Tag Archives: value

The ITIL cynic

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Oscar Wilde

Sometimes I think most people see ITIL and ITSM as this. Organisations implement the bare minimum of ITIL in order to say ‘We follow ITIL’ but ITIL is too costly to the business so some form of incidents, problems and change has been implemented. As that is ITIL right? In my view, the IT organisation does not appreciate the true value of ITIL.

If we go for a drink after work, after a hard day. I offer to get the drinks but all I have is my credit card and there is a minimum charge for credit cards at the bar, so, can you pay for the first round? I know the prices of most of the drinks so ask if I can borrow £10 and promise to buy the next drinks with some food . You give me £10 and before you can say what you would like, I take the £10 note and goto the bar. You shrug your shoulders and hope I will know what you want, but do I? The answer is clear when I come back with a pint of cider for me and a cocktails, with sparklers, a little umbrella and some much fruit it in you think a gorilla will pop out for you…no Hmmm, I think I have messed up, after looking at your face looking at your drink and the longing look you have for my pint of cider. No problem, off I go again to rectify the matter with the change (we are not in London so I do still have some change), and I come back with…..a glass of sparkling apple juice. I thought you liked apples and a fizzy drink just like my pint of cider. At this point, you go to the bar yourself and buy yourself a drink, one which you want. Would you let me buy you another round?

This is my point, in the example, I know the price of the drinks so know I will come in under budget (£10) but have I provided value to my customer, you? I think the answer is no. I have assumed I know what you want without asking what you really want. If only I had asked ‘What would you like’ then I would of achieved the budget BUT also achieve customer satisfaction and value for money?

Sometimes I hear of companies who are very proud of their ITIL structure, incidents, problems and changes. However, how often do these companies meet with their business and find out how It is perceived? Can the IT organisation do things better to provide more value? Has the IT organisation improved its value from when it was not following ITIL to after it is following ITIL to the business? Does the IT organisation know the critical success factors for different business units and how IT can help achieve these?

If the customer does not see any more value pre ITIL to post ITIL or the business still feels they are not integrated with the IT organisation, then is the IT organisation following ITIL properly? ITIL is just an ideas book to help provide value, it is not a recipe book showing you steps 1-10 on how to bake a great IT cake.

This, I think, is the true value of ITIL. IT organisations should look at the value ITIL can help provide and not just the cost. Do not be an ITIL cynic.

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.

Five laws of incidents and problems

Incidents and problems are in place to restore a service, fix an issue, work out why the issue or outage happened in the first place and then try and make sure this doesn’t happen again. All teams should be working together to make sure there is minimum downtime to the business on all incidents provided the right priorities are followed. We have all seen the analogies of incidents and problems.

eg. http://www.reddit.com/r/ITIL/comments/2d1zga/how_do_you_explain_the_difference_between/

https://itilbegood.com/2014/07/28/requests-incidents-problems-and-known-errors-in-a-nutshell/

However, where it gets a bit confusing is, where does investigating an incidents root cause and resolving the service cross over into problem root cause territory. Why should an engineer set about investigating an outage have to raise a problem if they have the incident from the customer, surely this all seems like a lot of paperwork for a few clicks?

Therefore, I wanted to put a stake in the ground, after a few years doing support, and then everyone can shout me down but at the end of the discussion / bloodbath we might have a solution. Of course it does depend upon organisations but there seems to be some confusion on incidents and problems.

At the heart of the matter is this truth,

Between incidents and problems, you should be able to restore the service quickly and root cause found with the cause of the incidents being mitigated or a work around published, so future incidents can be fixed quicker. The whole purpose is to provide fixes to the business so the business operation is minimally impacted. If there is an impact, the situation should be recovered and steps to mitigate the impact or minimise it, the next time it occurs.

Ok, so lets look at two incidents, one a customer can’t access their file shares and one customer calls in and says their Citrix sessions have hung…..and two minutes later another person calls up to say their citrix session have also hung.

The first one, the support engineer would pick up the call and after some trouble shooting realise the customers password had expired, reset and reboot, the customer is up and running. The way to mitigate it is to tell the customer to reset the password before it expires. So, this process has gone through the restore of service, finding the root cause and mitigating the issue.

