Mary Roper

Mary Roper


Recent posts by Mary Roper

5 min read

Tips for Performing a Successful Root Cause Analysis

By Mary Roper on Mar 5, 2021 10:55:01 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Tips for Performing a Successful Root Cause AnalysisRoot Cause Analysis: The Under-appreciated Hero

When implementing an IT Service Management (ITSM) system, I always look forward to spending time on root cause analysis (RCA). Of course Incident and Problem Management play the central role in ITSM design- it's crucial to give your teams, customers, and systems intuitive ways to communicate when something has gone wrong. However, it is equally important that organizations spend time identifying the key driver of these problems by performing an RCA to prevent them from reoccurring. This is because, at the end of the day, incidents and problems cost your organization money, and a good RCA can help save it. It's this viewpoint that has led me to dub RCA the under-appreciated hero of ITSM and in this post I will share with you the aspects of a successful RCA that can help vanquish problems once and for all. 

It's important to distinguish between Problem Management and Incident Management. In broad strokes: the goal of Problem Management is to get to root cause, and we can understand its goal to be increasing the meantime between failures by determining root cause of one or more incidents thereby addressing with appropriate change to prevent recurrence of the incident; in this sense it's a proactive approach. On the other hand, Incident Management's goal is to reduce the meantime to recovery by responding and resolving fast; its approach is reactive.

What is Root Cause Analysis?

The core function of root cause analysis is to uncover the core reason why a problem occurred. While there are many different tools and approaches to perform an RCA, I've consolidated the key steps into the diagram below: 

Root Cause Analysis Blog Post

  • Define the problem: First, make sure you and your teams align on "What happened?" and are speaking to the same problem.
  • Collect Data: Then, the focus needs to be "How did this happen?" and gathering data around the problem, whether customer testimony or incident reports.
  • Identify Casual Factors: Casual factors also help to answer "How did this happen," and in this step, teams should be guided to identifying fixable causes.
  • Identify the Root Cause: Next, teams should leverage one of the techniques of the RCA process, such as the "Five Whys," Fishbone Diagram, or Fault-Tree Analysis, to drive to the root cause of all the causal factors. 
  • Recommend and Test the Solution: After the root cause has been identified, teams should work to develop a solution that gets recommended to the Executive team for approval before testing can begin. Once approved, the solution should enter a testing phase, where it can be rolled back if not successful. 
  • Implement and Monitor: Once the solution is implemented, teams should continue to monitor it in the production environment to ensure that it is working as expected. This active analysis step is why RCA is depicted as a cycle; if the solution did not resolve the problem, it could be that the problem was a casual factor and the team needs to begin the RCA process again. 

Why Does It Matter?

I've worked with teams who have a well-defined RCA process and others who are just beginning. I reference this diagram when we focus on RCA because it helps to illustrate how simple of a process RCA can be. There aren't rigid guidelines or rules to follow; organizations can adopt their own RCA policies. What many don't realize, especially those who have yet to adopt RCA as a business process, is that it has a big pay-off: cost savings.

Root cause analysis can be a cost saving tool for organizations for a couple of reasons. First, identifying and acting on problems early saves money. The longer a problem goes on the more money it costs the organization, and a properly deployed RCA process is built to help organizations become more proactive rather than reactive. Second, the main goal of the RCA process is to prevent incidents from cropping up again. If the incident does not reoccur, then there won't be downtime or lost production, saving money in the long run.  

How Can I Help My Organization Embrace RCA?

When working with organizations to implement an RCA process, there are several aspects that I help coach my clients on which can help the organization embrace RCA. They are:

  1. Talk about what went well.....and what could have gone better
    1. When the team is starting the RCA process, guide them to start by discussing what happened and framing the problem. Then, go one step further and document what went well. This will provide you data and help to explain what is not the issue or what not to blame. It's equally important to talk about what could have gone better, as this will likely begin the discussion and documentation of your causal factors. 
  2. Make it work for you
    1. In some organizations, "Root Cause Analysis" can be viewed as too formal and intimidating. I've come across some resistance to them due to their structure or even the invitee list. For these reasons, it's important to make sure you're adopting a RCA structure that feels natural for your organization. This could mean:
      1. Being mindful of the attendees, especially if the invitees include senior management and above. Ensure you include the right people in the room at the right time. Your front line team has the most firsthand knowledge of the systems or processes, and you will want them to feel comfortable participating candidly in any discovery meetings. 
      2. Having a neutral party leading the meetings. The leader shouldn't have anything to gain by the results of the RCA process and should be able to maintain a "blame free" atmosphere.
      3. Reframing RCA as something more approachable, such as a "Lessons Learned meeting,"  where the RCA process is still followed, but in a less formal way. Feedback and idea can be gathered via sticky notes and shared on a board so that it is anonymous for example. 
  3. Root causes can only solve one problem
    1. Remember that the main goal of RCA is to avoid future incidents. Teams should not be applying a previous root cause to a current or future problem- if that is the case, then it indicates that rather than identifying the root cause, the team actually identified a casual factor. In these instances, I've coached teams to go back and take their RCA process one step deeper, for example asking another "Why" question if the "Five Whys" is used. 

The goal of Problem Management is to get to root cause. Incident Mgmt goal: reduce the meantime to recovery (by responding and resolving fast); reactive
Problem Mgmt goal: increase the meantime between failures (by determining root cause of one or more incidents thereby addressing with appropriate change to prevent recurrence of the incident); proactive.

