Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

ITIL Tattle

ITIL Tattle

Blog posts on ITIL and ITSM news and best practice from the ISG ITIL Team

Marginal Gains?

Sir Chris Hoy, Olympic Champion, Alumni

Sir Chris Hoy, Olympic Champion, Alumni and part of the Great Britain 2012 Team noted for employing Marginal Gains

Blog posts have a time and place. Each week we check who is doing the blog and wait with baited breath on what little ITIL gems will result. we try to be with Zeitgeist, if that word is still in fashion?

You will be reading this on Friday but it is written on Thursday. A bit like a pre-recorded radio show, I am trying to second guess what the mood of the nation will be after the results of the first winter election for nearly a century come through.

In reality many will be wishing to get as far away from politics as possible. So how can a title of “Marginal Gains” take you away from politics?

Well this post is not about wins and losses in marginal seats. It is about identifying lots of areas in which small improvements can be relatively easily attained. It came to prominence as an explanation for Great Britain’s domination of cycling back in 2012. The marginal gains approach is predicated on having the correct data and information.

Now individuals and teams are very good at refining their own processes. Slightly harder is identifying the shared process improvements.

So what was implemented and what affect (hopefully positive) accrued? We are going to consider 3 marginal gains over the last 12 months which were data driven…

  •  Clearing out stale calls
  •  Identifying the caller
  •  Standard Solution Usage

Clearing stale records

Many operators had calls sitting with a status of waiting on user even though the user had left the University. Systematically identifying these, re-opening them and adding to the Action field a note to suggest the operator close the call had three effects. The first is it annoyed some people (but most were appreciative). Second it resulted in a lot of calls being closed. Thirdly, and most culturally significant, it made operators aware that the Incident Management processes were being monitored.

In addition to stale calls, there were a number of other stale records. By identifying appropriate queries, stale records for operators, operator groups, categories, subcategories and standard solutions where archived.

All this housekeeping may seem expensive but the cost of having user enquiries lost in a dusty overlooked corner of your service management tool can be very costly. Not only this but in a cluttered systems, operators struggle to find information and errors and bad practice proliferate.

Identifying the user

Knowing who raised a service ticket allows us to report to schools and colleges, and to staff and students how we ware doing. Over the last year there are 11% more calls with an identifiable user. Much of the credit for this is with Library Helpdesks  with 39% more calls with an identified user. As these are mostly students it helps informs schools on what their students are requesting.

Again, it may seem that this is unwarranted effort, particularly if you see recording only about measuring work done. The real advantage of these small improvements is opening up new value. In the case of identifying the user, this not only improves reporting but permits operators to see quickly see what other requests the person has raised. This added context can inform better customer service. (You only have to recall a time you phoned a service organisation and they did not know you had already phoned three times previously!)

Standard Solutions

Standard Solution are the playscripts for rapid and consistent resolution of frequent requests. Usage has shot up from 4% of calls to 9% in the last year. Whilst part of this was achieved by removing stale records most credit should go to the Finance Helpline for using Standard Solutions from the outset. Standard Solutions are also a vital reporting point rather than overloading subcategories.


Have these changes improved overall service? Access to managed service support processes has vastly increased with 67k requests completed in November 2019 compared with 32k in November 2018. Over that time there has been no drop in overall caller satisfaction.

However sometimes small gains have longer term impact. The outcome is that small iterations, focussed on  improving uptake and compliance of shared process across the organisation, had positive effects. From a cultural change perspective, it provided the opportunity for data-informed discussion targeted to those who would benefit most. These discussions have also informed how process and recording can influence future developments utilising automation.


Now, I wonder if the election winners indulged in some marginal gain philosophy?

Leave a reply


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.