Category: Managing your IT Manager
Topics about how to manage your IT Management
According to the U.S. Constitution, high crimes and misdemeanors are grounds for impeachment of a president. What are the impeachable offenses for a CIO?
In the healthcare industry, patient-centered care is a priority, and well-managed clinical organizations are eager to achieve that goal. While enterprises in industries such as healthcare receive routine audits and assessments based on widely accepted best practices and standards, the same does not hold true for the information technology industry in many market sectors.
In the IT industry, some organizations and CIOs are enthusiastic about providing excellent customer service, but adoption of standards and frameworks such as ISO/IEC 20000, ITIL, COBIT and CMMI seems to be low, especially in the public sector. I was unable to find credible (and free!) research on adoption rates, so this assertion is based solely on personal experience. Is your IT organization delivering customer-centered services using best practices?
In a competently managed IT service organization, end users are treated as valued customers and their problems and concerns are taken seriously. They are constantly updated about progress on their incident or problem even if there is no news. In poorly managed IT organizations, end users are marginalized and treated as the problem. Aside from losing data, providing poor customer service is one of the worst crimes a CIO can commit.
Perceptions of service quality in organizations
Here is a summary of quality perception that is fairly common in audit findings:
IT’s perception: We are the cat’s meow of IT. We provide great IT services, but our end users are the real problem. They just don’t understand what’s involved in providing IT services. (No records or metrics to support these assertions are extant.)
End user perception: Are you here to outsource our IT? I hope so, because our IT department is the worst thing since the black plague. They are not responsive and the system is always crashing. (The sharpest end users have spreadsheets in which they record the times, dates and results of their pleas for assistance.)
Management perception: We have no idea what the truth is, but we need a resolution.
These represent huge perceptual disconnects. If the IT operation used any best practices for IT service Management (ITSM), these perceptions wouldn’t exist. What do your end users think about the quality of service you provide? Do you routinely survey end users or personally ask them, “How do you rate the quality of services we are delivering?” This almost never happens in many, if not most, IT monopolies. The worst way to learn the truth about your customer service is in an audit document.
There aren’t many tasks less pleasant than auditing an operation that has never been audited. When the results are documented in a written report with specific examples, the denial is immediate and the pushback strong, and then a barrage of excuses is unleashed.
In many organizations, management has no idea what quality IT services are supposed to look like. IT is not their area of expertise, and they may not be aware that quality standards exist. That’s what they hired you for. Moreover, many IT staffers may not even be aware of quality standards. As for the end users, they are not stupid. They know when a service isn’t being delivered.
Admitting that their operations have flaws can be tough for many managers, because those flaws are a reflection of their management skills. In 12-step substance abuse treatment programs, Step 4 is an evaluation of your flaws, and I wish more IT managers would engage in this type of self-reflection.
IT as the center of the universe
During one recent audit, a single look at the IT support flow chart I was provided told me everything I needed to know about the quality of IT services the organization was delivering. End users and management were represented nowhere on the chart. Moreover, all the feedback management was receiving was filtered through IT. It was an entirely IT-centric model, as if the entire reason for that enterprise’s existence was for the convenience of the IT shop.
The center of your IT universe should be end users and their business requirements. Do end users hold a central position in your service delivery model? Are they treated with respect?
Moving toward best practices
If your organization is not using best practices for ITSM, take a look at the various frameworks and models and find one that makes the most sense for your organization. Start small and work relentlessly toward improvement of customer service.
For those of you who may be too young to remember, here’s a great tutorial on IT customer service by Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live: “Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.”
This article was first published on CIO.COM at http://www.cio.com/article/3130808/it-service-management/high-crimes-and-misdemeanors-of-cios.html.
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2016by
What the hell do all these IT people do all day anyway?” That’s a great question often posed by staff members, CEOs, CFOs and line-of-business managers. As a senior IT executive or manager, can you answer that question?
I often see IT staffers engaged in ridiculous pursuits that provide no value to an organization — printing business cards, acting as intermediaries for support calls to external vendors, repairing equipment that is under a service contract, and generating reports that should be created by end users. Moreover, I see too many menial, repetitive tasks like patch management being performed by expensive humans rather than by automated systems. Many IT directors either don’t recognize the dysfunction or see it as a way of keeping their overstaffed empires intact.
