Next Generation Service Desk: Are you prepared?

Nev Wilshire keynoting at SDI
Nev Wilshire keynoting at SDI

Last week The ITSM Review was the Social Partner at the annual Service Desk Institute (SDI) conference. The tagline was “be inspired, take action, and be better” and I certainly get the impression that delegates left the conference with a big to-do list for improvement.

Despite the strong emphasis on the “future of technology” in the agenda, for me the primary message and theme running throughout the conference was the need for IT to stay relevant to the business. To put it bluntly, if IT doesn’t understand and share common goals with the business, then IT has no future.

From the sessions, to discussions in the bar, even to chatter in the lift (that was me earwigging on two delegates’ conversation), “the business” was a huge talking point. And correctly so in my opinion. And for once it was nice to step away from the process-driven IT service management (ITSM) conversations to look at the bigger picture.

With this in mind, rather than give you a running commentary of the event, I’ve chosen to focus on the advice given in two presentations which relate to this topic.

Kill Your IT Service Desk – Chris Matchett, Gartner

The primary difference between this presentation and most of the others is that Chris didn’t just tell us what the problems are and why we need to fix them, he actually gave us insight into HOW to fix them.

Chris discussed how most service desks are currently not meeting business expectations. This shouldn’t be news to most of you, as I think we all know that IT is struggling to cope with changes in customer behaviours and technologies, with an inability to meet consumer-driven employee expectations of service and support.  He further discussed how we’ve moved from “how do we stop Shadow IT”, to “how do we control Shadow IT” to “how do we harness Shadow IT?” Chris then outlined an improvement model to enable us to harness it and to get the service desk working in conjunction with the rest of the business.

Chris gave some excellent advice on how we need to move to a four-tiered support approach and how to develop an improvement roadmap for this.

In addition, Chris also highlighted how service desk analysts need to make the transition to become “business engagement analysts”.  A business engagement analyst has knowledge of business processes and is a leader with the ability to build partnerships and influence others.  He or she invests in softer skills, invests in design fundamentals, shadows the business, and engages the community.

Some extra pieces of advice from Chris:

  • Remember you need to control and embrace change or risk getting left behind it
  • Just because you’re performing well against industry standards this does not automatically equate to value to the business. Talk to your customers
  • Remember that one metric never tells the whole story. Place less emphasis on First Call Resolution (FCR) rates for example as the minute you fix the easy stuff like automating password reset your FCR will go down as the average incident gets more difficult. The automation is a good thing, but your FCR metric will make it look the opposite
  • Overwhelmed by password requests? Look to implement self service and give control back to your users
  • Remember that any new initiative needs management buy-in. Any change needs to be led from the top down.

Oh and then there was my favourite quote from Chris: “Is a password reset a request or an incident? Who cares, it’s just a pain in the arse”.

Service Catalog – Extending the Role Of The Service Desk – Olaf Van Der Vossen, CERN

Those of you who read The ITSM Review on a regular basis will know that Martin Thompson has written about CERN’s approach to service management before. So why am I repeating what he’s likely already said? That’s easy, because for me it was one of the stand-out presentations of the conference. Everybody is forever talking about how the IT will be dropped from ITSM and how IT needs to be better aligned with the business, only rather than just talking about it, CERN has actually done it.

CERN has implemented ITSM best practices across both IT and the rest of the business. This means that the service desk doesn’t just operate within IT but also manages requests and incidents from HR, finance, etc. They believe that you should make life simple for your customers by using ONE point of contact, ONE behavior, ONE tool, and ONE service description.

In this session, Olaf specifically looked at how a comprehensive Business Service Catalog is essential for success when extending service management beyond IT. You need to:

  • Know what you are supposed to be doing
  • Understand how these services are provided (and by whom)
  • Drive automation and smooth assignment and escalation

Olaf also spoke about how extending beyond IT can make things more complex. To address this you should:

  • Invest in training for your service desk staff
  • Provide extra coaching for non-IT support staff
  • Use a Service Portal to hide the complexity of your Business Service Catalog

I also want to mention a great question from a member of the audience:

“In such a large organization, how do you provide your service desk staff with the knowledge to answer every single request and incident that comes in?”

The answer was simple: You train dedicated teams of second and third line support in specific business areas. This then means that first line support teams can delegate the more difficult queries as required. You also need service desk analysts who can communicate well, as extra effort is needed here when dealing with enquiries on subjects you don’t understand (potentially from customers in other global offices with whom you’ve never had any interaction before).

Olaf also jokingly advised that teams should prepare for really random questions like  “I’m coming to Geneva tomorrow, what’s the weather going to be like?”

In addition to the content of the presentation, I also want to mention Olaf himself, primarily because he made me smile (much like Olaf in Frozen really!). He was very personable, made the audience laugh, and was very easy to relate to. I would have quite happily stayed for a further 45 minutes to listen to him present more on what CERN has achieved.

In Summary

The atmosphere was great, and the awards dinner was definitely one of the best I’ve attended recently (likely down to the brilliant finalist videos – here is my favourite). Congratulations again to all of this year’s winners.

