Chris Dancy of ServiceSphere (@servicesphere on Twitter) tweeted this excellent 10 page (PDF) Executive Overview of IT Service Management (ITSM) and ITIL.

The PDF contains a succinct, and brief overview of the benefits of improving IT Service Management, with some easy to understand demonstrations of visual signs of poor ITSM.

If you are an executive wondering what the fuss is about with ITIL and ITSM, this document is a great summary.

Note, if you have been following this blog for a while, you will note some terminology changes compared to what I have written. This is simply because my experience has been with Version 2 of the ITIL framework, and this document summarizes ITIL utilizing the newer process terminology contained within Version 3 of the framework.

If you are looking into ITIL, I highly recommend checking out ServiceSphere at the above link, on twitter too!


Resistance To ITIL?

February 12, 2010

Resistance? To ITIL?

That can’t be true!

Everyone knows ITIL processes can improve IT service support and delivery costs, improve internal IT service management processes, and even make coffee in the morning!

You can laugh now! Everyone does not know that ITIL can improve internal IT processes. (OK, the part about coffee is untrue as well!)

But for SME’s looking at ITIL, first, it is a journey. And like all journey’s it involves change in the way people work, and changes in what they may be responsible or accountable for. And like any change, we as humans can resist change when we don’t understand the WIIFM. (What’s In It For Me?)

Along that concept, Ann All at ITBusiness Edge has a great article that I want to pull two bits from.

First, your IT team may be as resistant (or more so) to change as anybody else in your organization.  For some technology staffers, it may simply be not understanding the business implications about what ITIL can provide. And for some it may be because they are addicted to the glory of heroic  IT acrobatics, after all, avoiding any incidents or problems in the first place is hardly glamorous. And some technology staff can simply see it as an unnecessary inhibitor or overhead to their getting real work done.

The warning here is that an announcement that ITIL is going to happen on Friday! – Sorry, that won’t work. Like any organizational change this journey will be slow, require 10 times the communication that you thought necessary, and has to be taken in small, incremental steps. (You can try to do it all at once, but unless your teams and your people thrive on ripping the guts out of your business and rebuilding it from the ground up, you will have a hard time of it)

The second piece I wanted to emphasize, is that implementing ITIL processes are not an all or nothing exercise. I know that I have written a lot about this, but here is one excellent example. As the article referenced above states about one journey into ITIL;

… didn’t invest in a new tool until nearly three years into its ITIL initiative,

It is not all or nothing.

People, process then finally tools.

They built their methodology in bite sized pieces, then started looking at service management software tools to help them.

Not the other way around.

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ITIL,SaaS, And Blood Red

December 29, 2009

Confession, When I read the post I reference below, the title reminded me of a tune by a fave band of mine, the BoDeans, So I stole the title for this post from a song of theirs titled; Black, White and Blood Red.

Anyway, I have written before that ITIL is a framework of best practices, it is not a follow the dots prescription that every business can use to do things the same way.

As a rough analogy, a recipe presents you with each ingredient, their order of mixing and a required temperature that will provide a consistent result for everybody that uses it. Whereas the ITIL processes present a recommended end state, with some guidance on methods that can help achieve it, but like a football game, the individual plays can be different for each business.

In this post titled SaaS and ITSM – a Marriage Made in Acronym Heaven? Stephen Mann takes a fairly deep look at some research on the delivery of IT Service Management (ITSM) via Software as a Service (SaaS) rather than on premise tool sets.

Note that if you are just getting your feet wet improving ITSM, Mr. Mann’s post is pretty high level. However he presents one good lesson I never thought of, that lesson is that since every business may have a different ITIL path that they are following, care has to be taken when choosing tool sets that the tool can fit your internal processes. As Mr. Mann states;

In Butler Group’s opinion, a SaaS solution must be architected such that the customer is able to self-customise its ‘application instance’ (to reflect in-house processes)

This is a good thing to watch for as beginning a journey towards improving ITSM is hard enough working on improving your own processes, without adding the complexity of being forced into someone elses process models.

UPDATE: Christopher Dancy pointed to a much more in depth look at SaaS & ITIL here;

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The Definition Of Insanity

November 19, 2009

Can be defined as doing the same thing, the same way every time, and expecting the results to change. (try W. Edwards Demings’ red bead experiment!)

Building a process oriented business is not a set it and forget it operation. It is defining and monitoring the desired outcomes. And identifying that if a desired outcome does not happen, that you have an opportunity for improvement.

In other words, if the desired outcome fails, what can we do to reduce the risk that it will fail next time?

In talking about process, you need to look specifically at what breaks. You need to look at the why, and the how of what went wrong. Is it a people problem? A process problem? or a system problem?