Even worse, IT staff members often engage in activities for which they are not even remotely qualified, but which they insist on performing because of some misplaced DIY (do it yourself) philosophy. Such activities are often part of what I call a wild-west management style where IT staff members decide for themselves which activities are of value to the organization. I recently had an encounter in which an IT minion told me that TCO (total cost of ownership) information I was requesting as part of an audit was “not going to provide value to the organization.” Huh!
What is important to your organization?
Services that are valuable to one organization may be of little or no value to another. Establishing what services will provide value to your organization is a critical business activity in which you and your executive leadership team should be fully engaged. These decisions shouldn’t be left to the whims of minions. Unfortunately, this sort of strategic planning occurs in few organizations. If you are working for one of the majority of organizations not following any best practices for IT service delivery, this conversation with your leadership is even more important. There is really no such thing as an IT problem, but management issues abound.
As a manager, one of your primary functions should be to “make resources productive” (as Peter Drucker wrote in The Practice of Management). Are you doing that? Can you instantly produce reports and metrics demonstrating that your IT operation is delivering real business value to your customers? Can you summarize exactly what services and value your IT operation provides? “Serving the needs of my customers” isn’t a good enough answer. Trying to be everything to everyone generally results in being useless to everyone.
The biggest risk to an internal IT operation isn’t external contractors; it is poor customer service. Let’s discuss how to reduce that risk.
Solutions: Start with the basics
Do you know what your staff members are working on? Are they using a clearly defined service catalog, adhering to a service-level agreement (SLA) and using a professional services automation (PSA) system? These are basic governance documents and operational tools that should be in deployed in even the smallest IT operations but they are often absent even in large, well-funded IT organizations. Indeed, smaller organizations with scarce resources would benefit most from these tools.
Instituting just a few of the basics will dramatically improve your IT service operations. Let’s take a look at three best practices you should be using. We can think of them as a poor man’s ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), but you don’t need a full-blown ITIL implementation to improve the efficiency of your operations. Use common sense, a structured approach and a cycle of continuous improvement. The perfect time to begin is right now!
A service catalog is “an organized and curated collection of any and all business and information-technology-related services that can be performed, by, for or within an enterprise.” (Wikipedia)
The catalog should be developed with your executive leadership so a clear and universal understanding of the services you are providing is available to your customers. Which services are provided internally and which will be performed by external contractors? How much do they cost? When are they available? There is a downside to service catalogs, but this can be managed.
Focus on high-value services that you can realistically support. Strive for quality rather than quantity. Doing a few things well is preferable to doing many things poorly.
SLAs are often treated as requirements for external vendors, but why shouldn’t internal service providers be held to the same standards as external ones? CIO provides good discussions here, here and here.
Once you have an SLA in place, it must be enforced. You are the manager, so do your job and start managing.
An overarching problem in our industry is that end users often complain that IT is not responsive to their requests for service. Is that really true? Did they really report a problem to IT or did they just go home and tell their cat? Or did they casually mention their problem in the break room? All encounters between IT personnel and end users should be fully documented in a highly automated PSA system that has audit trails and escalation policies.
Lack of a PSA system is my biggest IT pet peeve. There is no excuse for not having such a system, and they are downright cheap compared to the cost of IT labor. In an IT assessment or audit, the lack of an auditable system to manage service requests can bury you — the vulnerable CIO or IT director. The reports and data from such a system can prove what a super manager you are. Or they can demonstrate your total incompetence.
You will incorporate your catalog of services and SLA into your PSA system.
It’s no accident
Providing superb, high-value IT customer service doesn’t happen by accident. By following a few relatively simple steps, and having discussions with your executive team, you can dramatically improve the quality of your operations.
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2016
This article was first published at http://www.cio.com/article/3126384/leadership-management/what-is-the-biggest-threat-to-internal-it-departments.html on CIO.COM.by
“Private Stooper, front and center! Assume the front leaning rest position.” That’s army talk for get ready to do pushups. It’s a bitterly cold January morning at Fort Leonard Wood and every drill sergeant is here. Even the first sergeant and a couple of lieutenants showed up, which never happens. There are 200 recruits standing in formation freezing our butts off and the vapor rising from the ground has created an eerie, surreal atmosphere. What on earth is happening?
