Wednesday, 27 August 2014

HR is from Jupiter, IT is from Saturn…or are they?

I was recently having coffee with a colleague who works in Human Resources and they were relating a challenge that they had around the rate of onboarding a new employee. Without even much thought I replied “I know that pain point.” My friend gave me a strange glance and then I realized that while I have never worked in HR is there much of a difference in the way that HR and IT provide services to their customers?

For some time IT Service Management has talked about how it needs to drop the “IT” and really focus on providing service, period. I began to think about this and wondered what similarities existed in the provision of services for both IT and HR and where my experience could help my friend.

The first thing I thought of was the top challenges many HR and IT teams face. While they have their own departmental nuances, they also share a common theme which needs to be addressed.

What makes the interaction between the business and IT and the business and HR the same?

Attracting technical talent
To be able to provide top notch service to your business you need players on the team which can deliver results. This could apply to IT, HR, Finance or any shared service.

In a broader sense when communicating to a large audience we need to ensure a consistent message is delivered to and our business informed. While doing this we need to make sure that we convey messages in terms which all business customers understand. This is true whether it is in a companywide communication or if it is day to day in personal dealing from an HR service center. It can be easy to revert to jargon from our fields which may not be common terminology.

Managing with finite resources
Like IT, HR faces the challenge of carefully watching its budgets while also managing the staffing constraints it faces associated to that budget. There are times where, like IT, an outside resource may be able to better provide service for a lower cost than doing it ‘in house’.

Building a strategy based on reporting
For me the ability to continually improve service comes back to reporting. Utilizing data to make decisions can be a challenge mainly because both IT and HR either have so much data that they cant make real sense of it, or, that they are not gathering the right information to give them the data that they need.

Focus on business outcomes
To be a successful HR or IT department really we need to ensure that we are aligning our goals against what the business is trying to achieve. At the end of the day if we don’t do that we will always fall short of success in the eyes of your business.

Customer expectations
In IT there may be service level agreements which provide guidelines on how service should be provided. In reality we need to understand what our services are and what they mean to the business so that we can meet expectations around service delivery and how to best manage those expectations. It may be through email and phones, tools or social media. Whatever the mode may be it should be reviewed regularly to ensure we are still on top of it

Both IT and HR have access to sensitive information which needs to be managed. There are processes in place to ensure that the data which needs to be locked down remains that way. From a service delivery perspective have we validated that the integration of this information between teams has lined up. Have we looked at the bigger picture from a business perspective and ensured we are all on the same page?  

To manage the barrage of questions that makes their way into a queue each and every day we need to have a process to collect, share and retire information with our customers where it makes sense. To be able to effectively do this a knowledge management strategy should be looked at to manage the lifecycle of the data.

Yes, it’s true IT and HR are different, but they exist in the same ‘business solar system’. I’m sure that there are plenty of other examples of how these two are more similar than they are different. So why does it seem that they function in two different universes?

I love feedback and questions, leverage my service management experiences. Let me know your challenges and successes.


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Monday, 25 August 2014

OBASHI – An Interesting Perspective for your Business

Primarily when we are looking at the improvement of services we speak about people, process and technologies. Before we can make improvements we always start with identifying what our current capability is in each area. While we may have go to ‘best practices’ I like to look to see what else is out there which might be able to get me just a little further ahead that sticking with only one framework. In doing this I came across OBASHI.

Initially, after hearing the name, I thought that this methodology was some sage wisdom that Mr. Miyagi might dispense, but it turns out that OBASHI actually spells out the letters for the layers in which this methodology maps out. The layers are laid out in sequence with the Ownership and Business process in the top 2 layers and the IT assets in the next 4 layers. Together they outline people, process and technology in a way that represents how the business can function.

Business Process

One of the biggest challenges in improving service delivery always comes down to the business complaining that the technology cannot meet expectations and that IT does not have a fundamental understanding of business needs in a way that significant improvements can be made.

The OBASHI framework is used to visually outline an organization’s IT assets and resources and the business operations which they support by identifying each individual element which represent assets and resources for the business and IT.

Once these have been identified another visual representation (Data Analysis View – DAV) outlining the data flow which shows how these elements interact in a “join the dots” way, as they term it.

For me the thing I like the most about this method is that it speaks to the gap which exists in the IT and the business relationship in many cases where a formalized function may not exist. Where there are more formalized teams, such as business relationship managers, they may see significant value in taking a look at this methodology in my opinion.

Overall I think that there are many frameworks at our disposal which we can utilize to improve the customer experience and we should take strides to investigation what might help take out business to the next level.

Please feel free to share with me what methods or tools you have used to improve service.


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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My #pinkFORUM14 Experience

Over the past few days I had the good fortune to attend Pink Forum14. This was my first experience with a Pink event and I was impressed. Aside from the good balance of vendor representation there was an equally good sample of presenters who were able to fulfil the needs of the attendees.  

There was a great cross section of attendees who were looking for insights into game changers from not only a leadership perspective but from other service management functions which directly tie into driving continual service improvement initiatives. Personally I was able to connect with people who were experiencing similar operational challenges as well as where they had insights into areas of improvement which I may have not even considered. Having events like these are important but ensuring that there is some value add is paramount especially in these economic times where events and training expenditures are tightly scrutinized by organizations.

To me the networking is crucial to getting better at how we, as a service management community, are able to provide superior service delivery which can be accomplished through knowledge sharing amongst our peers.

Feel free to connect with me

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Knowledge Management – Not a Junk Drawer of Information

Imagine that you are at home and you receive an error message on your computer, laptop, tablet or whatever. You have never seen this error before, but like many people you ‘Google’ what the error means to point you in a particular direction to either resolve or ignore the message. Now move forward to Monday morning at work. If you were to receive this same message would you be in a position to leverage some form of knowledge base.

