Gone baby, gone

Johannesburg, 14 Apr 2015
Read time 6min 20sec

Simply having a service helpdesk is infrastructure service management (ITSM) window-dressing and could do your organisation more harm than good. ITSM consultants are pulling their hair out trying to convince corporate SA that an effective system is not simply a box-ticking exercise, but a useful philosophy that can not only prevent great financial loss, but could lead to increased profitability. But, it's all about integrating ITSM as a philosophy and not just attaching it to the business process.

Many organisations believe a service desk alone is the panacea to improved service delivery.

Edward Carbutt, executive director, Marvel Africa

ITSM is not just a service helpdesk, says Marvel Africa's executive director Edward Carbutt. "Many organisations believe a service desk alone is the panacea to improved service delivery. Only capturing information at the service desk is not enough, and does not ensure the delivery of services," he adds. He says it's the management of the process that delivers the service and ensures the quality of that delivery.

It's all about a mix of people, processes and informational technology to meet the business' needs, says Vusumuzi Magagula, head of service management at T-Systems SA.

If you don't get ITSM right, it can cost you more money than you know. Some businesses can go bankrupt if they don't get this essential function right, he says. If you want to keep your customers, then ITSM can help you deliver a great customer experience.

Learning to adapt

Carbutt gives the example of a dairy delivering milk to a retailer. He says if there is a fault in the process that makes sure the milk leaves on time, then the dairy may miss its allocated delivery time at the retailer. This means not only is there wastage, but there's now an issue with the retailer as well as the end-user not being able to purchase the product. The knock-on effect will have dire consequences for the business. It's a simple problem that could've been avoided had ITSM been effective.

It's not just about contacting a dissatisfied customer or trying to rescue a business process that has failed, it's about ensuring the business can adapt to changing situations. "In addition to proactive management, there needs to be constant focus on managing day-to-day incidents and problems in order to minimise downtime," says Susan King, senior executive, Integrated Service Management at UCS Solutions.

No need to fight in the dark

Implementing basic service level management in ITIL

If you don't know what your customers need, you can never know whether or not you're meeting their needs. It's like fighting in the dark. You can never be right. (On the other hand, you can never be wrong - some people find this prospect attractive, but your customers won't be impressed.)

Service level management is, pretty obviously, the process that manages service levels. The process tries to set up a proper relationship with your customers and understand their business needs. Of course, first, you need to know who your customers are.

If you're the internal IT department that provides IT stuff to other people and departments within the same company, your customers are the business unit managers or department managers. If you're a commercial IT services company providing IT services to other companies in exchange for money, your customers are those other companies; usually, there is an assigned representative who talks to you.

* To implement service level management:
* Set up a dialogue with your customers;
* Find out what they want;
* Agree with them on what you can provide; and
* Monitor and report on what you've achieved.

If you haven't done this before, you'll be surprised at the difference simply starting a dialogue with the business makes. In some cases, the business will be amazed that you bothered to talk to it. If you're open and honest and state your intentions up front, your customers will be happy to talk to you.

ITIL also defines the process of business relationship management and the role of the business relationship manager. The service level manager defines, agrees and reports on the service level for specific services - the business relationship manager maintains an overall relationship with the customer, keeps in contact, and looks for new opportunities to support the customer's needs. Many organisations combine these roles into one job description. When setting up basic service level management, consider which roles are needed.

"Implementing business strategies results in changing key business processes. ITSM needs to ensure the impact of changes is well understood, properly planned and communicated in order to ensure minimal or no downtime to production systems," says King.

"Customer service is key within any business, whether it's an internal service to employees or an external one to end-user customers. It can assist organisations to streamline their internal service operations and also assist greatly with the retention of customers," says Carbutt.

Living ITSM

For ITSM to be effective, it needs to be more than a box-ticking, audit-compliance exercise, but rather a philosophy that permeates all sections of the business. If anything, says Madeleine Townsend, Foster-Melliar's IT service and governance specialist, just getting an ISO audit done adds no value to an organisation. She adds that it's just throwing money down the drain and the business would see the benefit of ITSM if it was implemented in the spirit in which it was designed, which is to assist organisations in streamlining their processes, being more effective, delivering exceptional customer service and using ITSM as a tool to differentiate themselves in the industry.

"ITSM is a partner in ensuring IT solutions and services are executed according to scalable, user-friendly, efficient and productive disciplines. It has evolved from a 'necessary' portfolio to a 'value-based' expectation," says King.

"Traditionally, businesses define their processes before implementing an ITSM solution. However, an ITSM solution can only work when processes are in place," says Carbutt, adding businesses should look to integrate an end-to-end solution, "that includes consulting, training and education to guarantee the success of such a project. Essentially, organisations should approach a service provider that not only provides a solution, but transfers skills, ensures ownership and continually develops the expertise."

A journey

Embarking on an ITSM implementation programme may seem like an arduous process for most companies, one that instils fear of wasting too much time, energy and budget. But, according to experts, the value is in the process of implementation.

"Essentially, service management is not a project with a start and end date. Rather, it's a programme of continual service improvement within the organisation. Hence, to achieve a service management culture that is ingrained in the DNA of the organisation, it's essential to adopt a process of continual learning and improvement," says Carbutt.

"The journey to certification is more important than the end goal - organisations need to remember that starting on the road to certification is the first step, and the road will lead to improved service delivery and streamlined processes within the organisation," he says.

Getting ITSM right seems to make good business rands and cents.

From pupa to butterfly

Applying the ITIL service life cycle to IT projects

Understanding how ITIL works with real-world IT projects is crucial. Here's a brief description of each activity of a typical project and its relation to the ITIL service life cycle:

* Business case and project initiation: Use a business case to justify the cost and effort involved in providing the new service or changing an existing service. The business case triggers the project initiation. These activities happen at the service strategy stage.
* Requirements gathering and analysis: Identify and analyse the detailed requirements of the service or change. These activities happen in the service design stage.
* Design: Produce a design of the service that meets the requirements. This is usually a paper-based design at this point. These activities take place in the service design stage.
* Build: The physical bit... acquire the solution, such as building the hardware, the servers and networks, or programming the software application. These activities happen in the service transition stage.
* Test: Testing the service is essential to ensure it meets the needs of the business, works in the way it is expected to, and can be supported. These activities also take place during the service transition stage.
* Implement or deploy: Launching the new or changed service into the live operational environment. This takes place during the service transition stage.
* Deliver and support: The service is now in the live or production environment and is being used by the users. The IT organisation must make sure the service is working and fix it quickly when it goes wrong. These activities take place during the service operation stage.
* Improve: After a service has been in operation for some time, it's often possible to optimise or improve the way it's delivered. These activities are part of the CSI stage.

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