Establishing a Service Management Baseline

Leveraging IT Service Management Best Practices to Develop a Roadmap and Measure Progress

“To get where you want, you have to know where you are.” Without following that simple concept, it is virtually impossible to measure progress. Too often, IT organizations delay establishing an IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices baseline because they are always preparing for the baseline. This is actually counterproductive and results in needless delays in realizing organizational efficiencies, reducing operating costs, and ultimately improving the quality of service and customer satisfaction. A baseline measure of the current operational environment should be established if one wants to quantify and demonstrate the value of any initiative to improve the organization’s performance.

The Roadmap
The baseline measure of organizational performance should ultimately result in an improvement plan. The improvement plan is essential if one wants to ensure that efforts to improve performance are properly prioritized, focused, and managed in accordance with project management best practices that provide visibility into progress, communication and execution. Preparing the organization to obtain a baseline measure may actually misrepresent the results leading to an improvement plan that does not contribute to meeting the organization’s mission or goals. To be meaningful, the baseline measure of performance should be derived from an objective assessment using industry best practices and standards. This will ensure a meaningful and actionable roadmap for lasting improvements in organizational performance.

Where To Start?
Borrowing concepts from the Deming Cycle, it is best to start by establishing a baseline measure of performance by conducting an assessment.  One then develops a PLAN to improve performance, implements the plan (DO), CHECKs or measures performance gains to ensure the plan is working, and then makes the necessary adjustments, or ACTs on the results of a subsequent performance measurement. Without the baseline assessment or measure of performance, it is difficult to determine what constitutes success.
Applying these concepts to assessing an organization’s relative IT Service Management maturity, the first critical steps is to determine the scope of the ITSM assessment using the ITIL® framework and the ISO 20000 standards. For example, is the entire organization, the service desk, or a Data Center’s Service Management maturity being baselined?   Related to this is identifying the executive sponsor and the appropriate participants in the assessment. Given the significance and critical dependencies of the assessment and its impact on all future ITSM related initiatives, there are a number of critical success factors that should be taken into consideration when conducting the assessment.

Assessment Critical Success Factors
The assessment itself should be comprised of, at a minimum, the following:

1. A scope that encompasses each of the core ITIL processes, including the supporting ITSM technology platform, the organizational structure required to support the framework, and the people impacted.
2. A web based survey that is quantifiable and objective.
3. Questions that are based on the ITSM ISO/IEC 20000 standards and the ITIL v3 framework.

Additionally, the overarching success of the assessment will depend on the assessment team’s ability to objectively capture and compare pertinent data from multiple sources using a variety of tools/techniques.  The data captured needs to be distilled into meaningful informational views that can be used to help make the best decisions.  Figure 1 provides a sample view of the maturity ratings of the Operations Lifecycle Phase and its supporting processes and functional areas.

Figure 1, Service Operations Processes Maturity Rankings

Finally, engaging an assessment team that has practical experience assessing, implementing, managing, and improving ITIL based processes within government environments will increase the probability of a successful assessment that results in an actionable implementation plan or roadmap.

Assessment Approach
A meaningful assessment includes an analysis of each of the ITIL v3 processes and evaluates the key activities, governance, process workflows, organizational structure, and supporting tools and technologies.  To conduct an objective evaluation of the existing IT infrastructure personnel, processes, and technologies, current operations should be compared to well established ITIL/ISO 20000 best practices and standards.

Data Collection Activities
The assessment should include a web based, secure, online survey consisting of a subset of questions that approximate the actual ISO/IEC 20000 audit questions and criteria. The survey should be administered to key stakeholders, managers, customers and support personnel to measure on a 0-5 CMMI like scale the perceived maturity of existing ITIL processes/functions and v3 Lifecycle Service phases.  Figure 2 presents sample maturity ratings for each of the ITIL v3 Service Management lifecycle phases.

Figure 2, Maturity Rankings by Life Cycle Phases

After reviewing the survey data one-on-one follow-up interviews with key stakeholders, process owners, and managers, as well as a representative sample of customers or end users should be conducted to validate survey results.

Group interviews with individuals responsible for administering and managing the ITSM related tool suite (e.g. trouble ticketing application) should also be conducted to ascertain the level and degree of integration between the processes and the supporting tool suite.

Another key data collection activity is the observation of ITSM related activities involving for example the service (help) desk, network operations, change management, and other processes or functions as appropriate.

Finally, reviewing existing ITSM related documentation such as organization charts, exiting process charters, workflow diagrams/documentation, SOPs, supporting ITSM tool configurations, and defined roles/responsibilities related to ITSM processes/function (e.g. Service Desk Incident, Problem, Change, and Configuration Management) should be done to help provide a holistic view.

The Assessment Report
Once the data has been collected it should be synthesized to make strategic and tactical “quick hit” recommendations that are included in an assessment report to be presented to the executive sponsor.  The assessment report should also include for example:

1. Actionable recommendations to close the gaps between current operations and best practices and improve the associated processes, technologies, organization structure, and supporting human resources
2. Prioritized recommendations according to that which will provide the greatest value in the shortest period of time
3. Education and certification plans for key personnel.
4. A preliminary roadmap to improve ITSM maturity and organizational performance.

Upon approval, roadmap actually becomes the ITSM implementation plan that will identify the major initiatives, activities, resources, timelines, challenges, constraints, critical success factors, risks, benefits, educational requirements, costs, etc.

The Assessment Results
The assessment should result in a report and presentation that is well organized in a logical manner that provides actionable recommendations and meaningful information (vs. data) to help facilitate effective decision making (strategic and tactical) and the development of a detailed implementation plan. Where appropriate, an associated ROI should be linked to the recommendations. This allows an organization to focus on key areas of improvement that will produce the greatest return in the shortest period of time resulting in operational efficiencies, a reduction in operational costs, and ultimately an increase in end user satisfaction.   Additionally, the assessment results should also suggest meaningful measures and key performance indicators that help guide desirable organizational behavior and contribute to continuous service improvements.

The quality of the assessment will directly impact the success of an ITSM implementation, as well as the organization’s willingness to accept future changes that may result from the assessment. A well established and defined assessment approach with clearly defined critical success factors ensures the highest quality assessment results and deliverables.  A sound approach also helps ensure that stakeholders are well aware of the expected outputs and that there is advanced and open communication with the organization regarding the purpose of the assessment, the intended benefits, and its impact on individuals.

ITSM Simulation
Upon completion of the assessment, the use of an ITSM simulation exercise with the key stakeholders will help to visibly demonstrate the value of well defined and integrated processes, people, tools and technologies, necessary to effectively manage an IT infrastructure that delivers exceptional service in support of the business or mission.

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