Using ITIL to Deliver a Quality Support Service
- How do you ensure you are getting the right things done?
- How can you ensure your support service delivers for you?
- How can you ensure the investment you're making in maintenance delivers continuing value?
You have invested in your site, now maintain it to realise your ROI.
Just as choosing a development agency to build your website or web application can be difficult and daunting, choosing an agency to maintain and improve your application is another important decision. After the initial investment is over, the task of making sure you get return on that investment begins.
It is through a partnership with a reliable and capable support and maintenance arrangement that this ROI can be realised. So the question becomes: how can you identify a quality support partner amongst those who simply profess to be a quality agency? Equally, what are the characteristics of a world-class support service?
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is an accepted standard for the delivery of IT services. Its philosophy is deep, should one wish to dive into the details, but at its core lies seven guiding principles, which carry a wisdom greater than one might first appreciate.
The 7 ITIL Guiding Principles are as follows:
- Focus on value
- Start where you are
- Progress iteratively with feedback
- Collaborate and promote visibility
- Think and work holistically
- Keep it simple and practical
- Optimise and automate
1. Focus on value
A large part of the idea behind ITIL is that the services delivered must provide value. That value is co-created through collaboration between the service vendor and the service consumer. In real life terms, this means that when we at Annertech engage with a client for a website, we work with them to prioritise work, to try and maximise what they can get delivered each month.
2. Start where you are
This principle is incredibly important, and easily ignored. It is often a make or break reason which causes projects, especially digital transformations, to fail. This principle states that one must take stock of what you have available right now. Assess how things are done now, how things are implemented and how things work. Some things will be worth keeping, some worth changing and some worth replacing.
In every-day website support, we will always assess how things are done now, and attempt to work within that paradigm, before diving in to replace everything with the latest novel approaches. This principle feeds directly back to the mantra: "focus on value".
3. Progress iteratively with feedback
This principle is a favourite of anyone who has ever worked in an agile manner. The idea here is to make several small changes and review them, rather than performing one big change. In this way, you can:
- quickly learn what is not going to be of benefit
- improve the things that are working and will be of benefit
- start getting value from changes quickly and continually from then on
In the world of support and maintenance, we will often apply the 80/20 rule: we will create a solution which takes 20% of the effort, but achieves 80% of the value, and then offer it to the client for review. At that point we can collectively decide if enough has been done to satisfy the requirement, or if further refinement is necessary, or whether the entire approach needs to be abandoned.
4. Collaborate and promote visibility
Collaboration is key to achieving the first principle: "focus on value". Because value is co-created, collaboration is hardwired into it. It might begin between supplier and client, but should incorporate collaboration between departments, disciplines, management tiers etc. Obviously, strong communication is imperative.
At a practical, day-to-day level, we will try to involve clients in as many of the steps along the journey from concept to completion as possible. It is not always possible with every client and every step, but the benefits of collaboration can be huge and are worth pursuing as often as possible.
5. Think and work holistically
This principle is invaluable. It means: don't fix the symptom, fix the underlying problem. It means: ask why the problem exists in the first place. What causes it? Does the whole system or workflow need to be reassessed, bearing in mind the principle of 'start where you are'.
In a website/web application situation, it also means: do not design once-off pages in a silo, but rather create a design system with reusable elements, for maintainability, longevity and editorial control
6. Keep it simple and practical
As with all the other principles, keeping things simple and practical is incredibly important. It facilitates a focus on value, by allowing value delivery early and often. It helps holistic thinking, by reducing complex systems to simpler components. It is a natural partner to 'start where you are', the obvious next step being to make simple, practical changes to generate valuable outcomes from the start.
Think and work holistically.
7. Optimise and automate
Programmers everywhere love the ideas behind this principle. Does the organisation perform workflows with manual, repetitive tasks? Let us automate them. Did the website get an overhaul a year ago? Let us optimise it for performance and make it really fast. Faster systems, and less manual work is a sure-fire way to deliver value on an ongoing basis.
Think of easily digestible reports, or formatted exports of data for use in other systems, or better yet, seamless integration between your web application and your CRM, or automated data analysis for management reports. This principle is definitely where fun is to be found, but must be considered within the context of the other principles. One must think and work holistically and focus on value, after all.
An excellent framework for service delivery
In summary, the seven guiding principles of ITIL create an excellent framework for the delivery of excellent IT services. Ask your next prospective support agency about how they implement the ITIL guiding principles and it might just help you to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Does your support service deliver for you?
Why not talk to us about how we make maintenance deliver continuing value for our clients.
Anthony Lindsay Director of Managed Services
With decades of experience, Anthony leads the Annertech Support Team, delivering top quality design, development, and, ultimately peace-of-mind services to all of Annertech's wonderful clients.