Monday, 30 January 2017

The Service Desk - BRM's of the Future

When I was starting out in IT my first role was on the service desk. While some in IT support looked at this job as something of an entry level position I knew that there was far more to it than simply getting people to reboot their computer. The direction from my leadership was that in time, I too could graduate to a more ‘advanced’ support role. While I speak in this post specifically about IT, I could translate the reference to those in HR or any other shared service function.

After a while I began to notice that many of the people hired after me who were more customer focused left the organization rather than moving on to other roles in the organization simply because they did not feel as though they has a career path that matched their skillset . On the other hand the technical people spent some time on the team before moving on to more senior technical support roles.
To me it seems like we might be missing an opportunity to foster some pretty important skills on out teams.

We (IT and anyone else for that matter) have handled support in this way for quite some time. Maybe it’s time to take another look at what we are doing and ask ourselves some honest questions about how we serve others. Particularly the way we manage customer interactions and your staff.

You know when you are dealing with a customer service superstar. You leave the experience feeling satisfied, that any time spent on hold was worth the wait not the other way around.

Since we are looking to be better partners for our business maybe we want to rethink the way we build and manage these teams. Should we not look at how we manage the business relationship management (BRM) skillset and encourage this within the service desk.

Since the BRM effectively looks to work with the business and ensure the services that we are providing are appropriate for their needs, maybe building this skill into the service desk might be a better long term fit. The service desk gets a front row seat to see how the service works (or not) with your business first hand. This also positions them to grow into BRM’s down the line by making relationships with the business from the start.

The key word in the service desk is service, so it shouldn’t have to be said that staffing it with people who are customer centric is likely going to improve the relations between IT and your business. The trick is to balance your service desk with people who can:

  • Talk with people,
  • Gather information and document what was discussed in a way that will ensure less backend triage.
  • Have some technical expertise to address issues as they arise
  • And talk with more people

This sounds like more than an entry level job to me.

As always I appreciate your comments or feedback

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

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Value of Sharing

Whenever the topic of blog writing comes up, the question I get asked the most is “Why do you do this in the first place?”

In order to explain why, we need to go back to the end of the last century – the year 1999. I had just finished my post-secondary education as a civil engineering technologist. As the final term came to a close I had a gleam in my eye and I was looking to start a new career in the engineering/construction world. The unfortunate part was that despite my enthusiasm the economy was going to be a bit of a roadblock for me in this regard. Not only was I competing for jobs with other students but with professionals who had plenty experience in the field. I found myself to be a product of circumstance. After a while of being unable to find work in the profession I studied I took on other work to be able to pay the bills.

Fast forward to 2006. In the 7 years since my graduation the economy saw an exponential upswing. I had not held a Civil Engineering role of any kind in the 7 years since graduating so this wasn't going to be an option, however many employers were looking for people who had some type of post-secondary education, and a willingness to learn. It was at that time I entered the world of IT as a service desk analyst. I was once again the product of circumstance, however this time I was in the position to benefit from it.

Over the course of the next few years I broadened my skill set working in incident and problem management and along the way picking up courses like ITIL foundations. Things were great but I found after a while that my new challenge was that I felt I reached a plateau of information. The reality was that training dollars seem to be lowest in supply for ITSM folks in the IT department. It was like being the youngest sibling at a table with other IT teams who are fighting for the big piece of chicken.
At the tail end of 2009 the economy was once again taking a down turn. In the year that followed the company where I was working had let some people go which included a mentor of mine. Without my mentors voice my concern was that I might begin to drift in the sea of uncertainty as many people do in times like that. While I had dodged the swath of the grim reaper at the layoff, I wanted to better position myself for any opportunities as they arose. This time I wanted to be a champion of circumstance.

My personal moment of realization was this. In some cases companies will make decisions that are beyond my control. However with every situation we have to look at it as an opportunity (the glass is half full) we need to market to our business how we can help them achieve their outcomes using our services. My personal challenge was that I was still trying to figure out how to do that (and in reality I still am today)

The first thing I did was reach out to a few mentors I had found along the way, their suggestions were obvious but I needed to hear them for it to effectively sink in. They said that the nature of the beast is up and down. That I needed to inject myself in the conversation rather than asking for answers. For me, the way I decided to share was to write a blog post. In the beginning months I had very few readers. But as one mentor had explained, "it's not about the readership, it's about the process." 

I did start the ball rolling in a direction to where people would challenge my posts and began dialog on information that was helping me stretch my understanding. I realized early on that this was a marathon rather than a race. Part of the process of sharing was gaining some clarity on my own ideas as I put thoughts into the posts. In effect I began to answer my own questions.

