After an action packed few days at the itSMF UK conference last week, I was lucky enough to catch up with itSMF UK CEO Barclay Rae for a quick chat about life the universe and everything, or in our case, IT, SDI, AXELOS and the sparkly new ITIL practitioner qualification.
The Conference has been a big focus over recent weeks and has been generally seen as a huge success.For those of you that didn’t manage to go, some of the highlights were SIAM, winning elephants and cute penguin videos so it was all kinds of awesome! Barclay’s focus is now on taking that energy forward. So what has Barclay been up to over the last few months? Well firstly, his role is part time which means that as well as itSMF, he’s also had the day job and some exciting work with the Service Desk Institute to get on with.
The Service Desk Institute
Barclay is part of the author team for the SDI standards and was heavily involved in updating both Service Desk training and Service Desk Certification (SDC) standards. For those of you not familiar with the SDI, it’s a professional body for anyone working in the IT service and support industry. It sets the standards for the analyst and manager exams and runs a Service Desk certification program.During our chat Barclay talked about how the Service Desk in St Andrews University went from no stars to four stars with the support of the SDI. It’s a really inspiring journey and you can read more about it here.
Barclay was also an architect on the new ITIL Practitioner qualification. His take on it? “given the constraints we had, it’s pretty damn good”. The idea behind the practitioner course is that it provides real life guidance, which can be bundled with the ITIL foundation course so that delegates get 5 days of ITIL fun. As an ex trainer, I think combining the two courses will work brilliantly as delegates will be able to spend a decent amount of time learning and getting a really solid grounding in ITSM. It will also ease the transition from foundation to intermediate qualifications, again with my training hat on for a second, the first day of any intermediate course was always a shock to the system for attendees as there’s such a big jump from foundation level to intermediate level. Anything that eases that pressure has got to be a good thing.
So what is Barclay’s mission for his 6 months as head of the itSMF UK? To boost performance and reinvigorate the business side of things so that it can provide more value to members. Barclay wants to make more services available so that being a member gives tangible benefits to both individuals and companies. Barclay wants to build positive, constructive partnerships with other key players in the industry as well as complementary relationships with other organisations such as the BCS, and also vendor organisations.
Key to driving more value for members is the new leadership council. The leadership council is made up of senior, C level people who are experienced practitioners in ITSM. Having the right people with the right skills in place will enable the itSMF UK to provide more accurate industry analysis, better and more detailed briefings as well as driving new products and services for ITSMF, e.g. for career frameworks and benchmarking tools.
In summary, Barclay’s aim is to make a positive contribution to the itSMF UK, so that it’s seen as a vibrant industry contributor. An announcement on the dates for the 2016 conference will be announced soon – for those of you that can’t wait a whole year there’s a tooling event in early February. 2016 promises to be an exciting year for the itSMF UK, more events, better value for members and exciting new partnerships so let’s get this party started!
Many IT leaders are already familiar with the kinds of surveys the common support tools send out on ticket closure. But, it turns out, we may not be going about it the best way. This year’s winner of itSMF Australia’s Innovation of the Year was Dave O’Reardon. Dave has had 25 years’ experience working in IT and his award-winning transactional Net Promoter service, CIO Pulse, provides a whole new way of looking at how IT leaders can improve their services and start creating value for the businesses and customers they support.
After I photo-bombed Dave’s official awards photos, he gracefully agreed to an interview.
Can you explain the fundamentals of Net Promoter?
Sure! Net Promoter is a proven way of improving customer loyalty, or satisfaction, with a product, company or service. And its a metric – a Net Promoter Score – for understanding your progress toward that goal and for benchmarking your performance. It is not a piece of software and it is not Intellectual Property – it’s free for anyone to use.
If you’ve ever been asked a question along the lines of “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”, then you’ve come across a company that’s using Net Promoter. This question is usually followed by one or two open-ended questions. These follow-up questions ask the reason for the score and what could be done to improve. Based on a customer’s score (in response to the first question), they are categorised as either a Promoter (they scored 9 or 10), a Passive (they scored 7 or 8), or a Detractor (they scored 6 or below). Net Promoter then recommends a number of practices that can be used to convert Detractors and Passives into Promoters.
A Net Promoter Score is simply calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. This calculation results in a score of between -100 (all your customers are Detractors) and +100 (all your customers are Promoters).
Net Promoter is commonly used in two different ways – transactional (also called operational or bottom-up) and relationship (also called brand or top-down). Transactional NPS is used to measure and improve the customer experience following a specific interaction (e.g. after an IT support ticket has been closed). Relationship NPS is used to measure and improve overall loyalty or satisfaction with a product, brand or service, e.g. via an annual survey.
Why is it important for IT teams to use a customer service improvement approach like Net Promoter?
There’s a few reasons. First of all, IT teams often rely too much on service level agreements, such as incident response and resolution targets. These targets are great for helping support staff determine what to work on and when, but tell you nothing about the customers’ perceptions. If you’ve ever had a wall of green traffic lights for your SLAs and yet the customer still isn’t happy, then you know what I mean. I like to call this the Watermelon Effect – SLA performance indicators are all green, but on the inside customers are red and angry. Traditional SLAs don’t measure the customer experience and customer perceptions, Net Promoter does.
The second reason is that process maturity assessments – formal and informal – don’t help IT teams prioritise in any way that is meaningful. We’re at maturity level 2 for Configuration Management, so what?! And on the flipside, even mature processes can be crap and fail to meet customers’ needs. Your Request Fulfillment process might be very mature – documented, automated, measured etc – and yet customers are still frustrated that hardware provision takes so long and that Jim is always gruff when asked for an update. A mature process doesn’t necessarily meet customer needs.
Bodies of knowledge like ITIL and COBIT are stuffed full of solutions. They are great to turn to when you’ve got a service issue and you want some ideas on how to solve it. But how do you know you’ve got a problem and how do you know which problem is the most urgent? If you want to improve service (and if you’re in the field of Service Management and you don’t, then you might be in the wrong field) you absolutely have to understand customer perceptions. Things such as service quality and value stem from customer’s perceptions.
