ITIL and the ITSMF

April 11, 2008

Due to the number of visitors here looking for information on the concepts of ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) I am guessing that many of you are seriously considering it. If you are looking for more in-depth details than my little “Notes” on ITIL on this blog, here is where to dig deeper.

The IT Service Management Forum is an International non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and facilitating ITIL. There are chapters in most major communities through which you can find resources or training.

International: http://www.itsmfi.org/

Canadian: http://www.itsmf.ca/

US: http://www.itsmfusa.org

And yes, I will be continuing on my little “short form” overviews ASAP.

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A great read in this May 2008 PROFIT Magazine article by Rick Spence.

Go ahead, I’ll wait!

So, How easy are you to do business with? I have gently brushed the edges of this theme on a couple of posts, K.I.S.S. here, and Sales, Service and Education here.

The reason I like the article, except for oblique references, no mention of technology!

Thats right. People, processes, then (maybe) technology.

…it’s usually a case of companies looking to do things in the easiest way possible for themselves — and forgetting customers’ needs.

If you are not looking at your customers needs, All the technology in the world will not assist you. No matter how often technology consultants and the IT sales folks try to tell you differently.

It does not matter If your goal is excellence in customer service, or product delivered right the first time. The people and processes to do this must be baked into both the organization and individual.

Then, and in my opinion, only then! do you consider whether a technology product or tool can help improve your metrics.

The People & The Process

Here is one example, there are some large automotive dealerships that pride themselves on customer retention and service. Customers are greeted by name, and the service centre is an open book during the repair cycle. All staff know that regardless of job function, this excellence in service role is part of their job description.

The Technology

Consider this; some of these dealerships have even invested in cameras and software that decipher the license plate of cars entering the service area. They do this so that by the time you reach the service desk, all appointment details are ready, and the service staff can greet you by name.

The goal? The goal is for you, the Customer, to say good bye to that 20 minute wait of obtaining your name, phone number, appointment confirmation, appointment details, loaner or rental details etc.

However, by themselves, these tools do not make a dealer excellent in customer retention and service. If the excellence in people and processes do not exist first, the tool is nothing.

That auto dealer? if his/her people and processes are already committed to excellence, then the same end result of those cameras and software could be obtained by a body looking out the window and writing down the licence plate number as cars come in.

And that is the point;

Imagine that your excellence in service does involve manually writing down that plate number. That works perfectly until you get to the point that the number of vehicles arriving for service exceeds the ability of staff to manually process it.

It is When you reach this point, the point where you cannot keep up; that it becomes the time you can look at reducing the human time by looking at technology solutions. Not before.

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Sense and Respond

April 9, 2008

I just finished a book by Marianne Broadbent, Ellen Kitzis (ISBN 1-59139-577-1) called the The New CIO Leader. the book is already a few years old, copyright 2005 by Gartner. (I missed it somehow when it was first published!)

In the text, the authors use the term “Sense and Respond” in my post here I called it “learn to Dance” the context is the same, the future is unknown (and unknowable) so it makes sense to take small steps in strategic direction, sense the environment and its changes, then respond.

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What Does That Mean?

April 8, 2008

As I describe in my About page, I have chosen the overall theme in this blog to write for non-technology managers in the small business / medium business space about technology issues and their relationship with the business.

As an owner, partner or manager in the SMB space, would you tolerate a conversation with your controller, financial auditor, or financial officer that sounded like gibberish to you?

I doubt it. I would be willing to bet that if there is something you are not understanding, that you will dig (and keep digging) until you have a clear understanding of the issue.

So why do so many accept the same sort of techno babble gibberish from the IT side? The technology world (like finance and so many others) can be laced with jargon. Jargon is fine when IT staff are talking to each other, but there is no place for it in business discussions.

If you are offered a statement something like this;

“.. for that CRM app we were looking at, our monitoring stats show that with the bandwidth saturation we currently have, it will generate too much latency, so we need <<insert dollar value here>> to upgrade …..”

In fact, if you happen to be a financial professional, you have my direct permission to respond to a statement like the above with; “So what is the NPV and the estimated effect on EBITDA for this Q and the fiscal?”

Dig, and keep digging until you get an answer in plain English. Keep digging until you understand the real issue, in real English.

Keep digging until the above statement sounds more like;

“…You know how you wanted the sales team to get more time on the phone rather than pushing paper? well we were looking at that online tool we talked about that will get rid of that paper pushing. The problem is, with our old internet connection, opening a document in the tool is as slow as emptying your swimming pool through a garden hose. It is so slow opening a document that the sales team will really have a difficult time trying to use it. In fact, one of the sales staff that helped with the testing said it was actually faster the old manual way….”

