A 5-Step Plan to Do ITSM Right

May 4th, 2015ITSM


As we continue to meet with clients, one of the biggest questions we get asked is “why is this time going to be different?  I have already switch platforms/tools twice, why will this time be any different?”

And I completely agree.  As we all know, doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  Simply buying a new tool for an old problem, does not necessarily solve the problem, especially if you have not isolated the root cause.  How is that for living and breathing service management in every aspect?

We look at service management with the goal to achieve certain outcomes as opposed to showcasing a lot of features of a tool.  Tools are powerful when utilized by knowledgeable teams and with the proper data, best in class processes and viewing the mission and goals from a different lens.  We have discussed often on this blog about our views; from being a product manager, to focusing first on people and the importance of data.

This blog is an excerpt from our thought provoking white paper; ITSM not by the Book.

We look forward to discussing your challenges and how we can help you shape your Digital Business initiatives.

Step 1—Take People Out of the Process

In many IT organizations, people are the IT service management process and knowledge base. In other words, all of the necessary information about the organization’s IT systems and processes and functions resides in a individual’s head. If someone goes on vacation or leaves the company, service management stops. To keep processes running effectively, IT service organizations must separate the processes from the people who implement them so that people become interchangeable. People are still at the top of the value chain, but institutionalizing their knowledge within a logical platform frees them up for higher-level activities – while helping the organization achieve consistency, reliability and speed.  In the end, the process control system tells the people what to do so you have consistent execution, which eliminates defects and wasted cycle time.

Automation and integration must be brought into the equation
How do you take people out of processes that is wasting their time? Organizations must encourage technicians to transfer their detailed knowledge about configuration items and their relationships to business processes into a configuration management database (CMDB). The idea is to create standardized processes and procedures to keep the CMDB up to date, then periodically audit the CMDB for accuracy.

Step 2—To Embrace Success, Embrace Data

The first step toward improving processes and measuring costs is cataloging detailed and consistent data about all of the IT and human resources required to deliver IT services – and their relationship to each other. Only with this data can organizations perform a complete analysis of the impact of the change on business processes and calculate the associated costs.

The CMDB, as we all know, is the centralized repository that captures all configuration items required to deliver a business service, such as human resources, hardware, software, documentation, service level agreements, service catalogs, and warranties. Unlike an asset management database that stores only configuration information about hardware and software, the CMDB defines all resources and their upstream and downstream relationships.

The centralized CMDB acts as a single source of the truth that can be accessed by all ITIL processes.

Standardize Processes and Procedures to Keep the CMDB Up to Date

To ensure the integrity of the CMDB, organizations must update it every time a configuration item changes. They must create standardized processes and procedures to:

  • Identify all IT components and include them in the CMDB
  • Specify who is authorized to change items in the database
  • Update the status of all configuration items in the CMDB whenever anything changes, because any change has a ripple effect on the entire business process

Audit for accuracy

Although the CMDB is designed to automatically ripple changes through the repository, accuracy will never be 100 percent. Duplicate or incorrect information is inevitable. An auditor should regularly check the accuracy of relationships.

A Practical Guide to Building a CMDB

Creating the CMDB requires that the organization deploy its “best and brightest” who fully understand the service view of all available services that IT is delivering or supporting, as well as their subsequent taxonomy or hierarchy of infrastructure and applications. Typically these IT experts spend their days managing systems and fighting fires. To give these experts the time to take on this strategic project, organizations must make an investment to remove them from day-to-day fire drills. This is a great time to elevate another team member to replace this role and look to temporarily back fill lower-level and repetitive operational tasks.

Step 3—Use Lean Six Sigma to Proactively Improve Processes

While ITSM provides a process control framework for establishing consistency, few new processes perform optimally. Organizations can proactively improve process quality and speed cycle times by employing a Lean Six Sigma strategy to complement ITSM. Lean Six Sigma improves the quality of process outputs by enabling organizations to identify and remove the waste – in this case, the causes of defects (errors) and minimization of the variability in business processes. Specifically, Lean Six Sigma provides IT with a way to baseline service quality, study cycle times to identify process variations/anomalies, prioritize which anomalies have the greatest impact on the business and customers, and then quantify ways to improve.

