Friday, 24 December 2010

The Ghost of ITIL Past

Ivor took Brandon by the hand and led him through the mists of time to an earlier IT world...

..which gave rise to the first problem, because the secure access to the data center meant Brandon couldn't tail gate him..

Once that hurdle had been surmounted they surveyed the scene in front of them.

"Isn't it idyllic to see a place for everything, and everything in it's place?" declared  Ivor, the ghost of ITIL past. "Look at how the Ops Manager rules his tape monkeys, marvel as he refuses admission to any developers carrying arbitrary tapes. His word is law."

Brandon, the once and future auditor, could not help noticing various tapes lying unaccounted for outside of the tape store, or that the tape monkeys appeared to have no idea what they were actually doing.

"Tell me Ivor, what have you brought me here to see?"

"I have brought you so that you might understand there was once a golden age of IT, when we knew and understood our place in the world.. It was a world where the dangerous intellectuals were turned to the right, and became system analysts, whilst those of us who were unworthy turned left and became operators. Of course there were also also those who ignored all the obvious signs and became Sysprogs"

"So what happened to the Sysprogs?" queried Brandon.

"To be quite honest we don't know, we could never be bothered to talk to them at office parties. Anyway, behold IT Narnina!"

"I think you mean Nirvana, but then again... look this is very impressive, that machine there blinking and whirring away must be incredibly powerful.."

"Indeed, behold the might 1Mb disk drive...."

"No sorry, I meant the air conditioning unit over there, but anyway, here we are buried in a silo, what I want to know is what the customers thought about IT in these days."

"They think it is very shy"

"Shy? Are you sure about that?"

"Oh yes,  when I went out to meet the customers they kept telling me how shy it was."

"OK can I just check here, were the customers based in Germany, and were you by any chance a senior MOD civil servant?"

"OK, I might have been."

"And do you think that instead of saying the system is shy, sir*, they might have been saying something else?"

With that the ghost of ITIL past faded away, to be replaced with the ghost of ITIL present.

*German slang for the products of Microsoft.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Thoughts on the 2010 itSMF UK Conference

So that's the 2010 conference over for another year.

A night's sleep, even though it involved dreaming about CMDBs and Service Design packages, has given me time to reflect on it.

So here are my thoughts.

If I'm perfectly honest I normally find attending this event a bit of a chore, but I thoroughly enjoyed this year.

First of all the venue and location was better than the Metropole, and I didn't find myself getting lost navigating between sessions and exhibition halls. I was really impressed with all the hotel staff I interfaced with, which coming from a customer service background is pretty unusual. The same applies to the conference support staff as well. I'm afraid the food at the gala dinner was another let down, but I've come to expect that.

Secondly there was the shift to just two days. I felt that made the event more focussed, and seemed to push up the attendance in the individual streams. Last year a lot of good sessions didn't get the audience they deserved.

Perhaps some thought needs to be given the timing of the first and last keynote sessions. Coming down from Coventry I only just managed to make the opening session, and the final session had a relatively small audience. If I go next year I will seriously consider coming down for the Sunday night.

Thirdly, of course, there were the people. Now I tweeted from last year's gala dinner that I was the worst networker in the room, and that remains the case, but this year social media came to my aid and I had some great conversations with @servicesphere, @stephenmann, @duncs, and @ barclayrae amongst others. It would have been nice to have had a wider tweetup, I'm not sure why that didn't happen and have a horrible feeling I should have arranged it.

Confession time, I had to grovel to the wonderful @G2G3 AKA Linda King because I kept walking past the stand without talking to them, which taught me two valuable lessons. One is that we need to be consistent with our social media persona, and the other was that it is too easy to ascribe the wrong motivation to others. I'm just naturally shy. 

The only reason I mention this is that it was the  theme of a lot of the "People" sessions, which is the stream I concentrated on.

We need to  give out clear messages to our customers,
and make sure
we understand the messages they are giving to us

The less said about my own session on ISO 38500 the better, because to be honest I was just trying to get to the end of it without infecting 80% of the audience with man flu. I did get some kind comments afterwards, but I can't help feeling I've not got my presenter's mojo back just yet. I suspect that is partially because I'm looking for a new, minimalist, style to call my own. Hopefully I'll have that sorted by Pink11. My ideas are evolving rapidly.

What did strike me, and some of the audience, is that some people just don't get what we are trying to do with ISO 38500.

It isn't about how we do things inside of IT.
It isn't a recipe book like ISO 20000
It isn't a rational construct like ITIL

My gut feel is we have a lot of "storming" to do in the ISO 38500 world before we can get round to "norming" and "performing"

Not for the first time I was surprised people didn't realise the financial contribution the Tata group makes to society. I got the message that as a behaviour it still matters but we keep too quiet about it.

Most presenters, including some of the authors, seemed to take the view that ITIL has become a sideshow. The big issue is how do we solve a specific issue, and ITIL rarely helps in those cases beyond providing a common vocabulary.

Final conclusions: For once I felt we have matured as a profession. There were very few theoretical/perfect world sessions. On the other hand there were few sessions that pushed the boundaries to the art of the possible.

Now, off to write my slides for Pink11....

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Brandon Lane CIO - Episode 7

Brandon Lane has a vision

(Or a slightly premature ITSM Carol)

Ten minutes before the first team meeting.

Brandon rubs his temples.If only Yssabele was here to soothe his furrowed brow.

Actually, when he thinks about it, most of the furrows on his brow are of Yssabele's doing. Even how to spell her name normally confuses him, because she changes her preferred spelling from week to week.

Never mind. You get the picture.

And oddly, now does Brandon.

A mist forms in front of his eyes, and standing in front of him is a patrician looking vision dressed in black, complete with pointed beard.

"Who the Chris Dancy are you?" Brandon enquires, whilst desperately trying to reach for the intercom on his desk.

"I am Ivor, the ghost of ITIL implementations past" the apparition announces "I, and my consulting associates, Jimbofin, the ghost of ITSM present, and Ian, the ghost of Outside-In thinking will all visit you to..."

There was a chilling stillness in the room, as the apparition prepared to make its pronouncement...

"Help you deliver an ITIL transformation project."

Brandon looked at the apparition for a few seconds before responding.

