Define Measure Acheive. Repeat


Posts Tagged ‘IT’

Steve Jobs, Apple and ITSM

November 21st, 2011

There has been an avalanche of copy written about Steve Jobs and Apple, so I apologize in advance for adding to it. This post is about some reflections on Steve Jobs biography, and how certain parallels could be applied by IT Departments looking to improve how IT services can be delivered.

As an aside, I found the Walter Issacson biography of Jobs to be a gripping read, although the format and story telling did not reflect the simplicity and focus of its subject . While I was reading through the copy it struck me there are a number of significant parallels between how Apple approaches product innovation and how we talk about these things within the construct of IT Service Management (ITSM).  A specific example is the introduction of the iPod and the musing from various industry insiders who asked the question “how on earth did Sony not invent the iPod and iTunes?”

At the time, the music industry was looking to Sony to produce a digital rights management solution that would counter the concerns over piracy and stem the decline in music sales. After two years of wrangling, the industry was no closer to a solution. As we know, Apple came along and provided a service that was completely integrated from the consumers’ perspective with the advantage that it was simpler to buy a song on iTunes for the average person that scour the web, and take chances on dubious quality alternatives.

Many people ideologically do not welcome Apple’s approach because (at the time) music purchased from the iTunes store could only be played on Apple Computers and iPod’s, however, despite your particular ideology on open vs. closed systems, the question remains; “how did Apple manage to snatch victory from Sony where they really had no business being able to do so”.  They had no history making a music device; they did not have the relationships with the providers (the artists) and they generated their money from selling computer hardware.

A large part of the answer is found in how the two companies were structured. As noted in Donaldson’s biography ‘Sony’s divisions were at war with one another’ and were continually trying to out-compete; thereby information sharing was limited and worse they would actively sabotage each other to prevent incremental increases in their organizational sphere of influence. Apple, driven by Job’s obsession in owning the user experience, saw the value in integrating its divisions. Tim Cook, then COO of Apple states “the company doesn’t ‘have “divisions” with their own P&L” and Steve Job actively encourages integrating of divisions to provide a cohesive end-to-end experience.

The parallel with internal IT organizations is apparent. Interestingly it is not from a technological perspective but an organizational one. Many efforts attempted at transforming the experience of delivering IT are hampered by Managers of silos that prevent change from occurring. In addition, Senior Managers do not push through the structural changes necessary to transform IT service delivery to be service (rather than product) as the push back from the organization itself seems too much to spend political capital on.

I don’t blame Senior Management unconditionally as our industry itself has let down IT Departments as we continue to focus on technology based solutions to attempt to address organizational issues.

IT Service Delivery can only truly reach its potential in those organizations where CIOs and CTOs step in and remove the traditional barriers by implementing a horizontal IT structure rather than what is traditionally a vertical one.

Steve Jobs is often dismissed as a ‘salesman’ or ‘marketing guru’ by many of our colleagues in IT Operations, however, we as an industry would do well to think differently about how we deliver services and the internal barriers that need to be adjusted to allow us to reach our potential of providing the right services at the right time at the right cost.

It is time for us to encourage organizations to stop investing in another ‘silver bullet’ tool but rather encourage changes to the fundamental issue of silos and hierarchical structure that impact cross communication, planning and delivery of great IT Services.

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A New Year’s Resolution for the Service Desk

January 5th, 2011

I love the New Year.  January is about fresh starts; hopefully you have had a break over the holidays and feel revived for the challenges ahead. On the Service Desk this is a time for renewal too, and there is no better time to evaluate your current Service Improvement goals for the year.  The business case for Service Improvement is easy to make – identifying ways to reduce costs and improve service is something all levels of management get excited about!

One of the easiest things to do is to find out what your customers’ think of the service that you provide. Many Service Desks’ find all kinds of excuses not to do this, however, by following some simple guidelines you can do a survey and get a snapshot in time of how your customers feel about the support you provide.

#1 Establish a repeatable approach to assess satisfaction and action improvements as part of a continual improvement practice. Make a commitment to survey and re-survey at regular intervals and if you want to improve response rates then share the results with your customers.