Some of the keynotes I felt lacked the “wow” factor, but I really am the hardest person to please when it comes to keynotes (my favourite is still John O’Leary) as I literally want my socks to be blown off every time I see one (which probably is wrong on my part, nobody else’s).

That said I did very much enjoy listening to Neville Wilshire, even though he made me sing and dance to The Killers at 9.30am. His advice regarding looking after your employees and providing excellent customer service was spot on, plus he made me giggle when he told us we all needed BIG BALLS (yes I am a giggling 7 year old inside).

Mr Happy Man Alexander Kjerulf was not totally my cup of tea (sorry but he said it himself – it’s because I’m British!), but I thank him for providing us with entertainment long after he’d left (I don’t think I’ve ever high fived so many people or heard as many “you’re awesome” statements in my life before).

Overall it was a good conference, with what I think has great potential to be even better next year. For me the main thing that I felt was missing from some of the sessions was the “how”, but honestly this isn’t specific to SDI as I generally feel this way about all ITSM conferences. Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming cynical because I attend so many of these events, but upon chatting to delegates I definitely got the impression that focusing on the HOW would make the event even more beneficial to them.

Would I recommend that you attend this conference? Yes most definitely, but don’t just take it from this cynical, giggling 7-year old. Just look at what the delegates had to say:

Case Study: Domtar decimate ITSM tool configuration costs with codeless

CLICK TO ENLARGE
CLICK TO ENLARGE

One of the first articles we published on the ITSM Review back in 2011 described the market shift from consulting-heavy customized ITSM projects to the simplicity of ‘configure it yourself’ SaaS based offerings, and in particular the significant change in cost structure (‘The ITSM Pricing Ouch-o-meter).

Agile ITSM

Once upon a time the ability of suppliers to ‘darken the skies’ with consultants was a competitive feature. Nowadays organizations want sufficient autonomy to do things themselves, if not the mentoring pathway to get them there.

This independence provides agility. Ultimately the goal is to empower IT teams to stop on a sixpence and duck and weave as the business sees fit. To dramatically shorten the protracted cycle of budgeting and planning long term consulting engagements to turn the tanker.

The IT department shouldn’t disappear into the basement for two years to build the next big thing, but should trickle out increments to ensure they are relevant, timely and valuable.

So far, so groovy. But what does all this newfound ITSM agility do to the bottom line?

Opening the corporate kimono

The case study below, commissioned by EasyVista, digs into the financial impact of moving to a more agile ITSM system. Thank you to Benoit and Bob at Domtar for being so candid and sharing their financial data.

Kudos also to EasyVista for the confidence in allowing us to publish this case study verbatim. The responses below, which I hope you will find to be balanced and honest, have not been edited by EasyVista or exposed to the usual PR polish.

The transition to EasyVista

BEFORE

  • Previous Software: 10% of development in-house, 90% developed by external consultants
  • Development inhibited by costs and by the lack of flexibility in the tool.
  • Upgrades were made difficult by any customization.

After reviewing eleven different ITSM tools Domtar chose EasyVista.

AFTER

  • Implementation began in Summer 2012
  • Now 5% – 10% is developed externally and over 90% – 95% is configured in house
  • Significantly lowered / eliminated development costs

Codeless Economics

Hard savings:

  • Annual saving on ITSM Tool configuration costs: 89% (i.e. They are investing one tenth of their previous spend on changing their ITSM tool)
  • Reduction in ITSM tool annual maintenance: 75% (i.e. They are only paying 25% of their previous annual ITSM software maintenance bill)

Return on Investment:

  • The total first year EasyVista investment (software and implementation) was an estimated 113% of the previous annual maintenance and consulting bill. So in other words, Domtar were able to rip out the previous solution and replace it with a better system for just over the maintenance cost of the previous system.
  • In subsequent years maintenance is 25% of the previous contract
  • Consulting costs have been decimated.

Interview with Domtar

Q. Would you recommend this technology?

Yes. This technology has given us the flexibility to do everything we ever wanted. It is not perfect and like most things probably never will be. However, it has allowed us to reshape the way we deliver some of our IT services. It has allow us to integrate new way of doing things (SLA, Service Catalogue) that we thought would be impossible with our old tool. For the first time we are able to shape the tool to our process and not the other way around.

Robert (Bob) Stambaugh, Manager, IT Service and Asset Management at Domtar, South Carolina, USA
Robert (Bob) Stambaugh, Manager, IT Service and Asset Management at Domtar, South Carolina, USA

This tool has helped us transform they way we see service delivery, to better understand what we do and allowed us to push a vision for the future.

We want this tool to become the ERP of IT, to be the central repository for all the information, to be the source to answer questions about IT and to be more than just a ticket repository.

Q. Which feature(s) would you add to this product if you had the choice?

It is not so much an addition but some improvements. A more flexible self-service portal would be a great improvement. The portal is not configurable enough and a bit static. By giving it more flexibility we could have a better design and make it more user friendly. The way you order service is a bit confusing for end-user at first.

