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This blog, written by itSMF UK leaders and guest contributors, offers service management thought leadership and discussion of industry trends. Please feel free to comment on these posts (you will need to be logged into the website as a member). We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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What an MBA can teach you about improving ITSM practice

Posted By David Backham, 24 May 2017

Studying for an MBA is particularly hard if you try to do it alongside a full-time job. Mine took six years to complete (I took a two year break in the middle), and two attempts to complete the final year module successfully. (If at first you don’t succeed…) However, I believe it was all worth it, both for the personal sense of achievement, and also for all the management learning gained during the programme.

ITSM best practice was historically based upon ITIL. More recently we’ve developed a wider portfolio of knowledge and practices that practitioners can use.

IT service management (ITSM) has a clue in its name – it’s fundamentally a ‘management’ practice, and the MBA study programme includes lots of relevant management theory that has been developed, challenged, tested, and validated. This is why I believe senior ITSM practitioners should consider studying for an MBA.

Improving Customer Satisfaction

In my presentation on “Improving Customer Satisfaction at the IT Service Desk”, which I will be delivering at the Service Desk and IT Support Show (SITS17) in June, I’ll be explaining how one management theory I learned during my MBA studies pointed the way to implementing best practice to improve customer satisfaction.

The theory, called The Service-Profit Chain was featured in Harvard Business Review in 1994, with an online reference here.

The diagram shows the chain linkage from left-to-right whereby improving Internal Service Quality leads to improvements in Customer Satisfaction further down the line.

Whilst at first glance this is a management “theory”, I thought it looked exactly like a suggested step-by-step approach to a Service Improvement Programme (SIP) that could be run on the operations of an IT service desk. I noted that the model had been specifically designed for use by service provider organisations.

Although the model identifies an end-goal of commercial benefit (revenue, profit), I noted that the intermediate goal of Customer Satisfaction was particularly valid for non-commercial internal service providers such as an IT service desk.

I directed my efforts solely on improving Internal Service Quality – the very first box in the model, and I decided to measure customer satisfaction as an indicator to detect any improvement made.

Note that for internal service quality the model identifies specific elements:

  1. Workplace design
  2. Job design
  3. Employee selection and development
  4. Employee rewards and recognition
  5. Tools for serving customers

My SIP addressed to some degree all of these elements during an eight month timescale. The programme work would include:

  • Re-architect of the operation of the IT service desk and IT support teams
  • Introducing a governance and management policy by using the ISO 20000 service management system
  • Adopting some key ITIL processes (incident, problem, change, service level management, knowledge management)
  • Providing all IT staff with ITIL Foundation training
  • Implementing a new ITSM toolset with the ability to configure custom workflows
  • Providing self-service for service requests
  • Re-defining roles and responsibilities
  • Creating management reporting against KPIs specific to each member of staff
  • Showing visibility of performance achievements using a scorecard on the wall

The primary quantitative KPI measurement we used was the “% achievement of incident resolution within SLA target times”, but in the customer satisfaction survey we also asked two key qualitative questions

  • “Did the resolution meet your needs from a time perspective?”
  • “Did the resolution meet your needs from a quality perspective?”

The feedback we gathered from these questions provided additional evidence to show where our standard resolutions needed further improvement, and this data drove a subsequent focus on Continual Service Improvement (CSI).

So, in my opinion, the MBA programme teaches an evidence-based management practice, and the evidence we gained from the customer satisfaction surveys validated the improvements we made.

Want to learn more about improving customer satisfaction?

I’ll be presenting at the Service Desk & IT Support Show (SITS17) which takes place on 7-8 June 2017 at London Olympia, featuring over 80 exhibitors and the largest free education program in the industry.

My seminar session on “A cure for the customer satisfaction problem? will take place on June 8th at 9.30am and will offer attendees the following key learnings:

  • Understand how to use the service-profit chain model for service improvement.
  • Using support processes and the knowledge database to fix incidents successfully.
  • Demonstrating the business value of ITSM by using the available evidence.

