Regular ITSM Review columnist Rob England (a.k.a. ‘The IT Skeptic’) has just published his latest contribution to the ITSM industry:
“Plus! The Standard+Case Approach: See service response in a new light”
“If your customers see your group as bureaucratic and inflexible…
If your staff feel process bound…
If your process doesn’t adapt to a changing world…
See service response in a new light.
Standard+Case is an exciting new approach to categorising and resolving any sort of response activity, such as service desk, tech support, public safety, social welfare, or health. If you have anything to do with responding to situations when providing a service, read this. It will change your view of how responses are handled.
Standard+Case applies to anything that requires a human response: there’s either a standard response or there isn’t.”
What they said…
“By tying together the mature practices of ITSM and Case Management Rob has strengthened and filled in gaps of both frameworks. A must read for ITSM professionals!” Troy DuMoulin, Pink Elephant.
“Great reading and concept. Now I want to build it.” Matt Beran, ITSM Consultant.
One of the key elements of delivering quality service to an organisation is to ensure that teams have relevant information to hand, to assist in having a clear understanding of the situation.
But even the most inclusive IT Service Management Tools offer integration to complementary tools to make end-to-end management achievable.
Whether it be speeding up implementations by cleaning up the original data needed to set up the system in the first place, to incorporporating Systems Management data, we want to take a look at the supporting products that help us manage IT and business services end to end.
What are we looking for?
Pre-Deployment Set-up – User data, location data, HR information (managers, budget centres)
Integrations to Asset and Configuration information – A lot of the main ITSM vendors offer integration connectors to pull in the “meat” of the ITSM sandwich
Event Management – Alerts are generated for anything and everything in a managed estate, but how is the wheat sorted from the chaff so that only the vital, service-affecting information gets through?
Support Services – Remote Control, Communications Platforms during Major Incidents and Support Chats etc.
Resource Management – Integration with Email/Schedules of support staff workload scheduling and management of projects within the ITSM tool
Any other useful data that supports ITSM
Why do we care?
Whilst it would be lovely to think that there could be “one ring to rule them all”, the reality is that as comprehensive as ITSM suites are becoming, they are likely to be deployed into environments that will require an element however small of integration.
This may be something as simple as connecting to Active Directory to pull user data and related location and organisational information in, to taking an asset baseline, to start the journey into Change and Configuration Management.
All of these require some form of data integration – the easier the better.
But companies on the periphery of the suites are recognising that there is an area for innovation and providing enhancement to that service, for example reducing time to initially deploy, or being able to take over a machine as part of the problem determination actions in an incident record, and logging all that information in the record.
Think of it as the backing singers to the main act, or the instrumental solo – the supporting tools that help drive the overall efficiency of an IT Service Management solution for a business.
If you offer technology in this area and would like to participate in our next review please contact us.
When things go wrong with technology, organisations rely on their IT support teams to fix problems and help out. The traditional method for dealing with problems sees calls (or email requests) coming in and tickets going into the queue to be dealt with.
If a first level support rep doesn’t have the skills to handle an issue, then it gets passed up the chain, essentially being put on hold for response and evaluation. The current ‘hot potato’ approach leads to responsibility being constantly shifted between teams or individuals, dragging out resolution times.
This method of problem solving is extremely inefficient from the end-user’s perspective.
Users get very little visibility over how long it will take to fix their problem, and they can’t find out who is ultimately responsible for resolving their issue. User frustration is high when they can’t get clarity on support requests or have to repeat the details of their problem to multiple technicians. This process becomes even more complex as businesses outsource parts of their IT services to third parties, who often provide even less visibility to end-users.
Swarming issues towards resolution
It is time for support organisations to break down the walls between tiers and embrace a more collaborative approach to support, pulling in the right people with the right skills when issues occur. This requires disparate teams to share responsibility for resolving issues and work together to swarm around issues in real time.