There is what they call wizards, which act as macros function and provide intelligence (Ex: complete a ticker, move an asset, assign a ticket etc.) Wizards do almost anything. They can be adapted but up to a certain point. It would be incredible if we could modify the existing wizard even more but most importantly create our own.

Q. Can you provide any examples of where the increased agility and responsiveness you mentioned have led to tangible improvements in service?

1. Rapid deployment cycle

We have a very rapid deployment cycle on any changes in the tool. We can implement any new configuration changes in an average on 1 week.

Some configuration can be done in a few hours while other requires more tests and will take 1-2 weeks. All this with minimal downtime (1-2 min for most changes).

We have a scheduled change every Thursday where we introduce fixes and improvement. On the other hand, some incidents are fixed live while people are in the system. In our old system, any changes would take several days to code and test (1-2 week total) and several hours downtime (4 in general) to implement.

2. Self-Service Portal

Our end users can now go online not only to enter service requests and incidents but also to track their tickets, something they could not do in the past.

This provides our end user with more flexibility on how they can communicate with us. Those who track their tickets by themselves also save a call at the service desk.

3. Workflows

Benoit
Benoit Tessier, Team Lead, IT Service and Asset Management at Domtar, Montreal, QC, Canada.

Every service (or tickets) is backed by a workflows to guide IT personnel through the process. It is no longer necessary for every IT member to know complex process by heart. The tool makes sure we go through every step.

Workflows make sure we engage the right people at the right time. The process knows when certain team are needed and are notified accordingly. Fewer mistakes are made and fewer things are forgotten.

4. SLO (Service Level Objective)

They were technically possible in the past but we felt they were easier to do in EasyVista. So for the first time we have SLO with our end-users. We do not call them SLAs because we did not sit down with our customer to agree on them. These are the objectives we have set for ourselves in the resolution of incidents.

We are proud to say that less than 10% of our incidents do not meet our SLOs. Something we could not do before. I would dare to say that pride was not even part of our vocabulary. The result is increased satisfaction and efficiency.

5. Reports, Dashboard and KPI

It was almost impossible to get the data out of Remedy easily or without Crystal reporting skills. This is no longer the case. The reporting tool in EasyVista gives us lot of information on operations very easily. We build hundreds of reports.

For the first time, we have numbers and information that let us understand what is going on in the fields. This has launched several initiatives for service quality improvement.

6. Service Catalogue

All tickets, configuration items and assets are linked to a service. This service chart is the basis of our IT management. It is also used for budgeting, resource planning, and project management. Everything IT does is linked to this service catalogue or service chart.

This allow us to understand what is in every service (CI, Asset, Applications etc.), what tickets are generated for every service, what requests are made for every service and of course how much every service costs. By reversing the process we can figure out how much each ticket costs.

This service centric approach has transformed the way IT delivers it services and allows us to answer the eternal question: What does IT do?


Domtar rate EasyVista

Q. Please provide a general rating of EasyVista:

8/10

Q. Please rate the ease of use and intuitiveness of EasyVista:

8/10

The back-end for IT people is very easy and good. Everything is easy to find and presented in one screen which make it simple. However, there is so much functionality available that it is sometimes hard to remember all the possibilities.

Q. What are the key strengths?

  1. The flexibility. We can do literally anything if we put our mind to it. Even stuff they thought would be impossible a first.
  2. It does not require any knowledge of programming language other than SQL query.

Q. What are they key weaknesses?

(None provided)


About Domtar

200px-Domtar_LogoDomtar Corporation

  • ‘The sustainable paper company’
  • Industry: Fiber-Base technology company
  • Headquarters: Montreal, QC, Canada, Operations Center: Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA
  • Revenue $5.5BN (TSX: UFS, NYSE: UFS)
  • Founded 1848, 10,000+ employees
  • IT Team 250 staff, Service Desk 11 staff
  • www.domtar.com

The Domtar IT Team at a Glance

  • 250 IT employees spread across North America
  • ITSM team is responsible for ITSM processes, tools and Asset Management
  • New ITSM tool implemented in 2012
  • Processes in place include: Incident, Service Request, Change, Knowledge, Procurement, Asset, CMDB

easyvista-infographic3

2013: A Year in ITSM Review

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As 2013 begins to draw to a close, I thought it would be nice to finish off the year with a final article that’s an overview of what has happened at the ITSM Review over the last 12 months.  That’s right, this will be our last post for 2013 because the entire team is heading off to fill their faces with mince pies and sherry. But don’t worry we’ll be back in 2014 with slightly bigger waistlines and lots of exciting plans for 2014 (insight into which you can find at the end of this article).

Ironically I like neither mince pies nor sherry. 

Visits and Growth

  • We have had nearly 230,000 page views this year, an increase of a whopping 210% from 2012!!! A huge thank you to the circa 120,000 of you for coming to read our content.
  • Visits to our site increased by an astounding 58% between the end of June and end of July alone, and then continued to grow on average by 5.5% every month.
  • Our Twitter followers increased by 193%.

