Tag Archives: ITSM

Outcomes vs Outputs: The Real Proof of IT’s Value

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The typical workday looks much different today than it did just a few months ago. Instead of driving to work and walking into the building, employees are going online and signing in to their messaging or collaboration tools.

Instead of physically taking a document to a client for a signature, they’re being sent digitally for electronic signatures.

Instead of popping into an office, managers are checking in with employees via texts, instant messages, and video calls.

As many businesses continue to work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that technology is keeping the business together. Because of this, IT has to move into a more strategic role. For years, experts have been advising IT leaders to take their seat at the strategy table and be involved in the larger business decisions. Many IT leaders have jumped at this opportunity while others have struggled to figure out how to demonstrate IT’s ability to be more than a support function.

This shift of IT from a support function into a strategic partner can start with a simple shift. The shift from focusing on outputs to outcomes can make a world of difference for IT organizations.

Outcomes vs. Outputs

Let’s begin by addressing the difference between outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are the actions or activities that an IT organization completes. They are quantitative and easily measured.

Outputs could include:

  • Moving files and documents into the cloud
  • Closing tickets in record times
  • Installing new technology

Many IT organizations measure outputs as a way to illustrate their productivity and value. The thinking is that the more outputs they complete, the more the rest of the business will see IT as being valuable.

While outputs are important, outputs only tell part of the story. The real measure of value is the outcomes that are enabled by those outputs. Outcomes are the results that the business wants or needs to achieve.

Outcomes are business objectives such as:

  • Increased market share
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores
  • Increased profits

For example, the outcome of moving computing capability to the cloud is a more mobile and flexible work environment. The output enables the outcome. For every output IT is completing, the CIO must know and communicate what the business is now able to do as a result, or outcome, of that output.

That means before listing an output on a project list, IT managers must ask: “What outcome is this going to enable?

By doing this, you can cut down on the amount of busywork or projects that are not contributing to the bottom line. It will also show what outputs are ineffective. In some cases, IT delivers an output that doesn’t enable or deliver any real business outcomes. If this is the case, you’ll need to review the output and determine if it is truly needed.

This shift may also show that some of your metrics and KPIs are ineffective ways of measuring IT’s performance. For example, if your team has a high first-contact resolution rate but employees are still reporting poor service, then the first-contact resolution rate isn’t a good indicator of your performance.

How to Make This Shift

What do IT leaders need to do this to make this shift in their organizations?

Build Business Relationships
IT leaders need to understand the outcomes the business wants to achieve. They should seek out key stakeholders and have regular conversations about their technology needs and their goals and objectives. This will allow IT leaders to begin to see the end-to-end value of their outputs and initiatives.

Define and Map Services
Once you know the desired outcomes, you can map IT services to them. Map how the outcomes of your services connect to business objectives.

Measure Outcomes
It’s not enough to simply list off the number of outputs your team completes each month. Engage your stakeholders to identify outcomes and how an output contributes to an outcome.

The Future of IT

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that IT has no choice but to evolve now. The way we work will be changed forever. Even when businesses return to the office, there will be different expectations around flexibility and how technology enables flexible mobile workforces. The business will want to be prepared for the future, should anything like this happen again and they’ll be looking at IT to help plan and prepare for those possibilities.

CIOs and IT leaders must approach their goals and initiatives differently if they want to rightfully play a leadership role in their organizations. Connecting IT outputs to business outcomes enables IT leaders to help shape the future of their organizations.

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ITSM is More Than Just Numbers on a Spreadsheet

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This article was inspired by Mel Kerner, whose insightful comments on a recent LinkedIn post of mine started my wheels turning about the heart of service delivery.

Measuring and demonstrating the business value of IT is one of the biggest struggles for CIOs and IT leaders. There are thousands of articles, webinars, and commentary on how to demonstrate the business value of IT (I’ve even written quite a few of those articles!).

There are endless equations of metrics, KPIs, budgets, and technology that one can put together to demonstrate the value of ITSM. CIOs are hyper-focused on that bottom line. What does the IT line on the spreadsheet say about you and your organization?