This is a significant challenge for IT service desks to consider. Alongside looking at new ways in which to give customers information and new tools to make support easier, there is a potential shift in IT support culture that will also have to take place.
NOTE: This will involve changing from traditional service desk management and becoming more collaborative in problem solving.
Obviously, collaboration is not a new concept. However, applying it in the IT service space does mean thinking things through, as there will be changes in both how problems and tickets will be managed when collaboration is implemented, as well as how metrics on performance are generated.
The support concierge service
One approach to improving service through collaboration is to position frontline tech staff as support “concierges” who guide the end-user through the entire issue resolution process, versus handing users off to higher tier contacts. Higher level experts should be accessible and be pulled into support issues as needed, helping to resolve problems as soon as they occur and providing on-the-job training to lower level reps. Finally, support reps should be able to securely bring in external vendors and experts as needed to assist with end-user issues in real time as well.
Getting an expert to immediately jump in on an issue has two benefits: firstly, it can improve first contact resolution rates as more difficult challenges can be solved at the first interaction with the end-user. Secondly, it helps improve the knowledge and skills for first line support, as they can watch how the experts solve those more difficult issues first-hand. This makes it easier to improve service levels overall on both a qualitative and quantitative basis.
The third way
From a logistics point of view, bringing in a third contact with experience on the same issue can help fix a problem sooner than shifting a ticket to a “new” queue. However, it does mean re-organising workflows, which can be a big challenge, particularly for situations where support resources will be required from a different location or from outside the organisation. Instead of being points along a line between the user and problem resolution, the first line “concierge” remains responsible for a problem until it is resolved.
Under the traditional service desk approach, there are often no chances for first line staff to expand knowledge of wider problems except for specific training – something that is becoming harder to justify for investment under current economic conditions.
For them, collaboration becomes an opportunity to up their skills and increase their satisfaction levels too. This can also help with morale on the service desk as staff feel better educated and more valued.
This collaborative approach is obviously difficult to implement if your support organisation relies solely on the phone to handle issues. From a technology perspective, it requires you to look at remote support tools and how they’re enabled, as well as other methods for providing support like chat sessions. To support collaboration, everyone has to view the same screen, pass controls back and forth and invite additional techs (internal or external) to join the session. Bringing in third parties has to be done in a secure and controlled way, so that they can have access to resources that they require in order to provide support.
The main aim for collaboration around IT support is that it can deliver a significant increase in customer service levels. Users have a higher chance of their problem being solved first time, while satisfaction levels should also increase as they feel that every issue is graded as important, whether it is a minor problem or a major one that requires multiple support staff to deal with.
This change in approach has to be supported by similar evolutions in culture and technology on the service desk. Collaboration does involve some standardisation in approach and tools so that teams work in the same way and know what is expected of them.
Similarly, support and service desk management will have to think about capturing and measuring their performance in different ways. For example, metrics like time to resolution will become less important as initial support sessions may take longer, but that should be counteracted with an increase in first contact resolution. More importantly, user satisfaction should go up as people with problems feel their issues get solved in a more efficient way.
By modernising their technology and processes to resolve more issues upon first contact, support and service desks can prove that they are focused on users first and foremost, which will help them improve their reputation and justify the budgets spent on them. At a time when IT strategies in general are continuing to change, the service desk can use these opportunities to deliver more high-value services back to the organisation that they support.
A BIG thank you to all ITSM Review readers, supporters and contributors. We’ve just passed the 16,000 17,000 visitors a month threshold in May.
I’m proud to say our growth has been 100% free range organic (Roughly 50% social media and 50% folks accidentally stumbling across us somewhere on the web). i.e. People have chosen to visit us, we have not paid them to do so or lured them with advertising.
Being an online only publication without a paywall or restrictions our content has spread via social networks and word of mouth to a mind boggling 172 countries since August 2011. According to Google Analytics data our largest audiences are USA (29%), UK (17%) and India (10%). The heat map in the diagram above shows visitor countries, darker colours receive more visitors, grey countries receive no visitors. Unfortunately, ITSM enthusiasts in Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Cuba remain elusive. I shall persevere.
