Any general news which does not fit in the other categories

Happy New Year for 2016  !! I wish you success and happiness

Its been a busy year in 2015 ITSMG Logo low res

The ITSM world continues to rock daily between inspiration and opportunity, to introspection and despair – at least in terms of visible hype. The reality for most organisations that actually deliver IT services is often simply confusion.

For me the key is in ensuring that we are constantly working to deliver value, based on our customers’ and supported businesses’ needs. The concept of ‘customer experience’ (CX) isn’t new, but is at long last taking hold and precedence over blind adherence to ‘best practice’ and death-by-process.

DevOps continues to hold sway as the big idea that won’t go away – again there’s nothing particularly new here except the context, as it talks to a younger workforce than those who might still see ITIL as their mantra. Of course there is no real clash between those two worlds and both can learn from and live with each other. In 2016 I’ll be pushing out more practical ideas about how to achieve success using both (and together) – particuarly in relation to Service Design and Service Catalogue – so look out for that.

What is interesting is the actual level of interest in DevOps and other new and formative ‘-oligies’, inclduing SIAM and IT4IT – this will continue to grow and we shoudl see more variety and creativity being exercised in delivering new approaches to IT services…

If you want to catch up on more detailed throuights, please see my recent webinar (reviewing 2015 and looking forward to 2016, sponsord by BMC).

From a personal work perspective this has been a busy year, being involved with a number of complex procurement and ITSM implementation projects, as well as my ususal regular dose of workshops, operational reviews and audits. I have worked with some great people and organisations and am pleased to say that the interest and take-up level around short practical consulting work has been good.

I’ve also been involved as an architect of the new ITIL Practitioner scheme, with Axelos. I’m really pleased and proud of what we achieved as a team on this, whch has brought finally a new set of ideas and practices to the forefront of Service Management training and best practice. These include communications and organisational change management, as well as CSI and metrics.

As ever I continue to work with my long term partners, SDI – as a consultant and auditor, as also recently to review and update the SDI Standards and Service Desk Certification scheme. To me this is still one of the best and most practical tools to use for assessment, benchmarking and to drive service improvement.

In the last few months I’ve taken on the challenge of interim-CEO for the ITSMF UK – this is a great honour, which I’m relishing. There’s plenty to do to develop the service offerings and value proposition for this organisation, as well as freshening the brand image and re-asserting its position as a key independent voice at the centre of our industry. We had a great annual conference and my and the team’s taskBRITSM15 is now to move on with this positive momentum to transform and re-invigorate the organisation. We have some xciting plans for new services and industry content, so watch this space…

Of course my own independent business still continues and I’m delighted to have worked with some very supportive partners over the last year to write and present ITSM content, including, Sunrise, Cherwell, BMC and Sysaid.

 

2016 is looking like a fascinating year already, particuarly with plans for ITSMF – so I’m looking forward to that. I hope that its a really great year for you too..!

Please contact me directly if you’d like to discuss any aspect of the world of ITSM

 

SITS MF MH

Fav pic from this years SITS show with Matt Hooper and Malcolm Fry.

ITSM Implementation – Vendors, Be Brave!

Group of Business People Meeting About TeamworkA few years ago a colleague of mine took a job heading up the professional services team of an ITSM vendor. During the recruitment process, he was quizzed on his ability to develop a consulting practice around the toolset and to achieve quality implementations of the solution. The goal was service improvement for clients.

On the morning of his first day in the job he received a shock. The CEO told him that the company were not interested in process implementation or organisational change. ‘We are a software company’ he said, and went on to define professional services as an interference, a nuisance.

My colleague was gob smacked and angry. How could anyone be so short sighted? So blind to the opportunities and responsibilities given to vendors around implementing ITSM solutions? He wanted to bring a consulting approach to product implementation. To improve the success and sustainability of clients. This, it seemed, was not the function of a software company…

Process Implementation – Whose Job is it Anyway?

I can relate closely to this experience. I don’t want to single out individual vendors. The point of this blog is to highlight that unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience. I interact with numerous ITSM vendors on a regular basis and many still exhibit a version of this approach to a greater or lesser extent. There are exceptions of course, but they are still the minority.

It’s true of course that process and organisational change is not the responsibility of every software company. Certainly in the case of standard applications such as Microsoft.

It is however, in niche operational and functional areas (like ITSM). This is a huge opportunity for vendors to develop their client relationships. To pass on their skills and knowledge and translate this into successful product implementation. As well as creating a useful and sustainable revenue stream.

