Keeping Up in an On-Demand World

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Fostering good relations with business counterparts is a good place to start

It’s a fact that business user expectations of IT continue to grow in today’s tech-heavy consumer culture. In a world where we can get access to new capabilities and services quickly in our personal lives, it’s no wonder that business leaders are seeking the same continuous delivery of new capabilities in their work lives.

Here are five tips that will help you adjust your culture and tooling for this era of on-demand IT.

 

Tip 1: Take notice of the level of collaboration between your company’s business unit managers and the IT department

Ask yourself, is either side pleased with the situation at present? I’ve seen companies invest in roles within IT to foster improved collaboration with the business (e.g. what ITIL calls Service Managers or what Gartner and others call Business Relationship Managers). This is a useful investment for IT organizations to make because it gives a focal point to work with the business, someone who can sit in executive meetings to understand what needs they have and problems they are trying to solve. In a lot of companies the CIO still tries to act as the “relationship manager” for every business unit and sometimes also the head of development tries to do so – these approaches just don’t scale effectively.

 

Tip 2: Do something every quarter to improve communication and collaboration between non-IT managers and the IT department

Standing still in this area means that communication and collaboration is likely eroding. Both the business and IT sides of the house are moving so fast that it requires a proactive communication and collaboration to maintain alignment. I hear a lot of CIOs talk about the need for an “open line of communication” with other departments and that’s a good mindset, but it’s not enough. We have to move beyond appealing to better communications and the need to align with the business. The question you should be asking is “what are some concrete actions I can take now to improve communication and collaboration between non-IT managers and IT?” One idea is the creation of relationship manager roles as mentioned above. Investing in good quality IT relationship managers and aligning up front on project scope is critical.

But even with that in place, challenges for communication and collaboration will persist. For example, if you’re relying on the relationship manager to translate and explain the business needs to those in IT who need to know about what the business is trying to achieve, the priorities, etc. there can be some big communication gaps because not everyone who needs to know gets the information, or, the business needs are changing so rapidly and people in IT are working with outdated information about business requirements. What’s needed is an ongoing dialog between not just the business and IT relationship managers, but also with project managers, developers, and even those in operations that need to deploy and run the applications.

There’s a lot IT can learn here from enterprise collaboration projects in the business (with products like Jive) and apply that to how IT works with the business. Imagine if the people working on the project in IT could “follow” and collaborate on business requirements with the business like you follow someone on Twitter or have a friend on Facebook. Followers could get updated as things change and engage with the business if there are questions or concerns. Maybe the development manager draws a cut line for the release and the business knows about that in advance and can give feedback on features that need to be added or confirm which others can wait. Perhaps there’s a policy that governs an app but operations isn’t aware of it and is going to deploy it in such a way that they would violate the policy – instead the enterprise governance team can know about it and weigh in before the deployment happens.

 

Tip 3: Revisit the tools and approaches you use for IT collaboration work today. Be intentional about your go-forward tools strategy

The challenge I see here (a lot) is that IT is still using the same techniques they’ve always been using for collaboration – meetings, emails, conference calls, sharepoint sites, spreadsheets. There is no substitute for meetings and face-to-face interactions and even conference calls are important, however, the challenge is how do we capture and disseminate that information so those in the meeting can refer back to it but ensure others that weren’t in the meeting can still have access to it? What about someone new joining the organization, how can they get up to speed faster without having to go to lots and lots of meetings?

IT needs a new way to think about how we capture knowledge and make it available to people in the context of the work they’re doing so they don’t have to go hunting for it on sharepoint sites, send out lots of emails, search knowledge bases etc. In effect looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack.

What we need in IT, and which we have been lacking, are cross-team workspaces. An area you could bring together the right people with the right tools and information in a workspace that was defined around the context of the activity that needs to get done – whether that’s a development project, an infrastructure upgrade, an incident that needs to be resolved, etc. And then help facilitate the team making the necessary decisions and documenting the actions that will be taken – while also notifying everyone who needs to know.

