Archive for the ‘ITIL’ Tag

Leveraging the ITIL Service Support Framework

Service desks exist to resolve end-user computing incidents. But in many cases, the front-line service desk acts as little more than an answering service, logging incidents and forwarding them to a more senior IT person for resolution. Further, service desks often lack the information needed to address end-user incidents — particularly those that involve proprietary applications.

The under-utilization of front-line service desks poses both cost and credibility problems for IT organizations. Incident resolution costs (and indirect opportunity costs) increase as cases are passed on to more senior IT specialists. Business users suffer from productivity declines and perceptions of IT often sour as customers fail to see their issues being addressed in a timely fashion.

One approach in addressing these challenges is the implementation of integrated Service Management processes that enable the IT organization to better integrate and manage change and the flow of information between groups and disciplines within IT.

The Problem

Service desks typically function as the primary point of contact between IT and the end-user community. Despite this critical role as IT ambassadors, front-line service desks often are ill-equipped to handle many technical issues beyond the most basic desktop and networking functions such as permissions and password resets.

Service desk team members generally possess only a basic understanding of the IT infrastructure’s components (network components and desktops) and their interrelationships. Further, service desks are often not informed of planned changes to the environment. Instead, front-line service desks tend to focus more on answering the phone quickly, ensuring good customer service skills, and resolving basic and “known” incidents and service requests.

Organizations with this orientation generally exhibit the following conditions:

  • A lack of shared tools and information across IT disciplines
  • A lack of effective knowledge transfer from various teams and disciplines within the IT organization to the front-line service desk
  • Poorly adhered to, or nonexistent, processes governing IT operations

In configurations where the front-line service desk is underutilized, there exists the opportunity to significantly enhance the desk’s value by increasing its ability to resolve a larger and broader set of issues. This in turn will help contribute to reduced incident resolution costs and help to support good relations between IT and the business.

The Solution

To enhance the capacity of the service desk to provide sustained higher-end incident resolution, changes across the entire IT operation are required. This can be done by instituting integrated IT Service Management best practices that will:

  • Significantly enhance the efficiency and reliability of IT systems and infrastructure
  • Provide substantial resources to the front-line service desk to provide informed high-quality support to end users that will reduce the flow of cases to more expensive IT resources

One of the leading best practice frameworks in the provision of IT Service Management is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, popularly known as ITIL. ITIL was developed in the 1980s when the British government determined that IT service quality provided by both internal and external resources was inadequate to its needs. Bodies within the government, in partnership with various contractors, developed the standards to be general enough to apply to public and private sector organizations of varied size and industry and with all sorts of unique needs and challenges.

Today, thousands of organizations use all or some of the ITIL standards to provide a framework to manage the provision of IT services.

Three sub-disciplines (or modules) of the ITIL best practice framework directly address key functions within the IT operation that have a direct impact on the quality of service delivered by the front-line service desk. They are:

Configuration Management

In the ITIL framework, Configuration Management is a discipline that organizations use to gain and maintain control and proper oversight of their IT infrastructure in order to deliver high-quality, consistent, and economical services to their organization. This is done by creating a comprehensive model of the IT infrastructure and its asset components, particularly focusing on the relationships between assets. In practice, Configuration Management involves the maintenance of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB), which contains details of the current state of all elements of the IT infrastructure and their relationships to one another.

Change Management

Change Management is a structured process and approach toward making changes to the IT infrastructure. It is designed to gather suggested changes from multiple constituencies, and to ensure that changes are authorized, prioritized on an enterprise basis, and that all impacts have been recognized and considered, thus reducing the potential for support incidents in the user community.

Release Management

Release Management is an ITIL discipline that uses a series of prescribed procedures and checks to ensure that any changed or new elements slated for release into the IT infrastructure do not negatively impact the live environment or its users. Release Management involves building a set of release components, testing them, assessing potential impacts, scheduling the release, and performing the release.

Service Desk Survival Guide

Asses your operations

· Conduct a benchmarking assessment

· Listen to your customer, team, peers, etc. (Sit in on the phones).

· Challenge your direct reports (“How Do you know” and “Show me”).

· D3 – Drill Down into the Details

· Enlist a Third Party Service Desk Expert

o Methodology

o Preparation

o Urgency

o Timeliness

o Executive Briefing

Review your Delivered Services

· List Services Currently Delivered

· Rank in Order of Importance/Value To Customer

· Categorize Services Into Problem And Request

· Identify Services Where You Add No Value

o Look for ways to Deflect or Eliminate

· Estimate Cost To Deliver Services

· Map Your Team’s Skills To Your Services

· Any thing left over for the valued services?

