IT documents and templates – why reinvent the wheel?


For many years the consulting industry has enjoyed the luxury of charging (in many cases) very high rates for material and deliverables that have been recycled from other similar client engagements and modified to meet the requirements of the new client. This allows consulting organizations to continue to maximize margins using lower skilled resources to reuse (rather than create) materials that are required as deliverables and outputs as part of the project or engagement.

Whilst reuse is not possible in all cases, there is a wealth of information that is common to many assignments. This reusable information is usually “closely guarded” by consulting organizations and so it is very difficult to obtain anywhere else apart from freelance professionals.

We strongly believe that there is a real need to provide an on-line service that delivers reusable templates, presentations, documents and tools to clients who do not wish to engage a consulting firm to achieve a business objective or wish to reduce the costs of a consulting engagement through the availability of key documents that can be tailored to your individual requirements.

The material found on this web site www.consultingcloud.org has been built up over many years of face-to-face consulting by a select group of experienced freelance professionals.

We believe that, with the pervasiveness of the internet, now is the time to use this technology to deliver quality and in-depth consulting material on-line, with substantial time and cost savings to be gained by those who use the service.

This www.consultingcloud.org website has a comprehensive range of documents to assist businesses to fast track project implementation, improve processes and save money. The template categories cover a range of business and Information Technology functions and processes.

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What are Service Level Agreements? SLAs


A service level agreement (SLA) is a formal document that defines a working relationship between parties to a service contract. The standing of the SLA depends on whether the service is being provided by an internal (In-house central department/function) or an external (Bought-in) service provider.

As well as defining key areas, a Service Level Agreement Template will specify targets and minimum levels of services that are to be provided to a customer. A SLA can be an unofficial document written in simple terms or it can be written as a formal contract.

IT companies and IT providers use a Service Level Agreement for their customers to clearly have an outline of what it is the company is providing the customer, and at what levels the services will be provided. Consulting Cloud is an online consulting business that allows a business to purchase a template of a document, or a sample of a presentation, that they may require for a particular situation. A SLA is a document needed in many cases to outline to both the customers, and the company providing the services, what the standards are, and what the services provided actually are. IT companies often use a SLA to clearly outline, for example the performance of the services. A service level agreement template from Consulting Cloud will ensure the correct information is presented in the most appropriate document.

What is an IT Service Catalog?


A service catalog is a very useful tool for communicating the value of an IT department and what this brings to a business. Consulting cloud offers a template of this document to allow businesses to simply tailor the example for their specific company.

A key function of a Service Catalog template is to provide a basis for discussion of the services offered, and the constant assessment and improvement techniques of these services. If new services are added or amended, this information will go in the document. Consulting Cloud’s library of varying examples of templates, help to ensure every company and situation can be catered for. Browse through the list of samples, and find the correct document. It’s then a matter of tailoring this template with your company’s services, and making the document a true representation of your company’s services on offer.

A Service Catalog is a very valuable document, an inventory of all the services offered, with information on deliverables, costs and contacts. Once the document is created, it should be implemented and monitored by the Information Technology department.

For examples of IT Service Catalogs go to: http://www.consultingcloud.org/service_catalog_template

Why Outsource your Information Technology?


There are many reasons why companies outsource. Here are 9 of the top reasons:

  1. Reduce and control operating costs. When you outsource, you eliminate the costs associated with hiring an employee, such as management oversight, training, health insurance, employment taxes, retirement plans etc.
  2. Improve company focus. It is neither practical, nor possible to be a jack of all trades. Outsourcing lets you focus on your core competencies while another company focuses on theirs.
  3. Gain access to exceptional capabilities. Your return on investment is so much greater when you outsource information technology to a firm that specializes in the areas you need. Instead of just the knowledge of one person, you benefit from the collective experience of a team of IT professionals. Outsourced IT companies usually require their IT staff to have proper industry training and certifications as well.
  4. Free internal resources for other purposes. You may have someone in your office that is pretty good with computers or accounting, but most likely these were not the jobs he or she was hired to do. If they are spending time taking care of these things, who is doing what they were hired to do? Outsourcing allows you to retain employees for their highest and best use, rather than wasting their time on things that may take them longer than someone who is trained in these specific areas.
  5. Resources are not available internally. On the flip side, maybe you don’t have anyone in your company who can manage your IT needs, and hiring a new employee is not in the budget. Outsourcing can be a feasible alternative, both for the interim and for the long-term.
  6. Maximize restructuring benefits. When you are restructuring your company to improve costs, quality, service, or speed, your non-core business functions may get pushed aside. They still need to be handled, however, and outsourcing is an optimal way to do this. Don’t sabotage your restructuring efforts by failing to keep up with non-core needs.
  7. Function difficult to manage or out of control. This is definitely a scenario when outsourcing to experts can make a big difference. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can forget about the problem now that it’s being “handled.” You still need to be involved even after control is regained.
  8. Make capital funds available. By outsourcing non-core business functions, you can spend your capital funds on items that are directly related to your product or your customers.
  9. Reduce Risk. Keeping up with technology required to run your business is expensive and time consuming. Because professional outsourced IT providers work with multiple clients and need to keep up on industry best practices, they typically know what is right and what is not. This kind of knowledge and experience dramatically reduces your risk of implementing a costly wrong decision.