One thing that I think it’s worth pointing out here as well is that the bulk of our readers are not actually situated in the UK (which is what a lot of people presume given that this is where we are based). In 2013, 17% of our readers were from the UK, but an impressive 30% were actually from the USA. Perhaps we should open a US office?! A large proportion of visitors also came from India, Germany, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, France and Sweden, as well as plenty of other countries too.

Owing to us attracting more and more visitors year-on-year from outside of the UK and America, we are increasingly being asked to produce region-specific content. We are therefore looking for practitioners, consultants or analysts based in Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe who would be interested in writing about their experiences of ITSM in other countries. If you are interested please get in touch.

What was popular?

The top 3 most-viewed articles of the year were:

  1. 7 Benefits of using a Known Error Database (by Simon Morris)
  2. Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (Martin Thompson)
  3. AXELOS: Capita and ITIL joint venture lift lid on new brand (Martin Thompson)

Of those articles only number 3 was actually written and published in 2013.

I have to say congratulations specifically to Simon Morris here as well, because his KEDB article was not only the most-read article of the year, but it achieved 37% more hits than the second most popular article of the year! (And that’s not counting the hits it originally got in the year it was published).

Of the articles written and contributed in 2013, the top 3 were:

  1. Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight (Stuart Rance and Stephen Mann)
  2. Four Problem Management SLAs you really can’t live without (Simon Higginson)
  3. 7 golden rules for getting the most from the Service Catalogue (Yemsrach Hallemariam)

Is there a specific topic that you would like us to write about? Are there are practical pieces that you would like to see us cover to help you in your day-to-day job? Please let us know.

Content Contributors

In 2013, we were pleased to welcome 3 new, regular content contributors to the ITSM Review.  These are people who now write for us on a regular basis (roughly once a month), so you can expect to see a lot more great content from them in 2014. They are:

We also published content for the first time from the following companies: Cancer Research UK; EasyVista; Fruition Partners; GamingWorks; LANdesk; Macro4; Oregon Department of Transportation; Service Management Art Inc; and xMatters.

A great big thank-you to all of our regular and ad hoc contributors for helping supply with us with such fantastic content.

If you’re reading this and think you might be interested in contributing content (we welcome content from all, including) please get in touch.

Top Searches

Given that we had over 230,000 pages view this year, I thought that many of you might be interested to see what it was that people were searching for on our site.  The top 20 searches of the year were as follows:

  1. KEDB
  2. AXELOS
  3. Known Error Database
  4. ITSM
  5. Issue Log
  6. Proactive Problem Management
  7. ITSM Software
  8. Gartner ITSM
  9. What is Service Management
  10. Cherwell Software Review
  11. Gartner ITSM Magic Quadrant
  12. ServiceNow Review
  13. ITSM Software Review
  14. ITSM News
  15. Major Incident Management Process
  16. Free ITIL Training
  17. RemedyForce Review
  18. BMC Footprints
  19. KEDB in ITIL
  20. Process Owner

Are there any search terms that you are surprised to see on there?  Or anything that you would have expected to see that isn’t?

Events

In 2013 we branched out and kicked off Media Partnerships at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition (Birmingham) and itSMF Estonia Conference (Tallin).

Our aim was not only to spread the word about The ITSM Review, but to spend time with delegates to find out what things they are struggling with and how we might be able to help them.

Next year you can expect to see us the PINK conference in Las Vegas, and we hope to announce some other new, exciting partnerships for 2015 in the New Year!

Launches

In May we launched the ITSM Review App (Search ‘ITSM’ in the Apple App Store). 

Then there is the ITSM Tools Universe, which we launched at the end of November. The Tools Universe hopes to shed light on the emerging ITSM players (as well as the major competitors) and, over time, the changes in the position of the companies involved and moves in market share. Most importantly it is free to participate and unlike any Magic Quadrant or Wave, the ITSM Tools Universe is open to ALL ITSM vendors. 9 vendors are already confirmed.

If you are a Vendor and are interested in learning more the ITSM Tools Universe please contact us.

Additions to the team

As of 1st January 2013 the ITSM Review was still simply just the man you all know and love Martin Thompson (he tried desperately to get me to remove what I just said there… modest and all that jazz).

However, ITSM Review finished 2013 with an additional 3 employees:

  • In January 2013 Glenn Thompson (you’d be right to suspect that they might be related) joined full-time as the company’s Commercial Director. For some reason there was no official announcement (we’ll blame Martin) so for some of you this might be the first you’ve heard of it! Without Glenn we’d struggle to continue to offer all of our content to readers free of charge, so despite the fact that he’s a Chelsea fan, you’ve got to like him.
  • In July, for some reason Martin decided it would be a good move to hire some strange blonde lady who liked penguins (that would be me) as the Marketing and Community Manager.
  • Finally, in October Rebecca Beach joined as a Research Analyst. Famous for being a “gobby midget”, Rebecca will be writing most of our ITSM research and reviews in 2014. Rebecca also spends time (in conjunction with me) making fun of Martin and Glenn on a regular basis (it’s not our fault they make it so easy).

