Getting Great ICT Service Delivery

I am prompted to write a post around ICT Service Delivery as I have a request-for-proposal from a prospective client to review their ICT Service area.  Without giving too much away, they seem to have a reasonable number of people in their IT area (about one staff member for every 20-25 PCs) which by every benchmark I’ve ever read is probably twice the normal benchmark.

And yet, the users aren’t happy.  In fact, they’re quite unhappy, it would seem – almost to the point where boiling oil, pitchforks, and tedious jokes about broken coffee-cup holders are considered necessary.

It just highlights to me, I think, that the area of ICT Service Delivery is one that businesses still haven’t got right – particularly SMEs, I think.  I consider that this is due to a distinct lack of engagement between the business and the IT service area.  It’s a governance problem – business doesn’t tell IT what it needs, and so IT guesses and fills in the blanks.  And good on IT for trying, but it doesn’t help much, even if they’re really good at guessing.  Really, the need is for the business to give direction to IT and identify what the needs are.  The current situation that all too often arises is that IT gives the correct answer to the wrong question.  One client had four network administrators and one person on the help desk.

Not surprisingly, at a technical level the network worked very well (packets were not lost, data was transported around) but users were exceptionally unhappy (no application maintenance people, apparently, results in applications that don’t get maintained).

Anyway, the answer to great ICT service delivery seems to be:

  1. Know why you are doing something
  2. Know what it is you are trying to achieve
  3. Know who is responsible for achieving which aspects of the service
  4. Be informed as to how performance is going.
  5. If you are tempted to go beyond points 1-4, have a Bex and good lie down.

This means that you have to get the planning component right (links with the business – do what is needed), and then have the best practice components together for your building and managing components of the IT function (some version of ITIL/COBIT/PRINCE2/PMBOK) and THEN focus on the ‘running’ of IT.  In my experience problems in ICT service delivery really relate back to problems in the governance of IT – but it’s usually easier and more satisfying to yell at IT than to fix the real problems of the business.

IT outsourcing – selecting the ‘best’ infrastructure model

This article was published on CEO Online a month or two ago, and I did promise I would post it here eventually.  And as I am of course absolutely certain that there is a raft of readers out there who would like to see the full article on the basis of that promise (delusionment is a wonderful thing) I am posting the article here.

In order to keep us all sane, you will need to click through to see the full article.

Read more

Service Management Frameworks

It’s interesting that when you do reviews of IT departments for clients that many attempt to reinvent the wheel, or service management framework if you will, despite the fact that said wheel has been in stable production for some time now and if the plans were bought off the shelf the result would be within expected bounds.  Although frameworks such as ITIL have their critics (particularly related to being bureacratic bloated bastardry at its best), at least they are a framework that works and deliver reliable results.

I would suggest that if an IT department doesn’t adopt a service management framework (ITIL or its competitors) then you’ll need to spend a lot of time developing a framework without the benefit of others’ experience – to the detriment of service delivery, firstly, and more than likely strategic focus in the medium term.

It is after all kind of difficult to establish a strategic vision if you’re busy doing work that other people have already done.

Viva la ITIL Revolution!

Australia’s CIO Magazine has recently (well, yesterday) published an article entitled “ITIL Power” by Ben Worthen. This article is a relatively practical and in-depth review of the capabilities of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and when (and when not) to use it.

It’s worth comparing and contrasting this perspective with the view from Technology Executive Club in an article by Alcyone Consulting regarding the synergies between CObIT and ITIL.

As I say, ITIL and CObIT are good ways of making information technology “boring”, which is a good thing for business!


Good Practice, Best Practice, Leading Methods

You say tomato, I say tomato (say, that doesn’t work so well in print). A rose by any other name is just as thorny, that much is certain at least, and there are often objections to the term ‘best practice’. Although it is meant to capture practices that are generally accepted by everyone else, and that the ‘man on the Bondi tram’ might adopt if he thought about it, there are some who consider that ‘best practice’ is code for ‘doing what our competitors did five years ago’. And certainly there are some aspects of this – that ‘best practice’ is not necessarily ‘best’, it is just what everyone else is doing.

Still, it’s a good place to start, surely, and if it isn’t a place where competitive advantage can be gained (even unsustainable competitive advantage) for your business, why bother reinventing the wheel?

I note this recent article at NetworkWorld that discusses ITIL and COBIT, and discusses the two of them as being complementary, and in fact that they can result in more returns when coupled together. Certainly the news that 75% of IT Managers in the United States have plans to implement ITIL, or at least are thinking very strongly about it. When you check the fine print, of course, you realise that it isn’t that scientific a study (all those attending a conference on IT Service Management) but it probably provides some interesting flavour of what’s going on in the real world.