 

Tip 4: Accept that complexity is increasing and that your people are key to managing it not just automations

IT environment complexity is a major issue for many companies because their systems have now been linked together so that the user community can move from one system to the next easily and so that data is quickly passed between systems. So now when change comes in it can affect how multiple systems work together. As IT practitioners, we’ve been working so hard to support the business all these years and we now have a collection of lots of legacy stuff and new technologies and it’s all been woven together in a way to help the business as fast as possible.

There’s a lot we’d change if we could go back and do things over, but that’s just not practical, and so for the most part we need to work with the environments we have. The challenge is how do you understand all these integrations, relationships and dependencies, all the tribal knowledge that’s been built up in the IT organization over the years?

There have been several approaches to address this like Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs) and discovery tools, and they help, but they raise their own issues. First, there’s only so much that discovery tools can discover off the wire. They do a decent job of telling you how things are configured and relationships between them but they still miss a lot because they have to be programmed to find “patterns” and there’s no way they can discover things like policies and how those govern your assets.

The other big challenge for discovery tools is that they don’t capture intent – i.e. why things are the way they are. That’s tribal knowledge that’s in your people’s heads. Someone at sometime knew why SAP was configured that way or why a certain port was opened on that server or switch. The problem is that tribal knowledge isn’t well documented, it gets lost as people forget it or leave.

The complexity problem is really a tribal knowledge problem. What we need is a living, breathing CMDB, think of it like a “social CMDB” that leverages discovery tools but then uses crowd-sourcing and peer review, like Wikipedia, to validate what’s been discovered and fill in gaps on an ongoing continuous basis. Until we have this, IT is going to be very resistant to the pace of change the business wants, because we’ll be concerned something might break that we weren’t expecting.

This is another area where you can apply the cross-team workspace concept. The idea of not only capturing the tribal knowledge and continually validating the CMDB but then pushing that information forward in the context of planning a change or resolving an incident. So if people are following the things in the IT environment that they care about, when it comes time to work on a change, the right people can be brought together in a shared workspace (instead of guessing who to involve like in traditional change process management) and arm them with the right information and tools to provide their risk assessment. That way, when the change board goes to review the planned change, they know who’s been involved and what information they had access to and can feel a lot more confident about their decision and approve the change a lot faster to keep the business moving forward.

 

In summary

The fundamental business-IT challenge in a lot of companies is that the business is simply frustrated with the pace at which IT moves. Fostering good relations with business counterparts and investing in relationship managers as mentioned above is a good start. But having the business engaged in a shared workspace for projects they care about, giving them more transparency into the project and decisions being made about cut lines for releases or the like, will give them a greater sense of ownership and appreciation for the work we do in IT and how it’s not just ‘there’s an app for that’ in an on-demand world.

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The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

Implement Enterprise Request Management in Five Straightforward Steps

 This article has been contributed by John Sundberg, Co-founder and President of Kinetic Data.

John Sundberg
John Sundberg

A new approach to service request management is gaining ground in companies around the globe. Called Enterprise Request Management, or ERM, this framework is finding favor with organizations because it allows them to take an incremental and evolutionary approach to centralizing and modifying business processes and service requests across the company.

ERM operates at the intersection of the three levels of IT service catalog maturity identified by Forrester Research:

  • Level one – organizations focused on “delivering IT services to consumers through a standard set of choices and/or requests”
  • Level two – service catalog automating enterprise services
  • Level three – service catalog acting as a “service broker”

Let’s take a look at five steps involved in implementing ERM:

  1. Design your business process;
  2. Involve your stakeholders;
  3. Identify gaps in technology;
  4. Test the processes; and
  5. Refine and build onto the processes.

Design Your Business Process

Every business has request fulfillment processes that employees would love to improve, whether it’s as simple as resetting a password or as complex as onboarding new employees. The first step is to identify and prioritize improvements in these processes in terms of what is both realistically achievable and what has the greatest impact on user satisfaction.

Next, break the process down into discrete tasks. What task is the easiest to improve in the shortest amount of time? Start there before proceeding to tackle the more vexing tasks.

Look at what types of phone calls are overburdening your IT service desk. Are most of them for password resets or are users having problems with software installs? Also, look at which other departments have common support request issues, like paid time off requests in the human resources department, or conference room reservations in the facilities department.