Next, the engineer checks the Citrix session and finds out both customers are on the same server, the engineer can not remote onto the server, therefore the server looks like it has crashed. There is a known error entry which tells the engineer to take the server out of the load balancer and reset the customers sessions, the customers will re-connect to another server so service is restored. The engineer then reboots the server and upon reboot the server looks fine. However, would you put the server back into the live environment?

These two incidents illustrate the issue, the engineer on the first call was competent to go through all the steps and complete the incident. However, is the engineer competent to go through all the steps of trouble shooting the server? Maybe not, maybe a Citrix team needs to be involved in checking out the server before the server is put back in to the production environment. This is where a problem should be raised, the incident can be closed or linked to the problem but a problem should be raised as the server needs to be checked out why it crashed but the production environment continues to function.

Law one, raising a problem comes down to the competency of the support team. Can  they restore the service, find the root cause and mitigate it in an incident or can they only restore the service and then raise a problem for a specialist team to find the root cause and mitigate the issue.

Next, time needs to be monitored on incidents. Engineers love to trouble shoot it and fix issues, trying fix after fix to get to the bottom of the issue, however, this may take an hour. However, is this good for the business? If the engineer could put in a work around for the issue in the first 5 mins and leave the customer to get on with their day but raise a problem to investigate the issue further without needing to bother the customer, then surely this is a better way of working from the business point of view?

Law two, incidents, where a work around is present this should be implemented and a problem should be raised to find the root cause at a later date. The priority is to restore the service to the business.

When to raise a problem should be a thing of governance. ITIL explains this ITIL Service Operation page 99 (service operation process – Incidents versus problems)

The rules for invoking problem management during an incident can vary and are at the discretion of individual organisations.

Therefore when to raise a problem is up to the organisation. In the examples of the Citrix server, I would suggest a problem should be raise when the impact is to many customers, a key service or server is impacted or to group incidents together to raise to 3rd party suppliers in supplier meetings, eg the support teams notice a few hard drives are failing in the first few months. These incidents could be group togeher to raise to the 3rd party supplier.

Law three, governance should write up rules on when a problem should be raised and clearly communicated to the IT organisation.

eg A problem should be raised for all Citrix server crashes and assigned to the Citrix team

Incidents should be monitored for trends and to check if a problem could be raised to mitigate recurring incidents. Monitoring the incidents can also help check if a work around could be put in place for a long running incident and problem raised to find the root cause.

Law four, all incidents should be monitored for trend analysis and time to fix to see if a problem can be raised to mitigate the underlying issue.

Finally, once the root cause is found either through incidents and problems, one of two things should happen :

– Mitigate the issue.
– Add the issue to the known error database with a workaround / fix.

Law five, all root causes should be mitigated or the fix time shortened by writing up a known error entry with a fix or work around.

I believe by following these laws engineers have scope to troubleshoot issues as they come in whilst the business operation down time is minimised.

What does everyone think?

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.

Categories in a nutshell

Categories

I wanted to write this post to try and explain why we use categories in ITSM tools such as Remedy, Servicenow etc and why I think there is a need to be monitored regularly.

Lets start at the beginning, when logging and incident or request the team categorises the incident or request.

Please can I have Photoshop installed? – Category = Request – Software – Photoshop – Install

Or

I can’t connect to any network shares – Category = Incident – Network – Loss of network connectivity – Desktop

These categories choices are open to debate and discussion, that’s the beauty of ITIL, it is open to debate and a guide. You have to work out what works best for you and your company.

The next step in ITIL, remember you whole reason for doing ITIL is to provide value to the business, is to analyse these incidents in Incident Management. This should highlight trends, eg reviewing the incidents shows 30 calls per week to install photoshop, which is taking an engineer 30 mins per install to do. Maybe, this could be automated and therefore giving 15 hours back to the engineers and providing a better, quicker service to the business. More importantly, you can see trends with incidents, the incident with the network shares, you notice this happens to the same person every week at 2pm on a Tuesday. A reboot fixes this but it keeps happening and is probably a clue that a problem should be raised and looked at this in more detail.

