • Reporting required from April 2013
  • Reporting will be in addition to other schemes, e.g. Carbon Reduction Commitment
  • Reporting will be reviewed in 2015, with a view to roll out to all large businesses from 2016

Like it, or not we are all going to have to be more involved in measuring and reducing the carbon footprint of the organisations for which we work. Much of the carbon footprint of UK organisations is generated by their IT – be it in-house or transferred to an Outsourcer.  The carbon footprint of the IT Industry is now greater than that of the global airline industry. Some 40% of the energy consumption within a typical administration complex is due to that used by the IT infrastructure.

It is ironic that, in many organisations, the energy required to cool IT equipment is actually higher than that needed to power it in the first place. Some organisations are already re-locating their data centres outside of London because there is insufficient capacity locally to ensure continuity of supply.

Being Green is a generic term used to label any product or action meant to help the environment. It can mean many things to different people. For example: buying products made of sustainable material; products that are made with natural ingredients; eating locally or organically; eating less or without meat; conserving energy; using renewable energy or  clean energy; creating your own energy; planting trees; recycling, etc.

Without a doubt, we need to get really serious about exploring the Green dimension to managing our IT. The ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT is a really good starting point. This link to the BCS website contains more information as does the Sysop website.

Five Steps that can help you to achieve success with ITIL adoption

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the panel debate hosted by Michelle Major-Goldsmith at the Service Desk Show at Earls Court. The panel, made up of Paul Wilkinson (Gaming Works), Kevin Holland (UK Public Sector) and Stephen Mann (Forrester) debated the success (or otherwise) of ITIL adoption in IT organisations.

Stephen summarised his key messages as “Five Steps that can help you to achieve success with ITIL adoption”. They are very pertinent and worthy of being repeated here.

Step No. 1: Be clear on what ITIL is all about, especially the importance of people. Ensure that as well as thinking about process and tools you plan how you will manage the cultural and organisation change issues. Ignore these at your peril! Everybody needs to know about VOCR (Values, Outcomes, Costs & Risks).

Step No. 2: Be realistic about existing ITSM process maturity and improve them gradually. Establish a baseline and use the CSI model to help you keep your thinking on track.
o What do we want to achieve? (Our Vision)
o Where are we today? (Our Baseline)
o What does success look like? (CSFs and KPIs)
o How will we get there? (Our Project Plan)
o Did we get there? (Our measurements against the baseline)
Trying to implement too many processes at once is like doing two jobs badly rather than one well. Remember the quick wins and look at the user facing process too. If you can achieve success there it is very visible and it promotes a good vibe.

Step No. 3: Evaluate technology only after you’ve addressed goals, people, and processes. Remember ‘a fool with a tool is still a fool’. The fanciest looking service management tool in the world won’t help you if you don’t have people on side and process and roles and responsibilities mapped out. Ensure a holistic approach. Use the 5 P’s. People, Process, Product, and Partners aligned to achieving the 5th P ‘Performance’ (VOCR)

Step No. 4: Consider the overall vision including short, medium, and long term goals. You need to be in it for the long haul. Remember service improvement should never stop! Continual Service Improvement starts at the beginning of your endeavours and not at the end, despite what it might look like in the ITIL Lifecycle diagram.

Step No. 5: Regularly communicate the value of ITIL and involve the IT and non-IT stakeholders. Measure your success and compare with your baseline. Reward staff and keep on reminding your customer about how success in IT is translated to success in terms of business productivity. Keep talking to them and think about OUTCOMES!
Finally – Turn knowledge into results:
The panel concluded that the delegates at the session probably had the knowledge to make ITIL adoption work. But often said they were short of time.

This is an excuse every IT organization uses at some time or other. It isn’t a question of time it is a question of priority. Think about VOCR and set your priorities accordingly. If you don’t have time to do justice to an ITIL project ………….don’t start it.

If time, focus and priority are the issues for your organisation then of course help exists through the various service management consultancies, I shamelessly plug my own! http://www.sysop.co.uk/professional-services

Don’t rush into sheep dipping staff through ITIL certification. There are other ways. Better to plan what you want to achieve and the journey that will take you there. ITIL certification may well be part of this journey but it isn’t the entirety of it!