That’s always the question, isn’t it? I’m not here to argue that CIOs don’t have to prove the financial sense behind their decisions on investments and projects, but I am going to pose another question:

What is at the heart of your service delivery?

I can see some of you rolling your eyes at this vague question that can’t be answered with metrics or financial projections. But I think we need to ask it because there is a goal of ITSM that can’t be measured with specific metrics or financial projections.

People, processes, technology… every IT leader has strategized over these 3 words. They are the 3 parts of every ITSM initiative.

We can measure how much technology is costing or saving the business. We can create baselines from which to measure the improvement of the effectiveness of our processes.

We can’t effectively measure the importance of people. We can capture metrics like call volumes and incident response times, but that doesn’t measure the service being provided. It doesn’t accurately demonstrate the importance of that service to the end-user – or to the organization.

This is important because sometimes everything adds up on paper, but IT is still struggling. Sometimes all of the financial plans make sense and the team is hitting its goals for all of its metrics, but users are still unhappy and service is still poor.

This is a very real disconnect occurring in organizations today. According to PWC, 90% of C-suite executives say their technology choices deliver what employees need. But 50% of employees disagree.

Is IT really delivering services if half of the organization don’t believe they have the technology for what they need? Even when the numbers on the spreadsheet are adding up, if the people in the organization are not satisfied and able to do their jobs, IT is not doing its job.

Impeccable service delivery starts with understanding how much that service delivery means to the most important part of service management: the people.

Do service desk agents understand the true value of solving a user’s technology problem? Do they fully grasp the frustration that arises when a piece of technology is getting in the way of someone doing their job?

Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between employee experience and company performance. It’s no wonder why employee experience has become one of the hottest topics in business today. For IT leaders, this is an opportunity. They can use this focus on employee experience to remind their teams what is at the heart of service delivery.

Consider author Simon Sinek’s famous quote: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Does your IT team understand the “why” behind their metrics?

For example, why is response time important?

Is it important because it’s a box to check off? Or is it important because a service desk agent providing a timely response is able to return a user to their job faster so that they can complete their own work faster. And completing their work faster may mean they are responding to a client faster, closing a sales deal faster, or they’re able to start another project. A timely response time helps a user be better, faster, and more efficient at their job.

Or why is recurring incidents an important metric?

Is it important because it’s annoying for the service desk agent to have to solve recurring incidents? Or is it important because recurring incidents damage the reputation of the IT organization and are a frustration for the user? It can cause their mood and productivity to plummet which can then impact their interactions with customers and colleagues. It can even impact their interactions outside of the office. If you’ve had a frustrating day at work, you may end up bringing that home. The service desk can impact that!

IT leaders must talk with end-users about their experiences with IT. They should investigate the pain points users experience when their service calls are poor and the satisfaction they feel when their work is uninterrupted and technology actually makes their jobs easier.

There needs to be a bigger “why” for IT beyond just collecting metrics and impacting bottom lines. There needs to be a heart to your service delivery and it may be as simple as this: Better service delivery improves the day to day lives of your end-users.

Why does all this even matter if you can’t measure it?

The work IT does is often misunderstood and unappreciated. Most service desk agents won’t be thanked by end-users. Feeling unappreciated and inefficient will lead to burned-out agents who deliver subpar service and that can create a ripple effect. Service management is directly related to employee experience, which is directly related to company performance.

The IT leader must constantly remind the IT team why good service delivery matters. IT leaders need to take the steps to dig into the true “can’t-be-measured” heart of service delivery and communicate that to their teams. Ask the hard questions, dig into how users use services and technology to enable business outcomes, and start capturing and pointing out those immeasurable wins, just as often as you count the measurable wins.

At the end of the day, the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet will still matter. But the real story of IT goes far beyond the numbers on the spreadsheet. The real story is the one that’s told and heard throughout the floors away from the C-suite. It’s the story that really matters- the story of the employee’s experience.

