Real SMB IT: Asking Why?

October 6, 2009

I admit that I have talked a lot about ITIL on this blog. But I want to re-iterate, as a small to medium enterprise, do you need ITIL to improve IT reliability and service levels?

The easy answer is No.

ITIL is one possible framework, but simply borrowing the Toyota Production Systems Why? question until you reach a root cause of IT service or asset failure will begin to demonstrate the power of digging deeper into the root cause of IT Service outages and failures.

It Ain’t Fixed Until You Know Why!

I am confident that as owners or managers in the SME space you have seen this;

You: The accountant can’t print

IT: OK, the accountant can print now

Umm,Sure.

Sure, you definitely want IT related issues and problems resolved rapidly. But it is important to understand that rapidly must be balanced by  permanently. And to get to permanently you need to understand and document what the root cause of the problem was.

Understanding these root causes will also assist in removing and identifying repetitive problems (which I will elaborate on in a later post)

Simply asking the Why? will begin to demonstrate the root cause of what caused the original service failure or complaint. The key is to keep asking Why? until the answers become outside of your scope of control. In many cases one single Why? will give you the answer, in other cases a few more may be required.

Take a look at how identifying the root cause can really demonstrate the contextual differences on a particular IT Service Incident or failure;

Using the same example as above, after digging into the root cause of the can’t print complaint, the root cause end results could could be;

* Improving Training

You, The accountant can’t print

IT: OK, the accountant can print now

You: Why could the accountant not print?

IT: The new version of that software requires you to set the printer to landscape mode first

The Lesson Learned: if this is your only accountant, you know that this issue will be very unlikely to re-occur, or if you have many, that a simple training exercise will eliminate further incidents of the same kind.

* Poor Internal Processes

You, The accountant can’t print

IT: OK, the accountant can print now

You: Why could the accountant not print?

IT: The toner was out

You: Why was the toner out?

IT: Nobody knew it was the last one, we had to order more

The Lesson Learned: you know in this case that the next logical Why? is the assertion that no one monitors toner stock. So again our cause and effect demonstrates that if we improve how we stock, manage, and install these printer consumables, we are unlikely to see this incident again.

* IT Trend and Cost Analysis

You, The accountant can’t print

IT: OK, the accountant can print now

You: Why could the accountant not print?

IT: The printer jams repeatedly, accounting is still using that 8 year old printer, the service contractor told us last year that repairing the thing was more expensive than buying a new one

The Lesson Learned: This cause and effect points out one of two things, if the printer is that old and not fixable, you either invest in replacing it, or determine that the effort to manually fix that jam when it happens is a price you are willing to pay.

The SMB Takeaway

I hope this demonstrates the importance of identifying the root cause of IT incidents and failures. There is a second benefit as well that details with perception, that will be coming soon to a Dime A Dozen post near you!

You can get updates to this blog by clicking the RSS icon on the Home Page!

Photo Credit Margaret Anne Clarke via flickr

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s