For a comprehensive range of helpful documents and templates go to :http://www.consultingcloud.org/outsourcing_IT

Don’t pay for “reinventing the wheel”


ReinventingthewheelFor many years the Consulting industry has enjoyed the luxury of charging (in many cases) very high rates for material and deliverables that have been recycled from other similar client engagements and modified to meet the requirements of the new client.

This allows Consulting organizations to continue to maximize margins using lower skilled resources to reuse (rather than create) materials that are required as deliverables and outputs as part of the project or engagement.

Whilst reuse is not possible in all cases, there is a wealth of information that is common to many assignments. This reusable information is usually “closely guarded” by Consulting organizations and so it is very difficult to obtain anywhere else apart from freelance professionals.

We strongly believe that there is a real need to provide an on-line service that delivers reusable templates, presentations, documents and tools to clients who do not wish to engage a Consulting firm to achieve a business objective or wish to reduce the costs of a Consulting engagement through the availability of key documents that can be tailored to your individual requirements.

The material found on this web site www.consultingcloud.org has been built up over many years of face-to-face Consulting by a select group of experienced freelance professionals.

We believe that, with the pervasiveness of the Internet, now is the time to use this technology to deliver quality and in-depth Consulting material on-line, with substantial time and cost savings to be gained by those who use the service.

This www.consultingcloud.org website has a comprehensive range of documents to assist businesses to fast track project implementation, improve processes and save money. The template categories cover a range of business and Information Technology functions and processes.

Categories covered include:

Technical Architecture – deals with the underlying technical solution components of an IT implementation. Specifically it tackles primarily the physical environment or hardware platform (computing, network, storage), but also the architectural components which sit over this solution, such as execution components (e.g. application server and database), operational components (e.g. backup and recovery, alerting, etc.), as well as the logical environment (i.e. development versus testing versus production environments and how they tie into the release strategy). There are ancillary components of this category which provide a more comprehensive technical solution, such as planning and estimating deliverables, standards, procedures, performance engineering, etc.

Business Continuity Plans – By implementing a Business Continuity Plan your business will increase its recovery capabilities dramatically. And that means you can make the right decisions quickly, cut downtime and minimise financial losses.

Data Migration Plans – A Data Migration Plan is the first step a business should take for planning any information migrations or conversion projects.

Disaster Recovery Plan Templates – outlines the steps to be taken to restore IT facilities in a controlled manner and in line with defined business application priorities. It is not a Business Continuity Plan since it only addresses the IT component of business applications. Business Continuity Plans are the responsibility of the relevant business units.

IT Charters – An IT Charter Definition: “an official agreement that provides guidelines and rules for something”. It is a document that is developed in a group setting to clarify team direction while establishing boundaries. It is developed early during the forming of the team. The charter should be developed in a group session to encourage understanding and buy-in.

IT Due Diligence Checklists for Outsourcing and Shared Services – A key element to IT due diligence success, is taking every step possible to understand your company’s objectives in acquiring a new company before you make an on-site visit. You also need to know if there are key assumptions pertaining to the company, specifically as they relate to the company’s technological capabilities or dependencies

IT Job Descriptions and Key Results Areas – Job descriptions and Key Results Area definition are key elements in the success of ant Information Technology function

IT Sales and Marketing – for IT vendors in particular it is critical that processes for Opportunity Management, Bids, Proposals, Customer Engagement are well known within your teams. It is also critical that sales incentive schemes are in place to ensure that your sales teams are rewarded in line woith the business objectives.