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Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

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Higher education is facing many obstacles. The entire industry has shifted over the last few years and many higher education institutions are having to adjust how they operate to meet those changes. This article will explore how employee experience and good service management can help higher education institutions overcome those obstacles.

The Changes in Higher Education

One of the biggest changes in higher education is the shifting student demographic. Just a few years ago, student populations were made up of 18-22-year-olds, who lived on campus, went to school full-time, and were working toward a 4-year degree. Today, many students are adult learners, part-time students or taking classes completely online. Many individuals are questioning whether a traditional higher education degree is worth the financial burden and are opting out of traditional higher education altogether.

Additionally, students on campus are dealing with different struggles than past students. Many students are forced to balance multiple jobs while in school to make ends meet. This has resulted in students struggling with increased financial pressure and higher education has become plagued with mental health problems.

And on top of all of those changes, higher education is struggling with decreased funding, increased competition, and budget cuts. Higher education institutions must find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage current, prospective, and past students. The best, easiest and smartest way to do that is by engaging their employees.

The Need for Engaged Employees

Perhaps most worrisome among higher education institutions is that they are struggling with employee engagement. Simply stated – many higher education faculty and staff members are not engaged. Gallup performed a detailed study on employee engagement across several industries. After performing 258 million interviews including 75,000 with faculty and staff members, Gallup found that just 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work. This engagement score is lower than most of the industries that Gallup measures.

Unengaged employees could be costing institutions at the bottom line. The faculty are often the institution’s frontline for their students. An engaged faculty can provide students with tools they need to overcome the obstacles they’re facing, which will not only help students stay at the institution, but can help create a dedicated and successful alumni network.

Also, engaged employees are more likely to stay at the institution. Studies have shown that focusing on employee engagement can result in better retention rates and cost savings over time. In fact, according to the American Council on Education, Iowa State University estimates an average savings of more than $83,000 per faculty member retained when engagement practices are applied. Employee turnover can be costly – so imagine how much that adds up over time when good faculty members are retained!

The Institution’s Role in Employee Experience

The question is what can the institution do to support employee experience? Mike Bollinger, global AVP of thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand notes, “Faculty and staff members help create the student experience, and it’s up to the institution to provide their employees with the learning curriculum, professional development opportunities and recognition they deserve to help both higher education employees and their students succeed.”

Higher education institutions can leverage technology and services to create a better employee experience that includes professional development, learning opportunities, and better operational management.

Digital is an obvious choice for most of these experiences. Higher institutions are already successfully implementing digital-first experiences like digital workflows, online onboarding, training programs, and online learning management systems.

But future-proofing higher education with employee experience requires more than creating digital-first experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee an exceptional employee experience. Good service management is necessary. The service management I’m referring to is not just IT service management. I’m referring to the holistic approach of delivering value through the use of services, based on the use of technology. Some refer to this as Enterprise Service Management. Whether you call it Enterprise Service Management, service management, or IT service management, one thing needs to remain the same: you must focus on how organizations can co-create value and then deliver that value using technology.

What can higher education leaders do to create exceptional employee experiences?

Institutions must acknowledge the silos that exist among their faculty and staff before they can begin to consider the technological needs. Silos are culturally embedded in higher education institutions. There are silos between faculty and staff. There are silos among adjuncts, full-time professors and tenured professors, as well as, silos among departments. Working to create open lines of communication and to empower the entire institution to collaborate to run higher education as a business. It’s important that both faculty and staff adapt their thinking and actions in terms of value and outcomes instead of activities and things.

This is where IT can take the lead within an institution. Higher education CIOs can work with the rest of the institution to understand the overall goals and determine how technology can help the institution meet those goals.

There are two steps a CIO can take to begin this process.

Identify, map, and manage value streams
When a CIO maps value streams across the institution and identifies where technology is used to support those value streams, they can begin to identify and eliminate redundant spending and waste. They can also begin to find process improvements that can support better employee experience.