So then there was 4.

If you’re interested in any upcoming job opportunities at the ITSM Review (or ITAM Review), then please let us know.  We certainly plan on increasing that number 4 in 2014.

What’s planned for 2014?

Next year we are hoping to broaden our coverage of the ITSM space even further by securing new content contributors; participating in more industry events; launching new products (such as video product reviews, webinars, and case studies); and more.

We’re also looking very seriously at the possibility of running regular ‘social meet ups’ like we recently did with the Christmas get-together.

In addition to the publication of our ITSM Tools Universe in the Spring we will also be continuing our Group Tests, and a full list of topics for the Group Test series will be published early January.

In addition to the above we also have some planned changes in the works for our website. Nothing too major (it will still look like the ITSM Review that you know and love), just some cosmetic updates to make it easier on the eye and increase your ability to easily find what you are looking for.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated of our plans throughout 2014!

Oh and if you’re interested in the 2013 review and plans for 2014 from the ITAM Review, you can read them here.

Is there anything you would like to see us doing in 2014 that we’re not doing currently? Are there any changes that you would like to suggest to the website? Would you be interested in a tooling event or social get-togethers? Are you a Vendor who is interested in our Group Tests? We welcome your feedback, so please get in touch.

And so…

2013 is drawing to a close. Our success and growth throughout the year has made everybody here happy bunnies; but most importantly we hope that our content / site / presence this year has made YOU a bunch of happy bunnies. The whole purpose of the ITSM Review is to help ITSM practitioners, and everything we do has that end goal in mind.  Even if we only gain an additional 5 readers in 2014, so long as our content aids those 5 people and makes their work lives easier then these bunnies will continue to have smiles on their faces.

So with that image of turning the entire ITSM industry into smiley rabbits, I bid you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Thanks for reading throughout 2013; without you… the ITSM Review doesn’t exist.

Image Credit

Collaborative IT Support at the University of Reading

Joel Bomgar, CEO of Bomgar & Gordon Roberts, Customer Services and Communications Manager, IT Services for University of Reading
Joel Bomgar, Founder & CEO of Bomgar with Gordon Roberts, Customer Services & Communications Manager, IT Services for University of Reading

Since 2012 British Universities have been able to charge £9,000 (about $15,000) per year for tuition fees. I wrote last year, following the itSMF regional at the University of Exeter, that this charging policy shifts the relationship between undergraduates and institutions and further elevates students to ‘customers’ with buying power. Students have new expectations and demand higher standards of their Universities, including IT services.

This is sentiment echoed by Gordon Roberts, Customer Services and Communications Manager at the University of Reading, who I met with Joel Bomgar, CEO of the $50m enterprise remote support company that bears his name. Joel was in the UK to visit the EMEA office and talk with clients including the University of Reading (UoR) who have recently joined the ranks of around 8,000 other Bomgar customers.

Gordon stated his team were under increasing pressure to increase service levels: both to satisfy their staff and students but also manage external reputation. Bad vibes about support spread like wild fire amongst prospective IT savvy students.

The UoR team admit that they stumbled across Bomgar whilst on the search for a new service desk (Recently replacing BMC with TopDesk), Gordon said “All the ITSM vendors we spoke to during our ITSM tool selection process said they integrated with Bomgar, but we’d never heard of it. However after researching further we immediately saw the value and have been using it since May”.

IT services at UoR act as a central point of contact for all IT requests and incidents, even for those faculties that may have their own IT support resources. Gordon stated that the lines between first and second line support had begun to blur as the first line support team were encouraged to learn more. “There has been an effort to move away from log and flog and increase the skill levels of frontline staff”

Bomgar facilitates collaboration between support teams by:

  • Allowing 1st and 2nd line to collaborate in real time on issues and learn from each other during calls rather than passing batons between teams with no real increase in knowledge
  • Recording calls and clipping the video to a knowledge base article for future reference
  • Doing all this whilst meeting their security and regulatory requirements. An audit trail of Bomgar activity records all interactivity.

I was surprised to hear that anyone in IT support can use Bomgar; it is not restricted to a few specialists. In fact Bomgar is also used for hands-on 1-2-1 training sessions outside of IT support, for example when training staff on tips and tricks with Microsoft Office, CMS systems or Blackboard.

Once upon a time we pushed plugs in a telephone exchange and called the operator to make a phone call – now we click on somebody’s face in Skype and talk to them immediately on the other side of the planet via a free video link. Bomgar paints a vision of a similar immediacy. Service request portals have provided scope for great steps in automation; remote support of this type allows the human touch to return and vastly accelerate support by allowing collaboration in real time.

Introducing Rebecca

Rebecca-Beach
Rebecca Beach, ITSM Research Analyst (bringing balloons to Analyst briefings is strictly prohibited)

I am very pleased to welcome Rebecca Beach to the team!

Rebecca is joining as ITSM Research Analyst.