IT Strategic Plan Template – The purpose of an IT strategy is to present the ICT vision, document the structure and processes required to achieve that vision, define a program of work, systems and projects to support the achievement of the ICT vision over the next three or so years.

IT Governance – IT demand governance is the process by which organizations ensure the effective evaluation, selection, prioritization, and funding of competing IT investments; oversee their implementation; and extract (measurable) business benefits. IT demand governance is a business investment decision-making and oversight process, and it is a business management responsibility. IT supply-side governance is concerned with ensuring that the IT organization operates in an effective, efficient and compliant fashion, and it is primarily a CIO responsibility.

IT Transition Plans – When Transitioning your IT function to an Outsourcing Vendor or even if you are bringing the IT service back in house you will need to develop an IT Transition Plan covering Human Resources, Infrastructure, Service Delivery, Service Management, Finance, etc.

ITIL Templates – If you are implementing ITIL in your organization you will need a set of templates that are aligned to the ITIL functions

IT Outsourcing Contract Templates – An Outsourcing Contract outlines the legal and financial agreement between an IT Outsourcing vendor and the customer.

Performance Appraisals – Performing appraisals on your staff on a regular basis is a very healthy process to undertake. Having a good template to assist with the performance evaluation is very useful.

Project Management Templates – If you are undertaking an project then it is critical the the project documentation is in order. Having project templates readily available can save time and money.

Request for Proposal and Tender – RFT RFP templates can expedite the selection process.

Risk Management Plan Templateoutlines the foreseeable project risks and provides a set of actions to be taken to both prevent the risk from occurring and reduce the impact of the risk should it eventuate.

Service Catalog Template – when implementing ITIL it is important to have your services clearly documented and priced to ensure that customers are aware of the services they are purchasing.

Service Level Agreement Template – SLAs are critical to ensure that the service parameters are known by the customer.

ITIL V3 pdf free download


For a comprehensive range of ITIL sample documents and templates go to www.consultingcloud.org

ITIL Service DesignITIL Service ImprovementITIL Service OperationITIL Service StrategyITIL Service Transition

 

 

Service Desk (Help Desk) call handling tips


Service desk operatorWithin an IT Service Center, Service Desk or Help Desk, the customer experience when calling is just as important as the ability to resolve or handle their issue.  As one of the primary entry points, the Service Center leaves an indelible impression on the customer of the level of professionalism of the organization as a whole.  

It is therefore important for each Service Center team member to know the standards for call handling and through coaching and experience, achieve these expectations.

This post attempts to provide some guidelines, advice, hints and tips for dealing with all manner of call situations in such a way that the customer is left satisfied with their interaction. 

Call handling and tips

Tone of Voice

Tone of voice is often more important than what is actually said as it leaves a lasting impression.  Your tone should be welcoming, friendly and positive when answering the telephone, as this will set the mood of the call.  For example, if you are tired, stressed or agitated, the customer may hear that in your tone and react accordingly.  For this reason, treat every call as your first and best call. 

Remember, if you are having a bad day, the customer should not know about it.  Whilst you may be saying all the right things, your tone can send signals to the customer that can affect the way they respond to you.

Pace of speech and Volume

Speak at a reasonable pace and volume.  Speaking too fast can make it difficult for the customer to understand what you are saying.  It may also give the impression that you wish to get them off the phone as soon as possible.  Alternately, speaking too slowly can be frustrating and difficult to listen to.

The volume of your voice should be at a reasonable level.  Too soft and the customer will have difficulty hearing you.  Too loud can be irritating and can come across as yelling.

Active listening

Active listening is the art of putting everything out of your mind and concentrating on what the customer is saying.

Taking notes as you listen can be very helpful as the customer will not need to repeat details. 

Analyze what the customer is saying as you listen and begin to consider solutions.  Ensure though that you listen to all details before determining the solution that you will apply.

Interrupting only when necessary

Interrupting customers and not allowing them to finish what they are saying can be construed as a lack of respect.

If you need to interrupt to bring the customer back to the point, wait until an appropriate time such as a pause in the conversation or a pause at the end of a sentence.  Customers should not be interrupted mid- sentence or cut off abruptly.

If you need to interrupt, keep the tone of your voice even or soft.  This particularly applies when using phrases such as:

“Can I interrupt you  …”

A good strategy to gain control of the conversation is to ask the customer a question or summaries what they have just said.