Net Promoter is very widely used by consumer-facing organisations. How do you modify the typical Net Promoter format to suit internal teams like IT, HR and so on?
That’s a great question. Net Promoter is often overlooked as an improvement methodology by internal service providers because of the first question – “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”. It just doesn’t make sense to an internal customer. Who’s going to tell one of their mates at the pub that their IT Service Desk is fantastic and that they should give them a call the next time they have a problem with their iPad! The trick is just to reword the question so that it makes sense to the customer, e.g. “On a scale of 0 to 10, overall how satisfied are you with your recent support experience?”.
What’s wrong with the traditional transactional survey that we’re more familiar with?
Firstly, because internal service providers all use different surveys and different scales they can’t benchmark their performance against each other. Their scores are calculated in different ways and so one organisation can’t tell if another organisation is doing better than them or worse. Who should get improvement ideas from who?
The second thing is a bigger issue. Most organisations just don’t know what to do with the data they’re collecting. They survey, they calculate some sort of satisfaction score, and then they report on that score in a management report of some sort. But that’s all. And that’s a terrible shame, because there’s a bunch of behaviors that the transactional survey should be driving that can result in a significant improvement in customer satisfaction. But if all you do is survey and calculate a score, don’t expect anything to improve. I call this the ‘Chasm of Lost Opportunity’ – the powerful things that are not done between a survey being completed and a score being reported. By adopting the behaviors and activities recommended by Net Promoter – bridging the chasm – I’ve seen internal service providers make significant improvements to internal customer satisfaction in just months.
What sort of problems and improvement opportunities have you seen coming out of IT teams that start paying attention to customer feedback? Any particular areas that standout in common?
The most common feedback theme we see with transactional surveys comes down to poor communication – support calls that seem to disappear into black holes, customers not having their expectations managed re fulfillment/resolution timeframes, and tickets being closed without the customer first verifying that they’re happy that the solution has worked.
When it comes to the relationship surveys, every client is unique. We see everything from issues with network speed, being forced to use old PCs, poor system availability, inadequate engagement of the business in IT projects, releases introducing too many defects, service desk hours that don’t work for the business. Pretty much everything. And that’s why the top-down relationship survey is so important. When Net Promoter is used for periodically surveying internal customers, it provides really rich information on what the customer sees as IT’s strengths and weaknesses. The results often come as a surprise to IT management, which is a good thing, because, without that information they were in danger of investing limited improvement resources in areas that just aren’t important to the customer.
If you could distill all the experience you’ve had with transforming IT teams, is there one high-impact tip you could suggest?
Yes, but it’s more of a way of thinking than a tip per se. And that is – don’t dismiss customer feedback as something fluffy and unimportant. If you’re in the business of delivering service to a customer, then understanding customer perceptions is very very important. Dismiss customer feedback as fluffy and unimportant at your peril! Quality and value are both the result of perceptions, not objective measures like availability percentages and average response times.
Net Promoter-based transactional surveys are a great way to drive continual improvement in the Service Desk and IT support functions – improving the way IT is perceived by the large majority of its customers. And Net Promoter-based relationship surveys provide a valuable source of input to IT strategy, ensuring that IT is investing in the areas that are truly important to the business, not just because Gartner says so.
When IT teams don’t understand, and actively seek to improve, customer perceptions of IT, the end result is sad and predictable – IT is managed like a cost-centre, budgets are cut, functions are outsourced, and IT leaders are replaced. And at pubs and dinner parties, no matter what job we do in IT, our friends grumble at us because where they work, their IT department is crap.
Dave helps IT teams, and other internal service providers, adopt Net Promoter and provide better customer service, improve their reputation and increase internal customer satisfaction. He’s worked in IT for 25 years and is the CEO and founder of:
Silversix.com.au – a management consultancy that helps IT teams measure and improve internal customer satisfaction)
and cio-pulse.com (a transactional Net Promoter service that kicks the ass of the survey modules of ITSM tools).
First call resolution (FCR) measures the proportion of issues that can be addressed during the first call. In theory, the more issues are addressed immediately without the customer having to call back or wait for service – the happier they should be.
For the University of Westminster, healthy first call resolution means happier students, which means better ratings in University leader boards, which has a direct relationship with incoming revenue.
IT Support as Competitive Advantage
Students wishing to complete their studies in the UK’s capital have plenty of choice – with over forty Universities situated in and around the London area.
China is also busy building it’s own Universities to attract students from the Asia-Pac region – previously a good source of supply for London, plus reports from The Telegraph suggest that the higher education system is becoming a “buyers’ market for applicants” with students getting record numbers of offers from universities. It seems that supply may be exceeding demand.
“Competition is tougher than ever. We have pressure to increase league table scores with no extra budget,” said Lee Rose, Associate Director of Information and Communication Technology at University of Westminster.
Lee was hosting a press event with representatives from Bomgar and was keen to demonstrate the University of Westminster’s progress with the remote administration appliance.
The Student User Experience
Unlike campus-based institutions, the University of Westminster is dispersed geographically across the West of London with 2,300 staff and over 20,000 students.
“We’re not a Campus,” continued Lee; “Our students expect to come into our institution, to start at a particular time and leave at a particular time. If that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, if affects their experience. In contrast, students that attend a campus based University can find something else on campus to do during their downtime.”
Fee structures and trends in mobile and Internet technology have been a significant challenge for the University. Lee said, “The moment the fees went up the expectations went up too. The real challenge is mobile; students are turning up with 3-5 devices each. Mobile access has really hit us hard, we’ve had to ramp up significantly with mobile and we’ve had BYOD issues to wrangle with too. We’ve moved from a technology-based business (shiny, shiny) to a user experience led business. Parents and students, especially those from abroad, refer to Times and Guardian league tables which take into consideration several areas such as Entry Grades, Student to Staff Ratio and Student Satisfaction Scores with the latter able to be effected by any bad experiences the student may encounter during their University life – including experience with IT systems and services.”.
Doing More with Less
The University has increasing demands and competition but IT teams find it difficult to ask for extra staff “Efficiency and how you are working become very important. Tools like Bomgar can enhance the experiences of students and allow our existing staff to work more productively” said Lee. Interacting with students online and addressing their concerns immediately means a lot less pounding the corridors of University.
