Sunday, 6 December 2015

Why we need service desks

On and off over the last few years I have seen a lot of comments in publications, websites and blogs about how new technologies are doing away with Service Desks or stripping away the blockages that IT are perceived to be putting in place.  This frustrates me as its not only IT departments that read this (and some believe it) but the wider business also hears this stuff.   I believe, however, that the exact opposite is true. Service Desks, or a controlled way of providing your end users with the ability to get in touch with IT, are becoming more and more important.

Supporting your end users

If we look at the mention of “new technologies that are doing away with Service Desks”,  those of us at the pointy end of IT are often told “We want to roll out tablets (usually iPads) to all staff in these roles / this level.” Not so bad if you are able to undertake this through a formal project where you can then design the infrastructure, endpoint management, resourcing, etc. prior to the first user turning up to use it.   However, what happens more often than not, is that people turn up with a new iPad  or a new starter wants to connect their tablet to the corporate network and email and find it unreasonable that they can’t just use it.  We’ve all been there, right?  

Take a second to consider this;  The Service Desk receive a request to connect their new tablet to the network and the user is told – usually very nicely - that it’s not allowed (if that is the case).

Who takes the flak? The Service Desk.  

Who makes the decision? CIO? Maybe; Security Manager? Maybe;  IT Operations Manager? Maybe.

It should be a governance group! The governance group or team should represent the business and guide IT on what they should be delivering and focussing on.  If the wider business want IT to allow BYOD then they should direct IT to put in place everything needed to allow it to happen.  COBIT explains it simply in their diagram.


This means that with these new approaches and new technologies that enable staff to work in different ways, the Service Desk is key - maybe more than ever before - to the support of services to staff.  

IT is key to organisations now, and the Service Desk is key to IT.  Everyone in an organisation will at some point or another, talk to the Service Desk. Not everyone will talk to a BRM / SDM or Application support team, or Infrastructure team, or Business Analyst or deskside support, or countless other IT  teams, but they will need to contact the Service Desk.  It may be to get an account unlocked, a new mouse, to complain about the fact that the screen layout on the one thing they use has changed, or to get help changing the password on their iPhone because it doesn’t synchronise with Active Directory and they have the same problem every month.

If you have a company provided user id, email account, PC, tablet, phone, ERP account needed to claim expenses or submit timesheets then you will need to talk to the Service Desk (physically or virtually) to get something fixed, improved or extended.

Or, if we go back to the BYOD example, the company approved the roll out of BYOD. Great.  But to what level?
  • Do you need to provide cloud printing?
  • Do you provide access to email and certain other applications?
  • Who provides the access?
  • Who communicates and explains what can and can’t be done, or how long it takes to get access?
  • Who helps users to connect up when they aren’t sure what to do?
  • Who helps users to use the applications that they want to use?  

BYOD doesn’t take away the need for a Service Desk. It could be seen to increase the interaction.

According to HDI, BYOD popularity is growing, yet so are ticket numbers, and BYOD is a big contributor to that.

Service Desks and the rest of IT

Service Desks are critical to all IT departments just like IT is critical to most organisations.  So why is the Service Desk thought to be dead or dying?

Most of the time, I believe the Service Desk gets bad press because it is what most users equate with IT.  So where does this bad rap come from?

Quite often,not always, the Service Desk gets hit with the big stick because they are the front door to IT.   You blame what you can see. Ask airport check-in staff what type of customer interaction they have when flights are delayed. It’s the same reason.

Service Desk get blamed because a user can’t have a shiny new toy.  Therefore, perception is that the Service Desk are useless. Reality may be that Governance is poor.

Service Desk get blamed for new applications not working very well. Therefore, perception is that the Service Desk are useless. Reality may be that a project didn’t test fully before releasing into production.

However, if your customers or users perceive that the Service Desk provide poor service, that is their reality.  That is what you need to change.

I’ll cover ways you can change this in my next post.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Making the most of your supplier relationship

In business, we all have suppliers. Whether they supply the transport to shift your goods from place to place or supply you with equipment, services or people, we all have them.  Your business relies on these people or organisations, but do we all know how to manage the relationship?  

Supplier or Partner?

Make a decision as early in the relationship as possible, whether you have a supplier / customer relationship or a partnership. A partnership will, like all partnerships, require involvement from both sides but should be a lot more fulfilling. You may be expected to share more about your future plans so that your partner can anticipate your needs and help you deliver.  If your relationship is customer / supplier based it will likely be more transactional and not deliver the same overall value to your organisation. However, each relationship should be evaluated individually as on occasion you only need a supplier.

Set expectations

Once you have decided upon the type of relationship, make it clear at the outset. If you want a partnership and the other party is not ready for that, it’s better to know early. Likewise, if you are just looking for a transactional relationship, but the other party assumes a partnership, that too can get awkward.  Clarity early on saves time and embarrassment later.


This is where any similarity to a personal relationship will probably disappear. To avoid any surprises, it’s best to make sure you have regular, pre-planned meetings with set agendas, as well as informal meetings.  These informal meetings could be phone calls, coffee or whatever suits, but a brief chat about how things are progressing could save a large amount of disappointment or embarrassment later.
Image result for supplier meetings


Ensure that the formal meetings are minuted. I would recommend that the customer minute these meetings so that there is no misunderstanding about actions and timeframes. Of course this will depend on your trust and relationship, but I have seen and experienced meetings where suppliers fail to document some of the more uncomfortable actions so that they get additional time the following month.  Any actions need to be clear, with agreed owners and agreed upon delivery dates.

It is also vital that minutes are circulated as soon after the meeting as possible, and that the agenda for all meetings includes a review of actions. Otherwise, why bother?