I also believe that vendors have a responsibility to help their clients to get the best out of their tools. That’s got to be a win/win.

Underselling on ITSM Implementation Support?

The reality is that the competitive nature of the market has left many vendors fearful of losing sales on cost by proposing too much ITSM implementation support.

Many successful tenders are undersold on implementation support. This results in focus on the utilisation of consultancy/training days way too early. Often before anyone has had a chance to think about approach and strategy. Once the buyer starts to think of intelligent questions on how to achieve value from the product, it’s too late. The vendor has left.

Here’s what I believe.

  • Buyers should consider bids that include realistic (and higher) capital costs for ITSM implementation.
  • Vendors should be braver. They should include larger bids that include sufficient levels of consultancy.
  • Or be truly courageous. One or two innovative companies forgo the ‘time and materials’ approach in favour of a fixed fee. The aim to get the job done regardless (within some boundaries of course).

It might seem easy to take the moral high ground here. I have not forgotten that vendors are businesses employing people. We are talking about people’s jobs and mortgages after all. Still, why are there so many failed ITSM implementations and under-utilised tools? Worse still why do many organisations ‘rip and replace’ their toolset many times? – it’s not unusual for some organisations to be on their 4th or 5th ITSM product – I know plenty with many more.

To me it seems that there is a chronic degree of short-term gain/long term pain in the market. Oddly it seems to suit everyone and never gets challenged. Many sales pitches and procurement exercises focus on the negative elements of the market. How refreshing would it be if the focused on how to achieve customer value?

Isn’t it obvious that vendors should take more interest? More care and active involvement in ensuring that their products are implemented properly? Not only is this for the clients benefit but it’s also in their interest too.

So what challenges and issues could surface if projects don’t have appropriate levels of vendor support? What would be a positive and more productive approach?

How Can Vendors Help Customers Deliver Successful Projects?

ITSM vendors need to use some basic consultancy approaches for customer engagement and stakeholder management. To a large extent this would help improve the chances of delivering successful projects.

I often find projects where vendors have dived in too quickly. Often with technical people and a technical approach to implementation. Business objectives are rarely considered.

Above all the approach to engagement and stakeholder management can be very limited. It’s not uncommon for vendors to send out data workbooks and technical spec documents for completion and approval, without actually engaging with the customer who is paying the bill.

Technical implementation consultants can also be too keen to please. They are onsite with clients, building scripts and configurations of their product, often without the clarity and ‘bigger picture’ objectives of the customer and business goals.

I am not suggesting vendors set up separate consultancy practices to deliver ‘process’ consulting. The key point is that there are tried and tested consultancy and engagement approaches. These will far improve quality and also reduce the risk for both parties.

ITSM Implementation Needs to be Risk-Assessed and Project Managed

This might sound obvious but the level of risk assessment delivered by many vendors is poor if done at all. If they are going to be able to deliver a great project and meet their clients’ expectations, they need to have a clear view of the following in relation to their clients:

  • The size, nature and culture of the organisation. From large process driven to entrepreneurial,  personality-led
  • ITSM maturity – level or experience and awareness of ITSM methods and implementation
  • Skilled (business and technical) resources available. Will the client be able to meet their expected commitments?
  • Level of executive support. Who are the key players and sponsors, how will they be involved?
  • Potential issues and blockers for the project – politics, challenging personalities
  • Organisational and operational constraints – other projects, business priorities

Without some early view of these issues, the expectation of success can be pot luck or unlikely to be achieved. If these issues are understood by the vendor, then they can take appropriate action to mitigate them, e.g. by assigning more experienced consultants, more resources or engaging more at a C-Level. Just by watching the project if it is deemed to be high risk you can be ready to react if there are issues.

Similarly, project management generally means ‘project accounting’. There is little attention paid to governance and issue/risk management, proactive people management and practical logistics. There can be too much focus on the commercial delivery of consultancy days, compared to actually dealing with issues and business needs.

Of course buying organisations need to prepare and give time and thought to their own project management and data preparation. There is a responsibility for these organisations to manage their projects and vendors accordingly.

Vendors, Be Brave!

Overall there is still a need for vendors to do more. Offer more, analyse more, collaborate more and project-manage more. To really take responsibility and provide more value to their clients.

This might involve taking some risks from their perspective – although the results and benefits for those that really take the initiative here will be potentially considerable and lucrative.

So, be brave! Offer more, propose more, win more and deliver more successful long term projects…!