(Look, I'm writing this on an Android phone and I'm sorry but my chances of spelling "apparition" right are quite slim. Get over it.)
"Heck, I know the Netherlands is ITIL's own country, and I've smoked but never inhaled a lot of weed, but what planet are you from?"

"Well, planet ITIL, if you  must ask. Anyway my task is to show you the world of ITIL past, which actually isn't that hard, because it lies just beyond your door."

Read on....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

itSMF UK conference

I don't believe in self promotion, but I guess I should point out that I'll be speaking at this year's itSMF conference in London next week.

My topic is how you can use ISO 38500 to gain CxO level commitment.

Come and listen to me if you are interested in the topic, but more importantly if you are coming to the conference come and introduce yourself and speak to me, and the other great ITSM experts who will be there. Don't be scared. we won't bite, and I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Rest of the World Podcasts

Just a quick reminder that along with Stephen Mann &  Chris Matchett you can catch me on the ITSM Rest of the World Podcasts.

Episode 1

Episode 2

We haven't quite reached the level of slickness achieved by our US counterparts

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Flash, bang, wallop

'Old it, flash, bang, wallop, what a picture What a picture, what a photograph'
Lyrics from Half a Sixpence
Have you missed me?
I've been rather busy putting together some interesting bids and delivering some exciting service catalogue propositions. I know, I'm on record as being somewhat critical of service catalogues, but that is when other people are involved, and the objectives aren't clear.

I've also been busy rediscovering some of ny hobbies, including photography. I recently took delivery of a new camera. It is an end of line Panasonic LX3. Now I have previous when it comes to buying cameras.
As I write this I have five cameras sat on my desk.

The thing is, as I keep explaining to my beloved wife, is that different cameras suit different purposes.
I have a Pentax DSLR that I love because it can take photographs that no camera I've ever owned before has been capable of, but it can be heard from a mile away when you click the shutter.
I have a Panasonic FZ18 super zoom that has produced photos at Le Mans when friends with expensive DSLRs have struggled.

I've got a little Panasonic compact which will fit in a shirt pocket, and of course there is a camera in my mobile phone.

But then there is my Panasonic LX3.
It isn't the most up to date camera, in fact I only bought it after they announced a new model and the price dropped accordingly.It doesn't have a great zoom lens, though it does have a surprisingly wide angle facility.

But what it does do it does really, really well. And that happens to coincide with the street photography that I most enjoy doing.
The ITSM conclusion?
Ask yourself what do you REALLY want an ITSM tool to do for you today. Don't worry too much about what you want to do in two or three years time, trust me, the technology will have moved on by then.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

All change!

I couldn't resist the title of this post since I'm writing it on a train.

Once again I've gone a little quiet .

The observant ones amongst you will have noticed a small but significant change in my vanity panel.

For the less observant of you I have returned to corporate life as a member of the TCS Global Consulting Practice .

I'm probably as shocked by this development as many of you will be. I am, after all, one of the mavericks of the ITSM world.

So what is the attraction?

It has to be their willingness to look at ITSM and IT governance with fresh eyes, coupled with a strong emphasis on social responsivility

Location : Address not available

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Hare and the Tortoise

Some of you might have noticed an absence of recent posts. Some of you will have realised that this once again coincided with the running of the Le Mans 24 hour race.

What a race it was.

The Pugs appeared to unbeatable, until their engines blew up. The Audis seemed to have an impossible target, until somehow their reliability delivered a 1-2-3 podium finish.

A little bit of me felt this was a hollow victory, until I realised Audi won having covered an incredible record distance. They did not luck into this victory.

And then there were lots of interesting discussions about how a class win compared to an overall win.

But beyond anything else there was that over-riding commitment to doing the best you possibly can.

I had dinner on Sunday night with the Autocon Lola mechanics.

They had come all the way from the USA to see their car do...6 miles...less than a single lap of the Le Mans circuit.

The messages I would love to get out to you is this:

Racers get excited.Racers are driven by a motive that other people don't get.

Racers, although they are driven by winning, don't need to win.

Racers appreciate the effort needed to win, and above everything else, care about trying.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Is HR ITSM's Greatest Corporate Enemy?

It was one of those late night conversations with 'T' an ex-service manager colleague when the question came up.

He'd become an ex-colleague thanks to the collusion of the office bully and an out of touch HR department. The sad thing was that any ITSM professional would have realised the miracles he had been working up to that time in a very challenging environment.

Before you shed to much of a tear for him he soon  found his niche in a more humane organisation, so six months on I was chatting to him in his new role as a very successful IT Director, shortly before he was head-hunted for a new CIO role.

Meanwhile the office bully continued to convince everyone she was indispensable, right up to her early retirement, since when I'm pleased to say things have improved substantially in that particular organisation.

Up until that point I'd always thought of Finance, suppliers, and the IT department themselves as the barriers to world class ITSM. The more I thought about it though the more I thought T had a point. OK, his was an extreme, though not unique case, but there are lots of ways that HR nibble away at the effectiveness of the ITSM team. Now to be fair the blame doesn't necessarily always lie with HR per se, so much as the CIO's failure to articulate the actualities of ITSM.

Let's begin at the beginning with recruitment.

Do a quick Google on ITIL jobs.

Here's one I've just come across.

"Service Delivery Manager required to work within a leading IT Outsourcer. Working with bid and costing teams the Delivery manager will be responsible for Design and delivering large complex solutions.
Chairing meetings to discuss requirements and effective strategies to manage service proposals and to represent the company to win complex bids. Managing current relationships and developing new relationships with customers to represent the business. Working with ITIL Service Management to work effectively and efficiently within ISEB standards."

"Candidates must be able to demonstrate actual hands on Service Delivery in operating infrastructure services, ie:- a complete end to desk top, server infrastructure, to compliment the ITIL accreditation's.
Experience of leading on major high-touch bids
Demonstrable Service Management leadership expertise
ISEB Service Management Manager Certified (Red Badge)
Knowledge of Information Technology Management and functions
Customer and business orientation, with sound commercial and financial awareness
Has effective working relationships with customer's senior management as well as internal relationships

To start ASAP"

To begin with WTF does any SDM job have the words "To start ASAP" in it?

