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ITSM Processes

Top tips for improving your IT service desk

By Vawns Murphy on September, 15 2016

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Vawns Murphy

Senior ITSM Analyst

One of the things I got asked about most as a consultant was around ensuring that ITSM projects delivered real, tangible benefits to the rest of the business. Sometimes value can take time to realise so here are my top tips for delivering value quickly.


Have standard ways of working

Make sure that every process under your remit has process documentation and clearly defined work instructions. Ideally, each set of work instructions should be created by a member of the team that carries out the tasks in question and then sanity checked by another team member. The idea is this - a good ITSM service should be like a DVD - doesn’t matter how many times you play it; you will have a consistently good experience as opposed to a play where your experience hinges on the individual performance of the actors.

Empower your Service Desk

Apply the Shift Left principle by inviting your second line support techies for part of your Service Desk team meetings to share hints and tips. The benefit is two fold; Service Desk analysts are empowered and have upskilled, freeing up second line support to deal with the serious stuff. Plus, if both teams know and like each other, they’re less likely to shout at each other or bounce tickets for daft reasons when the chips are down.

Self Help

Empower your users by encouraging them to use Self Service / Self Help. If gamification is an option build it in so the experience is fun and users feel rewarded by using self help. At the very least have a Knowledge Base or FAQ section so that your customer base know where to go for help with the basics. More on knowledge centered support here or here.

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Problem Management

Boost your Incident Management process with Problem Management. By spending time on root cause analysis you get rid of the “boring Incidents” and get your users back up and running faster. If you don’t know where to start, carry out a review following Major Incidents. Ask what happened and why, how it was fixed and what actions are needed to prevent a recurrence.  If Problem Management is already in place - supercharge it with proactive Problem Management; talk to your support teams and service delivery managers. Ask what keeps them awake at night so that you can come up with a plan of action.

Revamp your CAB

There is no excuse for people falling asleep in CAB meetings. If people dread going to CAB because it’s a five hour meeting or it’s thought of as a box ticking exercise then you're doing it wrong. CAB meetings should be there to discuss critical, business Changes. use a risk matrix and business rules to approve lower level Changes freeing up the CAB to discuss the Changes that are critical to the business.

Sharing the love

Make your business feel loved - put SLAs in place and ensure that you have regular service review meetings. Without mutually agreed SLAs in place you will only ever be managed emotionally by the rest of the business.  Having regular meetings with your customer base keeps things on track - any issues can be dealt with there and then rather than being left to spiral out of control.Sharing_Love.jpg 

Configuration Management

If you don’t have a CMDB then guess what - those ancient documents that 3rd line support use to support a service? That’s a CMDB! If funding is an issue use spreadsheets (seriously). Start with your most business critical services and build out. Once the rest of the business starts seeing the benefits (just of the top of my head - faster Incident impact analysis, more effective Change Management and better estate management as a starter for ten) you will be in a better position to ask for a dedicated tool.

Service Catalogues

As an ex colleague used to say to “always make it easy for people to give you money”. Make it easy for people to access all your sparkle fab services by advertising them in one central location. A Service Catalogue doesn’t have to be an expensive all singing, all dancing tool. It can start off as simple web page on your Service Desk intranet and grow over time. See our top tips for how to initiate your self service portal and bring people to it here.

Request Fulfilment

Free up your Service Desk! Encourage users to use the self service model to make Service Requests. If you make it fun (see above notes on gamification) it will be adopted and will be popular. If you have the option; tie in Request Fulfilment with your Service Catalogue - making them useful will drive engagement and boost the uptake of both processes. Shift your knowledge leftwards and reap the benefits.

Continuously Improve Your Service Desk

Improve, improve improve. Like Deming demonstrated over his career -  small achievable bursts are much more likely to stick than large scale expensive projects. Little and often is the way forward. Case in point? Eight years ago I was working at a retail savings bank near Reading. It seemed like the marketing department wanted a new website Release resulting in the Ops guys and Dev guys snarling at each other from opposite sides of the room and an epic blame culture. We decided that something needed to be done to avoid a “handbags at dawn” situation.

From talking to all three sides it was clear that everyone was feeling stressed out and under pressure so working as a team we revamped the deployment process so it took less time, agreed a sensible Release schedule with the rest of the business (including scope for emergencies) and recruited volunteers from Marketing to sanity check and review each deployment. The result? The deployment time for each deployment was reduced by 50%, Change effectiveness improved by 25% and most importantly? Dev and Ops were friends again. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest impact so always have improvement on your radar.

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