One of the reasons to logged problems is if incidents are trending but the root cause isn’t found, then these can be looked into in more detail and hopefully finding the root cause. Once the root cause is found and resolved, then the incident shouldn’t happen again, meaning a happy customer and your engineers can work on something else. The whole point of incident management is to look at ways to reduce the number of incidents and requests.

However, how many categories do you have in your organisation? Could an incident be categorised few different ways depending on who picks it up? Are there duplications of categories / sub categories? How often do you look at your categories and check if they are still relevant and if some should be added or deleted?

These questions I think are the crux of why I think categories need to be monitored. Do you need all the categories / sub categories? When were each last used? A lot of ITSM tools has loads and loads of categories…….are they all used and would the engineers who are logging the incidents know which one to use or could they use a few different combinations? If so, are you sure your incident management trend analysis is picking up all the incidents and giving the true picture of what is happening week on week? How often are the categories reviewed? Do you still have a category for Windows Server 2000….do you have any servers still running Windows Server 2000?

A possible solution would be this; rip down the top level categories to your primary services in Service Catalogue eg Telecoms, E-mail etc. Using your engineers previous experience, reviewing any trends of incidents/requests and intuition make up some sub categories, limit the sub categories to less than 10 and add other to all these categories. This gives a better chance to trend incidents and requests in future. However, add ‘other’ to the sub categories so any incidents that don’t match the categories can be logged under the ‘other’ category. Create a workshop for engineers to explain which type of incidents/requests should be logged under which category and what the ‘other’ category is for and document this.

On a regular basis, initially, review the incidents and categories; looking at why the ‘other’ category has been used, does another category need to be added? This is fine-tuning the incident categories. Are the engineers using the right categories for the right types of incidents and requests?

On a bi yearly basis, a review of all categories should take place, are these still all relevant? Does some need to be deleted or added? Are you able to see trends and are you taking steps to reduce them?

I hope this shows how important getting categories right and making sure these are monitored to keep them in check.

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.

 

Service Management as a rugby game

ITSM rugby

I realise the game of rugby might not be the most obvious analogy which springs to mind when you think about Service Management but hear me out.

Rugby, for me, has always been a great spectator sport; I have more the physique of the ball and not the man mountains of players. I marvel at the discipline these giants display for the game and how the game does not descend into a bar room brawl with so much muscle and will to win in such a small area.

When I think about great IT customer support, it is all about the skills of the individuals and the hand over to other support teams. How skill and great hand overs to other support teams can win or lose the IT support game. IT support is always a battle between resolving the issues efficiently without taking too much time and customer frustration increasing.

Picture the field, the IT organisation vs Customer Frustration and Time. The whistle blows, it is game time!!! The ball goes into the IT service desk scrum and the incident ball comes out to the IT organisation’s support team, the first line engineer is running with the incident ball only to be put to ground by Time. Over the top comes support from the second line teams, the ball is handed over to the second line engineer seamlessly, the engineer side steps Customer Frustration with clear communication. Oh no, Time comes in, tackles the ball and is now running with it, second line support chases the ball down. Time’s lead is growing with Customer Frustration following up quickly behind but Time is skilfully tackled by second line and runs the ball back, the final ball is handed over to the third line engineer. The fastest and most experienced players on the field with lightning footwork the ball goes down for the try and the incident is resolved.

Without great hand over’s of the ball, Customer Frustration and Time would get the ball and the value for money for all the business areas, who have paid money to see the IT organisation win, isn’t seen. If the support individual cannot hand the incident ball off to each other, individual player must try and jink past the opposition to try and close the incident. This sometimes will work based on the skill of the individual support engineer and the ease of which the incident could be closed, but sometimes it will not. If the IT organisation can win with individual skill, great hand over’s and team work then the business areas sees the value of paying to come support the IT organisation.

The other thing I enjoy about rugby, and most other sports, is the analysis of all parts of play, the breakdown and repeats of every tackle, shot, space the players should of used etc.

This is the area, where the service management team comes in, the coaches. They can take apart the play; they see the 1st line engineer fumbles the ball on pick up. A work around could be designed for the present game but a problem could be created to go away and really analyse the issue to come up with a fix, maybe a grip on the some gloves or a textured ball to make it less slippery. Communication between the second and third line support teams might be poor so the ball was intercepted and needing to be won back. Encouraging better communication between the two leads to be better and more fluid play.