Think on that

Possibilities I can think of include:

  • The last SDM gave up in disgust
  • A month before go live they have suddenly realised they need a SDM
  • They expect a masked man to ride into town and perform miracles
  • They believe an SDM should be judged on immediate results
I'm sorry, but everyone of those flashes up "Warning Will Robinson"  to me.

Then look at those responsibilities. Is the SDM really going to have design responsibilities, or are they, as usual, going to have to make a purse out of a sow's ear. What control will they actually have over the delivery of the service? Is their job actually going to be to make endless excuses for other people's mistakes after the event?

ISEB standards? Can some one tell me what ISEB standards there are? This is an advert written in the ITL equivalent of Franglais

I'm glad they want someone to 'compliment' the ITIL accreditations, we need more people to say that ITIL accreditations are wonderful.  I'm sure you all know the peanut joke. Sorry that was underhand.

Then just look at the overall job requirements. Isn't that rather like saying a janitor should know how to mop a floor.

Look at it from the SDM's perspective - does anything make this job sound attractive?

Yes I've suggested all these links before, and yes you've ignored them, but I still think they would be good for you. Buy them as presents for your HR Director.

HR are the vampires of the organisation, that is why they avoid holding a mirror up to themselves. 

Think about it, HR can make two basic mistakes. They can fail to recruit the right person, or they can recruit the wrong person. Is there any mechanism to catch either of those mistakes, because trust me if they recruit the wrong person they won't take the blame.

I spoke at the 2009 itSMF Conference on one of the very basic mistakes HR make. Their ideal candidate is like the average candidate, only more so. They want some one who is more than averagely punctual, more than averagely presentable, more than averagely...average. 

I'm sorry, but to on my ITSM team I want people who are exceptional. I want people who are different. Who are prepared to challenge the conventions that got the IT department into their current situation. I want people who understand that world class ITSM isn't achieved by trying to run before you can walk....I want born ITSM professionals, and above everything else I want people who care.

This is probably a good point to totally castigate recruitment agencies who don't know enough about ITSM to either set salary expectations or to carry out an initial filtration of candidates. For goodness sake, I've seen agencies requesting credentials that don't even exist yet.

OK, you've joined an organisation. Let's have a look at their job design. No, better not really. They are just a collection of buzz words. SDMs achieve success by their influencing skills. They fight wars and campaigns, not battles.

What about the criteria for success in the role? Have you noticed these are never contingent? Nobody ever say "Of course if the project delivers a c**p solution we won't hold you responsible for customer satisfaction."

Training. Dear HR Director, there is a reason why there are ITSM specific training schemes. And the ITSM team understand their value a lot more than you do...

OK, I could go on, but I hope I've made my point.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Brandon Lane CIO - Episode 6

Richard Gets a Wake Up Call

Brandon Lane, the once and future CIO, surveyed his new office.

During his dramatic makeover of it on Sunday he had been faced with two choices. One was to use it to impose his authority and the other was to use it to signal a different way of working. He'd gone with the second choice, though now he was beginning to wonder. It was dawning on him that IT people don't do subtle.

The other thing that was worrying him was his experience of home life. He knew that however much Ysabelle rearranged the rooms there was always one optimal place to sit, and she would claim it before anyone else realised where it was. Looking around his office he tried to guess which was the best seat in the house. Was it best to face the door, or to be hidden from anyone entering the room so you could judge their reactions? What was the optimal distance to be from the coffee machine? Where were the power sockets? Which was the most comfortable chair?

Conversely, he wondered, where was the best place to put someone if you wanted to make them feel uncomfortable.

He didn't have long to wait to answer that question before Richard, the Service Desk manager came in.

"You wanted to see me?" Richard ejaculated as he sat down in the chair Brandon had just identified as the most comfortable.

"Nice of you to drop by. Do take a seat. How are things on the desk"

"I think they are OK, as a manager I try not to get involved in the day to day issues. Of course it would help if we had a new service management tool. Jacques was going to let me develop our own. I've put a paper together, I'll send it to you"

"Richard, remind me, what is the tool you are currently using?"

"It's XXXXXX. Rubbish. It doesn't let me do any of the analysis I want to do."

"I'm sure. Now just remind me of the last IT customer satisfaction survey actually don't bother I read it this morning . Ah, here it is, let me quote 'They never get back to you when they say they will', 'Rude', 'treated me like an idiot', 'Explained how a system I'd designed worked in words of one syllable, and got it entirely wrong'. I could go on, but tell me, does your paper outline how a new tool would solve these issues?"

"Well that is users for you. Never happy. They don't realise how difficult our job is."

"What worries me Richard is this. Do you realise how difficult their jobs are?"

"A new tool would let us..."

"Richard. Richard. Richard. You pick up the phone. You find out what is upsetting the person on the phone, and when they put the phone down you leave them with the feeling that they don't need to worry. How is a new tool going to help you achieve that? How difficult can it be anyway? By the way how are the issues with  the changes to the MFD IP addresses coming along?"

"Is there an issue? No one has told me yet."

"Richard, you are the Help Desk Manager. It is your job to know, and to make sure that other people know what is going on as well. Get out there and sort it."

"But what about your team meeting, it starts in ten minutes."

"Yes it does, but I think it would be a better use of your time to get back to the desk and sort things out."

There was an awkward pause.

" Now Richard. Now would be a good time to go and sort it out"

Lessons From Beyond the Clouds

My Adventures in the world of thin client computing

We sometimes forget that IT strategy should be driven by business imperatives, and that those business imperatives don't change just because the technology does.

So when we start to look at Cloud and SaaS from  an ITSM perspective we should always keep those business imperatives in mind. It also helps to remind ourselves that the problems the business want the cloud to solve are existing ones.

One of the most interesting projects I've been involved in recently replaced all the client's desktop computers with thin client devices, accessing all applications over a combination of an intranet and the internet and a mixture of internal and external hosting. The thin clients and the infrastructure were all provided  as part of an outsourcing deal.

It was a fascinating experience with novel technology and as you might expect there were major hiccups along the way. What struck me time after time though  was that the challenges and issues from an ITSM perspective were all old familiar friends, but seen in a new light. As the French say

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Let us begin with what the business were trying to do, and this was very much a business led change. 

