Interesting ITSM Links for the Week

This week’s interesting links include two webinars geared toward services management and support in a higher education context. See you next week!

 

Interesting ITSM Links: Service Desk edition

Welcome back! This week’s interesting links have an emphasis on the service desk. The EDUCAUSE discussion thread on extending hours of support is a great conversation among several universities regarding how they’ve increased their hours of support through a variety of means.

Supplemental Interesting ITSM Links: Digital Age edition

I ran across a few interesting webinars on BrightTalk recently that use the “digital age” and the “digital enterprise” as a way to explain offering service to customers. Although it’s true that electronic devices and systems have re-shaped workflows and how we interact with customers, we shouldn’t forget that basic ideas about service and support remain true. The “digital” element means we have to be aware of how customers and users wish to receive services, taking in to account modern tools and techniques to achieve those goals.

Collecting and Organizing Information about Services

Signpost -- Where to?I’ve recently started a small service management program for my department. Because it’s a one-man effort for now, I’m mostly focusing on collecting information to organize in a service portfolio. My goal is to collect enough data about our services so I can write get some common descriptions written, approved, and filed.

Like most early-stage efforts of this sort, I’m not yet using a service management tool to categorize the information. As I’ve started conducting research about service management programs at various universities, it’s struck me how common it is for departments to continue using spreadsheets to capture and organize service data. I suppose it’s faster to update an Excel file than to work in a database.

My first set of considerations with developing a service portfolio was figuring out a basic organizational structure. As is the case with most IT services, certain services and tools can be grouped together in a logical fashion. For the moment, I’m using fairly broad categories and focusing on customer-facing services. It made sense to handle those first because they describe customer value more readily and can be defined more quickly. They’re also easy to refine later in the process.

At first, I adopted a very simple numbering scheme and documentation format for service descriptions.

  • Title: Svc-001
  • Name: Technology Enhanced Classrooms
  • Description Details: [one or two paragraph broad description, followed by a series of bullet points outlining specifics]

The format was pretty basic and didn’t address change management needs. It didn’t take long before I realized the inherent flaws in this scheme. I revised it just a bit.

  • Title: Svc-01-001
  • Name: Technology Enhanced Classrooms
  • Description Details: [one or two paragraph broad description, followed by a slightly longer series of bullet points outlining specifics]
  • Changelog: [running list of bullets with dates and change details]

This format has its flaws as well, and I intend to revise the scheme further. As I’ve started using these descriptions on a frequent basis, I’ve realized a good service portfolio entry needs at least:

  • service name,
  • a logical numbering scheme for organization,
  • organizational unit that owns the service (ideally just one that’s actually RACI accountable),
  • owner of the service,
  • service description,
  • hours of operation,
  • regularly scheduled maintenance window(s),
  • underpinning services,
  • services underpinned by this service,
  • and some form of version control for the service portfolio entry (possibly integrated with the numbering scheme).

Most full-featured service management programs will collect far more information and make sure services are linked together in a meaningful way. As I mentioned above, using spreadsheets to manage a service portfolio can be difficult because of the inability to contextualize services. If one service fails, how can you tell what other services are impacted if you can’t readily tell what services are linked to it?

As I develop this project more, I intend to explore using Microsoft SharePoint as a means to link all of this data together.

 

 

What are “Services?”

strictly-business-londonWhen you work in an organization providing technology to an enterprise, you tend to encounter many perspectives on the word “services.”

To some people, “services” are the individual technological tools they maintain and support. Maybe it’s a virtualization server or a series of network switches. Perhaps it’s the content management software (CMS) system for the organization’s website. Maybe it’s the individual application packages delivered to computers in the organization. These are typically specific technologies or platforms, often built by individuals that have experience or training with a particular vendor or methodology.

To others, “services” are the things the technology provider offers that add value to the organization. It’s not merely the virtualization server itself, but rather what others in the organization can do with the virtual machines hosted on that server. It’s not merely the series of network switches, but rather the complex series of interconnections of those switches that form an enterprise-wide data network. It’s not merely the CMS system for the website, but rather how it empowers non-developers to still maintain a website with ease.

Certainly ITIL believes the latter is the correct definition, but it’s worth understanding why this is so. It’s really a question of understanding the needs of customers. Technology providers have a unique opportunity to shape those needs by providing technological solutions that fit. But the risk to technology providers is the language barrier between technology tools and business needs. ITIL suggests that services provide “value” to the customer. Does the virtualization server or do the network switches themselves provide “value?” It’s more likely their application in solving business challenges create the value?

More often than not, customers come to the negotiating table with needs ideas but lack the ability to carry them out. Their needs are driven by business decisions, regulatory requirements, changes to the organization’s industry and external environment, and so forth. These things require adaptation of technology, either existing systems or new tools. Ultimately, customers want the ability to carry out their own jobs successfully and smoothly. Technology providers add value when their services add value directly and align with business needs.

In coming posts, we will explore how this service management concept is implemented from scratch in a real-world situation.