If you would like to know more about how Barclay Rae Consulting can help you to make the most of your ITSM implementation or if you need help redefining your existing solution then get in touch!

Check out these CHECKLISTs for SITS

SITS15-Banner-600x175-Barclay-Rae

If you are going to SITS15 – I hope to see you there… I’ll be on my (ITSMGoodness) stand, as well as presenting and facilitating on ITSM/ITIL/DevOps. Mostly I’ll be talking shop with practitioners and other industry bods about how to improve and achieve success with ITSM.

I’ll also be on hand to discuss the new ITIL practitioner programme, of which I’m delighted to be one of the architects. The (globally dispersed) team working on this will be meeting around SITs for planning and discussion – plenty to do.

As ever I expect this to be a busy bustling and practical event where ‘the industry comes together to do business’ – as the blurb goes. Its a practical and productive event for most, as well as being a great convergence of people across the industry.

Last year I was honoured to be voted ‘SITS contributor of the year’ and I look forward to seeing who is taking that mantle this time. SITS14

I’ve recently been very busy working on a number of client projects – particularly looking at tool selection and implementation – so if you are looking for practical guidance on any aspect of ITSM approach, tools, processes, etc, please come for a chat to my stand.

 

ITSMG Cap

We’ll also be dishing out ITSM Goodness cakes (yes) and some fetching caps..

Guidance and Checklists

I am often asked either before or during SITs to provide advice and guidance on selecting ITSM tools as well as running ITSM projects – as a support for that I’ve created a couple of checklists that you can download here to help to guide your thinking and planning. These are not detailed or definitive, but give you a simple aide memoir for:

ITSM Project Implementation – Service Improvement Service Improvement Checklist

ITSM Tool – Specification and Selection ITSM Tool Checklist

Please download these and use them as you need – they might just help you to focus your thoughts on what you are looking for at the show. Please of course feel free to come to discuss any aspect of this at my stand.

I look forward to seeing you there!

SITS15-Banner-960x280-stand817

ITSMG Logo low res

 

Great managers make the difference…

Last week I went to an informal drinks party to celebrate the retirement of one of my business mentors – David Smith.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I worked for David initially in the 80s, when he was an IT OPS manager and I was coming through the ranks as a rookie Helpdesk manager. David was the driving force behind most of my practical views on management, operations, organisational change and service management – and still is 30 years on. (that’s him above in the centre with me and Victoria Marr (Stuart) his PA from back in the day)…

David is an expert at Lean, Agile, Project Management, OCM, ITSM, H2H, DevOps, Customer Experience, SIAM and many other familiar concepts, although he might not recognise all of these headings, or be conversant in the current marketing lingo on these topics. Yet he has been practicing all of these things one way or another since I’ve known him.

Over the years I’ve worked with David in other situations and he joined my original consulting company (e2e) as a director for some years in the 90s. He has always been someone who love’s their work and I’m frankly amazed that he is hanging up his working boots – although I’m sure he’ll keep busy. I wish him and his wife Diane a long and happy retirement. At the party there were a few of us from the early days but also many from his most recent working project – all with the same sense of appreciation for him and his efforts.

So why am I telling you this and what has made David such an inspirational manager for me?

In short he ‘get’s it’ – he understands that success is about creating the right environment for people and building an organisation that supports them to deliver great service. From an early point I was impressed at the way he took an active interest in developing people that worked for him. He used the classic 6 motivational words of management (please, I’m sorry, thank you) regularly and constantly where due – and for that won the respect of those that worked for him.

 

He also understood from day one that successful IT is about people and business. He has always pitched a clear focus on working to the needs of the organisation that pays your salary. He would do a daily walk around the office and his 250 staff and randomly ask people ‘what do they do?’ – usually getting a bemused ‘eh, systems programmer..’ response. To this he’d reply ‘you sell insurance’ (we worked in a mutual Life assurance organisation).

The message was clear – we don’t ‘work in IT’, we deliver financial security to people – who pay our salary. This has always stuck with me as a real challenge in IT and I’ve never needed standards or frameworks to appreciate it – David brought it out in clear relief in the 80s. His focus was on getting the right result for the customer, and that was his starting point, not how ‘IT’ works.

As a manager David was also no pushover (putting it mildly…) – he was tough but fair, would make decisions and mostly just got on with doing the job rather than being swayed with new shiny concepts and ideas. He had scant time for sales pitches and smooth sales people, although he would always give them time and a chance to speak (‘you’ve got 30 seconds…’), before he demolished them. His negotiation skills – and eye for detail in commercial discussions – are legendary and saved many employers large sums of unnecessary spend.

