Idwell on Service Management

Thoughts on how to design and implement IT Service Management

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Is Incident Management the most important ITIL process?

In a recent discussion a senior consultant stated that “Incident Management is the most important ITIL process”. That is one of those statements that make you wonder about the level of understanding of what ITIL is all about. You might get away with the statement that Incident Management is one of the most visible processes out of ITIL, but it is certainly not the most important.

To start with, Incident Management is not a stand-alone process. Calling Incident Management the most important is like calling the engine the most important part of the car. Just leave out the brakes or the steering and you’ll find an engine alone is almost worthless. Incident Management is one of the processes in ITIL and without using the other processes there is not much value in Incident Management alone.

It is also one of the processes that kind of work even without any ITIL certification or consultant needed. When an IT Service is no longer working, it is clear that something needs to be done. Most IT staff I know are very willing to take on a good IT failure, the more problematic the better. As true firefighters or IT Heroes they take an incident heads on and often will no stop until it is solved. They might not do it the smartest way and it might not be the most efficient way: and the issue almost always gets kind of solved (for a while). Most often incidents that are not getting solved are not interesting enough from the IT staff viewpoint. And the business is not giving the incident enough attention (screams) to get it on the radar. Incident Management is done, but maybe not in a  very mature and professional way.

Instead on focusing on the Incident Management process itself, it makes more sense to focus on processes that would help to either learn from how incidents are being solved (ic Problem Management) or help to prevent incidents from happening (like Availability Management). In many organizations these processes are either not existent or very rudimentary. Spending time and energy on improving these processes will help to improve the Incident Management  process over time. Without an accurate incident management log it is hard for problem management to organize learning. And Availability Management will help to organize the best responses to incidents before these will happen, by organizing escalation paths within the IT department and with external providers and partners.

Incident Management process is part of a larger framework, it tends to organize itself and it will be improved by focusing on more complex processes like problem management. So why would a senior consultant state that Incident Management is the most important process? In this case the discussion is part of the procurement of IT services and the consultant wants to make sure that the provider understands that there is little room for service outages. That might explain the sentiment but it doesn’t really make that much more sense. If you are buying anything and you are focusing almost exclusive on the process to deal with failure, are you buying the right service? If you would buy a car and are mainly concerned with the process to deal with defects: how bad is that car? You might want to reconsider the purchase or choose to refocus on discussing on how the service would bring value and contribute to your business goals. Any provider that takes its customer serious will have an effective form of incident management in place. Service outages are just as problematic for most service providers as it is for their customer. Often the main concern is not the Incident Management process itself but the communication to and involvement of the business in the process. I would myself put more emphasis on Business Relationship Management than focus on the Incident Management process.

I cannot think of any reason why Incident Management can be considered the most important process in the ITIL suite. I think a statement like that misses the whole point of ITIL and Service Management. I think that focusing on Incident Management is not helpful in any way to get buy in for the use of ITIL or any other related framework. It is time to stop spending to much time on Incident Management and focus on those aspects that will really bring value to the business.



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BMC eBook: Peer Into the Bright Future on the Service Desk Horizon

In the new eBook by BMC. “Into the Bright Future on the Service Desk Horizon” several experts on Service Management were asked to give their opinion on the future of service desks. And I am one of them. For me the traditional service desk that would mostly offer some kind of technical support (and most times in the form of ctrl-alt-delete, rebooting the system) will eventually disappear. For most organizations the technical kind of service desk will no longer be relevant. A service desk that understands the business impact of technology and who is able to help employees getting more out of technology, that is what we need.

This my quote in the e-book:

‘‘ What role can knowledge centers play in a modern service desk operation?
In the past, the main focus of the service desk was on offering technical expertise to solve technical problems. The technical aspects of modern IT solutions are disappearing under the hood and most technical skills are no longer needed in the day to day operations of many companies. At the same time service desks will have to support really complicated technical challenges that will have direct business impact. And when the need for day-to-day technical support disappears, the need for understanding the link between technology and business impact will become more important. Knowledge centers who understand how business challenges are supported by the underlying technical solutions will play an important part in this transformation. The point is, businesses are evolving, and ITSM must be an integral player in making employees more productive and happy as businesses change.”

You can find the eBook  here.

There is also a Slideshare presentation with the input of the Service Management Experts, like Stuart Rance, Earl Begley, Claire Agutter, Stephen Mann and John Custy.


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3 Steps approach to Transformations

Over the years I have been involved in many transformation projects, reorganizations, culture changes and so on. I have read many books and articles on how to best achieve success in transforming organizations. My master thesis was mainly on how to create a successful IT service organization based on ITIL and ISO20000 starting with a traditional IT department. I’ve found that there are 3 steps or groupings of activities and tasks.


The first step is to Identify the Crisis. In order to transform any organizations you need to identify the main reason to do so. In Kotter’s 8 reasons why transformation efforts fail the first reason is lack of sense of urgency. You need to establish that sense of urgency first. And it is important that the problem you have identified to solve is worth the effort and mayhem that comes with a large change initiative. The crisis needs to be believable for the people effected. And the best crisis is one where people can see it coming without it being there yet. Solving an existing crisis does not demand changing the organization, it demands crisis management and acute short-term actions. You want to consider identifying a crisis before it occurs and that can only be prevented by a full blown change initiative. When you can pinpoint the crisis to avoid and you can make it believable through the presentation of the right facts you have done half the job. You also need to be able to give the right solution to solve the problem: a compelling vision of a new future. And you need the right stakeholders in the organization to agree that the crisis needs to be prevented and that your vision is the solution to prevent it.

When the crisis is properly identified it is time for the second step and to start the revolution. It is one thing to analyze what could become a problem and to discuss ways to prevent it from happening. It is quite another to actually do something about it. Most change initiatives fail because there is no action following the brainstorms and the strategic retreats. In order to make a change, something needs to move. You need to ignite the change and release the energy. Do not be afraid of resistance to change, that is only an indication that change is happening and that people are worried about what how it would affect them. No resistance and no anger only show that people are not feeling the change and you have not reached them. The revolution needs to be swift, energy needs to be focused on short-term gains and on taking away the obstacles preventing the change from happening. That is actually the main goal to start the revolution: to take away old systems and old beliefs.

After the revolution has made the big changes and has set the motion in place to prevent the crisis it is time for the third step: enable evolution. Here is where the real change is going to happen. It is all about empowering the people to reach the goals set out in the vision and strategy. In the revolution the conditions are created for everyone to grow into their new role. People now have understood and agreed the urgency, the solution and what is expected of them. They have internalized the vision and are motivated to make it work. In the revolution the main obstacles has been swept aside and they now it is time to get on with it. They might need some additional guidance and coaching, but they will ask for it when it is time.

In general I have found that many change initiatives fail because they do not address these steps enough. Most of these start with the right intentions but fail to deliver in the long run. Specific because most managers who are in charge of these initiatives do not realize how to communicate the crisis and solutions, are afraid of making the changes and to revolutionize their approach and do not know how to empower people to enable evolution and growth.


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