Think Tank: Beyond service management

Think Tank: Beyond service management

Process is important but not at the expense of service excellence

Most IT service organisations have adopted ITIL or similar service management disciplines. Service management requires new processes for users. Service is provided only after a service request is raised, new initiatives need a business justification, service level agreements need to be in place, and the list goes on. Any experienced IT manager knows that certain disciples are necessary to be able to deliver reliable and cost effective IT service.

Many IT groups are so bound by processes and rules that they forget about end customer satisfaction. Some customers find the processes cumbersome but just stop complaining. Others find the process of justification too difficult and their legitimate needs are not met.

Here are some approaches I have used to move from service management towards service excellence and high customer satisfaction.

Understand the Business

IT organisations exist to support and enable the business. If IT staff — and I am not just talking about the business analysts — don’t understand the business, the ability of IT to provide excellent service is hampered. In the case of a communication failing to branch or store, I have seen IT staff entirely focused on service standards for their silo without having any idea of the real impact it is having on the business and customers. Improving IT boffins’ business understanding is not difficult, but it does require a sustained effort, especially when the IT group is large and not co-located with the users.

Visit the key operating areas: Regular visits by small IT teams to see the business operations is a must. The idea is to meet the users of the systems and technology. See how well the systems and technologies support the staff do their job. Are they reliable? What happens when systems fail or are slow? Are the systems too difficult to use? Is there a training issue? The aim is to learn what is happening and to avoid the temptation to provide instant solutions.

Learn the business language: Every business has its own terminology and language. Teach IT staff the basics — accounting, supply chain terminology or investment banking, for example. Common language creates a greater understanding, breaks down silos and develops empathy.

Business analysis skills: IT staff have a tendency to provide instant solutions before they fully understand the problem. Learning how to ask questions, understanding the situation fully, and gathering and analysing facts helps ensure you are solving the right problems and providing good solutions.

Operational account management: The concept of account relationship managers is not new. Typically account managers focus on strategy and other big-ticket issues because they usually don’t have the time or desire to be bogged down with smaller issues.

Next: Focus on operational issues

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