Second bet, as a technology manager, if I communicate the issue to you the second way, I bet that you will be the one asking me how much it will cost to get rid of the problem.

Do I win the bet?

Every organization has one or more servers that are your electronic filing cabinets. All of those sales documents, spreadsheets, contracts, accounting files and other data are sitting on these servers.(hopefully getting properly backed up)

As an SMB manager, why should the following be of any interest to you? Plain and simple, the amount of time (therefor money) that is wasted in tracking down permissions errors, or setting up correct access for a new employee in a position as simple as a new receptionist is absolutely staggering.

Created correctly, this file server data is easy to maintain, simple to administer and will provide the correct security permissions to keep your data secure. Done incorrectly, the opposite is true, mistakes can leave a part time staffer with access to financial data, and adding a new employee and setting permissions to the data that they are permitted to access can take huge amounts of time.

The reason that many organizations have difficulty with this is our tendency to set up file servers using a business “functional” approach. For example, we create a storage area for FINANCE and another one for SALES, then LEGAL and on through the functional parts of the business. Then we put all documents related to these functional silos in their respective places. Finally we set security permissions so that only the accounting team has access to the FINANCE area, only the Executive team has access to contracts in the LEGAL area etc.

Here is where the problem will start, your Sales Manager needs access to one portion of the FINANCE area for sales forecasting information, so all of a sudden the FINANCE storage area has permissions to the accounting team, with one certain area with security permissions to the Sales Manager.Then a Human Resources Manager needs access to employment contracts in the LEGAL storage area, again another exception to the rules. Over time these types of exceptions leave the security and manageability of your documents and data very fragile. Fragile meaning easy to make mistakes in setting up the security permissions, and difficult to figure out why an individual cannot access something they should be able to access.

Rather than setting up these file servers using purely business functional breakdowns, I recommend reviewing your current data for common “security” breakdowns.

It can seem counter intuitive, but determining the security requirements of the data allows you to group data together that requires the same security configuration, and then use the security tools of your network to provide that security.

For example, one security category could be “Executive Only”. And in that Executive Only storage area could be the portions of FINANCE, LEGAL or SALES that are truly for members of the executive team.

A second security category could include both the Executive and Senior Management. Again, in this security area the portions of FINANCE, LEGAL or SALES that are for the Executive team plus the pieces that those Sales Managers or HR Managers need to see.

This continues right down to the bottom of the chain were you have permissions for all employees to access the least sensitive documents.

Because Microsoft is the 800 pound gorilla, I will assume that your network is based on Microsoft Active Directory. So we finish off this file system security configuration by ensuring that Windows Active Directory Security groups corresponding to the identified security groupings are made. an Active Directory Security Group of Executive exists; this security group is then granted permissions to the “Executive Only” file server root, automatically updating all required permissions, and so on through all of your security categories.

The benefits of this structure are;

1) As security is maintained at the shared Root directory, and corresponding Security Group, there is less risk of mistakes in applying security permissions to required data

2) As security groups are used rather than individual permissions, a new human resource requires that only the addition of the resource be added to the applicable security groups to automatically be granted all required permissions. This greatly reduces configuration and management time.

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After all of these years, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and its members still have not seemed to have learned their lesson. As I wrote in this old post titled Learn to Dance the RIAA is getting itself marginalized in its own industry.

This Internet Evolution article, says it all;

For instance, take Warner Music Group and the Led Zeppelin reunion concert last December. The show could only accommodate some 20,000 fans, yet it had over 20 million interested buyers vying to purchase tickets online. Immediately after the performance, short bootleg-looking video clips started posting on YouTube Inc. and other sites as millions of non-concert-going fans got a chance to see how the band looked after nearly two decades of dormancy.

Instead of relishing in this fan-driven frenzy, Warner cried copyright foul but forgot the forest for the trees as record and memorabilia sales for the group spiked for the next few months. Had Warner proactively created some content strategy to address those 20 million fans online, they could have had an opportunity to seriously capitalize on the free or fee challenge.

Let us contrast that with CBS as published by Ronald Grover in this Business Week article;

This year there’s a twist. Some of the hottest action is online, where fans will be viewing the games on every available computer screen, cranking up the excitement—and the profits.

CBS will be streaming all 63 “March Madness”playoff games, to at least 200 websites, according to the article they are looking at increasing on-line advertising revenue to $32 million from $10 Million last year.

The RIAA still has its head under a rock some where, maybe they will never learn.

Sorry Lars