Lee stated their implementation of Bomgar was going well and was being well received by the business. Three key benefits to the University were identified as:
The IT support team could remote control into any device, anywhere. “It’s one of the best tools we have on the service desk because we can reach out to customer like never before”
Bomgar’s ease of use. The appliance has received great feedback from students and staff.
First time call resolution has decreased through remote handholding and IT team collaboration.
The Bomgar implementation included a cultural change in the approach to IT support. IT teams are encouraged to resolve issues remotely if possible rather than face to face, which is very different to how support has been delivered traditionally at the University, but ultimately leads to faster support and a more efficient use of resources.
Meeting in a coffee shop and sharing a cupcake doesn’t sound like the opening to a discussion on ITSM, but then when meeting Carl Chapman from Capital Support the conversation can traverse many topics from Service Desk to Expectation Management and yet remain firmly rooted in delivery of excellent service to every customer every day.
I first met Carl at an SDI Software Showcase. He had a refreshing manner about him, cutting through the sales banter trying to identify the value and practical use of each of the systems on show. I distinctly recall him describing the process of application selection as similar to choosing a prize cow. When I questioned this analogy he quickly responded by saying the nuances in the applications were the value, not the similarities. He’s sparked my interest and given a different perspective on a process we’ve all encountered on numerous occasions.
So, Cappuccino in hand we found a quiet corner to see how Carl has used his near 30 years of IT experience to help deliver the promise of excellent delivery to both large corporates and still translate his skills to grow traditional SMEs.
“It’s all about the bits we don’t write down” starts Carl. “The inherent desire to deliver great service and through that Service Management without the need to read the manual every time a question comes up”. I take from this he’s about to go head long into an expansive story pulled from his past where he’s taken a stuttering IT function and helped it improve by educating, cajoling or just enunciating the benefits of ITSM, but instead his focus is on the contents of our table.
You can teach someone to make a cup of coffee but what separates the best Barista from someone who makes instant coffee served in a soft foam cup at the side of the A1 is their passion to do the best they can and to adapt the instructions to make the magic happen.
I understand the context, but how does that translate into a real world IT situation where calls are flowing in, services are failing and the general consensus of opinion is that IT is just not good enough. I can’t accept the immediate comparison but can see Carl isn’t going to let this go without explaining why he is able to draw this conclusion.
I’m a strong believer in the individual and the role of the individual in delivering success through collective engagement and delivery. Since I started my career as a field service engineer back in the early 1980’s I’ve always felt my role was to fix people; people who just happen to have IT problems. Before ITSM was a set of books or a global community I therefore simply asked my teams to focus on the person and not the problem. You can fix the problem but if the person is not happy then you’ve failed. Equally, fix the person, make them feel valued, give them your time and in parallel fix the problem and you’ve got a 6-0 Cup Final win.
While I couldn’t fault Carl’s logic I wondered how you draw a line from ITSM fixing people to the original comment about great coffee. For me, it sounded like Carl was holding back on how you use ITSM to empower people to deliver peak performance.
Ultimately ITSM is a simple menu. A set of instructions on how you should do things in order to meet the needs and desires of your customers. Following the instructions will ultimately give you delivery, be it coffee or IT. It’ll be functional and adequate. The real magic happens when people use the knowledge from ITSM as a bond to expand their collective desire to be a little bit better than OK. In my experience opening the eyes of your teams to ITSM is the same as giving mountain climbers the best possible equipment they need to reach the peak. It’s a common language, with interlinked objectives that map out how to go from ground zero to the peak. On many occasions opening up a team to ITSM creates a light bulb moment; when delivery teams understand see how they can be impacted by change and how capacity management can support availability. The magic is taking the best people and giving them the understanding of how to make IT easier. Don’t get me wrong, if your people are rubbish then no end of ITSM will help them, but if you start with good people in any business, give them a successful menu, encourage their growth and development and you are significantly more likely to deliver success.
Coffee nearly over I ask Carl for a closing comment on how to breach the gap between adequate and excellent and how ITSM supports this objective.
“Great question, Rebecca. I’d simply say in all organisations you have professional trained people delivering services such as Legal or Finance. In my view a knowledge of ITSM is our equivalent. It’s critical to know how each element works in unison and provides the opportunity for excellence. Ultimately with or without ITSM you’ll still be able to deliver, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could do it a little bit better than everyone else?”
If you would like to take part in our interviews with readers series or would like to know more about someone in the industry and their experiences of ITSM then please contact us and we will do our best to make it happen.
Having worked in IT since the early 80’s Carl has built an enviable reputation as someone who leads teams in a positive and respectful manner to deliver tangible bottom line improvement by having the best people using the most appropriately aligned processes. The starting point in his career was in field services, fixing IBM PCs, and since then he’s taken every rung on the ladder to his COO status in his stride. Carl has remained grounded, has an acute understanding of service delivery and how it can positively impact not only the customer but also the morale of the team and still has the skills to translate complex technical problems in terms which everyone can relate to. Regardless of whether it’s a global team of hundreds or a local team of a few, those who work for Carl will tell you one of the most powerful things he does is to give them the space and support to do the job they are paid to do, to the best of their ability.
Imprivata is a leading provider of authentication and access management solutions for the healthcare industry.
Recall the last time you visited a hospital or medical center, or perhaps watched your favorite medical drama. Health care professionals working in a busy medical environment don’t have time for usernames and passwords to access electronic medical records across multiple IT systems. The preferred security mechanism is a swipe of a badge or simply put your finger down on a biometric reader.
Imprivata provides this authentication and single sign on technology. The same badge tap or fingerprint recognition technology can also allow health care staff to access thousands of systems across the hospital. The bottom line benefit is health care staff spending more time helping patients and less time fiddling with technology.
Imprivata has experienced fast growth over the last year, and Alex Wong, CIO, recently discussed his experiences implementing a “corporate ticketing system” to support the rapidly increasing Imprivata employee count and his overall review of ManageEngine.
