Service Management 101 Blog

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The Lockheed Martin Outside-In Experience

Lockheed Martin is one of my most treasured clients.  They are huge, span many different facets of the US Government's operations, and yet their itSM program office tackles so many of the same challenges faced by IT organizations in general.  The relationship began a while back when some of their core team attended a workshop I ran out of Stetson University in Celebration Florida.  

That event explored how lean, outside-in, and universal service management can be blended to offer a pragmatic approach to IT transformation and continuous improvement.  It resulted in more than one epiphany and I'm flattered that one person decided to write down his reaction and how his attendance immediately influenced how he viewed the world around him, starting with returning his rental car at the airport.

Oh - one comment to clarify the real origin of the rhetorical question "What Business Are You In?", of course it was Theodore Levitt, not me (!).

You can download the full article here, and hopefully appreciate as he did, that sometimes the answer, or elements of it, are quite simple, and in plain view.  

I've also uploaded the HDI SupportWorld article published in the January/February 2013 issue that spaks to how the Chief of itSM at Lockheed 9Dr Shue-Jane Thomson) views the importance of outside-in thinking and the USMBOK.

White Paper: Systems or Smiles - What Business Are You In?

HDI SupportWorld Article: Business Intelligence: The Power of IT Services

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Mirror, Mirror, one the wall... define ITSM properly or not at all

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?  Snow White's conniving stepmother would have been appalled to know the line made famous by her, is now my metaphor for the tactic used by an increasing number in the IT industry to differentiate their products and approach from others. 

I’m talking of course about the trend of dropping the ‘IT’ from the term ‘IT Service Management (ITSM)’, and replacing it in marketing collateral, job titles, and discussions, with plain ‘service management’.    

In my opinion, ITSM is a valid term.  It just needs to be properly defined and explained. Dropping any letter from ITSM without recognizing the origin and core principles of service management, is in my mind a ‘poisoned apple’ strategy designed to deliberately distract, to disable the term as less modern, and perhaps to hide the failings caused by the traditional infrastructure centric definition. 

Worse, this ‘drop a letter’ trend is typically accompanied by a theory traditional ITSM thinking can be used to run a non-IT service business.  A quite ludicrous suggestion, for reasons I’ll explain.

You see, ironically, the term service management was first introduced by the business, and its moving parts and emphasis bears little resemblance to that used by the traditional ITSM definition.  Yes, that’s right – I said it was originally introduced and defined by the business, specifically in research papers and publications authored by luminaries such as Richard Normann, Eiglier and Langeard, Pine and Gilmore, Ted Levitt, and so many more, with its roots in product marketing and product management. 

As far back as the 1960s, business marketers recognized we had left the age of mass manufacturing, and were entering the age of the customer, and the service experiential economy.  Their writings and core beliefs were consolidated into the terms ‘service management’ and ‘service marketing’, representing an acceptance by the business the customer was now an integral part of the service delivery mechanism.

To succeed, it was stressed service providers must understand how customers define success, what activities they perform in pursuit of that success, what form and medium customers would welcome help performing these activities, and how satisfied customers are with that help.  Product or service design should start and end with developing a 360-degree picture of your customer’s needs, and knowing in real-time customers perceive you as a service provider. 

Service management was defined as understanding, influencing and managing service expectations, service encounter, the experience of interacting with a product and the providing organization, moments of truth, and the emotions at play, all from the customer perspective.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s this was further combined with the customer centric, ‘outside-in’ principles of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC).

Unfortunately, many of these vital principles seem to have been missed, misunderstood, or ignored by those who defined traditional ITSM, in favor of a best practice, process, manufacturing lifecycle, and infrastructure centric or ‘inside-out’ based view. 

So when I’m asked to describe the term ‘ITSM’, I separate the ‘IT’ from the ‘SM’ temporarily, and explain how the ‘IT’ component represents the goal of an IT organization achieving a level of transparency.  In the ideal world the infrastructure and technology required to deliver and support a service is invisible to the customer when performing a process or activity.

It’s a far most comfortable proposition to explain the value of IT when it’s largely invisible for all the right reasons, than visible for all the wrong!  IT should stand for ‘invisible technology’ and services designed to place as few layers of interaction and complexity as feasible between the customer and their desired result.

What do I mean by this?  Well, the next time you use a kiosk (to buy a soda, dispense cash, or perhaps check in for a flight), note the correlation between your level of satisfaction and the extent to which you and the technology operate as one in the pursuit of your desired outcome.   The best have carefully removed all ‘dumb interactions’. 

Back to ITSM.  I next explain the true origin of service management, its core principles, and how systematic use of the continuous improvement methods it describes, are used to pursue acceptable levels of service excellence (representing satisfaction from the customer perspective, the outside-in view), and operational excellence (efficiency and consistency in work effort from the provider perspective, the inside-out view).