Establish an experience center
An experience center is a little like an expanded IT service desk. It is a single point of contact for reporting and managing service issues. Successful experience centers have well-defined processes supporting defined value streams. The experience center can benefit both the student and the faculty and staff as it supports the entire engagement lifecycle of both the students and the faculty. It reduces any frustrations or problems using technology so they can be quickly solved.

Higher education is evolving and the evolution isn’t going to slow down any time soon. While there are many questions about the future of higher education, one thing that remains certain is that the time is now to engage employees and strengthen the brand, operations and bottom line of an institution. This approach of addressing and improving the employee experience of faculty and staff on the front line can create a ripple effect that will leave the end-users, the students, feeling satisfied, cared for and supported by their institutions.

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What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

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Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

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Doug Tedder is a panelist on BrightTalk’s “ITSM in 2020: Experts’ Predictions” webinar

December 3, 2019:  Doug Tedder, principal consultant of Tedder Consulting LLC, will appear as a panelist on the December 12 BrightTalk webinar “ITSM in 2020:  Experts’ Predictions”.

Doug joins Claire Agutter,  Director of Scopism and ITSM Zone, and Roy Atkinson,  Senior Writer/Analyst for ICMI and HDI of InformaTech on the panel to discuss what 2020 will mean to ITSM.

The webcast airs at 11:00am ET on December 12. 2019.  To register for the webcast, visit https://tinyurl.com/v64ahf3 .

What CIOs Can Learn From CMOs

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The CIO-CMO relationship has had a rocky history. The two are often at odds with what they need to accomplish and historically, they’ve never spoken the same language.

But there has been a shift in recent years. As marketing became more digitized, more marketing departments became focused on technology and data while IT departments face increasing pressure to deliver tangible business outcomes.

As digital transformation becomes more widespread across organizations, CIOs and CMOs must play on the same team. CIOs and CMOs are perfectly positioned to become a couple of all-star players within organizations – if they learn to work together.

How can CIOs and CMOs successfully work together to lead their organizations into the digital future? It starts with mutual respect, appreciation, and understanding of what each can learn from the other.

What can CIOs learn from CMOs? Here are four important lessons.

 

Customer Experience

Marketers must know their customers. They are deep in customer data, on top of consumer feedback and they keep a pulse on what the consumer expects from the industry. In short, CMOs are experts in the customers and IT can learn from that.

Customers are looking for more personalized support and solutions and self-service options. Technology can give customers all of those things but only if that technology has the right data. Marketing has the data that IT needs to create technology that will improve the overall experience.

Analytics and Testing

There are no silver bullets in marketing – just like there are no silver bullets in IT. So CMOs and their teams must hypothesize, measure, test, iterate and measure some more. CMOs know they have to have fluidity in their testing and launch phases. They also must adjust their analytics depending on a specific marketing campaign and its goals.

IT teams often get stuck in strict processes that leave no room for experimentation or testing. This usually leads to reduced productivity and IT teams end up feeling stuck performing processes that are inefficient. CIOs can take note as to how CMOs choose their KPIs, identify analytics, and use data to quickly adjust marketing campaigns – and apply these learnings c to IT initiatives.

Agility

IT has had a reputation for being slow to respond or quickly deliver new solutions. Marketing can’t afford to be slow or unresponsive to changes in the marketspace, especially in the digital age where things can (and do) change at lightning speeds. IT needs to take note because, in this age, both IT and marketing are expected to be able to react quickly to meet changing business expectations. Success is always a moving target and both teams must be agile and forward-thinking to keep pace with changing demands.

CIOs can learn how their CMO counterparts adapt to quickly changing markets and expectations. Understanding how CMOs prioritize projects, allocate budgets and resources, and lead their teams to hit their goals, even when the strategy or tactics change, can provide CIOs with great learnings in what it means to be agile.

The Language of the Business

This might be one of the most important lessons a CMO can teach a CIO. CMOs have always been measured by ROI. So CMOs have always had to learn to show how all of their initiatives can increase ROI.

IT, on the other hand, rarely had to demonstrate ROI in the past. They were back-office support teams. But that’s changed now and IT must shift from cost center to revenue generator. To do this, they must learn to speak the language of the business and prove ROI.