Note: ManageEngine commissioned this case study. Thank you to Alex from Imprivata for being so candid and sharing his opinions with the ITSM Review community. Kudos also to ManageEngine for the confidence to allow us to publish Alex’s opinions and review verbatim. The responses below, which I hope you will find to be balanced and honest, have not been edited by ManageEngine or exposed to the usual PR polish.
ITSM Review: Alex, can you explain your strategy for implementing a corporate ticketing system and how this differs from a traditional IT helpdesk?
Alex, Imprivata: We’re growing very fast. One year ago we were 260 staff, we’re now over 350.
When new employees join Imprivata and have issues, they want to know who to contact. We want to make that process easy for them. So we have developed a common platform so that they don’t need to know who to contact – they can just get their questions answered. The corporate ticketing system, built on ManageEngine, gives them the ability to do that.
We wanted to build a single ticketing system for all business departments, not just IT.
You’ve been CIO for just over a year. So things have happened pretty quickly. How long did it take to implement?
We invested in some training to implement ManageEngine. We used the training time to configure the system to our requirements. Within two to four weeks of the training, we had implemented ManageEngine for the IT department. Within another two months, HR and facilities came on board. Then our Business Desk team joined two weeks later.
Why ManageEngine? Could you not have done all of that with your previous technology platform?
We were previously using Zendesk. We also looked at Salesforce.com and JIRA. Ultimately, we felt that we’d be able to implement the quickest with ManageEngine.
We also like the categorization of data with ManageEngine. We can define tickets in terms of categories and sub-categories, which we couldn’t do easily in Zendesk.
Also, staff that have been with us for quite a while, or certain suppliers, are used to routing queries to dedicated email aliases such as email@example.com. With ManageEngine we are able to route all tickets through the same system.
We’re pleased with the tool and how configurable it is.
What impact has your corporate ticketing system had on business departments outside IT?
Teams have stated they have much better visibility into tickets. The old model was primarily email-driven, so a manager would be dependent on the team to gauge how things were going. Now, managers can see exactly what issues are arising and what issues remain outstanding to allow them to prepare for the next day. Having that visibility has been very helpful.
Visibility of issues has also been very useful for the responsiveness of departments. For example if an employee raises an issue with the heating in the UK and the office manager is out, a team in another country can address the issue and provide coverage. Previously, the issue would have been stuck in someone’s email inbox.
How are issues from all these different departments routed?
Our first line of defense is usually the service desk. A single tracking mechanism for all tickets across all departments on the same platform has been very helpful. We usually receive about 40-60 tickets a day.
Imprivata employees typically log issues via three main channels:
More than half of all staff work in the corporate headquarters, so a good proportion of tickets are raised via walk-ups.
Everything goes into this platform, from “it’s too cool in here” to “my machine is broken.” From here, our first priority is to understand what’s coming in and process it. We try to resolve the issue on the first line straight away or route the ticket to a department queue or specialist.
You’ve mentioned that categorisation of tickets was important in your tool selection process – why is this so important to Imprivata?
Classification is important to us because if we see common or repeated issues, we try to 1) group them into common problem sets, 2) solve them and understand the root cause, and 3) prevent it from happening again.
For example, our new hire process includes a list of things that need to be done to support a new hire. If I see a ticket from a new hire asking for help in printing something – that means we’ve failed in the new hire process. Printer drivers were not installed properly, or we don’t have the correct FAQs for them to turn to. This information lets us know how we’re doing from a process standpoint.
That seems quite advanced problem management compared to other organizations we speak to.
We try to be very, very, analytical about how we think about our support model.
We’re quite small, and we extensively use interns. So our support model and process has to be very well-defined for us to be successful.
How do you measure success?
We provide internal support, making sure folks on the frontline selling products to customers are getting the help they need. Our measure of success is happy customers and customer satisfaction.
We measure how long it takes to get back to people, how long does it take to close a ticket and resolve an issue. How often are we reopening a ticket because we didn’t get it right first time?
We also have a process for checking aged tickets out there. Our internal customers know that they can escalate tickets if they are not getting what they need. We’ve built some automation with ManageEngine to monitor and escalate against SLAs, but we’ve also built communication channels for customers to provide feedback.
Would you recommend ManageEngine?
It’s flexible enough to manage our tickets within a best practice framework. We’re a public company, and there are certain processes we need to follow to adhere to legislation. For example, anyone that requires access to the general ledger system needs pre-approval. We’re governed by regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley that we know we’re going to be audited on, so having a system that supports us with these elements while managing our business in an efficient manner was a key requirement. So far, ManageEngine has delivered on those requirements.
Is there anything you would change if you had the choice?
Certain things could be better from a reporting point of view. It is not always intuitive, so we are reliant on the support team to help us out quite a bit. There a few nit-pick items such as the ability to
classify tickets with more refinement than today. But overall, we are very satisfied with ManageEngine.
How has the ManageEngine team responded to these or issues suggestions?
It’s been a mixed bag. Sometimes they are very responsive; sometimes it takes a couple of days. Given how important the system is to us, we’d pay for a faster response time if it were available.
We’d also like to invest in consulting services to address our reporting needs but have been pointed back to the support team. These are nit-picks, not showstoppers; but if these areas were improved, we’d be extremely happy.
What version are you running? Are you on the free version?
We started with the free version but quickly transitioned to the paid model.
Overall Review of ManageEngine by Imprivata
“The investment in ManageEngine is very easy to justify. The cost of running ManageEngine is not very expensive. And the fact that we can automate ticketing for other business departments within the same budget as our previous IT helpdesk is a real bonus”
Ability to adapt to business requirements
More granularity in classifications
Reporting requires more depth, it is not intuitive as it could be
In the run up this year’s itSMF UK conference ITSM14, I chatted with Patricia Speltincx about her upcoming session entitled “The seven building blocks for IT Service Management success”.
Q. Hi Patricia, can you give a quick intro to your session at ITSM14?
In my presentation, I will challenge the classical ITSM implementation approach and propose a different paradigm based on 7 building blocks, hence the title of my presentation and of my white paper that won two itSMF awards (UK and International) in 2013.