“Private Stooper,” the drill sergeant shouted in his North Carolina drawl, “I spoke with the Colonel yesterday afternoon. It seems your mama called him. Start beating your face!” That’s army talk for start doing pushups. “Knock ‘em out till I get tired. It seems you don’t like the conditions here in Charlie Company. You don’t appreciate the gourmet food and you don’t like the luxurious accommodations we provide.” Stooper is weeping like a baby and still doing pushups, occasionally shouting “Yes Sergeant.” At one point, there were about 6 NCO’s standing over him screaming. The hazing seemed to go on for hours. We all felt sorry for the guy, even though he was a pretty big screwup.
What’s the message?
The message was clear – don’t complain or your life will get a whole lot worse. In many public sector IT audits I have done, I have found that the IT Director and staff used the same tactics as my drill sergeants. If end users complained about the horrendous customer service provided by the IT Department, the IT staff would punish and humiliate the culprits in order to train the rest of the staff not to complain. It’s a common practice and not only in the public sector. Is this happening in your organization? If it is, how would you know? Everyone is afraid to be Private Stooper.
IT and Customer Service Best Practices
Many of the IT Departments I encounter aren’t using any best practices for Information Technology Governance and aren’t concerned with customer service. They are an internal service organization, don’t face the public, and don’t feel any pressure to achieve acceptable industry standards for performance. They get a paycheck whether or not they actually solve problems. The root cause of this problem is lack of executive oversight and non-tech executives frequently have no idea of where to begin or what to do. They are stumbling in the dark.
Here are a couple of DIY steps for approaching customer service problems with IT.
- Draft and adopt a service level agreement.
- Acquire a Professional Services Automation System and use it according to industry best practices.
- Establish a Tech oversight committee, chaired by an assertive advocate for better IT services. Don’t let the IT Director hijack this role.
- Write a strategic plan (or hire a consultant to do an audit and strategic plan). If followed, this sort of plan will quickly pay for itself and can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But, only if you follow it and make the hard decisions.
Your IT Department, and all your public sector departments should be trying to provide customer service that is on par with Amazon. How well is that working out for you?
I’m sure you are wondering what happened to Private Stooper. He loved basic training so much that he went through it a second time. Feel free to send me an e-mail and share your army stories or your concerns about customer service in your organization and don’t let you users or customers get treated like Private Stooper.
This article was first published on Careers in Government at: https://www.careersingovernment.com/tools/gov-talk/about-gov/high-price-complaining/
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2016
There’s nothing worse than that gut wrenching feeling of buyer’s remorse. You have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of your expensive, shiny new gadget and have high expectations. You open the box and find that it is beautifully wrapped. You unpack it, plug it in, and . . .
Nothing. It’s a dud!
If you bought it from Amazon, you can just send it back for a refund. If it’s your IT Director, there’s no return shipping label enclosed.
Hiring is always a risk, but there are several qualities you can look for to improve your probability of success. Your new, amazing IT Director will have the following six qualities:
Fluency in the Language of Business
There is no such thing as an IT project; there are only business projects. In the interview, your potential IT Director should want to discuss Executive Goals and Objectives, Return on Investment, Total Cost of Ownership, Vendor Management, Service Level Agreements and Key Performance Indicators rather than speaking in technical jargon. He or she must possess expert knowledge of the business processes that drive your organization in addition to having a solid understanding of the required underlying technology. You can contract outstanding technical skills, but someone with the vision to make it all work together for the good of the business is a rare gem.
Passionate about Customer Service and Productivity
There is no longer a place in the industry for IT operations that don’t deliver outstanding, high value customer service. Your new IT Director must know how to make that a reality with leadership, service level agreements, metrics and measurable goals. Look for a history of customer facing experience. Making angry customers happy is a more important skill for an IT Director than writing brilliant code in a locked office.
Obsessed with Quality
Improving quality of services always lowers costs and your new IT Director understands this. He or she will strive to perfect the delivery of services across your organization and understands a continuous cycle of improvement.
Collaborates Rather Than Dictates
Your new IT Director should be listening 90% of the time and talking very little. County & Municipal organizations are complex operations that may have 2 dozen or more independent Line of Business operations, each with its own regulatory compliance issues and special requirements. In order to provide effective solutions, your new IT must be able to hear what his or her customers are saying and translate that information into solutions that meet the customers’ business criteria. Your departments, business processes and requirements will drive your IT Director.