CIOs should pay attention to how their CMO colleagues pitch their initiatives, explain their results, and the metrics they use to measure success.

The Future of CIOs and CMOs

The CIO-CMO relationship can be mutually beneficial. When CIOs and CMOs work together, they can champion each other’s initiatives, encourage their teams to collaborate with one another, and create inter-departmental workflows and processes so they work more efficiently and with better results.

If you want to develop the CIO-CMO relationship, these tactics can help.

Find a common language
It’s essential that CMOs and CIOs understand how to communicate with one another. That means having open and on-going conversations about objectives and business needs. Both the CIO and CMO need to discuss jargon or what certain phrases mean within each department. If you are able to communicate openly and understand where each other is coming from, you’ll be prepared to take the next steps.

Align CIO and CMO outcomes
After you learn to speak the same language, ensure you stay in-sync on achieving shared goals. Hold joint meetings on a regular basis to ensure strategies are aligned, and share data and findings regarding the critical interfaces between technology and customer experiences.

Facilitate team collaboration
CIOs and CMOs may make the big decisions but it’s their respective team members that do the work. Therefore, the IT and marketing teams must learn to work together as well. As leaders, CIOs and CMOs must create opportunities for collaboration between the two departments such as holding regular co-department meetings, creating joint projects or inter-department workflows, or hosting joint brainstorming sessions.

The digital revolution is changing the way the business does business and it’s impacting every department – not just IT. But in many companies, it’s the marketing departments that are pioneering the use of emerging technologies to lead a company’s digital efforts. For CIOs and CMOs to be the all-star players the company needs, they need to work together and learn from one another.

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Does Your Service Desk Need a Tune Up?

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It happens to every CIO eventually. There’s a low grumbling across the organization. It gets mentioned at a few meetings. Other members of the organization take note of it. Then all of a sudden, the word on the street is…..

“The service desk isn’t performing.” (Okay, perhaps that is the family-friendly version…but you know what they’re saying.)

Whether it’s a lack of customer service, it’s taking too long to resolve issues, or there are slow response times, almost every CIO has heard complaints about the service desk.

Of course, no department in any organization runs flawlessly 100% of the time. And technology issues can be one of the most frustrating experiences for professionals (especially when they are not technologically-savvy people). So how can a CIO tell when there’s actually something wrong with the IT department?

In short, how can you tell that your service desk needs a tune-up? CIOs must have a plan to tackle service desk issues and they need to know the right way to do it.

service desk need a tune up

Collect the Right Metrics

No matter how annoying complaints can be, complaints alone may not be enough to initiate a service desk tune-up. CIOs need to obtain the data on their service desks.

The most popular metrics for measuring service desk basics are:

  • Speed to answer
  • Number of contacts logged
  • Average call abandon rate
  • First-contact resolution rate

However, there are many different metrics you can use (and that your service desk tool might track!) but don’t get bogged down in measuring every possible metric. Identify the right ones for your organization and gather the data to determine where the service desk may be struggling from an execution, whether that is a drop-in service levels, decreased user satisfaction, or long resolution times.

It’s also smart to survey end users. This will help identify specific issues that might be plaguing your service desk. These surveys don’t have to be lengthy or complicated. You can simply ask if the user is happy yes or no. If the answer is no, then you can ask the user to elaborate (in their words – an open text box works well for this) or you can follow up afterward.

Of course, metrics only tell you part of the story. Once you have those metrics, you have to dig into each one to understand what’s not working and see the full story of your service desk.

  • Is customer service lacking?
  • Are your processes and procedures out of date or not implemented?
  • Do you have insufficient staff to handle the volume of work?
  • Is there a lack of qualified staff?
  • Is there a lack of collaboration?
  • Is there a separation of roles and responsibilities for different service channels?
  • Are there proper escalation procedures?
  • Are there adequate contact handling procedures?
  • Is end-user support available when and how the end-user wants it?
  • What is the user experience when interacting with the service desk?