I have worked in IT environments for 30 years and more specifically in ITSM for the last 15 years. I have seen organisations trying hard to implement ITIL® best practices with various degrees of success. It progressively became clear to me that focusing on processes and technology (2 of the 7 building blocks) was far too restrictive and therefore was not the right thing to do.
To achieve success, there is a need to broaden the scope and open to a more systemic view of the ITSM reality, in other words to see it from a more global perspective. An IT Service Organisation is still an ‘organisation’ and therefore ITSM should not be the only reference model.
Using different reference models coming from organisational theories, I came up with 5 additional building blocks, which I will discuss at the itSMF UK conference in London.
Q. Why is getting IT Service Management right so important for organisations?
Well, it is important to get everything right nowadays, so IT Service Management is no exception.
We live in an interesting period where old paradigms are seriously challenged due to the difficult economical context.
High levels of performance have become a survival condition for organisations. As a consequence, there are more and more pressures on people who have more and more difficulties to find motivation at work, which in turn has a negative impact on results. A lot of organisations seem stuck in this vicious circle. To get out of it, it is important that they get their global strategy right, two key elements of it being people and IT. Nowadays, you can’t do without engaged people and without efficient IT.
Q. What can attendees hope to take away from your session?
In my session, I will encourage attendees to open their mind to a different, broader and more systemic approach to ITSM. They will understand on which other building blocks organisations should focus their attention in order to achieve success. They will take away concrete ideas to build solutions to the current ITSM difficulties organisations are facing.
Patricia is an ITIL® Expert with wide experience as a trainer, consultant and coach in IT environments.
Fascinated by human potential, she is also a certified coach. She studied and practiced several theories linked to the development of individuals and organisations. This, combined with her coalface experience in IT allowed her to develop an original approach to IT Service Management.
She is currently focusing her activities on helping individuals and organisations that are willing to challenge themselves to achieve high levels of performance.
Patricia’s session is on day one of ITSM14 and featured within the Skills track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK
In the run up this year’s itSMF UK conference, ITSM14, I chatted with Karen Brusch of Nationwide Building Society and itSMF UK about her upcoming session entitled “Managing Multiple Suppliers from an SLM Perspective”.
Q. Hi Karen, can you give a quick intro to your session at the itSMF UK Conference?
The itSMF UK Service Level Management SIG has always been keen to research and present topics that are identified as problem areas by practitioners in the industry. Supplier Management and how that impacts Service Level Management has been an area of discussion which has gained momentum over the last 18 months. This session takes a look at some key points around the complexities of managing multiple suppliers.
Q. What impact does managing multiple suppliers have on an organisation?
The most obvious impact is the failure to deliver what an organisation’s business needs. It is hard enough to understand and document business requirements when you have one supplier; but when you have a multitude of suppliers, there is a real risk that requirements become diluted, compromised, or more crucially missed. Managing multiple suppliers is a black art, where what works for one set of suppliers will not necessarily work for another; so each combination requires a modified approach. Service Integration specialists (SIAM) have helped to shape some answers, but even here, flexibility is the key. So any organisation embarking on a multi-vendor strategy has to have the knowledge, capability and determination to succeed.
Q. Where should organisations start with managing multiple suppliers?
The most important thing is to understand your business’ end game; where do they want to be in 5 years’ time, for example. Once you have this information you can begin to formulate supporting IT strategies and requirements. Too many organisation write their Invitations to Tender (ITTs) and Request for Proposals (RFPs) without understanding business strategy
Q. What are likely to be the potential pitfalls and/or benefits an organisation may experience with implementing a framework for managing multiple suppliers?
An organisation will derive real benefit for taking the time to develop an appropriate governance framework for the selected preferred suppliers. As I’ve said already, each combination requires a modified approach, so it really pays to invest some time in this activity. The fundamental pitfall that I’ve seen on many occasion is that organisations select the cheapest provider for each area/tower of service, not taking into consideration the overall impact and integration issues. It goes back to having people with the knowledge, capability an determination to succeed.
Karen is an ITIL Expert, recognised as a member of the itSMF UK Expert Faculty, and a Service Design specialist with 12 years’ experience. She chaired the itSMF UK Service Level Management Special Interest Group for several years, and has recently stepped down from this role to support the newly formed Service Design SIG. When not engaged in itSMF activities, she works for Nationwide Building Society as a Service Design Consultant.
Karen’s session is on day two and featured within the Managing Complexity track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK
Q. Hi Tony, can you give a quick intro to your session at ITSM14?
I had the idea after a meal with an old friend (and ex colleague) I hadn’t seen for a few years. He emailed me the following morning saying thank you for re igniting his passion for service management.
It made me think about the conversation we’d had over dinner and I realized people often need a reboot now and again to clear out the negative and re-establish the positive.
Service Management professionals face a wide range of challenges on a daily basis, so a regular boost of positivity coupled with realignment of perspective is essential.
We so often get so tangled up in the mire that we lose sight of what we are really aiming for. The aim tends to end up becoming to just get out of the mire rather than achieve the greatness we originally intended!!!
Q. What impact can passion, or lack of it, have on an organisation?
Passion is infectious. People with passion infect others who then take more interest in their own work and what’s going on around them. The consequences are that positive changes are made which benefit organisations at so many levels.
Continual Improvement attitudes and behaviors become embedded into the day job.
Lack of passion leads to stagnation.
For organisations to improve, not everyone needs to be passionate, but everyone does need to take an interest in what they do and what those around them do as well and have an attitude that nurtures improvement.
Q. Is passion something that can be manufactured or created within an organisation?
It’s not something that can be manufactured but it can be nurtured and encouraged, which in turn begins to create a culture that is of great benefit to the organisation.
Q. What are likely to be the potential pitfalls and/or benefits an organisation may experience with attempting to create a culture of positivity?
Passion is a great catalyst to create positivity. We must remember though that we are dealing with people. It is important to manage how we best utilise it, as over-enthusiasm can have a detrimental effect on what we are trying to achieve. Balance, not suppression, is what’s needed. Benefits are endless. Organisations that have a positive, passionate, culture are able to achieve excellence and more importantly maintain it for the long term.
