ITIL Practitioner critical review

This review is aimed to the ITSM professionals who know the Practitioner book and it will concentrate on some critical observations. Before I go in to the critical observation, I must say that the book was a pleasant surprise. The Guiding Principles are good; I wish I had written them myself.

Here are some problem areas:

The user versus customer discussion is an old dispute. This would have been a good opportunity to leave the ancient class-system thinking behind. The people who use a service, are the customers. If they don’t like it and walk away, the money will follow.

In many organizations there is a professional procurement organization, which handles the contractual negotiations and acts as a buying customer for the vendor. The real customers are those who need the service, but they do not get to sign the contract. It would be a major mistake to concentrate on fulfilling the procurement organization’s needs as they know very little of the real use of the service.

The danger in the user-customer differentiation is that people may start applying it in practice. Any issue reported by a mere user may become automatically low priority even though the ”user” could be the real decision maker for the service.

The problem with the old class model stands out in the Guiding Principles as the discussion on customer experience clashes very clearly with the definition of the buyer being the customer.

CSI looks almost like it has been rewritten. The seven steps are gone and replaced by an old model which I remember using back in the ´90’s. It is valid but rather heavy for normal improvement. Actually the guiding principle 2.5: Progress Iteratively is much better guidance for CSI than the CSI chapter.

The CSI chapter does mention that CSI is for small and large initiatives but the focus seems to be on the heavy side. A lot of opportunities will be missed if CSI is seen as a programme; trying to fulfill a vision; using a scientific method. Continual service improvement is more a culture than a program. It is the ability to continually make small adjustments, corrections and refinements to existing service components. It is less about visions and more like the CEO who bends down to pick some rubbish from the shop floor during a factory visit. At the end, the CSI chapter mentions it.

In my opinion the integration of CSI to normal work practices should have been more central subject.

CSF’s have been misunderstood. A critical success factor is something you need to have in order to be able to succeed. The CSF example in the book is an outcome, not a success factor: The new IT service enables sales people to spend more time with clients.

A classical book example of a success factor is to have water if you set up your operation in a desert. Water is something you must have but which is not automatically available in a desert. Here is an example, I know that Kaimar Karu is an expert on beer, so I gave him the role of a beer master.

Mr Karu has a successful micro brewery in the old town of Tallinn. He wants to build a new brewery as the capacity of the old one does not cover all demand. There are two important qualifications for the new brewery location: good water and easy access by trucks. These are the CSF’s as Mr Karu knows that he has everything else available to guarantee the continuing success. 

The key performance indicators are not related to the CSF:s. Mr. Karu knows from experience that it takes some time for the new brewery to start working on full capacity with high quality output. Therefore, the KPI is the monthly production volumes of high quality beer.

The CSF depends on the situation. In the Practitioner example let’s imagine that previously the sales staff have been too busy to attend any training. In that case, a valid CSF would be: The sales staff are willing to learn to use the new IT system. Another critical factor might be the devices the sales staff use. Let’s assume some of the staff use devices which won’t work with the new service. In that a CSF would be: The Sales staff will upgrade their devices to support the new IT system. The CSF’s and the KPI’s are not directly related. Actually the book’s CSF’s are KPI’s and the KPI’s are associated metrics.

In my experience the most common CSF in ITSM projects is management support. Without it, the project will fail.

The use of social media is missing. There is a brief mention in the header of Short messaging systems, instant messaging and social tools. The book misses the point that social tools are quite different from the closed communication via SMS or IM. The value in social tools is that the communications are open. Other people can read the discussions and comment on them while SMS and IM are closed communications.

The social tools can be a very valuable channel of communications and it is silly that is overlooked in the Practitioner guidance.


You don’t improve service with mistakes.

The customer wanted to return a tire. Never mind that the Nordstrom department-store chain sells upscale clothing, not automotive parts. According to company lore, the clerk accepted the tire because that’s what the customer wanted. Newsweek 1989

I heard the Nordstrom story years ago (it is probably just a legend, there are many variations about it). Consultant have been telling stories of great service recoveries. At some point the consultants made the next conclusion: If you are perfect, customers don’t notice you. If you make basic mistakes and recover well, they can be delighted! Stuart Rance said this in his presentation few days ago and I commented that I disagree with the idea and this blog is an explanation for my comment.

Of course a good recovery is nice and may lead to short term satisfaction but solid, reliable good service is better.  I specifically disagree with the first part of the sentence and the implied idea that a faulty but well recovered service might be better. Reliability or service warranty is really important and I doubt if people stop appreciating it.

I have worked from home for almost ten years. During that time, I don’t remember a single internet service outage which would have prevented me from working. I may have needed to use my phone as a WLAN provider for a short while once or twice during these years but that backup comes from the same telco. Reading about the difficulties other people have helps me to appreciate this reliability and I definitely don’t wish any basic mistakes to happen with the service.

Some people (including me) have argued that it is not possible to delight customers with ordinary, basic services; that delighting belongs to luxury services. I disagree with my earlier opinions. An ordinary service experience can be delightful if it is well done. As always, the customer expectations are important.

We moved recently and we hired a moving company to do most of the work. I went to pick up extra 20 boxes early so that we would have time pack difficult and time consuming items like fragile glassware. The transaction went like this. I reported at their office that I had arrived to pick up the boxes. They checked the order and printed out a document for their warehouse. Then I drove to the loading bay. The guy was there already waiting with my boxes, then he came down and looked at my car and figured out how to fit the boxes. Then he loaded them in the car and I just watched. It was a smooth operation and the service clearly exceeded my expectations. I had expected to need to wait for the delivery and that I would have to pack the boxes myself.