Your new IT Director must be open to achieving business goals and objectives by exploring all available solutions, processes and technologies rather than throwing the same tired and ineffective products at every new business problem.
Love’s Industry Standards, Policies, and Procedures
Industry Standards and organizational policies and procedures are fascinating and glamorous; or so your new IT Director should think. There are numerous, proven standards, methodologies, and best practices available and your new IT Director will take advantage of this huge body of knowledge. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. He or she should be comfortable discussing standards like ANSI/TIA/EIA-568, ISO27001, HIPAA, ITIL, and others. Failure to understand and follow proven standards and methodologies is expensive. Your new Director should also be ready to collaborate with your HR and Legal Teams to ensure that appropriate policies and procedures are in place.
If your IT Director has the appropriate combination of all these skills, you are all set for a productive relationship in the years to come.
This was first published on Carreers in Government at:
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016
How is your IT Operation Performing?
Is your Municipal Information Technology department delivering amazing and cost effective customer service? Are they operating using best practices and industry standards for IT Governance? If the answer is no, or if you are not sure, keep reading and I will provide you with some simple tools and a high level overview of improving your IT business processes and operations.
Expertise in, and a deep understanding of technology disciplines isn’t required to get the most out of your IT Manager; understanding basic principles of IT Governance is. As a County or Municipal Executive, you can provide the necessary leadership to improve your operations by ensuring that your IT management is adhering to industry standards and best practices. If you are fortunate enough to have a CIO, these standards and practices are probably already in place. However, there are over 22,000 County and Municipal entities in the United States and most can’t justify the cost of a full-time CIO.
There are tried and true standards, methodologies, policies and procedures that smaller counties and cities can and should establish in order to improve IT operations. If you don’t have a CIO, you can familiarize yourself with the basics and see if they are in place in your organization.
In highly regulated industries such as insurance, pharmaceuticals, health care, and banking, there are clear regulatory guidelines that define many of the basic functions, best practices and requirements for an organizational IT operation. Audits and evaluations are conducted routinely to ensure that IT operations are following applicable regulations and guidelines. There are no such required standards for municipal and county governments in most states. However, IT departments should always be operating as if an audit is imminent.
Part of the management problem is statistical, and I have written about it here, but solutions are readily available and a few of the basic management components that should be in place are described below.
Some Root Causes of Problems with Information Technology Departments
IT staff members under an audit generally blame poor customer service, poor performance, security problems and technical problems on an insufficient budget and understaffing. Sometimes they also blame the customers (end users). They often argue that if only the organization would increase the budget and hire more people, they would do a better job. In my experience, this is rarely true and two root causes of organizational IT problems are described in the table below. I have seen many IT departments that would function better with a smaller staff and a more focused business mission.
|Lack of Focus on the mission.||The IT operation is attempting to be everything to everyone. They don’t understand priorities and the business mission of your organization.|
|Tech Decisions||The Department is making technical decisions rather than business decisions.|
Customer Service Problems and Solutions
IT is a customer service driven business. If your IT customer service isn’t exceptional, you have a significant business problem, not just an IT problem. In the following table I have provided information about two tools that can help you improve customer service immensely regardless of what IT staffing model you use.
|Service Level Agreement||A Service Level Agreement is a required document for any IT Department, even if it is a department with only one staff member or the services are entirely contracted.|
|PSA System||A system for tracking IT problems and their resolutions is also a required, essential component of a well-governed IT operation. Such a system provides information about the productivity of your IT staff, but it also provides a wealth of information about your end users and your business operations. The data available from a properly configured PSA system can provide valuable management information for executives, not just for IT management.|
Cost Metrics, TCO, ROI
Here are some basic business questions to ask about your IT operation. If you haven’t performed these calculations before, the answers might surprise you.
- What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your IT operation?
- How much does it cost per end user?
- How does that cost compare to other organizations similar to yours?
- How do you define an IT cost?
- What value and return on investment (ROI) does the operation provide?
Mission Critical Functions
If your IT staff does nothing else, they should at least be focused on Backup, Disaster Recovery, System Security, and Contingency Planning.
|System Security||HIPAA (full text of regulation here), ISO 27001, and NIST, to name a few, provide excellent frameworks for your Information Security program.
