Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Inverse Anna Karenina Rule

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 
 Leo TolstoyAnna Karenina

Anyone who has been in IT for a while starts to hear the same themes repeated:

  • "Why did they make a change to X when $BIG_IMPORTANT_THING is going on?"
  • "I called this in last month and it's still not fixed and I haven't heard a thing"
  • "Why are we spending on X when Y is is such lousy shape?"
This experience along with seeing the Tolstoy quote above led me to coin The Inverse Anna Karenina rule:

All unhappy IT shops are alike, each happy IT shop is happy in its own way.

IT shops with low maturity in ITSM are fundamentally the same. They don't manage their processes, require heroes to save the day, and are always in reactive mode. People are busy, but IT is an order taker and nothing more.

As IT shops mature, they begin to align with their business. They take good practices, get good at the fundamentals, and then truly make them their own. They develop effective relationships both within IT and with their customers. IT becomes a strategic enabler and truly becomes part of the business. And since all businesses are different, the happy IT shop also becomes unique.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reactive, Proactive, or Innovative?

When I used to work on help desks, people told me that we needed to be proactive instead of reactive. The image that popped into my head was Minority Report. I pictured something like this:

Roger (on phone): Hi, this is Roger from the Help Desk.
Employee: Hey Roger, what's up?
Roger: In 10 minutes, you're going to get an error when you try to save a file. Just add a 2 to the end and you'll be fine.
Employee: Cool, thanks. What number am I thinking of right now?
Roger: You're actually thinking about the letter Q.

How can we be less reactive without being clairvoyant? By understanding our business better.

Causes and effects

Most IT work is driven by the impact on the consumer of a service or process. They get an error, they call us. They have a need, they submit a request. This is reactive. No matter how fast you are, the consumer is still impacted.

Consumers are driven by their needs. They create demand on our resources and capabilities to fulfill those needs. Being proactive starts by understand their drivers and how they use our services. We can then monitor those resources and capabilities before demand occurs. 

For example, a sales person enters orders into our system when their customer buys a product. The application is a resource they need to complete their work. So we monitor the application. It goes down. We let the sales force and other stakeholders know and update them on progress until it is back up. This is proactive. We mitigate some or all of the impact of the service outage. Good for them, good for us!

Now let's go another step back on the chain. We mentioned that consumers create our demand. Where does their demand come from? It comes from their consumers! So they would like to be more proactive to their environment so they can be a better service provider. 

What happens the better we understand this environment? We in turn can provide advice on how our consumers can better use our services. We can also modify or add services that help our consumers serve their consumers. In short, we help our consumers be more proactive in their environment. This is innovative. We provide better services that help our consumers serve their market. Now we are serving a more strategic role - awesome!

Reaction is a part of being a service provider and never goes away. The more we can think about how we can be more proactive and innovative, the more we will contribute to business success and distinguish ourselves from other providers. Even if we can't be PreCogs, we can still provide value.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Obligatory Introduction Post

Welcome! This blog is my attempt to give back to the IT Service Management community. This post gets the introductory stuff out of the way. Let's tackle this in a Q&A format:

Who am I?

I'm Roger and I am in my mid-30s. I grew up in Oklahoma, got my degree from the University of Arkansas and now live in North Carolina.

What's my ITSM background?

I have been involved with ITSM since 1996. I started working on the help desk for a large retailer in Arkansas and now work at a large retailer in North Carolina. I have held technician and leadership roles in Service Desks and Problem Management groups. I currently lead a small team that performs internal ITSM consulting, process governance and project management.

What certifications do I have?

I am an ITIL v3 Expert, v2 Problem Practitioner and hold an ISO20K Foundations certification.  The value of ideas is my focus, not who's got the bigger cert.

Anything else?

I am open to changing my ideas when better ones present themselves. So feel free to disagree with anything I post and present a case for your thoughts.