PM Articles > Alan S. Koch > Little ITIL®, Big Results

Little ITIL®, Big Results

Step 4 of 10: Talk About the Score

by Alan S. Koch, PMP

In our last article, "Little ITIL®, Big Results; Step 3 Know the Score," we continued looking at our 10 steps to starting an ITIL effort in a small IT shop. (Listen to our webinar on this 10-step process!) Step 3 was about objectively measuring what is important, not only the internal technical metrics, but also external customer-oriented metrics.

Back in Step 2 -- "Talk About Getting Started" -- you probably heard a lot of complaining from your constituents. And if so, those complaints were likely broad generalizations that had more of a basis in emotion than in metrics. The metrics you started collecting in Step 3 will provide a tool for moving those conversations away from emotion and toward consideration of facts.

This fourth step of the process is focused on restating the complaints you are hearing in terms of metrics. You do that by showing both your customers and your IT Staff what the metrics say, and by probing to see if other metrics are needed to address some complaints.

The point of this is not to prove to the complainers that they are wrong or over-stating the problems. Rather, it is to replace emotion with a reasoned basis for a rational conversation so all of you can agree on problems that need to be solved, and how you will know when things get better.

Starting Conversations About the Score

Having opened a communication channel with each of our constituents in Step 2, we have a built-in basis for these new conversations with them. With each person, we want to begin with the things we heard last time, which demonstrates that we were listening, and move the relationship forward by bringing the relevant metrics into the discussion.

Talk About the Score With Your IT Staff

It may be tempting to start by showing our customers the "real data," but we have a more important place to start -- within IT. Every member of IT needs to understand (in terms of hard data) what he or she does and how it affects the customers and end users.

Internal Technical Metrics -- We start with the internal, technical metrics (like server performance, network down-time, or person-hours per service request). They provide a basis for understanding and talking about how each component of our IT shop is performing and identifying opportunities to improve that performance.

If our staff members have complained about anything other than customers and end users (be it hardware reliability, software performance, or process efficiency), we will start there, by bringing out and discussing the metrics that clarify those issues. Compare staff members' perceptions to the hard numbers. Are things as bad as they seemed? Worse? Is there room to improve? Would the effort needed to improve be justified? What changes might we make to improve things?

But let's not limit our focus to complaints. Often people live with problems that they fail to articulate. Look at all of the available metrics. Do any of them indicate problems? Is anything out of line with expectations? Are opportunities for improvement apparent from the numbers?

This is the beginning of an important pattern we want to establish with our staff -- that of confirming or illustrating problems with metrics, and examining metrics to identify hidden problems. The more our people think in terms of measuring the IT environment to identify how to make things better, the more improvements we will be able to make.

External Customer-Oriented Metrics -- After looking at the technical metrics with our staff, we need to turn their attention to the customer-oriented metrics (like application response times as experienced by end users, down-time as experienced by end users, and hold-time when calling the service desk). Any of their complaints about customers or end users must be viewed through the lens of these metrics. Again, we want to confirm where problems exist, and understand them in a way that will allow them to be solved.

Then we must examine all of the customer-oriented metrics to look for issues. Much of what we have begun measuring at this point was prompted by customer complaints, so this will be our opportunity to translate complaints our staff may be hearing from their customers into quantitative form. It will provide all of us with insight into our customers' and end users' experience with our services, and will be the starting point for addressing the problems.

Your IT staff are in a unique position that allows them to draw connections between these customer-oriented metrics and the more familiar technical metrics. After using the customer-oriented metrics to confirm and understand each customer complaint, they can use the technical metrics as the centerpiece in root-cause analysis. This understanding of the causal connection between what goes on within IT and how our customers experience it is key to making meaningful improvements.

Talk About the Score With Your Customers

After exploring all of the metrics with our staff, we are ready to have similar conversations with our customers. But in this case, we will not talk about technical metrics (except with members of our customer community who are interested in them). With our customers, our focus will be on the customer-oriented metrics.

External Customer-Oriented Metrics -- As with our staff, we will start our discussion with each member of our customer community by revisiting the complaints they have already raised. We will demonstrate that we were listening to them, then bring out and discuss the metrics that clarify those issues. Compare the customer's perceptions to the hard numbers. Are things as bad as they seemed? Worse? Is there room to improve? What levels of service would meet their needs?

Again, we won't limit our focus to their complaints. We will look at all of the available metrics. Do any of them indicate problems? Is anything out of line with expectations? Are opportunities for improvement apparent from the numbers?

It is important that we not make any promises that we cannot be sure of meeting. At this point in our process, that likely means that we can't promise to do anything more than investigate how we might make appropriate improvements in the relevant metrics. (Indeed, that will be our next step!) For now, we have achieved the intermediate goal of translating their complaints into an actionable form.

As with our staff, this is the beginning of an important pattern we want to establish with our customers -- that of confirming or illustrating problems with metrics, and examining metrics to identify hidden problems. The more our customers think in terms of measuring their need for IT services, the better able we will be to actually meet those needs.

Talk With Your IT Staff About Your Customers

After exploring the metrics with our customers, we can return to our staff to discuss options. The issues have been quantified, and we have discussed with our staff how those customer-oriented metrics relate to the internal technical metrics. We are now ready to explore options for improving the services we supply to our customers.

This final step is important even if it seems clear to us what needs to be done. Every member of our staff must understand how the things they do and the metrics that they use contribute to the service levels our customers experience. Besides, they may have insights that we have overlooked! Clarifying how the changes we make within IT translate into service improvements to our customers closes a very important loop!




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