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Improving your BI Systems with ITIL Process Management

Improving your BI Systems with ITIL Process Management

If you’re a left-brained, analytical thinker, like I am, then you love the efficiency and consistency that universal processes can deliver. I’m system-oriented, and will develop procedures, templates, and process flows for almost everything I do. It requires an initial investment of time and effort, but the return is that I deliver better results, more quickly, and I free-up mental space (creative capital) for other uses.

ITIL Process Management has the potential to similarly affect your entire IT infrastructure, and thus your BI. The focus is on a systematic, proactive approach to eliminating root problems, and minimizing reactively (and repeatedly) addressing individual incidents while simultaneously allocating IT resources to those places they are most needed and will yield the greatest returns.

I’m not going to dive into the details of ITIL in this blog, so if you’re not familiar with ITIL there are plenty of short videos available to give you the basics. Mountainview ITSM has a great ITIL Quick Reference as do the Association of Modern Technologies Professionals, the IT Knowledge Portal, and the ITIL Open Guide. If you’ve already got that covered, let’s take a look at the benefits.

In the 2016 Project Portfolio Management Survey conducted by Innotas, over half of the 126 IT project managers who participated confirmed experiencing a project failure during the first quarter of 2015. According to Tushar Patel, SVP of marketing at Innotas, “It's a problem with resource allocation and aligning those resources with business goals.” Half of IT project managers stated that their primary concerns were on remaining under budget and on schedule. One of the underlying principles of ITIL process management is the integration of IT into the overall business plan. The premise is that IT shouldn’t only exist to fix bugs as they arise, but to work as an integral facet of the organization in the progress toward its goals. Of course this involves an initial investment on the front end, but implementing ITIL process management guidelines customized to your organization can provide incredible ROI long-term.

Minimized Unnecessary Expenses

itil reduce costs

Project failures are expensive, and they don’t only drain financial capital, they drain intellectual capital, employee morale and loyalty, and of course customer satisfaction. With news of another computer issue grounding United flights recently, consider the cost of previous computer ‘glitches’ in July 2015 and October of 2016. It was estimated that United lost $4.6 million during approximately two hours of technical issues related to network connectivity during the 2015 outage due to cancellation of 59 flights and delay of another 837 flights. More importantly, though, it was a customer relations nightmare as passengers missed connecting flights, became upset, and shared their frustrations with the world in 140 characters or less. Now consider all of the United employees who took care of the passengers associated with the flights in 2015, and October 2016 (when United experienced issues with a BI application that estimates weights), and now, again, in January 2017. I’m guessing that they aren’t too thrilled with their employer or with the IT staff and infrastructure. While I’m not privy to the details of United’s most recent technical errors, or whether ITIL process management would have helped in these particular situations, ITIL process management can help your organization take a more proactive approach to problem solving, minimizing costly technical errors in your organization. That alone makes implementation a worthy investment.

Reduced Incidents & Outages
itil reduce outages

A customized ITIL framework can help your organization keep systems running consistently and efficiently. William Golden reported in CIO that Auto Club Group, an “automotive travel services organization” was able to reduce service outages by 86% by implementing ITIL. That dramatic shift was the result of several measures. Before the ITIL implementation, Auto Club Group’s IT department was organized into separate working groups that focused on repairing desktop, mainframe, or server issues. This led to a fractured and protracted response to incidents. To support the ITIL implementation, the entire IT department was restructured to fit within the framework of established business process flow. All incidents are now submitted through a single service desk, and handled by three teams assigned to triage, diagnosis, and root cause analysis. The restructuring enabled several important changes within the department. All incidents are now viewed collaboratively and attended to in stages by all IT teams, rather than determining which team was “responsible” for an incident and assigning blame. This simple shift turns ownership of an incident from a negative, to be avoided, to a positive challenge for the teams to work on together. It also creates a space where incidents are viewed in the context of each other, rather than as separate events. Incidents are analyzed for patterns and root cause is determined, enabling changes to be made that keep those same incidents from occurring in the future. As Golding reported, “When well-executed, ITIL can shift an IT organization's culture and focus from the technology (how things work) to the business strategy, how the services IT provides affect business performance.”

