Thursday, 12 November 2015

Problem Management is not the Incident Graveyard

For those that are unaware, the purpose of problem management is the reduction of incidents in amount and severity that impact a business. It should not be a place for incidents to rot in search of a root cause. Problem management should help to drive service management from a reactive to a more proactive place. This statement would suggest that any team which is experiencing incidents should also logically have some level of problem management, right?

Whether formalized or not, the trouble is some organizations are not looking at problem management in a context of business value. Instead they view problem from an IT or worse yet an incident management perspective. You might be saying to yourself "of course that's how we view it, problems are the result of incidents which impact IT", and that I may have lost my mind. Simply because we have done something from a certain perspective in the past doesnt mean we can't look at it from another perspective now.
By sticking with the same viewpoint on problems, we may be inadvertently focussing our efforts on issues which have no solution, root cause and may be low on the priority scale when it comes to business impact. While it’s good that they are looking at these issue at all, they have low value in terms of what really matters to our business.
The reason that problem might be getting a raw deal in your ability to produce results is that when we focus on these low impact issues, the urgency and in turn ability to assign resourcing of any kind to resolve this issue also remains low. The result is that when we talk about what problem management is doing to improve service delivery it looks relatively low, leaving those in leadership to ask what value it brings to the table at all.
The first thing we as practitioners need to do is stop thinking like IT. Not all incidents are going to require a technical resolution. Take a closer look at the top escalations to the service desk and see what drives them in the first place. Here is an example of some typical escalations:
  • Application errors
  • Password resets
  • Questions
  • Hardware failure
  • Network issues
While some of these are still technical in nature, some things such as questions and password resets are everyday common place in some organizations.  While your company may not have this issue to deal with there are still may that come into work on a Monday morning faced with the repetitive task of addressing the forgotten password. This costly use of resources could be resolved with an automated reset tool of some sort. The problem analysis would support the cost benefit to implementing a tool or the effort to automate this activity versus your service desk resources spending their valuable time to reset a password.

Another heavy hitter is the area of questions. This is where a knowledge repository of some type could reduce the calls for people who are asking how to map a network drive over and over again. People want to be able to search and execute a simple fix for themselves if given the opportunity. They are already .accustomed to searching online to solve small issues or address questions that they may have. Just make sure that the place where people go to consume your knowledge records provide some metrics so that you can quantify what people are looking up and using.
What you need to keep in mind is that while we will get problems that have low impact we also need to proactively look to address larger issues which are impacting our business. Find that balance and you can improve the value of problem management.

Follow me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or connect with me on LinkedIn

Thursday, 5 November 2015

My Fusion15 Experience

Over the past few days I had the good fortune to attend my first HDI and itSMF USA sponsored event, Fusion15. This year the event was in New Orleans which was a city that I hadn’t been to before so it was another first.

Like other larger conferences I found that there was a large cross section of attendees from many geographic areas, in addition to this variety these practitioners supported an equally diverse sample of lines of business. The attendees may have come for the content that they saw in the brochure or on the Fusion website, but I found in many cases that through discussion that they were also able to gain some insights into common issues and solutions from each other in many cases.

On a personal note I found that I was able to network on two levels:

I was able to connect with people in the ITSM community that I might not have otherwise been able to speak with ‘in person’. Previous to the conference my level of interaction was limited to 140 characters on twitter or ‘likes’ on Facebook or LinkedIn. Being able to have face to face dialog expands that level of networking.

Secondly, as I mentioned above, 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. The trick to this is to listen to people and have an open mind to what their experiences are. In some cases what they are doing in their own organization to address specific challenges or requirements may not translate to what we are currently able to do , but will plant a seed to get your thought process generating some solutions that may have not been previously considered.

An important part of these conferences, in my opinion, is to have access to vendors but in a way that is not intrusive to the learning and sharing experience. This conference had that sewn up. There was plenty of time to meet with vendors and in some cases you were able to block off one on one sessions to discuss your needs. Even in attending the sessions I was not able to tell which of the presenters were with a particular vendor.

The staff that managed the event were excellent. Always available to answer questions as well as point me in the right direction for an additional source of coffee when I needed it. The ‘app’ that was used to manage things like agenda, events and networking also had a flavor of gamification for content shared. The scoring was intense and despite my best efforts I didn’t quite land in the top ten. For me there was only two things that I mentioned in my survey that might be areas for improvement, and they were pretty minor. The first was that in the event app points were awarded based on levels of sharing, for example pictures versus attendee updates and so on. What they should add is that points are awarded for filing out the post session surveys. The second was that there should be a conference branded Snuggie for all those who found the air conditioning too much in some rooms.

Overall I would recommend this conference to anyone who was looking to broaden their horizons and network with the greater service management community. If you have any questions feel free to ask and connect with me:

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Is your Consultant your Partner?

Not so long ago I was watching an episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsay and it got me to think about how he effortlessly swoops in finds all the issues with the kitchen and the front of house, makes some adjustments, slaps on some new paint and voila, the issues are fixed in the course of an hour. Granted the filming looks like it takes several days with some degree of prep bookending before and after the filming. But regardless it is an overall improvement initiative that is quick and seems to stick…or does it. Each year he revisits some of these ‘makeovers’ and with some transparency there are some that are still doing well and some that have reverted back to where they were before he arrived.

Like any improvement initiatives, Service management can be like this as well sometimes. A consultant may come in for a limited period of time and facilitate a review of current state, make some adjustments, even facilitate a new tool, but this might all be lost if there isn’t something consistent which remains with the organization after the consultant is gone.

A good consultant will tell you that one of their goals is to leave the organization in a better position than when they arrived. In the kitchen nightmares example, Chef Ramsay often has an experienced chef come in to help transition the staff at the newly improved restaurant. This is an important component of the improvement initiative. The question has to be asked, “What do we do when the consultant is gone?”

In the case of a good consulting outfit they will have addressed this question before you even ask it, in fact as part of their review of current state and looking to roadmap the future they should have identified if there is a gap in the long term sustainment of whatever it is you are trying to improve in the first place. This will include resources such as staff, training and yes, even possible a tool.

So how do you ensure that your improvement initiatives stick?

If you have a resource steering your team through this improvement initiative ask them questions. I know this sounds obvious but the trouble in some cases with having an expert on site guiding you through something is that it looks easy and may make you think that this will be just as easy after they are gone.

Know what the landscape will look like during the improvement cycle. Avoid people doing this off the side of the desk as this will always be a point of contention with resourcing and the first thing dropped when it gets busy.

Ensure that the changes that you are making are small enough to show some improvement over a short period of time. Small changes are simple, easy to manage and having some wins which we can demonstrate will generate some inertia in the forwarding the improvement cycle.

The key here is that while this may look easy from the outside, the reality is that a marathon of hard work is about to take place, so make sure that you are as prepared for this by working with professionals who are looking out for your ability to achieve your improvement initiatives.

Follow me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or connect with me on LinkedIn