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

It’s not the tool, it’s the process that matters, writes ITSM Watch columnist Hank Marquis of Enterprise Management Associates.
Dec 13, 2007

Hank Marquis

Scenario: You get promoted and assume management over the IT organization. Things seem great at first. Then, as you settle in, issues start coming out. Your director of Support informs you the exiting software (a comprehensive suite from a leading vendor) is not up to the job. Your own investigation shows that your IT staff skips using the tool more often than not. After talking with the CFO you find out the tool has five years left on the books. This means you won’t be upgrading or getting a new suite any time soon. Welcome to your new job and, oh, by the way, the CEO wants to talk to you about how you plan to improve things.

This is not a made up scenario. It is a reality that many IT executives face. We all know you should choose a tool based on your needs, but what do you do when you already have a software tool, or don’t have any control over the tools you have?

We can’t always choose our tools, and when we can’t we simply have to make do with what we have. My position in such cases is to adopt a more process-reliant approach. That is, rely less on the tool and more on the process for using the tool. This means you want to keep customization to a minimum and need to transfer as much value as you can when you do get your new tool.

Tools automate tasks that people find mundane, and do things that people are not particularly good at like tracking issues or sending automatic responses. How, when and why people use a tool is called process, and process is not only portable, it grows and increases in value over time.

The software in the real-life scenario presented above is a full-feature IT Service Management suite from a major vendor, and there is nothing at all wrong with it. The current IT staff had no input into its selection and, since they were not involved with its selection, they have no vested interest in making it successful.

A real mess, but there is hope. Lets consider some common functions in the software inherited in this scenario, and recommendations for getting the most value out of the current tool while planning for the future.

Incident Management

Ticketing of incidents, problems and service requests is a common activity in most IT shops. Even those shops that do not distinguish between incidents and problems still usually record information form the user or system experiencing an issue. Most IT shops also have some means of handling service requests for installations, moves, adds and changes (IMAC’s), as well.

These are basic IT support functions usually carried out by a service or help desk function. So, what can you do in this area with your inherited tool? Turns out quite a lot actually:

  • Require that all IT contacts for any reason be recorded into the ticketing system.
  • Require an update to the ticket at key time points as work is done.
  • Use the tool suite to send status updates and emails to customers in order to have a centralized record. Don’t allow the use of personal desktop email systems like Outlook or Lotus Notes for this purpose. If the tool has a notification system then enforce its usage.
  • Work with your staff and customers to produce ticket routing and escalation procedures. These will work with any tool you purchase and are invaluable to improving communications within IT and between IT and the business.

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