Your Opinion Counts
Our content is driven primarily from reader requests, the curiosity of authors and interesting trends in the market.
We want to remain relevant and useful to the ITSM industry. Your opinion counts and is very valuable to the ongoing development of our community.
Please let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what you’d like to see.
I would be very grateful if you could help me by completing a very quick reader census.
This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters .
Why was the IT service management and help desk function created?
Most likely, it stemmed from an idea to establish a task force of specialists capable of providing assistance in any complex technical issue.
Over the decades, the service desk function has evolved from elite efficiency artistry into first level issue resolution ranging from the basic resetting of a password, to the complex, cascading outages, which can involve all stakeholders and affect the most important services within the organisation.
However, all too often, the relevance of the function is underestimated. The perception is generally that the service management function is not as aligned or as strategic as it should be.
Proving the efficiency and value that the service desk provides to internal and external stakeholders can change that perception. But to do so, you have to begin by going back to the original objectives of the service desk.
It is easy to reconstruct how service management has become distracted with the issues of running an effective service desk. The goals of the help desk are a paradox. The range of tasks can be infinite and undefined, training is difficult, resources are scarce and customer’s expectations are growing at an increasing rate. Too much information is being broadcast out to groups without taking into consideration how and why a person wants that information. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to increase the relevance of service management.
Let’s examine some of the best practices to increase your business relevance:
Automating mundane tasks – The ultimate goal of automation is to perform a required process in a streamlined, efficient and repeatable fashion. In order to automate a time consuming first-line task, you will need to create synergy between incident and dispatch assignment by combining industry leading service desk applications with a communication platform. The platform you choose needs to allow each team to declare who is responsible, available, skilled and interested in any issue. When incidents take place, personnel are automatically located, dispatched and working on resolving those incidents without the need for the service desk to perform the slow, manual task of looking up who’s on call, who’s responsible, and what their contact information is.
Optimising first call closure – Not all issues can be solved on the first call from the service desk. However, by automating the mundane tasks, we can reinvest time in our first-line resolution capability. The savings allow us to train first-line specialists and provide time for personnel to more accurately trouble shoot and resolve issues. In addition, it gives the service desk the ability to spend more time with customers during satisfaction-impacting issues.
Enabling effective escalation – One of the challenges of effective service management, is knowing when and how to escalate an issue. Finding the right person can be complicated and the odds of effective, accurate escalation feel like one in a million. Effective escalation starts with enabling the team responsible for meeting the service level with the ability to control the information they require. By allowing each team leader or director to architect the process, it ensures that when escalations are required, the correct person is notified. Through the automated delivery of information to the person responsible, the time to dispatch and resolve is reduced, resulting in fewer escalations and eliminating non value-added tasks such as wait time for assignment, call out, and person-to-person escalations.
Instant and frequent visibility – One of the largest challenges a service management organisation faces is to provide visibility to the consumers of the service. Business personnel require proactive notifications of service interruption; however, the process of manually calling 500 executives in 50 countries is not realistic without the help of a communication platform. Additionally, using internal social media channels such as Facebook, Chatter and Jive requires information to be pushed out, rather than pulled in. What’s required to provide meaningful, instant and frequent visibility and increase the perception of the quality of service? First, the organisation must have matured through the previous steps. Before providing proactive alerts, the service management function must be operating effectively and efficiently. The second step is the integration of a communication system capable of supporting global operations, business personnel, business service oriented alerts and the ability to target content to each person based on their needs, role and requirements – it’s called personalised information.
Champion transparency and accountability – Service management can provide an organisation with the tools necessary to increase efficiency and transparency. However, to reach this stage, organisations must become comfortable with publishing the results of their efforts. In today’s world, IT services are all too visible, lags are noticed and incidents become known by your customer’s customer. Transparency and accountability are the key drivers in trust and assurance.