They wanted:
  • Reduced and predictable running costs and total lifetime cost
  • Scalability 
  • A stable platform to enable rapid roll out of new services 
A longer term requirement was to enable their internal services to be made available to other partners and directly to their customers.

Lots of implications obviously follow from these high level objectives. Not all of them were perhaps realised at the time, and others were over emphasised during the roll out of the project at the cost of reducing the overall benefit delivered. Other objectives were also added on during the life of the project, such as integration with the business's green policy.

What about the service management perspective?

Many of these will already be familiar to you, I'm sure.

Service Transition
A major issue, as with so many projects, was that the project team made decisions with a significant impact on the  quality of service that could not be delivered without seeking the approval of the service management team, 

Many supposedly key aspects of the service were contractually specified as requirements for service acceptance and as targets for the service once it had gone live, but no effort was made to design and build tests during the project stage. Had an attempt been made to develop tests, and integrate them with UAT then someone might have noticed that many of the targets and service levels were nonsensical or ambiguous .

What do I mean by the targets being nonsensical? Pay attention because this is extremely important. I mean they were:
  • Impossible to measure. I mean logically impossible, not just difficult
  • Not relevant to the actual quality of service
  • Not measuring what people wanted them to be measuring
  • Not within the control of the supplier(s) to deliver
In many case these flaws could be traced back to targets being inherited from previous contracts and SLAs. Although the thin client solution highlighted their short-comings the truth is they were never good measures to begin with.

Those that were impossible to measure were often ones that were not relevant to the new architecture. For instance those measuring performance at a component level that no longer existed, or which were now hidden inside the cloud.

Often these were also measures that even if they could be measured couldn't be consistently mapped on to the customer or user experience. As an example because of  the way the system was designed to dynamically reconfigure itself it could run perfectly well one day with two portal servers unavailable, but the next day just one portal server failing could bring the entire service to a halt.

A far to common failing of targets is the seemingly universal flaw in logic which goes like this:

"I want to measure X. I can measure Y. Therefore Y must tell me about X"

How stupid is that, but we do it all the time. Do you measure average call waiting time on your ACD system? What is it that you actually want to know, measure and achieve? 

Write them down. Now.

Yes, I am looking at you, write down what you actually WANT to know.

Some suggestions:

"Do customers ring off because they get frustrated with waiting?"
"Does the call queuing system work effectively?"
"Do I need more staff on the help desk?"
"Do my users have reasonable expectations of the service?"
"How long does it take from a user first ringing the service desk until they speak to someone who can help?"
"How many customers are unhappy about how long they've had to wait for their call to be answered?"
"How many times does a customer call the desk before their call is answered?"

Now ask yourself if average time to answer recorded by an ACD system answers any of those questions.

A classic I came across on this particular project was that it was two years before the service desk provider let slip that they only counted waiting time after the caller had listened to the "Welcome" message. Their target was to pick up calls within 20 seconds. The welcome message typically lasted 45 seconds. Go figure.

And if you want a service delivered over the internet you can't hold your application supplier responsible for the poor transaction response time experienced by a user living on a canal boat moored in a cutting.  It didn;'t stop the user complaining though.

Something I've never understood about ITIL, especially considering OGC's wider role, is that it has never addressed that in the UK most IT services are dependent on outsourcing, and contracts are therefore key.

Where do I begin? Well to follow on from the previous section too many contracts are written with what went wrong the last time in mind, which might be wholly irrelevant today. 

Secondly far too often the parties agree on the words, but not on the meaning of the words, and again I'm afraid that ITIL does not address this. We can all agree that a service change should go to the CAB, but that is of little use if we don't agree what we mean by a change to the service.

Language and the Dramadriehoek
Pardon my Dutch. Customers, users, the retained organisation and different suppliers are rather like the Americans and the British. They are divided by a common language, which unfortunately they insist on talking to each other. Those of you, who unlike me, have mastered another language will know the peril of the "familiar friend" that expression you can easily translate into another language, but then has a wholly different meaning. 

Mail me for the sick joke that I could insert here but won't. It was told me by a Collector* in HMR&C**. 

The great challenge for ITIL and ISO 20k has to be understanding how you map supplier terminology onto customer and user terminology throughout the value network.

The Retained Organisation
Another opportunity to spit over you whilst attempting to say "dramadriehoek" The ITIL missing link is the role of the retained organisation/intelligent customer.  You need to understand what role you expect the retained organisation to fill, and  you need to realise that it will change over time. The RO should not be man marking the supplier and providing support when they make mistakes. THe RO should be setting the framework for supplier/customer/user interaction.

Service Credits and SLAs
Welcome to a basic lesson in economics. If I set myself up to deliver service A, and you apply constraints C which have I implications on how I can D Deliver the service...

...You get ACID, which is never good.

Punishing your supplier financially only works in a narrow subset of situations. Forget the sunk cost fallacy, what matters is how you can move forward.

Forget the mistakes of your past... what is it that matters now?


* A very very senior British Customs Officer
** If you want  a good night out go to a Burns Night with  the British customs.The man himself was a "Gauger" A well known founder of itSMF was once found lying in a hedge after one such event. I know it was a good night because after five years I finally understood every word the Scottish CFO at the Passport Office said to me. Pity I didn't understand him earlier when he was teaching me accountancy.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

ServiceSphere ITSM Weekly Podcast

I'm loathe to include these links, because you could argue the words were twisted from my mouth. Let us get this absolutely  straight, Focus is not a swear word, even if it is beeped out.

Go ahead and enjoy

ITSM Weekly the Podcast week 15

Week 16

Monday, 24 May 2010

10 Reasons Why Your Customers Are Like Poodles

Yesterday was a lovely sunny morning here in Warwickshire, so I thought the dogs would be looking forward to a walk by the river. Unfortunately I could only find one of them. Daisy, the toy poodle, had once again snuck under the supposedly poodle proof netting and escaped to see our neighbours. She was sat on their sofa being hand fed biscuits and watching re-runs of soaps on TV. It didn't matter how much I yelled "walkies" or Milly barked, Daisy wasn't moving.

Milly the elderly dalmatian and I had a nice peaceful walk, and the local rabbits were allowed to frolic without being chased by 2.5kg of kinetic energy personified.

