Live from LEADit, Conference Review

Meeting April Allen (@knowledgebird) at LEADit - the itSMFA conference
Meeting April Allen (@knowledgebird) at LEADit – the itSMFA conference

DAY ONE

I’m at the itSMF Australia LEADit conference in Melbourne. It started with a buzz of excitement with a healthy turnout of 674 expected during the 3 days.

The opening ceremony from itSMFA Chair Kathryn Heaton and Australian politician Gordon Rich-Phillips were very positive about the state of ITSM in Australia and the future plans for even better cooperation between IT and the Government. Gordon Rich-Phillips stated, “IT is an enabler of productivity and employment” and emphasized and the importance of holding events like these in Melbourne where it is commonly accepted as the hub of IT particularly in the State of Victoria.

The keynote from Peter Nikoletatos on Accelerated Connectedness was an entertaining and insightful look at how to maintain the basics (Hygiene IT) whilst introducing an agile approach.  The second keynote from Nigel Dalton was a well constructed debate and case study on whether adopting The Cloud is ‘all about money’ or is it actually the opportunity to succeed (albeit with a different approach to organizational structure) with his role as CIO at The REA group proved as a case study.

The main focus of the day from the perspective of the keynote and breakout sessions was the high level discussion on the ability to take Service Management beyond IT into other areas of business so they are integrated and not separate entities.

Some feedback from delegates suggested that more was needed in terms of how to implement ITSM outside IT. Some of the tool vendors I expressed concerns that the event had to develop this offering or miss the huge opportunity of being part of the larger business operation.

Peter Hepworth from Axelos provided an update on the 60 strong team now running the ITIL and Prince2 best practice frameworks including Prince2 for Agile.

Overall the first day of the LEADit conference has been incredibly productive and I have been very impressed by the amount of social interaction and discussions between end users, speakers and vendors alike in very relevant topics that many in Service Management face. This event is highly regarded by many of the attendees as one of the top five of itSMF events globally and at this stage I can only agree.

DAY TWO

Another really good day at the LEADit conference for ITSMF Australia in Melbourne. The keynotes in the morning were two of the best I have seen at any event and will live long in the memory.

The first keynote was from Jason McCartney, an AFL hero who was badly injured in the Bali bombings in 2002 and his story of how he overcame injuries to marry his wife ( less than 2 months later) and return to his passion of playing football at the highest level when doctors said he wouldn’t ever play again. It was a great uplifting speech and one of the best I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Jason held our attention from start to finish which most presentations rarely do.

“It’s not what you are dealt in life – it is how you deal with it” ~ Jason McCartney

The second keynote was also very good from ITSM Ambassador Malcolm Fry. His keynote was very original and was based around looking at various famous types of artwork like Banksy, Salvador Dali and Monet and how they relate to ITSM in that sometimes Service Management isn’t about the little details its about the bigger picture and that you can look at things in a different way especially how the Service Desk works.

The Breakout sessions were well attended again today and lots of positive and informative contributions from the speakers. A lot of focus of the event has been the whole ITIL vs Cobit and ITIL versus Agile debates with justified arguments on both sides. A lot of the end users I spoke to today were focused on delivering customer satisfaction and getting the basics right and were attending the courses relevant to these topics.

The final keynote of the day showcased the key findings of a collaboration between itSMFA and ISACA into problems faced when developing strategic IT plans (the ebook is available from the itSMFA or ISACA website).

Caption
Left to right: Peter Hepworth (CEO, Axelos), Kathryn Heaton (itSMFA Chair), Bruce Harvey (itSMFA) at the LEADit Gala dinner.

Evening entertainment was the Telstra Gala Dinner and ITSMF industry awards. A well attended evening (they could have filled the hall twice) to celebrate the successes of the year and show gratitude to long standing members to the itSMFA. Congratulations to Karen Ferris of Macanta Consulting for here lifetime achievement award.

What makes for a compelling metrics story?

reading1In my first article “Do your metrics tell a story?” I discussed the “traditional” approach to reporting metrics, and why that approach is ineffective at driving action or decisions.

Personal observations are far more effective. Personal observations appearing to conflict with the data presented can actually strengthen opposition to whatever decision or action the data suggests. Presenting data as part of a story reboots the way we receive data. Done well, it creates an experience very similar to personal observation.

So how can we do this well? What makes a compelling metrics story?

Every element must lead to a singular goal

This cannot be stressed enough. Any metrics story we tell must have a singular purpose, and every element of the package must exist only to achieve that purpose. Look at any report package you produce or consume. Is there a single purpose for the report? Does every piece of information support that single purpose? Does the audience for the report know the singular purpose? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then there is no good reason to invest time in reading it.

ITSM legend Malcolm Fry provides an excellent example of the singular goal approach with his “Power of Metrics” workshops. If you haven’t been able to attend one of his metrics workshops, you are truly missing out. I had the honor when Fry’s metrics tour came through Minneapolis in August 2012. The most powerful takeaway (of many) was the importance of having a singular focus in metrics reporting.

