Define Measure Acheive. Repeat

Keeping IT Real– risks of low maturity in incident, problem & change.

October 22nd, 2009

Risks for Organizations with Maturity less then Level 3

There are risks for organizations that operate in the Level 1-2 maturity range. If there is a plan to develop and mature the practice(s) to level 3 or higher the risks are somewhat mitigated. However, while at a level 0-2 some of the key risks to consider are:

Service Desk and Incident Management

  • Perception of IT as a whole is lowered and considered not customer focused
  • There is a danger of negatively impacting external customers and their perception of the business
  • There are costs (financial, reputational) when the business is interrupted while users and major services are down
  • There is an inefficient use of skilled IT technical resources
  • There is little incident reporting data because most of it is inaccurate and consequently little basis for improvement
  • Many of the same incidents are resolved repeatedly (re-inventing the wheel)
  • There will be a risk of high Staff burnout and high turnover of support staff

Change Management

  • The infrastructure is very unstable and has long term performance issues
  • There are frequent outages following unauthorized changes
  • Project implementations are delayed because changes cannot be coordinated
  • There are many failed changes that cause incidents
  • The requirement for changes outstrips the capacity to implement them
  • Support for third party applications expires due to inability to stay current

Problem Management

  • Common incidents are resolved repeatedly, lowering customer satisfaction and inflating support costs unnecessarily
  • Re-inventing the wheel when sporadic incidents occur over longer periods of time
  • Frequent interruptions or degradation of service
  • It is difficult to introduce new services when unknown errors may jeopardize the implementation.
  • The change practice gets bogged down due to higher rates of failed changes
  • Due to a lack of work around information the Service Desk regresses to a call dispatch function.
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Maria Ritchie Uncategorized , , , , , , ,

ITIL maturity - where do you want to be and why.

October 6th, 2009

As a rule, a practice is not considered mature unless it is at a level 3 or higher. This means that the single practice is mature enough to be working as designed and is being used by all relevant stakeholders. It also means that the data it is generating is mature and can be trusted for decision-making.

At Level 3 the practice has control points that provide management indication when and if intervention is required. The practice is end-to- end and collaboration across departments has been optimized. For many organizations reaching Level 3 seems to be the end of the journey.

However, the value proposition of an integrated ITSM practice approach is that when practices reach Level 4 they begin to interact with each other. This provides the ability to share common data and provide insight that is not available at Level 3.

By working cooperatively the practices become more efficient and effective and whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Level 4 is the desired target state for the practices in scope for most organizations.

A maturity of Level 5 is often seen in single departments but rarely across all departments. The effort required to get to this level of maturity is high and costly.

Many organizations do not have the ability or desire to reach Level 5. That is ok and not all organizations will have business need for this level of maturity.

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Maria Ritchie Uncategorized , , , , ,

Service Desk Measurement - Be careful what you wish for!

September 29th, 2009

Mini-series on measurements that can come back to bite you…..

The trouble with performance metrics is that they can actually encourage inefficiency, de-motivate resources and result in misinformed management decisions if not thoughtfully designed and carefully monitored!

Take for example an organization that has a published target for their Service Desk’s ability to resolve inquiries at the first point of contact (FPOC rate).

This measure is expected to positively impact two important facets of the service desk – customer satisfaction and cost.

Customer Satisfaction - The premise behind this measure is that customers’ satisfaction is positively impacted by quick resolutions.  After all, who doesn’t like to have their questions/issues resolved quickly and without being transferred or bounced around an organization?

Cost  - Generally organizations have tiered levels of support with resource costs increasing at each level. It makes sense that the more incidents/inquiries that can be resolved at FPOC, without handoffs to more expensive tiers of technical support, the more money that can be saved.

Also, organizations often use this measure to compare themselves to other service desk organizations and to communicate their service desk’s value proposition.

While on the surface this seems simple, practical and a no-brainer there are potential “gotchas”. Consider the following simple scenario.

