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Liberty Mutual Steps Up Performance With ITSM

Feb 6, 2006

Sharon Gaudin


Two years into the ITSM implementation, Wrenn says they are monitoring 20 percent to 25 percent of their applications, focusing on those that have the biggest effect on customers, such as claims applications and customer service.

''If it has an immediate impact to your operating model, you should be watching it on an ongoing basis,'' he notes. ''But if I have an expense report module, and it goes down for a day, do I really care? Does it impact our ability to generate revenue? If you want to monitor everything, you have to be ready to pay for that monitoring. You can't afford to monitor everything.''

And that monitoring has paid off.

Wrenn says monitoring has given him a bigger picture view of his network -- what applications feed others and what applications directly link with users. For instance, users at one of Liberty Mutual's service offices started work at 6 a.m. every morning and immediately began taking claims. The applications they used obviously needed to be up and running at that time. The problem lay in the fact that IT workers didn't know that another application fed that main application, so sometimes they would take it down to work on it, not realizing that it was affecting the claims people -- and their ability to get work done.

''We didn't have the visibility of how all this interplayed,'' he adds. ''All these things had to come together... When you don't have something available, you're affecting the ability of a customer to file a claim. You're not only affecting our ability to pay a claim, but you're affecting customer satisfaction because it slows the process down and then it forces rework because the process isn't efficient.''

Changing a Mindset

One of the challenges that Wrenn has faced is getting IT people to look at the business side of the picture -- to see beyond the individual applications and to see the need for customer claims to go through. Part of his job has been to change a long-held way of thinking about their job. They don't have to understand exactly how the claims department works, but they do need to understand how their work affects that department.

''Not everyone is gong to understand how what they're doing affects the business,'' he says. ''How do you expect a Unix engineer to understand an actuary? We do IT to enable a business to make money. That's what you hope they understand. The IT managers need to drive that through and the frontline people have to get the real business idea. The manager has to get that piece. Everyone needs to understand if there's a problem, you've got to fix it fast to get the business running again.''

It's not always an easy adjustment.

''You still get some people who wish this would all go away and they could go back to being the high-tech gurus,'' he adds. ''The purpose of IT is the business purpose and that's here to stay. It's all about making money and winning new customers.''

Part of any IT resistance was some hesitation about signing Service Level Agreements, which are contracts between IT and various business departments. It's a critical part of ITSM. Business executives and IT administrators sit down and work out the agreement -- this is what business can depend on receiving from IT, whether it's availability, response time to a problem, or speed of service. Once the IT manager puts his or her name on the dotted line, it's a solid commitment that they will deliver a certain level of service.

''That was a struggle. You sign it and then you're held accountable,'' says Wrenn, who adds that if IT meets certain levels of reliability, then there are bonuses in play. ''People said, 'I'm not signing this. I can't prove this.' Finally, they got on board. How do you know what to build if you don't know the level of performance it needs to have? This is the level of performance we need to be successful. Without having a long track record of measuring this stuff, they were reluctant to agree to certain service levels... Everybody started to play nice after a while.''

Making this kind of cultural change is an ongoing process. It requires constant reinforcement.

''It's relentless,'' Wrenn notes. ''An IT environment used to be an engineering environment... They don't [automatically] see it as customer service. It's very hard to change people's minds by changing their minds. You put targets up. You let people know about performance levels. Keep those metrics in front of them. People change when you continually focus on different things. They start to move in that direction.

''The metrics are the most critical part of any change,'' he adds. ''If you need a different performance, then start to measure what you're trying to drive to. Every time I hear a customer saying 'This is faster.' or 'This is up more,', it proves that we're moving in the right direction.''

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