Tony Brough is acknowledged as a leading expert in the Service Management field and is best known for his pragmatic approach explaining every aspect in easy to understand terms, relating them to his students or customers own business. With over 20 years experience in the service management industry Tony is a certified ITIL Expert and ISO / IEC 20000 consultant and was also one of the first people in the world to become a certified BS15000 consultant.
Tony’s session at ITSM14 is on day two and featured within the ITSM and Agile track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK
Guardian News & Media (GNM) publishes theguardian.com, the third largest English-speaking newspaper website in the world. Since launching its US and Australia digital editions in 2011 and 2013 respectively, traffic from outside of the UK now represents over two-thirds of the GNM’s total digital audience. In the UK, GNM publishes the Guardian newspaper six days a week, first published in 1821, and the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, The Observer.
GNM is a dynamic and pioneering news organisation across all departments. Amongst all this cutting edge transformation, GNM’s IT service desk has been going through its own upheaval. Over the last year the team has experienced arguably the most transformative change any service desk is likely to face—that of insourcing from a third-party outsourcer and rebuilding from scratch.
So what is life like for IT service management (ITSM) folks at GNM? How do they handle delivery of IT services for one of the world’s leading brands? How have they insourced the service desk? These are all questions I was keen to ask when I met the team in London.
Note: SysAid commissioned this case study. Thank you to Vicky, Louise, and Steve from Guardian News & Media for being so candid and sharing their views.
Meet the team
Insourcing the service desk
GNM has around 1,700 staff working for them globally. Roughly half of GNM staff work in commercial teams, the other half are in editorial teams including worldwide journalists and bloggers. The 60-member IT team supports 1,200 Macs, 800 PCs and twin mirrored datacentres in London and Bracknell.
The service desk was insourced from the 1st August 2013 when a team of six service desk analysts took over the front line of IT service and support.
The insource meant choosing a suitable solution to underpin its service management processes. Previously, the IT team was provided with technology as part of IT outsourcing contracts, such as Remedy or ServiceNow. With ITSM now firmly the responsibility of the in-house teams, there was a requirement for a smaller system that suited their needs. Flexibility and value for money were key drivers. Following a review of the market, the team chose SysAid.
A GNM version of ITIL
The IT support team at GNM records 600–650 incidents a week, working core hours of 8am until 6pm, with extended cover until 3am to support publication of the printed newspaper.
“We resolve as many calls as we can on the first line, not just log and flog, we try to do as much as we can and only escalate to second line if we get stuck,” said Vicky Cobbett, Service Desk Manager.
Incidents arrive in the way of system monitoring, email, telephone and walk ups. The team has not yet implemented any self-service options with SysAid, as they wanted to build up a reputation and confidence in existing channels first.
Third line teams are arranged by technology stack or competence area, such as business applications, networks, integrations, multimedia, AV, Oracle applications and so on.
“Our technology base is really quite broad,” says Steve Erskine, Technology Supplier Manager. “We are digital first. It’s a very different company than the newspaper I originally joined.”
“GNM is at the cutting edge of the media industry, it means we are constantly changing. We are constantly being brought new things to manage,” added Louise Sandford, Application Analyst.
Like most organizations that refer to best practice frameworks, GNM has cherry picked guidance from ITIL to suit its requirements.
“We’ve adopted a GNM version of ITIL,” says Steve.
“We have a Change Advisory Board (CAB) every Monday and use SysAid to manage all of our changes. If you look at the ITIL book, we’re not quite doing it the way ITIL suggests, we’ve taken the bits that are appropriate for us.”
“For example, we don’t have a change manager because of the diverse teams in our IT staff, but we make sure we follow a change management process and follow ITIL where appropriate.”
“Individual teams get direct calls too. We work in a deadline driven environment so things need to be resolved quickly. Sometimes you need to resolve the ticket before logging it,” said Louise. “We try not to get too caught up in process protocol – publishing the paper comes first.”
Our SLA is to ensure the paper is published each night and that our website remains online
Publishing the newspaper and keeping the website up in total alignment to business requirements was a recurring theme during our conversation. There is no time for navel gazing about service desk metrics at GNM. Its focus is on deadlines and the key priorities of the business seem familiar to the old fable about President Kennedy visiting the Space Center.
It is said that the President approached a man sweeping and said “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” to which the janitor replied “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”
I found their customer focus refreshing. I asked the team: “How do you know if you’re doing a good job? How do you measure success?”
“The newspaper gets printed. The website is always up,” said Vicky.
The team monitors call volumes, call open times and escalates where appropriate – but the main focus of meeting customer requirements is via the personal relationships developed by Business Relationship Managers (BRMs) who go out to the business and listen for requirements, help prioritize projects and develop a medium term plan.
“Success for me is if we can put processes and procedures in place without slowing the business down,” said Steve.
“We don’t get too caught up with measuring statistics. The company knows we work hard to close all tickets as quickly as possible and are focussed on helping the company print the paper and keep the website up,” said Vicky.
“In terms of statistics and metrics and comparing this year with last year – that’s not what we’re about… and I don’t think we’ll ever get to that point,” added Steve.
“We work in a vocal environment, if we’re not doing the right thing people will soon tell us. We also have our BRM team who are going out to the business to ensure we are doing the right thing and meeting their requirements.”
“We don’t really work to formal Service Levels. We might be working on something quite important to one person, but if something happens, which means we can’t get the paper out, everything gets dropped to fix it and that person will have to wait. If we’re going to breach a Service Level Agreement (SLA), we’re going to breach it. We’ve got to get the paper out.”
“Everyone in the company has this focus. It’s our purpose for being here,” added Louise.
As Application Analyst Louise is the main owner of SysAid. She has looked after the application since insourcing back in August and works with their account manager Yair Bortinger at SysAid.
GNM learnt from working with previous tools that despite all the bells and whistles on offer they would only end up using a small fraction of the features available. So a reason for choosing SysAid was that it is a smaller system and easier to customize to their own requirements.