So in short we have the perfect model for management – a people person, developing skills and succession, a business focus for IT and service management, plus commercial skills for contractual and supplier management. I feel very priviledged to have worked with David at an impressionable age and to have had these qualities imbibed into what I do – all that has stayed with me since. It’s no surprise that I call myself a ‘management consultant’ not simply an ITSM or service management bod.

For me the secret to success in IT and service management is all about management skills and capability – processes, tools and standards help to build knowledge and provide frameworks, but none of these are effective or successful without the right people driving, leading and enabling – defining and living the ‘culture’.

We need to think more about how to develop people and improve the quality of our managers, their focus, skills and performance. Good management requires a completely different skill set from just ‘doing’ and often this is missed. In many cases I still see companies promoting the wrong people into management positions, simply because they have been successful at an operational role and without enough attention to their development needs.

OF course it’s great when there is a good manager in place although things can change when they retire or move on. Ideally much of the things we cherish and strive for in IT and ITSM should become embedded as process and via good governance, although often this just doesn’t happen when the strong character leaves.

A really good manager/leader will develop the right culture and to build this into a sustainable and repeatable model – that’s my experience where I see excellent organisations that don’t just rely on one or two individuals. The culture can be defined and ‘lived’ by the current leadership and simultaneously imbued into those coming through as potential new managers – it’s a clear trait of excellent managers to cultivate and mentor staff to continue their legacy.

I have to say however that I really can’t think of too many organisations who have an enlightened culture without one or two very notable individual people. I think sometimes we try to avoid recognising the contribution of some great people and try to attribute success to process, structure and policy. These are important, but we should also celebrate our people and culture – we are humans not automatons. Management is about how we motivate and get the best out of our people and we should be open and positive about that.

The value of good managers is most easily seen when a poor manager is in post (this is still the main reason people leave organisations). This leads to low morale, poor performance, staff absence/sickness, demotivation, factionalism, silos, bullying, high staff turnover – all of which of course is toxic for staff and customers and none of which is the result of poor processes or using the wrong tools…

We need more David Smiths – we need to do more to develop and support people who have the right kind of skills and potential to improve our management skills – rather than expecting things to happen through standards and ‘best practice’. I also think that the new nirvana of collaborative flat structured organisations, where everyone is their own boss, needs to be further defined. We might be doing less work in future but people still need to be motivated, supported and managed – and this will always be the case.

There’s not enough appreciation that individuals do make a difference – sure we need to have consistency and processes for how to do things, but actually its people that deliver these and we need more practical people management to make this happen.

It’s all about people… and people need good managers.

Happy Retirement Dave – you will be missed..!

From Kafka and ‘Whack-a-mole’ to real Customer Culture

A few thoughts on the last day of 2014 – hopefully avoiding the ‘5 trends to look for in 2015’ and ‘what we learned from 2014!’ shtick…

There’s so much negative and depressing world news and also mixed hype swirling around in IT/tech that I thought I’d just mention some real moments of positivity from the last year – hopefully there will be many more in 2015…

To begin however I wanted to mention my favourite quote from this year – this was during an interview at a client site with a customer of the IT department. This was someone who was quite senior and in some ways a bit scathing about the IT guys, but also quite positive and constructive – it was the language that got me however…

He described the IT department as ‘now starting to shake off their Kafka-esque image (in terms of being approachable), but they now seemed content to simply play ‘Whack-a-mole, rather than actually try to solve stuff…’.

So, have a think, does your IT department present a ‘Kafka-esque’ image (or does it need a ‘metamorphosis’) – ie is it process-driven, autocratic, faceless and unapproachable. Also is your support operation simply playing ‘Whack-a-mole’ and being good at spinning plates rather than getting on with improving service quality..? ‘Whack-a-mole’ to me is a great way to describe too much focus on Incident management rather than CSI and Problem management.

So, to some positives..

  • I’m pleased to say that I’ve once again visited/audited/consulted for several organisations where they have long shaken off any of these associations, and built truly enlightened cultures – with great leadership, management and governance, transparency, support and encouragement. empowerment and people focus, that all of course then delivers an excellent customer experience – a real customer culture.
  • I’ve been really delighted to see several people I’ve known over the last few years in various client and partner companies develop into good managers and other new roles – there’s frankly nothing so rewarding as a consultant and mentor to see people achieve things they previously hadn’t thought they could do and (without sounding too Californian here :-)) – grow
  • I’m also happy to say I’ve had some great feedback on projects and assignments from the year, where I’ve helped people and organisations to achieve their goals or move to new levels, buy the right tools etc. I was also delighted to receive the SITS show ‘contributor of the year’ award…
  • I’ve also worked with some great colleagues, partners and of course customers – we talk all the time about ‘collaboration’ right now as if it were something new, but actually real collaboration is what makes organisations and projects successful. In particular its been great to continue working with SDI, ITSM Review, plus also doing bits and pieces for Axelos, itSMF and others. Also many thanks to all the companies and vendors who have trusted in me to write content for them in 2014.

