Tuesday, 24 June 2014

IT Providing Service – The Earth is Round

There was a point in human existence where we believed that the Earth was flat. There was nothing wrong with this belief, and given what the majority of the population knew was an acceptable fact. One of the main challenges with this theory was for sea faring folks that when one reached the edge that there was a possibility of going over the side, a frightening proposition. Since that point in history we have come to realize that the earth is round, and the concept of the curse of knowledge means that it is difficult to think of the earth in any other way once we know that fact.

So too is the understanding of how well (or not so well) you deliver services to your customers each day. Today your organization may view your ability to provide service delivery from the perspective if IT. This means you rate of service on how quickly “tickets” are closed, or on how well the infrastructure appears to perform in terms of uptime, just to name a few.

Is this any different than looking at the Earth as though it is flat?

Think about this, stop looking at service delivery in IT terms as the sole method to understanding how ‘well’ you deliver service. Despite what your metrics tell you about how you are performing do you have dialogue with your customers on how they view your performance? What is the usability of the services you are providing?

In some ways IT needs to get better at focusing on what your customers really want and need from them, rather than making assumptions. Taking the IT hat off for a moment and thinking like a customer we need to ask ourselves “why do we feel that it is acceptable to have less functionality at work than we expect at home?” This general feeling may not be that case for long. As I mentioned in my last post (Do you exist in IT Socialism) many customers in your business may have already begun to look for other solutions, in some cases they are already using something else.

Start to discuss with your customers today about what is working well for them and what is not. In the beginning you don’t need to make this interaction overly complicated. In fact keeping the relationship simple will allow you to grow it appropriately. Don’t keep it a secret, get your teams involved to get the desired traction.

Before long the interaction between IT and its customers will allow you identify areas for improvement, not only in service delivery but also with regards to internal IT processes. Far too long these assumptions or minimal discussions with the business have driven how IT delivered. No surprise that a gap exists on why we may not be meeting business outcomes.

Understanding and having discussion points with your customers is the first and most important step. You will no longer worry about falling off the ledge of the flat IT Earth and will wonder how you ever managed before.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Do you exist in IT Socialism?

There was a time when businesses solely depended on IT to be its trusted partner and advisor to ensure that through technology, the business was able to outperform its competitors. Even when an external vendor was used, IT managed them on behalf of the business.

Resulting from various possible reasons, the directions of the Business and IT started to move in similar but different directions. Whatever the cause these new directions had their own set of choices which in turn may have inadvertently broadened the gap between IT and the business even further. These course corrections may have even attributed to an impact on the delivery of services to the business without realizing it. Many analysts will suggest that increasingly over the next few years new IT investments will directly involve executives from lines of business (LoB), with LoBs the lead decision makers in half or more of those investments.
Vendors, who see these opportunities, are springing up to fill these gaps. Offering cloud based solutions or applications which can be purchased off the shelf and used with ease. Sales and marketing are targeting the business that is looking for just this type of solution but may not be getting anything from their IT department.
Ask yourself this…
The expectations of your IT department may change from the provider role, who keeps the lights on, to a strategic partner who will drive the business forward with innovation and constantly improving the customer experience. This is where you may have heard reference to SIAM (Service Integration and Management)

Essentially it is the integration of externally provided services with your organization whose goals include:
·         Governance
·         Service Coordination
·         Management of service
SIAM is about the business being more agile and competitive which can be accomplished through people, process, partners and products. As always people are the most important part. And fundamentally this is also the component where we “lost our way” to an effect. Relationships and communication are what make this possible. We are on a journey with our business and as such we need to make sure that we are going to the same destination. This doesn’t happen without working together.
There is a great deal of perspective to think about when we talk about people, which is why we really need to think in terms of the business outcomes. This will help us to look at things from a business perspective rather than the IT one which has taken us off the same path.
Having a solid service portfolio will allow you define expectations through established SLA’s (especially from vendor), while still managing risk. Having this fundamental understanding of the services will better position you to manage contracts and costs for external services as well as those in-house. Understand your services. It may be possible that one service may inadvertently impact another. This is why vendor relationships are so important with regards to SIAM. Communication between all parties will ensure there is minimal impact to your business.  
Once you understand the service, reporting will allow you to drive improvements to the IT/vendor relationship. As the broker you will need a way to validate not only the reports from internal teams but also from your vendors. Another metric to not forget is that of the customer experience. Putting these all together will ensure we stay on target.
Now think about how your services are managed by IT again
Does your business exist in Socialist IT, where your IT department appears to be the only choice? Or, has the business formed some type of shadow IT. If they don’t have one yet they may soon if you aren’t aligning with the business outcomes.

The important question for IT departments now is “What are you doing to renew your relationship with the business as a strategic partner?”

