By Michelle Major-Goldsmith
This is the final instalment of my three part article. Much of what can be achieved will depend on the maturity and culture of your organisation. With any change one should always take a ‘softly softly’ approach and ensure all stakeholders are engaged. The most important part of any successful change is how you plan and prepare the environment and people. You can have fantastic ideas but if you don’t adopt an approach suitable for your target environment your efforts will almost certainly be in vain.
IT Service Continuity – Plan B!
It’s always a good idea to find you a trusted and friendly customer. Again, a trip to the coffee shop is in order here. Ask them if they are aware of any priority that would be enforced in the recovery of services in the event of a disaster such as the total loss of the network in their building or part of the building.
If their services are not of the highest priority, do they agree with the organisations definitions of priority? Are there any business continuity plans which will bridge the gap until their services are restored? These may just be manual processes.
Many businesses accept an IT disaster recovery plan without making their own contingency plans. They may have assumed that they can continue business without key IT services. Perhaps they only consider total building loss (of the data centre) as a disaster, everything else being treated as an Incident. If this is the case, the customer organisation may suffer more impact to their business, in the event of a serious service loss, than is necessary. They are also more likely to sit back and blame the IT organisation for the impact despite being in a position to mitigate the effects better if they had planned for it.
Service Transition and early life support — No more throwing things over the fence
Early life support is support provided for a period of time after a new or changed IT Service is transitioned. In this period the service desk staff is usually expanded with personnel from Service Transition, who have experience with testing and running the service from the transition activity. If they have the autonomy and support from the leadership team it is a good idea for operations managers to ensure that nothing passes over into true ‘Service Operations ‘until such time as all the checks and balances have been done and there is agreement that the service is fit for use and it can be operated and supported in line with your customers’ expectations and more importantly in line with the service levels that have been agreed. Prior to the introduction of the transition planning and support process within ITIL I used to use something I lovingly called SHOP (Support Handover Process). This was a simple list of all the things IT operations needed to support the service, the information on fixes, contacts, statistics qualifying service levels being met and simply anything else that was needed to ensure the service could be supported.
Financial management — how much does IT cost?
All organizations will do some level of financial management. The ABC of finance is well understood, so the accounting and budgeting will be done by the financial controllers. Those organizations that don’t formally charge for their services often do not understand the real cost of IT per user. Notional charging is worthwhile in terms of being able to understand service value. Even if you don’t produce a bill for your customer you should be able to talk confidently about how much it costs to deliver.
Calculate the proportion of the IT budget contributed by each business or department and produce a cost-per-employee for each department’s IT. If the IT budget is not contributed to by individual departments or businesses, use the overall figure of IT budget divided by employees.
You can use the figure, divided by the number of hours in a year, to estimate the cost per user of losing access to IT services which may assist in incident prioritization and in decisions on upgrading or replacing hardware and software.
Organizations which cannot place a notional value on the cost of providing service often under-invest because they cannot see the value.
If you are going to embark upon any service improvement activity I would suggest that you use a model such as the CSI approach in the ITIL Continual Service Improvement book. This simple yet effective tool allows you to fully consider both your objectives and those of your customer, devise a plan, create a baseline and then take a staged and measured approach to any changes you make. It also allows you to measure your success. So often with improvement, we feel we’ve made something better but because we have failed to create a baseline of the service or process prior to our efforts we have nothing to compare our achievements to.
Prioritisation of Improvement Activities
You will also need to prioritise your activities. If you embark on a few pieces of improvement work this will be necessary for two reasons.
Availability of Resources
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to initiate improvements in all areas concurrently. You’re going to have to decide what will give you the most benefits for your efforts.
Some desired improvements might not be practical because of a need for an increased maturity level in related activities/processes.
So often I’m told ‘We don’t have time to implement service improvement activities’. Too often the improvements are originated when services fail rather than being a proactive effort. This is an excuse every IT organisation uses. It isn’t a question of time it is a question of priority.
“We don’t have time to START the ITIL project!” ………….then don’t. Embed it in the team meetings; embed it in what you already do. Evaluate and improve the projects, the changes, the incidents, the processes. Every organisation must ensure they embed a service culture into everything they do. It’s about living and breathing it rather than forcing a commitment to change as a result of failure. If you following service management principles, you adopt and adapt the ITIL framework; you follow a service lifecycle approach. We’ve moved from cradle to grave service delivery to cradle to cradle. Improvement is ongoing, it is integral to service delivery not an addition to it.