So for me its all about people and teams getting on and doing the right things – technology and the market will change and be disrupted, but at the centre of it all are people  working with people, so – at least until the robots take over – lets celebrate that and continue to move from the Kafka to Customer culture..!

Happy New Year and I wish you success in 2015..! 

ITSMG Logo low res

 

The expanding world of Service Management + collaboration

I was at the UK itSMF conference this week – presenting and also with an exhibitor booth. The show was smaller (less attendees and exhibitors) than previous years although the consensus was that there was a good mix of people and that it was a good networking event. There were still a large number of presentations in streams.

Debate in the plenary sessions focused on next years ‘big 4 ‘ agenda, which I’m pleased to say included Customer Experience..! Also Axelos made some noise both in terms of physical presence in the exhibitor area and also to announce a new Agile/Prince2 initiative, Cyber resilience program and also some words around what might happen with ITIL.

For this in the next period the word(s) seem to be ‘ITIL and…’ – IE so rather than try to rebuild the somewhat creaking edifice that is ITIL at present, the current focus will be on how it relates and interacts with other areas.  I hope there will be more on this in a variety of forums around one key area – collaboration, particularly with the development and increased visibility of DevOps and agile/fast methods – which were mentioned at the show but not enough to be honest.

My session looked a the dichotomy between talk of such new areas (as well as social/cloud/mobile etc) and also the need to focus on basics. I asked the attendees who considered their ITSM to cover the basic functions (which I define below as Service Desk, Service Catalog/design, ITSM Engine (Incident.Problem/Change) and CSI)

geometry

Amazingly only about 5% of the room admitted to being able to do this..! So we clearly have a problem around basic functions, that makes us even more stretched when thinking about new areas to focus on.

However my point is that we really need to do both.

We need to do the basics, yet we also need to move forward, faster… and collaborate for success..!

 

You can view the presentation slides here

http://www.slideshare.net/barclayrae/it-smf-conference-2014-ppt-barclay-rae

 

Moving forward it would be good to see more real positive discussion in ITSM circles about how to collaborate – both across IT organisations (Dev and OPS) and of course the wider picture of how Enterprises beyond IT are using ITSM and ITIL concepts to achieve success,automation and real ‘supply chain’ service delivery. Until recently only one or 2 of the ITSM vendors had really picked this up, but no there are many more who are changing their marketing and sales approaches to meet this new exciting demand. See my recent report for ITSM review on Outside IT.

DevOps still remains a hugely mis-understood term (certainly for marketeers) as we see adverts for ‘DevOps teams’ and articles about ‘DevOps systems’ – its an approach and culture, not another system or standard…

Another term that gets mis-interpreted is SIAM (Service Integration and Management). This in theory is a single approach to supplier and IT supply chain management – usually the need to co-ordinate a number of suppliers to deliver co-ordinated services.

This is an area I’ll be exploring more in future and also it will be the key topic a the next itSMF SLM SIG (special interest group) event on 13th January 2015 – in Central London (details TBA).

I’m delighted to be taking over as chair of this group and will be driving involvement and engagement around SLM topics, as well as hopefully publicising and sharing these with the wider itSMF community in due course.

To follow that I was delighted that my colleague and predecessor Karen Brusch won the itSMF contributor of the year award at the conference – this is much deserved as Karen’s drive and leadership has made the SIG a success over the years – Thanks Karen…!

Delighted also to see Rob Spencer win an award for his submission of the year – Rob also presented the ITIL Manifesto project at the conference and hopefully this will continue to gain traction and more…………. COLLABORATION.

How will you be working to collaborate more and achieve ‘joined up’ success…?

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Consultancy Guidelines – updated

 

Many thanks to all of those who contributed to the initial draft of the Consultancy Guidelines – I’ve now updated the document with your comments and suggestions – some great additions there so please download a copy below and use this as you need it.

There is more content on clarification between consultants and contractors, more details on Proposals and Statements of Work, plus a short reference section which includes some suggestions for further reading… Thanks!