SDI IT Service Excellence Professional of the Year 2012, Rebecca is a self-confessed geek and ITSM fangirl.

“Rebecca is very passionate about providing the best possible service to her customers. She is the model service professional, striving to improve herself as an individual while selflessly supporting and helping to develop the team. She cares greatly about people and gives above and beyond in all aspects of her role. There is no better deserving winner.” ‘Hanover Service Desk Analyst wins national service excellence award

ITSM Universe

The first project Rebecca will be sinking her teeth into is a global view of the entire ITSM market with particular focus on:

  • ITSM Tool Vendor market share
  • The key market focus areas / average customer size
  • Competitive strengths and weaknesses

More news on this soon – In the meantime you can read more about our ‘Universe’ research methodology here.

Who is Rebecca?

Rebecca joins us following roles as ITSM Tools Engineer at Capita and Service Desk Analyst at Hanover Housing Association.

With fear of setting off political correctness fire alarms; I’ll inform you that Rebecca is affectionately known as the ‘Gobby Midget’!

In her own words:

One thing you might not know about Rebecca:  

“I’m scared of balloons. Makes being the owner/operator of a small child rather troublesome because apparently these are their favourite things in the whole world and they’re not very careful with them.  I have tried to overcome this debilitating illness by ‘facing the fear’ and letting the small one have them but it usually ends with me in the foetal position in the corner with my hands over my ears. An ex-colleague found out about this once and chased me around the car park with a bunch.  He’s dead now.”

When not working Rebecca is most likely to be found:

“When i’m not working, reading or sewing I love to cuddle up on the sofa under a blanket with the family and watch Disney films.  The Toy Story series and Monsters Inc are favourites at the moment…Disney Princesses have been knocked from the top spot. My daughter has decided that she can do it all right on her own without a Prince and kissing is yucky!”

The first record Rebecca bought was:

“Kylie Minogue – Kylie.  I believe I was about 11 at the time and my Dad took me into town to buy it from the record shop and I got my first ever cassette tape.  This is making me feel old, shall we move on?”

Rebecca has a soft spot for:

“I have been racking my brains and can think of nothing.  I’m not even that keen on kittens and can take or leave puppies. I’m assuming this means I am a horrible, terrible person but i’m actually okay with that 😉 “

Connect with Rebecca on Twitter or LinkedIn. Come and see Rebecca at #ITSM13

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca to the team ~ Martin

Service Management at the speed of light

ServiceNow recently held a three-city European forum. The event was a compact version of the larger ‘Knowledge’ event held in the US and a chance for customers to share experiences and hear from ServiceNow bigwigs.

I found the most fascinating session of the day was from Reinoud Martens, Service Manager at CERN, the home of particle accelerators and clever physicists searching for the origins of the universe.

“At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.” About CERN

Reinoud’s session was entitled ‘ITSM also works outside its comfort zone’ and explored how CERN implemented IT Service Management best practice across IT and many other business functions. Reinoud kindly answered some follow up questions via email below.

Service Management beyond IT

Reinoud is Service Manager for a group called ‘General Services’ at CERN.

General Services serves IT services but also a myriad of other business services at CERN such as Civil Engineering, Facility Management, Medical and Fire Protection.

A user at CERN can log a password reset or seek help with a faulty laptop – but they can also rent a car, alert facilities to a blocked drain, book a hotel room, have an old filing cabinet towed away or log an expense claim – all from the same Service Management destination; the CERN Service Portal. In total CERN supports 282 active services across 494 operational functions.

Service Management Singularity

The goal at CERN, as Reinoud eloquently described is to:

 1. Make life simple for users and supporters by providing:

  • ONE point of contact (One #, One URL, ONE place)
  • ONE behaviour; Unified processes for all services
  • ONE tool shared by all service providers (sharing information and knowledge)
  • ONE service description in a business service catalogue

2. Improve efficiency and effectiveness

  • Alignment with good practice (ITILV3 and ISO20K)
  • High level of automation
  • Framework for continuous improvement

And do this for ALL SERVICES (not just IT).

Interview with Reinoud

Q. What drove the initiative for one Service Portal across all these disciplines? Could you describe what existed before?

Aerial View of the CERN taken in 2008
Aerial View of the CERN taken in 2008

Before there were many numbers to call or people to know to get your needs fulfilled or to report a problem. There was an IT helpdesk, and a facilities management number to call, but their respective scopes were not 100% clear and there was a lot not covered by either of these numbers.

The most common way to find the right help was a Google search on the cern.ch domain that would return a lot of obsolete or wrong information (Every service published it’s own pages which were not removed after reorganizations or updated after changes).

Many people published their own service catalogues with numbers to call. So there was a lot of confusion and chaos, although there might have been some islands of excellence hidden here and there.

IT used a ticketing system with which they had difficulty upgrading; this system was also partly used outside IT for example Application Support. Even within IT some groups had their own systems. Outside IT there was no real ticketing system in place.

