While sitting on a bus on the way to work, I saw a billboard that said something to the effect of, “We DO Sales.” I always love when people say that they ‘do’ something.
A few months back I was at a Service Management event and was speaking with a former colleague who mentioned she was working though some improvement initiatives at her organization. During the conversation she outlined that they were specifically targeting their service delivery as it seems that it has fallen behind as of late. Their focus was the service catalog piece as they did not think that they had the right offerings.
I asked what else they were looking at and she said, “that was pretty well it and well, you know, we already DO Incident.”
There it was!
Without almost not even thinking she backtracked and mentioned that there were some challenges with incident, but it wasn’t on the radar for review or improvement since their leadership didn’t see many issues or concerns with it.
Of course not, I thought to myself, after all they were ‘doing’ incident already.
By her own admission she outlined that the incident process was smooth based on its simplicity which is why it wasn’t targeted for improvement. She paused, reflecting to herself for a moment, and then went on to mention that the company had grown substantially recently in the past year and that none of their service management practices were really reviewed to see if they are still fit for purpose as they once were.
Shortly after this we parted ways, but I told her that I would see her again in a month at the next event that was scheduled.
A month or so later I saw her again and she said that they were going to take a closer look at incident as part of their improvement initiatives after all. After our last meeting she started to review some of the incident metrics that they had been collecting and reviewing with stakeholders and after a discussion with IT leaders it just made sense to review the process as well.
The perception from IT leaders was that incidents were dealt with quickly and effectively. The trouble was that support resources were taking care of incidents for all the right people from an executive perspective or areas with high visibility but for the bulk of the business, where the incident process may be lacking this showed in the results of the levels of support.
Improvements of any kind can be tough but keeping it down to a few target areas will ensure that you are able to make small lasting improvements that you can build off long term. Here are just a few of the challenges I have come across:
Just because you think this is a good idea doesn’t mean that everyone else will, so you have to ensure that this improvement is owned from your leadership. They will need to understand what areas are being improved, what risks exist as a result of not improving and that they will receive regular touchpoints on the improvement journey. Depending on the maturity of the process this may require little explanation to your sponsors but it if there are loads of items to re-work you may need to have more runway to get things moving. Don’t assume that they know, this will negatively impact the ability to have their full buy-in and support.
Difficult to improve incidents if none are being created. The creation of incidents needs to be considered from both a business and an internal perspective.
This is a great opportunity to improve our relationships with our business. From the business perspective, they just want something to get fixed. The last thing they are looking for is to make the creation of the incident more complicated than the issue.
If we have good visibility on a portal that outline major incidents or known errors this may improve the flow of the escalations that come in. the worse scenario is that the business assumes that we already know about an issue and we don’t. No escalation, no resolution….
A challenge with this also exists on how the business interfaces with support. Look at the ways that this is currently done and ask the question, “is this still effective?” remember that you have to ask them if it is not just yourself at your desk. Assuming things will not help your mission of lasting improvements.
Communication will need to be ongoing from here on out so get used to working with them regularly. They need to know that you are working hard to deliver an excellent experience. This level of communication can be handled by something as simple as a one-on-one personal connection or through to roadshows, surveys, discussions, and social media with larger groups.
Don’t be your own worst enemy. Your teams must also be creating incidents as well. We really can’t expect the business to do something that we ourselves don’t do. These incidents should drive your weekly stand up meetings or your regular operations reports to show the baseline of what is going well and not so well. In many cases we may be seeing issues from system alerts or issues we see through daily operations. These are an important part of incident management.
There is no need to overcomplicate this. Determine what’s important to business and line up your critical success factors to match up. At the end of the day you are looking to identify how well (or not) you are delivering services. In the beginning, define or redefine your top goals and align your metrics to report on them. As you get more mature in the process you will be able to enhance your KPIs to make further improvements.
In the beginning you will notice that your baselines don’t match up to previous metrics captured. It may look like a department has doubled its incident volumes. Remember that it is likely that these issues always existed, you are simply capturing a true representation of the environment in which you are working. Ensure that your improvement stakeholders are aware of this reality as it can be a pause for concern for some wondering how things could look so different.
The trick is to realize that there is no perfect time to make improvements. Just start. Make simple adjustments and be sure to communicate to all those involved. As each success arises be sure to let everyone know. With ant setbacks, be sure to formulate a corrective measure and share them with the team as well. Measure your results as you move along and plan to continue iteratively improving you processes continually.