Any further comments please add here or email me at bjr@barclayrae.com

Consultancy guidelines REVISED v 0.2

ITSMG Logo low res

 

Do you have an SLA with your spouse..?

Whilst reflecting (see below) on my time in the ITSM industry in particular, it’s clear that there are still many of the same fundamental issues and questions coming up that have been around for 20+ years.

 

 

In my experience the same old questions keep coming up – questions like ‘where do we start? how do we make ITSM work? what practical steps do we take? what tools and processes do we need? etc.

 

It’s good to see several different ‘back to basics’ initiatives happening (e.g. itSMF UK) to focus on core activities – (including ITSMGoodness of course…).

 

One area that really has changed however, in answering these basic questions is simply this:

Relationships…

 

This was a key topic at the recent SDI and UCISA conferences that I attended, and is also on the lips and key pads of industry leaders, analysts, bloggers globally.

At last! – and this is not just some mad post-modern hype dreamed up by idealists or marketeers. This is about real human interaction and how that is the way to build and maintain successful service relationships. It’s really refreshing to see this and hear people talk about this as the way forward.

The simple idea is this:  in the scheme of things – customers, service providers,  ‘portfolio’ of services and how these are managed etc – the relationship is the glue that holds everything together, regardless of issues, problems and mishaps.

The relationship is more important then SLAs or KPIs etc and will survive issues if they are managed properly and satisfactorily, based on the fact that the relationship works towards some common strategic goals. For too long organisations have focused simply on hitting SLAs and thinking that this means – job done…!?

And as an example, try this question…

 

Do you have SLAs with your partner/spouse/lover?

Does your family work to KPIs and do these form the basis of your familial happiness and success?

 

I really hope that the answer is no to this..!

The serious point is this – successful relationships do not work on the basis of contracts or SLAs or other formal metrics and targets, they work because both parties are engaged and work closely together to make it work. Minor issues are tacked as part of the ‘bigger picture’ and should not cause the relationship to break down.

There are 3 key points to consider as fundamental here:

Common/Shared goals – both parties need to have a shared view of what the relationship is trying to do and achieve – and they have to care about it – that way they can make it work regardless of minor issues

Intimacy – relationships need both parties to share secrets and confidential information and ideas in order to work successfully and for mutual benefit

Proximity – it is vital to be physically close as this cuts down the needs for explanation and formality – if you are in proximity you know whats going on…

Relationships that do break down are dysfunctional in one of more of these areas – e.g. either not working to a shared goal or not honest or not close enough. No-one breaks up really because of the toilet seat or the lack of shared washing up duties – these are ultimately symptoms of a lack of understanding, or a lack of honesty or just not enough synergy..

So, what does this mean for IT Service Management?

Well we are definitely too obsessed with SLAs and target metrics and thinking that these are the success criteria for our service delivery. Our relationships with internal and external customers and partners should be based on solid human relationships – where purpose, goals, communications and regular (face-to-face ideally) interactions are clearly defined, managed and maintained – much like we need to do with our our family and relationships.

Our definitions of things like Business Relationship Management (BRM) are useful and key elements, however the relationships must extend across all participants in the relationship and service ‘supply chain’ – i.e. so including front line and back office internal and external staff too.

Sure we need guidelines with SLAs but these should always be second to the needs of the customer and their service experience – the relationship is the framework to let this happen, not the straight-jacket that stops it…!

Ultimately we keep going in relationships because we choose to do so, for whatever reason – ideally that should be the goal for Service Delivery too… 

Keep talking…

 

It’s nearly holiday time and I’m in reflective mode – as a number of ’round numbers’ are showing up for me…

  • 30 years since I first left my hometown Glasgow  – I’ve moved around a lot in UK, Europe and beyond since then
  • 20 years since I started Consulting – running 2 companies (e2e customer services and current BRC) plus time at, HDI/SDI/Axios,  500 projects,
  • 10 years married – now have 2 fantastic kids!
  • 5 years since I started on Twitter – 15,000 Tweets and c 3,000 followers

Right now it’s all go and lots of exciting things developing behind the scenes, particularly around ITSMGoodness – watch this space…

Have a great Summer..!

 

 

 

 

customer experience

H2H not B2B

customer experience

Time to reflect on an another engaging and successful SITS (Service Desk and IT Support Show) last week in London. Of all the ITSM conferences to me this feels the best of all, where the industry comes together and across all areas to do business, discuss ideas and generally do some real collective networking.

