Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Psychology of Service Data...

For the next six months or so there will be a reduction in my activity in the blogosphere as I'm diving deep into the world of service management data for a large international organisation. Of course ITSM data, service improvement and organisational factors all should exist cheek by jowl in the the IT service space.

Data gives you the understanding (or knowledge and "wisdom" as ITIL would have it) of your situation, and if staff are any good with regression lines and multivariate modelling you may even be able to predict likely future outcomes. Thankfully I spent a few years getting to know Excel in some considerable depth and I'm also pretty handy with the Microsoft SQL Server suite (the recent Integration, Reporting and Analysis Services packages are excellent). I'm also adept with the reporting application that is used with many service management packages such as Remedy - Business Objects.

So probably like a few of you out there, using these tools I can extract and transform service management data. I can also present the output in nice dashboards allowing senior management to understand what is taking place in the organisation. I'm also lucky in that I have knowledge of statistics so I can fire up Analysis Services, R, or SPSS and do a mean correlation and regression (be that multiple or linear). Furthermore, factor and reliability analyses don't phase me and I'm very happy to have a bash at multilevel modelling. These can help predict what's going to happen in the future based on what has gone before.

So what's the goal of all of this data collection and analysis? Well what's the goal of any business? To succeed! All of this data will obviously indicate your performance against targets. If you're failing them, it should help you to pinpoint factors in the failure (your teams? suppliers? processes?). If you're meeting your targets it can help you identify inefficiencies (for example if you're running a 24 hour shift system, but very little activity occurs overnight, are your staffing levels excessive?). It can tell you other things too - give an indication of levels of process compliance and governance and perhaps the factors that influence these outcomes. Thus are understanding knowledge and "wisdom" all present in your data.

Here's a story. I worked for a guy who quite a few years ago set up a data analysis firm for retail suppliers. He pulled together various data from supermarket EPOS and stock systems. The data contained information about when products were out of stock on the shelves (supermarkets scan shelves every 3 hours or so). From the sales data he was able to determine the average rate of sale of any product at any store. Using these analyses he was able to say to prospective clients "I can save you half a million a year". Using a calculation that multiplied the amount of time a product was out of stock, by the rate of sale of the product, he was able to estimate how much the supplier could save if the product was always stocked on the shelves. Or something like that.

But anyway, this is where the organisational stuff comes in. The retail firms used his software to analyse their data in this way, but then they needed to get their account managers to stay on top of store stock levels. This activity was often a new focus for these staff, and one that was not intrinsically enjoyable, so firms needed to deeply integrate the 'out-of-stock-is-bad' mentality into the account teams. I'm sure you've all had situations in the ITSM world where staff were required to do new things. It's not always as easy as "just telling them to", because sometimes you're trying to change behaviour that they've got used to over the course of their career. That's why the psychology of organisations is important. Action without data and understanding is blind and a bit stupid, but understanding without action is equally unlikely to lead you to the sunlit uplands of service excellence.

Hopefully I'll have the time to write more of these during my new assignment but if not see you later in the year!

1 comment:

  1. I'm still alive.

    It's just that the six months turned into nine months and now they've given me another 10 months...

    But thankfully the intensity of the work is easing slightly... You should find me back on here again pretty soon...