Even if you only have a 1 – person IT operation, information security should be a primary responsibility and your IT management should be well versed in these standards and how to implement them.
|Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Contingency Planning||Again, even in a 1-person IT operation, security, DR, Backup, and Contingency planning should be their main focus.|
|Information Security Policy||You must have a comprehensive information security policy!|
Are all of the components mentioned above in place in your organization?
Nothing I have discussed here will work in a vacuum. Improving operations and lowering costs will require your leadership and relentless follow-up. My father always taught me that good management is 10% telling people what to do and 90% making sure they do it. If you want to improve IT operations in your organization, go make sure they do it!
Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you would like to discuss Information Technology projects, operations, or other business problems in your organization. If you are working on a major procurement project, you may find my book to be of interest.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016
There be more ways to the wood than one and the methods for managing your organization’s Information Technology needs run the gamut from 100% contracted services to a full-service, in-house IT shop with help desk, software developers, and and other support including network and security engineering. All of the variations between these two extremes can work if they are strategically planned. Which one is best for your organization? That depends on your business requirements, goals and objectives, industry, organizational culture, and budget. Key elements that will contribute to whether or not the model you choose is successful include a Strategic Plan and and highly specific contracts and service level agreements.
Cost Vs. Value
Before we perform a summary examination of some specific models, let’s stipulate that this is a business project. Cost is important, but so is value. In order to determine which model will best suit your needs, you will have to make your own calculation of the Cost vs. Value equation for your organization.
How Much Does IT Cost?
How much does your operation cost now? And what value is being provided right now? Surprisingly, very few organizations can concisely and immediately answer these questions. IT costs are often buried in departmental budgets and sometimes linked to inappropriate budget accounts. Shadow IT Staff, staff members not technically part of IT but performing IT functions under a different title, are often unaccounted for in a summary of IT costs. Moreover, the cost of IT equipment has gotten so low that much of it is expensed under office supplies or something similar, so it doesn’t show up as a fixed asset or an IT line item. Unless you have very strict accounting rules, it is possible that accurately calculating the cost of IT may be difficult or impossible. This entire discussion might bring up another question: What exactly is an IT cost? Sometimes, the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.
Before we look at specific models, let’s talk about one more thing. What do you want? What are your business goals and objectives? Do you want a Help Desk to answer the phone and provide assistance with applications like Microsoft Office? Does it make sense to pay for that service? Do you require in-house server and network support to get immediate response? Or is a contracted service with a 1 or 4 hour service level agreement good enough? Are you looking for the development of institutional knowledge in-house or can a long term contract provide that security?
The secret to an efficient operation is good management that focuses on quality of service regardless of the model. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is always required to define the scope and services to be provided by both in-house staff and contractors.
100% Contracted Services
This model is commonly used in small organizations but it can easily scale to relatively large operations. If you choose this model, I would recommend that you separate duties so that the vendor who sells and installs “stuff” is different from the vendor or consultant who is providing direction, design and planning services. In this way, you can eliminate the conflict of interest that may encourage a vendor to oversell or over spec. Consultative selling is big in the IT market and many vendors who sell solutions will provide honest advice on the best direction to take, but why risk it? Moreover, the sales people and techs whose job it is to sell products and services may not understand the minutiae of your business operations, goals, and objectives especially if you have highly specialized lines of business.
Contracts in a fully outsourced model may have some combination of a fixed rate for fixed services as well as an hourly rate for additional, incidental services. As with all contracts, close monitoring is required to keep costs in check.
The Technology Coordinator Model
One popular model is the use of a single Technology Coordinator. The position might have different names, but the general idea is that a single employee manages the strategic plan, coordinates services and manages all the contracts.When using this model, it is important to avoid the scope creep that can result from using the Coordinator as a front line fix-it person.
Most medium to large entities use some sort of hybrid model that includes a combination of in-house staff and contractors. Again, service level agreements are essential and the in-house staff can easily grow to gigantic proportions without careful management. I have seen medium sized operations with 20 or more IT FTE’s where a few staff members and strategic contracts would have been a more economical and efficient solution. In some industry sectors, a large staff may justified. However, in something like a typical medium sized municipal operation, a hybrid model with a bias toward contractors makes a great deal of sense. If your contracts are well-written, it is easy to get rid of an under-performing contractor, but eliminating or replacing employees can often be a nightmare.