This year I was delighted to be asked to write the research paper – sponsored by SITS, SDI and Cherwell – launched at the first day’s breakfast briefing. This was based on research around Customer Experience (CX) and highlighted the need for ‘Human to Human ‘ interaction, plus the value of using a structured approach for understanding and building a successful Customer Experience. Producing the report and research was a really interesting experience – particularly talking to some practitioners who had used this to good effect.

For example QBE had brought a failing outsourced help desk back in-house and in doing so consulted with customers to build a set of desired IT staff behaviours and attributes – on which they then hired staff. So customer input on the experience of dealing with IT was more focussed around how they were treated rather than just the basics of technology.

The panel debate around this was interesting, from which it was clear that there are different interpretations of CX – although in essence we all agreed in principle about what it is and the need for it. Certainly we should be focussing our technology and ITSM projects on this area first and foremost. To me CX is the piece of jigsaw that we’ve all been waiting for – we have of course been doing this for years in service desks, but bringing it out as a defined concept across IT helps to focus the activities of service desks and service provider organisations to be doing the right things for the right reasons.

I also was involved in facilitating a panel discussion on the future of ITIL – The Final Countdown? In the past these sessions have ended up as neo/luddite battles around the value or quality of ITIL, whereas on this occasion we were trying to ensure constructive debate about where ITIL is/and where it is going – as such it was great to have the ‘emperor of ITIL’ himself Kaimar Karu on the panel (i.e. head of ITSM for AXELOS, as well as Andie Kis (TCS), Ian Aitchison (LANDESK) and – everyone’s favourite consultant/ITIL author – Stuart Rance (Optimal Service Management).

Some of the key points coming out of this:

  • ITIL is positive and useful content that can be used to improve service and support practitioners
  • The books and content need to be shorter and more readable, as well as providing more practical guidance and advice
  • CSI needs to be embedded all the way through rather than seen as the (separate) ‘book at the end’
  • There’s not enough guidance around human interaction, despite this being agreed as the most important aspect of Service Management

My own sessions on CSI and Service Desk Respect  were well received – in particular the simple view of CSI including Problem, Reporting and Knowledge management (See slide)

CSI

I also got a lot of positive feedback on the issue of service desk respect, where I suggested that there is still an issue with the level of respect and attention given to service desks – see also my recent blog – it seems that this is still a sensitive area and several people indicated that the presentation had helped them to formulate their own thoughts and responses to this. I know many other sessions from my industry peers were also well received – the quality and consistency of these sessions as a mini-conference equals and perhaps even outshines that of many other conferences.

We discussed this and other themes from the show in a podcast for The ITSM Review which features a cross section of show participants – James Finister, Melanie Kuranantne, Simon Kent, Toby Moore, Stuart MacGregor and of course our star visitor from India – Suresh GP…! It was great to meet Suresh at last in person and his knowledge, energy and enthusiasm for the industry and meeting new people was infectious and engaging. James and I also contributed to a LANDESK publication on Shadow IT which was launched at the show as a limited edition print run, and which will be available globally as an e-book soon via the LANDESK site.

So several strong themes emerging – Customer Experience, Service Desk Respect and the need for practical CSI, getting value from ITIL, now and in future, as well as how technology can be best leveraged to support these initiatives. For me the real point of focus and take-away must be the true understanding (at last!?) that we are people and need to interact as such – i.e. Human to Human. This is our job in IT as much as anywhere else and should be our starting point for successful IT and ITSM delivery.

If you have any further or differing thoughts or views from SITS14 please let me know here…

Finally I was thrilled and honoured to receive the inaugural ‘SITS14 ITSM Contributor of the Year’ award – beating off some strong competition from James Finister and Andie Kis amongst others. Well done to everyone who was nominated and voted for – and of course many thanks if you voted for me. It’s a real blast to get this as voted by your peers so cheers..!

SITS award SITS14

Have you forgotten something – the Service Desk?

I recently worked in an office where there was a large area of empty desks – there was an air of loss and abandonment in the room.

All around there was building work going on and a sense of activity, although hidden away and forgotten in one corner sat a few stoic people, manning a serivce desk – it reminded me of a current issue I have…

 

As ever there is a lot of talk on Social Networks about the direction for ITSM industry, including whether there is even such a thing as an ‘ITSM industry…

Gartner are now saying that its called ‘ITSSM’ and there is no Help/Service desk software industry. There  is the discussion around what happens with ITIL/Devops/Agile etc. Should organisations go for COBIT and or ITIL as well as other standards and frameworks? Do we need meta-models and ontologies for ITSM and ITIL? We need more community involvement – where is the ITSM community? Also we need practical advice on how to do the basics – at a pragmatic and practitioner level.