#2 Collect information within a Satisfaction Framework to create “actionable” information and simplify analysis and trending. You can measure satisfaction in key dimensions of the service for ease of analysis and action. Use a Service Quality Model to measure important service quality dimensions like: “ON TRRAC” – Timely, Reliable, Responsive, Accessible and Cost effective (see Survey Framework Overview below for more details).

#3 Focus initially on Client (IT User)  and Practitioner(IT Provider) satisfaction with the Service Desk and Incident Management Practice. (Later, you may want to consider adding a survey of the Business-Level Client (Business Executive) to help understand their satisfaction with key elements of your overall IT Services and IT Executives to see how well aligned they are with their Business’s satisfaction/importance ratings.)

#4 Execute an annual survey to baseline the satisfaction and inform annual improvement action plans. Client Surveys target users collected by business area. Practitioner Surveys target both the Service Desk and Technician level collected by group.

#5 Schedule “Checkpoint” surveys to gauge progress and to provide needed information to flag in-year corrective actions.

Client Surveys at targeted intervals throughout the year:

  1. Auto-generated short survey at the closure of every incident;
  2. Call-back short survey to a set # of users every month (closed tickets); and
  3. Optional – Warm call transfer short survey to users upon completion of their call to your Service Desk.

#6 Ensure that all survey results are routinely analyzed and incorporated into the Service Improvement Plan (SIP), results are presented to primary performance stakeholders AND that feedback is published back to survey recipients, provide them with the ‘What We Heard’ along with planned actions, ‘What We Are Doing About It’.

We make many of our tools available for use at no charge.

Start surveying your Clients (IT Users), Practitioners (IT Providers), IT and Business Executives today with ITSM Coach: Satisfaction Surveys (included as part of ITSM Coach).

To learn more click here…

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reporting is the soufflé of the IT Service Desk.

April 21st, 2010

For those of you that are culinarily inclined you will know that a soufflé is made with a couple of basic ingredients; a cream sauce and egg whites, and yet the final dish remains elusive to the many that simply don’t pay attention to the details for prerequisite success. Oh, and such success is wonderful to observe - fluffiness contained within a towering cloud of caloric goodness - it is truly an elusive culinary accomplishment.

Figure 1 – The rare object d’art itself – a light fluffy soufflé produced at L’Atelier by Joel Rubuchon.

Figure 1 - The rare object d’art itself - a light fluffy soufflé produced at L’Atelier by Joel Rubuchon.

Like the fracturable soufflé, good service desk reports are easy to order but more difficult to enjoy. 

Although the ingredients are simple, the execution is questionable and the ultimate result is often unsatisfying. The particular reports I am thinking of are not operational in nature (the wham bam thank you ma’am of reports). The ones, I am thinking of are tactical in nature. These require a little more finesse, they are the thinking persons’ report, a tactical view of service desk performance that can enable service improvement and actually inform decision making. In other words, reports that provide information that is ‘actionable’. How delicious!

Anyhow, so many of these failed attempts leave me wanting more. Inadequate execution reduces them to merely visually appealing, useless and perhaps even inconsequential. 

So perhaps we should examine the ingredients and execution that can turn a miserable meaningless humble report into something worth consuming.

Ingredient 1: Consistency

Consistency is one of the few things that matter when generating decision support material. Everyone should be saying the same thing when answering the telephone, asking the same questions, and documenting the information received in the same way.

Ingredient 2: Track the right stuff!

Set yourself up for success and build a support model. Outside of the obvious items like impact, customer information etc. there are three things that the service desk needs to capture:

#1 –what was the customers’ perception of the failure (i.e. the end to end service),
#2 - what was the underlying IT reason for the failure (i.e. the provider service) and,
#3 - finally what infrastructure item was involved in the failure (i.e. the component category).

See the figure below to see a breakdown of the critical criteria that should be captured in the incident.


Figure 2 - The essential elements of information capture for an Incident.

These items enable simple and easy information gathering from the customer plus makes escalation of the issue through the IT organization easier to manage.

Ingredient 3: Focus on the WHAT, the WHY and the ACTION.

Generating reporting for reporting sake doesn’t work. It sounds obvious but many of us get in the habit of reviewing the same reports every month and then do nothing with the information.

If this sounds like you, STOP! 

