Thursday, 26 February 2015

Post Incident Reviews: Dust yourself off and get on the bike

I want you to think back to when you were a child learning to ride a bike. When you started out I can imagine that you fell a few times. I am sure that most of you learned that scraping your knee was a painful experience best avoided and that you learned not to do it again. If you were like me you may have even given up, angrily throwing your hands up in frustration and shouting that it was the bikes fault and that it was stupid. Unfortunately to up with your friends (competitors) you would learn on your own, in some cases the hard way with its own list of trials and tribulations.

Incident management is very similar in many ways in that some organizations will experience some issues, learn from them and repeat this cycle until they get better over time. Other organizations may even give up trying and simply live in the firefight mode that incident brings to the forefront until a point where teams decide there has to be a better way.
The bad news is that whether we like it or not there is a need to have incident management. For me if I must have it I will need to make sure that we can squeeze some improvements out of each critical escalation to streamline it wherever we can. In my opinion the only part that has any real value from an incident, is the ability to learn from it and make improvements so that they don’t happen again.

There are many different ways that incidents can be reviewed after service has been restored, with just as may terms to describe them. Whatever you want to call them you should look at a few of these areas when you are reviewing.

Initial Escalation
How was the incident escalated to your team? There may be several modes of escalation.  The key question to ask; “was the right amount of information delivered in order to escalate to support resources?” If the answer to this is yes, we need to identify why it happened and ensure we find a way for it not to happen again. For example if the issue was reported through the phone did the analyst get all the information that was required? No? Perhaps a list of minimum details is require, maybe in the form of a checklist. Fine tuning this initial part of the escalation ensures that you don’t need to keep going back to the person who is having issues and asking questions you should have asked in the first place. It gives a bad perception that we don’t know what we are doing. This time that is wasted with more questions could be better served with time to resolve the incident itself.

Internal Escalations
Did all the right people get the right information to be able to restore service as quickly as possible? I have been in situations where an issue has occurred and after some looking around it turned out if we had only looped in “support group x” they would have helped cut the resolution time in half. Communication during these issues is crucial so reviewing the mode of communication in the post incident review is equally paramount.

Did I mention that this is important… the trick here is to ensure that not only your support teams know that there is an issue and that someone is working on it but to give your clients a sense that their support resources are working to restore service with some timelines and content to inform them that this issue is being fixed. Quite often what happens is that the senior leadership from your business may have a tendency to question IT leadership directly on the status. Making sure that your boss looks informed and can convey that the situation is under control will go a long way in improving the business IT relationship when these issues happen. If your leadership has no information they look as though they are not in control of the situation despite what might be happening.

What broke?
Obviously one of the most important parts of the review is to talk about what broke, and what caused it to break. In some cases the root cause may not be clear so you will need to decide if a problem needs to be opened for this to investigate further. In other situations we might know what the cause was and the learning outcome is that we need to address something specific to prevent another issue from happening in a similar way. Lastly we have to find out if we, the IT team, had caused this through a change that we put in, and if that is the case we should identify what happened there and make sure that the change management team (who should have a presence at these reviews) documents this for not only the emergency fix that was employed to fix the situation as well as ensuring that the change that caused the issue has documentation to reflect that is caused an issue.

Going forward
Lastly you need to go over all the actions that need to happen to prevent these issues where you can, or at the very least streamline them so that the service can be restored with minimal impact to your business.
Incidents are like riding a bike, even after being a skilled rider and you get going faster you can still have an accident and fall off. Make sure your teams are in a position to not only pick themselves up, but be able to improve and continue riding for many more years.  

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Improving Your Marketing Strategy

