ITSM Programme – Phase 1 approved!

ITSM Programme – Phase 1 approved!

IT Services will be undergoing changes over the next 5 years in the way we work and manage our services. Due to increased demand on staff time, increased requests for IT support around the University and planned growth of potentially up to 20,000 students, there is a need to ensure that as an IT department we are scaling with the requirements of the institution.

Rather than biting off more than we can chew, we are going to start off with a Phase 1 project which will be focused around Incident and Problem Management. The mandate (project idea) has been approved by the Project Coordination Group and a business case (more in-depth project plan) is now being written up for approval by the Systems and Academic Projects Board sub-committee.

The Aims of the project are to:

  1. Ensure customers know how we can (and can’t) support them at our three main campuses.
  2. Ensure customers feel looked after from before they need IT support to after a support call has been completed.
  3. Ensure everyone has access to the relevant information they need throughout the process of a support call.
  4. Enable measurement of incident and problem levels and provide regular reports to service managers for analysis.
  5. Provide management information for Directors and Team Leaders on customer satisfaction and service level target achievements.
  6. Ensure IT support is meeting the needs of the institution.

We will be achieving this by:

  1. Understanding, developing and documenting a list of IT Services supported services.
  2. Adopting and adapting the ITIL Incident Management and Problem Management processes and embedding them within IT Services team working practices.
  3. Ensuring IT Services teams have adequate training and support to enable them to successfully change their way of working to fit in with these processes.
  4. Setting expectations for IT support and communicating them clearly to customers and stakeholders.
  5. Making best use of the existing ITSM software tool, Cherwell, to manage incidents and problems.
  6. Establishing an expectation of customer self-service and planning the development of the knowledgebase for high volume and/or high impact issues.
  7. Setting up a Continuous Service Improvement plan to review the process after implementation.

The Benefits the project will provide:

  • Stability and efficiency of IT service support for future growth.
  • More effectively meeting business needs for solving issues by generating accurate prioritisation standards, VIP user criteria and service level targets.
  • More accurate allocation of resource for support and maintenance of services versus IT projects.
  • Accurate and comprehensive data collected on the support and maintenance resource costs of all IT services.
  • Efficiency of incident and problem turnaround time due to greater clarity of process from first line support to third line developer fix.
  • Clarity for customers on where to go for IT support.
  • Clarity for IT staff on who supports which services.
  • Better communication about IT service outages or maintenance periods.
  • Mutually agreed expectations for support channels, turnaround time and availability.
  • Efficiency of self-service for customers by increasing the amount of IT knowledge articles available on the web.

Which will be measured by:

  • Production of a publicly available Service List to document what IT services are supported at the University.
  • Production of clear Service Level Targets for all IT Services managed services.
  • Production of a list of VIP user criteria.
  • Ability to access management information on service level target achievements and volume of support and maintenance for individual services.
  • Increase in customer satisfaction via surveys (staff and student).
  • Decrease in average support call time to close.
  • Increase in number of “first-time fixes”.
  • Increase in number of incidents and requests being entered into the ITSM tool.
  • Ability to compare numbers of incidents versus requests.
  • Increase in number of knowledgebase articles available on and their respective view count and satisfaction rating.
  • Increase in satisfaction with support and maintenance work by IT Services staff.
  • Undertaking of a successful communication campaign around IT support to set clear customer expectations.

I’ll be writing more about this project on the blog over the coming months.

If you have any questions or comments about the project please don’t hesitate to contact Alex O’Neill for more information.


A few useful ITIL definitions

As we move towards the implementation of the ITIL Incident and Problem Management processes in IT Services at Essex, there is some terminology which may be useful to understand. The differences seem subtle, but making these distinctions allows us to start making judgements on how we work, whether we need to spend more time testing systems (if they are causing lots of incidents), designing systems (if there are a lot of change requests due to not understanding user need at the start) or perhaps renewing old or depleted systems (if there are a lot of underlying problems).


“An issue raised by a customer or recognised by IT Services staff that causes a service to not function as intended and that can be investigated, diagnosed and fixed or a workaround found.”

When queries from customers come in, it’s potentially easy to class them all as incidents – from the customer’s point of view, they often look like an IT service isn’t working in some way and hence is causing a “break in service”. However, it is important to note that an incident is only classed as an incident when the service is not working as originally intended. The aim with fixing incidents is to restore the service to a usable state or enable the customer to continue as quickly as possible (note: this does not necessarily mean fixing the cause of the incident straight away).