You can register for a free visitor pass here.

A Note from itSMF UK

Also, in collaboration with SITS17, itSMF UK is holding the Professional Service Management Awards (PSMA17) on the evening of June 7th offering a unique opportunity for you to:

  • Play your part in the formalization of service management as a recognized profession.
  • Collaborate with other forward-thinking service management professionals, to informally “sow the seeds” that will eventually take the industry forward.
  • Create new industry relationships that will help both you and the company you work for.

 To attend the awards, please register here.

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Utilising Storytelling and Objects in ITSM Leadership

Posted By Sophie Danby, 17 May 2017
Updated: 17 May 2017

This is a guest post, contributed by Joe McGee, Leadership Founder and Consultant at McGee Leadership.

 

In leadership, whether in IT service management (ITSM) scenarios or elsewhere, there’s sadly no operating manual for how one should lead teams effectively. And leadership training for new managers and leaders is often not part of the company budget. So how do you become an effective leader? 

In my experience, new leaders will often stumble, fall, and overcome adversity in their new roles. It’s the “discovery” phase that can be somewhat overwhelming for many people. Then, as new leaders, we often overlook simplicity and overthink things when performing every day work.

Leadership Lessons Inspired By a Six-Year Old

You might not initially relate fatherhood to leadership but, in 2009, I was blessed with the birth of my daughter Ursula which offered me a new and somewhat unique view on developing IT service desk teams.

This new way focuses on the use of storytelling and objects to help people to understand and embrace change or, more precisely, the delivery of change. It uses first-hand stories of my experiences raising children along with the Learn It, Teach It, and Apply It (LTA) principle to build confidence and “shape” subject matter experts (SMEs) in the workplace – in this instance a service desk team.

Please read on for more detail on what this involves.

Using Objects in the Workplace

I want you to go back in time for a moment in your mind. Think about elementary/primary school…

Do you remember “show and tell”? It’s a common exercise to show an audience something and then to tell them about it. In the United Kingdom, North America, New Zealand, and Australia, it’s a common classroom activity for young children – used to teach them the skills of confidence, public speaking, and the importance of sharing information that has value to them.

Jumping back to present day, you too can successfully bring objects into the workplace to enhance a given point that you’re delivering. For instance, an object I’ve used to illustrate a point and to build confidence is “Orgone Energy.”  It’s a pseudoscientific and spiritual concept described as an esoteric energy, or hypothetical universal life force, originally proposed in the 1930s by Wilhelm Reich.

Instilling Confidence with an Object

The average person will make 773,618 decisions over a lifetime – and will apparently come to regret 143,262 of them. And, in the technical support world we work in, we need to instill confidence when troubleshooting. I use this Orgone energy object to reinforce why it's important to sell yourselves as technicians, and that we need to wear both sales and technical hats when speaking with customers. 

During an informal gathering, I will pass the object around the room. I tell my team to feel the object and I explain its origin, and that when the item is close by it's supposed to give a life energy to provide good health and to possibly prevent cancer. Next I ask: “Knowing the history of this object and its energy, how many of you want to keep one and try it out?” Everyone usually drinks the Kool-Aid, but why?

It's because of the pitch and sounding confident, even when you really don't know too much about the product. After my last demonstration, I had members of my team approach me to ask if I had made it all up. But whether I had made it up or not, sounding authentic and believable is what we need to do at all times. 

 

Story Telling – The Origin of God's Vision

 

When making changes in your department it's important to utilize stories to show that change is acceptable and happening all around us. One of the examples I use for selling change in the department is the "Origin of God's Vision," noted below. 

