07 October 2008

Incorporating IT Service Management: Digging In The Right Place

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.


As I pored through research on IT trends, the economic impact on those trends and the forecasts over the past few months, a line from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark kept popping into my head:

They’re digging in the wrong place!”

For those of you who have not seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, everyone in the movie is in a race to find the Well of Lost Souls, which houses the Lost Ark, which contains power that would be useful to any army. (Bear with me.) In order to so, they had to have the map to the Well of Lost Souls, which was inscribed on a medallion. The villains in the movie did not get the medallion; however one of their henchmen had the information burned on his hand from trying to grasp it in a fire-encapsulated building. The problem with the approach: he only had half of the information. The medallion had location information on both sides and, as a result, the baddies exhausted resources and man hours by digging in the wrong place.

It’s the same thing with the implementation of IT Service Management.

In today’s market, many IT organizations have embarked on the multiple-year investment it takes to implement IT Service Management so they may improve their quality of service to their business customers. Many of those IT teams focused solely on functions, processes and services.

While it increases the IT organization’s service delivery maturity, this approach is still missing an important component. The biggest oversight is the lack of organizational adoption of the compulsory cultural changes associated with executing the ITIL framework as part of IT Service Management.

How does an IT organization successfully incorporate IT Service Management practices into their way of working? How does it dig in the right place?

  • Foster Cultural Awareness. When IT Service Management models are adopted, IT becomes a strategic asset during times of growth and economic downturns. IT Service Management is a culture, not a project. It is not only important for the IT organization to understand this, but it is also critical for the departments they serve (HR, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Purchasing) to know this, too.
  • Talk is Good. While the ITIL framework provides a common IT language, understanding business-speak is equally important in securing the cultural adoption of IT Service Management. It is important for an IT organization to be well-versed in both IT Service Management processes and sound business management practices.
  • Conversations are Better. By having conversations – be they round tables, strategy sessions, departmental meetings or social network discussions - IT organizations will have a better understanding of the Businesses they serve. They will drive their service strategies and service development, and will continually improve their existing functions, processes and services.
  • Understand the Definition of ‘Value.’ An IT organization may have excellent subject matter experts, solid processes, standardized tools and defined measurements and metrics, but all of that means little to the customers they serve if it doesn’t demonstrate value to them. By doing so, IT will be able to capitalize, exploit and maintain their functions, processes and services to meet existing and forecasted business needs.
  • Use a Lifecycle Approach. IT organizations further enhance its strategic value to its business customers by employing a Service Management lifecycle approach. In this manner, the IT organization embraces a business and IT alignment through the use of ITIL’s Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operations best practices. In addition, ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement ensures IT isn’t resting on its laurels. It provides an IT team with the ability to create meaningful internal and customer-focused metrics and helps it provide purposeful and powerful reporting for management and executives.

IT Service Management is a discipline for the efficient and effective management of information technology systems, philosophically centered on the customer's perspective of IT's contribution to the business. It is a culture, not a project, and provides sustainability to IT’s relationship with the business. By digging in the right place - looking beyond tools, templates and technology and seeing the cultural and business impact IT Service Management will have -IT organizations will be able to function effectively and get arms around their current operations.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

16 July 2008

Getting Control of IT Shared Services - Utility Services Part 1

Cheryl Croce

Cheryl Croce
Sr. Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

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In this first article of a series of five, the author explores how to relieve three of the nine common pain points associated with Infrastructure request fulfillment. By doing so, companies can transform infrastructure request fulfillment from a checklist activity to an organizational strategic asset – request fulfillment as a utility service.

Start at the Beginning! Making Requests Make Sense

Did you ever notice it’s the little things that create the biggest impact? That’s the way our clients and prospective customers feel when it comes to Infrastructure Request Fulfillment.

In general, we know we must conduct thorough analyses, provide cost justifications and maintain the allotted budgets for larger projects. However, it’s the requests that stem from daily operational needs and organizational growth that come as the big surprise at the end of the budget year - things for which project allocations do not account.

The IT Pain Points

In the white paper,
The Games We Play: Conquering the Challenge of IT Request Fulfillment, we identified the following common pain points Infrastructure teams and management experience when it comes to request fulfillment:

Shock to the System: The multiple ways in which Infrastructure teams receive requests - e-mails, telephone calls, taps on the shoulder, and help desk tickets.

“Needs” Brain Freeze: When customers forget there might be rules when they want it and they want it now.

