Serio Blog

Wednesday, 20 Sep 2006

I introduced Supplier Management in my last post. What I will do now is talk about Supplier Management within Incident Management.

Anyone who works on any decent-sized Helpdesk or Service Desk knows that you can (normally) only resolve a percentage of Incidents yourself – for some (and it could be a high percentage) you have to pass to a 3rd party organisation, such as your telecoms provider or your hardware services provider. It’s these Incidents that I’m going to focus on.

An Incident normally has someone (an Agent in Serio terms) that is assigned to the Incident – someone involved in IT service delivery that is working to resolve the Incident. You can also supplement this with assignment to a Supplier. There are some significant advantages to doing this:

  • You can say to Serio, or whatever tool you use, ‘show me Incidents that are currently with third party suppliers’ or more specifically ‘show me Incidents that are currently with supplier X’
  • You can attach an additional Service Level Agreement to the Incident, that is set to measure the supplier’s timeliness.
  • You can automate the assignment process, for instance with the use of specially created emails.
  • You get vastly enhanced reporting. For instance, you can access status reports showing how many Incidents are with suppliers, and you can access reports on supplier performance.

If your Helpdesk/Service Desk does not use any kind of formal Supplier Management then none of the benefits I’ve listed above will be available to you.

I’ll take a look at the major events within Incident Management when we are handling suppliers in my next post.

Monday, 18 Sep 2006

My subject for the coming week, whilst here in sunny Camps Bay, South Africa :-), is going to be Supplier Management. It’s an important topic, and I want to start with some of the basics and explain how you can get started.

As I always do when starting such blog threads, I’ll try a definition – and a short one at that.


Supplier Management aims to ensure that suppliers meet the business’s needs and objectives.

Expanding on this definition a little gives:

  • To ensure that service quality is measured formally
  • To provide a solid base on which supplier charges can be assessed
  • To ensure that agreements in contracts held with suppliers are adhered to and not replaced with what the supplier deems as acceptable

Getting Started with Supplier Management

As always I try to approach things from a practical viewpoint, so what follows are hopefully practical tips you can follow.

You first task should be to identify what data you need to capture – as it will be different for different suppliers and different service contracts. I’ve listed some examples below to illustrate my point:

Example 1. The contract is for the provision of an Internet cable line. You are paying for a service and the contract states that the service will be available 99.9% of the time measure month-to-month. Naturally your focus here is going to be downtime and availability, with the aim to produce a monthly report showing availability achieved, and all Incidents affecting availability.

Example 2. The contract is for desktop PC repair for a wide range of equipment. You are paying for a 4 hour response and resolution of repairs/provision of replacements within 2 days. Here the focus is going to be on Incident performance from the supplier, focusing on the timeliness of their response and their resolution.

I’m going to return to Supplier Management in coming posts this week.

Friday, 15 Sep 2006

RobE asks about using Active Directory Replication when you have a mix of internal and external customers.

You can still use replication in these circumstances, and have two choices.

The first thing to understand is that if you switch on replication and then create a customer record using SerioClient, you can still use that customer - for Incident logging. When replication kicks in records like this will remain untouched. So that means your customer database can be a mix of both replicated (internal) and non-replicated (external) customers.

Your other option is to store your external customers as Contacts (yes, Active Directory has such a data storage concept). Serio will replication from your Contacts, even though Contacts are not domain users.

(This is a follow on blog from Wednesday’s article about Active Directory Replication)

Thank you to the anonymous emailer who pointed out that having employee data held within Active Directory offered the prospect of lots of 3rd party applications (like payroll or facilities management) using the same consistent data source ('enterprise wide employee data').

Thank you also to my colleagues here who pointed out that using replication from Active Directory also allows NT Domain logins to be used with SerioWeb (another advantage I missed).

If you are a Serio user that is not using Active Directory Replication, you are probably wondering how you start using it. I’ll use this blog to discuss the main challenges you face, but please remember that the process is documented in the HowTo guide which is part of your product documentation (search for Serio Directory Replication Roadmap) and you should read that as the definitive guide.

Here are your main challenges:

  1. Create Active Directory data. Easily said, but for most organisations probably quite challenging! You need rich data – not just a list of names. You need name, phone number, email address at the very least. You also need what Active Directory called Organisational Units. This is data about what companies or departments people work in, and where they are normally based. In effect, Active Directory organises data in a tree form, and you need branches for Companies, Departments and Users.
  2. The structure of the data is quite important, as is its quality. We provide you with tools to help, including an application to ‘preview’ your data.
  3. You then need to perform a reconciliation. This is where you link up your existing Serio customer database with the data you’ve created in Active Directory. This is so that Serio knows that the J. Smith you have in the Serio database is Mr James Smith in Active Directory, and that updates can be applied correctly. You perform a reconciliation just once.

Wednesday, 13 Sep 2006

Did you know that Serio has Active Directory Integration (first introduced in 2004)?

This feature is not sold at extra cost. If you have a Serio license, then you can use this feature if you so wish.