Various areas of improvement could be categories, like in the ITSM tools, to be later broken down into target areas eg running down the line, communication, creating space etc, which can be work upon away from the game in set areas of expertise.

The service management team can also look at the agreements between the various team members showing who is going to take the hand off ball and who is going to come and protect the ball. This goes some way to designing an OLA. An agreement between the IT organisations showing how an incident should be handled, the support timings and items covered by the agreement. This should be in a format, that in the heat of play, can be easily understood and quickly.

Documenting how set piece of play should be played. Making sure all team members know what is required and how to do something is also an important part of the Service Management team’s job.

IT service management is all about creating value for the business areas and the best customer experience. The play might not be the finish article and individuals and team might need some work, but if the IT organisation is committed to ITIL and service management, they will work at these areas, making small and large gains and improvements. Reminding why the business areas pay for their IT organisation and the value it creates.

Hopefully I have gone some way to try and convince you that rugby and IT service management are not too dissimilar after all.

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.

Interior design, the ITIL way.

Decorating with ITIL

What is ITIL? ITIL is a collection of 5 topics covering Service Strategy, Design, Transition, Operations and Continuous Improvement which should be used to form, implement, keep it going and improve your ITIL strategy to improve your business to IT alignment….

That was boring. No, I believe ITIL to be bigger and at it heart more simplistic then an all or nothing approach to ITIL and must be implemented exactly how the manual says so. Let me explain using an analogy.

Imagine, IT, as a house. It is a shell of house, how are you going to decorate it? You are probably going to decorate it in ways that works best for you and the people who use your house. How will you know how to decorate your house, you need some ideas…look no further than the ITIL Interior Design book. In it, you will find loads of ideas on how to decorate your new house. The covers all shapes of houses and is designed to give you ideas for your home. The book gives ideas on how to design what you want to do, implement it, keep up the day-to-day maintenance on it and how make improvements to your house. However, a word of warning, its not a step by step book. The book is more there to give you ideas to research and find out how to use it best for your house.

Using the book you can tailor design items to fit your needs eg a twenty foot incident management dining room table doesn’t fit into your house, then buy a six foot incident management dining room table, which works much better in your house but follows the design principals of the twenty foot dining table. How about a change management media centre, do you need top of the range or mid range to suit your budget but gets similar results? These are two examples of incident management and change management which the essence of what these actually do stays the same but you need to mould it to what fits your business.

The metric you want are not the concrete composite used to make the driveway, you want to know how much the amenities cost per year. Much as the same way you need to tailor the reporting metric used to report ITIL to what is most useful to the business. Does reporting just how many changes are made each week mean as much as reporting how many changes were approved AND how many failed or were rolled back with possibly the report showing how many changes where service / customer impacting. This helps to show to the business how successful and possibility how competent IT is at implementing change.

All these services can be then upgraded when the budget allows or makes good business sense to upgrade through continuous improvement. In most houses do the wallpaper, carpets and doors stay the same in the house throughout the whole life of the house, no, these get upgraded and changed. Using the energy metric you can also see if you can save more money through changing suppliers or improving the heat insulation. All this is continuous service improvement, providing you with more value from your home.

For me, this is what ITIL is, it about returning the best value returned to the business and to do this you have to fit ITIL into what works best with the business which may mean leaving some ITIL out to start with to implement when it is time. Though what ITIL, I believe, is trying to get a department, which has traditionally, been a law unto itself thinking more about the business. So many times I have heard IT complain, ‘Without IT there would be no business’ well, without the business there would be no IT. After all, if the business didn’t make any money, IT wouldn’t have a budget. So using ITIL, I believe IT can repay the investment and provide the business with the best business aligned IT infrastructure it can to make the business do even better and hopefully make more money.

Thankyou for reading my post. This is my opportunity to blog about a subject I love but am still learning. These posts are my way of showing how I understand the subject, however, I would encourage you to leave comments, did you agree / disagree with the post? Did I not explain something well enough or incorrectly? Do you want me to blog about another subject within ITIL? All feedback helps me to understand more. Thankyou.