Know What and Who You Should Know

· Identify the Critical Elements of Your Support Business

o Supply, Demand and SLA adherence

o Total Cost of Support, Cost per Contact and Solution

o Don’t forget the customer’s who stopped calling!

o Service Desk Professional Utilization

o Top 5 Call Types by Volume and Mean Time To Resolve

· Identify and Report Business Impact and Employee Productivity Trends

o Barriers to Total Contact Ownership

· Identify Key Sponsors and Champions of Service Desk

o Senior Level Management

o Customers

o Business Drivers

Invest in Training Your Team

· Increase productivity

o High Impact Training

o Screen Human Harmony

o Automate the Manual

· No better time

o Create Career paths

o Invest in Training and Certification

o Mentor and Coach

· Former Intel CEO Andy Grove says never forget that your career is your business:

o “Every person … is like an individual business. Your career is your business –and you are its CEO.”

o Although your career may be on track, be sure not to ignore turning points that could lead to greater success –or bitter failure.

o You’ve got to keep track of the market, watch for competitors and look for better ways to do things.

· Grove says a “mental fire drill” can help every career

o Read newspapers, trade magazines and books (“Leaders are Readers”)

o Attend industry conferences

o Listen to associates to learn when change is imminent

ITIL Conclusions

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  • Proof that the adoption of ITIL produces, for most of those who measure it, a real improvement in service levels to the user base as customer.
  • More than half of adopting companies measured a distinct improvement in customer satisfaction.
  • ITIL benefits staff. Not only does their work competence increase, but so does their job satisfaction.
  • The size of your company is no limit to or likelihood of your adopting ITIL or not. Size does not appear to make a difference. You can take up ITIL with just two people in the IT department.
  • The typical ratio of IT headcount to userbase is around four to six percent – this by-product of the survey could be seen as a staffing benchmark.
  • Taking up ITIL still remains a matter of deliberate choice rather than a must-have. This is encouraging for ITIL as a philosophy, for it suggests that despite the method’s recent prominence, it is not a passing fad or the latest IT lifestyle, but the subject of serious strategic consideration.
  • Those who adopt ITIL have a slightly heightened tendency to adopt other external practice standards in their business. Those who reject ITIL are highly likely to reject other standards also.
  • Smaller companies are more likely to be among the group rejecting ITIL. Despite its apparent workability in smaller, even tiny IT departments, the methodology is still typically the premise of the larger organisation.
  • At this stage in ITIL’s development, it is by design a methodology, not an industry standard to which companies can adhere.
  • ITIL-based companies see one of the main benefits as being the unification of the whole of IT under common practices – but ITIL alone will not necessarily deliver this. The active participation of as many departments as possible is crucial.
  • ITIL can be adopted exclusively within IT, without necessarily accounting for existing business practices and strategies.
  • A fifth of adopting companies acknowledged that ITIL had indeed given them a competitive advantage in their company’s market – and as by definition not everybody can be market leaders, this fifth reflects a commercially significant benefit to ITIL.
  • For any desired benefit, the implementers must take specific and careful steps to ensure that it comes about. Clear goals and a consistent pursuit of them are critical so the benefit does not become one of the ubiquitous ‘Almost Delivered’.
  • ITIL is an IT matter only. Business strategic, commercial and political matters, although important on an organisational scale, are not necessarily components of the ITIL implementation.
  • All sections at all levels of IT should be prepared for procedural and operational change. Concentrated study of IT procedures will be paramount and unavoidable.
  • Despite all the processes mentioned in ITIL, it remains incomplete. Adopting companies found a need to add other processes beyond those described in the ITIL literature.
  • Two thirds of those using software to support ITIL adoption found that the software had to be customised even where the software was aimed at the ITIL market.
  • There is no single way of ‘being ITIL compliant’ because the flexibility of the methodology renders the concept of ‘compliance’ irrelevant in an ITIL context.
  • First-time-fix and time-to-fix improvements delivered by ITIL have cost justification implications because quicker fixes mean that users are losing less downtime in the helpdesk queue. This service increase translates directly into a business benefit.
  • There is a trade-off between expedition and accuracy. The records in the CMDB do not just impact IT, but have a business implication, for they are a list of valuable hardware assets. Perhaps it is worth seeing a reduction in service level in exchange for an increase in the integrity of management information.
  • Benchmark the services prior to adoption in light of a probable benefit thereafter.
  • In nearly three quarters of cases, ITIL can be implemented with the same or ultimately fewer staff than at present.
  • ITIL is not a cure for all procedural ills or absences – its processes, though detailed, do not cover everything, as experienced implementers overwhelmingly agree.