It works as follows. Rather than maintain a separate customer contact database, you use the information in your Active Directory. Put simply, if you add a user to your Active Directory domain, that user will appear automatically for use within Serio. If you delete the user (for instance, they’ve left the company) then they ‘disappear’ from Serio.

It does more than that though, in that it takes Company and Branch details from the Active Directory ‘tree’ as well (Organisational Units in Active Directory terms). If you move a user from one Organisational Unit in Active Directory, the user will also move in Serio.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the benefits for Serio users are:

  • Improved quality of data (you are using a single data source). In particular, you have tighter controls over the Companies and Branches that are created.
  • Less work (hurrah!) for the Helpdesk/Service Desk.

It all works using something called replication. This is where changes made in the pool of Active Directory data are detected and copied down into Serio. I am happy to say also it works very reliably indeed!

I’ll follow this with a post about migration to Active Directory replication later on. I just wanted to introduce the subject here.

Tuesday, 12 Sep 2006

We are going to start work on adding a new reporting feature, and would appreciate some customer comments.

The new feature causes SerioServer to automatically produce reports in HTML form, and post them to a web site for you. The reports are ones that you create yourself (don't worry, it's quite easy).

So, if you want to comment please do. Email duncand --at-- seriosoft --dot-- com and I will send you an overview (though you must be using SerioReports 4.6 or later, otherwise you won't understand the overview).

A couple of interesting posts on Proactive Problem Management and Problem Management have been posted over on the Verso blog. Our blog here has quite a lot on the subject also - seach for Problem Management to read them.

Monday, 11 Sep 2006

This post is another in my series about customer satisfaction surveys – you can read the last here (it has links to the others).

If you’ve started using surveys, you need to think about how you will access the data gathered and interpret the results.

Firstly, who should interpret the results? For me, this falls under the remit of the Service Level Manager, whose job it should be to identify unacceptable customer service. If you don’t have a Service Level Manager – why not?

Within the Serio tool, there are two main areas that can be used to access the gathered data:

From within SerioClient

You can access the data under Tools/Performance. Select the ‘Customer Satisfaction Survey Results’ graph – this shows trends for customer satisfaction, by plotting current month/previous month/previous three months. This simple mechanism makes it fairly easy to see if satisfaction is improving, neutral or declining over time.

From within SerioReports

There is an entire section devoted to this data – see ‘Customer Surveys’. SVY_1, SVY_2 and SVY_3 plot results from the surveys, and display data in a similar fashion to those displayed in SerioClient (you can amend the dates used for reporting though).

Service Level Managers should periodically (at least every two weeks) use SVY_4 and SVY_5. These show raw data, but crucially show any comments that have been entered by respondents – allowing a response from the Service Level Manager to be made where one is required (the respondents details are also shown).

An interesting report is SVY_6. This shows the mean average score for each question in Surveys responded to between two dates. Each response is assigned a score through SerioAdmin. By default, these range from 'Strongly agree' - score 5 - to strongly disagree - score -5. In addition to the mean average score for each question, the report shows the number of responses received for the question, and the standard deviation.

Friday, 08 Sep 2006

This post follows on from my ‘Customer Satisfaction – How do you measure up’ posts, which you can read about here and here.

This post is going to look at some questions you might use for a periodic survey, and discuss when such customer satisfaction surveys should be taken.

Let’s look at some sample questions, which are of course linked to what it is you are trying to discover.

For my example, I’m trying to find out something about attitudes to the Helpdesk/Service Desk, attitudes to downtime and availability, quality of the jobs we do, and to find out if the service we offer is improving or not. 

I stated in the earlier posts that you should ask the questions from a positive stance, so my questions would be:

  1. I am satisfied that the IT services I need to do my job are available when I need them.
  2. When the service desk reports a problem as resolved, it usually is resolved.
  3. The quality of IT service I obtained has improved over the past 3 months.
  4. Generally, I am satisfied with the IT service I obtain.

Of course there are other things that might be tested – for example, the quality of experience when callers contact the Service Desk. However, we do have the event-based surveys to tell us about poor experiences users might have here.

If I was using such a periodic survey, I’d perform the survey no more than once every three months. If I was embarking on a programme of IT service improvements (such as introducing IT Service Management with ITIL) then I’d consider such a survey to be essential before such changes were made. I would then re-survey after 3 months to see if there had been an improvement in customer perception.

One objection made frequently to me at the start of an ITSM programme is ‘I don’t want a survey right now as the results will be embarrassingly poor – I want to wait until we’ve made improvements’. I strongly disagree with this: users have their opinions regardless of whether you survey them or not. Taking a survey at the start may be painful, but is surely worthwhile.

I’ll post next week about interpreting the results from your surveys.

Otherwise, have a great (sunny!) weekend.

Thursday, 07 Sep 2006

We've added a new White Paper to the Serio website called 'Introduction to ITIL'. The paper is for those just getting started with IT Service Management, or those just curious about ITIL.

If you have any comments on this new White Paper let us know - there is a contact email address with the document.