What’s the secret of IT service delivery?

What’s the secret of IT service delivery?

You may know that Total has a growing IT support and management operation and I’m sure you know we’re not alone in delivering these sort of services. So, when I sat down for a coffee with Service Delivery Manager Amar Iqbal, I was keen to know if, and how, you can stand out in a crowded market.

Pleasantries over, I asked Amar ‘what’s the secret to delivering a good service?’

He explained that the foundations of good service delivery are the ‘golden triangle’ of people, process and technology, but that “too many service providers seem to see that as the entirety rather than the beginning of their service delivery.”

“I think everyone in service delivery needs to be continually asking themselves whether they’re delivering the service they’d want to receive,” comments Amar.

He went on to explain that, “Communication is absolutely key, and sets one service provider apart from another. It’s all about the experience we deliver for the customer – if you say you’re going to ring them at ten o’clock, you ring them at ten o’clock. Guys in IT can get obsessed with fixing something and not letting a problem beat them, and forget about their customer. If the customer’s ringing us for an update, we’ve failed, because we should be informing them before they need to call us.”

I know that IT service contracts, defining what should be done, how often and how quickly, are often imperfect –  after all it’s no easier to foresee every eventuality and requirement in IT than it would be to create a cast iron Service Level Agreement for marriage. These oversights can become a cause of tension between customer and supplier, so how can you guard against this?

“We want to get away from ‘supplier’ and ‘customer’ and have a partnership,” says Amar. “We’re not in it for short-term gain – we want a successful long-term relationship, where we succeed and grow together. Sometimes it’ll mean responding to something important and urgent that the contract hadn’t foreseen: delivering that service we’d want to receive ourselves. Sometimes it’ll mean reviewing and revisiting the contract’s cost as requirements change.”

“We also aim to add a lot of value when it comes to developing a customer’s infrastructure: whether that’s helping them to develop a strategic roadmap or working out what level of spending on DR is justified based on their needs,” he continues. “Plus we’ve a broader range of knowledge because of the diversity of customers and environments that we support.”

I was also keen to find out whether the movement of IT services to the cloud is having an impact on service delivery. “Undoubtedly, but principally from a customer perspective,” observes Amar. “Although managing a hybrid environment calls for different skills, the biggest change is attitudinal. A lot of people used to feel the need to have everything where they could see it: on premise. But the acceptance and adoption of cloud services has made it almost irrelevant whose data centre – yours or ours – your servers are in, and who’s building the team managing them.”

Personally, I’m a big fan of what Sir Dave Brailsford achieved at British Cycling: working with essentially the same set of variables as other teams, Team GB consistently out-performed others by making better use of them. Are there any parallels here with a service delivery’s golden triangle?

“It’s certainly not a given that service providers do these things equally well. It’s obviously important that you have technically able people and that you invest in maintaining and extending their technical skills, but it’s also important that these people have the right attitude, good interpersonal skills and are aligned to the customer’s culture. We need to nurture these attributes.”

“Although we have really good ITIL-based, processes in place, we’re not alone in that. These processes ensure a functionally good service, but what really interests me is delivering that service in a way that provides an exceptional customer experience. Similarly, most service providers have a solid tool set, but it’s how you use technology and automation – to be proactive and pre-emptive in your service – that differentiates.”

He concludes, “If there is a secret to service delivery, it’s about devoutly doing, often unexciting, things well and consistently providing the service you’d want to receive yourself.”