A simple, well operated, efficient, and seamless service operation is beautiful, just like good design in an object. Of course not all customers appreciate beauty and good design as sometimes it is a matter of taste; but most people do appreciate good service even if they do not understand the hard work behind it.

So, what if nobody appreciates your beautiful service. One reason could be that your service is not as perfect as you think. There might be some elements which are not so well planned. Remember that the service provider’s view of the service is different from the customer’s. You need to consider the customer experience. (Here you need to understand that the people who use your service are your real customers, it is not relevant who pays for the service. If the customers don’t like your service and they walk away, the money will follow.) You need to study the customer journey to your service from the beginning to the end. Details are important. The ITIL Practitioner gives good advice on this: Data is not a substitute for direct observation, page 20.

There is one important element in the Nordstrom story and it is the right to make decisions at the customer interface. It was the clerk who decided to refund the tires. Don’t make recovery a management decision, give your 1st line staff to right to choose the right compensation.


















Eri palvelukanavien yhteispeli

Tein kesällä vahinkoilmoituksen OP-Pohjolalle. Kännykkä oli päässyt meriveteen ja lakannut toimimasta. Aurinkolasit päätyivät samalla kertaa meren pohjaan. Vastausta ei kuulunut. Lopulta soitin ja tiedustelin asiaa. Kohtuullisen jonotuksen jälkeen minulle vastattiin ja sain ohjeet, miten toimia. Virkailija pahoitteli, ettei sähköistä ilmoitusta oltu käsitelty ruuhkan takia.

Toimin ohjeiden mukaisesti ja täydensin ilmoitusta kuiteilla kännykän vaihdosta ja uusien aurinkolasien ostosta. Mitään vastausta ei tullut, eivätkä luvatut korvaukset ilmestyneet pankkitilille. Soitin uudestaan. Nyt en jaksanut jonottaa vaan tilasin takaisinsoiton. Se tuli kohtuullisen nopeasti, mutta olin juuri silloin katveessa. Virkailija jätti ääniviestin ja lupasi soittaa uudestaan. Sen hän tekikin. Kerroin pulman, hän tarkisti hakemuksen ja sanoi sen olevan ok. Valitteli taas kiirettä, mutta käsitteli asian saman tien ja laittoi rahat maksuun. Ne olivat tilillä seuraavana päivänä.

Periaatteessa ihan ok palvelutapahtuma, mutta siinä oli mielestäni kaksi aika tavallista virhettä. Oli ilmeistä, että OP-Pohjola suosii puhelinasiakkaita. Puhelimessa asiat hoituvat, sähköisesti eivät. Tämä vastaa aika hyvin aiempia kokemuksiani Tapiolan kanssa, joten ajattelin kirjoittaa ilmiöstä.

Jos sähköinen asiointi olisi toiminut, olisi vältetty kolme puhelua. Toimintaohjeita ei olisi tarvinnut antaa puhelimessa, vaan ne olisi voinut kopioida ohjekirjastosta. Asian käsittelyyn olisi kulunut vain murto-osa nyt kuluneesta ajasta. Sama henkilö olisi voinut käsitellä arviolta viisi asiakasta siinä ajassa mitä heiltä kului kanssani.

Oletan, että kyse on siitä, että OP-Pohjolan johto seuraa palvelumittareita, joissa puhelutilastoilla on suuri paino ja siksi henkilökunta keskittyy tuottamaan mahdollisimman hyvää puhelinpalvelua. Perusteluna on varmaankin se, että valtaosa asiakkaista käyttää puhelinpalvelua mieluummin. Tämä argumentti ei toimi. Todellisuudessa ihmiset ovat valmiita muuttamaan tapojaan nopeasti, jos uusi tapa on parempi. Muistan hyvin, kuinka hauskaa oli ohittaa jono lentokentällä, kun ryhtyi käyttämään itsepalvelua perinteisen palvelutiskin sijaan. Valitettavasti muutkin oppivat sen nopeasti.

Vakuutusyhtiöiden pitäisi tarjota sähköisillä kanavilla nopeampaa palvelua. Sähköiset hakemukset pitäisi käsitellä 15 minuutissa, johdon pitäisi olla kiinnostunut sähköisten kanavien suosiosta ja puhelinkanavan painoarvoa pitäisi pudottaa.

Vakuutusyhtiöillä näyttää myös olevan taipumus tehdä sähköisestä asioinnista mahdollisimman hankalaa. Viestit pitää tehdä heidän suljetun verkkonsa kautta ja kaikki vastaukset tulevat myös samaa reittiä. Ymmärrän toki, että luottamuksellisen tiedon lähettäminen sähköpostilla sisältää riskejä, mutta valtaosa viesteistä on täysin epäluottamuksellisia. On typerää lähettää asiakkaalle sähköposti, jossa kerrotaan, että suljettuun postilaatikkoon on tullut (tyhjänpäiväinen) viesti. Sähköpostissa pitäisi kertoa lähetetyn viestin sisältö.

Vastaavasti sähköiseen viestintään on helppo asettaa turhia rajoituksia ja ehtoja, joita puhelinpalvelussa ei sovelleta. Kyse lienee kaikkiaan siitä, että erilaiset keskijohdon jäsenet pääsevät pätemään järjestelmän määrityksissä, ja asiakasnäkökulma unohtuu.

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