With a service request portal and a back-end process automation tool, ERM provides a simple solution to these types of calls. With an online self-service request portal, users can log and track common service requests themselves while the “back-end” system manages the approval and fulfillment workflow of the request.

It doesn’t stop there, however. The flexible and extensible design of ERM allows you to add more (and more complex) types of requests over time.

ERM is designed to automate most, if not all, of the tasks within the service request management lifecycle – including centralized request management, scheduling, approvals, analytics, Service Level Agreement (SLA) tracking, status, charge back, billing and reporting – by linking to and coordinating with the software systems enterprises already have in place (systems of record) to handle these tasks.

Involve Your Stakeholders

With ERM, fulfillment processes are customer-centric. In other words, they’re designed from the customer’s perspective rather than from what appears to be the most convenient or logical approach for internal service providers.

So, it’s important to involve the appropriate stakeholders by assembling a small project team consisting of a business analyst, a developer, the “owner” of the process, a representative from management, and, most importantly, the users themselves, who can articulate the desired outcome in their own terms.

Keeping the team relatively small is important, since larger teams are more bureaucratic and take longer to get things done.

By keeping an open dialogue, users will be accepting of — and possibly even eager for — the changes that ERM will facilitate in simplifying complicated or broken request fulfillment processes.

Identify Gaps in Technology

As with any project, it helps to take one step at a time. Don’t get mired in the current state of your technology or existing processes, which can be a recipe for inaction. Often you’ll find that if you “think small” by breaking processes down into realistically achievable goals and by building on the momentum from these small victories, your current technology may not be as inadequate as you first thought.

However, frequently new front-end “systems of engagement” and flexible process automation tools may be needed. But make sure they’re designed to interact with back-end systems of record with little or no modification.

Test the Processes

With the ERM approach, it’s easy to create and test processes with very little risk because the core programming code doesn’t get modified. Feel free to make changes as needed and then test again. Once the process is concrete, is can be cloned and modified for other similar needs.

Refine and Build Onto the Processes

With ERM, the best approach is an evolutionary one. Start with the low-hanging fruit — the broken processes that have the greatest impact on customers. Work from these successes and the experiences gained, and then expand efforts wider and deeper into other request fulfillment processes.

After making any desired adjustments, deploy a more efficient way of fulfilling requests by using ERM and determine the next processes that need to be fixed. By learning, iterating and improving, ERM can easily move out of IT and unify service request fulfillment across your organization.

As you can see, the benefits and ease of ERM simply are too good to pass up. After all, who wouldn’t want lower service delivery costs and happier customers? So, wait no longer – now is the time for your organization to join the ranks of those realizing the benefits of ERM:

  • An improved user experience
  • Centralization of business services
  • First-time and automated fulfillment
  • Leveraging of existing systems.

Regardless of your organization’s level of request management maturity, you’ll find that ERM is the “glue” that unifies service request fulfillment across your enterprise. You can learn more about ERM here. 


The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

Change and Release Management: What are they? What’s missing?

Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

I was recently challenged by Mike Orzen (co-founder of Lean in IT practises and my mentor) to answer a simple question: what do you think the purpose of change and release management is in ITIL or any other IT best practice framework?

I started by asking what aren’t they?

Change is not about doing the change, and release is not about managing the approval of a request to change. Change helps me make a decision; it answers the question WHY with a “yes” or “no”. But “yes” or “no” to what?

How many times has a request been approved, but what was delivered did not match what was approved? If IT has no value until it releases something that is usable to a customer, we better be sure that “yes” and “approved” are used for getting an organisation to be competitive, compliant, reliable, secure and cost-efficient as quickly as possible. Lean helps by creating a value stream from idea to solution, in a similar fashion to the ITIL lifecycle of service strategy to service operation. In both cases, the solution to the customer needs to be delivered as timely as possible.

You can’t manually approve every request as this would block the flow in the IT value stream. So the creation of standard change types assist in identifying low-impact, repetitive, and easy to fix types of requests.  LeanIT likes standard work, as once you know if the request or change will not place the organisation at risk of losing a customer or wasting money, you can then automate the decision process to flow the request to the design phase, if required. If it will impose a risk or loss, then the request can be routed to a more formal approval process that can also be leaned over time.

