Monday, 27 April 2009

Watching the fish

I'm lucky enough to live near the banks of the Warwickshire Avon. At this time of year I love walking along it with the dogs, keeping an eye out for basking snakes on the path and peering into the clear water to spot fish. There is always a certain thrill in spotting a pike, hovering to strike at anything that moves in front of it, including smaller pike.

PIKE is actually a useful approach to dealing with a recession.

  • Prioritise
  • Innovate and invest
  • Kill or keep
  • Economise

I'll look at each of these in turn, but for now just think about that order, in particular that economise is last on the list, not first.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Clouds and ITSM

For years now the mantra of ITSM has been that IT has to align with the business. Does that still hold true with cloud computing? Once we move to commodity provision of IT doesn't the emphasis move to the business having to fit around IT - in return for reduced costs?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

ITIL ROI Part 3 / The Myth of the ITIL Project Part 1

There is an accepted, but arguably untested, view that you should implement ITIL as a project.

How can it be untested I hear you say, surely there have been lots of successful ITIL projects?

Well there have, I've been involved in several, in fact I designed (we say architectured these days) two ITIL projects that went on to win the itSMF Project of the Year Award, and was was heavily involved in the execution of a third award winner.

So that proves ITIL can be implemented as a project, yes? Well yes, but that doesn't prove that it is the best way to do so. How much service improvement activity gets thrown into the project that should actually be being done as part of the Business As Usual (BAU) day job?

In all the usually quite spurious claims of proven ITIL ROI one thing you'll very rarely hear factored in is the cost of failed ITIL projects. BTW I'm not saying that ITIL doesn't provide a positive ROI, only that most of the claims are spurious. If you are making a decision to implement ITIL by running a project you would be sensible to factor in the failure rate across the industry.

Very simplistically - There are four ITIL projects each costing $1m. One of those succeeds and generates gross savings of $2m, a net saving of $1m and a positive ROI. Across the four projects though it is a different picture. Let's be generous and presume the other three projects didn't do any actual harm to the long term cost, but didn't generate any saving s either. Factoring that in to the picture we find that ITIL projects as a whole actually generate a negative ROI. They have cost the industry $4m, for gross savings of $2m, producing a net LOSS of $2m.

How many ITIL projects fail? Well it is a tough one to answer, because first of all you need to define what success means. My gut feel is that as many ITIL projects proceed their effective scope is reduced, but they are still declared a success at the end. In fact I suspect that in the great majority of cases what begins as a project focused on cultural change becomes yet another software tool implementation. Part of my argument against ITIL projects is that the IT project management mentality encourages that shift of emphasis.

Personally I was very skeptical of claims emanating from some organisations that they had implemented ITIL v3 within months of publication.

Another issue in judging success is that the delivery of ITSM is, by its very nature, a long term activity. You can not measure the success of an ITIL project the day it goes live, you need to judge it over a number of business cycles. Do that and you find something interesting: In the UK where ITIL has been around a long time some organisations are on their third of fourth ITIL project.

So my first question is this: Does the fact that some ITIL projects are successful mean that ITIL projects are consistently successful?

My second question is: Why are some ITIL projects more successful than others?

My third is: Are they successful because they are projects, or despite being projects?

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The bigger truth is found in small thingsPt 1

Have you ever made a judgment about a major organistion based on a single interaction ? Thought so, and I bet it wasn't positive.

The truth is we make meta judgments based on micro experiences.

How do I judge an entire hotel chain?

On what my experience was the last time I registered, when the girl on the desk asked me if I'd ever stayed with the chain before when I'd only checked out 36 hours earlier.

You ring the service desk, get an off hand message and conclude IT don't care about the business.

Get the small things right in IT and there is a chance you will get the big things right.

Get the small things wrong and you might as well go home.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Projects v BAU

One of my pet peeves is the view that the best, if not only, way to implement ITSM/ ITIL is as a project. My experience is that many ITIL implementations work despite being treated as projects.

I'll blog more about this later, but at the moment I'm engaged in a debate on the subject with the ITskeptic.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

ITIL ROI Part 2 Investment

The easy bit of ROI to understand is investment. Well sort of. Investment is often not about "do I X or do I do nothing", but about" do I X or do I do Y , or do I do nothing."

Investment in an ITSM project, or which more later, is often a mix of funds already allocated and new funds. Take internal staff costs for example. You are paying people's salary whether they are doing their day job or working on an ITIL project. Only very rarely have I come across an IT department that employs additional contractors to backfill for people engaged on the ITIL project.

That, of course, tells us somethign about how well utilsed some of those people are if they can be seconded to a longterm project with no need for resources to replace them.

So what are the costs of doing ITSM?

Process design
Project Management overhead

The cost of the new processes put in place
Additionnal staff

Reduce any of these without impacting the benefit and we've improved ROI