Managing companies has always been a challenge, but the essence of this task is being transformed through the increasingly rapid economic changes taking place. On one hand, mergers or new products are leading companies to maximise their market share and expand, while on the other, new regulations and new customer demands are forcing businesses to constantly change.
This is the view of Ian Huntly, CEO and MD of Rifle-Shot Performance Holdings whose organisation represents SoftExpert in sub-Saharan Africa. SoftExpert is a market leader in software and services for enterprise-wide business process improvement and compliance management.
Information technology is the engine of almost every organisation, and to meet these needs, IT needs to operate within a new business model. The challenge is to turn IT departments from being traditional reactive technology providers to becoming strategic service providers.
Information technology service management (ITSM) can be defined as the way in which the IT department manages information systems and delivers value to customers and users. The ITSM concept is a new approach to planning and managing change, establishing tasks when something unexpected happens, or managing IT budgets, ensuring payment of suppliers. These are some of the elements that can help prevent negative impacts for the business.
ITSM has several benefits, such as reduced operating costs, improved IT resource allocation and enhanced productivity.
Changing to an ITSM model is no easy task, because it affects the entire organisation – the business, the IT department as well as existing projects. There are several management standards and best practices, such as Cobit, ISO 20000, TOGAF and ITIL, which are worldwide recognised. Regardless of the standard used, seven elements that will help make this project a success are suggested below:
Aligning the IT with the business strategy is a traditional aspect when it comes to initiatives in IT management models. However, many companies report difficulties achieving their business objectives, due to a misalignment of targets, cultural issues, divergences between departments, or even a complete lack of harmony between them, resulting in poorly performed processes and services that exacerbate inefficiency and user complaints.
The key, in elaborating the IT strategic plan, is to involve both the business and IT. A good understanding of the needs of the business and a clear comprehension of the assumptions and constraints of both parties, will provide a solid foundation for establishing a strong IT strategy.
It is recommended organisations begin by reviewing the business environment and evaluating the current IT scenario in order to adapt the business processes, policies and procedures. In addition a goal, linked to the organisational priorities, should be defined, thereby allowing the business to focus on actions that will deliver tangible results. Through this approach, IT will help the business to distinguish itself in the market, sell more and deliver better service to its customers.
Service request management
Managing requests can seem like a daunting task at first, however organisations can start simply, focusing on what will be provided to the users. Many of these requests probably occur in an unstructured way, will need to be identified and organised correctly, thereby establishing a Service Catalogue. Centralised service offers will facilitate self-help and optimise service delivery, simplifying the user’s experience and increasing user satisfaction.
The SLA also plays a crucial role in service request management, as it helps to define the roles and responsibilities of IT, the rules on escalation and how the services will be delivered to meet the agreed deadlines. The Request itself is the last aspect in the service request management, ensuring all the requests are registered according to the catalogue and processed according to the SLA rules, meeting users’ expectations. Service Request Management will help to improve resolution times, enhance IT systems availability and cut service costs in IT operations.
Incident management can involve legal and financial issues that can do serious harm to the business. The main objective of incident management is to restore service to normal as quickly as possible after a deviation. A well-managed incident can prevent these deviations from affecting other services or stopping business processes. When incident management is left unattended, it can slow down business operations and negatively impact the reputation of the IT team.
A well-defined incident management strategy will create a good impression of IT services and prevent users from facing unpleasant situations, like reopened or wrongly designated tickets, misinformation and SLA violations. The incident management discipline will help speed up incident resolution times, increasing productivity and efficiency across the organisation, while also helping the IT department reduce costs.
When the same incident starts to repeat itself, organisations will have a problem. While Incident Management is focused on symptoms, Problem Management is a complementary discipline that focuses on the root cause of a deviation. Problem Management is directly linked with Incident Management, with an emphasis on investigation of the reasons of why the problem occurred. This discipline applies tools like cause and effect, fishbone charts, failure tree analysis and trend analysis to help detect and understand the incident’s details.
An incident that is managed in a stand-alone way can be corrected within the SLA timeframe, but from the moment the incident starts to repeat itself, it will require extra time on the part of IT professionals, increasing their workload and cutting into productivity. Definition of an efficient problem management process will mean fewer different tickets coming in for the same incident as well as fewer repeat incidents.
Changes happen in organisations every day, but updating a core system to a newer version, for example, can bring more problems than benefits. The chances of failure increase in direct proportion to the number of people who resist change. Therefore, one of the challenges of IT is to help people understand why the change is being made, and believe in it. If people cannot see the benefits, then they will simply not want to change, and will put up barriers to resist it.
Although it is clear the company needs to change, the reasons for the change may not be obvious. It involves managing people, helping them to understand the need for the change by informing them of what will happen and giving them a chance to ask questions. Providing support to people will help ensure the success of the change.
An IT asset can be defined as any software or hardware used by an organisation to perform business activities. The asset management discipline usually involves collecting information to establish a detailed inventory of the organisation’s assets. Companies use asset information to make decisions about asset allocation, new purchases or disposal of assets when maintenance costs outweigh benefits.
Although IT asset management represents a significant portion of IT costs, several companies have limited management of their IT asset inventory or even have no management at all. This can lead to problems, such as the purchase of new assets with existing idle assets, or each department managing its own assets, resulting in a lack of efficiency across the organisation.
Asset management helps IT achieve strategic objectives and determines the activities required to meet these objectives, while also reducing the capital costs of investing in the asset base and the costs of operating assets.
Continuous improvement management
This final element consists of ensuring all aspects of the Service Management are aligned with the business objectives and are achieving the agreed levels of performance, besides giving a clear view of the things that are going well, those that are not going to so well, and those that need to be improved. Collecting user feedback on a regular basis, tracking KPIs and reviewing reports affords the IT managers a regularly updated snapshot about the IT services.
This information provides metrics that can be turned into actions to adjust services and processes, helping to reduce new tickets and resolution times, boosting first call resolutions and reducing the number of repeat incidents.
Through the continuous assessment and enhancement of processes and services, an environment can be established in which the entire IT workforce strives for higher levels of quality and user satisfaction, contributing to budget optimisation and enhanced ROI and improving the IT processes.