I soon realized that I was performing this cycle of sharing to understanding:

Share – Sharing information, posing questions or looking for commentary

Interact – gathering input from practitioners from all experience levels, from multiple lines of business and cultural backgrounds

Learn – to leverage discussions and information shared with others to store in my own knowledge locker

Understand – to see the bigger picture and apply what I have learned to my day to day work life.

From there I had a responsibility to share what I had learned and begin the cycle again.

Some 200 posts later I still am looking to broaden my understanding through this cycle of collaborating with service management folks and have expanded this sharing to those outside the IT space as we all look to improve the customer experience, which is what service management is all about.

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

Monday, 16 January 2017

My Take on New Year's Strategy

New Year’s resolutions are an almost required part of transitioning into a new year. It’s a time when we let ourselves start fresh, but why do we feel compelled to do so? The tradition itself can be traced back to the early Babylonians. It was a chance for their people to take the opportunity to look back on the past year and resolve to make some measure of improvements to the world around them.

Much like personal goals, businesses also focus on this time of the year to focus on strategy and set goals to make some improvements in their circle of influence.

In fact, if you hadn’t noticed already, the volume of New Year’s resolution type blogs and articles is countless so I am glad you took the time to check out this post because here’s what I propose. What if before we get to the end of the year we start to focus on the improvements we need to make? Instead of waiting to review after the year is completed we strike while the iron is hot and take an honest look before the year ends to make some assessments for future goal setting and strategy for the upcoming year.

Let’s face it, by the time we get to October whatever trajectory the organization is on it will likely continue until some adjustments are made. So what if we started to build out the strategy in October so that we can look to implementing the building blocks before the end of the year. This way when we discuss our new year’s resolutions in January we are already making some progress to moving in that direction. After all, starting out in many cases can be the toughest part. Once we get some momentum we can start to leverage communication and continual service improvement initiatives to build on any success, and in some cases challenges, we are experiencing.

If I was to put this into an IT support example I might suggest that a goal would be to reduce incident durations from 4 to 3 hours. In this example we might also already know that the reason that we understand the constraints of doing this in the past since we have been faced with this challenge for the last 9 months. With this information in hand we could make an informed assessment on what might work better and begin to implement this from October until December so that in January we would begin to realize the results and have a solid start on the new year. This would give us a real look at an improvement strategy for the new calendar year rather that only seeing something which seems to start in March or April.

The road to improvement in the business will be just as difficult as making these sorts of changes in your personal life. The trick to keeping on track will be to ensure that the goals we are working on are SMART, that we manage them effectively through communication, and that they align to our business objectives.

You can connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or on LinkedIn

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Another Example of why Being Reasonable Rules

A few months back as I was poking around on social media I saw that a colleague of mine received a promotion at the organization she was at from a service delivery lead to the manager of change management. While I knew that the role was a new one for her, I understood that there were many consistencies between working relationships and team members. The big difference was that she was now the manager of a small team and the owner of the change management process. But I knew that she was always up for challenges and she would be getting her game face on.

Recently I bumped into her and asked how things were shaking out and she indicated that she actually liked the old job better. After asking why, she explained that initially things seemed to be going good but then her director indicated that she was too nice and that she should ‘drop the hammer’ on people more often.
I was surprised since having worked with her she always seemed fair but firm. She continued to explain that while people were following the process the leadership was worried that people might start to go off course if they weren’t reeled in. In some cases she thought that they were ok with her being a bit tough on some people and maybe not so much on others.

I asked her what her plan was.

She said that to start with everyone knows what is expected of them from the time a change was submitted until it was closed, and that wasn’t about to change. In fact she went on to say that since she took over people started to indicate that they felt more comfortable asking her questions than her predecessor (who apparently was released due his ‘good nature’)

My suggestion was to look at the big picture and relay that you can ‘drop the hammer’ but there will be consequences in doing so. The thing I told her to remember there is a big difference in challenging people on some questionable details in a change, as compared with rejecting a change because people were missing some fields or details that could be easily attained. A mentor of mine once said that you need to pick your battles and if the outcome has an adverse effect which is worse than getting someone to fill in the form then you need to make some decisions. This isn’t to say that you can’t coach, teach and steer people in the right direction, on the contrary. You just need to figure out the weight at which you apply the force. After all we are already facing a PR challenge with the business when we can’t be nimble enough to manage changes at the rate the business may be looking for.

Further to this I explained that she should have a frank discussion with the leaders who are seeing an issue. Managing change management after all is a juggling act of technical understanding, governance and people skills.

She agreed, and decided that not only discussing with the leadership team but also showing that there was a measurable improvement in the adoption of changes since she took over the new role was also worth discussing.

You can connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie or on LinkedIn