How Many IT People Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Damn – the lightbulb* has blown. As a user, I’m not insured to change it, so I’d better call the…

One: Service Desk

All our agents are currently serving other customers. Your call is impor… hello, Servicedesk, how can I help?

The desk doesn’t get many lightbulb questions, so there’s no special form for it in the ITSM system. Write it down on paper for now and log it later. That’ll mean a bit of a delay, but it’s not my job to design the ITSM system – that was up to all those consultants they had in a couple of years ago. Fat lot of good…

And now there’s a definition issue – is this an ‘incident’ (users can’t work in the dark) or a ‘service request’ (replacement of consumable item)? When in doubt, log it as an incident. Servicedesk cannot change lightbulbs because we don’t visit users, so it will have to be escalated. And as is commonly the way for unclear cases, we assign it, to…

Two: Desktop Support Group

Here, the head of department is a technician too, rather than a manager. Instead of designing how arriving work should be processed, he largely leaves his staff to their own devices. So it’s a matter of which technician may choose to take this lightbulb replacement task from the group’s queue and move it to his own. Trouble is, they’re all a bit busy at the moment. Everybody in Desktop Support has at least ten other jobs in their queue, so it will be a while until one of the group gets round to even noticing this lightbulb job has been assigned here. And some of those queues are effectively on hold because some desktop support staff are working on sideline ‘projects’, which is work they tend to prefer over this reactive stuff.

Three: Desktop Technician

Eventually, a desktop technician picks the job up. He quickly realises that this is a change to the existing lightbulb – and the systems group that owns the lightbulbs have never given the desktop technicians the permissions they need to get on with even this kind of simple change. This means the lightbulb change doesn’t belong in the desktop queue anyway, so in partial gratitude for not having to add this job to his already bulging queue, he reassigns the job to the…

Four: Service Desk

A different Service Desk agent than the one who originally took the request picks the task out of the general Service Desk queue and assigns it to her own. She quickly works out which IT department owns the lightbulbs, and then assigns the job to the appropriate…

Five: Systems Support Group

A smaller group than Desktop Support and with typically fewer incoming reactive requests, all means that this one gets noticed fairly quickly. Sometimes even the same day! But no, this matter will need to go through the proper channels. That means raising a Change Request, and thus will it have to be passed back to the…

Six: Servicedesk

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Raises a Change Request and passes it to the…

Seven: Change Manager

Who will assess whether it is a standard (goes through on the nod) or non-standard change (will have to go the Change Advisory Board, which next meets a week on Thursday). It’s OK in this case. Pretty standard. Approve the change and reassign it to the…

Eight: Systems Support Group

Fairly straight forward. Can’t do it remotely though, so give Desktop the permission on this occasion and reassign it to…

Nine: Desktop Support Group

Oh, it’s back. I’ll take that one then. Need to get a lightbulb from stores, but I should be able to do that tomorrow morning.

 Meanwhile… it’s awfully dark in here.
What’s happening with that lightbulb?

Ten: Service Desk

I called sometime last week and it’s still not fixed. What do you mean it’s still within SLA? A fix within five working days? Really? I can hardly see my hand in front of my face here. Not enough users affected, so it can’t be top priority? Aha. We’ll see about that. Thanks anyway.

Eleven: Chief Information Officer, Head of IT

Tom, have you got a minute? I’ve just had a call from the head of the design department. One of her staff can’t work because of an equipment failure, and has had a call outstanding with us for days, and all they’re getting is excuses. Can you sort it out?  (This is as high as it gets. From here on in, this unchanged lightbulb will now begin to descend toward some unsuspecting technician who was just doing his job, at a terrifying thirty-two feet per second squared).

Twelve: Tom, Head of User Services

Your wish is my command. It will screw with the real priorities but when the boss says it’s important, then it’s time to call in the…

Thirteen: Incident Manager

Being a process-oriented organisation, we have appointed an Incident Manager to investigate why incidents sometimes go awry, and to chase the departments involved. A quick trawl through the incident record shows that what is required is a gentle shove in the direction of…

Fourteen: Mark, Head of Desktop Support

Still outstanding you say? On our lists? Right, leave it with me.

Tim, you know that lightbulb job? Can you rush it?

Fifteen: Tim, Desktop Support Technician

Can’t see what the problem is. We followed all the processes to the letter. Anyway, where the hell am I going to get a ladder?

When ITSM Doesn’t Manage

For years, we in IT have been indoctrinated that the way to deliver services is to focus not on actually delivering a service, but on the associated bureaucracy, structure and processes. Never mind the output; what a beautiful machine, with so many people collecting so many certificates proclaiming their ability to build and work in it.

This is what can happen when ITSM doesn’t manage. Do we really like working this way? I would suggest not. We’re simply doing the best we can with what we’ve been taught.

In IT Support, I would contend that we have always known instinctively that our main consideration should always have been the service delivered to the business, rather than our internal bureaucracy. But that blurred focus will continue until we have ways of measuring, let alone managing our productivity and our throughput, right down at workgroup level.

This is a bullet that as a profession, ITSM still has not adequately bitten; and shows no sign of doing so. One reason for this is that the means to do that do not exist in the standard IT management frameworks.

If you want to improve your IT support throughput, get in touch. Showing IT support groups how to organise themselves internally is what I do.

*BTW – I know we don’t normally change lightbulbs. It’s a metaphor linked to a comedy standard.

1 thought on “How Many IT People Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?”

  1. I agree but you missed the risk assessment of using feet elevation devices (ladders), then Quality Control have to get involved to assess the level of lighting achieved.

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