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Why you must scrutinize IT service management standards

Published on  06 September by Steven McReynolds , Senior Expert Service Improvement, SITA Global Services
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The ISO / IEC 20000 certification for service providers is growing in stature and importance, especially in mission-critical industries like air transport. In fact, many companies now insist on this certification before a service provider can even bid or respond to a request for information. Given the mission-critical nature of aviation systems, there are a number of critical questions you should ask of your service provider related to their Service Management systems.

IT Service Management processes and procedures

Does your service provider have a complete set of IT Service Management processes and procedures certified by an International Standard Organization (ISO)?

This is vital because it means IT Service Management activities are consistent and measurable. It also gives a reference point (on a Knowledge Management Database) to the provider’s staff –  should they need to check that what they’re doing is correct and compliant.

Proof point

A University of Maryland study showed the results of working with a company to improve processes and procedures. The initial problems were that their processes were perceived as cumbersome, costly, frustrating, and unaligned with their stated objectives. Several IT systems had been purchased and implemented to address these issues, which exacerbated the problems.

The results were that after a few weeks of working with the department, they were helped to develop a holistic end-to-end process that significantly improved their service delivery while reducing the administrative cost to them and their customers.

This shows the importance of good processes and procedures. Technology alone is usually not the answer as this will usually help you to make mistakes quicker! It’s essential to have a standard set of documentation that sets out “What” you want to do (process) and “How” you will do it (procedure).

Updated and audited documentation

Is the process and procedure documentation updated, at least annually, and audited both internally and externally?

This seems a basic assumption. However, making sure that any process and procedure documentation available is not only the single and latest version, but exists in a format that is not editable, is a rather critical point.  Not only does it prevent the potential situation of obtaining and using earlier version of a process which may have a negative impact, it also avoids “non-authorized” individuals from updating it and then others using this in error. It’s a mandatory requirement of the standard and provides the base for the Registrar Auditor to check that “we do what we say we do”

IT Service Management staff with the right qualifications

Does your Service Provider have IT Service Management staff who are qualified in both ITIL and ISO?

Qualified staff are mandatory to obtain the ISO / IEC 20000 certification. ISO / IEC 20000 Process and Procedure certification must be 100% compliant, service providers can’t pick and choose which ones they certify against. Service Management Systems’ Managers need to be qualified as a certified ISO 20000 practitioner and service providers need to have on staff certified ISO Internal Auditor/s in order to carry out the internal audits. Without these qualified staff, service providers could not embark on gaining the ISO / IEC 20000 certification.

KPIs and proof of effectiveness

Does your Service Provider have available reports and KPIs that show the effectiveness of the processes and procedures?

A provider must have these KPIs and reports, in order to be best-in-class and to help with continuous improvement.

The main ones are as follows:

  • Global Operations Monthly Dashboard
  • Service Desk Monthly Report
  • Voice of the Customer
  • Self-Service Availability and Capacity Reports

Also, each process document has a list of KPIs and reports towards the end of each document.

A focus on continuous improvement

Does your Service Provider show evidence of a Continual Improvement strategy?

Continuous improvement is essential to provide best-in-class services over time. It’s performed via a system of Non-Conformances and Opportunities for Improvement (OFIs). These are constantly maintained and updated. Continuous Improvement activities and records and the process are kept in a Knowledge Management Database.

Crucial credentials

A service provider which has gained certification in ISO / IEC 20000 will have gained these credentials:

  • Recognition by the premier world-wide authority (ISO) that IT Service Management is performed in a structured and effective manner
  • Customer confidence that IT service Management is first-class and of high quality
  • Differentiation from those suppliers that do not have the certification
  • Continuous Improvement assured by annual External Compliance Audits and re-certification after three years
  • Ability to work with customers (especially in the public sector) who demand the standard

In the mission-critical environment of the air transport industry, I would say that these are crucial credentials.

So will you proceed with caution or with confidence?

If your Service Provider doesn’t have ISO / IEC 20000 certification, you’ll need to proceed with caution and evaluate all answers to these questions thoroughly. If your Service Provider is an ISO / IEC 20000 certified company, you can be confident. You won’t need to carry out the extensive evaluations checks on the Service Provider’s ability to provide IT Service Management.

It can’t be under-estimated how important this ISO certification is to a service provider like SITA. It’s our job to keep the wheels of the air transport industry in motion, globally, 24/7, 365 days a year. At the end of last year, SITA Global Services – the customer service and support function of SITA – was awarded ISO / IEC 20000-1.2011 Cert in Service Management. We couldn’t have been more delighted. We’re one of only 900 organizations worldwide to have achieved this.

Why is ISO / IEC 20000 so important to the air transport industry?

Just for the record, ISO / IEC 20000-1.2011 is a Service Management System (SMS) standard. It specifies requirements for the service provider to plan, establish, implement, operate, monitor, review, maintain and improve an SMS. The requirements include the design, transition, delivery and improvement of services to fulfill agreed service requirements.

So when we received this certification for SITA’s global Command Centers, Service Desks and Airport Operations – all of which underpin our airline, airport and other customers’ mission-critical operations in almost every corner of the globe – we were well aware of the significance for our thousands of air transport customers.

In my next blog, I’ll address: what’s the difference between ISO 20000 and ITIL? How are they related? And should your service supplier have both?

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