Are your IT Operations running smoothly?

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Is your IT Operation running smoothly?

Recently a prospect complained about their IT operations at her company. Simple requests were complicated & time-consuming. They appeared to be too difficult for the Service Desk to fulfil. For example getting a mouse replaced required several phone calls and management approval for a device that cost $30.00.

And things were even worse when there were problems with the corporate accounting software. The process to get bugs fixed took months, and fixes rarely worked the first time. There was little or no communication happening. No updates on progress from the Service Desk. Lastly, the normal break-fix cycle in her experience contained an extra step: fix-again.

Who is to blame?

Most of us who have worked in Information Technology for a few years know this extra step all too well. The usual culprits are organisational change and/or lack of IT resources. Technology operational costs have increased and for many companies can represent as much as 50% of the budget. As a result, the Service Desk is often overwhelmed, under-trained, and under-resourced.

Introducing ITIL

There is reason to hope. In the last 10 years, experts have promoted the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework as the antidote to volatility and high costs. ITIL is a set of best practices and processes designed to improve IT services and stabilise infrastructure.

Managing IT Change

Change Management processes, which are a key component of IT, are of major importance and are concerned with the proper handling of system or application changes. Change Management procedures allow for management oversight and support, and close coordination between IT and business stakeholders to ensure success at every step. The Change Management process is all about defining a consistent method of handling hardware and software changes to the business environment.

Change doesn't happen overnight

The bad news is the journey to use ITIL to improve IT services has been long and oftentimes difficult. In fact, the path to "smooth" operations has become more of a quest for many companies. Smaller operations can be dismayed when they realise how many roles and processes are required to fully embrace and implement ITIL. As a result, the adoption of ITIL has been slow.

The good news is that the adoption of ITIL processes, however minute, produces a quantifiable outcome to Customer service improvement and cost reduction. Translation: There are lots of quick wins to be had.

Getting Started

Nevertheless the core question remains: What can be done to smooth out IT systems for companies? There is no magic silver bullet to answer this question, but here are some basic things to look at: 

  • Does my organisation have a Change Management process? If the answer is "yes", then is your process paper-based? Your Change Management process will work more effectively with technology that can automate the defined process workflow. This will allow you to automate many of the tedious steps, and store the documentation on the network where it can be accessed easily. Automation can help to send notifications. For example, to e-mail the Change Advisory Board when a Request for Change (RFC) has been submitted for approval.
  • Are the mission critical components of your infrastructure stored in a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)? In effect, it means: "Are your key hardware/software/networking assets stored in a registry, and can it be referenced by your Service Desk when things go wrong? Your company should maintain a list of assets, and people who look after them. When a critical system such as e-mail server is down, your IT staff might be wasting valuable time looking for the root-cause. The CMDB gives your staff the ability to ask the critical question: "What has changed?"

ITIL breeds success

Research has shown that organisations who have implemented ITIL processes and supporting automation are better equipped to handle mission-critical issues for the business. And among these organisations, there is a smaller subset who tracks mission critical hardware and software in a CMDB. This smaller group experiences a much more stable environment. This has been attributed to more information leading to a more proactive Service Desk. This smaller group practices Change Management more frequently/effectively, and is also better able to relate Incidents that have a common root cause.

Gaining your competitive advantage in the market

There is an elite group of companies who practice ITIL who have gone the extra mile. These companies not only have a stable infrastructure they also have much happier staff. They are using IT as an asset to leverage the business strategy and provide a competitive advantage. They have managed to rise above the grind and set their eyes on the horizon. Watch out for these companies, because they have the focus and alignment to drive them to the top of their game.

Given the importance of a stable IT system, what do you need to do to get your company back on track?

  1. Get Involved: Fill out those surveys that get sent to you. If you don't get a survey, then walk over to the IT department and speak to the Service Desk. Ask questions: For example, how does your IT staff check on the quality of their service? Avoid being cynical and withdrawn from IT's quality initiatives.
  2. Ask your Service Desk about ITIL. Hopefully they will know what you are talking about, and will be able to provide examples of what is being done to improve things on the ground.
  3. Be patient. In many cases, there is a significant amount of work to be done with limited resources. When it makes sense for your department, volunteer your time. For example, to test a new Financials product.
  4. Communicate your concerns. Don't go on this journey alone. Involve your co-workers, and get support from management.
Dan Roberts of CIO Insight writes that Change Management cannot succeed without the right kind of top-level support. More specifically, he recommends the 4 C's: Commitment, Community, Clarity and Communication. Check out his article  here.

Good luck, and we wish you smooth sailing with your IT Operations.


Take-away tips:

    1. Improve your Change Management - Automate Standard & Emergency Changes. If you have a Change Management system, look to build Automation into your Emergency Changes. Most systems will provide mechanisms to send e-mail notifications outbound, and to monitor votes coming in from the Change Advisory Board. This will give your team a bit of breathing room, and will allow you to properly scrutinise the risk associated with normal changes.
    2. Invest in Network Monitoring - Purchase a Network Monitoring system, if you don't already have one. In the long-term, link your Configuration Management Database to your network monitor. This will provide a 3 dimensional view of how your assets are performing. It will also help you to evaluate risk appropriately during change control.
Need help getting started? Contact one of the friendly staff at CRM Solutions or call us on: +61 2 8824 7299. We are here to help!

Tim Lambert

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More information

  • What is Change Management?

  • What is ITIL?