Full Service Models
If Information Technology is a core business function for you, a full-service, self contained IT operation may be appropriate, but this scenario is rare if you are truly basing your decision on objective business criteria. Even the largest organizations strategically contract some services. If you are currently responsible for a large, full-service IT operation maybe it is time to do a cost-benefit analysis of other options.
In a medium to large manufacturing operation with a dynamic network, network and security engineers may be required. In a static operation of a similar size, it might make more sense to contract these services since they will rarely be required. In-house software development is similar. Some organizations might require full-time software developers, but for more static organizations, purchasing Commercial-off-the-shelf software is far more efficient and cost effective than custom software development.
If you require assistance evaluating staffing models for your organization, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read more about IT Governance, check out http://blog.e-volvellc.com.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016
By Jeffrey Morgan
While conducting IT Audits over the years, I have often heard end users relating stories about how hard the IT Staff works at putting out fires. Generally, the IT Audit is being conducted because the customer service being delivered by IT is abysmal and the end users know it, but they usually try to find something nice to say about their coworkers. The end users think they are stating something positive to me, but what they are really doing is waving an alarming red flag. Danger, Danger Will Robinson!
In a well run IT operation, putting out fires should be rare. The IT staff should be spending most of their time on routine operations, preventative maintenance, projects, and implementation of a cycle of continual improvement. Putting out fires is a sign that there are problems that may include network infrastructure and configuration issues, improper server and software configuration, improper configuration of end user devices, etc. With proper configuration and preventative maintenance, the systems should be stable more than 99% of the time. There may be other problems as well, such as end user training issues or malfeasance. Root causes surface pretty quickly if you conduct a thorough IT audit and investigate all the potential factors. Well managed IT operations are proactive rather than reactive.
In a stable environment, IT management is not necessarily the most exciting job. Critical tasks in a stable environment include validation of backups, routine administration, reviewing security logs, patch management, disaster and recovery planning, and other essential preventative maintenance tasks. Another important task is ensuring that the organizational policies such as the Security Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, SLA (Service Level Agreement),and other governing policies are being complied with. Depending on your industry, regulatory compliance may be a critical task.
Is your system stable, or are your IT people constantly putting out fires? If you have questions about how to fire-proof your IT operation, send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016
Poor customer service is an epidemic in both public and private sector IT organizations. Art imitates life and there is nothing more hilarious than watching skits with Jimmy Fallon playing Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy. These skits are so funny because they ring true in most people’s life experience. Unfortunately, bad customer service in your organization isn’t anything to laugh about.
Let’s put this in the form of a syllogism – “We have a customer-service problem. Customer Service is the responsibility of management. Therefore, we have a management problem.” As an executive, it is your responsibility to address the management problem. The good news is that you can fix this problem and I will provide you with a high-level overview of one way to do it.
Once you have a Service Level Agreement, you can take the next step in order to improve the quality of customer service being delivered by your Information Technology Department – A Professional Services Automation (PSA) system. As I have previously discussed, no system you purchase will inherently do anything to improve the quality of your services. You must use the system correctly in harmony with other tools such as leadership, training, process, policy and procedure.
Regardless of what type of model you are using to support your IT operation, or the size of the operation, a PSA system is a required tool. These systems are widely available, affordable, and available in SaaS (Software as a Service, aka Cloud) solutions. If you have a small IT Department, or even a 1-man operation, the Cloud solution may make the most sense. Whatever you decide to do, buy one of the commercially available options rather than having a staff member write one in-house. I have seen organizations try this and it never works out.A correctly implemented and configured PSA system can also provide a wealth of other management data that can show you an X-Ray of of information management in your organization.
There are 3 basic rules for using a PSA system effectively – with no exceptions.
- Everything goes in a ticket. No Exceptions.
- Employees must account for ALL of their time in the PSA system. If they work a 40 hour week – 40 hours should be documented in the PSA system. No exceptions.In fact, you may wish to use the PSA system as the time sheet for the IT Staff and only pay them for what they have documented.
- Everything (Absolutely Everything!) related to a ticket gets documented in the system. No Exceptions.
Once you have data in the system, it might be worthwhile to have your team along with an expert 3rd party evaluate the system’s reports. There are common problems. For instance, one problem you might find is that some employees require more time than necessary to complete tasks. You might even find some pretty egregious consumption of resources like techs taking 10 hours or more to complete something that should be a 1 hour task. You may not know how long standard tasks require, but you can find an expert who does.Also, you may find that IT staff are performing activities that are not defined in your SLA, thereby wasting precious resources.