“We find it user friendly,” says Louise. “With other systems we’ve worked with you have to stick to the templates or labels issued by the software company. SysAid is a lot more flexible to customize to your own requirements so you can label things the way you want them and in a way the whole IT department will understand. We use the cloud version so we can use it anywhere, we can use it at home.”
A quirky bunch
I asked the GNM team about their experiences with SysAid as a company. They were extremely complimentary. Specifically, the team stated that customer service was their strongest asset.
“They’re a quirky bunch,” said Vicky, “very, very friendly.”
“They are amenable and get back to you quickly,” added Louise.
“Sometimes when you work with software companies, you’ll deal with the salesperson and they are the friendliest person in the world, but once you’ve signed the contract the relationship changes. With SysAid, when we phone them up, they’re as friendly as the day we signed the contract,” said Steve.
“…And that’s not just one person, that’s everyone you speak to, the account management team, professional services, senior management,” said Louise.
“We sometimes ask the professional services team to do something completely random and weird and they say, yeah ok, we’ll do that for you,” said Vicky.
“I hope they don’t get bought and stay as they are. We are doing this case study because they are good not because of some commercial arrangement. We want to give something back in exchange for their great product and great service,” added Steve.
IT Service desk bar
The GNM IT team has built an “IT service desk bar” as a concierge desk for walk-in IT support enquiries. It is situated adjacent to a main stairwell and thoroughfare of the business and is intentionally separate from the rest of the IT department. Three service desk analysts work at the service desk bar, which accounts for around 15% of all incidents.
“It’s meant that we’ve built better relationships within the company. They see IT as having a face rather than being a voice at the end of a phone,” says Vicky
“But around 15%–20% of incidents come from the service desk bar. 50–60% come in via email and around 20–25% are phone calls.”
Customizing to requirements
Louise estimates that the split between in-house customization and development from SysAid is around 70/30.
“I do as much of the customization myself and liaise with Yair and the SysAid professional services team to do everything else,” said Louise.
“One of the great things we like about SysAid is that it’s so configurable and it’s very flexible. It is also quite user-friendly, so without a huge amount of configuration knowledge you can pick it up and use it quite effectively.”
User account creation, which was previously managed in Lotus Notes, is now handled by SysAid.
“That was a custom project they built for us. SysAid is used to automate the account creation of logins for new users. It’s completely out of scope for what SysAid is designed for but they’ve been very ‘can do’ about the whole project. It feels like a partnership,” said Vicky.
Having embedded change management, the team aims to look at problem management in more detail and also plans to build an asset register to record laptops and desktops using SysAid. Knowledge management is also on the agenda, done at a steady pace with issues ironed out as they go.
“It’s such a small system in the grand scale of things in terms of all the systems we use. But it’s such an important one,” said Louise.
Guardian News & Media
The Guardian first published in 1821
Offices in UK, USA, Australia
Headquarters: King’s Cross, London, UK
Revenue Guardian Media Group Plc. £210M
Over 100million monthly unique browsers for theguardian.com
“It’s a great tool, with great service,” said Steve.
Customer service from the SysAid team
Ease of use
Reporting – doesn’t have the depth we’d like but SysAid is addressing this in Q4 2014.
Reverse customization – when you’ve built something by configuring it and need to undo it, it is not always straightforward. Some elements aren’t as friendly as others. Some of the workflow elements could be improved.
I recently chatted to the new CEO of itSMF UK, Mike Owen, about his perspective of ITSM and challenges the industry faces.
In this interview Mike shares a great vision of where to take the forum and changes being discussed to the itSMF’s founding chapter.
Q. ITSM Review: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Mike Owen: My background is primarily in marketing and then general management. The first 15 years of my career were spent working in various companies including Time Warner, BT, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Grant Thornton – mostly in sales and marketing roles. After I did my MBA, I then worked for a national NHS authority as head of strategic planning. For the last 10 years I’ve worked across the commercial, non-for-profit and public sectors in various operational director, interim CEO and consultancy roles, specializing particularly in business-to-business sectors and membership organizations. I’ve worked with professional membership bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, trade associations, and general business groups like Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
What interested me about the role at ITSMF UK was the opportunity to join an established membership body operating in a vibrant, exciting sector that IT clearly is – but where there was a fresh management challenge and an opportunity to further develop the organization, build its profile and help shape a new wave of growth. I’ve previously been MD/CEO of three small member-based enterprises – including one in the field of facilities IT – and I have always liked the shared ethos of membership bodies, but where there is still a commercial imperative to make things happen and develop for the future.
What are you making of the world of IT service management (ITSM) so far?
I’m finding it very interesting so far! I’m learning quickly and meeting lots of new people. Although I’m new to ITSM, I actually see that as quite a good thing as it means I’m inclined to ask questions that perhaps some more technical people might not. It also makes me more interested in looking for the context of how ITSM fits in with the rest of IT and wider business management.
A few things that have particularly struck me so far are:
ITSM is quite process and operations focused. Certainly, it is very valuable for people working in ITSM to have good models and frameworks to indicate effective practice and how to carry out tasks, but I wonder if there is a need to increase focus on wider and more strategic areas affecting IT and service delivery – like business strategy, IT architecture planning, operational process design, business structure and culture, staff skills/job design, relationship management with partners/suppliers, client satisfaction measurement, risk management, service quality management and so on.
ITSM currently appears to revolve substantially around ITIL. Although this is, of course, a well established and proven approach, I don’t think one framework can fully suit every organization out there; in my opinion the field needs to be seen more as an overall suite of different tools and methods to suit different contexts and a constantly changing IT environment. Other models already exist, of course, for example ISO 20000, COBIT, SIAM, Lean IT, and DevOps, but I think more needs to be done to present – and develop – ITSM as a discipline with a larger, richer, more flexible set of concepts, tools and methods.
There is a lot of potential to take ITSM beyond the IT department and relate it to wider business functions. I definitely get the sense that more and more people working in ITSM consider that the field needs to be seen in a broader and more holistic light than has been the case historically. As IT is nowadays such a key driver and enabler of business strategy, operational processes and customer-facing products/services, I think perhaps ITSM needs to relate to that wider frame of relevance more, not just serve as a template for running and delivering internally-focused IT operations more effectively.