Being me, I twittered about this.

Being an ITSM peep @glennodonnell co-author of The CMDB Imperative twittered back:

Sounds like the poodle found a better customer experience at the neighbor's house! 

What eventually enticed her back was providing a better experience for a different customer. As soon as I began cooking bacon for the two legged members of the Finister family she was back in our house like a flash.

As Glen said when I published the good news of the prodigal poodle's return:

See what happens when you improve the customer experience? The customer returns. There is an ITSM lesson here!

I think there is more than one ITSM lesson to be learnt, and here are 10 of them:

  1. However hard you try and fence your customers in they will still be curious about what is on the other side of the fence.
  2. The more you try and fence them in the more convinced they will become that what is on the other side is worth finding out about.
  3. The customer will make the effort to find out what other suppliers are offering
  4. The first time you'll find this out is when you see the customer cosying up to their new supplier.
  5. You won't get the customer back by just offering more of the same.
  6. Just because one  incumbent customer is happy with your service it doesn't mean others will be.
  7. Make a direct plea to them to come back and you face a dialogue ending rejection
  8. Openly providing an enhanced service to another customer can attract old customers back, even, he said in full on cynic mode, if the enhanced service isn't immediately available to the returnee. Think loyalty cards, for example.
  9. Customers defect for short term gain, they don't know they are supposed to care about total quality of service. 
  10. Don't relax. Always keep your ears and eyes open to what the customer is up to.

If you can hear a noise in the background, that's Daisy howling because she's spotted a sausage left on the BBQ.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

CoreITSM 101: ITSM Audits

To be truthful this probably isn't really a 101 subject, but I'm posting it here because 'audit' is a term you'll find used with casual abandon by those in the ITSM world who don't really understand what it is all about.

Not all audits are equal, and neither are all auditors 

In fact let us begin with the different types of auditor, because that has a massive bearing on the type of audit that can be carried out and the value that can be derived from it. 

In the ITSM world  the auditors you are most likely to meet include:

  • The independent quality auditor assessing management systems against an ISO standard
  • The consultant undertaking a supposedly independent audit  prior to and after an ITIL implementation
  • A 'tick and turn' internal auditor following a check list
  • A systems based internal auditor who will assess whether the system of  management control is effective and/or whether  Value For Money (VFM) is being achieved
  • A technical IT internal auditor who will be able to test and assess assess technical controls in detail
 Hopefully I don't need to dwell on the outmoded "tick and turn auditor" I still have nightmares about when the manager of a major government data center rang me up to complain that two of my trainee auditors were insisting he lifted the floor panels so they could check the voids for dust and debris, even though he had explained to them it was a solid floor.

If you read some of the ITSM literature you could be forgiven for thinking that ITSM audits are mostly undertaken by the teams responsible for each process. In reality this rarely happens, though, with several caveats, there are arguments in favour of it as one aspect of the overall audit process. 

So, what about the types of audits these guys and gals undertake?

The last time I checked I was a member of three BSI/ISO committees, so obviously I think ISO standards are a "good thing"  If you aren't British you might want to read '1066 & All That' to get the joke. The point is that these audits do exactly what it says on the can.  They do not look outside of their very specific remit, and that remit is the basic requirement of a management system. So if your IT supplier makes great play of being  ISO/IEC 20000 certified be sure you understand what that really means. it does not tell you anything about the actual quality of the service they are capable of delivering. What it does tell you is they haven't just cherry picked the 'easy' ITIL processes of incident and change management. It is a great starting point, but that is what it is, nothing more.

In another lifetime, before marriage, step-children, dogs, cats and degus I spent a lot of my time doing audits as part of consultancy assignments. Typically we would use a pseudo CMMI approach, because clients can understand the message

"You are here, but really it would be great if you here. Don't worry, it is OK if you only get to here, because we can rationalise it for you"

I'm actually a great fan of maturity models, and I think COBIT has done a good job of integrating them into the ITSM world. I believe, however, that most ITSM maturity models and assessments are flawed though, not least because they never explicitly address how we balance the maturity of an individual process against overall maturity. Being really really good at incident management is really really great, but it doesn't make you a mature service management organisation if you are not terribly good at request management. The classic example we see of this is people claiming to be at a high maturity level for change management but not for release management, service level management, capacity...or any of the other capabilities and processes that are essential to delivering world class change management.

Dare I suggest that the he people doing these audits want to sell you things. Then when they've finished selling you things they want to sell your success. So how much do you trust their audits? 

Now in contrast ITSM could do a lot worse than invest time and effort in cultivating your friendly systems based auditor. They will ask what it is you are trying to achieve, validate that outcome, and then assess whether you are are doing the right things to achieve it.  The only downside is they won't know what technology is capable of achieving...which is where your technically capable auditor comes on the scene. You can possibly sub divide this type of auditor into the one trick pony, who knows a lot about, say, security, and the technology auditor who also keeps a foot in the business world. Both have a valid role to play. 

So what about this concept that ITIL seems so fond of, the self audit approach? First of all let me be very pedantic and make two points. The first is that this is not 'Internal Audit'  Internal Audit  is a corporate governance function and, secondly, what Internal Audit has that the IT team doesn't is independence.

Leaving that aside though I believe there is considerable value in an internal team trying to take an objective view of their own performance.  After all no auditor will ask any question that management shouldn't have already asked themselves. However I think they need help to make it effective. So cultivate a friendship with the audit team, and ask them about Control Risk Self Assessment. Involve your stakeholders in the process, and above everything else make sure you focus on your ability to consistently deliver desired outcomes. 

Just because it has never gone wrong in the past doesn't mean it will always go right in the future

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Layers of Reality

I was lucky enough to meet Mark Toomey, author of  Waltzing With The Elephant,whilst he was in the UK last week, to discuss ISO 38500 . It is significant that we met at the offices of a major management consultancy firm who can see real value in getting ISO 38500 in front of the Board.

Equally significant I suspect is that the Rob England, the ITskeptic seems to have finally cottoned on to what I've been telling him about the standard for ages. It is the Board's responsibility not the CIO's.