An organization’s service desk proudly promotes an FPOC rate of 80% or better consistently month-over- month.  Remarkably the Desk has been able to maintain this for 6 straight months! Agent’s performance reports show that individually they are meeting or exceeding their assigned FPOC targets.  Comparisons to other service desks FPOC are favourable and management assumes this is a very positive measure – right?

Maybe not, a High FPOC rate may actually be signalling a lot of repetitive incidents.  Agents at the desk can get very skilled and efficient at resolving the same issues over and over again and the hidden cost can be easily overlooked.

Points to Ponder

While initially customers will be pleased with a timely restoration of the service, their satisfaction will drop quickly if they keep having the same problems over and over again.

Resolving the incident quickly with lower cost resources is, on the surface, efficient; however, if that incident is happening repeatedly what is the total cost of the repetitive incident?

From a value perspective, which desk would you choose?  One that has an 80% FPOC but is continuously resolving the same type of incidents or one that has a 50% FPOC but continuously reviews incidents trends and permanently removes repetitive incidents from their environment?

Simple Tips

1. Don’t look at your FPOC in isolation.  Always look for correlation to satisfaction trends and hidden costs.  

2. Seek out and destroy repetitive incidents. Analyze the types of incidents that are being resolved FPOC and identify repetitive incidents for permanent resolution.

3. Use your incident data to “expose the cost” of repetitive incidents and be sure to report the cost savings/avoidance achieved by removing the incidents right along beside your new, possibly lower FPOC number.

4. Your service desk agents are a great source of information on your top repetitive incidents – tap into their knowledge & experience.  Reward them for identifying repetitive incidents and other improvement opportunities.

One Final Thought with a Bit of a New Twist on an Old Measure

Many desks set high FPOC rates but then do not give the agents the tools or permissions they need to achieve it!

If you have a lower than desired FPOC resolution rate, you may want to consider measuring “designed for FPOC”.  You may be surprised to find that your service desk is actually not able to achieve an acceptable FPOC because of the way your support delivery is designed!

Too often the service desk is not provided with the necessary information (troubleshooting scripts, configuration information, etc) or the necessary permissions to actually resolve incidents at FPOC.

This very simple measure, “FPOC by Design”, reflects an organization that has designed support specifically for each product/service, and is monitoring how well its service desk is performing against achievable targets.

Low FPOC on a product that has been designed for FPOC provides an important area to analyze agent performance and training opportunities.  Conversely, high incident areas with low FPOC for products/services NOT designed for FPOC make be a great place to review the support model and look for opportunities to empower your service desk further.

Measurement is definitely an important part of continuously improving your Service Desk and driving up value and customer satisfaction.  Relentless review of relevant, insightful metrics will keep you at the forefront. Next time let’s look at Mean Time to Restore Service (MTRS)………

Have you come across any measures that have done you more harm than good?  Do you have any really GOOD or really BAD measurement stories to share? I’d love to hear them……

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Maria Ritchie Uncategorized , , , , , ,

If at first you don’t succeed…improving incident assignment accuracy.

September 17th, 2009

One of the biggest incident management challenges for IT organizations today is ensuring that when an incident needs to be assigned to another support team, that this functional escalation is performed accurately. Assignments may be necessary if the help desk is unable to resolve at first point of contact, or if a Tier 2 technician detects a fault or degradation that they are unable to resolve. It is important to be able to measure assignment accuracy as it is one area where process improvements can really pay off, both in terms of improved resolution times and overall customer satisfaction.

One key element of a successful incident support model is the emphasis on the role of the help desk in functional and hierarchical escalations. There is often a tendency for Tier 2 support teams to want to assign incidents to their functional peer groups directly. This is not to be confused with assignment of an incident to individuals within their team, which is anticipated in some situations.

An example of inaccurate assignment would be when a server hosting team determines that the incident was assigned incorrectly to their group, but on inspection of the incident realize that the network team will likely be able to restore service, and they assign the incident directly to networking. This can often lead to ping pong assignments, where Tier 2 groups pass the hot potato until the incident finally reaches the right support team. And, if your customers receive notification on assignments, a useful and common mechanism to keep them in the loop on resolution progress, they will likely become frustrated and form a negative opinion about the effectiveness of the IT organization.

