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"Safety" Tips for ITIL-Based Service Support

Feb 1, 2007

Mike Tainter

Use templates for standard service calls: Each recurring service call should have a unique template that enables the service desk to provide consistent support or assignment to the correct support group.

Open and close requests at the service desk: This best practice ensures the incidents are closed in the same manner and customers are informed of the resolution.

The service desk agents should then review each completed incident to determine if the customer is satisfied and the resolution summary is meaningful to the customer and can be used for future incidents.

Do not attempt to perform root-cause analysis before restoring the incident. Too often, organizations focus on the root cause of incidents, increasing the duration of the outage. Personnel involved in managing incidents should focus on service restoration and leave root cause analysis to problem managers.

Problem Management

Schedule regular incident reviews: Create a weekly meeting to review all incidents where the root cause was not removed. Reporting on these types of incidents can be easily accomplished by creating a simple completion code such as, "Resolved, root cause not removed." This enables problem managers to quickly identify the incidents that need to be analyzed on a weekly basis.

Focus on customers, not infrastructure: The tendency here is to focus on the most troublesome infrastructure. However, the goal of effective IT service management is to focus on customers. To this end, problem managers should sort recurring incidents by line of business and address the business unit with the most issues.

Identify actual causes vs. blame: Even though actual cause can sometimes be attributed to human error, the real cause may be due to lack of understanding of the process or training.

Change/Release Management

Use change models: Creating standard change models leads to effective and consistent implementation of changes. Developing the workflow of standard changes ensures they are implemented in the same manner every time.

Adhere to the change process: An urgent or emergency change is one implemented for service restoration. Too often, organizations use an emergency change process just to circumvent the normal process.

Appoint a change manager experienced in ITIL: The critical nature of change management requires a solid understanding of the process and its inter-relationships with all the other processes.

Release management is all about execution: Ensure your change management process is in place in order to provide the inputs to release management, such as: build standards, backout plans, testing plans, etc.

Configuration Management

Couple with change management: In order to keep configuration items up-to-date, update the configuration management database (CMDB) as part of every change. The configuration manager should only make modifications to items in the CMDB when an approved change is in place.

Freeze changes before you populate your CMDB: Prior to populating the CMDB, set a policy to freeze all changes. Once you populate the items into the CMDB, control all future modifications through change management.

Follow a defined process to populate the CMDB: Create a logical process such as, populate all physical infrastructure, create relationships for the physical infrastructure, add commercial off-the-shelf software including relationships, then populate business and custom applications (preferably using industry-standard mapping tools).

The path to adopting ITIL can look daunting and unattainable if viewed as a whole. Using these tips can help you focus your adoption and ensure you do not create an umanageable process. As with all things, quality takes time and is only accomplished with clear goals.

Michael Tainter is Forsythe’s ITSM practice manager. He has been managing technology and large scale projects for more than 20 years. His expertise encompasses IT service management, ITIL, operations management, process design, IT operations support system development, and IT logistical requirements for a wide variety of organizations including highly-mobile global organizations.