Tuesday, 2 July 2013

IT and Business Alignment – Achieving Business Outcomes Together With Problem Management

This sounds more like a book title than a blog post and really this is a huge subject. So to quote myself “let’s keep this simple”

Like most everyone in a typical IT organization you are “invited” to regularly discuss customer alignment, in some cases there are even actual discussions with the customers. In other cases this is a discussion with disjointed IT functions in a crowded room with maybe a motivational poster on a wall. Despite which business units are present in the discussion, the key is that all functions should be working towards one common business goal(s). From a Service Management perspective we need to breakdown what is happening behind the scenes to ensure our ability to achieve success. One of these process that is quite often is discussed Problem Management. When this is brought up the brain trust in the room will nod their heads but this can be where things can slide off the hill. More often than not the question that gets asked is where to start?

To illustrate what Problem Management can bring to the table let’s walk this through an example:

Your Customer (Organization) - AnyCorp
·         One of your customer’s business goals is to reduce costs in overtime across all units including IT.
·         While you leverage Incidents, currently do not have a formalized problem management process.
·         Your IT Operation support team has an 8 week on-call rotation.
·         This Team currently gets called out regularly for an application issue which requires someone to restart services to get the error to clear.
·         Each call out is billable to at least 1 hour.
·         Each week this is called out (after hours) at least once between the hours of 6pm and 9pm local time.
·         This is escalated to 2 calls per week at every quarter end on average.

·         The impact to your analyst is minimal as they see it, and they get a few extra bucks in their pocket for the minor interruption.

Assuming the average call outs, this equates to 55 to 60 hours of on call per year for these escalations.

This may be time that no one is even noticing…. Except your customers, whose expectations for service has degraded to a point where there is an expectation that the service in question will have particular challenges.

Forget about the downtime outage costs, the overtime costs. This cost (which you may not be able to quantify) is priceless!

Enter the Problem Manager, or the person who will help facilitate the process.
After some discussions with the Operations Team who has been dealing with issue the following facts surface:
1.     While the analysts dealt with this issue they did not see it as a major problem
2.     The analysts were not aware that each other were creating and closing these application incidents
3.     Reporting was not set up to “look” for these types of Problems
4.     Since there was other on-call overtime allocated to the team, this expenditure did not throw any flags
5.     Discussions with the application team responsible indicate that they were aware there may have been issues with the latest release but have not heard of any issues from anyone on this until now

Here are some of the underlying themes:
We need to stop the assumption that we know what the customer wants.  Work with your Customer
·         Regular touch points with business stakeholders should be held to ensure we are hitting the mark on service

We must stop assuming that the left hand in IT knows what the right hand does. Communication is Key
·         Having regular meetings within IT to discuss issues which may be impacting customer service should be held. “How can we help each other help the customer” should be the theme.

We need to align IT to help the customer achieve their business outcomes. Work Smarter not Harder
·         Work with the business to know what the business outcomes are and align IT goals around them

Fine tuning underlying Processes (in this example Problem Management) should be kept simple. See above
·         See where areas for improvement from a supporting process standpoint are

This example is fairly simple in nature but it shows what can be accomplished if you can look at the big picture. In some cases just improving your communication skills and simplifying the way you work will enable you to find the low hanging fruit and improve the customer experience.

Follow us on Twitter @ryanrogilvie

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ryan,

    An important point here is how to kickstart this within our organisation.

    Scenario: I have a 24*7 Service Desk being managed by 7 members. Tickets(Incidents/Service Requests) comes in at different hours and it becomes difficult to tie up incidents with existing problems.
    1) First question should Service desk do this activity
    2) what other actions can be taken to promote proactive problem management.
    3) What are the problem management techniques that you have seen in your experience

    thanks in advance for your help here