 

 

Your perception of an idea is usually based on your observations, which could lead your mind into misdirection. For example, do you believe God to be sexist? Let me explain why I say this…

Think about it for a minute – did God deliberately make man superior to woman? Is this the perception we have engraved into our minds? Consider the following:

 

  • When we watch movies, lines such as “For all of mankind as you know it” are often said. Notice that I’ve underlined the word “man.”
  • For many years, highway construction workers put up signs that said: “Men Working.”
  • When our children want to build something out of snow, what do they call it? They surely don’t say snow person, they say “I want to build a snowman.” Again, the word “man” is embedded into our minds and how we have phrased things over many years.

Because since the dawn of time – let’s call it the origin of God’s vision – men and women have been seen as different. Men and women had their roles, and society has reinforced the differences (and often inequality). But thankfully, as time has moved on, our perceptions of what a person, rather than a sex, is capable of has most certainly changed. My point is that we need to question the perceptions we have and how they have influenced our thinking.

In terms of your workplace, understand what your team may believe in and how they arrives at their conclusions. And, just because it’s how it has been, it doesn’t mean that the perception or the end result cannot be changed. It can, point in case with the above example. 

Hear More at SITS17 

Want to find out more about the use of storytelling and objects at work? I’ll be presenting at the Service Desk & IT Support Show (SITS17) which takes place on 7-8 June 2017 at London Olympia, featuring more than 80 exhibitors and the largest free education program in the industry.

My session on Leadership Lessons Inspired by a Six-Year Old will take place on June 7th at 10:30am and will offer attendees the following key learnings:

  • How to bring lessons from home into work
  • How to discover the power of the “Learn It, Teach It, Apply It” principle
  • How to avoid tunnel vision to find the answers you really need

You can register for a free visitor pass here, with free tickets for all seminars available on the day on a first come, first served basis from the Seminar Registration Desk. But you can alternatively pre-book seminars for just £6 per session (including VAT) when pre-registering.

A Note from itSMF UK

Also, in collaboration with SITS17, itSMF UK is holding the Professional Service Management Awards (PSMA17) on the evening of June 7th offering a unique opportunity for you to:

  • Hear about the future of ITSM and the wider service management industry.
  • Play your part in the formalization of service management as a recognized profession.
  • Collaborate with other forward-thinking service management professionals, to informally “sow the seeds” that will eventually take the industry forward.
  • Create new industry relationships that will help both you and the company you work for.

 To attend the awards, please register here.

Tags:  SITS17 

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Getting Practical with DevOps

Posted By Daniel Breston, 10 May 2017

Recently I had the privilege of being asked to develop and subsequently deliver an itSMF UK workshop on “Practical DevOps” explaining:

  • What is DevOps?
  • How does DevOps blends Agile, Lean, Theory of Constraints (ToC), and IT service management (ITSM) into a common framework?
  • The value and principles of DevOps
  • Metrics that matters to DevOps
  • DevOps concepts like Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery
  • Practical tips related to DevOps success

A Day of Post-it Notes

The workshop was designed from the very beginning to be interactive so no segment went without an exercise. For instance, as we went through the history of DevOps, I asked participants to write their own definition of DevOps on a post-it note. The answers were quite revealing in that most concentrated on the automation aspects of improvement, or just commented upon the need to align Dev teams with Ops/ITSM teams. And by the end of the day, their views had changed to be inclusive of stakeholders, vendors, and all aspects of technology service and delivery.

In fact we used post-it notes in several exercises and the group soon began to see how important visualisation was to DevOps. We used post-it notes to:

  • Create a manifesto of DevOps that was relevant to them (which they then compared to the Agile Manifesto and were amazed at the resemblance)
  • To map the flow of service provisioning from the time the idea gets requested until it’s delivered. We used a Lean concept called Value Stream Mapping and created an alignment charter, visualising the current way of working with time and quality measures, mapped the future, and highlighted some iterative experiments that could be performed in each two week sprint.

Flow of Work

All of the participants were looking at introducing Scrum into their organisations. This picture (from The DevOps Institute) highlighted the view of including not only new or feature related work into your product backlog, but creating a process, the removal of technical debt, and improvement ideas. 