Change should control every aspect of a release (the doing process of an approved change), so we have to look at all of the places change gets involved to help design a fast, flowing stream across IT, and ultimately one that works from the customer (pull) instead of IT pushing releases to the customer.

So where does or should change get involved?

An example:

The above could form the basis of a release process. I am sure more questions are needed, but if we allow the various teams to continuously improve the above, we can release valued services into the organisation. The teams might use lean methods such as kanban boards to control work, kaizen to improve work and agile or DevOPS to get services developed and agreed.  Another aspect of lean that the table demonstrates is waste removal. If the change gateposts help to reduce defects, re-work, wait time between tests via automation or script reuse, for instance, then the flow of the value stream is enhanced end to end. Removing or automating/facilitating the gates in a formal process will also help increase flow resulting in a better time to market, quality enhancement, productivity improvement and cost reduction.

Configuration management – the needed process for ITSM & lean success

To be effective (first) and efficient (second), we need data.  Where are requests, business cases, regulatory and architectural requirements for design, code, tests, or service acceptance criteria kept for example? We turn data into information to gain knowledge to deliver value. Configuration management is the data to knowledge management process. The information in a configuration management database (CMDB) can be used to enhance the way a process, team or tool performs. For instance, if we create a cycle of CCRCCR: (change to configuration to release to change to configuration to release…) to be as fast as possible; then the agility of creating solutions in a timely manner becomes our standard culture or way of working.

How do we start?

I suggest by mapping the value stream, as much as possible, from end to end.  At first you may only be able to do the parts internal to IT but keep adding until you have the entire value stream from requester to customer mapped.  Lean value stream mapping helps improve how an IT organisation, business enterprise and partners create and improve ways of work.  Get as many representatives as possible involved in a mapping exercise and use post-it notes to visualise the current way of working.   Try to get the people that do the work involved as this generates buy-in for future change improvements.  Your post-it notes could include time of steps, teams involved, tools used, etc.  Don’t trust what you create in a conference room.  Go out and see (lean calls this “gemba”) to validate your understanding.

Now return to the conference room armed with your knowledge and improve the flow of the stream (steps). Add a few measures to control the flow of the stream and most importantly BEGIN.  Don’t wait for the tool changes or other procrastination reasons: start using the new way. Check how changes are approved, the steps performed to create a release, the results of any improvement (agreed and tracked) and use the CMDB to maintain the information such as your review of other ITSM processes. You can continue to create a unified view of your IT practices, processes, tools, capabilities, etc. The lean trick is to make checks or improvement a daily part of work, not something owned by the program team, but by the people doing the activities all along the stream. Let them own and celebrate the success.

Set some stretch goals for how long it should take to agree a requestor, how fast to perform a release etc. Look at quality, productivity, stock reduction (number of tests or environments needed) as examples.  PLEASE note that cost is a benefit and if you see that as a target it may be viewed as a job-cutting exercise when it should be viewed as a job enhancement opportunity.

Please let me know what you think and try blending Lean into your ITSM world.  Have fun doing it!

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

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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Do Your Metrics Tell a Story?

Do your service management metrics tell a story? No? No wonder nobody reads them.

That was a tweet I sent a few weeks ago, and it’s had some resonance. I know that during my practitioner days, I missed many opportunities to tell a compelling story. I wanted everyone else to get the message I was trying to communicate, and couldn’t figure out why my metrics weren’t being acted upon. I had a communications background before getting into IT, so I should have known better.

Facts are not the only type of data

I’ve blogged about metrics a few times before. In “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: 7 Ways to Improve Reception of Your Data” I shared a story about how my metrics had gone astray. I was trying to make a point to reinforce my perspective on an important management decision. In what became a fairly heated meeting, I found myself saying at least three different times, “the data shows…” Why wasn’t it resonating? Why was I repeating the same message and expecting a different result?

readingGo back and read that article to see how it resolved. The short answer: I lost.