One thing is for sure, shared services are typically not good at marketing (with the exception of those who are in Marketing). Where this becomes abundantly clear is when we ask the business what shared services do for us. They may need to think for a while to come up with an answer. in some cases they will say HR does benefits and IT manages the computers but to a large degree this is where this explanation might end.
The unfortunate reality is that while we may provide great service, we need to improve the way we market what we do. After all we, whether we are IT or HR or Finance, need to improve the two-way communication with our business if we want to continually improve the service we deliver.
You have competitors
Your potential external competitors are employing a well strategized and targeted marketing plan to provide services that you do today. On the surface they may look faster, better and cheaper. The challenge your shareed service teams face is that you may not thinking about providing service on this level and may believe that since you are a department in a company that you do not need to let your business know why your are beneficial to the organization.
Start by thinking what services you are currently providing to your business today. What are you doing well, and what areas do you need to improve. In some cases you may have more questions than answers, and if you do don’t worry. You need to start somewhere. Identify what gaps exists and focus on addressing them.
Do not make assumptions. If you believe that you are doing things well, validate them with those who are consuming the services. Just because you haven’t had any negative feedback (no news is good news) doesn’t mean that there are no issues. In some cases this could represent the opposite, that the service has degraded to a point where the business has lost interest in even complaining and may already be looking to external service providers to replace you.
In the beginning start simple, look at 2 things:
1. What you do well
For the areas which we are shining as a service provider we want to be able to highlight them in a way which demonstrates some level of value. It is likely that we don’t “sell” ourselves very well in this regard. How do these activities impact the bottom line for your business and how does it help them achieve their business outcomes.
2.  Areas for improvement
You have the upper hand on all those external competitors in one area, you know your business (or at least you should). Being in a position to understand your business goals and who to connect with within your business allows you to even the playing field against those external competitors who have large marketing teams at their disposal. You should understand your business at this level, if you don’t this should be your first starting point. There are always ways to improve your service delivery, which I am sure everyone would agree to. The key is to focus on the area that matters the most to get the best bang for the buck. This applies to your business outcomes. Allowing your business to know that you understand their pain points and that a plan is in place to work towards some level of resolution can go a long way.
But be careful you don’t want to write cheques that you can’t cash, lip service can be a slippery slope. Make sure that your improvement initiatives are iterative so that you can communicate on their progress regularly to show small improvements each time. Validate that with your communities of practice who consume the service to ensure that your are not making assumptions on improvement.
Make sure that you also understand how your business wants to digest this information. Once again don’t assume that they should get it in an email. Expand your thinking and see what other options are available. Perhaps it will be through social media, a podcast, on a company portal just to name a few. If you have a marketing and communications team at your organization enlist their help to begin this journey to improving your marketing strategy.

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Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Pink 15 Experience

Over the past few days I had the good fortune to attend Pink 15. This was my first Pink event in Las Vegas, and much like the city the conference was larger than life. To complement the vendor representation there was a great selection of presenters who were able to fulfil the needs of the attendees in many capacities.

There was a great cross section of attendees from many geographic areas who were looking for insights into as many areas which are impacting the ability to deliver service as there was diversity in the attendees themselves.

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 beyond that we all need to ensure that the content allows for multiple perspectives which this conference did.

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, 17 February 2015

Be a Better Strategic Partner

This week at the Pink Service management conference I have heard a similar sentiment around being a strategic partner with your clients rather than being someone who helps them get on their feet and moves on to the next piece of work.

What needs to be done is to leave the client, and in reality your customer, better than they were before you got there. Also you need to make sure that they are set up for long lasting success. Look at it in these terms; you can teach your child to ride a two wheeler for the first time, they will fall a couple of times but once you have shown them you don’t just walk away. You teach them how to protect themselves by wearing a helmet, the rules of the road and that you have to “watch out for the other guys on the pathways.

The same should be said for when you are helping your client achieve success through a service management implementation. Make sure they protect their assets though security, all of the policies and practices are governed and how that is done and managed and that they need to keep their eyes on the competition.

This is a short post, I know, but hey I’m in Vegas at Pink15, give me a break.

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

#COBIT 5 – Worth a look

Recently I have been thinking more about business value. Through some reading I find that I keep coming across COBIT, more specifically COBIT 5 which is the latest release. While this was not the first time I had reviewed it I began to look at it with more emphasis on the value proposition and strategy of IT.

If you’re not aware, COBIT 5 is an ISACA framework which helps enterprise achieve their objectives for the management and governance of IT.

How does it do this?

In one way or another IT has a direct impact on your business performance. Think about organizations which are leaders in their fields, it is highly likely that their IT teams enable their businesses to outperform their competition as a result of being more innovative. These IT teams are more likely collaborating with their businesses as well. These two traits, while they sound like simple and obvious strategies, are not the “same old” support model typical organizations will employ. This is where the great companies rise above the good ones.