Ask yourself three things when looking at a report:

Do I care about what this report is telling me?

If your answer is NO, move on and deal with something more important.

If your answer is YES, then you need to figure out WHY the information in the report is occurring.

Once the WHY has been determined, implement a performance tweak or involve the relevant stakeholder group and share the information with them as part of the ACTION.

In my next blog (on Monday), I  will explore a real life example of how this process works.

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , ,

IT Service Delivery is a Journey not a Destination

December 8th, 2009

Organizations increasingly recognize that proven frameworks are key to improvement in IT Service Delivery and aligning IT operations to the needs of the business. Often the recognition that ‘things need to get better’ manifests itself through the purchasing of a new ITSM tool and/or the hiring of a consultant to implement some basic operational processes such as Incident, Problem and Change Management.  Meetings are held; documents are drafted, re-drafted and re-drafted again until everyone is happy with the outcome. The new tool gets implemented, the consultant leaves and those process documents that everyone spent weeks or months building get filed away in some electronic repository often never to be seen again.

If this scenario rings true, you’re not alone. Many IT departments treat Service Management or ITIL process implementation as a project and not a journey. Like losing weight, if you do not have a plan for ongoing success then the weight will come back and all the gains you made with hard work are simply lost.

Conveniently, the answer to help us through this scenario is given new prominence in ITIL’s latest incarnation of version 3. CSI or Continual Service Improvement, which was merely implied in previous ITIL frameworks, is now thrust into prominence and has its own book and its fair share of the limelight. CSI provides the process that drives the value out of your other ITIL practices. The Incident Management process in itself does not generate value – certainly, it would tell you something like how incidents can be escalated to reduce impact to the business. This in itself provides cost savings and improved productivity but it does not speak to the elements that drive a business; it does not tell us how many incidents we escalated last month, what the areas of improvement are and how we will do better next month. The incident management process assumes that everything remains constant – of course, the business changes.

CSI provides the wrapper to the ITIL processes you have in place. It enables you to baseline where you are today, where you need to be and to drive a path through to the goal. Getting a baseline for your existing performance is key, because it is difficult to get to your next destination if you don’t know where you are today. The good news is that there is a range of knowledge and resources that can be tapped inexpensively to help you through this process. For example, The ITSM Coach from ThinkITSM gives you the ability to assess your end user satisfaction and help desk maturity for free, highlighting the area’s most in need of addressing. Often we know much of this information informally but to have objective data enables the change process and gets disparate groups on board to adopt positive changes in how work is done.

CSI and Quality improvement has revolutionized manufacturing and have given automobile companies such as Toyota and Honda a fundamental competitive advantage that they translated into market share gains and profitability. It is now time for IT to embrace quality improvement processes and truly drive business value from IT Service Delivery.

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , , , , , , ,

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 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 , , , , , , ,

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 , , , , ,

HDI Trillium Annual Conference - Who knew? Penguins CAN fly!

May 9th, 2009

ThinkITSM was title sponsor for Wednesday’s HDI Trillium Chapter Annual Conference in downtown Toronto.  The morning keynote was led by an extraordinary person, Vicki Keith, who holds various long distance swimming records including one by swimming continuously for over 5 days (yes, nonstop for 124 hours!). Her speech was titled ‘Penguins can fly’ and I am guilty of admitting that in advance of seeing her was thinking this was a rather silly title as we all know Penguins can’t in fact reach that airborne state known as flying. However, Vicki was quick to dispose of this preconception. She rightly pointed out that if you watch a Penguins under the water, they flap their wings and move through the water as if it were air. She introduced herself as a “penguin’ that never really fitted and it was a lifelong struggle to find her place in the world. She went on to talk about how she uses Swimming to help kids restore or gain self-esteem (read more at

Vicki Keith Presenting at HDI

One story in particular was about a 14 year old girl who did not have use of her legs and built a wall of self-loathing around her disability; after seeing Vicki in action she was inspired to swim across Lake Ontario and show that her abilities truly can overcome the disabilities that I am sure everyone focuses on when they meet this tremendous athlete. In many ways, this presentation from Vicki paralleled many of the pre-conceptions that the Service Desk has to overcome in an organization. Read more…

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Charles Cyna Uncategorized , , , ,