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5 March 2010 | Aidan Mills Blog
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The Importance of Being Ernestine
This week Aidan looks at the benefits of choosing different methods, processes and standards for different situations...

  Aidan Mills B.Sc, MBCS, PMP

“Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone." – Oscar Wilde

Imagine if you will two IT Service Management professionals.

One, Mr Ernest Deeptrain, has been employed based on his extensive ITIL training and certifications. The other, M/s Ernestine Broad-Experience (nice double-barrelled name don’t you think?), has been employed based on her broad knowledge of the IT industry, she has some familiarity with ITIL but is also experienced in Project Management and Lean techniques, plus she has a track record of managing the delivery of high quality, customer-focussed and cost-effective IT services for previous employers.

These two senior IT professionals are each asked by their respective IT Directors to investigate and resolve lower than usual customer satisfaction scores, received over a three month period, for the services delivered by their outsourced IT Help Desk provider which incidentally is the same service provider in both cases.  The IT Help Desk is meeting its SLA’s but is not performing to the satisfaction of end users.

Mr Deeptrain reviews the customer satisfaction scores and sees that end user contact issues are high on the dissatisfaction list.  He resolves to initiate a Service Improvement Programme based around auditing the service provider’s adherence to ITIL processes and enforcing ’by the book’ adoption of ITIL processes not currently followed by the provider (e.g. Service Desk workflow based on a comprehensive Service Catalogue and implementation of full Configuration Management to ensure agents have all possible end user and IT environment information at their fingertips).

M/s Broad-Experience decides to bring in a trusted Lean Six Sigma consultant to assist in identifying root causes and determining wasteful processes, this will tease out workflow issues also it might enable the eventual solution to deliver reduced cost.  M/s Broad-Experience also realises that whilst the outsourced service provider is ITIL compliant, her employer is not yet using ITIL. She decides to examine the customer satisfaction scores in more detail and finds that actually the number one complaint is lack of specific language knowledge. No amount of ITIL compliance will resolve this particular service issue!  The second highest complaint is lack of communication regarding incident status.

M/s Broad-Experience contacts the service provider, explains the issues and obtains a guarantee that they will be resolved within two weeks by leveraging the work into a different team with the required language skills also by adjusting the end user contact process, both easy changes for them to make. The Lean Six Sigma consultant finds through use of Control Charts, Process Flow Diagramming and Structured Root Cause Analysis that certain tickets are exceeding SLA thresholds (but not breaking SLA) due to being routed by 1st Line agents to the wrong 2nd Level support teams. This is due to errors in the service provider’s ITSM toolset configuration, resulting in lack of communication to the end users since the teams receiving the tickets have no access to this client’s contact list. He also finds that there are unnecessary workflow steps involving internal staff in three categories of incident. Eliminating these will save money. 

After just three weeks, M/s Broad-Experience has enough information to solve the service issues and has also identified cost savings which can be obtained within a further four to six weeks by redeploying the internal staff onto other higher priority income-generating work. The service provider makes the team and the toolset changes within the previously agreed two week timeframe and customer satisfaction scores for the following month are back up to a high level.

Mr Deeptrain gets bogged down in his ITIL SIP due to problems with sponsorship, stakeholder buy-in and supplier unresponsiveness - he isn’t really a Project Manager either - and after two months he does not even have a SIP timeline or budget prepared.  Customer satisfaction remains poor, and understandably, Mr Deeptrain’s IT Director is not best pleased.

The key messages here, as I have mentioned in previous blogs are,

  • understand what is important for your particular organisation,
  • tailor methods and processes to your needs and situation,
  • do not ’blindly’ follow or adopt processes and standards,
  • do consider all types of management and improvement processes and methodologies when deciding ’best fit’ for your organisation overall, also best fit for individual improvement efforts. Include the following in your’shopping list’: Project Management Methods, ITIL and Lean Six Sigma. If you require higher levels of governance and compliance then look also at standards such as COBIT, BS15000 and ISO20000/20001.

I look forward to hearing your views on the above, in particular how you have used or adopted different methods, processes and standards in your organisation and the benefits of your chosen combination of these for different situations.

Note: any similarity of characters portrayed in this blog to real people is purely coincidental and should not be taken as fact.

Keep at IT! 

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!!


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