Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What gets measured gets improved

We recently started tracking "missed SLA's" in our IT service desk and, well we weren't that good at it. Many times we would go days or weeks with a case without contacting the users to let them know we were actually working on the case. Because of this the perception was, not surprisingly that we weren't taking the case seriously.

Now with a very few exceptions we were actively working the case but we just weren't communicating well. Our SLA required updates every 4 hours to every 2 weeks depending on the case. It was one of those things we knew we needed to improve on but it never seemed to make it high enough to get more than a passing comment in a meeting.

Last month we decided to fix it. We implemented a dashboard that tracked who had the most missed SLA's and a daily email went out to alert people that they needed to update their cases. 

We even went so far as requiring a 4-5 daily onsite meeting for anyone that had cases that were not meeting our stated SLA's. We are pretty "work life balanced" any many people would leave a bot early to avoid traffic and then work later in the night when their children were asleep. 

When people said that they could not make the meeting,  I replied with, "Well if your tickets are up to date you won't have to be there.". 

Someone went so far as to call the meetings "detention". They were not wrong. That was not an accident either.

We went from over 160 missed SLA's, down to 0 in less than a week. If you want to improve in an area measure it, and make it so that people want to meet it. Just be careful to measure and track what is important.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Want to be an innovative CIO? My tips.

I've been thinking lately and it is apparent that there are two sides of IT. The Innovation side and the traditional Information side. Innovation is the "fun stuff". It's new technology. It's new processes and culture and the stuff that gets called "Value add".

The Information, or some call in the Infrastructure side is the more traditional side of IT. Things like keeping the infrastructure running, updating reports and to some extent integrating existing systems or automating existing processes.

Most CIO's really want to spend more time on innovation but keep getting dragged back into the traditional side. I thought I'd share my thoughts on how you can fix that. At the end of the day it comes down to the usual, "if you want to be a great CIO, you need a great team".

But more specifically I think you need to be good at the following areas.

1. Remember the basics. At the end of the day if every conversation with the other executives turns into "Why is this slow or broken" you will never get to be innovative. You simply can't move forward when you are watching your back.

2. Social. Your team needs to be social and likable. While it is possible to fix many issues with remote support tools, there is a huge benefit to simply walking to someone's desk and helping them. You will become a "person" rather than a department and it's much harder to dislike a person than a title.

3. Visionary. Your entire team needs to be able to see the bigger picture. We once had a ticket for a broken fax machine that uncovered a completely broken process involving multiple faxing, printing and saving of documents. While the technician could have fixed the fax and closed the ticket, but understanding the bigger picture we were able to streamline and entire process. And yes we did fix the fax too..

4. Don't say no. Now this doesn't mean saying yes, but rather listening to the problem and coming up with a way to solve the users issues. If you say no, then it's going to happen anyway and the next time they are likely to just not bother asking you at all. If you come up with a solution and implement it well, you become a real partner. Saying no makes you a roadblock, solving a problem makes you a partner.

5. Be the expert. As an IT leader you need to know what is going on. The last thing you want is your CEO learning about the latest social network application from his 12 year old daughter. Or reading about this great new CRM from a magazine on the plane. You may not always be a step ahead, but you should never be a mile behind either.

6. Embrace our differences. Not everyone is in IT or even likes technology. Just because it seems easy to you, doesn't mean all your users will immediately understand it. Training and evangelizing why is important

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When you go cloud, remember Perception is Reality

I had the chance to present on a pane on cloud last week at the local 7x24 Exchange conference in Framingham. It was a great event and my fellow panelists, Brad Loomis and Frank DeGilio, were excellent and had a wealth of knowledge. As importantly they kept the conversation flowing and the audience enagaged. I've been on other panels where I'm having all I can do to stay awake and feel bad for the people in the audience doing the same.

But this post actually isn't about that.. well not directly. One of the items we discussed was the changing role of IT in a cloud world, which got me thinking on the ride home. A previous manager used to say "Perception is Reality" and I think it is worth repeating that.

Perception is Reality...

Why is this so important to cloud? Well imagine if you are using a cloud based system to run your company. It could be Google Apps, Microsoft 360, Salesforce, Sugar CRM, or any other application.  Now imagine it is down. Not working. The entire company can't do their jobs....

What would you do? Now the reality is you can't do much. I mean it's not your issue to fix really. You can't go reboot a server. You can't reconfigure a network switch. You can't even tell if it is a database server issue, network or hardware.

You may be tempted to sit in your office with your feet on the desk. The reality is that would be as useful as anything else you can do. Don't do that.

Instead do something useful. Walk around and talk to all the affected people and let them know you and you team are working on it. If you have an operations center bring up the "health dashboard" of the cloud application, or the vendors twitter stream for updates. Get someone on the phone with their support getting updates and communicate them to everyone at your company.

The technical difference is minimal but the perception of IT during this time will be drastically different.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Never give up!

