Define Measure Acheive. Repeat


Posts Tagged ‘IT Service Desk’

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 , , , , , , , , , ,