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What to Do When IT Plateaus

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I want you to visualize this…

It is Monday morning and you are heading into work with all the optimism in the world. You get into the elevator and a few senior managers from your business units are there. You nod and hit 27 on the elevator. The woman says to the man already inside, “Wow, we really had application issues over the weekend.” The man says, “Yeah, what else is new?” Your optimism is fading. The man continues, “I just don’t get it… What the hell is IT doing?”

You begin to question yourself. Is it really that bad?

Not really. Much like in this scenario we are left to struggle with ways in which we can improve our service delivery. More often you are finding that organizations are improving in the adoption of ITIL and other best practices. The challenge is that we (IT) tend to limit our scope, which in some ways ultimately limits us from taking service delivery to the next level.

So often you hear that we “do” Incident and Change, yet we always seem to hit the same ceiling with regards to performance. Unfortunately this is where framework critics will chime in exclaiming “See, I told you this wouldn’t work!”

But wait, all is not lost.

Before we can know where we are going, we must know where we are today. Without some direction any road will do, which is why we end up hitting a plateau in delivery. The big question is, “Why do we plateau?”

It has a great deal to do with mentality. IT needs to be able to enable the customers whom it supports; sometimes we (IT) get in our own way. Get out of the rut of thinking like IT, the ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality. It doesn’t really exist. Your customer already works with you, so why not develop the existing relationship?

A challenge for IT is that we always seem to be looking at the same things as they pertain to improvements. It’s a bit like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. For example, it becomes very easy to look at Incident management since there is a high level of visibility. In reality Incident doesn’t bring value; the real value comes from being able to reduce these issues from happening in the first place.

Let’s look at a few less leveraged processes; after all, every superhero needs a sidekick:

  • Event
  • Knowledge
  • Reporting

Of course there are others, and I know what you are thinking: This all sounds easy enough, but how do we get to a point where we are allowing these to positively impact the way we provide service? It will always come back to marketing.

Rebrand

You may have tried this before and it didn’t work. Don’t let the baggage of the past prevent you from moving forward.

Think about when you first started with Incident. There probably wasn’t much marketing on the incident process, because it was reactionary, not proactive, so it seemed like a no-brainer. You are working to improve service and are taking proactive measure to improve service. Focus on that.

How this improves business outcomes: You need to address it in the terms of those to whom you are selling it. It’s about the customer and their needs—not IT—so leverage that line of dialog. Speak to what won’t happen if we don’t start making these types of improvements.

Knowledge

We all know what knowledge is, but we really need to address “organizationally” what knowledge is and also what it’s not. It could be a CMS, Knowledge articles for self-service, or Business knowledge. The benefits of this is having available knowledge to address issues or questions without figuring it out all over again each time.

So why aren’t we doing this in a formalized way? Some top “challenges” include:

  • Buy-in: Remember the marketing for the buy-in. The concern may be that we would spend the time up front documenting. Don’t forget the time saved by having this information allows your teams to not do the same old fixes.
  • Staying current: Have a way to ensure that the data you have is current and validated through a review process of some “was this useful” survey, or a knowledge expiration date.
  • WORN (Write Once Read Never): You need to consider a way to not only create the knowledge, but also find a way to present this to people; otherwise, it will sit on the shelf. It shouldn’t be locked up for no one to see.

Event Management

We are monitoring things in silos from various infrastructure and application teams, but we need to bring them together to be able to strategize from a service perspective. This can improve service when we understand what makes it work. Just because the server is running doesn’t mean a network outage won’t crash the site. This information may help address our service availability, but the key is to understand our service.

Reporting

You have probably heard that, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. This may not mean to measure everything though. Keep it simple and don’t over complicate what data is collected. While all data provides value, is it positioning you to improve service delivery today or the near future? Basically if it isn’t coordinating with your business outcomes or goals, what value is it really producing?

Go back to marketing. Point out to all your stakeholders the following:

  • Here are our business-aligned critical success factors.
  • Here are the KPIs that support them.
  • Here is the strategy for improvement.

In summary

Rarely anything worth doing is easy, but keeping it simplified to revolve around the business needs will allow you to market your improvements and discuss on a level with the business that is not ‘ITIL’ speak.

  • Keep it simple.
  • Do what makes sense.
  • Go back to the business outcomes.

 

For more brilliant insights, check out Ryan’s blog: Service Management Journey

About Ryan Ogilvie

Ryan Ogilvie is a Service Management consultant in Calgary, Alberta with Blackfriar Consulting inc. While working with stakeholders to achieve their business outcomes is his main focus you can also catch his commentary on his blog – Service Management Journey. You can connect with him via the various links below.

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