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15 ITSM Tips for 2015 – Part 1

By | January 6, 2015 in ITIL

15 ITSM Tips for 2015

As 2014 draws to a close I’ve started to think about what’s going to be important for IT service management (ITSM) professionals in 2015. Here are 15 tips that you might like to consider as New Year’s Resolutions for 2015. Some of these tips are focussed on improving IT service management or information security management to help your IT organization, and others will help with your personal development as an IT professional, but all of them will help to improve how you deliver IT services to your customers in 2015.

Tip 1 — Spend more time with your customers

It’s amazing how much you can learn about your customers by simply spending time with them while they are working.

One IT organization I work with sends every member of the service desk out to work in a business unit for one day every year. They started to do this when analysis of customer satisfaction ratings for incident management showed that service desk agents who had previously worked in the business were getting much better ratings. They now have superb customer satisfaction ratings for nearly every incident.

You may think that you know what your customers do, and what’s important to them, but if you don’t spend enough time just sitting with them to understand how they work then you will never be able to deliver great customer service.

Tip 2 — Focus on customer experience in everything you do

I have heard many people talking about customer experience, but few IT organizations seem to really focus on customer experience as an important outcome for their activities. There are many times that we should be thinking about customer experience, here are some you could consider:

  • When you design or change an ITSM process, include customers in the design team whenever you can. After all, customers will have a significant part to play in nearly every ITSM process. At the very least you should make sure that the design team considers the impact of every decision they make on customer experience.
  • When you design or change a user interface or a form, either for an ITSM tool or for a business application, consider the impact on customers and their experience.
  • When you are managing incidents or problems, make sure that you spend as much time thinking about the customer experience as you do on the technical issues. It’s very easy for technical people to become absorbed in the intricacies of fixing the issue and forget that there is a customer.
  • If you are responsible for SLAs and reporting, then ensure that these are completely focussed on customer experience. Customers don’t care about abstract numbers and endless charts; they care about how they experience your service.

Every single activity you carry out should have this sharp focus on the experience you create for your customers.

Tip 3 — Find out if your customers are purchasing shadow IT

Shadow IT is a term used to describe IT that has been procured directly by a business unit, without the involvement of the IT organization. It can include things as simple as using a free file sharing web site to share information with customers, but it can also include the purchase of complex solutions for CRM or ERP delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS).

Many IT organizations that I speak to tell me that shadow IT is not a problem in their organization. But when I speak to their customers I find that there are many examples of shadow IT in use that the IT department doesn’t know about.

The use of shadow IT is not in itself always wrong, but if you aren’t aware of it then something has gone badly wrong with the way you understand and meet your customer’s needs. It really is essential that you speak to your customers and understand what IT solutions they’re using, so you can help to ensure that these are appropriate in terms of security and governance.

I’m not suggesting that you should tell your customers off for using shadow IT, simply that you should understand what they are using, and what benefits this delivers that you are not able to provide. You might need to improve your service offering and help to protect your customers, especially if they‘ve chosen solutions that have underlying risks they haven’t thought about.

Tip 4 — Spend more time on problem management

Most IT organizations spend far too little time and effort on problem management. It’s never too late (or too early) to get started with problem management, so if you aren’t doing any, then why not start in 2015, and if you are already doing some then why not see if you can improve this critical area?

The first thing to do is to decide what problems you need to focus on. I like to use a Top 5 (or Top 10) problem report, which is created each month and identifies the problems that have had the biggest impact on the business. This does require you to put some effort into analysing incident data, but the payback can be very high.

Once you have identified your Top 5 problems you should talk to your customers, to make sure they agree with your priorities (see Tip 2), and then think about what you can do to reduce the impact of these problems. You don’t necessarily have to fix them, or even to fully understand the root cause. The most important thing to do is to reduce the impact these Top 5 problems have on your customers. You could do this by identifying the root cause and fixing it, but you could also do it by identifying a workaround that can enable rapid recovery when the problem occurs.

The best way to measure the impact of problem management is by measuring the total impact of the Top 5 problems each month, and demonstrating that the impact of these is going down.

Tip 5 — Spend more time on continual improvement

Continual improvement is another area where a small investment of time and effort can provide enormous payback in terms of improved efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction.

The most important thing to understand about continual improvement is that it is more about attitudes, behaviour, and culture than it is about processes and tools. Continual improvement can’t be delegated to a continual improvement manager, it must be part of how everyone works. If people have a passion for improving what they do, then they will find ways to make this happen. Every team, every group, every department and the overall IT organization should have a CSI register that they use to log, track, and report improvements.

Tip 6 — Learn about emerging ideas in ITSM

The most widely adopted best management practice for ITSM is ITIL®, and it certainly makes sense to learn about ITIL and to adopt many of its ideas when you’re designing your IT service management system. If you’re not familiar with ITIL then I strongly recommend reading about it and taking some ITIL training courses.

ITIL is certainly helpful, but it’s not enough. There are many other sources of good practice, and there are many new ideas that people are using to help them create value with IT. Sometimes you will see people proposing that these other ideas should be used instead of ITIL, but I don’t think this makes much sense when you could be using a wide range of different approaches to help you build your management system, with each of them bringing a different perspective and adding additional value.

Some of the approaches that you should learn about, to see if they can help improve IT service management in your organization include:

  • COBIT. This is a business framework for the governance and management of IT. It is most commonly used by people responsible for audit and compliance, but it has much wider applicability than that, and can be very helpful to any IT organization.
  • Agile. Most people think of agile as a software development methodology, but it can be applied equally to all aspects of IT and ITSM. The basic idea behind agile is to break work into short work cycles (sprints) that deliver measureable value in a short time.
  • DevOps. For many years IT operations departments have complained about development organizations that “throw software and solutions over the wall” with insufficient testing, documentation, or operational support. Similarly development departments have complained about bureaucratic change and release procedures that delay the delivery of value to the business without adding value. DevOps tries to resolve this conflict by creating a culture where operations and development teams work much more closely together and by implementing automation for many aspects of integration, testing, and deployment.
  • Kanban. There are always bottlenecks and constraints that reduce efficiency and create waste. Kanban tries to minimize these by helping you to visualize workflow and limit work in progress. A great summary of the Kanban approach is to “stop starting and start finishing”. By starting fewer things and completing everything you start you can deliver more output with fewer resources and less waste.

Why not make 2015 the year when you learn about some of these ideas and incorporate aspects of them into the way you work?

It's a lot to take in all at once, so I'm going to stop here for now and let you ingest these 6 tips so far, all of which have been about things you can do for your IT organization. Next week, I'll continue with the other 9 tips, dealing with things you can do for yourself, for your own professional development, and to help protect valuable information.

Like this article? You may also like: 15 IT Trends for 2015.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.

Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

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