Tuesday, January 27, 2009
About Service Design
Sorry for being away so long from this blog but I have been quite busy finishing quite a few projects. Now they are done and I can once again turn my attention back this blog.
Last year I spent a bit of time providing insight into some of the Service Strategy concepts. My next series of topics will focus on the Service Design book. I am not going to spend a lot of time on each process. After all, they are well known and well documented. There are many vendors specializing in those processes.
In ITIL v2, Service Level Management barely covered the Service Catalog concept. It did mention that an organization would have to manage their relationships with vendors and suppliers. I used to jokingly refer to the ITIL map and point out that somewhere near the edge we should do what the cartographers of old did; “here be dragons”, referring to Catalog and Supplier Management.
In ITIL v3, these are now full fledging processes. The Service Catalog is now well known, albeit still not as common as people think. We are all familiar with the various agreements such as Service Levels, Operational Levels, and Contracts. Availability and Capacity are well known and most organizations have a decent understanding of Service Continuity. Finally, Security, as a process, is well understood. Let us agree that organizations are more or less successful with any or all of the Service Delivery processes.
Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring Service Design in more detail.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Winter Stuff and Scheduling
Well, it’s the holiday season again, which means I am on vacation for a couple of weeks. Pink Elephant normally goes into a quiet mode between Christmas and New Years since many of our clients also slow down and reduce activities for this time, especially in North America. So this gives me some personal time to recharge and relax. But mostly I get a chance to reacquaint myself with family and friends since most of the year I am on the road travelling to visit clients.
One of the things I try to do is get out on my motorcycle for a little recreation. Because I live in northern California, I can actually ride this time of the year. As long as I bundle up it’s not so bad. The only thing that stops me is rain which we get a lot of this time of year. But I have had a chance to ride this past week which is a wonderful “de-stresser” for me. I wrapped up tight in my warm winter clothes, plugged in my electric gloves (yes you can get hand warming electric gloves for motorcycling!!), and rode.
On the other hand, I am also ideally located for snow-type winter sports too. So for the last two days my wife and I took about a one hour drive to the snow and went hiking and snowshoeing with our three dogs. No, the dogs just hike and frolic, my wife and I did the snowshoeing.
I also usually try to schedule some personal maintenance while I am off. So I scheduled appointments with my eye doctor, dentist and physician to get the oil changed and a tune-up. I am mostly caught up with that stuff now.
Speaking of scheduling isn’t it cool that it is so easy to schedule staff at a Service Desk!!!?? (And you thought I was not going to be able to segue into the Service Desk with the preceding…!).In fact in the ITIL Service Operation book on page 114 in section 188.8.131.52 it states “An organization must ensure that the correct number of staff is available at any given time to match the demand being placed upon the desk by the business.” Sound simple, eh? Yikes, good luck with that one!
Say hello to my little friend, Agnar Krarup Erlang.
Alright, who is he and why should I care? A. K., as I affectionately call him, was a Danish mathematician who lived from 1878 to 1929. He was probably the first person to begin studying some of the problems of telephone networks. After majoring in mathematics and graduating from college in 1901, he began teaching. But an acquaintance of his, who was also a member of the local Mathematical Association and was the chief engineer at the Copenhagen Telephone Company, convinced A.K. he should join the telephone company. So he did in 1908.
Erlang started to apply the theory of probabilities to problems of telephone traffic and in 1909 published his first work, “The Theory of Probabilities and Telephone Conversations,” proving that telephone calls are distributed at random following Poisson’s law of distribution. It is this “randomness of distribution” which makes it so hard to staff a Service Desk (or any call center) properly.
Erlang’s main concerns were to be able to predict the correct number of inbound telephone trunk lines to the phone company and predict the correct number of telephone operators needed to handle the incoming phone calls. One of his most important publications followed this research, “Solution of Some Problems in the Theory of Probabilities of Significance in Automatic Telephone Exchanges, “ which was published in 1917. This paper contained many formulae for call loss and call waiting time in voluminous tables he drew up after much research. These tables and formulae are still well known in the theory of telephone traffic. It seems almost incomprehensible that even nearly one hundred years later we are still referring to Erlang tables to staff our call centers and Service Desks!! Strange but true……..
The difference is that today we have easy-to-use software that contains his probability tables. I can remember in my past life as a practitioner, before I became “Dr. Jim,” I actually had printed copies of Erlang tables that I used to calculate my inbound call staffing models. Two reasons for this ancient method, 1) I had no budget for software and 2) some people attribute this to me being really old….but no, I never met Erlang, it was all due to the budget!!!!! That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Well, winter holiday is over now and I must get back to my regular job, so I will be adding more to this topic soon, including more on Erlang models and what other factors besides incoming phone volume we have to consider in scheduling our Service Desk staff.
Feel free to comment on this subject in the meantime….