Sunday 19th Nov 2017 - Logistics Manager

Serving aces in IT support

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Collaboration between IT companies, logistics service providers, freight managers and customers is growing, particularly as businesses move deeper into end-to-end supply chain management. With more complexity and integration, IT has become an integral part of the value chain.
Technology to improve the visibility and control of product and information throughout supply chains is getting ever more sophisticated. State-of-the-art warehousing and transport management systems are used routinely to improve inventory management and transportation efficiency. Such systems also integrate with other enterprise resource planning applications to streamline information flows across entire business operations or facilitate e-business implementation.

As supply chain specialists and their customers embrace more sophisticated IT, so they need to ensure they have the service levels and availability necessary to deliver the high standards required.

Typically, supply chain IT solutions rely on the integration of many components and a range of third-party partners. Customers outsourcing key elements or complete supply chains need to be assured that resources and systems are deployed, maintained and supported effectively and in accordance with industry best-practice. They want to know that if an IT service fails, then the response will be rapid, efficient and effective. This increased dependency, along with the expectation of systems availability 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, is the reason why all major supply chain management specialists should be looking to ensure they have IT service management in place.

ITSM is about creating a structured and proactive approach to the adoption of industry best practice in the support of IT products and services. Among its many benefits are: A business service focus rather than a technology-driven one; higher customer satisfaction; consistency and visibility of the IT service; and increased return on IT investment.

It involves providing a common language, the processes, tools and people with the skills necessary to ensure that IT services are managed effectively and in accordance with best-practice. The best-practice approach is based on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework — a collection of proven standards for the management of IT services that are both vendor and platform neutral and supported by industries worldwide.

So, how do you make ITSM work? All supply chain management companies have a choice. Either they can do nothing, and maintain a reactive, inconsistent approach to IT support — with multiple points of contact, duplicated effort, variable services, poor reporting and visibility, under-recovery of costs and a failure to meet expectations — all contributing to dissatisfied customers. Or they can take an ITSM approach and
introduce: Globally consistent IT support; standard processes and tools; well-defined services and cost-base; and quality IT support provided by skilled, accredited IT professionals offering certified IT services.

Organisations serious about this need to identify where IT service management is on their strategic agendas and how it aligns with the objectives of the business.

BS15000 certification underpins an organisation’s IT professional standing. Certified companies have a clear competitive advantage through their ability to demonstrate evidence that they employ accredited IT professionals qualified in IT service management.

Before embarking on any ITSM programme, however, it is first necessary to benchmark — to create an initial base-line against which subsequent progress can be measured. In this way organisations can qualitatively assess the benefits and return on investment of the programme. Benchmarking also provides a framework for measuring and managing ongoing processes.

A maturity model for ITSM
Secondly, a detailed maturity model for ITSM is needed, based on an analysis of the process dependencies and natural progression that an organisation needs if it is to incrementally improve the quality of IT support services.

The model should provide an assessment of current process maturity. But more importantly, it should then present a roadmap showing the action the organisation needs take in order to reach the next level. In this way the model can be used to drive the continuous improvement process that is an essential part of all service management programmes.

The diagram demonstrates the maturity levels within IT service management. Global IT research and analysis specialist, Gartner, states that ‘through 2005 fewer than 25 per cent and through 2007 fewer than 35 per cent of large enterprises (all industries) will achieve end-to-end IT service management process maturity (level three) — up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2004’.

Gartner encourages organisations to use the IT management process maturity model to assess current positioning and plot a strategy for sequential improvements, through investing in IT operations management tools, people and processes.

Business processes heavily dependent on IT require a minimum of level three IT management process maturity to achieve the necessary levels of confidence in their IT services. Moreover, moving to level three offers not only offers improved quality of service, but also lower labour costs. So it is a win/win opportunity.

Such models are never static, but evolve over the life of the programme through frequent refinements.

Thirdly, and very importantly, adopting ITSM within an organisation requires cultural change. The programme needs to be concerned as much with altering behaviours as with implementing tools. People have to embrace change and to clearly understand ITSM, how it enhances the IT function and how it delivers benefits to the end-customer. An internal awareness and educational programme is therefore essential.

And last, but not least, it is important to get early buy-in to the programme from the senior executive management team, along, of course, with the resources and skills necessary to deliver it.

Of all these, the biggest challenge in any large organisation will be getting people involved and on board — on both the business and IT sides. Staff and management need to understand why change is necessary, what the nature of the change is, and which kinds of behaviour are poor and which are good.

Every organisation will have a different approach to this problem, but Exel has adopted an ‘experiential learning’ method using a role-playing scenario. The simulation is run as an experiential learning day, and has formed a vital part of Exel’s ITSM project’s education and awareness campaign. The experiential approach is powerful, and works across cultures, allowing both users and IT staff to be engaged to an equal degree. Any awareness campaign must also be supported by a comprehensive training programme.

Above all, IT service management needs to be aligned with corporate strategy, and people must be at the heart of the programme. Look carefully at the way you raise awareness and build the case for improving service management. Exel strongly recommends the use of experiential learning, along with independent benchmarking.

Exel is the first end-user community to achieve BS15000 certification (the new global standard for ITSM) for its Supply Chain Integrator (SCI2) product. Exel recognises the importance of the discipline in delivering certified professional IT service to underpin business solutions.

Jane Seeley is Exel’s IT service management programme director, global: jane.seeley@exel.com

Critical success factors

The critical success factors for the creation of an effective IT service management programme include:

  • Executive sponsorship  Early buy-in to the- programme from the senior executive management team
  • Benchmarking  Initial benchmarking to create a base-line against which all subsequent progress is measured
  • Engaging people  Using experiential learning techniques supported by effective training programmes to engage employees
  • Central control  Co-ordination of the programme from the centre, with clear definitions of roles and responsibilities
  • Resourcing  Ensuring adequate resourcing from the outset, and feeding back time and money savings