Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Bonus Lesson

Bonus Lesson in a Ten Part Series

By Chad Greenslade

Given the points made in the ten lessons learned, you may be wondering what my strategy recommendation would be for launching a new ITSM platform.  Well, as I mentioned, each organization is different and will have differing levels of ITSM knowledge within it.  Similarly, you may have IT executives who don’t see the value of defining services and CIs prior to launching the platform.  ITSM platforms can be expensive and executives are eager to show value for money as quickly as possible.  This will most likely translate in a directive to get “Incident”, “Problem”, and “Change” launched ASAP.  There may be no change management system currently in place and the organization’s viability depends on getting a handle on changes in the IT environment.  You’ll need to tailor your approach to the organizational dynamics at play, but give deference to the items I’ve mentioned above.  If you’re being forced into the market without a properly defined service catalog or configuration management database (CMDB), setup your service management processes to allow for the eventual introduction of these pieces.  Keep in mind that a new ITSM platform can be relegated to simply a “ticketing” system if services and configuration items are not defined.  The true power of the ITSM platform is “Service” management, not Incident or Change Management.

If you’re allowed the time and the money to “do it right” from the beginning, here’s my recommendation:

Phase 1: Discovery, CMDB, & Asset Management.  Many ITSM platforms will perform a network scan of your environment and automatically discover configuration items (CIs).  When you first turn this on, it will be like drinking from a fire hose.  There will be a lot of data that will need to be sifted through.  Many data points of a CI will be pre-populated, but these will need to be reviewed for accuracy against underpinning contracts.  You may see duplicate CI entries.  For example, duplicate entries may be the result of scanning a Windows domain controller that may not be properly configured or up-to-date.  There will most likely be components that cannot be scanned, or components that can only be scanned upon completion of appropriate troubleshooting.  Some scanning will require credentials whereas others may be discoverable without them.  There may be add-on components that you can purchase to make discovery easier.  You’ll want regular scanning to be enabled so that when new devices are found, appropriate action can be taken.  Using the underpinning contracts, you’ll want to populate warranty, maintenance, and depreciation information.  A properly setup CMDB and asset management practice will serve as a solid foundation from which to build your service catalog.

Phase 2: Service Catalog, Self-Service Request Fulfillment.  Once you have all of your IT assets properly defined, you’re now able to use them in the construction of services to be consumed by your customers.   The “menu” by which a customer can order a service is the “Service Catalog”.  Some services are running all the time and need not be ordered, and some may need to be ordered only once.  The key thing to keep in mind is that IT assets are used in delivering services, so the underlying principle to developing a service is the mapping of configuration items to business outcomes.  For example, a service could be “Messaging”, which could entail email, mobile phone, desktop telephone, and instant messaging.  A number of configuration items are responsible for delivering the “Messaging” service.  Development of the Service Catalog involves mapping these CIs to the “Messaging” service.  Keep in mind that a single CI can be mapped to more than one service.  Once the service is defined, Request Fulfillment entails the definition of one or many service requests that can be logged against the defined service.  A Service Requests differs from an Incident in that a Service Request is a request from a customer to run a service as it’s designed, versus an Incident entails a service being degraded or broken.  An example of a service request for the “Messaging” service would be creation of a new user mailbox.

Phase 3: Incident, Problem, Change, and Release.  Only after Services & CIs are properly defined can true service management occur.  As mentioned, you may experience pressure from executive to skip straight to this step in the deployment of your ITSM tool.  If this is the case, you’ll want to make room in your process for the eventual introduction of the items in phases 1 and 2.  The proper configuration of Category, Sub-Category, & Item as discussed in Lessons 2 & 6 becomes even more important if you’re not allowed to complete phases 1 & 2 first.  Again, the goal of this exercise is to implement “service” management and not simply a “ticketing” system.  You’ll want to ensure that you have process models created for Incident, Problem, Change, and Release.  ITIL foundations will provide you with basic models that can be tailored to your organization.

