Practical Service Management


Last week I gave a presentation at the IT Service Management Forum NZ  titled  “Using ITL to create a World-Class IT Team”.   

Below is a repost of a great article written by Mark Thorburn (IS Service Manager reporting to me when I was CIO at The Warehouse Ltd) which gives a very succinct and accurate overview of how the team achieved success and rose to World-Class status.

If your IT department needs advice and/or assistance to achieve these same results, give me a call on 64 21 350 750.

Ensuring Service Management Success

Okay so you’ve finished installing your shiny new “ITIL compliant” Service Management toolset and you’re now on the way to exceptional service levels and outstanding customer service. Or are you? Based on my own experience as IS Service Manager and part of the IS Leadership Team at The Warehouse, here are some thoughts to guide you to success.

Compelling and Articulated Vision

Does the IS Department have a clear and compelling vision that is well known and accepted? What is it that your Service Management journey is setting out to accomplish? As an example, the vision created by Owen McCall, CIO at The Warehouse was “To Become a World Class IS Department” and the accompanying tagline that was developed was “Great Solutions, Great Service – Making Life easier for Customers and Team”. This was well communicated, easy to understand and most importantly team members could relate to it. We even had IS Team shirts made up (sponsored by our vendors of course) displaying this as a stylised logo.

Defining Success

Becoming a “World Class IS Department” is a noble vision, but just how do you know you’ve achieved it? For The Warehouse, a carefully crafted scorecard was built around this vision. At its centrepiece was Customer Satisfaction. This was considered to be the number one metric that mattered and there were even discussions on making it the only KPI. Surrounding this centrepiece were four quadrants, each with their own clearly defined KPIs and targets.

Improve Our Operations
This was about driving improvement to the core IT operational metrics like customer satisfaction, service level performance, number of faults, availability of services, open call days, opex cost management etc

Investing in our People
To build a World Class IS Department you need to invest in your team. Here we defined KPIs around engagement, training and development and leadership succession

Deliver Critical Projects
This quadrant included metrics around the successful delivery of projects including, Changes delivered on time and on budget, time to market, project effectiveness (benefits realisation)

Identify and Deliver IS Value Add
Working out and driving IS value add using KPIs of capex payback, IT yield and percentage of capex spent on the businesses core strategic initiatives

A Committed and Accountable Leadership Team

The IS Leadership Team were made very clear of their roles on this journey and were all fully committed to it. A weekly “Operating Pulse” meeting was established to review operational KPIs and in particular discuss those that were outside of expected thresholds. If open call days for example were not continuing their downward trend, then it was expected that the relevant Lead Team member would be able to articulate why and to discuss the measures being taken. These meetings ensured the focus was high and that nothing was allowed to fall through the cracks or be ignored. If progress wasn’t as intended then we knew what had to be done and saw that it was done.

Flowing down

For the Leadership Pulse meeting to be effective, Leadership Team members needed to know what was going on in their teams and work proactively with their own Team Leads. This meant regularly reviewing the relevant operational metrics and reports and supporting whatever actions were needed. Frequent communication (preferably in person) between teams and appropriate escalation was actively encouraged.

Responsibilities of Process Owners

For each of the defined ITIL Processes, there was a Process Owner with clear responsibilities and defined goals around maturing their respective processes. Each process owner would create and maintain a process roadmap defining their intended path to maturity. Roadmaps were presented and reviewed every six months with the IS Leadership Team and more regularly with that persons direct Manager.

To drill down into a little more detail, the Incident Management process owner for example had responsibilities not only for ensuring their own team (the Service Desk) understood Incident Management and delivered to expectations but that everyone across IS who was involved in managing Incidents had the same level of understanding and capability to deliver. This involved working with other Team Leads and their teams to understand the specific needs of each team and then to provide training and support, share knowledge and generally doing everything possible to support the process goals.

Responsibilities of Technical Application Managers

Another key factor in the success of driving Service Improvement at The Warehouse was the distribution of responsibilities beyond ITIL Process Owners. While Process Owners had defined responsibilities around maturing their respective processes, the Technical Application Managers were also made accountable for how each ITIL process performed for their area. In the same manner as the Process Owners, the Application Managers would create and maintain an Application Roadmap that was regularly presented and reviewed. In addition to application specific activities, the expectation was for the Application Manager to articulate just what they were doing to support each of the ITIL processes. For example, how were Incidents being managed in their team and more importantly what actions were they taking to drive improvement – as measured by the defined Incident KPIs.

Making both the Process Owners and the Application Managers responsible for driving and maturing processes proved to be highly effective and encouraged the concept of a single team (the IS team) working together to deliver outstanding service to its customers.

If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it

A lot of effort went into creating actionable reports that supported the defined KPIs. These included Daily Exception Reports (Incidents Breaching Today for example), Weekly SLA Reports that would break down by Team, by Priority, etc, Top 10 Lists (showing the top 10 oldest calls for example) and Monthly SLA Performance Reports. This combination of reports and the subsequent publishing of these reports made it very clear how teams were tracking, who needed more support and what needed focus.

Just using Top 10 reports proved to be very effective in reducing Open Call Days. At various times, team members were asked on a daily basis to explain why any call older than x days was still open and for them to state what actions they had taken to progress the call. Surprisingly just asking for this information led to a lot of calls being resolved very quickly.

Ongoing Communication

Making the entire team aware that they are on a journey and sharing the progress of that journey (using defined metrics when appropriate) ensured that momentum is maintained and the whole team remain actively involved and “on board”.

The Definition of Insanity

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If something’s not working, try a different approach and encourage the generation of ideas to come up with different approaches to get better results.

Service Management Maturity Top 10 List

  1. A motivated and passionate process owner for each process who has the delegated authority and support to drive the process across the whole IS Team.
  2. Clear metrics defined with targets and regular reporting. Use of Top 10 lists and exception reports to focus on the areas that will add the most value.
  3. An actively involved IS Leadership Team who make driving improvement a focus, ask the right questions and make Service Improvement important.
  4. A highly focused, customer centric IS team that understand the process, their role in the process, how it is being measured and what we’re trying to achieve in terms that they can relate to.
  5. Roadmaps treated as living documents, shared regularly, with the support (and interest) of the IS Management Team and actively progressed.
  6. A clear vision and consistent (relentless) communication about Service Management across the team, in particular down through the IS Managers and Team Leaders.
  7. Accountability and follow up. IS Management and Team Leaders need to hold themselves and their team members to account. They need to monitor progress and have the conversations necessary to keep things on track. Appropriate escalations should be encouraged and mediocrity should not be accepted.
  8. An effective feedback loop appropriate for each process should be in place to encourage and reward feedback and to ultimately drive improvement.
  9. The right forums established to track and manage progress. These could include Weekly “Pulse” meetings, Monthly Strategy meetings, Quarterly Roadmap Sessions.
  10. Recognising, celebrating and sharing success.
The Results for The Warehouse
  • Between 2006 and 2011, IS Service Levels improved from 66% of Incidents and Requests resolved within target time frames to 98%
  • Through the execution of effective Problem Management the number of faults experienced by our customers dropped by 65% over the same period
  • By 2011, 72% of reported IS issues were resolved on the same day they were logged (up from 50% in FY07)
  • IS operational costs reduced by over 40%
  • Customer satisfaction went from -55 to +39 (Netpromoter Scale)|
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