Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Key to Good Supplier Management

If you had to create a list for the bed rock that a good relationship between an external supplier of third party services and the internal service provider you'd probably hit some (if not all) of the following:

Communication and Information flow
Trust and openness
Shared risk and reward

The list presented here is not earth shattering in terms of a solution, but it is surprising the number of failed supplier relationships can be attributed to a weakness in one of these foundation stones. In particular trust, openness and communication/information flow could be the main offenders.

Time does build a more solid relationship and with the maturity of the relationship comes greater opportunities for both parties to benefit from each other.

These benefits come in the form of systems and processes (including infrastructure, security, networking systems) tending to naturally drift closer in similarity. This creates opportunity for even greater alignment, integration and the associated reduction in risks and costs. Risks and costs that are inherent when a supplier and service provider have to put in place reactionary once-off solutions due to particular issues.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fail to plan a review is a Plan to Fail !!!!

Failure to integrate a review timetable into the design of any new system or process is a failure to implement that system or process properly.

It is an unfortunate fact that the initial good work of business case justification, requirements analysis, thoughtful design and well managed implementation is let down by a failure to follow up.

How can it be that the very people who design and implement improvements failure to recognize that the premise upon which they based their assumptions and decisions have a very high probability of being incorrect in a short space of time.

The only constant is change. There are just too many internal and external factors at play not to accept this statement. In the ‘heat’ of running a business, everyone becomes too busy to sit and review what is in place and we tend to just all adapt as we go along. While this may be a short term strategy that shows good flexibility; it will eventually create confusion, doubt and disagreement.

The confusion, doubt and disagreement comes when a dispute requires an analysis of what was agreed against what is being delivered. During these times, no one remembers the water cooler conversations that were acted upon “as a favor”. We know this happens so it requires discipline to actually sit and have the reviews and it requires good design activities to integrate those reviews into the bedrock of the new system or process.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

A matrix of measurements !!

When we look at using those clever little things called Key Performance Indicators or KPIs most IT professionals will list the things that first come to mind as the best way to measure the health and vitality of a particular process.

However, if you apply a simple matrix you may find you can create a much richer list of KPIs. The added bonus here is that you can select entry level KPIs for your process while it is in its infancy and grow the KPI maturity over time. This thought is at odds with most "set and forget" approaches that IT managers use.

It is not as if the IT managers and process owners deliberately set out to treat the field of measurement with disdain, it is just that they have not been given a way to treat KPIs with the importance it deserves.

Here is a simple way forward.

Create a table 4 columns by three rows. Leave the top left cell empty. The other three column headings are SERVICE, CUSTOMER and BUSINESS. The other two row headings are OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE.

Now you have a mechanism for categorizing your KPIs across three different perspectives and into two styles.

The three aspects are quite logical and relate to the actual service delivered, the views and opionions of the sponsor for the service and the actual business value that the particular process delivers to the business.

The styles of KPIs recongnize that some KPIs can be factual and measured (Objective), but others are based around feelings, perception and emmotion (Subjective).

It would come as no surprise to know that Subjective based, Customer focussed KPIs are relatively easy to define (e.g. generally based around satisfaction surveys, town hall meetings, etc.). Likewise we would expect to easily define several Objective measurements for the Service and Business aspectss.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Requirements engineering: Fad or Fact

A new term has popped up in the world of IT Service Management. Requirements Engineering may be a new term, but the concept (like all other good concepts) is as old as the hills.

Here is what it means. In simple terms it is the art of gaining an understanding of business (customer) and end user requirements. That is the summary.

The slightly more expanded view gives us a series of steps that we need to follow in order to get those requirements and then three categories that we can assign each requirement to.

The three steps to get the requirements are:

1. Gather (collect, assemble)
2. Analyze (examine, study)
3. Rationalize (substantiate, justify)

These three basic steps give us a well rounded requirements document that can be agreed upon between business representatives and IT.

Each requirement can be categorized in one of three ways. Categorization helps us with dealing with manageable "chunks" of information and avoiding duplication of effort.

The three categories are:

a. Functional - those requirements to support a specific business function
b. Operational - typically technically orientated towards availability, security, etc
c. Usability - the 'softer' requirements related to aesthitics and ease of use

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Warranty of a service

In some countries when you buy a toaster you get a warranty sticker, leaflet or some statement that says if something goes wrong for a prescribed amount of time from the date of purchase, then the toaster will be replaced, fixed or refunded.

In other countries that may be referred to as a guarantee.

So what is the warranty/guarantee for a service in the world according to ITIL? Well it's exactly the same thing, but given from four perspectives. Availability, Capacity, Security and Continuity.

IT Service Providers are asked to ensure that they have thought through these four issues - as they are the most basic considerations for any service - before they commit to providing that service to the business end users.

It is a good set of questions that forces the IT provider to look before they leap into a world of service level agreements that cannot be met, over promising and under delivering and generally building upon a reputation of being a poor service provider in the eyes of the business.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting that elusive ITIL v3 Expert certificate

By now there are many folks that qualify as an ITIL v3 Expert, based on the number of credits they have earned.

The vast majority of these will be people that were ITIL v2 Managers certified and have completed and passed the exam for the ITIL v2/v3 Managers Bridge.

Questions are now being asked about how this qualification is actually recognized. Is it a case that the Managers Bridge certificate is proof of being an ITIL v3 Expert.


There is actually a certificate and badge available for those that have qualified. It is driven by each individual Examination Institute (EI) and requires you to have completed the final exam that allows to qualify as an ITIL expert with the EI that you apply to for the certificate and badge.

For example, if you have done all your exams with APMG, but decide to take your Managers Bridge exam with Exin, then talk to Exin. If you have completed v2 Managers with Exin and done several Service Capability courses with Exin, that got you over the 22 credit line with APMG, then talk to APMG.

You'll find in the application that you have to sign away your soul (which is the equivalent of letting the itSMF hound you about joining their group), but it is perhaps a small price to pay to get that final certificate and "badge of honour".

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