The key to increasing the relevance of the IT service management function is to streamline inefficient processes, and improve communication throughout the organisation. Automating redundant, mundane tasks to improve efficiencies is critical. Once you have an airtight process that ensures the service desk is running smoothly, you must then deliver proactive notifications to the people who care about specific situations. While some may argue that social media channels are the perfect way to do this, it takes away the notion of personalised information. Everyone is seeing the information posted there, and they have to actively seek it out. IT service management should have a communication platform that delivers only the information internal and external customers care about, and need to know, directly to them.
This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.
Chris Barrett (currently a Transformation Director at Capita Consulting) is one of the first of the newly appointed management team for the new joint venture company, and spoke to us at the Knowledge 13 event, Las Vegas.
The Issue of Communications
The first question had to look at the communications, lack of and standard of (which is ironic given our collective jet-lagged state, at the time).
The first e-bulletin had just come out, and it is clear that the press office still needs some time to settle in to converting dry releases into something that gives the waiting ITSM public some further insight, without jargon.
At several times, he was keen to emphasis that Capita is actually more of a red herring/misnomer (which explains why a number of questions were pointed directly at Capita Group).
He said: “If there was one thing Capita was good at, it was fulfilling a remit – for example stripping out costs from a business.”
“But if people are thinking this is a land grab, they would be completely wrong.”
“We are not a corporation, we are a small joint venture.”
“The idea is to grow and invest in the community – this is about a duty of care, and custodianship.”
Whilst communications have been light and/or dry as toast, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
There will be a twitter feed and a continuation of the e-bulletins, but resources to manage the media side of operations are yet to be appointed.
The Team To Be
In terms of the physical set up, the Chief Executive has been chosen, and the management team are being finalised.
TUPE discussions are continuing regarding members of the Cabinet Office and TSO, due to come across at the end of this year (UPDATED: See comment from Chris Barrett of the Capita JV below)
For many who have actively contributed to the best practices publications, the emphasis on being a non-corporate joint venture still allows them have that airtime – if they so choose.
“Can it be altruistic?” I asked Chris
“It can be, if it serves the community and if we cut them out, how stupid would that be.”
Here is where I think the balance of power shifts.
Let’s be honest – people who have actively contributed in the past do not really need the kudos of adding that involvement to a CV or resume any more.
But there are also many people coming up now, through the ranks, with strong practitioner knowledge, and with the support and encouragement of those previously involved.
There is also an opportunity for those who have, in the past, rebelled at the gates of the fortress – surely now is their time to help shape the best practices to what they believe it should be?
Or will they choose to ignore this emerging spirit of collaboration with the community, and continue to throw stones into the moat?
Pragmatism Over Theory
A number of questions came in through various social media feeds, for us to ask and interestingly a lot seemed to focus on how Capita does things now.
Capita favours the pragmatic approach – referring to principles where appropriate but not purely for the purpose of using them for use’s sake.
It therefore stands to reason that going forward, the emphasis continues to be on the pragmatic application of these established best practices, to demonstrate real-world benefit.
As with everything that took place before, a lot of consideration will need to be given to the release programs for new versions.
This, in turn, led to an interesting revelation that the Cabinet Office themselves do not see the Swirl brand as having traction outside the UK’s shores, despite the information email ID being swirlenquiries.
Spending Spree Or Visionaries?
Interestingly, the most recent acquisitions (Knowledge Pool and Blue Sky) were never part of the original plan, but the inclusion of G2G3 was part of the original bid.
Even if they had not been acquired, the plan would have been to involve them anyway, and they look to be all set now in terms of training and simulation approaches.
Chris was asked whether the joint venture were looking to create their own, newer community, for example in the mould of Back to ITSM?
The plan is to have to have a portal approach and a formal home for people to land on.
Ideas being considered are a subscription-plan for more detailed material – this was seen as no different to paying money for training courses.