A web page is not displaying correctly due to some erroring Javascript.
A loan camera is not working because the battery needs replacing.


“A severe, ongoing or repeated issue that is causing a service to not function as anticipated. Could affect multiple people. There may be a temporary workaround solution in place.”

A problem is usually (but not always) related to multiple reported incidents. It may define a larger, underlying issue that is creating incidents for customers. When a problem is investigated, the cause of the problem is documented as a known error. Problems may not necessarily need to or even want to be solved in the immediate term. In some cases, it may be more cost effective to document short-term workarounds to enable support teams to get customers back to an equivalent level of service rather than fix the problem itself.

A faulty network switch has created a network outage in the Rab Butler building.
The print service is running very slowly.


“A request for support on a service when the service is working as it should.”

Requests may feel a bit like incidents, particularly if users can’t get access to something or are struggling to use a system. However, if there is no actual “break in service” and the service is working as originally intended, then it is not classed as an incident. A user may need access to a system or some training or advice, however, there is no change to be made to the actual system itself to fix the problem. Requests could, however, spawn a change or problem if they become repetitive – there could be some development or fix made that would reduce the number of requests, such as automating user access or making the user interface simpler.

A customer can’t gain access to a SharePoint site because they don’t have the correct permissions.
A user is having trouble changing their password.


“A request for an enhancement to a service that is different to the original specification or design and requires extra or changed features to a service.”

A change is a request for some feature of a service to be updated, added or removed. The difference between a change and a request is that a request can be fulfilled without any change to a service. A change should go through an approval and design process to ensure that the end result still meets existing needs and all impacting or impacted services are identified and part of the decision making process.

A user complains that they can’t see all students on a module at once in the FASER Feedback Assistant.
A new button is required on an ESIS form.


“A distinct set of work to create a new service or make significant changes to an existing service. It is likely that a project would need to be approved by senior IT staff or an external decision group.”

A project is often a set of changes (and may in some cases fix a group of problems), or could potentially be the design and build of a whole new service. There should be careful consideration of a project as it often takes up a significant amount of resource to develop technically and/or outsource to an external provider. Projects should be considered in the overall scope of the institution and budgets allocated according to organisational priorities.

Lab X is having all machines replaced with upgraded hardware to ensure optimum performance and to manage ongoing support.
A new website is required to build our student recruitment and enable more personalisation options.

3 days of ITSM training

Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th June was our ITSM training session. Amazingly, the lovely Sally Swaine of the IT & Digital Skills team managed to secure 3 whole days of our Director’s and Assistant Directors’ time to attend, which I thought was nothing short of a miracle to be honest! In addition we had a selection of managers and representatives from other teams to discover what ITSM and ITIL are and how we can benefit from them as an institution.

The days were structured as thus:

  • ITIL Awareness (Wednesday)
  • Operation Aftermath simulation game (Thursday)
  • Change Management and looking forward (Friday)

Overall, the days were really informative, bringing to light the core elements of ITIL and the purpose of IT Service Management. We spoke a lot about ITSM bringing VALUE to the business (which I have spoken about briefly in a previous post) and about how this is the most important thing an IT Services section can do to ensure they are aiding the University in the best way they can. Our trainer, Adam White-Bower from Quanta training, really emphasised the fact that great IT Service is about providing exactly what the University needs “and not one iota more”, not going above and beyond but finding out what the University really NEEDS (not what they want) and being able to quantify and offer that.

We went into quite a lot of detail on the ITIL Lifecycle on the first day, which I will be delving into in future posts to explain why each element is important and how it would impact us as an institution.

Operation Aftermath on the second day was hilarious and fast paced, I think several people may have left with slightly less hair and slightly more stress lines than when they arrived! Each person in the room was given a role in the simulation game, which was based around running a refugee camp after a natural disaster. Some of the role allocations included Richard Murphy playing the Camp Manager (Service Delivery Manager in ITIL terms) who ran the whole thing, Vince Swann playing the Systems Engineer (Applications Manager), Bret Giddings playing the part of Welfare Officer (Change Manager) and Lina Cullington playing the Liaison Officer (Service Desk Agent). See the pictures below for an idea of what we got up to:

There were shouts of “Cholera!” and “Fire, where’s the fire?!” I will leave this to your imagination (or you can ask one of the attendees) but, needless to say, it was a very entertaining but also informative day.