So, Metrics: Do They Matter

So, back to the workshop, using Service Level Agreements (SLAs) as an example, we discussed metrics from an ITSM view and then again from the speed and quality view of DevOps. The group created metrics, using templates on how the automation of a process could help reduce MTTR (incident time) or make collaboration better across teams by automating trust to reduce the need for a Change Advisory Board (CAB).

We reviewed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how to align metrics top down and out to suppliers via a Lean technique called Catch-ball.  Finally the group used their templates to create their own KPIs that they would introduce the following day at work. The template highlighted who owned the metric, the formula, the reason, frequency, what to do if the measure was breached, and the benefit of this measure.

This discussion highlighted again the principles of flow, feedback, and learning against the culture and knowledge sharing engendered by DevOps.

 

Tips and ITIL Principles?

Finally, we reviewed practical tips on how to get started such as:

  • Organisation: don’t immediately create a team but instead look at how to pilot DevOps practices in your existing organisation.
  • Processes: all processes at some point can be automated and DevOps enables the iterative use of tools to help create faster ways of doing things.
  • People roles and skills: cross-functional sharing, training on not only the new tools but also cultural change, and leadership coaching are all needed.
  • Tools: collaboration and knowledge management is as important as testing and release/delivery automation.

The final part of the day reiterated that ITSM is a valuable part of DevOps (as often mentioned in The DevOps Handbook). We did this using the “9 Principles of ITIL” as documented in ITIL Practitioner.

At the end of the day, participants went away with a better understanding of DevOps, how it works with ITSM, and how to measure its success. The key takeaway was to try something new and iteratively introduce the practices of DevOps into their own organisations.

So how much do you know about DevOps? Would it be of value to you to learn more? I hope to run this workshop via itSMF UK again in the near future, and it’s also available as an in-house event. For more information email itSMF via membership@itsmf.co.uk. Or come and speak to me at the itSMF UK stand at the Service Desk and IT Support Show next month.

Plus, it’s worth noting that itSMF UK are also running a “DevOps simulation event” on 5th July, which you can see more details on here.

In the mean time you might find some of the following resources useful:

Books:

Websites:

Tags:  DevOps  Workshops 

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The Service Management Podcast: Episode One

Posted By Sophie Danby, 09 May 2017
Updated: 09 May 2017


Like a phoenix from the ashes, the IT service management (ITSM) podcast foursome are back with their usual mix of helpful advice, whinging, forward-thinking outlooks, and poodle humour. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about… itSMF UK has launched a “new” (well, a rebranded and revitalized) Service Management Podcast. The first episode of which has been live for a short while now, and can be listened to here (if you’re an Apple user) or here (if you’re not an Apple user).

So, What's the Purpose of the Podcast?

The podcast’s goal is to share knowledge and to get people talking about ITSM (and wider IT). There’ll be a new episode each week, and each episode will focus on a specific topic related to service management, or concentrate on an industry-related event.

In addition to the regular hosts (Barclay Rae, James Finister, Stephen Mann, and Patrick Bolger) there’ll also be a wealth of guests from all walks of IT (vendors, practitioners, trainers, consultants, etc.). Upcoming topics include the Service Desk and IT Support Show, ITIL, and enterprise service management (ESM), to name just a few.

On each podcast you can expect to hear:

  • General musings about the ITSM industry
  • Insights into where the industry is going and how it’s changing
  • Tips and advice for practitioners (and often vendors too)
  • Recommendations and suggestions for industry-wide improvements
  • Debate over best practices, trends, and frameworks
  • Really bad jokes (like… seriously bad)
  • The occasional poodle barking in the background (blame James)

By sponsoring the podcast, itSMF UK is hoping to help the ITSM community pull closer together in a time of rapid change, with the ultimate aim of sparking change and improving everyone’s ITSM capabilities and outcomes. Plus, there’s always the hope that it might be quite entertaining too.