Why should there be any difference?

Provided your organization collects knowledge the main challenge that they may face is how to manage the data. Teams are capturing information and storing it somewhere, either in a portal, a group share, a wiki, or something completely different.

While we don’t want to discourage the gathering of knowledge we need to ensure that this is done in a way which will provide value to operations teams and that it can remain relevant to continue to provide value over the long term. In other words, just because you say you have data doesn’t mean that you are managing it effectively.

This is why a knowledge management strategy needs to be outlined to determine what information is captured, how it will be used and who will ensure that it remains current. What we don’t want to happen is that the information is not utilized in a way which can improve the customer experience.

Once we have mastered how IT manages its knowledge we can apply this to our business counterparts. After all they are also capturing information in the same way IT does. The only difference is that IT enables these types of e-hoarders by continually adding space.

The overall goal is to use information collected either through tribal knowledge, data collection from incidents or input from our customer base to improve the overall delivery of service.

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Getting to Know Your Business – 8 Speed Dating Questions to Leverage

I was recently speaking with a colleague who mentioned that he wanted to get a better familiarization with his business but was unsure how to start the dialog. He also mentioned in the past that when the IT department took on such endeavours that it was met with some time constraints. I suggested that he might want to look at spending time with the business contacts similar to a speed dating event.

I went on to outline that speed dating at its core was established for busy people to maximize connections in a minimum of time. Looking at some typical questions I have outlined how they might apply to conversations with your business.

What do you do for work?

Well, ok this one is a bit obvious (or is it?). Just because you think you know what your business does you really need to hear it from them in their terms rather than making assumptions. After all this has been an IT problem from the beginning.

Where are you from?

Find out a bit about your business and their beginnings and how it pertains to the delivery of services for your them. It may also speak to the journey that the organization has faced up until this point and may give you additional insight into how better to provide service. This may also apply to geography in ways that service is provided. What may work well in one area may not apply to another.

What is the one thing about yourself that you would like me to know?

This line of questioning may allow you to get a better understanding on what makes your business unique. Something which may not be on the ‘about us’ page on their website but gives IT the personal touch.

When was your last relationship and how long did it last?

This type of question may speak to any relationships that were held between IT and the business in the past and how they were handled. What made them a success and what did not. Use this information toi make some improvements on what you are doing today.

What are you looking for in a relationship?

This may refer specifically to what your business is looking to achieve as a result of the relationship between them and IT. While fundamentally they are looking to get great customer service there may be additional traits that they are looking to see.

What do you think is the most important value in a relationship?

Find out what is truly important from your business in regards to the service that they receive. While you might think that the speed of service is of paramount importance, your business may not see it that way

What are you most proud about?

This may reveal a component of your business which is particular value. For example workplace safety may be of prime importance and knowing that you may have a different viewpoint on how the support of services are handled with regards to outages to particular services etc.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

This may give some insight to the roadmap of how your business would like to see itself improve over the next few years. To become a strategic partner how you may need to address your service delivery improvement strategy as well.

This is only a beginning but gives you a sense that you may not need to sit down and pour over a questionnaire which may take hours in its inception. Short meetings in the beginning will allow you to gather some information as well as get some ‘buzz’ on the business side for what you are doing.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Practice Shouldn’t Always Make Perfect - Using Standard Changes for Break/Fix

When I was younger my parents, teachers, etc. had explained to me that for the most part if you want to be really good at something you need to practice. I would imagine that most people have heard that at some point. Unfortunately from an IT support perspective in some cases we have applied this to operational activities where they really don’t belong.

An example of this is the implementation of a standard or routine change to correct an underlying issue. I know what you are saying, “…surely there must be a problem or some type of investigation for this issue though…right?”

Let’s look at this from this perspective. In an effort to improve service we (the IT organization) have decided to separate our change types by 3 types:

Emergency – are break/fix repair changes
Normal – requires more approvals, possible a CAB review and has high business impact
Standard- may have an automated approval, low risk and visibility

One of the areas of your reporting may provide data on the number of Emergency (break/fix) changes you have each month. This it allows you to align Incidents as well as identifying areas where you can continue to make improvements among other things. But let’s assume for a moment that an IT Ops analyst says, “We know we have an issue, we need to perform fix ‘x’ each week to keep the service up and running. Why can’t we just create standard changes for these, after all the fix is pretty standard, it's just a restart of services."

In my opinion I would suggest to avoid this, and here’s why.

First of all most people are naturally looking to have their “numbers” reflect an environment which is stable. To this analyst’s credit in this scenario they are saying that the risk is low and that we don’t want it to look like the sky is falling when in reality this is not the case. While I understand this position think about this for a moment. Ask yourself, once we take away the visibility of the issue are we really putting ourselves in a position to improve service or have it limp along? Here are the risks.

1.     There may be some underlying infrastructure issue which we are bandaging each week that without the proper knowledge that it exists could in fact get worse. Further to that if we introduce other changes to this issue we could impact a deployment in ways we are unaware of.

2.     The business may not be aware this issue exists. Allowing the business to know what limitations we have may position the collaboration between them and IT to make better decisions on a strategy down the road. The business may suggest that to correct this issue would not be worth the expense so continue to bandage the wound. They may also indicate that this potential performance risk is preventing them from taking their business to the next level and expenditure to repair or replace is in the business best interest.

This is why I like to see these issues remain as an emergency change type. There should be no secrets as it pertains to outlining the weaknesses which are present. After all they already exist whether we want to see them or not.


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