We are talking about getting the best business outcomes from investment in IT, we are talking about controlling the environment in which ITSM operates, not about the internal management of ITSM. Hence we constantly distinguish "Governance of IT" from "IT Governance"

I'm looking forward to a really exciting debate at Pink11, and hopefully at this year's itSMF UK conference as well. Because trust me, there are issues that need debating.

Lots of discussions we have within the IT world are really interesting for us IT geeks, but not meaningful in a wider context. Take agile development for an example. Yes there are lots of pros and cons, but what I care about is does it help deliver business centric solutions that are timely and cost effective over the whole life cycle of the service.

Or lets look at ITIL. Nothing in ITIL matters unless it produces a positive business result.  Do you want time to digest that?

In positing the IT governance layer encapsulated in ISO 38500 we are saying that good governance of IT adds value to the business. I suspect you are either slapping your forehead in annoyance because I've just stated something blindingly obvious, or you are cursing me because you see the standard as yet another barrier to achieving what you believe IT should be doing and which will add additional layers of bureaucracy.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

CoreITSM 101: Reporting

I think it was Horace who said 'I labour to be brief but become obscure"

How apt for this post. Firstly recognise that any reports we produce are an attempt to distil reality that is doomed to failure and secondly many reports lose their meaning in translation  from IT terminology to business speak, or BS as some of us call it. In fact as far as the business is concerned are reports might as well be latine scripta sunt in. And of  course what  Horace actually wrote was

"Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio" 

At this point you might nod sagely and recall Churchill saying

"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."  

Shame on you though if you think that means statistics are stuff and nonsense. If you knew your Churchill you would know the great value he placed on statistical information. It is no coincidence that operational research grew up as a discipline during WW2.

I spent a lot of my early career producing New Scotland Yard's crime statistics so I could bore you to death for hours but let me keep it very simple :
  • Bad reports are worthless
  • Good reports are priceless
What is a good report?Again, very simple: It tells you something you did not not know before reading it.

Now if I want to fill a conference session I'll speak about reporting . Whatever advice I give, l know that what most of the audience actually want is a standard  list of the metrics they should produce .

Which means they haven't listened to a word I've said.

There is no golden list. What you need to report on is driven  by context. A report that might hav been vital last year might be just so much noise this year.

I hate doing this, but sometimes I have to. Let me give you some guidance that will help you realise you aren't producing useful reports. If it makes you feel better these are all lessons I've learnt the hard way .
  • If you don't produce the figures one month, does anyone notice or care ?
  • Do managers just pin your graphs up to decorate their offices ?
  • Can you tell a story about what the figures are telling you?
    You should be able to write at least three sentences:
    • what the figures mean
    • should we worry about what the figures mean
    • what should we do in response to the figures
Of course of you are on top of your game you will have:
  • Looked at individual figures in the context of what other figured are telling you.
  • Identified in advance the thresholds for when action is required, and those thresholds will enable you to avoid failure, not respond to it
  • Thought through the actions people need to take.
So today's homework: go away and assess the reports you currently produce against these criteria.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


You might have noticed it has been kind of quiet around here. Not so behind the scenes where a lot has been going on. There are plenty of articles in draft waiting to be published, including the latest instalment of Brandon Lane and Core ITSM 101 on reporting.

I've also been having some very interesting conversations about the governance of IT and ISO 38500.

So watch this space.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Augmented Reality

I suspect I am in danger of becoming an Android bore. To keep some balance lets look at an application that is also available for the iPhone, if you are that way iNclined.

Layars lets you view the world through your camera phone and overlay geographically linked data on it. So you might use it to find the nearest pub, restaurant or place of interest. More excitingly you could use it when visiting a historic site with facts and historic views being displayed in context, so you could see the troops massed on a battlefield that today is just a hillside.

Even more excitingly, because don't forget this is, sadly, a blog about IT Service Management, imagine an engineer turning up on site and being able to view overlay wiring diagrams and the identity of PCs and printers on the floor. Perhaps they could even use Latitude to identify where their contact person is. Better still, imagine how much easier it could make life in a server room you've never been to before. By the way, if any of you at this stage have a vision of Geordi La Forge in mind at this stage go away and get a life.

I used to get really annoyed with a client's supplier because they couldn't grasp that whilst their service management system was available to them even when the client's systems failed the poor client was running blind. Hence it was no use at all to send out a standard SMS message saying that it was being dealt with as incident number xxxxxxxxx because none of us could access Remedy or Notes. Imagine if instead they could have linked the client into a lite version of Remedy, and been able to integrate their internal chat streams into an edited version that the client could access via mobile devices. This isn't exactly rocket science. The technology for all this is already in place.

Over the years I've been involved with some interesting clients. A number have been supporting users  that are truly remote. I mean really remote: submarines, oil production platforms, supertankers, Alaska, ditches in Ulster and even Bracknell. To do that effectively you have to really enable the users. You simply can't send out a man in a van to xxxxxxxxxxxxstan  or some other location that I would have to shoot myself if I revealed*  Imagine how we could use new technology to do that. A user points the camera on their mobile at the back of their PC and can see instantly which cable should be plugged into which port. We send step by step diagnostic instructions to a user's phone so they know exactly what we need them to do.Our client side service manager can access the incident record even whilst all their systems are down

This is the future of service management, but we can implement it today.

*More worrying was the time I relieved myself in a ditch in Herefordshire whilst walking the Labrador  and was asked very politely by a if I wouldn't mind moving a few feet further along before continuing since I was making his training exercise rather too realistic.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Mobile social media

If you are reading  this post it means I've either mastered the art of blogging from my phone or you've received this message in error. Or possibly in Egypt according to my phone' predictive typing mode.

Oh yes, I've got a new phone. Not only that but it is the first phone that I've not chosen because of the great camera.  In fact the camera should be a lot worse than the one on my old phone. In reality it isn't, which as a lot to do with usability.

The killer feature for me about this phone, which is a HTC Desire "ifyouareinterestedbutevenifyouaren'tI'mgoingtoboreyoutodeathaboutitjustbegratefulI'mnotaniphoneboreactuallyseriouslythisblowstheiphoneoutofthewater", is the way it integrates social media.

I now have one virtual address book with SIM card, gmail, Twitter, Facebook  and Flickr contacts merged.

I can send updates to multiple sources and embed context rich data without thinking about it.