Episode One

And no, it’s not as bad as THAT Episode One.

As already mentioned, episode one is already in the can and available to listen to here (if you’re an Apple user) and here (if you’re not an Apple user). You can subscribe to the podcast in both places too.

For those of you who maybe aren’t a fan of podcasts, or those who want a little more insight into the types of things covered before downloading and playing, I’ll endeavour to provide an overview of the main themes and comments discussed in episode one.

So, in addition to the usual suspects line up (Barclay, James, Stephen, and Patrick), the team were joined by:

And, as the episode was recorded at the Service Desk Institute’s (SDI’s) annual conference, this was the primary topic for discussion.

The Service Desk Institute

The overwhelming consensus was that the SDI team, members, and community is very welcoming. There was a lot of praise for the event as a whole, and in particular how successful the sponsor exhibition area was. And that there was a high-level of engagement between delegates and sponsors, and people seemed to be having genuine conversations – unlike at many non-UK events where the focus is often more on the free “swag” and scanning badges. Matt Hooper specifically spoke about the US needing to “step up its level of engagement at conferences”.

Wise Words for Sponsors

There was also a lot of discussion around what sponsors can do better (in general) at events. This included:

  • To stop focusing on features and functionality.
  • If you’re going to present at an event, invite a customer. Practitioners want to hear from customers, and things like: “this is why we bought it”, “this is what we've done with it”, “these are the benefits we've seen as a result of it”. Sally also encouraged customers to be honest, and to tell people what they did that didn't go so well too, because sometimes that can be just as helpful.

  • Scan for quality over quantity. That it’s a false economy leaving an event with 3000 “scans” when 90% of them probably aren’t interested.
  • Help people who want to be helped. “Old school” marketers still seem to be happy with 3000 poor leads rather than 3-5 quality conversations. It’s important to remember that conversations drive sales more than selling drive sales.

The consensus view was that, at the SDI conference, conversations seemed to be the primary interactions between the sponsors and the delegates. Probably, in part, because this is the kind of relationship and environment that SDI nurtures.

Focus on Value

As an industry, we need to ensure that the focus is on “customer value”. And it doesn’t overly matter which standards and frameworks you choose to provide that value.

Also, people need to realise that you can’t create something optimal from using every single part of every single approach, which means you need to take only what helps from DevOps, SIAM, ITIL, IT4IT, Agile, etc. Just take the bits that work best for your business. It’s something which Barclay has since blogged about in more detail.

Now What?

Well I can’t do the words of these eight people justice in a single blog, so I recommend that you download and listen to the podcast at your leisure. Have it on in the background at work, listen to it on the drive home, or you can even play it in the shower (I know many who do… even though personally I find that a bit weird).

Apple users can download the podcast here.

Others can download the podcast here.

The Next Recording

Podcast #2 has already been recorded and is being edited as we speak. There are no guests, so with little to ensure the guys behave, I suspect there’ll be even more bad jokes and poodle conversation than normal.

That said, I think once you give the podcast a listen you’ll realise that this is the beauty of it, beyond all the good, helpful stuff. 

Tags:  Podcast 

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Forget ITSM Best Practice, Let’s Talk About People

Posted By Barclay Rae, 03 May 2017

Let's Talk About People

I’m fortunate enough to attend multiple IT service management (ITSM) and IT industry-related conferences each year –  in the capacity of speaker, organiser, exhibitor, and/or delegate. It’s therefore safe to say that I have a pretty good understanding of the value that attending an event can provide to both individuals and the businesses they work in.

Events provide excellent opportunities for learning new things, better understanding the industry, networking with peers, and of course making new contacts and connections. Whether you’re looking for new ideas, wanting to keep up with the industry, or looking to learn more about the latest challenges facing the world of IT, events will typically provide value across all three. After all, there really is no substitute for meeting and engaging with like-minded people face-to-face – it’s informative, beneficial, and good fun too.

