Saturday, June 23, 2012
Talking with Cathy Kirch about her award-winning ITSM work at AllState
Congratulations to Cathy Kirch of Allstate Insurance Company for winning Case Study of the Year at the 2011 Pink Elephant ITSM Conference. The award was for Cathy’s presentation Application Management As Part Of The Overall Service Management Lifecycle: how Allstate Insurance tackled Application Management under the ITIL framework while avoiding the creation of redundant support silos and new processes to what are already in place on the Infrastructure side.
Since Cathy has won a couple of awards at the ITSM Conference now, I thought it was time we learned more about her and what she is up to:
What is your role at Allstate and background?
My role is as an internal consultant for Allstate Insurance with a focus on Information Technology Service Management (ITSM). My position is mapped to a job family called Service Manager. My key responsibilities currently include Service Transitions focusing on Release and Change Management integration and moving the process adoption and improvement forward. I am also the coordinator and subject matter expert for IT Service Management training. Along with my primary roles, I provide consulting services for the various leaders in our organizations, this is how I got involved with Application Management. Two years ago an organization was forming to support various applications. The leader reached out to me to ensure that they aligned with best practices. We conducted a workshop and were able to draw out the scope of their organization by aligning it to Application Management. Since then additional organizations have been created and align to do the support in a centralized way for many applications in our various business verticals.
My Background- I have 35 years experience in different areas of Information Technology and have served in almost every aspect defined in IT Service Management. My earlier years were spent in application development in areas of Claims Reserve systems, branch office accounting, and a Technology component inventory system. I did both development and systems design work in those years and then moved into Technical support providing support for transaction management, database design, implementation and support. Then, I began focusing on the Data Warehouse implementation to provide program and project management services bringing server, database and storage together with the warehouse analysts and developers.
In 2004, we formalized our approach to IT Service Management leveraging ITIL, CobiT and PMBOK. I have played various roles in this space and am currently titled an ITSM Consultant. Our roles in ITSM have evolved as the journey has moved forward and ITSM has become a way life in the technology area with a focus on how to support the broader Allstate Insurance Corporation.
For me personally, I am currently active in the industry in roles such as Chair for priSM America’s; and president of itSMF Chicago LIG. I have also been a previous examiner for APMG. And, I was the Pink Elephant ITSM Practitioner of the year in 2007. I just recently was awarded the Case Study of the year in 2012, I will be joining Pink Elephant at the PINK ASIA Conference this summer.
What was the scope of Application Management? In particular, how much did you bridge that traditional divide between Solutions/Development and Operations/Production?
Application Management teams have evolved and been created as a result of applying efficiencies. This was not started as a form of a project or organizational direction which made this journey even better to watch! As I mentioned earlier, one group realized the tie to the ITIL Framework and leveraged what was written around Application Management. Being able to tie those concepts with the design and direction of the ITSM processes made it clear on how to construct the new organization.
Today the groups who are performing Application Management roles sit with the functional or application organization verticals. They have become the conduit to almost every touch point of IT Service Management with the exception of Release Management. The organizations followed the same path as ITSM implementation. For example, in the beginning, some focused on Incidents, then Change impact, then Problem Management followed that and now pretty much the entire lifecycle.
How good was ITIL as a reference for Application Management?
The ITIL reference was just that – a reference. There is a lot more that could be written in this space for startup, scope, activities, efficiency and approach to maturation. For us, we created a workshop with an external partner to walk the first group through the understanding of the general ITIL framework and understand what their goals and objectives were. After that the outputs from various ITSM processes were understood and how an Application Management area can provide value by being the one stop shop for the various applications that support our services. Finally, it was about expectation setting and managing everything from application mapping, environment design, operational readiness, disaster recovery, procurement, deployment and change evaluation.
How did you avoid having redundant Infrastructure and Application Management processes, policies and support?
At the beginning of the ITSM launch, one of our Sr. Vice Presidents had a sign in his office that said, “Enterprise spoken here” and that has been a cornerstone of delivery ever since. We have had to reinforce and ensure that the ITSM processes were built for both Infrastructure and Application. This was not an easy task as the two areas have been separated since the 80s. We have had to ensure everyone executes one process and does not build their own version so that we avoided redundant processes. Since the processes started in Infrastructure a keen eye had to be understood on how it impacted the Application areas. We always start by identifying roles, then the activities and lastly the tasks for a given process. From there it was our leaders on the Application Management side that realized the value of consolidating into an Application Management group to ensure proper support with clear accountability.
Tell us about the holistic across-the enterprise strategies for all Application Teams.
Our Application Management teams have formed their own council to synergize and ensure alignment for the applications they support and the overall enterprise view. With so much middleware today and integrated applications, even application management cannot work in a silo. The Application Management teams then live into the mandates and standards of ITSM processes but also keep an eye on the business needs and perceptions.
Are there any new developments since the conference, and where to from here with Application Management?
Each of our Application Management organizations have been aligned to have direct line of site to the business. This establishes accountability and creates a better partnership with the business. The division organization now owns both solutions /development as well as application management. This construct allows the application management organization a seat at the table and positions us to be more proactive with input in the Service Strategy and Design lifecycles. For example, during the Software Delivery Lifecycle SDLC phase, input is provided around operational readiness requirements which has the advantage of past lessons learned to be input to future success.
What is your next challenge?
I am not sure we have any real identified challenges in front of us. However, there will always be a positive challenge to keep everyone focused on the journey we have started. I am excited to share that there is work going on to bring Release and Change together as well as expand Change into more of a management process. Each step of the way we will continue the ITSM journey, looking for improvements based on metrics, business needs and enabling solutions in the most cost effective way possible. There is excitement throughout the organization as we embrace service management as a way of doing our business and cope with the natural challenges of organizational and human change. Stay tuned as we advance the organization and share our lessons learned as we move forward.
Cathy will be back at Pink13 with two sessions:
priSM – What Is It & Why You Should Care (as mentioned above, Cathy is the Chair of priSM America)
An ITSM Journey – 10 Years Later, where Cathy will profile her organization’s Service Management journey, and how they have kept the momentum going into their 10th year and integrated the processes beyond Service Operation and Service Transition.