At the same time we are in the hype curve of the ‘customer experience’ movement in IT and ITSM, which (finally) recognises the value and relevance of looking at IT delivery from the customers point of view – not the IT perspective. This has been very much business and consumer driven, due to the changes in technology and commercial models over the last few years. The focus of this has of course moved discussion away from process and tools and SLAs/KPIs to human interaction (H2H not B2C!) – which of course is a hugely valid and laudable development that we should all welcome and support.

 

However, whilst I support, understand and contribute to all of the above discussions and developments (e.g. I’ve recently done ITSMF UK BIG4 chat, I’ve just written the White Paper for SITS 2014 on Customer Experience, plus created some value proposition content for ITSM/ITIL for AXELOS) – there is one aspect of all of this that stands out as a major omission – and it really quite bugs me…

 

[warning]WHERE IS THE SERVICE DESK??[/warning]

 

Why is the Service Desk not included and seen to be at the centre of these discussions? Are we not guilty of recreating the old IT problem of overlooking/bypassing/patronising this operation and the associated industry around it, when it is to me fundamental and central to all of these discussions? Consider:

 

  • Service desks are part of the IT ‘supply chain’ which includes engagement, development, design and transition, but we all constantly complain about how new services don’t get properly handed over and given early life support – yet we don’t see much discussion around the importance of involving service desks in these debates. Service desk is almost seen like a separate industry, compared to ITSM, when in fact it’s at the centre of what we do.  We spend a lot of time talking about agility and efficiency of development – yet the handover and release/introduction part of our lifecycle is rarely mentioned.
  • Service desks are at the forefront of delivery and customer experience – effectively that’s what they do manage the perception of the whole IT organisation. Of course nowadays we are talking more around touch-points where people interact with portals and logging and knowledge systems as well as their actual interaction with tools, but this is now in the domain of the service desk. Certainly the human communications factor has been the central core of service desk for many years – maybe just not noticed or fully appreciated by the rest of the industry.
  • Service desk already has a strong community – or communities – based mostly around the SDI / HDI organisations, (plus some other local country-based groups), which also have robust and proven standards, accreditation and practical training and research frameworks. I don’t know why these organisations don’t get invited more to the table when discussing the way forward and big issues – like the service desk in the IT department, it seems to be an afterthought…

[notice]OK I might have an interest here, as SDI are a long term partner of mine, and I’ve got good connections with HDI folks too. However as I also move and work in other ‘ITSM’ circles I can plainly see that the Service Desk perspective and input is often not taken into account – at all levels.[/notice]

Maybe this is a marketing and message issue – both SDI and HDI are very good at marketing to their own captive and well-defined target audiences – maybe their messages just doesn’t get out to the wider IT and ITSM community. I do regularly find myself explaining the history, status and capability (standards etc.) of these organisations to experienced, capable and knowledgeable people in the wider ITSM ‘community’  who just weren’t aware…

Of course I completely get the whole point that ‘service’ is a wider concept and that technology design and development are huge parts of the delivery process. We need to improve our customer engagement and how we turn that into useable technology that our customers want. All of that requires a significant set of disciplines and skills that are beyond the reach of most service desk teams and people.

The point here is however that the role and early engagement of service desk/front line support is absolutely critical to the customer experience and perception of the wider service provider, not just the individual service or piece of technology, so it must be seen as critical to success.

Certainly the traditional ‘break/fix’ role of the service desk is changing and declining – however there are many new areas of human interaction and support that are needed and  service desks that will survive need to keep up with those.

Moving beyond the deserted rooms I mentioned earlier, I have recently also visited and worked with some really excellent service desk operations and guess what? – in these places the service desk is valued and supported by its management, yes, but also this is seen as a vital part of the business as a whole.

So, the other ‘loftier’ aspects of service management actually work and work well in these places where the service desk is far from deserted and abandoned – rather where it is celebrated, respected and admired. 

So actually to get ITSM or ITSSM working, we need to put the service desk at the centre of our thoughts and make it an aspirational and highly professional centrepiece for our frameworks, meta-models and customer experience ideals.

 

Let’s also keep a focus on what is already out there and useful and valuable and worth engaging with – if we are serious about ‘customer experience’ then we need to get involved with the people who know how to manage it…

 

service desk triangle

 

Do you agree?