I’d love to live in a world where only objective, factual data is considered when making decisions or influencing others; but we have to recognize two important realities:

  1. Other types of data, especially personal historical observations that often create biases, are more powerful than objective data ever could be.
  2. Your “objective” factual data can actually reduce your credibility, if it is inconsistent with the listener’s personal observations. As the information age moves from infancy into adolescence, we are becoming less trusting of numbers, not more.

So, giving reasons to change someone’s mind is not only ineffective, it can also make things worse. Psychological research indicates that providing facts to change opinion can cement opposing opinion more deeply than before.

Information, whether accurate or not, can be found that backs up almost any perspective. Why should I trust your data any more than the data I already have? Read the comments section from almost any news story about a controversial subject. How many minds get changed?

We need a reason to care

Why should I pay attention to, act on, or react to, your metrics if there is no compelling reason for me to do so? We have to give our audience a reason to care. We want the audience of ITSM metrics to do something as a result of the metrics. The metrics should tell a story that is compelling to your intended audience.

Let’s look at a fairly common metric – changes resulting in incidents. Frequently we look at the percentage of changes that generated major incidents (or any incidents at all). Standing alone, what does this metric say? Maybe it shows a trend of the percentage going up or down over time. Even so, what action or decision should be made as a result of that data? Without context we can look for several responses:

Service Desk Manager: “Changes are going in without proper vetting and testing.”

Application Development Manager: “We need to figure out why the service desk is creating so many incidents.”

IT Operations Director: “Who is responsible for this?”

CIO: “zzzzzzzz”

Who has the appropriate response? The CIO of course (and not just because she’s the boss)! The reality is that the metric means nothing at all. Which is kind of sad really, since there may actually be something to address.

Maybe the CIO will initiate some sort of action, but not until she hears a compelling story to accompany the metric. If the metric itself doesn’t tell the story, decisions will be made based on the most compelling anecdote, whether or not it is supported by the metric.

Metrics need to tell a story

At a new job around 15 years ago, I inherited a report that had both weekly (internal IT) and monthly (business leadership) versions. Since the report was already being run, I assumed it must be useful and used. The report consisted of the standard ITSM metrics:

  • number of calls opened last month vs. historical
  • incident response rate by team and priority
  • incident resolution rate by team and priority
  • highest volume of incidents by service
  • etc.

However after a few months I realized that nobody paid attention to these reports, which surprised me. According to ITIL these are all good metrics to pull. I saw useful things in the data, and even made some adjustments to support operations as a result. However, my adjustments were limited in scope, and the improvements I saw initially didn’t hold and so everyone simply went back to the “old ways”. The Help Desk team that reported to me did experience a sustained significant improvement in their first contact resolution rate, but all other areas of support saw nothing but modest improvements over time.

The fact is that the reports didn’t tell a compelling story. There were other factors as well, but looking back now I can see that the lack of a consistently compelling metrics story held us back from achieving the transformation for which we were looking.

So your metrics need to tell a story, but how?

The traditional ITSM approach to presenting data does a poor job at changing minds or driving action, and it can actually strengthen opposing perspectives. Can you think of an example where presenting numbers drove a significant decision? Most likely, the numbers had a narrative that was compelling to the decision maker. It could be something like, “our licensing spend will decrease by 25% over the next three years, and 10% every year after.” That would be a pretty compelling story for a CFO decision maker.

In my next article, we’ll look at how metrics can tell a compelling story.

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Process Owner, Process Manager or Process Engineer


Process Owner, Process Manager or Process Engineer?
While they might appear much the same at first glance, these roles are actually very different

Many times people who are just getting started with ITIL (or broader speaking ITSM) stumble over what the differences are between a Process Owner and Process Manager and, to a lesser extent, a Process Engineer.

These are different roles, with different skill sets and expectations but there are some overlaps. Often, especially in smaller organizations, these roles are all served by a single person. Even in that case, it is important to know the different objectives of each role so we can ensure we are in the right frame of mind when working to either promote, create, edit, or report on a process.

Process Owner

In general then the Process Owner is the ultimate authority on what the process should help the company accomplish, ensures the process supports company policies, represents and promotes the process to the business, IT leadership and other process owners, continuously verifies the process is still fit for purpose and use and finally, manages any and all exceptions that may occur.