Request Definition Wish Bone: Many customers don’t get what they want or need, because the requirements of the request were not collected or provided.

Purchasing Apple: That lump in your throat may be the realization you’ve overspent on purchases for equipment and third-party services.

Spare Parts: You didn’t realize you had the part already in stock. Or, there’s a part you’ve purchased that’s gone bad and you have no idea where you’ve installed it or what the serial number is for it.

“Architect’s” Elbow: Your technical team’s elbow grease is gone, because they’ve expended it. And you have no idea how, when or why. Change Management is missing from the equation.

Testing Butterflies in the Stomach: Testing is such a fundamental activity within System Development Lifecycle, because in general there are test labs. That’s not the case a lot of times with infrastructure related requests. So, a “let’s try this and hope it works” approach may be used when rolling new components into production.

Writing Communications Cramp: As much as we are connected (you might be reading this on your BlackBerry device or iPhone), it’s interesting we’re still not communicating.

Broken Hearts All Around: Customers look at the end result and say, “That’s not what I wanted. Now what do we do?” And when they say “we” they really mean you, which equates to re-work and exhausted, cranky staff.

Perhaps some of you now are nodding your heads, as these items may look familiar to you. Share your experiences with us: What have you seen in your workplace?

Most IT teams are deluged with requests through different means, and a lot of times this concept is not acknowledged. For example, when we interviewed individuals at a client site about how requests were received, we heard different responses. The CIO told us all requests came through the company’s help desk system. The staff members, on the other hand, told us they received requests not only from the help desk system, but also by e-mail, phone call, taps on the shoulder, hallway conversations, and internal meetings with their IT counterparts.

The Requests Cometh

The requests obtained outside the help desk ticket system are often quickly scribbled on post-it notes and in notebooks.

This ad-hoc repository causes three issues:

Inability to Prioritize Work is Shocking! Managers have no true view of where their team members are engaged, and therefore they assume they are free for major projects. As a result, managers didn’t understand why they have low morale or higher turnover, and team members are frustrated their managers don’t understand how to prioritize the workloads to meet customers’ demands.

We Know You Want It Now, But Is the Request Valid? Then there’s the question of whether a request is valid at all. We live in an “I want it now” society. We blink and technology is obsolete. We blink and our company has decided to go in a different direction. Now. Not tomorrow. Not when you can get to it. But now. That’s a difficult expectation to manage for IT. IT is a multiple personality. There’s the side of IT that needs to maintain its architectural integrity and protect its structure from changes that do not make sense for the environment. Then there’s the other side where customer service and fulfilling customer needs is inherent. How do you say no when clearly a request is a square peg in a round hole?

Request Definition - What Was That Middle Part? When IT team members are eventually able to get to the requests recorded outside the help desk system, they generally remember the broad scope of the request. However, there’s only so much memory can provide in terms of understanding what the requirements are. Depending on where the request came from and from whom, team members may be less inclined to go back to ask questions and instead, knock the request off their list of things to do. The end result of this approach is low customer satisfaction.

Fixing the Pain Points

How do you fix these pain points? We recommend the following:

Start At The Beginning. Establish a single point of entry into your request fulfillment process. No exceptions.

3 Es - Educate, Empower and Evangelize. At Veris Associates, we love how a good process can make a difference in a customer’s way of working. However, we also acknowledge process isn’t worth a hill of beans if you haven’t incorporated it into an IT organization’s and customer’s culture. Once you’ve established a single point of entry, educate your IT staff – including the CIOs, Directors, and Managers – about the single point of entry. IT Leadership will need to provide customers with communications on this expectation, especially if it is a new concept. As part of this awareness campaign, IT team members must be empowered to steer customers to the single point of entry.

Remove the Square Peg From The Round Hole. As part of the single point of entry, you may want to add questions to help you determine if a request is valid. For example: Is this request tied to a project cost code? Does this request tie to a business objective? Do you have funding? What is the business need? Do you have business and IT Senior Leadership approval?

Talk to Your Customers – They Won’t Bite! You want to know how to mend a customer’s broken heart? TLC – Talking. Learning. Communicating. Time and time again, we see top ten lists come out stating one of the top challenges IT faces is communication with the business. With the single point of entry, a need has been identified by your customers. This is your opportunity to start the conversation and gather information on what the customer wants and needs. If what they need doesn’t align with what was requested, you as the IT expert have the knowledge to provide them with alternative solutions. In the end, your customers appreciate it. You and your team will have a clearer understanding of what’s needed to fulfill their requests.