Finally, I put the ‘IT’ and the ‘SM’ back together again and define ITSM as, “the application of the original service management concepts and methods, developed by business product marketers, to the challenges of an IT organization being performance managed as a service provider”.  

Fairly straightforward.  But it does require evangelists, consultants and experts with education and work experiences grounded in traditional ITSM to look in the mirror, and balance this inside-out view by respecting, understanding, and integrating the original service management thinking.  As I started, dropping one or more letters without doing this isn’t helping anyone.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, the tales some tell are quite tall, beauty and value is in the eye of the beholder, with service designed and delivered as expected, encountered, and experienced by all.

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Three Words Represent the New IT - Centricity, Synchronicity and Agility

The four horseman of the IT apocalypse have arrived in the form of explosions in new devices (including the tablet and ‘phablet’), cloud technology, ubiquitous connectivity, and the ‘big ass button’ interface to access ‘big data’.  Every time an IT customer touches one of his or her five different devices a new idea or requirement is born.

The traditional approach to organizing and managing an IT organization is redundant and epitomized by the ‘DevOps’ discussions.  A federation of know-how and collaboration is replacing fiefdoms of frameworks and processes.

The days of pursuing some form of excellence through traditional IT Service Management (ITSM) approaches are over.  The implementation of best practice is equally obsolete, and process improvement and capability maturity led projects can now live out their days as residents of the retirement home, playing bingo.

If you have a plan, count on it having changed yesterday.  If your plan uses the word ‘implement’ or ‘process’ more times than ‘customer’ and ‘outcomes’ – burn it now.  If you are focused on describing the services you think you offer, stop – your customers doesn’t care.  If you are developing a service catalog without support for the 4S principle (‘swipe, swipe, select, submit’), it’ll fail, but don’t worry - the customer doesn’t need that either. 

Successful IT is an organization operating under a cloak of invisibility, with policies and procedures transparent to its customers. Three words represent the mission of the new IT and light the path to success – ‘Centricity, Synchronicity and Agility’,

Centricity: The IT organization is stakeholder and customer centric, focused on the outside-in ‘triple crown’ of successful customer outcomes, customer experience, and customer satisfaction.  It has adaptable, shrink-wrap and disposable policies, procedures, and governance, designed to respond to circumstances and scenarios in real-time. 

Synchronicity: Staff work as a collaborative, engaged team, and through peer organization and collective responsibility, accept change as the norm, with a vision, strategy and roadmap created for each customer community – with ‘synchronicity’.

Agility: The organization can anticipate and innovate, be responsive, not reactive, working to a predictable and acceptable cadence, and exploits the latest universal agile thinking – it has ‘agility’. 

If you are working in IT today, don’t be afraid to lose those prized processes (after all, how can it be best if its unable to adapt to normal changes in operations).  Don’t embark on a hopeful exploration of the possible benefits of an ITSM project, your customers won’t wait.   

Replace your service catalog or service portfolio ambitions with a customer engagement strategy and service safaris.  Favor a complaint, compliment and feedback system over one for incidents.  Operate a continuous improvement program that spans the entire organization, encouraging synchronicity.  Inject the latest universal agile thinking to ensure the right people are involved at the right time, doing the right work for the right reason, delivering improvements and innovative advances at the speed of business. 

The new IT, today’s IT, represented by three words – centricity, synchronicity, and agility.

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A Very Short Introduction to Outside-In Thinking

A Very Short Introduction to Outside-In Thinking.

“Outside-in” thinking is a philosophy and management approach that places the interests of customers ahead of the organization’s capabilities. Organizations that adopt an “outside-in” approach focus on satisfying their customers by efficiently and consistently delivering a combination of superior service experience and successful customer outcomes.

In economically stressful times, management teams may focus almost entirely on internal processes—improving productivity, downsizing and so forth. Decisions are made based on internal knowledge and instincts. This is “inside-out” thinking, and it can cause you to lose touch with your customers. This is particularly true for enterprise IT organizations.

Outside-in thinking, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to look at everything you do from the customer’s perspective, and to manage your organization’s performance as a service provider or business based upon customer satisfaction levels. An explicit customer-based justification is sought for every decision.

The what and how of process engagement and activity performance are driven by the why. Outside-in thinking ensures that your organization is customer-centric, not just customer-aware, and it gives you the ability to answer the following key questions:

  • Who are our customers?
  • What activities do our customers perform in the pursuit of success?
  • How do we help our customers perform these activities?
  • How satisfied are our customers with the service and/or support we provide?

Organizations that can answer these types of questions are able to commit effort and resources where they will have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, easily adapt to changes in customer behavior and needs, and make targeted improvements to internal operations and offerings.

Outside-in thinking is the key to success in the “age of the customer.”