Some requests that have to follow strict authorization rules were and are supported in a custom workflow system developed at CERN where people fill out request forms by themselves (e.g. for taking leave, or for ordering equipment).

The initiative was driven by:

  1. The realization that CERN needed to become more customer/user focused, also as we moved from a project phase (building LHC) to an operational phase (running LHC).
  2. The need to support an exploding user population with less or at best constant resource levels.

Q. Did you face any political resistance when IT joined General Services (I’m thinking that certain departments might not want to relinquish control)?

An event showing characteristics expected from the decay of the SM Higgs boson to a pair of photons (dashed yellow lines and green towers).
“Approximately 600 million times per second, particles collide within the Large Hadron Collider(LHC). Each collision generates particles that often decay in complex ways into even more particles. Electronic circuits record the passage of each particle through a detector as a series of electronic signals, and send the data to the CERN Data Centre (DC) for digital reconstruction. The digitized summary is recorded as a “collision event”. Physicists must sift through the 15 petabytes or so of data produced annually to determine if the collisions have thrown up any interesting physics.” Computing at CERN

It happened the other way around, as the ‘chaos’ was probably bigger outside the IT area. The initiative started in general services during first half of 2009. In 2010 IT joined forces to propose a potentially CERN wide (for infrastructure services) solution. HR and Finance were to join later.

Obviously we encountered a lot of resistance, scepticism and ‘other attitudes’. Many predicted this project would fail, so they adopted a very passive attitude, but after one year of ‘production’ these people also realized the benefits invested effort to make things work. It’s not something you can do overnight.

Q. From your presentation it was very clear that you have taken best practices from ITSM (ITIL and ISO20000) and applied them to other business disciplines. Can you cite any examples of where IT can learn from these other disciplines? Do such best practices exist in other areas?

There are no examples where the standard needs to be ‘extended’ for IT based on our experience for non IT. There are ‘small implementation detail examples’ where IT could ‘profit’ from the ‘culture’ in other areas. For example business services that are person facing will like to hide the fact that there is an automated process and tickets behind requests and incidents as much as possible; so they wish to make the system ‘more human’ with special notifications, or service dependent ‘signatures’.

We have been looking at other standards but really found no alternative … including external consultants. There may be standards for libraries for instance; but we can’t support a standard per service (with over 280 services), and in the end these alternative standards for very specific domains contain the same ‘common sense’ that can be found in ITIL and ISO20k.

Q. Can you elaborate on the section of your presentation regarding ‘Cultural Change’? In particular I recall how you used a combination of Knowledge Management (this is how things work around here) and Service Catalogue (and this is how things get done). What led to this approach?

The culture change has to do with technicians that are focused on solving technical problems (say fix a water tap) but really don’t caring about the ‘caller’ at all. They will close a ticket not when the work is done, but when they want to bill their work; this can be much later. As a result the caller gets out-dated feedback and thinks the system does not work.

It gets worse if they need a spare part; they will not inform the caller or update a ticket; they will maybe note in a piece of paper they have to get a spare part and the user thinks nothing is happening. It’s this customer/user awareness and what it means in the day-to-day life of workmen that are ‘supporters’ for the infrastructure services that is the problem. The sharing of knowledge between supporters and with users (FAQ’s) is something that came ‘automatically’. We had many local FAQ’s and wiki’s but now we provide a global infrastructure.

Service Catalogue is what is available to the users, not how things get done. The focus is on the what (scope, when available quality) then obviously there is a link to support teams. So it orchestrates how things get done as an additional benefit.

Note: Sample of CERN Service Portal users:

  • Engineers
  • Physicists
  • Technicians
  • Administrators
  • Computer scientists
  • Craftspeople
  • Mechanics

But also:

  • Computer illiterate support staff
  • Candidates for job opportunities from around the world
  • Suppliers

Q. What does ‘Coaching’ look like for non-IT supporters? I remember you mentioned taking supporters through the equivalent of ITIL foundation for business services, but not using ITIL foundation – can you elaborate on this point?

We organized awareness training for non-IT people, a sort of shortened ITIL foundation course not referring to IT situations. E.g. configuration management for a medical service is understanding who your ‘patients’ are, what their ‘status’ is in terms of health parameters etc. If a medical service has not a good register of this they are bad in configuration management.

Explaining the ITIL concepts, naming conventions, processes and ideas but staying away from IT examples… this is not always easy in areas as release and deployment management for a cleaning service or a materials management service…so you must be ‘creative’ and maybe skip some very specific areas in certain cases. Most areas however are relevant to most services (if you take a step back and ‘reinterpret’ the concepts).

This is not enough, you also need to explain again and again what the underlying ideas of the processes are, and how they should use the system (e.g. impact and urgency priority; not closing a ticket that is wrongly assigned, but assign it to the right function, or return to service desk, etc..). This is more laborious for non-IT people than for IT ‘supporters’.