Do not assume

During your conversation with the customer, never assume what the question or problem is before the customer has finished fully stating it.  Assuming may lead you down the incorrect path, which can result in giving irrelevant/incorrect information.  This will leave the impression that you do not know what you are doing. 

Transferring calls correctly

If you transfer a customer to another area, it is important that they are transferred correctly.  Use the  following procedure:

Advise the customer why you need to transfer the call and ask if they mind holding.

Press the ‘Transfer’ button, call the area you are transferring to and give the analyst all relevant details.   Ask if it is ok to transfer the customer. Bring the customer into the conversation on 3 way conference by pressing the ‘Conference’ button.  Introduce the customer to the analyst.

Once you hear the analyst and the customer talking, complete the transfer by pressing the ‘Release’ button

Escalations to Team Leader

When a customer requests to speak to a supervisor at any time during a call, the customer should immediately be referred to a senior or the team leader.

Using the correct hold process, ask the customer if they would like to wait while you check if the team leader or a senior is available.  Before handing over to a team leader/senior, explain the reasons the customer has requested the escalation so that they are informed and prepared for the customer’s responses when they take over the call. 

Customer with a language barrier

When speaking to customers who have a language barrier, it is important to adjust your style and technique so that they can understand you.  This may mean:

  • Speaking at a slightly slower pace
  • Giving the customer extra time to talk
  • Listening actively and confirming what has been said more frequently throughout the call.

Take care not to speak louder as this may not necessarily mean you are talking more clearly. 

Also important is ensuring that your tone does not sound belittling to the customer.

Mouthpiece etiquette

With headsets being sensitive to noise, to maintain an image of professionalism: 

  • Never eat, chew gum or cough into the mouthpiece. 
  • Mobile phones should be switched off or placed on silent.
  • If you have to cough or sneeze, use the mute button. 

Use of the mute button should be limited to uncontrollable instances, such as the need to cough.  Whenever the mute button is used, apologies to the customer and explain why mute was used.

Making an outbound call

When making a call to a customer, be prepared and have all the information you need at hand e.g. relevant email or service call open.  Introduce yourself when the call is answered, describe the reason for the call and ask the customer if they are free to talk.

If the customer does not answer and there is no capability to leave a message:  On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note that there was no answer.

If the customer does not answer and you are directed to their voicemail:  Leave your name and a detailed message quoting the call number or referring to the email. 

On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note that you left a message on voicemail. 

If someone other than the customer answers:  Introduce yourself as outlined above and ask if the staff member is available.  If they are not, ask if it is possible to leave a message.  On hanging up, record the time of the call in the Service Management System service call and note the outcome of your request to leave a message.   

Handling difficult calls

The following points will ensure that you have the utmost control when dealing with a difficult customer and know exactly what you need to say and do. 

Control your emotional response

When handling a difficult call, it is best to control your own emotional response.  If you respond emotionally, it is highly likely that the situation will become worse. 

  • Be aware of the tone of your voice.  Ensure that it does not change.  It should be low and even and remain focused and calm.
  • Do not become defensive and argue with a customer.  Allow the customer to express their frustration and politely move the discussion back to solving their problem.  If the customer is irate, they are not personally angry with you.

By showing empathy to the customer, they may be more responsive to your suggestions and will feel that you are trying to help them.

If at any point, you are concerned that you may not be able to control the call to its conclusion, escalate to your team leader.  This is particularly important if the customer is a VIP.

Abusive Customers

If a customer becomes abusive and uses offensive or threatening language over the phone, advise the customer that you will not continue to discuss the issue if the abuse continues.  Do not respond abusively to the customer. If the behavior continues after twice making this statement to the customer, advise them that you are hanging up.  Update your team leader immediately. 

Escalations to Team Leader

In this situation, if the customer requests to speak to a supervisor, they should be referred immediately to your team leader or a senior.

Using the correct hold process, ask the customer if they would like to wait while you check if the team leader or a senior is available.  Before handing over to a team leader/senior, explain the reasons the customer has requested the escalation so that they are informed and prepared for the customer’s responses when they take over the call.

If a team leader or senior is not available at that time, advise the customer and assure them that they will be called back.

Follow up with your team leader/senior immediately on their return.

The above is an exerpt from the Service Center Call Handling Guide available on the Consulting Cloud website.

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