Ultimately, where incidents and problems cost your organizations money, RCA saves it. It is for this reason that I think of RCA as an under-appreciated hero of ITSM. While the biggest barrier to accomplishing RCA can be time, putting in the time upfront to accomplish the RCA process will prevent repeat incidents from cropping up, saving your company time and resources in the long run. By implementing a few of these tips, I hope you come to appreciate RCA as I have, and if you have any questions let us know, we'd love to help. 

Topics: blog plan incident-management itsm health-check
3 min read

Three Things No One Tells You About Custom Fields in Jira

By Mary Roper on Mar 4, 2021 12:19:10 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Three Things No One Tells You About Custom FieldsCustom fields can be an over-looked configuration point in Jira, and it's easy to see why: they're easy to create, modify, and make available for your users. Although Jira ships with several system fields, it's inevitable that teams using Jira will reach a point where they require additional fields to input specific information into their issues. But in order to maintain Jira's performance as well as instance hygiene, it's important that Administrators take great care when it comes to custom field creation. That's why today we're sharing with you a few custom field insights we've gleaned over the years. Read on to learn three things no one tells you about custom fields. 

1. Technically, there is no limit to the number of custom fields you can have. BUT...

Custom fields do impact system performance in Jira. Below are some recent results breaking down each configuration item's impact on Jira. Here, we can see that custom fields have an impact on the speed of running a large instance. Your teams may feel this impact in the load time of issue screens. As an admin, one indication can be having a long page of custom fields to scroll through. Additionally, this is often accompanied by longer than usual load time for the custom field Administration page. 

Response Times for Jira Data Sets

To combat this, Jira Administrators should partner with the requestor and other impacted users to determine some guidelines for creating custom fields. For instance, requiring the requestor to submit an example of how they plan to report on the custom field or having the Administrator ensure the custom field can be used in the majority of projects (>=80%). Execution is crucial here: once the guidelines are aligned with management and stakeholders, it's crucial they are followed to prevent your custom field list from unnecessarily growing.

2. There are native alternatives to custom fields.

There are a few usual suspects to look for when reviewing custom fields. Duplicate custom fields ("Additional Comments" as a supplement to the "Comments" system field), variations of custom fields ("Vendor" vs "Vendors"), and department specific custom fields ("Company ABC" vs "Vendor") are a few custom fields that can needlessly drive up your custom field count. To prevent this from happening, Admins can offer their business partners alternative suggestions to creating a custom field by looking at the following:

  1. Utilize an existing custom field that may be more general, but is fit for the purpose to get the most out of what is already in place.
  2. Rather than implementing a custom field, Labels or Components can be used to help organize issues and categorize them for future reporting.
  3. Apply a custom field context to help maximize the potential for picker, select, checkbox, and radio button custom field types. Adding field context enables Administrators to pair different custom field select options or their default values to specific projects or issue types within the same project.

3. You can proactively manage custom fields.

Rather than waiting for custom fields to pile on and create a lag on the instance speed time, proactively scheduling time to scrub your instance for stale custom fields will help Administrators keep on top of their custom field list. This can be a visual check to understand what fields aren't associated to a screen- those are good candidates for removal- or if there are similarly named fields- those can be good candidates for consolidation. More information from Atlassian on how to identify and clean up these fields can be found here.

Ultimately, a well-maintained Jira instance includes a good understanding of custom fields and their overall impact on the system. As your instance grows overtime, the guidelines around custom field development will become all the more important. Bringing these tips to life will help your instance run at top speeds for your users. 

Need help making the best out of your Jira instance? Our experts know Jira inside-out: contact us and we'll get in touch!

Topics: jira blog best-practices optimization standardize configuration bespoke health-check
3 min read

You Deserve a Break To Check Out These Cute Animals

By Mary Roper on Apr 14, 2020 9:15:00 AM

2020 Blogposts_You Deserve a Break (To Check Out These Cute Animals) (1)

Whether you are new to working from home or an old pro, it is still important to take regular breaks through out the day to maintain focus, productivity, and creativity. Don't believe me? It's science!

To help you fuel your next break, we've curated some pictures of cute animals exploring the new normal, primarily vacant city streets and suburbs. While most of the world shutters inside, these cuties are making the most out of lockdown. Enjoy!

1. These mountain goats could definitely use a lesson in social distancing as they explore Llandudno, Wales.
goats
Image Credit: Christopher Furlong via Getty Images


2. This coyote enjoys stretching its legs during a casual stroll through downtown San Francisco, CA.  coyoteImage Credit: manishkumar457 via Twitter


3. This puuurrr-ty puma takes a solo catwalk down the streets of Santiago, Chile.pumaImage Credit: Andres Pina/Anton Chile/AFP via Getty Images



4. This beautiful peacock appears to be the only one out and about on this street in Dubai. peacock
Image Credit: KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images


5. The absence of human activity means that these orcas can get a little closer to the coastline while exploring the Indian Arm in Canada. 

orcasImage Credit: JIMHANSON_NV/Twitter

6. And lastly, a favorite in our office, these penguins saying "Hi" to their neighbors while exploring Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. penguinImage Credit: Shedd Aquarium

We hope this break has been a bright spot in your day, and we wish you and your loved ones health and safety during these unprecedented times. 

If you are looking for more ways to navigate the challenging times of Covid-19, check out our blog posts with WFH Tips and How to Stay Informed During a Global Pandemic

Topics: work-from-home

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