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Delivering Valuable Information to Executives

By Bob McDonough As the State of Michigan completed our initial roll-out of the ITIL Service Support processes, sustaining management focus was one of the major challenges.
Aug 21, 2005
By

ITSM Watch Staff





By Bob McDonough

As the State of Michigan completed our initial roll-out of the ITIL Service Support processes, sustaining management focus was one of the major challenges. To change the culture, we wanted to find a way to provide timely and actionable information to key decision makers and we needed to deliver a daily product that would keep executives engaged and waiting for more.

The State of Michigan uses a very simple, home-grown Web application for managing our ITIL Service Support process. Incident and Problem Records and Requests for Change are captured in an MS SQL Server database. Beneath the process layer we use a ticketing system to manage discrete activities.

A web-based Incident Management status board displays all current Incident Records (IRs) and hyperlinks to the underlying work tickets which pertain to each Incident. This is a very useful view for front-line managers, but there is too much jargon and not enough information about the real business impact of the Incidents to be of interest to upper management.

A Problem Management status board displays all current Problem Records (PRs) and hyperlinks to underlying work tickets which track the Root Cause Analyses and correction of Identified Errors. Again, great in the trenches, but management is left wondering, "What does it mean?"

A hyper-linked Forward Schedule of Change is presented as well, but surely not all Requests For Change (RFCs) are of interest to management. Our RFCs are complex and not written for an executive audience.

Yet these status boards contain a wealth of extremely valuable information and upper management has a critical need to know:

  • What went wrong? What's the impact to our clients and their customers? (Incident)
  • What are we doing to make sure that doesn't happen again? (Problem)
  • What do we have planned that risks impacting our user base? (Change)
    When the governor calls, nothing is more valuable to our executive team than this information.
Three fundamental difficulties exist in bridging the gap between IRs, PRs, and RFCs and having information that management will value.
  • First, from management's perspective, most of these process records are simply noise. Executives won't sift the sand, even to find diamonds. They simply don't have the bandwidth.
  • Second, the staff members who create these entries are too close to the technical detail to see the big picture, while the managers are too far removed to understand the impact.
  • Third, these two groups speak very different languages.
    A bridge is needed to span this gap.
We created a third level of abstraction, above the process layer, that is targeted directly at senior managers within our organization. The Operations Status Board serves as the focal point for this management communication layer.

Fig 1 - The relationship between the Activity, Process and Management Communication layers.


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