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ONEiO Unplugged: Improvement, integration and the ‘bigger picture’

In this edition of ONEiO Unplugged we speak to CPO Janne Kärkkäinen about how IT leaders can bring principles of ITIL, Continuous Service Improvement (CSI) and SIAM together to create more robust, agile and competitive businesses.

Q: CSI is vital of an ITIL and best practice centred service, but where does it fit in within a SIAM and the Service Integration life cycle?

Janne: Interesting question! CSI is definitely featuring more and more heavily in the beginning stages of IT projects nowadays. In regards to SIAM, we have to think about integrations as living, breathing things that also need a continual approach to improvement. Whether it be the technology itself or the processes which underpin it, the integrations holding vital services together must iteratively mature and progress along with the service and its customers.

What this means in practical terms is that IT departments should have achievable strategies in place for CSI and SIAM, which work together towards the same business and IT objectives. This might mean that these plans and activities are made and managed by the same people or it might even mean that IT adopts a holistic approach to improvement across all its functions.

Q: This sounds like a great approach, but do you think in reality some of these ideas get missed?

Janne: Sadly, yes. Many IT organisations are setting up integrations and then just letting them run as they were setup for the foreseeable future. They may have some great CSI activities going on in regards to service desk and operations, but we do see the management and improvement of integrations left off this list a lot.

I have seen really mature and forward thinking IT services, end up using old and clunky integrations just because they didn’t realise they could apply there CSI approach to that aspect of their technology. Of course, when you say it that plainly, it becomes obvious that every area of IT can be improved. However, in the day-to-day grind of running IT, simple things do get lost and missed quite quickly. I believe that the primary reason for this not getting the attention it deserves, is the fact that the paltforms and technologies are quite complex and require quite a lot of experience. This means that the most experienced people should have this on their table but usually they have “more important things” to do.

Q: Okay, I can see the problem there. When this happens, what do you think the impact is on the business or end-customer?

Janne: Improvement oversights are slow burners. The result can be nothing for a long time then all of a sudden it jumps up and bites you on the nose! From a business point of view, it often comes down to two things; competitive advantages and recovering from major incidents.

Not applying CSI to your service integrations from a competitive stand point essentially means that overtime your ability to pivot and react to changing customer needs becomes more and more fragile. Really high performing organisations can quickly swap out or adapt technologies and capabilities to meet new customer needs or changes in the market place.

Manageable, interchangeable and risk free integrations are the big technical enabler, but if it takes you 30 days plus to complete an integration change, that’s just not going to cut it.

On the other hand, an agile approach to service integrations brig real freedom to operate to IT organizations. My second point around recovering from major incidents is double sided. Firstly, better integrations break less (or sometimes not at all!) and secondly when they do break, they are easier to fix. I have seen companies with 4-5 year old integrations suffer at the hands of them breaking, putting big services out-of-order for days on end. The worst thing is when the staff who coded up a bespoke integration have since left and now the new staff have to unpick what they have done or start all over again. It can be so so damaging, and businesses only tend to take notice of it AFTER something goes wrong.

Wow. Okay, so it can end pretty badly if you don’t keep on top of your integrations! How do you and your team approach improving integrations then, both for ONEiO and it’s customers?

It’s quite simple really, and it’s cultural as much as it is technical. We openly discuss active integrations all the time and share ideas for improvements. We lead by example in that respect as much as we can, being open and honest with customers as to what we have in place ourselves and what we see them doing right and wrong also.

It’s not a very technical thing to say, but improvement is a mind-set as much as it is a methodology and we have to manage it in multiple ways in order to get the results we want.

At the end of the day it comes down to really knowing what the risks are, not putting things off till after they go wrong. On the flip side of that, IT in general needs to discuss improvement opportunities more effectively with the rest of the business. So get out there, talk to people in the business and find out what they are trying to do. By linking their goals back to the technology and then working out where the areas for improvement are that will help make that happen, goes a long way to making IT a strategic part of the business, and not just a service provider.

Learn more about how ONEiO can help you with your approach to improving integrations and adopting more effective approaches to SIAM and Service Integration by downloading our Service Desk manager’s guide to SIAM eGuide today.