Keep the relationship as intended.

Obviously there may be occasions where a relationship changes from one type to another, and that is fine if both parties agree to it, but when it doesn't, you need to remember to keep things as they are supposed to be.  I would strongly recommend against conducting business when invited to events.  The provision of access to events can sometimes be used to influence decision making within customer / supplier relationships. It is often a different matter with partnerships, as it is in both party’s interest to be open and concentrating on the same outcomes.

So these pointers may seem overkill but by being clear throughout the relationship it can save those uncomfortable moments where one or both sides have failed to deliver something. However by following these tips, you will likely never need to revert to contract waving or termination.  That rarely adds value for either party.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Projects from a Service Management perspective - Part 2

Image result for all things itsm logoThis is the second of two blogs I recently wrote for All Things ITSM about how to undertake IT projects with a service management perspective.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Projects from a Service Management perspective - Part 1

Image result for all things itsm logoThis is the first of two blogs I recently wrote for All Things ITSM  about how to undertake IT projects with a service management perspective.  Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Gander Service Management is proud to offer online training for ITIL, COBIT, OBASHI, ISO 20000 and, coming soon, PRINCE2 & BRM

By partnering with +ITSM Zone , our online training provides flexible, anytime / anyplace access to accredited courseware – backed by knowledgeable and friendly expert tutors and support staff.  Our partnership means that if required, we can attend your site for scheduled Q&A sessions to help you address or clarify questions that rise up during your training. Alternatively, support can be provided by email, 24*7.

We offer the following courses:
  • ITIL Lite
    • a quick introduction to ITIL and service management essentials. Based around a real world financial services case study, this course is suitable for technical, business and executive personnel.
  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL Lifecycle courses - targeted at delegates who will manage and implement ITIL processes.
  • ITIL Capability courses - targeted at delegates who will carry out ITIL processes on a day to day basis.
  • ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle
  • ITIL Expert Package
  • COBIT5 Foundation
  • OBASHI Foundation
  • ISO 20000 Foundation
  • PRINCE2 Foundation (Coming soon)
  • Business Relationship Management Foundation (Coming soon)

Also available are online exams allowing you to take the exam when you are ready, at a time that suits you, day or night.

Why train online?
  • Lower cost – eliminate all travel/hotel expenses and reduce your time away from other priorities
  • Any time, any place, any device online access – to all of your training resources and materials
  • Focus is on learning – rather than cramming for an exam in a few days, online training focusses on the retention of knowledge
  • Courses are guaranteed – no last minute cancellations or re-scheduling
  • Content on demand – allows you to pick up where you left off at any time
  • Control the pace of the action – you can read, watch, listen and learn as many times as you want
  • Make the most your time – by skipping familiar sections and spend more time on other material

More information, prices and booking facilities can be found at

Monday, 13 April 2015

What are Customer Service Skills?

So you want to work on a service desk or customer support centre?  You want to recruit somebody to your support team?  What sort of skills are needed?

All too often I see job adverts for people who "must have" good customer service skills and ITIL Foundation certification (if on an IT Service Desk). But are these essential and what are they?

If you are working in a front line role you need to be able to communicate well. That means you must be able to talk to the caller in such a way that they don't feel threatened by overly technical or commercial talk and you must be able to listen and understand what the caller is saying. They generally aren't calling because they love calling your team, rather they are calling because they need something / something doing and they can't do / find it themselves.

Now I'm not suggesting that if a caller says everything bad under the sun about your organisation or team you agree with them (that could be career limiting) but that you try and understand WHY they feel that way and think about what you can do to rectify it.  You may not be able to do anything, but if you can demonstrate that you have understood their concerns or issues and will attempt to do something about it, that will be a big step forwards.

Cheerful manner
Please do not go over the top.  I'm not suggesting that you should be "Have a nice day!" or "Missing you already", but smile when talking (even on the phone) and be polite.  If you have just had the call from hell, and the phone rings straight-away with no opportunity for someone else to take it, then take that deep breath, smile and answer the phone.  The caller doesn't want to know how bad things are - imagine how bad it is for them to have to call and ask for help.

Good telephone manner
Most support roles are telephone based now and so this is a critical "skill". The ability to feel confident when on the 'phone is important in most roles, but probably more so here. You need to be clear and confident.  And if anybody complains about the quality of your headset, change it immediately.  That is a piece of hardware that is as important as your computer and OSH approved desk & chair.  If you are recruiting somebody for this role, make sure that first interview is a 'phone interview. If that doesn't impress you, go no further because they won't impress your callers.

Under no circumstances should you be rude to the caller. This may be hard sometimes, but if they are rude to you, just ask to put them on hold and pass the call to your supervisor.

Ability to follow processes
Support teams have processes in place so that a similar level of service is provided each time a caller interacts with them.  You need people who can follow these processes.

Ability to think for themselves and not follow processes
Processes aren't always right.  To have people blindly following processes is wrong AT TIMES. The support team members need to know that if they feel a slightly different approach is called for (and it doesn't breach any company policies) then they will be rewarded for that thinking, not admonished.

Everything else can be taught / learned on the job.

Have I missed anything?

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

All Things ITSM - IT S&M Pain or Pleasure Part 3

I have written a series of blogs for All Things ITSM (which is fantastic site aimed at delivering "the one destination that has everything you need if you are concerned about the value business gets from IT".
The third of these blogs can be found here

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Post webinar Q&A - The Science behind Service Catalogues

Image result for q&a icon

As a follow up to some questions I was asked at my recent webinar for ManageEngine, but unable to answer at the time, we have responded on ManageEngine's blog site.

I would value your comments about my answers, and the webinar.

The Q&A can be found here.