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Congratulations, You've Inherited a Management Tool! Now What?

Dec 13, 2007

Hank Marquis

These simple policies begin establishing a process framework with a single point of contact and control. They start to get staff using the system and they just might find out its not so bad after all. In any case, you will also develop critical management information you can use to build your case for continued improvement, resource requests and other managerial tasks that require justification.

You will see improvements in customer satisfaction as well. Usually, having a centralized awareness of tickets improves IT responsiveness noticeably. As less users call directly into IT and begin to use the system they get better support.

Be ready for pushback. Staff (and perhaps management) may have done a good job of sabotaging the current installation. Explain the need for using the tool, your process plan, and if appropriate your plan for replacing to the tool. Expect pushback, but stay the course by engaging staff.

You may have to get staff to use the tools by changing job descriptions, compensation plans and bonus formulas. Be wary as well, some staff members may claim the system slows them down and actually reduces the quality of service you deliver. Don’t buy that one for a minute.

Gaining control over your reactive support processes has major benefits that will outlast any tool. Aside from gaining control over your staff (hey, don’t they work for you?) you will be building a powerful asset. You are building a knowledge base.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge is the key to success in IT support and delivery. Making the right decisions at the right time is better than being lucky. As your team uses the tool for ticketing, you begin to capture knowledge. What only one technician knew is now available for anyone in IT. What took hours to resolve the first time might take minutes the second time.

Over time, improve ticket documentation and begin to include summaries of key outages. These are called known-error. Include the symptoms, hardware and software involved, configuration settings, tests performed as so on.

After a while, evolve to producing major problem reviews (MPR). Track the entire history of a significant event from start to finish. The purpose of the MPR is learning, not punishment. Establish a culture where failure is accepted and treated as a learning experience. The MPR seeks to understand what was done right, what was done wrong, what could be done better next time, and how to prevent the event from occurring again. Then link these records to tickets in the system by:

  • Requiring use of keywords in describing incidents and resolutions. For example, if you call your email system “Exchange” then be sure to have staff use this term whenever they refer to “email”. Enforce a common vocabulary of common words so that a search engine can find related tickets.
  • Adopting a common coding scheme to “pigeon hole” tickets. Work with the team to develop a list of perhaps not more than 10 “open codes” and 10 “close codes”. More than this and you risk having the system be too hard to understand. Start small and add slowly.
  • Making sure open and close codes are used. If the close code does not match the open code then your coding or routing system is faulty and you must intervene to correct it.
  • Requiring completion of MPRs after key outages or events that impact critical systems or customers. Work with your team to identify which events trigger MPRs.
  • Gathering and storing electronically notes and tips from your vendors. They often have available rich sources of detailed information to resolve common issues.
  • Inserting the ability to search known error records and MPR reports by key words.
  • You have just created a powerful support tool that has the potential make your least skilled worker deliver results on par with your most skilled worker. Of course, the side benefit is a reduction in dependency on key individuals, as well. By creating a knowledgebase you are setting the stage for change management.