Improve Service - Know your business to increase value

Paul Norton, Group Chief Technology Officer, OneSavings Bank

In 1999 when I embarked on my career in IT I had come out of university where I had always worked part-time in the service industry. I was a people person, a pleaser, somebody that wanted to ensure that my customer was having the best meal, buying the right product or drinking the nicest drink.

When I started my first support role, I will always remember thinking to myself ‘why does everyone look down on IT.’ From the time I had been able to use a personal computer to that point it was quite clear that this was the future and embracing technology was the way to go.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was now in the city working as a Support Analyst for a law firm. Lawyers work hard and expect things to just work, I respected that but added a twist of bring manners and politeness to the company, I would make a point of saying hello to staff in the morning, I would talk to them during the day and I would always ensure I left them feeling informed about their issues. I created knowledge base articles, I investigated reoccurring incidents and I tracked emails as tickets based on a colour coded priority. I had basically implemented a support framework, and had never heard of ITIL!

What I built in that company was something I enhanced and re-used in every role I have had since. I get to know people, I get to know my user base, my team, my colleagues. I get to know the systems, the services, the suppliers and as technologies have improved, I have ensured that each of my teams and my users provide/ receive satisfaction. It sounds simple but these are the good foundations of valued service management.

Some experienced IT professionals are well qualified in IT Service Management frameworks and use the right buzz words in relation to value and service. When you ask them where do you start their faces are normally blank, service management is so expansive and non-prescriptive is there really a right place to start?

d think about general service, a shop doesn’t have a customer base without a product to sell. Switch that back into IT and IT doesn’t provide support if there aren’t any business services to support. The answer therefore I feel is obvious, you understand your business services up front and your function will flourish. Even that though isn’t easy! To understand a service, you need to consider how it is delivered (end to end), what components are critical, how resilient does it need to be, how much does it cost, who pays for it, how is it supported and what is its optimal performance. Capturing all of that (and much more) for each of your business services and delivering reporting that shows how you deliver this will stand you out as a VALUED IT FUNCTION.

"Some experienced IT professionals are well qualified in IT Service Management frameworks and use the right buzz words in relation to value and service"

For me the change in mind-set from basement boffins to valued function is down to service management processes being implemented and them being applied in the right way. We all know the importance of service (from everyday life) but what many of us don’t realise is that when asking those scripted questions and capturing as much knowledge as possible what your support teams are doing is building knowledge, maybe not the knowledge that will restore service (incident management) but maybe knowledge that correlated with historic event management data could help to identify a root cause (Problem Management) and through change management implement a controlled and permanent fix.

The evolution of service management tools has really supported our ability to show value from the data. Telling a story using that data is what Service Management is really about, no longer should the reporting we share with our businesses be one month old before it is reported, instead it should be real time and with a narrative that shows why investment and improvement has been made in certain areas.

What does this actually mean?

Well in simple terms think of change management, we implement around 500 changes a month and historically has a change success % between 75-85% (depending on who you asked). The impact of the 15-25% failures was 1.5-2 hours of downtime a week (across a business of 2500 users). Some would say we review your change management process (which wouldn’t be wrong) but also correlate the change data alongside the incident data, review your event alerts overlaid on your CMDB and you will quickly establish that through some simple tweaks to your change process, some additional pre change impact testing and some modelling (using all teams involved) you reduce the rate of failures to less than 1% (1 hour per quarter), to make this more business insightful work out the cost of downtime in monetary terms!

IT is a complicated beast, if there is a function (outside of legal) that people just don’t understand it is IT, so in order to add value we need to relate what we present to the business we support. Knowing your business is so important!

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