Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Part 2

Second 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 second in a ten part series examining my ITSM lessons learned.  I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to ITSM nirvana.

Lesson #2: Avoid “Other”.  When you’re going down the path of configuring your ITSM modules (e.g. Incident, Problem, Service Request, Change, Release), there are various meta-data elements you’ll be asked to configure.  When a user creates a new Incident record, for example, they will usually be prompted to select the Service being impacted, and possibly the Configuration Items (CIs).  In some deployments, the user may also be prompted to select the Category, Sub-Category, and Item values to be appended to the service record.  In some ITSM deployments, these meta-data can be uniform across all record types.  In others, separate and distinct meta-data may be able to be applied to the different ITSM records.

In any case, you’ll want to avoid giving anyone in the organization the ability to select “Other” as a valid value.  If you allow users and technicians to append “Other” to a service record, invariably this will eventually become abused will result in reporting discrepancies in your tool.

The advent of “Other” in the reporting tool arises from a short-sighted or incomplete strategy, so instead of allowing the user to select “Other”, do your homework and determine what the user is really attempting to accomplish.  If you allow a user to select the Service being impacted by the Incident, there should be no “Other” service listed in your Service Catalog.  Likewise, if you allow the user to select the Configuration Item (CI) being impacted by the Incident, there should be no “Other” CI listed in your CMDB.

Removing “Other” from Category, Sub-Category, and Item drop-down lists can be a little more daunting, but not insurmountable.  Most configurations of Category, Sub-Category, and Item that I have witnessed in production have been ad-hoc, short-sighted, and not valuable.  Further, I have seen reporting built on top of this flawed implementation approach.  My professional opinion is that the combination of Category, Sub-Category, and Item should distinctly identify the configuration item, and the aspect of that CI that is being impacted.

We can all agree that the only service items that exist in an IT environment are hardware and software.  Let “Hardware” and “Software” be the only choices for “Category”.  Sub-categories under the “Hardware” category would be entries such as, “Data Network”, “Desktop PC”, “Laptop PC”, “Messaging”, “Printers”, “Scanners / Imaging Devices”, “Server – Intel”, “Server – Unix”, “Telephone Network”, and “UPS”.  Sub-categories under “Software” would be entries such as, “Antivirus”, “Business Applications”, “Data Files”, “Data Network”, “Database”, “Desktop PC”, “Desktop Publishing”, “Development Tools”, “Infrastructure Tools”, “Laptop PC”, “Messaging”, “Middleware”, “Operating System”, “Printers”, “Reports”, “Scanners / Imaging Devices”, “Security Applications”, “Server – Intel”, “Server – Unix”, “Telephone Network”, “UPS”, “User ID Administration”, and “Web Browsing”.

Now you may have noticed that some of the sub-categories that I listed for “Hardware” are duplicated in “Software”.  Take “Printers” for example.  There is both hardware and software that goes into a printer, and each could potentially fail and / or require service.  You want to be able to report on each of these items separately.  Lastly, the “Item” choices would most closely mirror the actual CI setup in your CMDB.  Now you may be asking yourself, “Why do I need to have an “Item” entry if I already have a CI entry?”  The answer is simple; it’s so that you can more granularly report on exactly what is affected by the ITSM record.  For example, if I just choose “Dell Color Laser 5110cn” as the CI affected by the Incident record, I don’t know if its hardware or software that’s the problem.  By applying the appropriate Category, Sub-Category, Item, CI, and Service I can accurately report the true nature of all ITSM records across the environment.

Lessons Learned from IT Service Management Tool Implementation: Part 1

First 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 first in a ten part series examining my ITSM lessons learned.  I hope that these lessons help you on your journey to ITSM nirvana.

Lesson #1: Beware of the Integrators.  An “Integrator” is a third party professional services firm that will help you to setup and deploy your selected ITSM tool.  Unless you have requisite development, configuration, and strategy skills & expertise in your organization, you will need to contract with an integrator to get your ITSM platform launched.  The key thing to remember is that the contract between you and your selected integrator is no different than any other professional services consulting engagement; you must clearly define scope, deliverables, acceptance criteria, etc.  Most of these agreements will center on the modules you want to develop and deploy.  Keep in mind that the overarching strategy is YOURS!  Don’t rely on the integrator to tell you how the modules you’ve asked them to develop and deploy will fit with your overall strategy.  While some integrators can offer some level of strategy expertise, the strategy completely depends on your organization’s dynamics and the desire to bring selected modules to market.  The bottom line is that the modules defined in the integrator agreement will be the sole focus of the integrator.  They will attempt to finish the development and release of the contracted modules as quickly as possible, and then move on to the next engagement.  If your organization is not ready to accept their work and deploy into production, your organization may incur additional cost or rework as the overarching strategy evolves.

Cost or Profit Center?

An Important Policy Decision

By Chad Greenslade

An important policy decision to be made is whether IT will be a profit or cost center.  This is a decision made by the organization’s executives, not by IT management.  This is because IT, as a business unit, is subject to the same governance as any other business unit.  Although IT executives may be asked to participate in making that decision, this is ultimately a matter of enterprise financial policy.  Definition of these two options are:

  • Cost Center: Two (2) definitions for the term “cost center” are commonly used in business.  Although they appear close in meaning, they are different.  In this context, the term is used to indicate a business unit or department to which costs are assigned, but which does not charge for services provided.  It is, however, expected to account for the money it spends, and may be expected to show a return on the business’ investment in it.  A cost center is able to focus awareness on costs and enable investment decisions to be better founded, without the overheads of billing.  However, it is less likely to shape users’ behavior and does not give the IT organization the full ability to choose how to financially manage itself (for example, in funding IT investment).  The other definition for the term “cost center” is used in the context for accounting.  In this context, a cost center is anything to which a cost can be allocated (for example, a service, location, department, business unit, etc.).  They also provide meaningful categories for allocating and reporting costs so that they can be understood and influenced by a wide audience.  Care should be taken to read the context of the term to ensure the correct meaning is inferred.
  • Profit Center: A business unit that charges for providing services is a “Profit Center”.  A profit center can be created with the objective of making a profit, recovering costs, or running at a loss.  As a profit center, IT is able to exercise greater autonomy, even to the extent that it can be operated as a separate business entity, under the ownership and direction of the corporate entity.  IT will also be able to achieve better cost control over service provision and calculate the true costs of IT by customers.  Charging other business units in the same organization can be useful in demonstrating the value that the service provider delivers, and in ensuring that funding is obtained from an appropriate source (i.e. the customer that uses the services).