You will be able to identify other problems as well. Are there recurring problems with specific users? With specific departments? With a specific piece of software or hardware? How much are these problems costing your organization? Are IT staff members actually causing problems? Do end users require additional training?
Getting from abysmal customer service to a baseline of acceptable customer service may take a while. During the Go Live period for the PSA system, your IT Management should be living in the system. If you have long been suffering bad customer service, the IT management may require considerable coaching and training just to understand what good customer service looks like.
Your staff members may present all sorts of obstacles to such a system. For instance, they may say that it takes too long to document every incident. Like any other skill, it takes practice to thoroughly document your work and activities, but the results are worth the effort.
Another argument you might hear is Why don’t the other departments have to document their work? Many professionals document their time and activities: Attorneys, accountants, physicians, consultants,truck drivers, and pilots to name a few. There is no good reason why Tech professionals shouldn’t do so as well. In fact, once you have the PSA system in place and working, you may like the results so much that you will want to start a similar program for other groups, like your facilities staff as one example.
If you would like assistance with implementing a PSA system or with improving the customer service in your IT organization, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to watch Nick Burns, take a look here.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016
By Jeffrey Morgan
Here is a scenario I frequently encounter in organizations. An executive identifies a problem which he or she believes to be an Information Technology problem and delegates the problem to the IT Director to solve. For instance, one real world example I have seen many times is where an executive tells the IT Director, We have a communication problem. We need better communications. How can you fix it? A slightly different manifestation is where the IT Director approaches the executive management, unsolicited, and proposes a solution that will improve organizational communications. For the sake of argument, let’s forget about how this is begging the question.
The Wrong Approach
The IT Director proposes that the organization implement NoPoint to improve communications. Maybe the IT Director digs up some vendor-written white paper that shows amazing ROI and low TCO. The executive signs off on the project and the organization begins a 5 or 6 figure project to Implement NoPoint. Never mind that the users didn’t ask for it; the new system will solve all communication problems. Never mind that no measurable, demonstrable goals and objectives have been established. Plus, all civilized, up-to-date organizations use NoPoint. The IT Manager will force yet another piece of software with a dubious record for solving business problems on the staff.
Some IT Directors are excellent at solving business problems. Unfortunately, many other IT Directors aren’t equipped to identify root causes and propose appropriate solutions. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If you came up through the ranks in IT, every problem looks like a tech problem that requires software to solve.
Sadly, this scenario is played out every day in the public and private sector. Massive amounts of money are spent implementing systems without any return on investment or demonstrable results.
A Better Way
The strong IT Director will use a different approach. One approach he or she might take would be to meet with other end users and managers in the organization in order to determine the root cause of the communication problem. Rather than assuming that software will solve the problem, he or she will solicit solutions from the end users and organizational management. In my experience using this approach, it is unlikely that the end users will recommend that NoPoint or any other software system be implemented as the primary solution. However, they might suggest it as a tool after the more pressing issues have been addressed. Rather, they are likely to identify organizational bottlenecks, perverse incentives, and other obstacles to quality communications. This process is also likely to identify specific individuals with poor communication skills. In this case, the strong IT Director will create a plan that includes leadership, training and end user buy-in, in addition to processes, policies and procedures that improve organizational communications.
An alternate scenario I have encountered is where an IT Director is under pressure to do something. The IT Department is delivering poor customer service and end users are ready to revolt. Rather than addressing the customer service problem, the IT Director, manager, or supervisor suggests a new (and expensive) project that will make the users happy.They think this approach will hide the poor customer service while the new system is under implementation.
How would your IT Director or manager approach these problems?
The unpleasant truth here is that no software will inherently solve business problems. Solving business problems requires leadership, training, policy, process and procedure.
If you have a communication problem you would like to discuss, or any other type of Business Process or Information Technology problem, send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2015by
Does your IT Staff deliver amazing customer service? Do your staff members love your Information Technology Department? If they had a choice, would they choose the in-house staff or would they rather call a contractor? Does your IT Director produce monthly reports on staff productivity and proudly share these reports with your management team? And what exactly does your IT staff do all day anyway?