What is the Joint Venture NOT going to be
Chris confidently lined up his views:
“Not going to stagnate
Not going to be purely theoretical
Involving real practitioners and serving community members
Not going to be “Castle ITIL”
I wanted to be honest with Chris – those statements are pretty bold, but as someone still active both in consultancy and analysis on the ITSM side, this is good fighting talk.
Meet Them At The Gates
Whilst I can see a sense of continued cautiousness from those who have been discussing the future, the new joint venture are very much seeking and wanting continued dialogue.
The sense of community was a recurring theme, and as a member of this community, I think we owe it to the joint venture to try and meet them at the gates of our beloved “Castle ITIL”.
I sat in on a presentation of MyIT from BMC at SITS13 recently.
In a nutshell, it aims to provide IT self service via a consumer oriented app. Being an App, it can take advantage of identity and location to provide a very relevant IT service experience.
‘Log an incident’, filling in ITSM oriented forms and generic intranet messages about service levels are replaced with consumer oriented navigation of services relevant to the user in terms they will understand. It’s all about me and my world on my device.
I’ve not hidden the fact that I don’t particularly like creaking old software conglomerates run by hedge funds, so I find this offering surprisingly refreshing and innovative. Kudos to BMC for capturing the zeitgeist of ITSM, putting services in the hands of users and offering a friendly presentation layer over IT service mechanics.
First date syndrome?
The first date went really well, we chatted, we had a great time…. But they didn’t call back….
MyIT demos well. I can see senior IT managers really liking this, whilst clutching their IPad loaded with apps. Download an App from the AppStore onto your own personal device and engage with enterprise support is a compelling proposition.
However I would be very interested to see how BMC succeed getting past first demos, selling it and most importantly implementing successfully. I wish them well but fear the spaghetti behind the scenes to actually deliver the experience outstrips the maturity of most organisations.
For example, one great feature of MyIT is for the App to know your current location and for users to be able to orient themselves to the nearest IT department on a map.
They can also navigate internal buildings and locate the cubicle of the relevant support team member to help with their enquiry, dock to the nearest printer and so on. Great stuff, very cool, but in reality who actually has all of that intelligence mapped ready to be plumbed in to be able to facilitate the App? (Current topography of all buildings, mapped to all IT assets, mapped to all IT services and then mapped to the permissions of all users). A bit of a leap in maturity from the average service desk?
The result is that the instant gratification of “quickly download app” turns into the frustration of another 18 month ITSM overhaul. It is arguably a vision of the future to aspire to rather than the next pressing project. It will be interesting to see if organisations will skip that second date or take the red pill and follow the long term ambition.
Perhaps BMC have captured the zeitgeist of the demands of users whilst overlooking the current challenges of the average service desk? What do you think?
For readers outside the UK the early announcements may benefit from some context.
The UK treasury is between a rock and a hard place financially so joint ventures that generate cash from government owned intellectual property, whilst allowing the government to hold (49%) of the coat tails of growth in the future is good publicity.
This explains why most announcements in the popular press or general IT press in the UK have focussed on the ‘cash generated for taxpayers’ angle rather than the implications for ITSM.
“The government expects to earn £500 million over ten years from the deal” Computerworld, 26th April.
Unsubstantiated rumours from SITS13 suggest that APM Group/TSO, Pearson and EXIN/Van Haren were the other companies bidding for the portfolio.
Forgetting where it all started?
I have been interested to see industry veterans and ITSM spokespeople alike bellyaching about the irrelevance of ITIL after the announcement. I find this short-sighted nonsense similar to those irate individuals who get frustrated behind learner drivers.
Is ITIL the ITSM gospel? No. But it is the starting point and development path for a huge amount of individuals in the industry who work in ITSM yet don’t necessarily associate themselves with the ITSM industry.
Is ITIL perfect? No. But everyone has to start somewhere and as a framework for unifying an industry and generally raising standards I would say, in the context of other IT disciplines over the last two decades, it is true success story.
So what does the future hold for ITIL under the stewardship of Capita?