Do you think ITSM is in danger of becoming irrelevant?
Not totally, but it seems to me that ITSM does need to broaden its outlook. ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile. If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes. IT often places too much emphasis on technical or operational processes. How many people in IT currently stop to think “how does this process link to our customers?” It’s pivotal that IT understands that it needs to have an outward, not just inward looking view of how to define the services that they are managing.
So in your opinion the future of ITSM lies outside of IT?
ITSM’s heritage is in the IT department, but I would say, yes, its future lies more outside of IT than in it. I believe that the future of ITSM is more to help organizations manage and deliver their overall customer/market-facing services and operations where they have a high dependency on sound and effective IT. Today, ITSM is more often than not about running internally focused IT operational services. Tomorrow has the potential for ITSM to evolve to be more about running IT-enabled, externally centred business/customer services. As such, ITSM professionals will need to work more closely with marketing and service operations colleagues and complement their deep technical/IT knowledge with wider business knowledge. In time, perhaps the sector will lose the “IT” from “ITSM”, but we need to careful we don’t stretch ourselves into being too generic!
So with regards to ITSMF UK, what do you see as the biggest challenge you have to face in the next 12 months?
Well, we need to continue operating a good day-to-day service for our members, of course, but there’s also a need to refresh the organization and put it in a strong position for the longer-term. This year, priorities for us include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do things; improving our engagement with members; starting to develop and enhance our services and benefits to members; and building our marketing, profile and connections within the ITSM sector. ITSMF UK has a very valuable role to play in the sector – as the leading membership body for organizations, managers and staff involved in ITSM. Like any organization, we just need to keep moving and adapting to suit the world around us.
How do you intend to provide better value to your members?
Overall, itSMF is about providing value in several ways: particularly: boosting professional knowledge and learning to help organizations and their staff get better results from ITSM; networking and sharing between ITSM professionals; providing news, information and objective guidance about ITSM matters; helping to develop and promote ITSM as an overall discipline; and bringing together and representing the different parts of the ITSM sector. We’ll be looking to steadily build value on all these fronts and we’ll be seeking to do this in some cases by working in partnership with other professional bodies and groups in the sector.
Furthermore, we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” membership approach to presenting a more tailored offer and service approach to the different parts of the community. For example, we’ll be doing more to provide value to and support senior ITSM managers and leaders in our member organizations. We’ll also be doing a lot more online.
What can we expect to see from ITSMF UK over the next 6 months?
We’ll be moving forward on all the development areas I referred to earlier, but the areas of marketing and member communications will see some of the earliest changes. For instance, we have already introduced a much better Forum website whose functionality we will be developing steadily over the coming months – including expansion of our online reference resources. We’re refreshing the look and feel of our communication materials and tools and we’re revamping the editorial approach to our main publication, ServiceTalk to integrate it better with online media and cover ITSM issues, news and topics in greater depth.
The other major thing happening in the next six months, of course, is our 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition. We’re also continuing to run our wide range of regional meetings, specialist topic seminars, and advanced masterclass events.
We’ve also started successfully to expand our membership base – that’s both our number of member organizations and the number of individuals registered to use our Forum’s facilities.
In the past resource has been an issue for ITSMF UK, how do you intend to achieve all these planned changes and updates?
By running a tight ship and moving forward in a careful but steady manner. We’ll prioritize what we do, always staying close to what members want, and we’ll work with our members and external partners as effectively as possible. I should stress that you don’t need to have lots of people to do more things. It’s about better utilizing the talent you have and involving members and appropriate external partners where necessary.
We also want to do more to facilitate and encourage more ‘peer-to-peer’ member activity and more support between members themselves. A membership body like ITSMF UK shouldn’t just be about a central office doing things for members ‘out there’: a Forum is equally about members networking and sharing with each other directly. That’s the beauty of a body like ours and something we want to expand further, making more use of our website and social media.
What’s happening with the Big4 agenda? Will you be planning a Big4 for 2015?
The Big4 agenda has been about trying to stimulate discussion, support and information around a particular set of ITSM topics that members told us last year they were particularly concerned about: back to basics, skills, managing complexity, and ITSM and agile. The initiative has been very useful, with activity ranging from dedicated seminars, online discussions, and articles in ServiceTalk and, of course, shaping many of the sessions at our upcoming 2014 Conference.
Of course, though, there are always many, more topics and issues on the minds of ITSM professionals at any one time and the Forum always needs to relate to those wider topics too.
In terms of thoughts about 2015, it’s a bit early to tell how we’ll approach the initiative next year, but certainly we’ll be minded to keep it as a useful way to help engage with members and assist in focusing our activities.
You mentioned the ITSMF UK Annual Conference and Exhibition, what can we expect from the event this year?
Well, we’re very confident it’s going to be another great event – the premier exhibition, conference and awards event for the UK ITSM sector! Still three months ahead of the event, we’re already delighted with the level of bookings – from delegates, sponsors and exhibitors. We’ve got a wide range of major and leading organizations who will providing speakers this year, including: Aviva, EE, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Telefonica, Axelos, Capgemini, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy, and the NIHR Clincial Research Network. The conference will have over 30 separate presentations and workshops and the ITSM Exhibition will have over 40 exhibitors from major product and service providers across the ITSM sector. I’m really looking forward to the event.
What can we expect from ITSMF UK in the future, above and beyond just the next 12 months?
What I can say at this stage is that we will continue the journey I outlined earlier of steadily building the Forum and adding more and more value to both members and the wider ITSM sector. We need to be realistic, it’s going to take 18 months to two years to do everything we want to best fulfill the role of being the leading membership body for organisations, managers and staff involved in ITSM. Everything will come in steady steps, but the overall goal is to better support our members, to help people adapt and succeed in this new age of ITSM, to represent the ITSM community, and help promote the overall value of ITSM.
It’s an exciting mission for ITSMF UK. Everyone at the Forum is motivated by it and we view the future, with all our members, with a great deal of confidence.
The ITSM Review team welcomes Mike to his new role and looks forward to collaborating with itSMF in the future.