Ed Toner

Blog: A Long Process Improvement Journey

During my commute to work from Omaha to Lincoln each day I think primarily of two things: new projects for the leadership team (they have asked me to move to Lincoln) and/or what I need to accomplish that day.

On the drive home I dissect the day.  What did we achieve and what else needs to be completed?

A few weeks ago on the way home I was thinking about a meeting where the Capitol HVAC construction project was discussed and the words “well field” and that got me thinking about Process Improvement. And that lead me to thinking about the Service Desk process improvements we have made.

So what is the connection?  Just a couple of degrees of separation.  My first job right out of college was working in Waco, TX as an Industrial Engineer for a HVAC manufacturing company which eventually became a division of Trane. We were the leader in the engineering of energy efficient geothermal systems also known as Water Source Heat Pumps.  We used the earth for heat storage rather than consuming new energy to operate cooling towers and boilers.  This is the “well field” connection.  

The company online profile still today states, “Our modern facility and efficient manufacturing methods enable us to produce competitively priced products without compromising our high quality.”  

My simplest explanation of what I did when asked was, “I improve how our product is made by focusing on Quality, Speed (Efficiency) and Cost”.  More precisely I improved processes through statistical analysis, improved design, planning, quality control and problem solving.   I analyzed and designed facilities, assembly lines, equipment and material handling systems. This basic thought process is still with me today and has been the driving force behind our consolidation efforts, process improvements and reduction of duplication in IT here at the State of Nebraska.  

So finally why did I start to think about the Service Desk?  When we started on the process improvement path Jason Meyer (Service Desk Manager) immediately grasped the manufacturing analogies I was always throwing out.   It was not until recently that I understood why….Jason started his career in manufacturing running a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) CNC turret punch.  From that point on, we both relate many of our processes to what we both learned in manufacturing.


CNC Turret Punch

This is one of the CNC turret punch presses we had…yes it is probably in a museum now but at the time it was state of the art.

metal PC case

This is an example of the type of sheet metal product that would utilize a CNC turret punch press to produce. I know, only an engineer would be excited by this.


Today Process Improvement efforts are the same as they were back when Jason and I were in manufacturing, they simply take on the names you may know as Six Sigma or Lean.  Throughout the years, several variations have come and gone with names like Zero Defects, Total Quality Management, COBIT or CMMI. What a collection… and I am just naming a few that come to mind.

In Technology ITIL or “Information Technology Infrastructure Library” is our best guide for process improvement. When I worked in Europe and in South America we all spoke one language in common and that was ITIL.   ITIL is a guide or set of best practices that were developed from the public and private sectors internationally.  In fact the UK introduced ITIL during the 1980’s in its Central Computer and Telecommunication Agency.   I started to adopt the practices in the 90’s and have utilized them ever since.

ITIL is a framework based on industry best practices and describes among other things how to achieve ITSM or “IT Service Management”.  ITSM is a general term used to describe a process-focused approach to deliver IT services to the end customer.  Mainly the approach is centered on the operations and processes enforced by the Service Desk via a single unified tool.  A centralized ticketing system, which aligns us with ITIL best-practice and ITSM foundational processes for incident requests, service requests, change requests and problem requests.

So now that I have confused everyone l will try to detangle the two terms: ITIL teaches you a variety of industry best practices and ITSM is one of the practices used to manage the services you deliver to end users.
Image of a stack of books


ITSM Solutions Chart


The solutions that ITSM represent revolve around Services needed and Incident resolution.  The focus of Problem management is to eliminate recurring incidents, and to minimize the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented. While the objective of Change management is to minimize risks (incidents) while making IT changes.  So both change and problem management are in place to minimize the occurrence of incidents.   Having good change and problem management processes in place protect us all and help to ensure a high level of service to our customers.

A study by Gartner consulting states that, “An average of 80 percent of mission-critical service downtime is directly caused by people or process failures – Unmanaged Changes.”    Change management is extremely important process because it enables us to manage and protect our production environment.

We often have an urge to say, but we don’t have time for this bureaucracy.  What about the time we spend correcting the impact of a failed change and the issues we have with loss of reputation.  The emails and phone calls you and I get when a production issue occurs.  Having a strong change process in place actually is an efficiency gain.  Throughout my career I was trained to look for “non-value” added activities and eliminate them, but change management is not one of those non-value added activities. 

I am very pleased to hear from the vast majority of you how this has made a positive difference.  You’re not only saying it to just me but to Tim Arroyo, our change manager (or traffic cop), and also at the Change Advisory Board (CAB) meetings.

So the message of this blog is simple, process improvement is underway at the OCIO and I have a team that embraces it more than I have had in my entire career. 

For that many Thanks, and Thank You for all you do for the citizens of Nebraska each and every day.


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