Take your organization for example, you might be quite good at supporting your business objectives in an operational capacity but to be able to compete you really need to work with your business in a strategic way.
One of the important facets of COBIT ensures that we are also looking at what risks could present themselves to our organization. Much like the ever changing landscape of technology, we also need to keep our heads above water with regards to evaluating risk. This is done through leveraging good practices and process which is driven by COBIT at its core.

As many of you know the underlying reason we have process aside from being able to produce consistent results is to protect our business as it might pertain to any regulations which we need to adhere to. Depending on what area of the world your organization resides, or trades financially, you may be subject to some level of regulatory auditing. COBIT is set up in a way which allows your auditors to easily see how you have structured your process.

My suggestions is to check this out for yourselves at ISACA

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Monday, 9 February 2015

Covering your Assets – How well do you manage them?

In tough economic climates companies are looking for ways to streamline their processes as well as reducing overhead costs. One area for consideration should be (if it is not already) Asset Management. In many of my blog posts I discuss the importance of reporting and what we currently know about how we providing service. We should also know what tools are at our disposal to be able to do that.

The overall goal of asset management whether it be hardware, software or something other is to control the assets in its umbrella throughout their lifespan. Simply put, we know who in our business is using what and the cost associated with using that asset.

Some might suggest that everyone tracks their assets to some degree or another; however are they tracking them throughout their life span. Think about your organization and answer this question, “From the time an asset is requested until it is retired is there someone or something that is managing each component of its life?” If your answer to this question is “no”, then you may need to consider what the cost of not having a more formalized asset management process might be.

There could be a cost with regards to compliance of your software assets in some cases. You may have more people using your software (consumption of licenses) then licenses which are available (already paid for). This can be a costly lesson in asset management when annual reviews find that we are not license compliant and additional costs are incurred.

Another cost which can be associated to assets is regarding the actual need for the asset in question. Not all job functions may require the same software titles, much like they may not all require the same devices. What can happen is that in an onboarding situation we suggest that we mirror person x for assets when in reality the new person being on-boarded does not need these things, and in some cases neither does their predecessor. The caution here is despite having an existing rule that requires a manager’s approval for a device or software; this might not be enough review. Every organization is different in your organization you may not have a chargeback or some form of checks and balances in place to monitor cost until an annual review. We may be deploying tablets and software to people who really don’t need it at a cost which our business ultimately does not want.

Asset management is a really big topic and I have only really scraped the surface here. Do some checking in your organization and see where some review may need to take place. A small improvement can have a lasting impact on the bottom line for your business.

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Monday, 2 February 2015

The Service Delivery Playbook

While I was an impartial viewer for the Super Bowl, frankly an excuse to yell at the television and devour copious amounts of savory snacks, I couldn’t help but notice the coaching staff with their playbooks in hand. I thought to myself, while each team has one, what is in there to ensure that they are on a winning trajectory.

How does the playbook integrate with the delivery of services? Much like in sport there should be an offensive and defensive strategy applied to how we achieve our goals.

A plan for what we are trying to achieve for each financial quarter should be known as well as understood by all those in the department who are providing service, whether that is IT, HR or Finance. In the football game scenario when you are watching on TV you are barraged with statistical information at every turn. I would suspect that each of the teams have compiled to allow them to not only make the best decisions to allow them to win (meet business objectives) but to do so in an way which allows them to build on each point they score.

Your service delivery teams also should be reviewing the reporting that is available to them to continue to build off their successes but to also adjust when something that was not planned for comes their way.

Despite our best efforts there are going to be times where we are not able to make improvements or “move the needle” in a direction which we want to go in. This is where we need to ensure that in addition to having a good offensive strategy that we have also planned for areas where challenges present themselves.
Having regular checkpoints throughout the year will ensure that we identify any potential challenges to providing service. In some cases this might be soliciting feedback from your business partners to ensure that we are continuing to deliver services which are reflective of the business outcomes.

Remember that while we may have an end goal for the year in terms of service delivery as it pertains to business objectives, our business may also have had some adjustments to make as well and we need to validate that we are all still on the same page.

Overall we need to make sure that no matter how good the strategy is that is it communicated and understood by all the players on the team. This might avoid some mistakes at a crucial time when you should run the ball rather than passing…..

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