Tagged in: #OUTSIDEIN Outside-In
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An Inside-Out Sunday Morning

Quasimodo, Cable TV, $5 gas, and an Orange T-shirt

As someone who encourages my fellow professionals to think ‘outside in’, I'm often asked to explain the difference between this, and it's opposite, ‘inside out’ thinking. Let me see if I can do that by sharing with you what happened to me today, and what I would call an ‘inside out’ Sunday morning experience.

It began like any other Sunday morning in California. It was 75° with a blue sky, no clouds, and a fresh ‘honey do’ list from my lovely wife.  It was a short list because she had been distracted all week. Top of the list was a simple request. Put gas in her car. (For non-American readers this means put petrol, or benzene in the car, and we do that here in the US by visiting a ‘gas station’).

Just so you can picture this properly, my wife's car is a hard top convertible Mercedes SLK two-seater. Its small, and I’m 6 foot three and 235 pound. I don’t fit at all.  With the roof down my forehead peers over the windscreen and kills flies.  With the roof up, I look like Quasimodo the car thief.

Anyway, it was a simple job.  Conscious of the damage my head could do to the population of local flying insects I decided to leave the roof up.  I started the engine and was greeted by a cold blast of air accompanied by loud country-western music.  Unable to work out how to lower the satellite radio volume, or turn it off, I turned my attention to the cold air, meanwhile making a mental note the radio controls represented inside-out thinking interaction number one.

The A/C button in the middle of the dashboard glowed bright with an orange light. On the button to the right, were the words ‘OFF’ in capital letters.  I pressed the button. The orange light disappeared but the  cold air continued to blast my face. I pressed the button again and the orange light came on. The cold air continued to blast my face.  Obviously the A/C controls were designed for a smarter person than me, causing me to take another mental note. The A/C controls represented inside-out thinking interaction number two.

Ignoring the cold air, I reversed out of the parking space and headed for the gas station. As I approached the station, I looked at the dashboard (as I'm sure I’ve done numerous times before), for the visual prompt as to which side the gas tank was on.  There was no icon or arrow, or any obvious sign. Inside out thinking interaction number three!

Like someone familiarizing them self with a rental car, I pulled over, opened the driver's door, and peered backwards down the side of the car.  Looking like a very tall person in a very small convertible just rented to look ultra cool, Murphy struck.  It was on the other side.  I promised myself (again) I’d make a permanent note of that.

At the pump, I withdrew my credit card ‘quickly’ as instructed, and was immediately greeted by the announcer from a cable TV channel, shouting at me the latest show business news and gossip from Hollywood.  I scanned the screen and pump, desperate to find an off, pause or mute button.  No luck.  Inside-out interaction number four. 

As I watched the meter spin furiously, I was reminded the price of gas had approached five dollars per gallon, and my initial thought of $20 worth being enough, ridiculous. My outside-in thinking kicked in, along with my husband survival instincts, and I decided to switch my goal to ten gallons and ignore the money aspect.  Meanwhile, like Steve McQueen in the Great Escape, my emotional genie rattled in its bottle with frustration, eager to breath fresh air.

Tap, tap, tap.  A young man dressed in a fluorescent orange T-shirt emblazoned with a windscreen repair slogan was busily tapping the other end of his felt tip marker against the car windscreen.   Ignoring my attempt advise him of better things he could do with his time, he embarked on a script to explain to whomever else was listening, because it certainly wasn’t me, how the infinitesimal, invisible chips in the windscreen could spell disaster.Inside-out interaction number five.

Click.As luck would have it, my ten-gallon target saved me. I disconnected the pump, put it back in its holster, thereby cutting off the TV presenter in mid-flow.  This prompted the orange t-shirt to find another victim.  I declined my receipt, and raced for the safe haven of the Quasimodo shuttle in an attempt to keep my genie bottled.

This ten-minute encounter with just one service business, set against the backdrop of a simple outcome – a happy wife, illustrates the powerful influence of a customer ignorant, inside-out service experience.  Little if anything seemed to be designed outside-in, or from my perspective as a customer.  

From car design to pump design, and how my custom was shared with the other service business, a series of inside-out interactions shaped my experience, caused me to pen this blog, and will likely have financially punishing consequences on the gas station. 

Yes, I have gas (I mean petrol!), but next Sunday I’ll be trying a different gas station.  It’s a little bit further away and slightly more expensive, but they’ve yet to upgrade the pumps with cable TV, and there are no doom and gloom windscreen repairmen.

Unbeknown to the gas station owner, the inside-out thinking behind the design of the Mercedes greeted was waiting for me.  I turned the ignition key and was once again greeted by their work - loud country music and a cold blast of air. Down genie, down, it’s only another 2 minutes until we are home!

Tagged in: #OUTSIDEIN insideout
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