Your metrics should give you insight into where the gaps are in your service desk. If they don’t, then it’s time to reevaluate what metrics should be tracked.

Define goals

Once data has been gathered and it’s clear where the service desk currently stands, new goals can be set and communicated to the team. Be inclusive as these new goals are defined – include members of the service desk team as well as people from the user community to help define goals. Collaboratively set KPIs for each goal, establish timelines, milestones, and ideas for how each goal can be met.

Create a Service Catalog

If you don’t have a service catalog, now is the time to create one. Service catalogs can help organize resources, manage expectations, and identify inefficiencies. They also provide transparency between the IT organization and the rest of the business so that colleagues are better informed and equipped to take advantage of IT services.

It’s also important that someone owns the service catalog. Service catalogs are living documents. They are ever-evolving as new technology is purchased, new processes created, systems change, and business needs evolve. If you have an existing service catalog that is out-of-date, then take the time to review and update it.

Provide the Right Training

Often, the service desk technicians don’t know what they don’t know. They’re busy putting out fires or managing an issue until a more senior or skilled technician tech can jump in and resolve the issue. But how much time is this costing your organization? How much more could the organization accomplish if the senior staff was not having to assist as often they do?

Properly trained and enabled technicians to solve more issues without having to escalate up the chain. This results in faster resolution times and happier end users. According to MetricNet, companies that allocate more time to initial and ongoing training have higher first-contact resolution rates. Additionally, advanced or senior technicians can stay focused on larger initiatives.

Technicians can make or break a service desk. Invest in them by offering training courses and certifications.

Invest in Technology or Tools

Finally (and I do mean finally), after you’ve reviewed data, set goals, created or updated your service catalog and trained your team, you may want to consider upgrading your tools or technology. There is no shortage of fantastic service desk software out there and many of those tools can improve your service desk but only after you’ve diagnosed the problem and made adjustments to your team and your services.

Maintaining a service desk is not a one and done type of initiative. It requires consistent monitoring and improvements. While it’s not easy, giving your service desk a tune up is a worthy undertaking!

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Doug Tedder to be a host for SDI’s Shine19

October 14, 2019:  Doug Tedder, principal consultant of Tedder Consulting, will be one of the hosts for Shine19, the free virtual ITSM conference presented by the Service Desk Institute on October 30.

Shine19 will feature 18 hours of engaging speakers discussing a variety of service management topics ranging from major incident management, artificial intelligence, Cynefin, service management strategy, and more.  There is no cost for participating in Shine19; however, registration is required.

Tedder is scheduled to host sessions from 10:45am to 12:45pm ET on October 30.

The Curious Case of the Wasted IT Investment

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There’s no doubt that if you want to be an efficient IT organization, you need efficient tools. Some might say that you need the best tools.

But when happens when those tool investments fail? And perhaps, more importantly, how do you prevent poor investments from ever happening again?

Here’s a story that might sound familiar to you of a (fictional) company who made an investment in a tool and then failed to see any return for it – and what they did to improve.

The Curious Case of the Wasted IT Investment

Dwight is a CIO for a mid-sized organization. He recently convinced his boss, the CEO, Lynn, that they needed to make a significant investment in a service management tool.

Lynn, recognizing that technology was more important than ever and there were increasingly more demands on the IT organization, agreed that IT needed the best tool on the market. They agreed that they needed a tool that would grow as that demand grew. They needed a tool that would help IT drive consistency and repeatability in process execution, but at the same time, facilitate innovation as new business drivers emerged. And while they had only developed and implemented a few service management practices, they anticipated that they would need the capability to support additional service management capabilities as the organization continued to digitize its operations. It wouldn’t be too long before the organization would need to leverage capabilities like automation, process orchestration, and chatbots. And frankly, their current service management tool had seen its better days – it was time to get a modern service management tool. Perhaps even a tool that could be used within other parts of the organization!

They decided to invest in the most expensive, fully featured service management tool on the market. It truly could do anything that they wanted to do…and more!