Why does this happen?

The core reason is that Tier 2 support teams are often composed of specialized, focused resources who have knowledge relative to their functional area. They are typically not equipped with knowledge that would ensure assignment accuracy, and as a result cannot be held accountable for inaccurate assignments. However, there is a perception that sending an incident back to Tier 1 is a step backwards. What Tier 2 may not realize is that if incidents are not returned to the desk, the following direct and indirect impacts can occur:

1) The desk may not be aware it is assigning inaccurately, and long term effects can lead to a more challenging task of changing this learned behaviour when this issue is tackled.

2) The incident may not be correctly re-categorized or classified on reassignment. This can affect reporting and may make it appear that one Tier 2 group is resolving incidents outside of their area of expertise. This makes incident trending for problem management identification challenging to say the least!

3) Escalations due to delayed resolutions may not be initiated unless the incidents are being tracked in real-time. While some enabling technologies perform this activity, they often depend on accurate incident categorization which may not be the case for mis-assigned incidents.

4) Service level treatments may be incorrectly applied, as the initial assignment from Tier 1 may result in the incident being monitored against the wrong service level than what a re-categorized incident should be.

It is not uncommon for the cluster in an IT organization to resist the model of reassignment back to Tier 1. That is expected, but this challenge can be overcome. Aside from training and communicating the value of a Tier 1 reassignment strategy, you may want to employ a top 10 mis-assignment strategy. Record the number of assignments and compare these two an average assignment count that you feel is representative of an accurately assigned incident. If your enabling technology assigns an incident to the help desk on initial save, or if your organization sends incidents back to Tier 1 so agents can confirm service restoration with the customer, you will need to factor this into your calculation. You should also factor into your analysis the situation where Tier 2 resources detect an outage prior to customers feeling a service impact. Then, report on the frequency of Tier 2 to Tier 2 assignments, sorted as a top 10 list by support group, where incidents were reassigned more times than your acceptable threshold. Report on this internally to all the support groups on a monthly basis until your top 10 list represents less than 5% of the total incidents assigned. This will provide both visibility and a motivation for support group queue managers to monitor and address inaccurate assignment activities. If the problem persists, you may choose to report on the specific resources, by name, in this ranking. This may encourage those who are resistant to change to avoid having their name in lights.

After introducing this first step, you should begin to see an increase in assignments back to the desk. This can be troubling at first but this is expected. Ensure that you have established a quality review procedure to address these re-assignments. This can be accomplished through additional training or the updating/introduction of a knowledge base, intended to ensure resources are leveraging assignment diagnostics. This may also result in the help desk requesting more detailed diagnostic information from Tier 2 groups or service owners as means to enhance assignment accuracy. Include a help desk assignment accuracy statistic after you have implemented the statistics at Tier 2. This will encourage the desk to reach out after Tier 2 to Tier 2 assignments begin to drop. The rationale for this staged approach is that both measures are interdependent. Improving assignment accuracy require a feedback mechanism to the desk (re-assign to Tier 1), and Tier 1 accuracy improvements require enhanced information from Tier 2 (diagnostic logic).

If this top 10 approach is communicated and sold with a focus on improvement of IT for your customer, this should not be viewed as a negative. Instead, this may foster some competitive spirit between your IT groups. Other metrics can be added over time. You would be surprised how effective sharing statistics can be on changing behaviour.

Assignment accuracy is just one outcome of a successful incident support model. I will provide some additional benefits to support modeling in future posts…

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Michael Oas Uncategorized , , , , , , ,

ITIL Case Study – If you want to Lose Weight, Get on the Scale.

August 25th, 2009

Like a successful weight reduction plan, service desk improvements need to be defined based on a good knowledge of where you are and how far you want/need to go. Taking a little time at the beginning of your improvement planning to baseline your service desk practice and inform your improvement priorities will provide you with a surprisingly valuable set of information!

This blog is a follow on to the “ITIL – Not a Cure for the Common Cold!” blog where I provided an overview of a large government’s service management journey and outlined their 5-Step Roadmap to improvement.  This article will focus on getting started, using the case study organization as a guide….

