Charles Fraser Freelance IT Service Excellence Consultant

IT Service Improvement - what you should know

As I have worked as an IT Service Improvement Consultant for a number of years and here are just a few of the things I have learnt

It's not all about ITIL

Yes ITIL is wonderful. Yes ITIL is great. Yes ITIL is recognised Best Practice…but ITIL is not the only approach. Used properly ITIL will undoubtedly help you to improve, but…ITIL is not the only approach. There are principles and practices that are found in other framework and standards that will help you just as much (if not more) than ITIL e.g. in Lean, Six Sigma, COBIT, ISO20000, etc.

Yes, I realise it sounds like heresy – but ITIL is not perfect! In fact some of the advice offered by ITIL is just plain wrong. Yes it sounds great in theory, but when you come to apply it in the real world it just does not work – and in some cases it will actually lead to real problems. A few examples:

- ITIL urges you not to combine the role of Incident and Problem Manager – wrong – this is in fact the best thing to do if you want Problem Management to be effective.

- ITIL suggests you include a glossary of terms in your Service level Agreements – wrong – a glossary of terms should never be included in an SLA

- ITIL suggests you have resolution targets for Incidents – wrong (see below) - resolution targets for Incidents do not lead to any form of service improvement. In fact they have the opposite effect.

I could go on but you get the point….

Service Targets do not lead to improvement

If you really want to improve then stop setting so many Service performance targets. For example, remove target timescales for the resolution of Incidents; do not set targets for Service Desk resolution rates. These are just two examples of IT Service performance targets that do not lead to improvement.

In fact they actually do the opposite – and lead to a reduction in the quality of service (from the customer perspective). If you really want to improve you need to stop setting these sort of performance targets and start to measure and understand your Capabilities. Want to know more? Then get in touch.

Remove the fear within your IT Service organisation

One of the reasons that many IT Service Organisations find it difficult to improve is because they are driven by fear – fear of failure. This is not surprising given that most IT organisations only ever get noticed when things go wrong. So the focus is on remaining invisible, of doing nothing to attract attention. Quite often the culture within these organisations is focussed on blame. When there is a failure the focus is on finding who to blame. This makes improvement almost impossible, because the fear of failure stiles invention and innovation. However if you really want to improve you have to change from focussing on fear (fear of 'dropping the ball' – instead you must ensure the focus is on achievement (how high can you throw the ball?').

If you want to improve – you must really want to improve

Improvement is not easy. It takes hard work and commitment. It often requires changes to existing working practices, procedures etc. Quite often the initial changes required for improvement are not popular, and they are met with resistance within IT. If you are serious about improvement then you must be ready for this, and you must be prepared to see it thought. In particular IT Management need to show strength and true leadership. Only when you do this will you be able to truly improve. The reason I make this point is because although almost every IT Manager you talk with claims that they want to deliver improvement – in most cases this is not true. What they would in fact prefer is an easy life, to do tomorrow what they are doing today, and to be left in pace and quiet to do this. They do not want to be faced with the leadership challenges associated with making the changes required for improvement. So – if you do want to improve you need to make sure that you really do want improve!

Forget the 'grandstanding' and concentrate on the small steps

The best improvements (the ones that make a real difference and have a long lasting effect) are not the grand plans and strategies – rather they are the improvements that are based on a number of relatively small (but meaningful) steps. They are more a case of 'tuning' and 'tweaking' rather than radical revision. As an aside – you find that radical revision results in a lot of upheaval, frustration and low morale – but no lasting improvement.

It's not all about Process – remember the people

Many organisations that have based their operational model on IITL principles have spent considerable time developing and implementing multiple ITIL based processes to deal with Incidents, Problems, and Changes etc. In many cases these organisations find themselves disappointed and confused because they do not seem to get any real operational improvement from these processes. There are of course a number of reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is simply because processes on their own are simply not enough. Yes – good process are important – but good people are even more important. If you want to ensure you need to make sure that you have the right people, with the right skills, the right approach, the right service based culture, doing the right thing at the right time. Much of my work involves coaching IT Operational staff into understanding what it is they need to do, how they need to do it, and why they need to do it a certain way. Yes – good processes are important – but without good people you will have nothing.

If you want to know more about any of the above then please contact me at