I can seamlessly access and integrate data sources . As an example I can overlay data about my location on to the view through the camera lens. Only this morning I stood in front of a village post box whilst the software told me there wasn't a post box within 1km of my location. But you get the idea, a walk to the shops begins to feel like a walk on part on Tron.

In theory this means if you are going to next week's SDI show in London on Wednesday there should be multiple ways to find me for a chat. Be my friend and switch Latitude on and I might be able to navigate to you with Google maps. On the other hand, just tweet or DM me.

Now look, isn't that scary, my phone is even telling you that I'm sat at home writing this.

Location : St Margarets Ave, Wolston, Warwickshire CV8 3,

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Grumpy Old Man

It's my birthday!

OK, I'm not actually that pleased.

As I get older the number of cards dwindles, the presents get less exciting, and the faculties begin to go.

On the plus side I can leave my youthful optimism aside and give in to my inner grumpy old man.

And gosh, isn't he grumpy!

I love being involved in customer service. I really do.

When I hear a story about great customer service it gets me really excited, motivated, and sometimes even tearful.

On the other hand the more customer horror stories I hear the more depressed, angry, and tearful I get.

So let me look back on the last year and remember the customer service highs and lows. You might want to do this with your own customers. In fact I recommend that you do.

So the good  memories....

For a long time Orange and I didn't see eye to eye. Something to do with their conviction that I was a drugs dealer just because I lived in the middle of Bristol's red light district, didn't have a  land-line, and made lots of international calls.

It still isn't a perfect relationship, but I don't wait that long to get through to them, and when I do the customer service agents have been unfailingly polite and  helpful. They have never, and this is so important , made a promise they haven't kept. If I have a real quibble it is their continued insistence on layering an Orange interface onto products that don't need it.

Inchcape Mercedes-Benz  made buying a car in an emergency a pleasure, and do a great job of keeping us informed of when services are due.

Dial a dog wash , fill my bowl, and our local vets all did a a great job of looking after our animals...

...and that is about it.

Now, on to the negatives.

Coffee shops. I'll just highlight the one I was most disappointed by, which was Cafe Nero. I love their ambiance, I like their coffee, the staff are friendly, but I don't understand why whenever I order a breakfast panini they leave it to burn. It didn't just happen once, it happened day after day. And here is where they really failed - they sent one of the world's greatest non-specific apology emails with a promise of both vouchers and an explanation - and then sent neither. #fail

OK I have to update this.Justina Virdee, the Head of Customer Services at Caffe Nero has just emailed me £15 of vouchers plus three free coffee vouchers. All of which I'll be sending to my step daughter so she can enjoy a modern university lifestyle And hey,Hannah's a very influential fashion blogger who gets paid for saying she just loves xxxxxxxx, so everybody wins. In my day we made do with a soggy sausage roll and nobody cared less about my opinions.

But hold on, there must have been 20 times when I paid for a breakfast panini that turned up burnt to a crisp. So does/should this restore my faith in Caffe Nero? What are your thoughts? Am I biased because I come from a customer service and process improvement background?

I know what is annoying me is there is no assurance that the same  mistake won't happen again.

Jessops. If ever a camera chain deserved to fail it is Jessops. So many times over the last year I've gone into a branch of Jessops ready to spend serious money and have been so totally ignored by the staff that I've walked out again. It isn't just about how they've treated me, it has been overhearing other conversations where their teenage staff have been dismissive of customers who clearly knew more about photography than they did.

TalkTalk. The classic case of layering mistake on to mistake. So You have a customer who is getting a service well below the specified standard?  Don't:publish statistics saying the service is wonderful, don't expect the customer to do detailed technical tests to prove the service  isn't acceptable, and don't ring up and ask to speak to my wife's ex-husband who has never lived at this address.

I could go on. There is the Italian restaurant chain where the waitress brought a stone cold garlic bread to the table with no garlic or butter on it, and when our friend complained brought it back, still stone cold, with some melted butter poured over it.

Or there is the global IT company that provided my client with a service that averaged 1.5 days downtime a month and then complained it was the client's fault that the help desk couldn't cope with the call volumes.

Now surely I must have made that one up...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The International Perspective

Have I mentioned on the blog how much I love cycling? Possibly not, but don't worry because at some point I'll blog at length about how different types of bike suit different people in different circumstances - just like services.

Cycling is on my mind at the moment because although I love the solitude of the open road, just me and my Brompton, I also love my annual cycling holiday with great friends, and my next trip to Ireland is coming up soon. Over the last day I've been getting emails from all of my cycle buddies updating me on what has been happening in their lives. The thing is I don't get to see them between trips, because they are scattered across the globe - except for a strange concentration around St. Paul, Minnesota. When we do meet up I love getting their different takes on the world. Sometimes that take makes perfect sense, sometimes it doesn't, but we are united by a common language, which is a laughable attempt at an Irish accent, to be sure, to be sure.

Now just before anyone accuses me of cheap racial stereotypes I'll just interject that I'm actually half Irish myself, and the  best ITIL project I was ever involved in was for the Irish Electricity Supply Board. In fact it quite justifiably won the itSMF Project of the Year award ten years or so ago.

Where was I before my thoughts began to wander towards a snug little Irish bar with a couple of musicians and a good craic? Ah yes, the internationalism of ITSM.

Just like my cycling friends I've acquired a bunch of  fellow travellers on the ITSM road from around the world. That ITIL should lose its strongly UK centric bias is great, but I can't help being protective of its Britishness. Sometimes coming across somebody else's interpretation of ITIL is like coming across an Irish theme pub run by Australians in an Italian ski resort. Yes, that is the voice of experience.

I'm now going to be hugely Anglo-centric and arrogant.

The UK has been at the forefront of developing new models for IT delivery.

Lots of things you might be sat there thinking could never happen have been a norm of IT in the UK for years. To give you an example I can't remember the last time I worked for an internal IT department that actually provided technical services rather than managing how they are delivered.  Recently I revisited a business I knew well and found out that in effect the out-sourced IT department was providing services to an out-sourced front office business unit. Front office, not back office.

