Tag: IT service management

How Nebraska successfully consolidated state IT services

By Jeffrey Morgan


Consolidating government IT services

If you read my post, Municipal shared services agreements for information technology, you know that I am skeptical about consolidation of multiple county and municipal IT operations. Because they are separate, independent business operations, the potential for unintended consequences, political meddling and perverse incentives is enormous. Another core problems is that very few counties or municipalities operate IT shops using widely accepted standards and frameworks for ITSM (Information Technology Service Management).

State governments, however, more closely resemble large corporate enterprises and there is a strong business case for the consolidation of IT services in such organizations. Elimination of redundant services, lower costs, and a smaller head count are essential goals, but consolidation can also provide uniform governance as well as enhanced quality and customer service if managed correctly.

Culture shock

During Ed Toner’s first week as CIO for the state of Nebraska in June of 2015, he found silos, duplication of tools and services, competition between IT groups and a culture that desperately needed change. A dearth of documentation and metrics presented significant challenges, but his education at Texas A&M in process improvement, ITIL and Six Sigma provided him with the tools to take on this type of task. Moreover, his previous ITSM experience with TD Ameritrade and First Data Corporation gave him the practical experience required for the job.

Ed reports directly to Governor Pete Ricketts and he began his consolidation of the state’s IT services in March of 2016. Six months of analysis lead him to the conclusion that a classic ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) model was the best approach to lowering the cost of state-level IT services. Ed has taken what he describes as a soft-sell, carrot-without-a-stick approach to the project.

During my research, I discovered that Ed and I have a single, irreconcilable philosophical difference, but I will discuss that at the end. First, let’s take a look at how Ed implemented some essential ITIL components.

The rollout

The project was rolled out in three phases in the following order:

  1. IT Infrastructure (Network)
  2. Server Admins
  3. Desktop support

In the first phase, the Nebraska OCIO (Office of the CIO) brought everyone into a single domain and in the second phase they migrated 6000 square feet of remote data closets into the data center. Phase three is in progress and will be completed within a few weeks, so Ed has achieved remarkable results in only 16 months.

Enterprise applications were also included in the consolidation. OCIO manages the infrastructure and largely leaves the application functions up to the Line of Business (LoB) to manage. This is an admirable model because it doesn’t put IT in the line of fire for determining and managing LoB application features and functionality.

The service catalog (SC)

Since Ed and his team entered into the project with neither documentation nor metrics, they opted to grow the service catalog organically from incoming calls.

The service level agreement (SLA)

When Ed started, no one could tell him how many IRs (incident records) and SRs (service requests) were coming in, but that has been completely turned around. “In terms of the user community, I think for the first time, they’re seeing that we’re being accountable. We’re posting metrics and we just started sending out surveys.” Ed’s team also publishes statistics on availability and their goal is 99.9 to 99.99.

Ed and his team meet weekly to analyze stats and their internal SLA is to satisfy 80% of IRs within 24 hours. They routinely meet that objective and report the data to the governor on a monthly basis. Their goal for SRs is to complete them within 24 hours 65% of the time.

As they mature, they are working on categorizing and prioritizing different classes of IRs to provide an SLA with resolution of specific IRs within 4 hours or less.

Change management

“We are seeing a huge uptick in changes, which means to me that we’re not making more changes in the state, we’re seeing more and more compliance every month.”

In terms of adoption of change management, Ed related, “I can tell you from my vantage point that the state of Nebraska adopted it much more easily than in my past in private industry. If something happens that causes some type of outage, even momentarily, we’re going to come in with problem management. The problem management template we created clearly asks, was this caused by a change? Did you validate? How did you validate? We have built in those fail-safe checkpoints that will indicate if a group has done a change that wasn’t sanctioned.”

Problem management and Root Cause Analysis

Every PR (problem record) is reviewed by the OCIO. ”We have a defined process for escalating issues. Those go into PR and no one wants to have a PR against their group. A problem record means we’re going to have a root cause analysis and were going to find out they made a change that didn’t go through change management. Problem management has helped to enforce change management because they know there’s another level of irritation from my office if the change didn’t go through change management.”

Cost savings

The Nebraska CIO’s office has been able to realize annual savings in excess of $2.8 million on payroll and contracts by eliminating all contractors in infrastructure and desktop support as well as by eliminating staff positions by attrition. “I have no IT infrastructure contractors at the state . . . No contractors doing server admin or desktop support.”

Server consolidation has helped realize $3.2 million annually in hardware savings. For instance, in one division they reduced 90 servers to four virtual servers and have eliminated over 70 physical servers in DHHS so far.

The state initially had three ITSM tools with multiple contracts for those tools, so Ed deployed an unused tool which they were already paying for in their application bundle and eliminated the redundant contracts.

The last word

Nebraska has done all the right things when it comes to building a solid IT service management program. Critical components include executive support and oversight from the CEO, a solid ITSM framework, transparency, and a CIO who is committed to the delivery of exceptional service and quality. Extraordinary managers all have one thing in common – they know that improving quality using rigorous processes reduces costs. How is your state doing?

I told you earlier that Ed and I have one irreconcilable difference of opinion, but it’s a whopper! Ed is an Aggie and I am a Longhorn. Hook ‘em horns, Ed.

 

 

© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2017

 

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The high price of complaining

Take a breath

By Jeffrey Morgan


“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.

  1. Draft and adopt a service level agreement.
  2. Acquire a Professional Services Automation System and use it according to industry best practices.
  3. Establish a Tech oversight committee, chaired by an assertive advocate for better IT services. Don’t let the IT Director hijack this role.
  4. 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

 

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Putting Out Fires

fire

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 jmorgan@e-volvellc.com.

Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016

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