The third day we focused on Managing Change in an organisation and Stakeholder Engagement. It really struck home to me in this day how difficult this is but also how important – making sure you know who to talk to, at the right time in the right way, ensuring everyone is actually appropriately engaged and how it can be very easy to push forward with changes without doing the requisite work which means that at best everyone gets very confused and at worst it annoys loads of people and the change doesn’t even stick anyway. If you’re interested in Managing Change there’s a couple of great course on it here:

Leading Change (1h 42 minutes)
Embracing Change (12 minutes)

So what’s next? I will be talking to all training attendees to find out what they think the key benefits are for us as a section and for the University as a whole. From there we’ll be really defining what we want to get out of the changes and why, which I will share with you here. And then we’ll be looking in more depth about how we go about doing that, which is where each and every one of you, whether you’re in IT Services or not, comes in.

Do you have previous experience in ITSM or ITIL in a previous institution? Or a view on what would be the most beneficial thing for us? It would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments, as well as any ideas you may have for how we could achieve some quick wins for the section.

All fired up

I’ve got to admit, I’m quite excited about the ITSM Managers training course next week. I genuinely think it could be the start of some really interesting and significant discussions about how we manage IT at the University. It is a privilege to be involved in such a potentially influential programme and I hope those involved will take part wholeheartedly to engage with discussions around the future of IT Services.

My real personal passion is for great leadership, in any walk of life. My opinion is that great leadership makes great teams which in turn makes great work – this is palpable in some of the more public facing successful business leaders such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.

One of the reasons I took my current job is because I see the potential for great leadership in IT Services – the understanding of need and passion for change and growth is there, even if the exact steps of how to get there are not yet. And this is where I see my role to be – digging out and finding the steps that might start us on the road to fantastic IT Service Management.

I’ll be sure to let you know where our next step might take us in another post after the training. Exciting times ahead!

5 reasons for slow IT support

I’m not an expert in this, so I’ve stolen this title from that of a post written by Noel Bruton, an IT Support expert and consultant. It’s an interesting article indeed and one I would recommend having a read of, whether you deal with IT support or not:

We might be working with Noel some time in the next few months to help technicians in our section make support manageable and super-efficient and improve the service we provide our customers in the rest of the University. I am keen to see the difference it would make in the service we provide others and in the happiness of our IT Services staff.

Dive into to learn ITIL

In another part of the forest of Customer Support Services, we’ve recently launched a very exciting project setting up and spreading the word about (if you want to know more about this take a look at our website). You can learn all sorts of fascinating things on there including all about ITIL! (Woo hoo, I can hear your shouts of excitement from here!)

My colleague spotted it and told me about it and I’ve taken a look – it’s not really my cup of tea to be honest in terms of the way it is delivered, however it will no doubt give you a good grounding in the ITIL Framework if you want or need it, and will also prepare you for the ITIL Foundation Certificate exam if you want to take it. Here it is:

View the ITIL Foundations course

A walk and talk with the Director of IT Services


I would highly recommend an outdoors walking meeting or brainstorm or even just thinking time on your own – gets the blood flowing and stimulates different thinking patterns (I’m pretty sure I’ve read research about that somewhere). Plus being outdoors in the sun with a coffee has got to be a better way of working than in a boxy office that you’ve been in all day.

I’ve just been for a walk and talk with Richard Murphy, Director of IT Services at Essex. And my big question for him today was… Why do we want to use IT Service Management? What does he think it can provide us, both as an IT Services section and as a University?

It’s a really interesting question, because everything I read about ITSM always talks about the technicalities – what it is, what methodologies you can use, what does it mean, what does value mean, what are services etc etc. I don’t think I’ve read anywhere yet a plain English summary of what can it do for you. What benefit it has. What impact it has on an organisation. What effect it has on each and every person’s work life. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. But this is the core of what Richard and I talked about – not the what and how, but the WHY.

Richard is going to write a guest post on this blog in the next couple of weeks about why he thinks ITSM is the way to go, so I will leave him to describe his thoughts in his own words. However, I feel like once we know why we do the things we do, the what and the how just fall into place a whole lot easier. I envision that using ITSM practices will enable us to understand why we do what we do in IT Services a whole lot more clearly.