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Recently I wrote an article about being non-technical in a technical industry, and another about having no metrics in a metrics-rich industry. It got me thinking about how many paradoxes ostensibly exist within IT and how that might affect IT service management practices.
IT is full of processes, frameworks, and practices. These all exist happily in theory, and truly, they can be implemented without making many customizations or changes and be considered successful. In my experience, however, the level of success decreases proportionately to the size and complexity of a service desk. Applying out-of-the-box ITSM processes to a service desk within a smaller business can show up in areas like increased effort and time to resolve. Consider how mandatory approvals and tier escalations could impact a four-person technical team. At face value, “the old way” is appealing when managers see that a technician could have executed the task before the ticket was even assigned to them. A business can look at this and conclude at a high level that ITSM practice isn’t worth it, or that supporting processes don’t work. And so, paradoxically, service management frameworks appear to kill the very things they are there to support, and a team can continue to struggle under the weight of doing “what we’ve always done.”
Over my career, I have joined several companies during a growth phase. Consistently, they had found themselves in position where they couldn’t keep up with the increase in support needs, capital projects, stakeholder engagement, you-name-it. Bringing in extra staff didn’t seem to solve the impending burnout problem. In fact, the increased capacity or specializations of the new staff seemed to draw even more work out of the shadows! Managers put daily quotas on ticket closures, but that resulted in customer complaints, increased re-opened tickets, and caused rework. Stakeholders began to question the cost of the IT department compared to the value they felt they were getting.
I have learned that the value of ITSM is realized over time, and its OK to start with just a little. I’ve also observed that working with more formal ITSM process means you have to trust it—trust that there’s a reason that ITIL, DevOps, ISO, and others are considered best practices, and that you and your service execution can be better.
You might be just starting to formalize your ITSM process for your service desk, or you might be planning how to take your next steps. I’ve found that getting ready to do this is a lot like painting a room in your house: 80% of the work is in the preparation! I’ve put together a list of some of the items that have helped me in my ITSM work. I use them a bit like a checklist, and by the end, I’m confident in how I’m going forward.
Know your stakeholders. Who holds the key to your success? It’s not always the people using our products or services. But we are accountable to them, and we must know what they need and want.
Know your services. If you haven’t formally identified your services, make it a priority. Once you are clear on what you do, you can focus on how you do it.
Document your current state. You may or may not be collecting metrics, but you should document what you’re currently doing in your services areas.
Know your desired results. Be clear on your results; don’t build a red cup if you’ve been asked to build a blue cup. The red cup might be beautiful, but it won’t satisfy the desire for the blue one.
Use what you’ve learned. Reflect on what you’ve learned about your stakeholders, customers, and team.
Keep the Spirit. Now that you know what you want to achieve, plan the “how” as it pertains to your environment. I think of it as keeping the spirit of a framework. For example:
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Earlier I said you need to trust that these processes work. Sometimes you can shortcut by using tools that already support these frameworks. For example:
Use a SMART methodology. Keeping your targets Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based (SMART) will help you focus and report your results.
Communicate. One size does not fit all! Refer to what you learned about your stakeholders’ priorities when planning your communication methods.
Plan stakeholder reviews. It’s important that you validate that your services, communications, and reports are delivering the expected value.
Now you’re in the swing of it! You’ll undoubtedly see improvements in your targeted areas. But remember that when a change doesn’t provide the desired result, you’ve learned something valuable about your business. Use it as a way to move forward!
Good luck and great work!
Kristin Jones is a passionate customer support advocate with a focus on people and process, and has been leading IT teams with delight for over a decade. A lifelong learner who seeks to inspire others with fresh ideas, she is an active member of the HDI community and holds certifications in ITIL v3., HDI Support Center Manager and KCS Foundations. She strives to end each day having smiled more than frowned and having helped someone (or something!) work better. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kitonjones.