Then there is the issue of the ITIL hype curve. Yes I know ITIL world wide adoption has become massive. Yes I know that means you can add a couple or more 0s to how many people are "ITIL qualified" But in the UK ITIL is just one of those things IT people are expected to know about, in the same way every manager level IT job advert in the UK says you should be PRINCE qualified.

Do you want to take away one major lesson from our experience in the UK? It is this: If you think you have achieved ITIL Nirvana after eighteen months, and can let the programme wither on the vine, then you are condemned  to repeat it all over again two years later when you realise you never really understood ITIL the last time around, in the same way that someone who isn't Irish will never really understand the craic.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Brandon Lane CIO - Episode 5

The PA From Hell

PAs are the natural born enemy of auditors. Their role in life is to protect their bosses from the auditor by any means possible, primarily by controlling their calender. Sadly for them auditors know this, and respond accordingly. In extreme cases they have been known to get access rights to the PA's account and put appointments in for themselves.

Flattery also usually works.

As Brandon wandered towards Jacques' old office he knew he was about to face one of his most fearsome tests. Lynda was, or at least had been. Jacques' devoted PA.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no man is a hero to his valet or his PA, however reluctant. Brandon guessed Lynda's perception of him was definitely biased towards the villain side of the spectrum

As he approached his office Brandon felt her ice cold stare resting on him.

Lynda was a lady of leisure. Her husband was a property developer and they lived in a house that Brandon could only dream of, as Ysabelle often reminded him. Brandon often wondered what motivated Lynda. Normally he decided it was all about perceived power. From his perspective he always tried to leave her with the feeling that she had won, whilst also getting the vital information out of her.

As he walked towards her this morning she looked positively evil.

He smiled at her and went straight into his office and started to count.

He'd got to ten before she stormed in.

"You'll find my resignation letter on the top of your in tray"

"Will I? Well thank you for that. Does it mention terms like constructive dismissal? Oh it does, well perhaps you would like to go and read the letter from Hans in your in tray before I open yours."

She stormed out.

She was back thirty seconds later.

"I don't have much choice really, do I?"

"I think you do Lynda. You can carry on working for me as you did for Jacques, or we can promote you to manage the PAs across the organisation, with the associated targets for productivity and redundancies. What would you rather do?"

If looks could kill Lynda's probably would have done.

Brandon also realised she was finally taking in the changes he had made to the office. With Hans' agreement he had spent Sunday stripping it out. Gone were the wallpaper graphs saying that IT had achieved the 90% availability target. Gone were the green hessian walls. Most striking of all, gone was the CIO's desk.

Imagine that: A C level office with no desk in it, just some comfortable chairs arranged around a coffee table. He decided he would wait until tomorrow before getting rid of his in and out trays.

Brandon could see Lynda was struggling..

"No sugar thank you, and can you tell my team that Monday morning prayers start in twenty minutes?"

So what exactly do you do?

"I use TQM to build new ITIL paradigms through empowered PMBOK team dynamics. Dogbert, meet Daisy."

I rather liked Matt Hooper's tongue in cheek response on twitter as @VigilantGuy to my last post. If you remember I left you trying to explain what you, as an ITIL/ITSM professional, actually do.

The Hoop-meister's parady compares well to the actual nonsensical management speak produced recently by the CIO at News International. OK, so I guess I won't be getting any consultancy work from them in the near future*.

Back to the question in hand though. 

If someone tells me they are a lawyer, or an accountant, or a nurse then I have a pretty good idea, in layman's terms, of what they do and what they know. The lawyer might go on to say they specialise in contract law, the accountant to say that they are a forensic accountant, and the nurse that they specialise in geriatric care. I would still have some idea of what they do, the value they deliver, and the relevance of their training to the job they are doing. I also know that I wouldn't want legal advice on a contract, an investigation into a major fraud, or the care or an elderly and infirm relative to be entrusted to someone who did not have relevant training and experience.

Does having an ITIL qualification mean a reasonably well informed layman, AKA a customer, will know what you are capable of doing, and provide them with an assurance that you are capable of doing the job?

Let that question hang in the air whilst I hare off in a slightly different direction.

Anyone who has gone through ITIL training in recent years will be bored stiff of being told that functions, processes, capabilities and job titles are different kinds of thing AND SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH ONE ANOTHER. Sorry, the capitalisation was a typing error, but for anyone who has done a foundation course it seems rather apt to keep it in.

At some point though, in that strange thing we call the real world, we have to put these concepts together to create an organisational design, we need to derive job descriptions from them, we need to recruit and develop staff and however clichéd it is we have to deliver value to our customers.

So what does "An ITIL expert" do, where do they fit, and how do they add value?

Can you actually be a standalone ITIL expert, or do you have to be an  X+ ITIL expert.  A service level manager and ITIL expert, for example?

If someone comes up to me at a party and says "I'm an ITIL expert" how should I react? What if they introduce themselves that way at a project kick off meeting? Incidentally I doubt there are more than, oh twelve people worldwide who can justify having "IT evangelist" on their business cards. The rest of you have delusions of grandeur. Sorry to break it to you here. And no, I don't include myself in those twelve.

Where am I going with this and why is it an issue?

I'm not sure about the where I'm going with it question, but it concerns me because on the one hand I'm seeing people promoting their ITIL "expertise" as if it is an end in itself, and on the other hand I'm seeing job adverts asking for the currently mythical ITIL v3 Masters qualification as a pre-requisite. I'm sorry, but that doesn't fill me with confidence.

In the early days of ITIL we were clarifying, reinforcing and enhancing existing IT roles. Along the way new roles emerged:

- Service management  director
- Service delivery manager
- Service level manager
- Business relationship manager

And I guess more recently Service catalogue/portfolio manager.

Roles such as configuration manager and change manager have also been enriched by ITIL. But at the end of the day, gosh I hate that cliché, we still have to do the day job.

At the same time we can't expect a small. un-empowered, service management team to achieve miracles.

In the UK, at least, I'm seeing too many job adverts that require the applicant to wear their underpants on the outside of their body hugging costume and achieve the impossible.

Post to follow on job adverts to avoid and questions to ask your recruitment agency...

*Just a  quick reminder that despite**  all the horrible things I say about both consultants and ITSM  I am currently available for ITSM consultancy gigs that are a little out of the ordinary

**OK, perhaps it is because I call it as it as it is.