Maybe you have managers and staff who think that IT services are free because they are included in the budget and the staff is already on salary. Nothing could be further from the truth. IT services are expensive and in-house IT services are often more expensive than comparable contracted services.
In a 21st century Information Technology operation, superb customer service should be the cornerstone of the operation. To put it simply, there is no longer a place in the industry for IT management and staff who don’t deliver stellar customer service. Before we discuss methods for improving the customer service of your IT organization, we first have to figure out exactly what they should be doing. The root cause of many IT Customer Service problems is a misunderstanding of their business role and a lack of alignment of their mission with executive and organizational goals. Do they have a clear, specific mission statement? Do they understand your business objectives and what they should be doing to help you achieve your business goals?
No business operation can be all things to all people unless you have an unlimited budget. Since real budgets are limited, the focus and mission of your IT Department should be limited as well.
Establish Business Goals
As an Executive, it is your job to define the mission of Information Technology. You don’t need technical skills or knowledge to define their business objectives, but you do need to think carefully about your goals and objectives and document them thoroughly. Left to their own devices, IT staff will probably keep themselves busy with cool technical things that add no value to your business operations. Let’s get them focused on adding value to your business using a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Following is a high level, executive overview for developing an internal SLA. This is by no means exhaustive but should provide you the general idea of how to get started.
Define the Vision and Mission.
Make it clear, meaningful, short, and tailored to your organizational requirements. The mission statements for a large corporate IT department, a County Government, and a K-12 school district may all be different but great customer service should be common theme with all three.
Memorialize the Mission in a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a document that defines the 6 W’s and a couple of other things:
- What services will be provided?
- Who will provide them and for whom are they provided?
- When will the services be available?
- How much will the services cost?
- Why should services be provided?
- Where will the services be provided?
- Escalation Procedures.
- Problem Levels
Let’s take a look at these items in greater detail.
What services will be provided?
Every service you decide to provide should have a solid business case for being included and should have a cost/benefit/value justification. Are you running a help desk? Do your staff members repair hardware? (Let’s hope not!). Do you want your IT staff to support specific software products? Are they supporting an e-maiil and phone system?
Make a list of the services your staff should routinely provide. You may even want to specify what services aren’t provided. For instance, custom software development and hardware repair are a couple of services that are difficult to justify unless you have special circumstances (I will discuss this in a separate post). You should also specify a procedure for contracting these and other special services should they be required.
Who will provide the services?
Which staff members will provide the services? Will contractors and vendors provide some services? This is good information for your customers to have.
For whom will the services be provided? Just to your direct staff? Contractors and vendors? Do you have divisions or other sub-organizations or partners that piggyback off your system?
When are the services available?
Are you providing services 7X24? Eight to Five on business days? What about off-hours emergencies? How quickly will your staff respond to different categories of requests? For instance, if an application is down, what is the maximum amount of time that should pass before a staff member starts working on it?
How much will the services cost?
Does your IT department work on a charge-back basis? Who pays for calls from external vendors? How do you calculate the hourly rate for your in-house staff?
Why will the service be provided?
Why are you providing this service? Your customers (end users) should understand why some services are provided and not others.
The SLA for your IT Staff should be compared with your various vendor SLA’s to ensure there is no duplication of effort. An SLA is included in your contract with every vendor, right?
Escalation and Problem Definitions
Your SLA document should define different levels of problems and an appropriate response time for your staff and contractors. For instance, is an end user inconvenienced? Is an application for an entire department down? In the case of the former, you might define a day, week or month to resolve the problem – this depends on your specific business, goals and objectives. If a critical application is down, you might want to require the staff to drop everything and begin working on the problem immediately.
Use Management tools and techniques to control the output and services.
An SLA will not magically improve customer service, but it is a first line tool that will help set baseline expectations for IT Staff and their customers. When used in conjunction with a Professional Services Automation (PSA) system, Quarterly Goals and Objectives, and honest annual performance reviews, the SLA can help you make a positive change in the IT staff’s delivery of customer service that meets your business objectives. And remember, management is 10% telling people what to do and 90% making sure they do it.
In subsequent articles, I will discuss Information Technology’s mission in more detail and we will examine some additional business scenarios and options for achieving your business objectives.
If your IT Staff isn’t delivering great customer service, or if you need assistance with the development of a custom SLA for your business, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to discuss your specific business case.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2015by