Overall Accountability and Responsibility:

  • Overall design
  • Ensuring the process delivers business value
  • Ensures compliance with any and all related Policies
  • Process role definitions
  • Identification of Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators
  • Process advocacy and ensuring proper training is conducted
  • Process integration with other processes
  • Continual Process Improvement efforts
  • Managing process exceptions

As you can see the Process Owner is really the process champion. Typically the person filling this role is in a higher level in Leadership to help ensure the process gets the protection and attention it deserves.

The Process Owner will be the main driving force for the process creation, any value the process produces, to include acceptance and compliance within the organization and also any improvements. It is therefore crucial that the Process Owner really understands the organization and its goals as well as its own culture. This is not about reading a book and trying to implement a book version of a process but really understanding how to create a process that will deliver the most value for this particular organization.

General Skills and Knowledge needed:

  • Company and IT Department goals and objectives
  • IT Department organizational structure and culture
  • Ability to create a collaborative environment and deliver a consensus agreement with key IT personnel
  • Authority to manage exceptions as required.
  • ITIL Foundation is recommended
  • ITIL Service Design and Continual Service Improvement could be helpful

Level of Authority in the Organization

  • Director
  • Senior Manager

Process Manager

The Process Manager is more operational than the Process Owner. You may have multiple Process Managers but you will only ever have a single Process Owner.

You can have a Process Manager for different regions or different groups within your IT Department. Think of IT Service Continuity with a ITSC Process Manager for each of your different Data Centers or Change Management having a different Change Process Manager for Applications versus Infrastructure. The Process Owner will define the roles as appropriate for the organizational structure and culture (see above). The Process Manager is there to manage the day to day execution of the process. The Process Manager should also serve as the first line for any process escalation, they should be very familiar with the ins and outs of the process and will be able to determine the appropriate path or if he/she needs to involve the ultimate authority – the Process Owner.

Overall Accountability and Responsibility:

  • Ensuring the process is executed appropriately at each described step
  • Ensuring the appropriate inputs/outputs are being produced
  • Guiding process practitioners (those moving through the process) appropriately
  • Producing and monitoring process KPI reports

The Process Manager is key to the day to day operations of the process. Without a good and helpful Process Manager it won’t matter how well a process was designed and promoted by the Process Owner, the process will flounder in the rough seas of IT day to day execution.

General Skills and Knowledge needed:

  • In depth knowledge of the process workflow and process CSF/KPI’s
  • Ability and authority to accept/reject all inputs/outputs related to the process
  • Ability to successful explain and guide people through the process and handle any low level process issues
  • ITIL Foundation is recommended
  • ITIL Intermediate in an area that covers their particular process could be helpful

Level of Authority in the Organization

  • Mid Level Manager
  • First Line Manager
  • Supervisor

Process Engineer

The Process Engineer is likely to have a lot of Business Analysis and Technical Writer skills and knowledge. This person needs to be able to take the Process Owner’s vision and intent of the process and actually create the process document that will be functionally usable by Process Managers and Process Practitioners. Another useful role of the Process Engineer is help ensure that each process in the enterprise is written in a common manner to ensure consistency in approach and method.

Overall Accountability and Responsibility:

  • Understanding the Process Owner’s vision and intent
  • Documenting the process in a usable and readable manner
    • Organized
    • Simple
    • Unambiguous
    • Ensuring flow charts match text
    • Ensuring processes are documented in a common manner across the enterprise

General Skills and Knowledge needed:

  • Ability to capture process requirements and translate them into a process document
  • Ability to write well
  • Ability to create effective work flow diagrams
  • ITIL Foundation could be helpful

Level of Authority in the Organization

  • Individual Contributor

As you can see a Process Engineer can be quite helpful in ensuring that the vision of the Process Owner is translated into a functional process document.

Conclusion

It is possible that a single person can do all three roles effectively but more likely the person will be more effective at one of these roles and less so at the others. If your organization is such that it is not possible that the three can be filled separately with people possessing the appropriate skills it is still advisable that a separate Process Engineer is utilized across the enterprise. A Process Engineer can work on several processes at once and will always be helpful for any process improvement efforts. A Process Owner can also function as a Process Manager without much issue given an appropriate scope and demand.

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