Q. Why ServiceNow?

We looked at the market second half of 2010 once we knew what we wanted to deploy (Single point of contact, unified processes and single web based tool shared by all with in the heart this business service catalogue driving the automation and a service portal); we started with a long list of around 40 tools, quickly shortened down to 6 which we evaluated in more detail based on a long questionnaire; ended up with two for which we did a POC at CERN and some reference visits.

We took into account lots of criteria covering: functionality, configurability/flexibility, architecture, interface, future evolution, etc. The fact that ServiceNow was a SaaS solution played a role (this was an ‘experiment’ for CERN’s IT department and they were ready to test it; it certainly helped dramatically reduce the time between the choice and being operational).

Obviously total cost of ownership also played a key role. Anyway things may have evolved in the last 3 years, so although we don’t regret this choice a second, the outcome could be different today. I have no idea of what is going on in this area on the market today (I am no IT guy anymore and have other things on my mind lately).

Q. Finally, your advice to organizations looking to embark on a similar journey?

Top Three Takeaways from Reinoud’s presentation:

1. ITSM is RELEVANT beyond IT and it WORKS

2. Essential for success are:

  • A comprehensive Business Service Catalogue
  • To know what you are supposed to be doing
  • To understand how these services are provided (by whom)
  • To drive automation and smooth assignment & escalation
  • A Service Portal to hide the complexity of all of this
  • A good tool  (that lets you be ‘agile’)
  • Extra coaching for non IT supporters

3. You can do this in your own organization

CERN Service Portal

Images of the CERN ‘Service Portal’ below:

Service Portal Features:

  • User access to all services
  • Search function
  • Browse the catalogue
  • Report issues
  • Follow-up issues
  • Access knowledge base
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

About CERN in 3 Minutes

Accelerator Event Image Credit, Aerial View Image Credit

Virgin Media: 'Problem Management is not just for IT'

Amanda Kirby, CSI Manager at Virgin Media, provides a summary of her presentation for the UK itSMF conference entitled “10 steps to problem management – a real life journey”.

Amanda describes how the remit for problem management extends beyond IT to include networks, power and engineering. Problem Management even extends to the ‘My Virgin Media’ where consumer customers can manage their telecom and broadband accounts.

The problem management team has grown from 1 to 10 staff and is now taking a more proactive role. Learn more at Amanda’s session at the itSMF conference in November:

itSMF UK seeks new leadership

Ben Clacy leaves itSMF UK on the 15th November after three years as Chief Executive.
Ben Clacy leaves itSMF UK on the 15th November after three years as Chief Executive.

itSMF UK have begun their search for a new CEO after it was announced that Ben Clacy is to leave the organization after the annual conference in November.

Ben first joined the non-profit organization in 2006 in a business development role and has served 3 years as Chief Executive. Ben is leaving the IT sector to lead operations at the Foundation Trust Network.

The CEO role is currently being advertised on The Guardian website which states that the new candidate must “build upon the success of the current CEO and confidently take us to the next stage of the strategic plan.

Ben’s departure follows Chris Roberts leaving the organization as Member Engagement Manager in July.

The new CEO will certainly face some interesting challenges:

  • Traditional ‘country chapter’ member organizations are still trying to find their role in the world amongst the growth of worldwide digital networks. If I want to discuss problem management, I want to discuss problem management – it doesn’t have to be limited to talking to people in my country.
  • The new owner of ITIL, Axelos, has become an outright commercial operation and has stated it’s intent to be community and discussion led with the ‘Big Friendly Onion’ strategy. This seems to encroach on itSMF’s core purpose (However, whilst Axelos talk a good game we’re yet to see them execute).

Ivor Macfarlane, Service Management specialist at IBM, discussing the news on Facebook said:

“Ben had to guide itSMF through tough times. Under Ben’s guidance itSMF seems to have survived – not without casualties but survived. itSMF has grown up during Ben’s time – a lot of that the sad, end of innocence kind of growing up. In an organisation supposedly occupied with delivering service, Ben understood that it is the service that counts not the visibility or glory of the deliverers. I will miss the confidence of a steady hand on the tiller – especially when often it seems the final destination is not certain.”

The ITSM Review team wish Ben well in his new role. We look forward to giving him a good send off at conference next month (Don’t forget to check out our free conference ticket giveaway).

2nd Birthday

2nd Birthday
The terrible two’s? (Categorized by temper tantrums, saying “No” to everything, or refusing to do as they are told)

We’ve been so busy here at The ITSM Review we missed our own 2nd Birthday, Whoops!

Our very first article hit the interwebs on 3rd August 2011. Some 200 articles later, we have 24,000 visits a month (August 2013) from all over the globe.

A sincere thank you to all the readers, contributors, clients and supporters who have helped us grow.

Thank you for supporting us and sharing the stuff you like. We’ve grown organically through sharing and word of mouth thanks to your support.

Our first article was an interview with Ben Clacy, CEO of itSMF UK. Two years on and we’re very pleased to be supporting itSMF as their headline media partner for the UK itSMF conference in November. In a moment of madness we’ve decided to give away a free ticket to the conference! (Click here for details).

Country-Hotspots
ITSM Review readers by major cities (August 2013)

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