Guest contributor Ron Hill- Rightstar Systems.
I recently was working with one of our longtime customers. They wanted to use Service Desk Express for their facilities group. They needed a solution that would allow them to track repairs, work requests, and assets. As I was talking to the manager of the group he said, “We want to treat this project as if we were constructing a new building.” I must admit, at first I was a little puzzled, but I quickly grew fond of the analogy. Many times organizations want to buy a Service Management application and tell the vendor all the things they want over the course of a few conference calls. Then they expect the product to be implemented in a week or two according to how they imagine it should work. If a construction company were to take this approach, I think we would all agree this would be pretty scary; what would the structure look like and how functional would it truly be? How would a “Service Management” project turn out if it were handled like the construction of a new building? The next few paragraphs give an idea of what this might look like.
The Design Process
We would not expect any builder to start construction without a good set of plans, right? A functional and efficient structure starts with a good plan. Likewise, shouldn’t we expect to have a good Service Management implementation only if we have well-defined and documented processes? The only way to get those plans is to meet with an architect so that they understand the purpose, style, and size of the structure. Usually this is obtained through a series of meetings with the customer. This approach should also be applied when implementing Service Management. It is not enough to have an internal meeting to determine these needs. Internal meetings are necessary for everyone to agree on what is needed. The requirements still have to be clearly communicated to the consulting firm that is going to help the organization implement the Service Management application. During these meetings, the customer organization can leverage the experience of the consulting firm. After all, firms like RightStar have implemented Remedy and SDE for hundreds of customers. We can share insights into the things that have worked and, probably more importantly, the things that did not work so well. In short, learn from the success and failure of other customers. This is one of the themes of the final ITIL IT Service Management framework phase, Continual Service Improvement.
Have a Good Set of Plans
The next logical step in the building process is to develop the plans and refine the design. The same would apply to the service management implementation. After gathering the requirements, the consulting firm should be able to develop a Scope of Work to define the breakdown of work that will happen during the implementation. This should also outline the customer organization’s responsibilities as well. Remember that involvement in this process is critical. The customer should be sure to review the Scope of Work, ask questions, and request more detail. These documents, like a blueprint, are in place to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Now that everyone knows what the building is going to be used for (also referred to as its utility) and how it is going to look, construction can start. At this point the organization needs to make sure all the key players are in place and that the right data is available. This is where project management is critical, typically for both parties involved. Most customers think that because their project is small, project management is not needed. I would argue that some coordination is needed for any size project. This is also a time when someone within the organization should work side-by-side with the consulting firm. This is really where organizations begin to take ownership of not only the product, but the processes that are employed. The organization should now have a vested interest in the project, and committing a resource to receive maximum transfer of knowledge from the working consultant is key.
The structure is now built and we are ready to hand over the keys. At this point the organization is ready to use the new Service Management system and now needs to manage and maintain it. Unless processes or needs change dramatically, maintenance is usually minimal. We all know that change does happen and improvements should be continual, so you need to be prepared. There is a saying that many vendors have: “A trained customer is a happy customer.” It may be a cliché, but it’s still true. So the organization should ensure that their system administrators and support staff are trained to properly maintain and use the system. It is recommended to employ the “train-the-trainer” concept for some of this training. This will verify depth of understanding on behalf of the internal trainers and will also utilize consultants’ time most effectively.
One of the most important things organizations can do during this transition is to prepare staff for the cultural change. This really should start early. Staff members need to understand the change was made to drive better service to customers and to drive efficiency within the support organization. Upper management needs to be active in this exercise and committed to the plan.
In closing, some might question the aims of a consulting firm advocating for more time to be spent on planning and assessment activities. However, I believe that, “If it is worth doing, do it right!” When organizations spend a little time up front to create and document a plan, the result is a better solution with a solid foundation.
Ron Hill is an Architect level Software Consultant at Rightstar Systems. Both his knowledge and technical capability are highly regarded by a host of customers.
About Rightstar systems
RightStar Systems is a leading provider of ITIL-based service management solutions for upper-middle market firms and government agencies. Throughout a longtime partnership with BMC Software, RightStar has completed hundreds of projects helping customers design, deploy, and maintain IT service management and support systems.
Support organizations are driven by the need to integrate people, processes, and technologies to deliver services more efficiently. RightStar creates value by helping customers improve the quality of IT services delivered while reducing the overall cost of service provisioning. At many different types of organizations, RightStar has consistently demonstrated an ability to deliver single-source service management solutions that enable customers to thrive.