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How to anchor your IT service management during times of change

When it comes to times of change; whether new business, mergers & acquisitions or downsizing, maintaining customer focused Service Management can be a real challenge. Typically an organisations' Service Desk will be the key player in providing seamless Service Management.

In cases of growth, M&A or downsizing, it can often mean merging multiple and disparate IT service desks. As Change has become a standard way of life for the financial service world, the need for seamless IT integration when changes happen is essential. When changes hit, the first IT related question is often; "so how can we consolidate the service desk?" as it is essential that there is a central point of contact for all IT enquiries.

Preparation is key

Knowledge Management can provide an excellent tool to bridge the learning gap between reorganised IT service teams. Most Service Desk consolidation projects will also involve new service functions for team members. A Service Desk analyst may need to move from being a single-department "jack of all trades" to a multi-departmental desktop software expert.

Developing a process and solution to capture the expertise from highly skilled service analysts is a big factor to consider when transitioning to a new service support model. There will need to be an IT Service Management process in place to make sure that all the key Knowledge Management information is integrated.

The type of information that needs to be integrated could range from the basic; for example contact information, to the more complex like best practice guidelines for specific company processes. The information needs to be quickly accessible for those that need to utilise it.

When consolidating two or more Service Desks there will be an increase in different types of "how to" questions. In most organisations, there is typically a broad range of applications. If the IT service desk can identify the top 20 applications, and the most common problems with those applications, they can prepare matching resolutions that can be captured and documented in the knowledge base.

The four anchors

When deciding upon a consolidated service desk solution, consider the following IT Service Management "anchors" to ensure a best practice approach to service delivery,

1. Incident Management

2. Problem Management

3. Change Management

4. Configuration Management

With centralised Incident Management, IT can introduce automation to streamline incident processing and resolution tools to both drive down the resolution time and reduce escalations to the level 2/3 specialist teams.

Acknowledging that time is money, when an organisation can reduce escalations to Level 2/3 and solve the incident on the first call, it is a quicker resolution which increases the productivity of the users experiencing the incident and it is cheaper for the organisation, making for a win/win equation.

Problem Management follows on from Incident Management. In so many cases a problem escalates because the root cause is unknown. For example the Service Desk may receive an influx of service calls pertaining to not being able to login to a specific software application.

With management dashboards, these spikes in related incidents can be identified quickly by the service desk, which will prompt the Problem Management analysts to begin diagnosing the source of the problem. Once the problem and root cause are identified and a permanent fix is determined, the incident(s) and problem will then be resolved by a change.

For example, the resolution may call for adding more servers to support a higher volume of application users; this resolution action would be accomplished via a Change.

The Change Management process demands visibility of the entire IT infrastructure and the ability to act and communicate in real time. If the IT service desk has visibility of changes and can view upcoming scheduled changes as well as just completed changes, they are in a better position to deal with an employee enquiry.

For example, when an employee is having difficulty with a business application that has a diagnosed problem and a scheduled change record, the service desk analyst can let the customer know that the problem is actively being addressed and an estimated time of service restoration: "I can see we have someone working on that and it should be fixed shortly".

In a truly integrated Change Management scenario you will benefit from automation. If 50 employees call in regarding a specific business application being slow, each caller will be assigned a unique service ticket number.

On the IT service desk, the related employee tickets will all be associated to "one problem". With automated workflow and integrated diagnostic tools, the problem can be addressed immediately. When the problem is solved, all the different associated ticket numbers will be closed and an auto-confirmation sent to each affected person.

The fourth and final ITSM anchor is Configuration Management. A key enabler of any consolidated IT Service Desk is a centralised IT asset repository - the Configuration Management Database or CMDB. The CMDB shows what is happening to the IT infrastructure at any given time.

The CMDB also allows IT to establish relationships between dependencies in the IT infrastructure. For example, if a mass software upgrade needs to be made, IT can use the CMDB to see what business services and business users will be impacted by the upgrade.

The CMDB becomes a critical tool to schedule changes to minimise impact and downtime to the users they support. It can also be an effective tool in the troubleshooting and root cause identification steps of problem resolution.

Many businesses are part of a heavily regulated and audited industry. When auditors check IT systems, often the first thing they will investigate is the Change Management processes and systems. They will want to know what the formal approval process is for changes.

For example, what change types require which level of management approval. The Change Advisory Board (CAB) has a duty to ensure that risks are mitigated, and that per change type, changes are reviewed and approved accordingly, to ensure multiple perspectives and risk factors are taken into account.

IT trends show that in spite of best efforts to reduce incidents, in these times of change, the growing complexities of the IT infrastructure are driving the volumes of transactions higher, and every moment counts.

Organisations should expect their support staffs to effectively respond to these enquiries in a timely manner. By putting the four key anchors in place and ensuring an effective ITSM process, IT organisations via the Service Desk, can contribute to higher service levels at a much lower cost of delivery.

This article was written by Brenda Iniguez, Americas Service Management Services Director, FrontRange Solutions

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.