In the workshop, Fry uses a “Good day / Bad day” determination as the singular focus of metrics reporting. ThoughtRock recorded an interview with him that provides a good background of his perspective and the “Good day / Bad day” concept for metrics. The metrics he proposed all roll up into the determination of whether IT had a good day, or a bad day. You can’t get clearer and more singular than that. The theme is understood by everyone: IT staff, business leaders … all the stakeholders.

There are mountains of CSF/KPI information on the Internet and organizations become easily overwhelmed by all the data, trying to decide which CSFs and KPIs to use. Fry takes the existing CSF and KPI concepts and adds a layer on top of CSFs. He calls the new layer “Service Focal Point”.

The Service Focal Point (SFP) provides a single measurement, based on data collected through KPIs. Good day, bad day is just one example of using SFPs. We only need to capture the KPIs relevant to determining the SFP.

(Fry also recently recorded a webinar: Service Desk Metrics — Are We Having a Good Day or a Bad Day? Sign up, or review the recording if you are reading this after the live date).

Create a shared experience

A good metrics story creates a new experience. Earlier I wrote about how personal histories – personal experiences – are stronger than statistics, logic, and objective data in forming opinions and perspectives. Stories act as proxies for personal experiences. Where personal experiences don’t exist, stories can affect opinions and perspectives. Where personal experience does exist, stories can create additional “experiences” to help others see things in a new way.

If the CIO walks by the service desk, and sometimes observes them chatting socially, her experience may lead to a conclusion that the service desk isn’t working hard enough (overstaffed, poorly engaged, etc.) Giving her data demonstrating high first contact resolution and short caller hold times won’t do much to change the negative perception. Instead, make the metrics a story about reduced costs and improved customer engagement.

A great story creates a shared experience by allowing us to experience similarities between ourselves and others. One of the most powerful ways to create a shared experience is by being consistent in what we report and how we report it. At one point in my practitioner career I changed metrics constantly. My logic was that I just needed to find the right measurement to connect with my stakeholders. It created the exact opposite outcome: My reports became less and less relevant.

The singular goal must remain consistent from reporting period to reporting period. For example, you may tweak the calculations that lead to a Good day / Bad day outcome, but the “storyline” (was it a good day or a bad day?) remains the same. We now have a shared experience and storyline. Everyone knows what to look for each day.

Use whatever storyline(s) works for your organization. Fry’s Good day / Bad day example is just one way to look at it. The point is making a consistent story.

Make the stakeholders care

A story contains an implied promise that the story will lead me somewhere worth my time. To put it simply, the punch line – the outcome – must be compelling to the stakeholders. There are few experiences worse than listening to a rambling story that ends up going nowhere. How quickly does the storyteller lose credibility as a storyteller? Immediately! The same thing happens with metrics. If I have to wade through a report only to find that there is ultimately nothing compelling to me, I’ll never pay attention to it again. You’ll need to work pretty hard to get my attention in the future.

This goes back to the dreaded Intro to Public Speaking class most US college students are required to take. When I taught that class, the two things I stressed more than anything was:

  • Know your audience
  • Make your topic relevant to them

If the CIO is your primary audience, she’s not going to care about average call wait times unless someone from the C-suite complained. Chances are good, however, that she will care about how much money is spent per incident, or the savings due to risk mitigation.

Know your ending before figuring out the middle of the story

This doesn’t mean you need to pre-determine your desired outcome and make the metrics fit. It means you need to know what decisions should be made as a result of the metrics presentation before diving into the measurement.

Here are just a few examples of “knowing the ending” in the ITSM context:

  • Do we need more service desk staff?
  • How should we utilize any new headcount?
  • Will the proposed process changes enable greater margins?
  • Are we on track to meet annual goals?
  • Did something happen yesterday that we need to address?
  • How will we know whether initiative XYZ is successful?

A practical example

Where should we focus Continual Service Improvement (CSI) efforts? The problem with many CSI efforts is that they end up being about process improvement, not service improvement. We spend far too much time on siloed process improvement, calling it service improvement.

For example, how often do you see measurement efforts around incident resolution time? How does that indicate service improvement by itself? Does the business care about the timeliness of incident resolution? Yes, but only in the context of productivity, and thereby cost, loss or savings.

A better approach is to look at the kind of incidents that cause the greatest productivity loss. This can tell us where to spend our service improvement time.

The story we want to tell is, “Are we providing business value?”

The metric could be a rating of each service, based on multiple factors, including: productivity lost due to incidents; the cost of incidents escalated to level 2 & 3 support; number of change requests opened for the service; and the overall business value of the service.

Don’t get hung up on the actual formula. The point is how we move the focus of ITSM metrics away from siloed numbers that mean nothing on their own, to information that tells a compelling story.

If you would like guidance on coming up with valid calculations for your stories, I highly recommend “How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business” by Douglas Hubbard.

… and a few more excellent resources:

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