The Ironman is arguably one of the most grueling races imaginable. For those that haven't hear of it, the Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by an 112 mile bicycle race then topped with a 26.2 mile marathon. Commonly referred to as a 140.6 which represents the total amount of miles you race.

In the US in 2009, 1.2M people competed in Triathhlon's, of those only 17% even attempt an Ironman. So doing that math (disclaimer my sister is the math teacher, not me) that means less than 0.4% of the US can do a triathlon and only .0006% attempt an Ironman. Clearly this is an elite group....

I'm proud to say my sister is competing in her second Ironman in a few weeks. For practice she did a half marathon this weekend. That by the way, is 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run. Below is her race recap post.

Not only is Diane competing in her second ironman but she is raising money for my cousins wife who was just diagnosed with ALS. The money Diane is raising will hopefully be enough to pay for an elevator to be installed in the house since insurance does not cover that. More info is available http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130824/GJNEWS_01/130829605/0/SEARCH and if you want to donate, you cna do so at here  http://www.gofundme.com/2prrzc.

Before you read it though a few things about Diane. Diane was not a track star in high school. Growing up sh could swim, mostly. I remember her riding a bike but no further than I ever did. She didn't grow up as a super jock. In fact when she took up running, she had a hard time catching her breath and went to the Dr. 

The Dr. ran some tests and said "You have the lungs of a 60 year old sedentary woman". She was not yet 30. "Your body is just not made to run".

Diane was determined though and in spite of her reduced lungs completed her first ironman 140.6. 

Whenever I hear someone say "It's can't be done, I smile and say, let me tell you a story..." Never give up. If it's important to you, you can find a way....

In August of 2007, after having my second tumultuous swim at Ellacoya, I vowed never to return again. I can’t even drive by that place without having a panic attack! But after what happened at IMLP last year, I knew I had to go back, and defeat this demon. This time, I upped my game, and signed up for the half iron distance. This course has a reputation for being very difficult, not only because Lake Winni is known for being quite choppy, but because of the 2200 feet of vertical climb in the bike, another huge weakness of mine.

Fast forward to August 18, 2013. I got up at 3 am and rode up with the Toracintas. Chanel has been my training partner and huge inspiration, as we are both doing Ironman triathlons a day apart. Having her there calmed me down, and seeing the serene water, was priceless! Then I realized I had forgotten a few very important items: my prescription sunglasses (without these, I can clearly see for about 5 feet), my chip, and my Garmin. Oops! Luckily Kelly lent me a pair of sunglasses, which protected my eyes. I was able to get a replacement chip, and the Garmin, well, more on that later…

They set up the swim waves so that the slowest groups would start first, after the pros. Sounds like a great idea, right? Except when you’re a slow swimmer like me. I had 8 minutes of pure bliss, then WHAM! The next group of swimmers come on me like a shark stalking its prey. The water starts getting rough. Do I go left or right? It doesn’t matter, there are people all around. I try desperately to get out of the way, then another group comes up. I’m in the middle of a mosh pit, being kicked and poked, and scared to death. Finally I manage to swim out of this mess and grab a kayak to get myself together. I quickly compose myself and devise a plan, to swim far left, avoiding other swimmers at all costs. I get into a groove, then come to the first turn. WTF was that! I got pummeled by a giant tidal wave! I kept hearing Chanel’s voice “Whatever we swim in cannot be as bad as Wallis Sands.” She was right. It wasn’t pretty, but I got through the swim at Ellacoya in 56 minutes.

Time to bike, and it starts off with a nice size hill right out of the gate. My plan was to use this race as a training day and to take it easy because I only have 5 weeks until Chessie. Then several hundred cyclists passed me, I got caught up in the moment, and once I saw the Crayola pack of body condoms, it was time to MOVE IT! After the first 12 miles, it was relatively flat, so I was averaging close to 19 mph. Felt strong, perfect temp, and went with it. I made a quick pit stop and continued the second part of the course. Time on the bike was about 3:30, which was a 16 mph average. I was very happy with this since I had biked part of the course before (the hilly part), and averaged like 13.3 mph, though it might have had something to do with it being the day after a 90 mile ride in extreme temps.

When I hit the run, it was cloudy and getting cooler, which was ideal! The first 3 miles took FOREVER! But without my Garmin, I had no idea how to gage it. The course is a double loop out and back, so you get to see everyone, several times. About half through, I was nicknamed “the porn star” due to my heavy breathing. True story, you can hear me coming from a mile away! At about mile 10 my ITB started acting up. There was a severe camber on the road, and not being able to switch sides of the road, I had to do some power walking. But no worries, I still finished under a 12-minute mile and was able to “chick” a few guys.

Overall, happy with my time, and looking to bike about the same pace at Chessie next month, but that will be a flat course. Best part of my day, hmm, either Chanel’s daughter Fran giving me a big hug before the start and saying “Good luck other mom!” Or Andy Potts putting the medal around my neck.