Make sure you grab a copy of our latest whitepaper: Games We Play - Utility Services with Veris. Simply register and the whitepaper will be sent to you.

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

04 June 2008

ITIL & ISO/IEC 20000

Ron Przywara

Ron Przywara
ITIL Certified Consultant
IT Service Management
Veris Associates, Inc.

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I recently received certification for ISO/IEC 20000 at the Foundations (introductory) level and the Professional level for the Management and Improvement of IT Service. My experiences in Service development and implementation for clients and the fun I’ve had teaching ITIL during the past 12 years gives me a great view of the benefits of both.

For example:
The common focus of “Change Management” in ISO 20K & ITIL. Both drive the focus on formal authorization of change based on an understanding of risk and resource scheduling. ISO 20K takes Change to another level. There are requirements for communications plans for the various audiences (which must be identified). Specific requirements for reporting the performance of the Change process. In ITIL, there are guidelines for these, yes, but ISO 20K “requires” these communications and proof they take place consistently.

ITIL & the ISO 20K designation can initially appear very similar – the IT Service Management focus, the core processes (Incident, Change, Problem, etc.), having roles and responsibilities laid out.

The first difference is ISO 20K requires your organization to clearly demonstrate not only a process exists, but it is being followed. That means evidence. The second difference is ISO 20000 includes governance and management requirements. The ITIL framework alludes to the need for the accountability and quality control components of governance and service management, particularly in the updated “ITIL v3” lifecycle approach.

Quick view: Start using the ITIL framework to create and implement how your IT organization develops and delivers IT Services. Once your teams are driving repeatable, measureable processes to provide services, look the ISO/IEC 20000 specification to fine-tune the quality and efficiencies of IT Service Management. It’s not a “one or the other” choice.

More to come…

Copyright (c) Veris Associates, Inc. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. Comments contents are the opinions of the person posting the comment (commenter) and not necessarily those or endorsed by Veris Associates, Inc. Veris Associates, Inc. reserves the right to remove any and all comments it wishes without any recourse of the commenter. Decision of Veris Associates, Inc. is final.

05 March 2008

Utility Services: The Funnel For Driving IT Request Fulfillment Efficiencies and Savings To The Bottom Line

David A. Zimmer

David A. Zimmer
Practice Manager
Corporate Learning & Training
Veris Associates, Inc.

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You know the drill. Someone from the business side makes a demand for new technology. Users have needs unmet because their applications stop working. Servers need to be updated, upgraded, maintained and babysat. The critical business application everyone takes for granted decided to take a vacation during the end of quarter sales blitz. And the auditors are breathing down your neck asking you to prove the value of your existence. Meanwhile, your number one lead technician is sunning himself on the beach somewhere without cell phone coverage.

Your Average Day

Just a normal day in the life of the IT manager and CIO. But, we can handle it – we’ve got enough fire-fighting equipment in place and hours in the day to keep everything down to a low roar. Then, the CFO calls your network administrator directly to ask for an upgrade to the fiber switches and more secure firewalls. “Not a problem,” comes the reply. The VP of Sales is pushing for a record-breaking year and needs more terabytes on the sales processing system. He hall-tackles the lead database administrator to discuss the possibility of adding space by the end of the week.

In the day-to-day operations of the IT infrastructure, we must meet the demands of the business as quickly as possible and maintain stability to the environment. While at one point we might have developed some system to handle requests in an orderly manner, the heat of the moment seems to win out and we bypass our own methods because of emergencies. As a result, we settle into a routine of emergencies, headaches and many activities. In fact, dare I say, we feel comfortable in this mode. We equate busy-ness with productivity, esteem and accomplishment.

At the end of the day, we can look back and actually glory in the number of BlackBerry messages we smacked, meetings attended, phone calls fielded, and “things” crossed off the to-do list. As we lay our heads on the pillow at night after the fifteen hour day exhausted, we feel good because of all the forward progress, even if chaotic, we made.

The major problem with this mode of production is many customers don’t get served. Business units needing IT infrastructure updates done sooner decide to go on their own and create it themselves. Of course, once in place, the IT department must maintain it adding to their already overflowing plates. While the business got served through this method, the company suffers through duplication of effort, loss of purchasing power, disparate systems supporting similar functions, non-traceable changes to strategic systems and an unstable environment. In short, a train speeding down the track out of control and no Superman around to keep it from crashing.