Increased Changes & Improvements
itil improvements

Launching new BI applications, or even introducing upgrades can be chaotic if not done systematically, with consideration for the needs of all the users. ITIL offers a systematic framework to plan all launches and upgrades with minimal, and hopefully zero, negative impact. Etsy uses an ITIL framework to manage the deployment of new code more than 2400 times per year. While this isn’t a use of ITIL to manage BI changes, it’s an example of the incredible power of a properly utilized ITIL framework to manage fast paced upgrades and improvements. Through analysis your organization can determine the optimal time to implement changes, ensure that all users understand the impending changes and are properly trained, and have a contingency plan in place should anything not work according to plan.

Something to note here is that while an ITIL framework can improve your BI, properly used BI can also improve your ITIL framework. When you integrate data collection and enhanced analytics on your data usage and use of IT services you can use that information to allocate IT infrastructure, personnel, and training tools to those areas of your organization where they are needed most. It’s a feedback cycle that can be repeated to tailor both your ITIL framework and your BI applications for continuous improvements in efficiency within your business.

Decreased IT Spending

itil spending

While implementing ITIL process management requires an initial investment, long term spending on IT can actually decrease significantly. Capital One was able to decrease IT spending by more than 20% in five years. Though they can’t necessarily attribute the entire reduction in cost to the implementation of an ITIL framework, there’s no doubt that the shift to preventative maintenance, and thus reduced incidents, was a driver of Capital One’s savings. Additionally, the evaluation and analysis built into the ITIL framework can be used to identify processes that can be automated or shifted to less-skilled workers, freeing up higher level IT staff to devote their time to processes that require their level of expertise. When Wachovia Merged with Wells Fargo in 2009 and needed to reduce IT staffing while making major data migrations, they deployed an ITIL framework in this way to ensure that the data migration was successful and that IT staff weren’t inundated with overwhelming amounts of work.

Improved Performance and Increased Customer Satisfaction

itil customers

It’s no secret that data-driven business goals and strategies can focus your organization’s efforts on those areas that will yield the greatest results, and an ITIL framework can be used to optimize that data. Sprint used ITIL as one aspect to of its plan to completely transform a business on the verge of demise. Just prior to the financial crisis of 2008 Sprint was seeing the worst customer service results and ratings in its history. As reported in a 2012 case study:

“Sprint’s first call resolution was 20 percent worse than its nearest competitor. Customers had to call twice as often to resolve an issue, and, when they did call, the average hold time was more than seven minutes—nearly 14 times the industry average. Thirty-five percent of callers simply quit waiting and hung up.”

When it’s already poor customer satisfaction and increased customer turnover was coupled with the market crash Sprint’s stock value dropped to half of its highest value.

Company leaders focused on performance management and improving its data through ITIL principles and BI applications. The combined efforts of implementing an ITIL framework to scrub existing data and focus IT resources to performance management while simultaneously implementing enhanced BI applications to automate data collection and analysis allowed Sprint to return from near death to an industry leader in customer service. Sprint achieved a >33% increase in customer satisfaction rating through combined increases in first-call resolution of customer complaints and subsequent reductions in calls per subscriber. The financial gains were staggering. Sprint nearly halted customer turnover to a minimal 2%, decreased billing adjustments by a substantial 75%, and decreased the cost of customer care by >33%.


Every aspect of your BI depends on your IT infrastructure. When that infrastructure is constantly in need of repairs, those repairs aren’t dealt with efficiently, and the incidents recur incessantly, your BI suffers. When you have a system in place that effectively prioritizes incidents most critical to your BI and business functions, rapidly repairs critical IT infrastructure in response to each event, then determines why the failure occurred and implements solutions to avoid similar problems in the future, you have the foundation for BI tools that you can depend upon. An ITIL framework allows your organization to allocate IT resources appropriately, deploy upgrades and new applications at the optimal time, and ensure that all users are adequately trained to use your BI to its full potential. When your employees know that they can depend upon your BI tools and the underlying IT infrastructure they will use those BI applications to improve performance and allow the incredible power of data to drive your business to new heights of success.

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

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