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Improving IT Services

April 20, 2008

ITIL Service Support processes, shown in the left quadrant of , provide enterprises with common tools for continuous improvement of IT services. A major factor is consistency. It would be impossible to make any headway if the measurement methods changed every time a problem occurred. The process of continuous improvement has to be universal whether it involves network issues, application issues, or hardware issues.

The basic Service Support processes are described in Table 2 below:

ITIL Process

Description

Configuration Management

Creation and maintenance of a database of all IT configuration items, their relationship with other items, and their proper state.

Incident Management

Receiving, recording, and classifying user reports of malfunctions, primarily received through the help desk.

Problem Management

Analysis of incidents to uncover patterns of repetition that might indicate a common root cause. Positive conclusion results in a Request for Change (RFC), and the cycle repeats.

Change Management

Response to and action upon requests for change. Process includes solution evaluation and design, risk analysis, prioritization, approvals, and feasibility testing.

Release Management

Sequence of events for rolling out a change to the user environment in order to minimize disruption, prevent errors and loss of data, and maintain proper documentation.

As an example, the ITIL processes shown above could be used to resolve a software version conflict. Suppose that a number of users have reported through the Service Desk that they are occasionally unable to open PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files downloaded from the Internet. Here are the steps that would be taken to resolve the issue:

  1. The repeated incidents, as captured by Incident Management, are forwarded to Problem Management for further investigation.

  2. Input from users is analyzed through the Problem Management process to determine the root cause, resulting in a proposal for a configuration change.

  3. Change Management evaluates and tests possible changes, and comes up with the best solution. In this case, it might be the implementation of a software patch, or even an upgrade to a new version.

  4. Release Management handles the rollout, ensuring that the change is made in the least disruptive fashion.

  5. Incident Management keeps a close watch on the situation to ensure that the change has truly eliminated the problem, and that users are no longer having difficulty.

These processes flow in a cyclical fashion, following the classic Shewhart Circle paradigm, as illustrated in

Figure : Using ITIL processes to implement a software patch to resolve a version conflict.

As the diagram illustrates, the pattern applies to all service interactions. The goal is to continuously improve the quality of a recognizable service, such as Corporate E-mail. The “engine” for the process is continuous user feedback, which constantly drives improvement. The same process flow will take place for any defect in the service, regardless of whether the root cause is attributable to networks, hardware, software, an external service, or even user training.

Impact on the User Experience

ITSM raises the bar when it comes to service quality, and it does so in a visible and recognizable way. User benefits are delivered in the following ways:

  • Overall quality is improved by systematically removing defects. If the same incident keeps re-occurring, this is an indication that there is an underlying problem that needs to be resolved. ITIL provides the discipline and the structure to identify and remove problems from the system, creating a lower volume of disruptions and a superior user experience.

  • Users are respected. Quality criteria are defined in user terms, not in IT terms that the user can’t understand. User input is not treated as an annoyance, but is a valued part of the quality process.

  • Users enjoy consistent treatment from IT. Incidents are always handled the same way, regardless of the root cause of the problem. With all IT people reading off the same script, a user will not be given one version of the story from one person and another from a different person.

  • There is broad agreement of what constitutes a legitimate problem. If a number of users are experiencing a difficulty, this could be justification for a change. At the very least, it might be an indication that training is required, or a feature is impractical for use and should be disabled.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 21, 2008 9:38 am

    Probably worth mentioning that Problem Management may well identify the root cause of a Problem but due to cost implications a decision is taken that the organization can live with the Problem. Problem Management may therefore provided instructions ( as part of a knowledge base) for the Service Desk to follow in the future to expedite resolution or fix of re-occurring Incidents.
    Regards
    steve@itilnews.com

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