Workflow Definition and Golf: Beating Estimates

on Oct 23rd, 2013 in Managed Services, | Comments Off on Workflow Definition and Golf: Beating Estimates

Workflow Definition and Golf: Beating EstimatesI enjoy the game of golf despite not being very good at it.  Due to circumstances and connections, I had the fantastic experience of being a caddy for a professional golfer during a tournament.  During the round, he asked me what I did for a living.  After some conversation about my background as a managed services consultant, he looked at me and said “We have a lot in common in that we are both trying to beat estimates”.  He then went on to point out that golf was the only sport that provided everyone with an estimate… par.  It became a joke for the rest of the round as we tried to determine how to beat the “estimate” at each hole.

Much like calculating par in a round of golf, workflow definition is a disciplined estimation approach that incorporates checks and balances to verify and validate the expectations that are supported by customized estimation models and the quality of work being performed.

Although the workflow definition process requires a slightly different thought process, the customized approach is based on a simple foundation:

1)       All roles require something from someone else to do their work

2)       Resources within roles perform similar tasks (ties back to my motto: “Repeatability breeds Predictability”)

3)       Similar roles will create similar outputs.

The workflow definition process is proven to significantly improve organizational maturity by increasing efficiency and establishing baselines for monitoring content, timely delivery and quality.

Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (4 of 4)

on Sep 12th, 2013 in Managed Services, | Comments Off on Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (4 of 4)

This is a 4-part blog series covering metrics used in Managed Services engagements.  The previous blog discussed Backlog measurements, providing an overview of all Open tickets as of a certain point in time or date.  In this post, I will discuss the Trending measurements.  This metric provides an overview of all tickets reported, segmented by the month the ticket was created.

I had just completed a short discovery session with a potential client and we were reviewing my preliminary findings. I immediately asked if the organization had problems with quality. He looked startled and said yes, but wanted to know what led me to that opinion so quickly. I showed him the Trending metrics and pointed out several large spikes in the number of tickets that happened to correspond with planned Production release dates.

Metric

Description

Trending –   Open/Closed Provides   the number of tickets opened and closed each month
Trending   by Priority Provides   the number of tickets opened each month broken down by Priority

Experience has shown that many organizations take the quick and easy “Band-Aid” approach to resolving tickets. This approach corrects the symptom (example: delete bad data) of the problem but it is often a temporary solution as the problem resurfaces each month. A “Root Cause Analysis” approach centers on identifying and resolving the actual problem (example: fix problem that allows bad data into the system) so it does not occur again. The ultimate result of a “Root Cause Analysis” approach is an organization that over time reduces its support initiatives, thus freeing resources for other critical tasks.

Trending – Open/Closed

If the number of open tickets exceeds the number of closed tickets over time this is often a sign the team is understaffed. The assumptions made to determine staff size should be re-evaluated, and corrective actions are needed to reverse the trend.

Trending by Priority

Look for spikes with an emphasis on the higher priorities as these events should be minimal. These will require an investigation and often lead to a “Lessons Learned” opportunity.

Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (3 of 4)

on Aug 29th, 2013 in Managed Services, | Comments Off on Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (3 of 4)

This is a 4-part blog series covering metrics used in Managed Services engagements.  The previous blog discussed Snapshot measurements, highlighting which measurements to use and why.

When mentoring, I tell people: We learn from the past, we impact the present, and we are measured by future results.  In this post, I will discuss Backlog measurements.  These metrics provide an overview of all OPEN tickets as of a certain point in time or date range. For Backlog metrics, I use duration ranges (1 – 3 days, greater than 1 month, etc.) in order to categorize the open tickets.

Metric

Description

Open by Priority  View of ALL OPEN tickets, broken down by Priority
Backlog Aging  Breakdown of how long OPEN tickets have been open
Aging of Open by Priority  Snapshot of how long the OPEN tickets have been opened, broken down by Priority

Open by Priority

A simple rule of thumb: As you move up the Priority level, there should be fewer open tickets. An example: Since Critical tickets are the highest of priorities, these are an immediate focus thus should be resolved in a short amount of time. As mentioned in the previous post, in an organization where everything is deemed critical, it is difficult to know where the true priority lies.

Backlog Aging

This is my favorite Backlog metric because it can quickly give you the inside view of an organization. The percentage of open tickets should go down the farther you get from open date. In my experience, the upper limit of time should not exceed 30 days.   In many cases, if a ticket is open beyond 30 days, the original purpose for the ticket no longer exists or the parameters affecting the ticket have changed.

Aging of Open by Priority

This metric is simply a breakdown of the Backlog Aging as it indicates the number of open tickets in each duration range for each priority. The same rule of thumb applies: The higher the priority, the less time a ticket should be open.

Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (2 of 4)

on Aug 15th, 2013 in Managed Services, | Comments Off on Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (2 of 4)

This is a 4-part blog series covering metrics used in Managed Services engagements.  The previous blog discussed how the effective collection and use of metrics is critical in handling the delivery of Managed Services engagements.  Without knowing where you are, it is impossible to identify and track potential improvement opportunities.  In this post, I will discuss Snapshot measurements.  This metric gives an overview of all tickets as of a certain point in time or date range.

Metric

Description

Total by Status  ALL tickets that were opened, then segmented by current Status
Total by Priority  ALL tickets that were opened, then segmented by Priority
Time to Close by Priority  Breakdown of time to close tickets, then segmented by Priority

Total by Status

Experience has shown that organizations with more than 10% of the total tickets having an open status is an early warning sign of potential problems (understaffed team, etc.) and requires additional investigation.

Total by Priority

As you move up the Priority Level, there should be fewer tickets. Chaotic organizations that operate almost entirely in emergency mode will be heavily loaded with the highest priorities. This makes determining the REAL priority very difficult. This can be corrected by defining specific parameters for each of the different priorities.

Total to Close by Priority

This is one of my favorite set of metrics because it shows actual history, thus providing a great learning opportunity… “You can’t get better until you first know where you are”.  I like to show a separate metric for each priority broken into a range of durations (1 – 3 days, greater than 30 days, etc.) that it has taken to close a ticket. The higher priority the ticket, the faster it should be resolved. Example: Critical tickets should be an immediate focus thus the resolution time would expect to be minimal.

Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (1 of 4)

on Aug 2nd, 2013 in Managed Services, | Comments Off on Evaluating Managed Services Metrics (1 of 4)

In 1973, my family first visited Walt Disney World in Florida. At that time, you had to purchase tickets for the rides with the number of tickets for each ride determined by its “category”. My parents spent a significant amount of time standing in line in order to purchase tickets while always keeping the balancing act in mind: purchase just the right amount of tickets so there were no leftovers.

After we were home several days, my Dad received a phone call from Disney asking for his opinion of the trip with an emphasis on what they might be able to improve on. The person on the phone made a comment that has stuck with me since:  “You can’t get better until you first know where you are”. My Dad went on to explain the frustration with having to stand in line often to buy tickets. To this day, my Dad will tell you that his feedback is the reason that Disney operates that way it does today.

The quote has driven my belief that the effective collection and use of metrics is a critical element in managing the delivery of Managed Services engagements. Metrics provide information needed to proactively manage the processes for the delivery of services, providing an ability to predict and control the quality of the products being produced and the visibility into the status of the on-going effort.

The post is the first of four that will focus on which metrics I feel are most helpful in determining where you are and then identifying potential improvement opportunities.

Embracing a Managed Services Culture

on May 13th, 2013 in Managed Services, Project Management, | Comments Off on Embracing a Managed Services Culture

Managed Services is a term used by a lot of people and you, like me, have probably at some point recognized that the definition means different things to different people.

I was speaking at a PMI symposium on the topic of managed services. I noticed that the session preceding mine was titled “What is managed services”. “Hah!” I thought. “Good luck with that!” I wanted to attend that session just to see what the speaker had to say. That session is one I will remember forever, not for its content but for what I realized during the discussion. I realized managed services is not WHAT service is delivered, but rather HOW it is delivered.

It was suddenly clear to me. With many years in the managed services industry, I came to realize that managed services is a culture — centered on analysis, planning, making commitments, communicating progress against the commitments and always looking for ways to increase efficiency (continuous improvement). A managed services culture is one of accountability to the outcome and to continuously improve one’s ability to predict the outcome independent of the service provided.

Today that culture still provides results. An organization that embraces a managed services culture will realize the most value. The people benefit too. They grow because they don’t just need to have technical skills.  It is like the difference between an order-taker and a problem solver.

  • An order-taker is quite content to complete the task assigned to him. He makes no attempt to understand what problem he needs to solve.
  • The problem solver looks beyond just completing the task at hand. He looks at the possibility of fixing the problem vs. the symptom and is always focused on identifying ways to add VALUE.

Which one best describes your organization?

So, if you are like many organizations out there, you may be wondering “what” to implement to make improvements. That is a noble pursuit. But sometimes, the opportunity (the “what”) is already present, and progress can happen if you simply change the “how”. Organizational maturity is the result of creating a managed services culture that is focused on repeatable methods of delivering the “how”… REPEATABILITY breeds PREDICTABILITY.

My upcoming blogs will be focused on some of the key components that drive an effective managed services culture and have proven to increase organizational maturity:

  • Metrics management
  • Root cause analysis vs. band-aid approach
  • Workflow definition
  • Status reporting
  • Continuous improvement

I welcome your thoughts – what is most important in creating such a culture of continuous improvement?

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