I’ve been having a great time sitting in presentations and seminars about Problem Management and I can’t help to come across a recurring theme; organizations that have successfully implemented Problem Management provide a documented and official training manual for the I.T. personnel. I’m not referring to the policies, but the actual “here’s how you problem solve” instructions. This got me thinking about a broader idea that successful Service Management has at least three important elements. I’m calling this the Service Management Triad and if your organization can nail all three of these, then it’s well on its way to providing high quality services.
Since I already mentioned education, I’ll state this as the first item. I’m not simply referring to education to tell people about ITIL or ITSM, but I’m talking about education on the entire scale of Service Management. This includes getting personnel ITIL Foundation certified, building a training program for the different processes, and even providing training for common methodologies (such as Kepner and Tregoe for problem solving). It’s to basically to teach people how to function in the IT department.
Secondly, I’ll say it yet again – culture. If the culture is established that your organization is there to deliver services and not just provide an IT infrastructure, then attitudes and behaviors will follow (see how I worked in the ABC’s – it’s hard being this clever).
Third, and most obvious, are the processes. Every organization is different so there will never be a simple set of “one size fits all” processes for ITSM, but they have to be created or else why would the other two even exist? For that matter, why even bother with IT Service Management?
So there you have it – three important parts of Service Management that needs to happen. I think culture and processes are definitely obvious, but I’m now realizing the importance of education, because if there’s not a defined and documented education system, how will anyone know what to do?
My wife loves Howard Stern. In fact if I were to guess one of her top 5 tragedies in life, I would undoubtedly be correct in saying it would be Stern’s retirement from radio. So what does the self-proclaimed King of All Media have to do with IT? Let me paint you a picture about why this guy should be in Service Management. Better yet, watch his movie, Private Parts, or listen to him on the radio. Ignoring all the tasteless humor and complete craziness of Stern’s radio show, one admiring trait is that Howard Stern is completely direct and honest. In fact, one would say that he makes his life transparent and he almost lovingly talks about it every chance he gets (the joys of being self-indulgent). So once again, what does this have to do with IT Service Management? The way Stern runs his talk show is pretty much the epitome of a successful IT Service Improvement initiative. He’s direct in how he talks, he’s transparent in showing his flaws (as well as what he does well), he’s very vocal in making sure others understand what he says, he isn’t afraid to go against cultural thinking, and most importantly, he really goes out to make “the business” successful. I love that last trait; he goes out to make the business successful. On the surface it may look like he goes out to ruin the business, racking up FCC charges and testing the moral humor of management. Yet, Howard Stern is probably one of the most influential and successful characters in radio history. He’s the first person to have top shows concurrently in both LA and New York, he’s had up to 20 million loyal (and they can be extremely loyal as I found out from my wife) fans, and every market he’s entered he’s gone out and been successful. This includes other media besides just radio. And how is this guy so successful and how does this translate to making the business successful? He simply gives people what they want. So you may not like his humor, but apparently about 20 million Americans out there do, and if no one really did like Howard Stern then he would have been out of the radio industry years ago. The radio business really survives by advertisements. Advertisements thrive on people paying attention (which is why Facebook is making a killing). So if no one paid attention, advertisers wouldn’t like it and whatever is trying to get attention (Facebook, Google, Hulu, Stern, etc.) simply wouldn’t survive long enough to make a living.
So let’s recap; why is Stern successful? 1. He understands his job in the most simplistic manner possible and judges success objectively (by the numbers). 2. He’s direct. 3. He’s transparent. 4. He’s vocal. 5. He gives people what they want instead of what he thinks they want. I attended the itSMf Fusion 10 conference last month and these were all common traits of successful IT Service Improvements. This just goes to show, love him or hate him, what makes Stern successful will make future ITIL or ITSM initiatives successful. All I can say about that is, “hey now.”
I was reading another interesting blog post from the IT Skeptic (I wish I could write like that) and he pointed out that really less than 5% of companies are able to successfully implement a CMDB. If you read a little more on this topic you’ll find that the IT Skeptic pretty much holds the position that not everyone, in fact only about 5%, need a working CMDB and that it’s about time vendors move on the “greener pastures” of a Service Catalogue and auto-provisioning. I’m definitely a proponent for keeping costs down and working with what is needed as opposed to living in the delusion of a perfect IT World, but I really can’t let go of liking the idea of a CMDB. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever let go of keeping in mind the “perfect” IT environment and here’s why: Do you remember Ben Franklin? You know, that bald-headed guy that not only flew a kite into a lightning storm but also invented bifocals, a very efficient stove, lightning rod, and was a major contributor to the American Revolution (sorry Brits) as well as a contributing author for the U.S. Constitution. If you read about him you’ll find that he did a lot in his life. Much more than I will ever even think about doing. One fact I enjoy about Ben is that he really was what we’d call a perfectionist (take a look at http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_wit_self.html). He held himself to standards of “moral perfection” that in reality was something that no one, not even Franklin, could fully attain. However, Ben Franklin still practiced reaching perfection every day of his life. In fact he even came up with 13 virtues that he listed in a book and if you read the PBS article you’ll find that after practicing a virtue for a week, he’d evaluate himself before moving to the next. When he completed practicing all 13 virtues, he’d start all over again. How about that – someone in the 1700′s practicing what Deming wrote about 200 years later. My point to bring up Franklin, CSI and the CMDB together in this blog post is to 1) point out the need for CSI and 2) show that the CMDB has an importance that goes beyond a practical sense. ITIL may have a lot of ideas that seem too impractical, but it also prevents a self-improving IT organization from ever getting to the point of “what do we do next?”
I always complain to myself on how I just don’t ever seem to getting around to making a task or “to do” list. The problem isn’t that I have nothing to do, it’s more like I have a lot to do and they’re all in different directions (common mistake with living in both Problem and Incident Management). On this particular morning I was getting quite heavily down on myself and a nice memory came to mind about something my manager said a few days ago. We were talking about a particular project manager in our department and my supervisor made a comment that went along the lines of “he just wants to check one more thing off his task list.” At first I was feeling pretty damn crummy for not keeping a better task list so I can actually check things off, but this morning I realized task lists really don’t fit into my ITIL world. In fact, I don’t know if they necessarily fit into ITIL or ITSM at all. Please understand I’m not saying you shouldn’t be organized and start the day each morning with a set goals for the day (or in my case temporary goals since they always change), but I am saying that IT Service Management and Service Improvements are not items to be marked off of a list. In fact, a continual theme I hear is the need for always going back to make improvements. Hmmm….continual and service improvements; this is starting to sound familiar. I think the Project Management world is great – it’s really an efficient and organized way of getting things accomplished, especially with big initiatives. But IT Service Management doesn’t run from a task list. I can lay out a set of items to complete that should increase customer satisfaction or decrease first call resolution, but if the metrics and KPI’s aren’t changing the way that they should, then it’s back to the drawing board. In fact, even if they do change and reach projected levels I still have to go back to the drawing board because now I want those levels to be maintained. So why don’t I keep a task list? It’s not because I’m disorganized or I’m on Facebook all day (thank you Zuckerburg for such an addictive drug), it’s because I want to maintain the flexibility in my job for change in order to meet my ultimate goals, which (hopefully) are the same as the business. So if you’re a Project Manager and are reading this (thank you by the way since not many people come here), I hope you don’t get offended that I don’t like task lists; they’re just not for me.