Dwight, Lynn and the entire team were delighted with their choice! The tool can do everything. It will undoubtedly solve all of their service management issues.

But a few weeks go by, then a few months… and both Dwight and Lynn are noticing that things aren’t improving. Even with the fancy new tool, Dwight can’t get all of the information he needs to present his updates to Lynn, who wants to see that improvement and consistent performance from the use of this tool. The IT organization still isn’t doing things in a repeatable way and many team members are still performing tasks manually. Processes are still disjointed and information does not flow well from process to process – and automation is nowhere close to becoming a reality for the IT organization. Dwight consistently ends up scrambling to gather data for the management reporting needed by Lynn.

Lynn is beginning to wonder why they decided to invest in modernizing the IT organization with this tool. Meanwhile, Dwight is worried that they failed in their modernization. He is seeing other departments prove their ROI and he is fearful that he blew their budget and won’t be able to convince Lynn ever again to invest in tools.

If you purchase the most capable tool, then how do things go wrong? The problem was never in the tool. The problem was before the tool and therefore, the tool can’t fix the problem. It’s like trying to build a house on quicksand. No matter what materials you use to build the house, it’s not going to stop it from sinking until you deal with the quicksand problem.

Let’s start with where Lynn and Dwight made their mistakes.
The first mistake is thinking a tool investment was the key to modernizing IT. A tool should never be your first investment. Are tools important? Absolutely! But a tool-first mentality ignores the most important part of your organization: the people using that tool.

Let’s start with the members of IT and how they need to be a part of modernization.

Lynn and Dwight should have asked themselves:

  • Do the members of IT understand why we’re investing in this tool?
  • Do they understand what role the tool will play in their everyday work?
  • Do they know how the tool will improve their work?
  • Have they been properly trained to use every part of the tool?

The mindset and buy-in from the team is important above all because these are the individuals who will be using the tool and ensuring it’s providing maximum return. When they feel they are part of the decision-making process, they will be more invested in learning and working with the tool. If everyone in the organization is invested in working with the tool, they’ll take the time to learn it and master it so that they are actually seeing all of the benefits of its many features.

The next thing Dwight should have addressed is the organization’s processes. Dwight should have ensured his processes were clearly defined, documented and adaptable. Then he should have identified how the tool will enable those processes, and communicate the processes and the tool’s role across departments and within the IT organization.

Defining (or redefining) processes will remove any ambiguity in service delivery. It ensures that there is transparency within IT. And Dwight and Lynn will have a clear idea of how the tool is working – and how well IT is able to contribute to business outcomes.
These steps seem simple, don’t they? But Dwight and Lynn skipped them because they were so certain that investing in the premium tool would instantly (and easily) fix all of their problems. Instead, they ended up in the exact same place they were before they purchased the tool – only now they’re spending a boatload of cash, and not getting the return they had hoped. A curious case of a wasted IT investment.

The lesson for every CIO, CFO, and CEO?

Don’t invest in a tool thinking it will solve the problem. If your car wasn’t working properly, you wouldn’t just purchase a new engine and think it will do the trick. You’d pop open the hood and find out exactly what’s not working then find the part that will fix it. If there’s somewhere in your organization that isn’t operating efficiently, try popping open the hood and doing the work to find the problem before you invest in a high-price, fully-featured tool.

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Good AI Will Not Fix Bad ITSM

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If you google “AI ITSM,” you’ll receive almost a million results of various articles, predictions, and guides detailing how AI will transform ITSM.

The promises in every headline are exciting:

  • You can learn how AI can “make great things happen in ITSM”
  • There is a guide to how AI can “make your service desk great”
  • There’s an article on how AI-based ITSM apps deliver friction-less employee experiences

And that’s just a few of the hundreds of thousands of results!

As an ITSM consultant with decades of experience helping organizations implement healthy and effective ITSM practices, all of these articles make me feel confident and excited about the future of this industry.

But at the same time, they also raise deep concerns in me because I see history repeating itself. I’m concerned this initial excitement about the transformative power of AI will have IT organizations rushing to fix every problem they have – this time, it will be with AI.