Where do you start with no money, no credibility and no time?

The answer is not really all that difficult.  You have to start with a solid understanding of where you are and knowledge of where you want & need to be.  The art is then to pick the combination of outcomes and activities that will generate momentum, produce useful improvements and build credibility. Read more…

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Maria Ritchie Uncategorized , , , , , , ,

ThinkITSM Lite and Improve are now live!

August 7th, 2009

This was a big week for everyone at ThinkITSM; we have officially released the public beta of  ThinkITM Coach Lite and Improve, beginning a roadmap of solutions that will make life better for everyone involved in managing and running service desks.

ThinkITSM has been a 3 year odyssey that started off supposedly being one poorly shaven guy in a back room doing some coding to being something that has resulted in a product that has the potential to change how companies manage their IT help desks all around the world. And hey, we’ve all had a bad experience with a help desk!

So check out today to sign up for a FREE subscription to ThinkITSM Coach. You should also check out our cool video of Calvin at an IT carnival being saved by ThinkITSM and testimonials from Malcolm Fry (one of the world’s leading authorities on help desk) at Read more…

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized

Malcolm Fry Presents ThinkITSM/HDI Makeover Contest Prize

August 6th, 2009

ThinkITSM/HDI Award Winner

Maria Ritchie - Eva Viviano - Malcolm Fry Mississauga, Ontario

ThinkITSM is excited to announce that Eva Viviano from Resolve Corporation won the HDI promotion where ThinkITSM offered a full 12 months of ThinkITSM Coach, a service that helps improve help desk performance and quality. As an added bonus, Malcolm Fry, the HDI lifetime achievement award winner, was on hand to present the prize with Maria Ritchie. Eva was looking forward to taking advantage of the benefits of a ThinkITSM subscription including the mapping of their help desk data into ThinkITSM’s Performance and Quality Reporting engine. Read more…

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , , ,

Evolving Metrics as a Key Component of Your ITSM Evolution…

June 1st, 2009

Metrics and measurement will naturally evolve as service management maturity and organizational maturity evolves, they have to…  measurement is such an important part of any service management discipline.  The evolution of your measurements should always be planned in accordance with the business drivers to ensure measurement capabilities can sufficiently underpin the business activities.

Whether you are starting a measurement program from scratch or you are well on your way, there is always room for improvement and to evolve to another level of maturity.   The following chart is a sample of an organization’s measurement path that evolved as the service management program evolved to meet the more demanding business needs.  It shows the evolution of the key information elements and key performance indicators. Read more…

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amassicotte Uncategorized , , , , ,

ITIL – Not a Cure for the Common Cold!

May 25th, 2009

Shockingly, ITIL is not a cure for the common cold and suffers from being overprescribed by often well-intentioned but ill-advised ITIL enthusiasts.  Doing ITIL will not necessarily generate any benefits for your organization and can consume significant resources with little return on the investment.  Fortunately the diagnosis is not all bad though.  ITIL can be a powerful tool when coupled with a clear improvement purpose and plan.

As a matter of fact, ITIL was a significant influence in the success of several large IT transformation initiatives that I was involved with as a senior manager in the Ontario Government.  Over the next weeks and months, I will share some of the insights I gained as an IT practitioner using ITIL in the hopes that some part of my experiences may be useful to you on your continual service improvement journeys.

Let’s start at the beginning…… Read more…

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Maria Ritchie Uncategorized , , , , ,

Service Management reporting… where to start?

May 17th, 2009

A key challenge facing many ITSM practitioners is defining and producing meaningful reports.  Many ITSM vendor products, designed to automate and manage process activities, come equipped with a wide range of reports. Sometimes they speak to IT managers and, more importantly the business, but others consistently fall short of that target.  While this may be due to the messages they are attempting to convey, it may also be that the wrong reports are being shared with the wrong stakeholders.  How do you avoid this hit and miss strategy and ensure key information is being conveyed?  What we need is a way to present reports that are meaningful for specific stakeholders.   Read more…

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Michael Oas Uncategorized , , , , ,