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Capita – The Good
Capital Plc. is a FTSE 100 publicly listed company with 53,000 staff, which has shown good growth over the last five years despite a grim economic climate.
So it has exactly the right resources required to give the frameworks the attention they deserve. Equally, you could argue that Capita could easily write off the entire mess if it isn’t happy with it without batting an eyelid, but overall a well financed company on the up has to be better than a cash strapped government running the show.
“We should view the investment opportunity as a possible means to further professionalise the approach and delivery of ITIL – moving away from the cottage industry to a proper business model. So hopefully this will mean a more professional and co-ordinated writing and editing approach for consistency, plus I hope e.g. we can see more clear business metrics and data that support the value derived from ITIL”
The UK government spun off the former defence research department (DERA) in 2001 in a similar fashion to form Qinetiq, which is now a FTSE 250 company, pocketing over £250m for the UK taxpayer on exit in 2008. So at first glance the model works if executed correctly.
Just before the announcement of the joint venture, Capita also acquired G2G3. This is a good sign according to Pink Elephant President David Ratcliffe:
“The timing of Capita’s acquisition of G2G3 – just days ahead of the announcement of the partnership with the Cabinet Office – looks to me like Capita may have their act together with a strategy for how to promote and deliver more valuable training in the ITSM field. I just hope I’ve read this correctly and am not setting myself up for a huge disappointment! (Fingers, toes and everything else crossable all crossed!)”
Mark R Sutherland of G2G3 is clearly pleased at the platform this provides his company:
“Capita’s strength, scale and global reach. As part of the Capita family, G2G3 now has access to resources that will help us strengthen and build upon our products and services and bring our latest innovations to life. We are clearly at a ‘tipping point’ with respect to our capabilities; the application of gaming dynamics and experiential learning across enterprise organizations is about to go mainstream – and we’ll be ready to make it happen.”
Mark also makes an interesting point regarding the ITSM industry as a whole:
“a chance to build a future for our industry which is based on community, collaboration and engagement.”
Stuart Rance with ‘Two speed ITIL’ and Stephen Mann with #Back2ITSM may perhaps now get some formal recognition. Is Capita listening? Let’s hope so.
Capita – The Bad.
So far so rosy?
Those outside the UK might not be familiar with the public image of Capita.
Capita does not have the strongest reputation. The satirical magazine Private Eye regular refers to ‘Crapita’ as an example of ‘failures and setbacks in the public sector’ and cynics will argue that Capita is an expert at winning tenders rather than delivering them (to be fair I hear this of all outsource companies).
Lost convicts, the CD with everyone’s inside leg measurements or accidently dropping the cat down the well – all archetypal Capita public bungles. Although you could argue that this goes with the territory of managing high profile public services (National census, criminal records, TV licensing, Major city call centre, health and safety executive etc.). As the saying goes: Where there’s muck there’s brass.
For an industry crying out for more collaboration and industry participation the last thing we need is a big faceless corporate. Especially, as Chris Evans points out, if they take an industry best practice framework and try to apply their own badge to it:
“When any large organisation is involved in something, they will exert a proportionate influence. Be it an alliance of countries/airlines/software companies, it is inevitable that they will want something out of the deal. My concern is that ITIL (specifically as it is my day job) which has always been ‘industry’ best practice, might slowly evolve into ‘CapITIL’ where the organisational thinking of the parent company controls the direction of the product. It is true that Capita as a services provider and outsourcer has a strong perspective on their market and that input will of course be welcome in future development but there is a risk that the model will lean towards their world and not the more holistic picture.”
Capita – The Ugly
Finally, it is worth considering the nature of Capita’s core business.
Capita is a Business Process Outsourcer. So Capita’s competitors might argue that a Burglar Alarm company just bought the Police Station (I’m sure there are more appropriate metaphors). The new joint venture will have a job on its hands to persuade the Accredited Training Organizations and others in the ITIL supply chain of the true vision and motives of the, yet to be named, joint venture company.