Having said this, events can also be mentally draining, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I seek the solace of a dark room and “real work” once an event is over. But a big part of my fatigue is based around the fact that I attend so many events, covering the same topics, and addressing the same issues. Each event I attend – whether it be covering ITSM, DevOps, Agile, or the service desk –  typically always boils down to the same key takeaway:

“IT is about business. Business is about people. Therefore, IT is about people.”

Simple, right?

All the challenges and issues we face in IT can be solved and mitigated through dealing with people issues. So, whether we’re talking about DevOps ‘culture’, ITSM-related organisational change management (OCM), ‘professionalism’, skills and competencies, or management and governance – what we’re really talking about is people challenges and opportunities. Look at ‘solutions’ such as Kanban, Scrum, and Lean – they’re all ways to manage and improve not just what we do, but the way that we do things, usually involving some form of approach that deals with people.

Of course, this ‘takeaway’ is nothing new, which is probably why it’s continued to be prevalent at IT conferences for as long as I can remember. However, what is ‘new’ and changing, is that as an industry we’re beginning to accept this. We’re actively looking for new, people-centric solutions to augment or replace existing operational models. We’re effectively calling out the importance and value of the ‘people’ aspect in what we do. In reality, confirming that ‘soft’ skills are just as important as ‘hard’ or ‘technical’ ones.

Process, and tools are no longer enough to deliver success. Something we should already know, but are now finally beginning to build on and challenge into a number of new approaches. We’re finally coming to realise that we need to stop relying on frameworks and technology to solve what are ultimately people problems.

The New Challenge

But, this then presents us with a new challenge. That now the industry has recognised the issue, there are suddenly several different models to help you ‘solve’ the problem. So, in addition to the traditional models of the likes of ITSM, COBIT, and ITIL, we now have DevOps, Agile, Lean, Cynefin, service integration and management (SIAM), IT4IT, and more. And vendors and consultants automatically start to begin to create new content, celebrating new ideas, and providing tips for success. But from an IT practitioner standpoint, is this too overwhelming? Are we clogging up ‘best practice’ headspace with a varied and seemingly conflicting plethora of new ‘things’ to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I know and appreciate that many of the new models deliver value. What I’m questioning is whether these multiple models are confusing and challenging for practitioners? I mean, which should they follow? Where should they start? How do they make certain models work together? In my view, we need some central guidance on service management that reflects both proven success as well current and future capabilities. This doesn’t need to be a patchwork of the frameworks, but more an aligned way of using different ideas together under a practical banner of value-based guidance.

So What Now?

This kind of guidance isn’t going to be easy to create, and will require input from a variety of places within the service management industry. From itSMF UK’s perspective we’d like to help bring people together to discuss this idea further and drive a consensus around these questions. As such, we plan to use our portfolio of events and workshops over the next year as a place to start these discussions. We’ll also be creating content aligned with these questions and ideas via our blog channel, as well as in whitepapers and co-sponsored research outputs. 

So, if you think you have ideas and/or thoughts to contribute on the future of the service management industry, and how best to help practitioners in these complex times, please let us know. You can get involved by attending any of our events, or submitting content to put your opinions and suggestions out to the industry by emailing us at membership@itsmf.co.uk.

Our upcoming events include:

·      Service Catalogue [workshop]

·      Professional Service Management Awards [PSMA17]

You can also find out more about our regional and other member events here

More from itSMF UK

One additional place where we hope to explore this topic further is in our reinventedService Management Podcast”. Thats right, back together are: Stephen Mann, James Finister, Patrick Bolger, and myself. Back to discussing ITSM, with a little grumbling and a few poodles thrown in of course. itSMF UK are the new, proud sponsors of the podcast and we hope we can use it to help drive conversations on topics, such as the one in this blog, forward

You can listen to the first episode here (Apple) or here (Android). Equally I look forward to hopefully seeing you at one of our many events this year

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