Garry Schmidt first got involved in IT Service Management almost 20 years ago. Since becoming the manager of the IT Operations Center at SaskPower, ITSM has become one of his main focuses. Here's part 1 of our conversation.
Bruno: How has the support been from senior leadership, your peers, and the technical resources that have to follow these processes?
Garry: It varies from one group to the next, from one person to the next, as far as how well they receive the changes we’ve been making to processes and standards. There have been additional steps and additional discipline in a lot of cases. There are certainly those entrenched in the way they’ve always done things, so there’s always the organizational change challenges. But the formula we use gets the operational people involved in the conversations as much as possible—getting their opinions and input on how we define the standards and processes and details, so it works for them. That’s not always possible. We were under some tight timelines with the ITSM tool implementation project, so often, we had to make some decisions on things and then bring people up to speed later on, unfortunately. It’s a compromise.
The leadership team absolutely supports and appreciates the discipline. We made hundreds of decisions to tweak the way we were doing things and the leadership team absolutely supports the improvement in maturity and discipline we’re driving towards with our ITSM program overall.
Often, it’s the people at the ground floor executing these things on a day-to-day basis that you need to work a little bit more with to show them this is going to work and help you in the long run rather than just extra steps and more visibility.
People can get a little nervous if you have more visibility into what’s going on, more reporting, more tracking. It exposes what’s going on within the day-to-day activities within a lot of teams, which can make them nervous sometimes, until they realize the approach we always try to take is, we’re here to help them be successful. It’s not to find blame or point out issues. It’s about trying to improve the stability and reputation of IT with our business and make everybody more successful.
Bruno: How do you define procedures so they align with the business and your end customers? How do you know what processes to tweak?
Garry: A lot of it would come through feedback mechanisms like customer surveys for incidents. We have some primary customers we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Some of the 24/7 groups (i.e., grid control center, distribution center, outage center) rely heavily on IT throughout their day, 24/7. We’ve worked to establish a relationship with some of those groups and get involved with them, talk to them on a regular basis about how they experience our services.
We also get hooked in with our account managers and some of the things they hear from people. The leadership team within Technology & Security (T&S) talks to people all the time and gets a sense of how they’re doing. It’s a whole bunch of different channels to try and hear the voice of the people consuming our services.
Metrics are super important to us. Before our current ITSM solution, we only had our monitoring tools, which gave us some indication of when things were going bad. We could track volumes of alarms but it’s difficult to convert that into something meaningful to our users. With the new ITSM tool, we’ve got a good platform for developing all kinds of dashboards and reports. We spend a fair amount of time putting together reports reflective of the business impact or their interests. It seems to work well. We still have some room to grow in giving the people at the ground level enough visibility into how things are working. But we’ve developed reports available to all the managers. Anybody can go look at them.
Within our team here, we spend a fair amount of time analyzing the information we get from those reports. Our approach is to not only provide the information or the data, but to look at the picture across all these different pieces of information and reports we’re getting across all the operational processes. Then we think about what this means first of all and then what should we do to improve our performance. We send a weekly report out to all the managers and directors to summarize the results we had last week and the things we should focus on to improve.
Bruno: Have these reports identified any opportunities for improvement that have surprised you?
Garry: One of the main thrusts we have right now is to improve our problem management effectiveness. Those little incidents that happen all over the place, I think they have a huge effect on our company overall. What we’ve been doing is equating that to a dollar value. As an example, we’re now tracking the amount of time we spend on incident management versus problem management. You can calculate the cost of incidents to the company beyond the cost of the IT support people.
In August, I remember the number for that. We spent around 3,000 hours on incident management. If you use an average loaded labor rate of $75 per person, it works out to $220,000 in August. That’s a lot of money. We’re starting to track the amount of time we’re spending on problem management. In August, two hours were logged against problem management. So, $220,000 versus 150 bucks we spent trying to prevent those incidents. When you point it out that way, it gets people’s attention.