Phase 4: Project Management (Waterfall & Agile).  With a solid ITIL operating platform established via the first three phases of your rollout, you are now ready to “bolt-on” project management modules.  In most organizations, the management of an IT project will culminate in the raising of one or more Requests for Change (RFCs) to implement one or more releases into the production environment.  Project management modules will assist you in managing these efforts.  Having project management as a part of your ITSM platform will also facilitate integrated resource management across all work types within IT.  The ideal situation is one in which an IT resource can access a single application (e.g. the ITSM tool) and see all of their work items.  Whether it’s a trouble ticket (Incident), a Service Request, a Problem, a task associated with a Change or Release, or a task associated with a project, your ITSM platform is intended to be the one-stop-shop for all work within IT.  Integrated time tracking will also facilitate labor capitalization for qualifying work.

Subsequent Phases: Service Level Management, Reporting, Governance, Risk, Compliance, Cost Management, Knowledge & Content Management, and User Survey. With each of the subsequent phases, you are “tightening the screws” on your ITSM platform.  Increasing service availability and IT operational efficiency are the overarching themes while managing risk, enforcing compliance, collecting knowledge, publishing content, and polling users for satisfaction.

The approach above is intended to be comprehensive and is the ideal scenario.  Rarely do we get to implement exactly how we want.  Don’t let perfection get in the way of being good enough.  In general, modules are flexible and your implementation can be tailored to your specific organization’s dynamics.

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Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Part 10

Tenth in a Ten Part Series

By Chad Greenslade

I have often been asked about my lessons learned in implementing an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool.  Below is the tenth in a ten part series examining my ITSM lessons learned.  I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to ITSM nirvana.

Lesson #10: Pilot your new ITSM platform in parallel with your old “ticketing” system.  There is no better way to understand how your new car will operate than taking it for a test drive.  ITSM platforms are no different.  You’ll want to run at least part of your new ITSM platform in parallel, in a test environment, prior to a production cutover.  This will undoubtedly cause increased burden on Service Desk and technical staff as they now have to log and work Incidents in two (2) systems.  Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil whose risk management rewards far outweigh the one-time additional effort.

Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Part 9

Ninth in a Ten Part Series

By Chad Greenslade

I have often been asked about my lessons learned in implementing an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool.  Below is the ninth in a ten part series examining my ITSM lessons learned.  I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to ITSM nirvana.

Lesson #9: Have a good CAB.  ITIL will tell you that the “Change Manager” is the only person that needs to approve a Request for Change (RFC).  While this is literally true, the “Change Manager” must be advised by someone.  That “someone” is the Change Approval Board (CAB).  In reality, however, most ITSM platforms and organizational practices require the actual approval (recorded in the ITSM) system of many different stakeholders.  What you want to avoid is folks who provide “rubber-stamp” approvals.  You want approvals to be meaningful and reflective of a person’s true position of authority in the organization.  Similar to the way some organizations skip the step of defining services or a service catalog, many organizations will take shortcuts in defining who should approve an RFC.  As I mentioned in Lesson #5, every service and CI should have an owner.  When an RFC is raised and the requestor of that RFC selects the services and CIs that are impacted by the RFC, the owners should be notified by the ITSM tool that a new RFC has been raised against their service or CI and that their approval is required.  In my professional opinion, these are the only three (3) persons that should approve an RFC; the service owners, the CI owners, and the Change Manager.  I fully endorse the concept of the CAB advising the Change Manager, but approvals from CAB members are not necessary.

Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Part 8

By Chad Greenslade

I have often been asked about my lessons learned in implementing an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool.  Below is the eighth in a ten part series examining my ITSM lessons learned.  I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to ITSM nirvana.

Lesson #8: Resist Customization.  Everyone thinks that their organization is unique, has a unique use case, and has a valid reason why a tool should be customized to fit their use case.  While I am not denying that there are some valid reasons for customization, implementing an ITSM strategy should largely be based on ITIL.  If your organization is doing something that doesn’t conform to ITIL, it’s probably worth examining the non-conforming activity and attempting to discontinue it.  Anyone that has been in IT long enough knows that customizing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software will undoubtedly introduce unknown complexity in the future.  The software manufacturer and the integrator may warn you against customization while simultaneously advising that the customization you are requesting is both doable and won’t cause a headache later.  Again, beware; they are attempting to sell you a product.  Think long and hard about any potential customization.  It will cost you in the future in terms of additional custom development in order to implement upgrades, as well as subsequent pre and post release testing.