(within the context of ITIL I give some samples starting in this post titled; ITIL And The SMB Part 3; Incident Management)

Although please note that you do not need to go the ITIL route to become more process oriented.

It can be easy to overlook;

When something fails, there is an associated cost. That cost could be rework, lost time, maybe even lost business. Costs can be soft as well, for example, reduced customer satisfaction.

As an example of improving process efficiency, the large package delivery companies load their trucks in a first-in, last-out manner based on the drivers delivery route. This simple step reduces the amount of time finding the correct packages for offload at each stop, and reduces the risk of missing something. And of course missing packages can negatively affect customer satisfaction.

The More Things Stay The Same

When you start building a process oriented business (not just as an IT function) there are two critical pieces to start with;

1) Define the optimum outcomes. A process is nothing without a business outcome. This defined business outcome is also the measure that you can use to improve and monitor your processes.

2) Continually monitor and improve your processes. There are always opportunities for improvement. There is an old saying in music, that the spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves.

The SMB Takeaway

Like the spaces between the notes, process optimization often comes hidden in the areas as work migrates from one individual or group to another.

Improving them, or identifying why something did not work, you need to understand – you need to look at the what the why and the how of what you are trying to perform.

Was it a person error? a process error? a system error?

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I have written extensively (harped may be a better word) on how critical it is to keep up-to-date documentation of all assets, configurations and usage of all your IT assets. I use the term ‘assets’ for software, hardware, services, everything that makes up your IT infrastructure.

How Little Things Can Be Big Problems

We recently finished migrating many applications and databases from a couple of older physical servers to a new server. The migration from the old servers did fairly well, but one issue that caused some issues (because we did not find it until something broke) was as follows;

And How Stupid Is This?

It turned out that a bunch of application code written on the old servers had a job to collect certain data, then this code had to use the popular ZIP format to bunch it up into packages that were sent be E-Mail to particular recipients.

This was not documented – anywhere.

Obviously, when we migrated to the new server, these applications started breaking. Once we identified that something was broken, it was an hour or so for development staff members to comb through all the code to identify why, then more time to identify how!

It turned out that a simple, free, open-source utility that was compatible with the popular ZIP format and could also be accessed programmatically (meaning that the utility can be used by software code) had been placed on the server to do this job.

Equally as obvious – that utility software was not on the new server.

The SMB Takeaway

Document, Document! And Document some more!

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This blog has covered quite a bit about the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) within the context of the benefits I believe it can provide to the small to medium enterprise.

However, as there is no such thing as a silver bullet in business, I want to point out a post at The ITSkeptic titled; Crap Factoid Alert: Implementing an IT Service Management Solution Can Save a Business More than $500,000

The above post is a goodie and is referencing how dangerous statistics (especially when in software marketing spiels) can be.

While my experience has shown that SME’s can benefit from ITIL, as a ‘C’ level exec, if you are looking for questions and answers on a hard and fast ROI, you will probably be disappointed.

Here’s The Rub

I am going to take a plunge here; Does your General Ledger have charts of accounts titled Frustration or Downtime?

I doubt it.

Moving into an IT Management framework that is ITIL aligned (or any other framework for that matter) deals a lot with the internal processes and roles that improve IT service levels. ITIL is not a Cookbook that forces a business to do things this way. But a road map of best practices.

The point here is that if we have a hypothetical balance sheet that we can call example A, it may show zero CAPEX costs for IT infrastructure, yet it has no means of accounting for hours of lost productivity and frustration as IT infrastructure assets have failed, no way to account for inefficiency in IT service etc.

You then spend dollars and time moving towards ITIL alignment, then a hypothetical balance sheet we can call example B shows costs of  X on replacement IT infrastructure, yet again, it cannot account for the fact that hours of lost productivity and frustration are  no longer there.

THE SMB Takeaway

In my opinion, there is a value in ITIL for SME’s, But most of us have not had the experience with the accounting for softer dollar parts of the balance sheet. The ones that do not directly include operating and capital expenses.

From a pure expense view of your G/L, you may never see a firm return on investment for an ITIL implementation. Simply because accurately accounting for its benefit contains the requirement that we understand the benefits of improved productivity and improved service levels.

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Hands On ITIL Helpdesk

August 6, 2009

I have written many high level overviews of ITIL on this blog, and to this day it is the most searched for information.

Unfortunately for me, very few of those visitors have left questions on other info they would like to see.

However, if you are someone who stumbled on the ITIL stuff here, Mary Weilage has an excellent post at Techreplublic titled; Implementing help desk software: IT exec offers a firsthand account about Jay Rollins’ search for and implementation of ITIL aligned help desk processes.

It provides an excellent summary of the questions, requirements and trade offs made along the way.

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