Fulfilling the needs of the business is what the IT department does – that is their purpose. Support the business so the business can meet the needs and demands of its customers. If IT systems fail, the business fails its customers. Therefore, IT Request Fulfillments is a vitally important part to the business. Making it efficient and effective benefits all: the IT department, the business and the business customers.

What is Utility Services?

Utility Services takes IT fulfillment request and pushes them through a defined methodology that funnels requests through a “gatekeeper” without introducing a bottleneck to the speed of business. It puts sanity into the chaos, providing economy of scale through purchasing power, efficiencies in operations, and effectiveness in implementation. It preserves the holistic view of the overall system so changes can be tracked, monitored and maintained. Overall, the IT department gains through planned organization of changes, the business benefits through greater functionality and IT responsiveness plus stability of the IT environment and the business’ customers acquire a more secure sense of comfort from their supplier.

Utility Services is an independent workflow management system providing a single interface for IT requests – updates, upgrades, new functionality and the like. It leverages the good industry practices such as ITIL and reuses existing infrastructure for new applications, combines similar requests into a single work stream leveraging purchasing power for greater cost savings. Most importantly, it frees the IT department from the chaotic request processes of today so that they can be more responsive to the business requests, which seems almost counter-intuitive.

I hear you moan, “Oh great, more processes, more paperwork, more red-tape, more structure equals more pain to get anything done.” After years of helping companies develop and institute processes, we have learned at least one thing: Those companies that develop systematized methods, enforce their use and improve them rather than ignore them, progress further, sell more and increase profits and savings than those that do not. Some see increases in ranges of 20%, 50% and greater. Industry studies back up these claims.

Companies have greater insight into current and project capital spending, human resource allocations and requirements and more efficient day-to-day operations and successful projects.

A Governance Model To Meet Customer Needs

Utility Services is a governance model of ensuring all solutions implemented within an IT organization meet the traditional criteria of customer sign-off requirements, solution design and testing, and release into the environment. It establishes and enforces necessary customer communication checkpoints via a series of documentable and repeatable processes and procedures. It ensures IT goals align with business needs and initiatives through a consolidated resource management interface to manage work-loads and enable resource forecasting. And finally, it streamlines standard requests by automating approvals, traceable milestones, requester communication and hand-offs as appropriate.

Why Utility Services?

The big question still remains. Why implement Utility Services? You already seem to be getting the job done. Sure, your people are overworked and under-appreciated, but they still show up for work each day, don’t they? Why rock the boat, change the way of doing things and suffer through the cultural shock of more efficient operations?

For those companies where we helped them implement Utility Services, here is what they report:

  • Utility Services enables organizations both small and large to best utilize their money and people.
  • Utility Services reinforces ITIL good practices by building the underlying philosophy into the systems that IT departments live by.

  • Utility Services can be implemented in a relatively short period of time, enabling “quick wins” for management and IT workforce stakeholders.
  • Utility Services continues to evolve with your IT department so it becomes more transparent and easier to adapt to business initiatives.

  • Utility Services takes the mystery out of implementation status.
  • Utility Services helps align the infrastructure with business goals, and escalates issues before they become problems.
  • Utility Services enables purchasing departments to more accurately forecast spending schedules and empowers them to negotiate better pricing and support from vendors, be it hardware or services.
  • Utility Services allows more effective time management and prioritization of your IT department’s time and money.


Fulfilling business requests takes up much of IT’s daily time. Inefficient methodologies erode the very infrastructure and people required to keep the business going. Untraceable changes and updates introduce instability into an already overly complex and vital system to the business. Personal agendas and priorities drive the changes without considering the benefit or detriment to the business. IT staff, desiring to do a good job and meet the needs, work at full speed but seem to fall short at the end of the day.

Utility Services takes the inefficiencies, the uncertainties, the liabilities and the insecurities out of IT Request Fulfillment. By funneling requests through an automated and organized process, duplication of effort is eliminated, overspending on materials is slashed, workloads can be adjusted to align with business needs, personal agendas can be removed and priorities are established to truly meet the business’ highest priorities for the greatest gain.

We have seen companies transformed saving millions of dollar annually on purchases alone. IT efficiency increased dramatically and the stability of the infrastructure reached desired service levels without significantly increasing costs. The implementation and definition of Utility Services takes a chaotic methodology, structures it and drives it for the maximum utility to the business.

You are invited to obtain our free whitepaper, “The Games We Play: Conquering The Challenge of IT Fulfillment” by fellow consultant Cheryl Winters. Simply Click Here to get a copy.