Monday, 16 May 2016

How to Work on the Right Problems

In some cases the problems with problems are that we isolate the process from the rest of the world. This is a process that should not be a secret and should be working with all aspects of service delivery. So it should come as no surprise that a key to the success of problem management is a strong link with incident management. This needs to be managed at a root level which relies largely on communication and collaboration within all service management processes.

In my opinion one of the challenges is that as incidents are pouring in, we assume (dangerous word) that problem picks them up and works on them. The trouble is that without some solid communications and collaborative work between incident and problem we will not effectively be able to manage the problems we work on.

Here’s why,
Depending on how problem management prioritizes the influx of work, without some solid understanding of things like business impact, we may be working on the ‘wrong things’ from the start.

To fix that ...
Start by ensuring that all stakeholders impacted by the problem management process are communicating with one another right from the beginning. This should include (but not limit) a representative from the service desk, change managers and incident managers. Whether we have people whose role is a problem manager, or it is a role carried out by others, allowing for a touch point to review as a group will allow the problem review to ensure that we are looking at the right incidents in the first place.

When we start to get people with varying perspective on how incidents are impacting the business together we get a better ‘big picture’ sense of what is important to the business. The best way to validate this is to actually ask the business. This is where your business relationship manager might play a role in your review of the incidents.

While in some cases we in IT might see that the more incidents we have the more there is impact but having a representative from the business will provide that validation that we are looking at the right things. In some cases the biggest issues are the ones that are no longer getting escalated because the business has lost hope that we will even look at it, never mind fixing it.

Have these reviews regularly and review what has happened since the last meeting and ground you have covered or need to unblock. This will strengthen not only the ability to create, prioritize and work on problems but also to build out abilities in its related processes like knowledge and change management.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn
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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Tips for Getting Problem Management off the Ground

Growing up, there was an abundance of kids in the neighborhood who were riding skateboards. As would be expected there were some that were really good and others, like me, who were not. One summer the city brought in a half pipe and located it at the local rec center, likely to keep us skating in one place and out of trouble. For those who are not aware a half pipe is a large ‘U’ shaped ramp. The fact that this was in our area was a huge deal so everyone lined up nice and early on the first day it was open. The crowd was enormous; everyone was eagerly waiting to get up there to try it out. The first guy that got on this thing was a real pro, he was able to do things that not only looked good but he made it look effortless. The next 5 or 6 people were epic failures. The second to last guy had to be helped off the ramp by some friends. It was at this point that the line to try it out was getting smaller and smaller. People were realizing that this might not be as easy as it looked and the consequences of failure were somewhat painful.

Problem management can be viewed in a similar light. Some organizations make it look effortless, while others have a more painful experience with it and the rest of us stand there watching on the sidelines not wanting to try at all.

Here are some simple suggestions to get things going

The first piece of advice is that you don’t have to do this alone. You might need to get a subject matter expert to help you coordinate your efforts. This might involve short or longer term engagements but getting things off on the right foot is going to be critical to get you where you need to go. Getting some feedback from people in the IT community is also a good place to bounce ideas around.  

While I listed this tip second, it is equally as important. Keep it simple, we don’t need to boil the ocean, so take an agile approach and make iterative improvements. Having small objectives will simplify the ability to achieve your goals and in return allow you to demonstrate that you are making progress.

In the theme of keeping it simple we also want to ensure that this is cost effective. We don’t necessarily need to hire an army of problem managers or buy a new tool to get the job done in the beginning. While this could be something we look into later we will allow our results and organizational need determine that.  

Tip number 4 is to plan your progression in stages that work for your organization. Getting a cadence of activity will help will allow teams to schedule activities in advance and work on them on allotted time frames. Each organization will have a different appetite for what timing looks like so go with the flow in your organization

Lastly, this is not a ‘side of the desk’ activity so ensure that you allocate the appropriate time to complete activities. In the end it will always come back to helping the business to achieve their goals. The business is not concerned on what ‘problem management’ is, they care about results.

While my career as a professional skateboarder might have never taken off, following these steps will allow your team to get off the sidelines and make some progress to improve or implement problem management.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ryanrogilvie and/or on LinkedIn

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