Study Cycle Times

While Lean Six Sigma provides methods for studying cycle times, finding wasteful (non value-producing) activities, and removing waste to reduce cycle times, it requires considerable “know-how.” Organizations must first determine what metrics they will use to measure the process. This can be challenging. For example, as we noted previously, an organization looking to measure customer help desk processes might think the correct metric is the call completion rate. However, if customer service reps improve their call completion metrics by simply telling people “Sorry, I can’t help you,” then the organization is using a false statistic.

To determine the most appropriate metrics, organizations must look at their processes from the viewpoint of a customer. Useful techniques include focus groups and interviewing customers–even speaking with their most vocal critics, because it is precisely these people who are willing to articulate problems that other users may have but won’t complain about. With the appropriate metrics selected, the next step is to record a series of cycle times for the process.

Find and Eliminate Anomalies

Improving process quality and reducing cycle times requires identifying and eliminating variances/anomalies to ensure the process proceeds in a consistent manner. For example, if the help desk is constantly handing off from Level 1 to Level 2 support, that’s a variance.

When analyzing variances in cycle times, look at the mean of the results rather than the average. The mean represents the midpoint of results. The average is the sum of all the results divided by the total number of results. While an average is a popular measure, it has the disadvantage of being affected by any single value being too high or too low compared to the rest of the sample. Thus, tracking average cycle times will produce a skewed result.  Focusing on the mean enables organizations to more easily see variances.

When prioritizing which variances to address, look at how often they occur and their duration. One variance may take place very frequently but take only a few extra seconds. Another may happen infrequently yet take several hours to resolve. From a business perspective, it may make sense to address the less frequent, more disruptive variance.

Next, look for ways to change the process and/or use technology to eliminate non-value adding activities.  Say an organization receives numerous requests for password resets and takes five minutes to reset passwords manually. Automation that reduces the cycle time to five seconds and offloads work from customer service can significantly improve productivity.

Step 4—Implement Organizational Change Management

A successful ITSM/ITIL implementation requires changes to people, process and technology. Yet people often resist change. If management and employees are not committed to the new processes, the ITIL project will not reach its full potential. If ITIL is to succeed, the culture of the organization must change to embrace the new processes.

Organizational change management is a critical aspect of an ITSM implementation.  Management must demonstrate support for the changes and invest in their success by putting in place measures to explain the value of the new processes to service support managers and business users alike. It must train them in the use of the new processes and in their benefits – and hold people accountable.

The following are two important aspects of organizational change management:

Take the Time to Do ITSM Right

Organizations must be realistic about the time it takes to implement ITSM and Lean Six Sigma. While it might take six months to put an ITSM tool in place, expect the full implementation to take 18 months. This time should include the following:

  • Implementing the tools that enable the new process
  • Training the IT organization to use the tool
  • Marketing the new processes to end users to drive success. The marketing effort should include communicating the changes and explaining their impact and benefits to end users. For example, if a new self-service help portal is available, marketing should publicize its availability and explain how using the new portal will improve their workflow.
  • Providing necessary training to end users so they’ll be able to use the new solution

Use Tools “As Is”

One way people resist change is by modifying new tools to conform to their accustomed way of doing things. Yet the tools embody the ITSM and ITIL best practices. Organizations must break people’s habits and ensure they embrace the best practices embodied in the new tools by establishing policies to prohibit people from customizing them, and retraining people to use the tools properly.

Step 5—Perform Continual Service Improvement

Business constantly changes. New technologies enter the market rapidly. If an organization fails to keep up, it can easily find itself at a competitive disadvantage. ITIL recognizes this through the concept of Continual Service Improvement – the never-ending alignment and adjustment of IT Services to meet changing business needs by identifying and implementing improvements to IT Services that support business processes.

Organizations implementing ITSM and ITIL must never stop examining their processes to determine whether anything has changed in their business and, when necessary, adjust their services accordingly. In addition, they must consider whether new technology might enable them to improve their business processes. A third party that keeps a constant eye on the marketplace can help organizations understand the value of new, disruptive technologies, such as mobile, social media and the cloud, and how to apply them to their business and their IT operations


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