CSI puts the ‘taste’ back in Service Management

Francois
Francois Biccard

This article has been contributed by Francois Biccard, Support Manager.

We have all probably heard the slogan ”Common sense is like deodorant, the people who need it most never use it”. In my observation that probably rings true for many organisations when it relates to a Continual Service Improvement (CSI) plan or strategy.

The more an organisation grows, the more it becomes an essential requirement to its success.

We can all bang the drum of “the customer is king”, “the customer is central”, “the customer is <fill in the blank>”, or whatever slogan the next pundit tries to sell us. If I were to put myself in the customer’s shoes, I would have to fill in the blank with: the customer is well and truly over it. Over the lip service.

You can only have so many mantras, visions, slogans, goals, values – whatever. When all the customer get sold is all the marketing guff but no substance, it is like going to your favourite restaurant, ordering the t-bone steak, and getting one of those fragrance pull-outs from a magazine with a note from the chef saying that he can sell you the smell, but the fusion of smell and taste is just an illusion. Would you accept that? Should your customer accept the same from you?

CSI is the substance – it’s what happens in the background that the customer cannot see – but can taste. It provides substance to your mantra, vision, goals – for your staff, and for your customers.

What is more, it forms the backbone of your strategic plan, and feeds your operational plan.

Without it you are lost  – like a boat without a rudder. You will still go ‘somewhere’, if only by the effort of competent staff tirelessly rowing and steering the organisation through their own little ‘swim lane’ as part of the broader process. However, you won’t have much control – not enough to make sure you set your own destination. Yes, by chance you might end up on a beautiful island, but there are a lot of icebergs and reefs out there as well, and Murphy will probably have the last say.

Misconceptions

There are other misconceptions that may get you stranded too,

“…but all our staff do Continual Improvement every day”.

The problem with this statement is, that if you don’t provide them with a framework and a channel or register where they can document current, or propose new improvement strategies, you are:

  1. Not creating awareness or fostering a culture that is all about continual improvement.
  2. You are not leveraging the power of collective thought – which is extremely important in continual improvement, especially since they are probably the foot soldiers who are most aware of the customers’ most intense frustrations and struggles.

You might not act on every suggestion added to a register, but at the very least it will provide you greater insight – whether that is to be used in planning, resourcing etc.

Another example: “…but we just don’t have the resources or time to act on these suggested improvements”.

Not all improvements will require the same level of resourcing.

Order ideas by least effort and maximum value – then pick one you can afford. Even if you start with the smallest, it’s not always about what is being done, but actually starting somewhere and creating the culture first.

Remember, Continual Improvement is more about creating the culture first. Create the culture and the rest will be much easier.

Golden Rule: Start Now!

So, you haven’t done anything and you now feel like you’re four again, and the plate of vegetables placed in front of you has a mountain of peas, each the size of a small boulder (insert your own nightmarish vegetable of choice).

All is not lost though – you can turn things around, but there’s one golden rule: There is no better time to start than right now! Every moment you delay, opportunities for improvement are lost.

  • Go forth and research!
  • Provide a register where others can contribute ideas or suggestions.
  • Review and decide, as a group, what you can afford that will provide most benefit.
  • Ask some practical questions to get the thinking started:
  1. Where are you now?
  2. Where do you want to be?
  3. How you will get there – what would you have to do?
  4. Where do you need to mature?
  5. What do you have to do to achieve that maturity?
  6. Where are the gaps in your services, organisational skills/training etc.?
  7. What would you have to do to fill or complete those gaps?

If you want to be passionate about Service Management, you have to be passionate about constantly improving and evolving. The nature of Service Management is evolution – if you stop you’ll stagnate.

About Francois:

Francois specialises in continual improvement and applying practical ITSM solutions and strategies in the real world. His career started in Systems Management and IT Operations, and for the last 6 years have been focused in implementing and improving Service Management principles in the Application/Product Development industry. He is passionate about practical ITSM and how to leverage real value for the Customer and Business alike.

ITSM Metrics: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Common sense tells us we ought to choose a select few ITSM metrics which clearly demonstrate value.

But what happens if we outgrow our original metrics? Or the goalposts change? Or we acquire 15 different companies?

Similarly, once we have completed the basics and want to start exploring continual service improvement – Do we start all over again? or can we work with what we have?

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously stated in 2002:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

The same might be said of ITSM metrics. The reporting capabilities of most industry tools are based on a certain subset of metrics which are usually accessed via canned reports, bespoke queries or bespoke reporting (Known Knowns). But what if we want to peel back the layers of the ITSM onion and REALLY discover what is going on? We need to explore the Unknown Unknowns.

Next Generation BI?

The next logical step is to investigate Business Intelligence (BI) – but unfortunately most IT professionals I know shudder at the prospect of BI project because we want the results next month not next year.

UK based Service Management Company ‘RMS Services’ believes it has hit upon an ideal solution to this conundrum with what it claims to be next generation Business Intelligence.

In a nutshell: RMS Vision provides free form search of both database schemas and data from multiple data sources simultaneously.

Gone are the limitations of enterprise integrations, labour intensive excel pivots and custom reporting – to be replaced by on-the-fly analytics across local or enterprise data sources. Best of all, hundreds of chart options are auto-generated.

From the brochure:

“RMS Vision combines a powerful keyword search engine, with comprehensive graphical reporting to deliver real-time business intelligence and analytics on terabytes of data, permitting unrestricted cross-dimensional  associations between data entries and spanning multiple data sources.”

I believe the most compelling aspect of this offering is that you can begin to start exploring data without knowing precisely you are looking for. You can just surf, browse and discover.

The end result is more flexible access to the stuff you know about and a creative process of discovering the stuff you don’t know about. All of which lead to more insights and better decision making. So if you are frustrated with the limitations of the reports in your existing technology but don’t want to throw out the whole service desk – it’s worth a look.

More info here or for UK based readers RMS will be exhibiting at SDITS next week.