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 are part 1 and part 2 of our conversation.
Bruno: What have been your biggest challenges with adopting ITSM and structuring it to fit SaskPower?
Garry: One of the biggest challenges is the limited resources available. Everybody is working hard to take care of their area of responsibility. Often you introduce new things, like pushing people to invest time in problem management, for example. The grid is full. It’s always a matter of trying to get the right priority. There are so many demands on everybody all day long that even though you think investing time and improving the disciplines, you still have to figure out how to convince people the priority should be placed there. So, the cultural change aspect, the organizational change is always the difficult part. “We’ve always done it this way, and it’s always worked fine. So, what are you talking about Schmidt?”
Taking one step at a time and having a plan of where you want to get to. Taking those bite-sized pieces and dealing with it that way. You just can’t get approval to add a whole bunch of resources to do anything. It’s a matter of molding how we do things to shift towards the ideal instead of making the big steps.
It’s more of an evolution than a revolution. Mind you a big tool change or something similar gives you a platform to be able to do a fair amount of the revolution at the same time. You’ve got enough funding and dedicated resources to be able to focus on it. Most of the time, you’re not going to have that sort of thing to leverage.
Bruno: You’ve mentioned automation a few times in addition to problem resolution and being more predictive and proactive. When you say automation, what else are you specifically talking about?
Garry: Even things like chatbots need to be able to respond to requests and service desk contacts. I think there’s more and more capability available. The real challenge I’ve seen with AI tools is it’s hard to differentiate between those that just have a new marketing spin on an old tool versus the ones with some substance to them. And they’re expensive.
We need to find some automation capability to leverage the tools we’ve already got, or it’s an incremental investment rather than a wholesale replacement. The enterprise monitoring and alerting experience, I’m not willing to go down the path of replacing all our monitoring tools and bringing everything into a big, jumbo AI engine again. I’m skittish of that kind of stuff.
Our typical pattern has been we buy a big complicated tool, implement, and then use only a tenth of the capability. And then we go look for another tool.
Bruno: What recommendations would you make to someone who is about to introduce ITSM to an organization?
Garry: Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to handle the organizational change part of it.
You can’t just put together job aides and deliver training for a major change and then expect it to just catch on and go. It takes constant tending to make it grow.
It’s human nature: you’re not going to get everything the first time you see new processes. So, having a solid support structure in place to be able to continually coach and even evolve the things you do. We’ve changed and improved upon lots of things based on the feedback we’ve gotten from the folks within the different operational teams. Our general approach was to try and get the input and involvement of the operational teams as much as we could. But there were cases where we had to make decisions on how it was going to go and then teach people about it later. In both cases, you get smarter as you go forward.
This group operates a little differently than all the rest, and there are valid reasons for it, so we need to change our processes and our tools to make it work better for them. You need to make it work for them.
Have the mentality that our job is to make them successful.
You just need to have an integrated ITSM solution. We were able to make progress without one, but we hit the ceiling.
Bruno: Any parting words on ITSM, or your role, or the future of ITSM as you see it?
Garry: I really like the role my team and I have. Being able to influence how we do things. Being able to help the operational teams be more successful while also improving the results we provide to our users, to our customers. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, especially over the last couple of years. Being able to dedicate time towards reviewing and improving our processes and hooking it together with the tools.
I think we’re going to continue to make more good progress as we further automate and evolve the way we’re doing things.