Feel free to join us for a presentation of this material at TFT14

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Monday, 9 June 2014

Performing ITSM Self Assessments – Don’t Wait too Long

When was the last time you tested out the way you deliver services to your business? Think about that for a moment. You might be quick to respond by saying that you are doing pretty well. The key is really being able to quantify the level of success so that you can build an improvement strategy. You might want to consider testing yourself to see just how well you are doing.

Here are a few favortites, in no particular order:

Test #1 Disaster Recovery
How would you stack up in in situations that were outside the ‘normal’ circumstances? Is there a continuity plan for IT in place?

Is IT prepared to ensure that services continue in the event of some sort of unforeseen disruption? Are they aligned with some form of business continuity plan? The first test should be to see how we would handle such an interruption and identify where gaps may exist. Performing these drills or tests where appropriate allows us as an IT organization to ensure we know what to do in the event of an emergency and where some adjustments to our plan could be made. Just like a fire drill.

Test #2 Have other process owners review your process
When you are in the day to day you may not see what’s really going on. Suppose you had the Change manager review the Service desk process and the Service desk manager review change. It is likely that each other would have questions on why certain things are done the way that they are and some gaps may be found in the process. Also this gives you a chance to not only learn about what each other does but get a better sense of the overall delivery of service you are providing.

Test #3 Reviews with Customers
Do you regularly review with your customers, whether internal or external? Do you know how well you are doing or if there are any areas for improvement?  I have said it before and I will say it again, IT and the business can have very different perceptions when it comes to how efficiently service is being provided. If we, as an IT organization, leverage our own measures only we can only see half the picture.

On one hand you might perform some review on “how you are doing” on the other hand if the reviewer is internal are they being as objective as they can possible be?

It is easy to solicit feedback when you are NOT providing a good customer experience. Unfortunately we are more likely to get complaints rather than compliments however when we are at the bottom we get loads of valuable feedback. On the flip side when we provide adequate service we are less likely to get voluntary feedback.

Adequate Service - Dialogue = No Service Improvements

To test out our performance we should be talking with our customers on validate what is working well, and what needs some improvement. Remember it's possible that there may be issues with services which we are not even aware of. Due to your organizational culture they may have never even been escalated to the service desk before.

The tricky part of this is to manage it in a way that will ensure that you can respond to it appropriately. Starting small will allow your teams to get a solid handle on it. You may want to have regular meetings with your business unit(s) to start providing how you perceive your performance to be and let them drive the discussion. These meetings could be as regular as you deem necessary but make sure you share the information with IT in a way that will generate discussions within your own teams to promote the improvement initiative within IT

Think of these tests in terms of the analogy of a frog in a warm pot of water. You can turn up the heat on the stove and after a while the frog may jump out of the pot when it get too hot. In other cases it may not jump out in time and may get boiled before it has time to react.

Please feel free to share your tests with me as well!

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Monday, 2 June 2014

IT and Business Outcomes – The Pangaea Effect

For those of who may not be aware Pangaea was a supercontinent comprised of all that we have come to know today as continents. You may have looked at a map at some point and said, “It almost looks like those continents could fit together”, in reality at one point they did, sharing flora and fauna and looking up at the same sky and stars.

Think about the ways in which IT interacts with your business today versus in the past. In the past all functions within an organization may have aligned to the business objectives with little consideration on what effort was going in to make these goals reality. Over time functions within the organization started to diverge from each other. While the business and IT (and other shared functions) still had an understanding of where the business was going, there was a gap which prevented teams from making decisions which spoke directly to achieving the business outcomes. Much like in the Pangaea example, as more time passed there were other environmental challenges which arose on the newly formed continents which in effect drove them further apart from the business.
To compensate for these changes IT may have come up with a strategy to get back on course. Again these countermoves we believed to get the units back on track. In reality they may have only got them back in line with what IT believed their goals were supposed to be. Whether or not they were truly aligning with the business would have been a good question at this step but, because these shared services were still producing good results the business may have been satisfied with what was produced and no further discussion may have been initiated by anyone.

There comes a point however when the gaps between the continents start to become large enough where the similarities we shared in Pangaea is starting to disappear. While we are still looking at the same sky we have very different sets of ecosystems in which our functional units exist. We now have kangaroos.

To be clear there is nothing wrong with kangaroos but despite our change in the landscape we still need to work towards the same goals as our business. As IT we need to stop and think about what challenges are present in getting alignment with our business units. The first step is really to determine the gaps so that we can build a strategy to reconnect.

This is not an easy task and will take some time so ensuring that there is commitment to doing this is critical. As an employee I have been to several sessions where a roadmap to success was outlined and in the coming months the initiative seemed to fizzle out, it’s likely you too have experienced this. Review your strategy regularly with all stakeholders from IT and the business to ensure we stay on target. This may be your organizations Panama Canal or Channel Tunnel. The end result will enable your organization to move forward together to achieve great business outcomes rather than mediocre ones.
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