How Not To Deal With IT Service Failure

I need to make this brief; the failure of the lump of plastic that used to be my BlackBerry has made me very time-poor today …

It has been an interesting year for RIM and for the BlackBerry. RIM has seen the erosion of its corporate mobile-email dominance (as employees prefer the usability of iPhones and Android devices), its brand was adversely affected by the BlackBerry Messaging Service being "the weapon of choice" for the thugs involved in the London riots, its tablet play has limped into the iPad's market, and now we have the prolonged service outage ... Sorry service OUTAGES.

The extent of the outage has been and continues to be shocking (there is no way it should have been this severe). But to me, in my capacity as an analyst, and observer and advisor on IT service management best practice, the real issue here is how RIM has handled the situation.

In managing the outage, RIM has acted like an old-fashioned technology vendor rather than a modern-day service provider; while we talk about BlackBerry devices we are really buying into the BlackBerry service. And we expect that service to be consistently delivered relative to service promises and our expectations thereof.

While we would prefer there not to be an interruption to service, most of us appreciate that "stuff" happens. When there is a service-affecting issue, we have a set of minimum requirements as customers that need to be catered for:

  • Firstly, we want early notification and a speedy resolution or a work around. As a minimum, that the service provider is visibly seen to be applying significant and varied efforts to the resolution of the issue. We want to see that the service provider cares.
  • Secondly, we want our expectations to be managed. Communications should keep us informed and be honest about when we should expect service resumption.
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“Run IT As A Business?” Do You Really Know What This Means?

The IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) community has long been awash with management buzzwords and phrases such as "think outside the box," “bare metal,” “IT-to-business alignment,” “ivory tower,” “NextGen,” “people, process, and technology,” “innovation,” "what does good look like?" and “resonate.” More recently we have had to endure such gems as “cloudwashing,” “hash tag abuse,” “virtual sprawl,” and “cloudenomics” (please take a deep breath, don’t let them wind you up).

Another longstanding “buzzphrase” (no, I didn’t make this word up) is that I&O organizations need to “run IT as a business.” I imagine that most of us have used it (I plead “guilty” milord), at least in conversation, but do we really know what it means or what we need to do for I&O to achieve a business-like state?

Firstly, the “run IT as a business” mantra is wrong – well, partially. I&O organizations must indeed adopt practices to run as a business function, but not necessarily as a full business in itself.

One of the most prevalent areas in need of attention is that of the ITIL-espoused discipline of IT financial management. In that business-success not only stems from having a great product (or service) coupled with great customer service, there also needs to be an understanding of the cost of provision, the cost drivers, and the margins involved. Not having this understanding can only expose I&O’s lack of business acumen and capabilities, and make it difficult to compete in the new IT delivery landscape.

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