And that just won’t work. It’s going to cause bigger problems down the line. AI is not a silver bullet. It won’t solve all of your problems and no matter how powerful your AI technology is, it simply won’t fix “bad ITSM”.

In order for AI to deliver the maximum benefits, you may need to clean up your ITSM act first.

What is Bad ITSM?

Before we get into everything AI can do for ITSM, let’s first take a look at bad ITSM. You might be wondering if you are suffering from bad ITSM.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Services are not defined. The IT organization has a list of applications, systems, and activities, but there is no discussion of how these things interact to add or enable business value.
  • There is no documentation describing the value of what IT is doing or how that value is measured.
  • Projects are not evaluated according to desired outcomes or opportunities for involvement. Instead projects are evaluated strictly by cost or resource requirements. Instead of doing the right things, IT is trying to do everything.
  • There is no business case for ITSM or a clear understanding of the return on investment on ITSM.
  • Solutions are “frankensteined” together with data from one area, tools from another, and whatever resources can be afforded. Or perhaps even worse, there are multiple systems (which means higher costs) that essentially deliver the same solutions.

Other symptoms of bad ITSM also include siloed departments, frustrated team members, and unexplainably long delivery times.

Many organizations notice bad ITSM, but they struggle to clearly diagnose the problem. They see the problem as an isolated one. But once you take a step back, you will be able to see that every symptom of bad ITSM is actually interrelated. This means that fixing bad ITSM requires a holistic approach.

What Role Will AI Play?

It’s important to note that while AI may not transform ITSM, AI can play an important role in ITSM. There are 3 common cases where AI can benefit ITSM:

  • Amplify IT resources
    • AI will enable IT staff to have more time to innovate, strategize, and focus on larger, more complex problems
  • Eliminate silos
    • The use of AI technologies will promote standardized approaches to processes and workflows.
  • Data drives actions
    • Effective use of AI requires good data and information. AI adoption can encourage IT organizations to develop good habits in capturing the data and information needed to make AI use effective. By capturing good data and information as part of ITSM activities enables the organization to take advantage of the introduction of AI.

Consider these roles if you have “Bad ITSM.” Can AI amplify resources if services are not defined or if the business value of those services is unclear? Will it eliminate silos if solutions are consistently “Frankensteined” together without any guiding process? Can AI take effective and appropriate actions when data and information cannot be trusted?

While AI can be extraordinarily powerful, it needs the right environment to thrive. Organizations with bad ITSM practices don’t have the right environment.

How can you cure “Bad ITSM”?

ITSM is not just about one process or one tool. There needs to be a bigger picture of how ITSM fits into the organization, drives business value and provides services to end users.

You can start to cure bad ITSM by using outside-in thinking. Look at your ITSM efforts from the business perspective. Define how IT contributes to the needs of the customer. Then work inwards defining the services, designing the processes, and implementing the tools needed to meet the needs of those customers.

Then ensure your organization has the skills necessary to exploit and maintain AI are available:

Process design
Do your ITSM processes consistently deliver expected results? Have you clearly articulated processes for frequent tasks? Do you periodically review these processes to ensure they remain relevant?

Value stream mapping
A value stream illustrates a process as part of the larger ecosystem and is made up of all the people, activities, and departments necessary to create and deliver value. Value stream maps establish a holistic look at the process and prevents tunnel vision.

Knowledge and data management
AI can only learn from the data you provide. If your knowledge is not properly captured or your data is not well maintained, AI will struggle.

Once you’ve cleaned up your bad ITSM, you’ll be in a better position to exploit the benefits of AI. You’ll have a solid grasp on the challenges AI can solve and you can predict the desired outcomes it can provide. Then you can make a compelling business case for implementing AI.

Remember AI isn’t a silver bullet. It’s only going to thrive in an environment that has built the right foundation, and that foundation includes good ITSM. So if you need to clean up some bad ITSM, do that work now, so your AI investment will pay off in the future.

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