Thursday, 27 December 2012

ITSM Predictions for 2013

Last year’s post on my predictions for 2012 turned out be very popular. So I guess it is worth taking time to look back and say where I was right and where I have yet to be proved right. 

I’m going to make a smaller set of new predictions for 2013 because in some ways I think we’ll see more evolution than revolution.

So how did I do last year?

1. Service Integration

I predicted this to be big in 2012, and it was.

If you didn’t notice this then it is probably because many of the deals that were done in this domain remain under wraps for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that a lot of SI is being driven by commercially sensitive big business changes within the organisations that are adopting it.

I’m glad to say that TCS, and my team in Europe in particular, have been at the forefront but the reality is that SI remains relatively immature within the industry and so my follow on prediction for 2013 is that you will begin to see collaboration across suppliers to develop a standard framework for SI to make life easier for suppliers, third party advisers and for customers.

2. Service Architecture

My prediction was that we would see a realisation of the fundamental importance of understanding of how systems and IT services map on to business value networks and a higher profile for OBASHI and the emergence of a new breed of top down architect.

This was certainly backed up by my experience of the year as it unfolded with many of the deals I worked on being built around a joint ITSM and Architectural transformation. OBASHI has certainly become part of the IT lexicon even if many of us haven’t yet reached a final conclusion about its usefulness

3. Service Design

Sadly this was one of my misses. ITSM seems intent on remaining resolutely inside-out with the customer experience bolted on to the solution rather than driving the solution

4. Shadow IT 2.0

Perhaps it is just my perception but as the year has progressed I’ve seen a real shift away from “we won’t support BYOD” and towards “BYOD is a reality, so how do we support it?”

We’ve also seen a rise in consumer orientated cloud solutions which I suspect will have far-reaching implications for commercial use of the cloud.

My 2013 prediction is that we will see an increased number of SI deals where both the provisioning of the service and the business involvement in the management of services will be key factors , and a lot less fear and denial.

5. Service Desk 2.0

There is no doubt in my mind that 2012 is when self service came of age. It was notable at this year’s SDITS show that there had been a real sea change in people’s attitude towards it. It is also clear that it is very high up on the business customers’ wish lists.

In the UK the SDI seems to be going from strength to strength and becoming a much more authoritative and innovative organisation, building on the excellent foundations that have been established in recent years.
There is still a lot of work to be done in freeing up preconceptions and constraints about the role of the Service Deck that belong to the last century.

My 2013 prediction is that this will prove to be painful for the ITSM community and for individuals working in the Service Desk, but ultimately will prove to be empowering.

6. Soft Skills

I argued that in 2012 people would” become a clear differentiator between service providers. When times are tough you turn to those you can trust to see you through the hard times.”

Again I can only speak from my own experience but time and again prospective clients echoed this message.  Not only that but I suspect several incumbent suppliers have had a wake-up call as they have lost  out to suppliers prepared to put effort into building relationship.

It was interesting as well to see the positive response Matt Burrows got whenever I saw him present on SFIA this year .

My prediction for 2013 is there will be a real focus on non-IT professional skills within the Retained Organisation, such as vendor management.

7. Hard Facts - Hard choices

I said “ IT in 2012 is going to have to be able to objectively support every spending decision it makes There are going to be some very hard choices made as a result. There will be real pressure on internal  IT to demonstrate how it is adding value, and a shift towards outsourcers providing the bulk of utility IT services on a wholesale basis. Remember though, like quality, cheapness comes at a price.”

So just substitute 2013 for 2012 and it will hold good for next year as well.

8. ITIL is so 2011

OK, I’m not sure if when I wrote this prediction I knew quite what Aale Roos had in store for us with his approach to Unlearning ITIL, or as he might say

“Älä kuuntele kaikkea tuota hullua ITIL juttua”

Nor did I see the violently emotional reaction this would provoke, primarily in those with British blood and of a certain age. I’ll be honest I don’t think it showed us in a good light, especially when other countries seemed to get where Aale is coming from.

I’ve inadvertently become a bit of an apologist for Unlearning ITIL. Unfortunately I think many who are criticising it are not listening to what is actually being said, and are defending aspect of ITIL based on what they would like to be true about ITIL rather than reality itself.

That reality is that ITIL, and the current official ITIL training, isn’t really that useful to those who most need it. That is those who are just starting out on the ITSM journey and need sound basic advice, and those faced with new ITSM challenges associated with new technologies and delivery models.

My predictions for 2013 in this are that we will see more ITSM activity that pays no more than lip service to ITIL, increased interest in COBIT5, and some increasingly angry comments from people who really should be worrying about their blood pressure these days.

9. A New Kind of Event

My prediction was “ Don't expect to see an out and out revolution in 2012, but do expect to see some of the established ITSM events asking some hard questions of themselves and making a real effort to adopt to new realities with more interaction, more ways for those who can't attend in person to participate. “
I always find it hard judging ITSM events in retrospect. As I’ve said so often on the podcasts I’m very aware that I’m not the target audience for most conferences, but I think this came partially true. 

The big new event, at least as far as the ITSM social media community was concerned was TFT12, which did indeed set out to be intrinsically different and it will be interesting to see where the concept leads.

10. Same Old Same Old

Oddly enough if I messed up anywhere with last year’s predictions I think it was in this section, except that Stephen Mann’s blog remains very popular and yes we had some major outages in the run up to the holidays.

New Predictions for 2013

Notwithstanding what I’ve said about Stephen Mann’s blog I think we are seeing the death of the individual consistently influential ITSM blog. There is still some very high quality material being pushed out on blogs, but day to day ITSM reading for many will be based on the ITSM communities with blogs only attracting interest when a post is particularly important.

I have a suspicion, and it is no more than that at the moment, that cost models capacity management and contract management will be hot topics.  I’m also tempted to suggest that 2013 will be the year of IT Governance as a truly mainstream topic.

And  remember if these things don't happen in 20123 it doesn't mean I'm wrong.

It just means I'm still ahead of the curve, for yet another year.

For two alternative views of 2013 I recommend Stephen Mann's Challenges for 2013 and the musings  the ever amusing IT Swami shared with Rob England.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Episode 13: A New Beginning

In the last episode of Brandon's Dickens and ITSM fueled fantasy he met Ian Clayton, the Ghost of ITSM Future and was sacked by the CEO. There is, of course, no connection between these two events. Now read on...


"You are forgetting that I'm an ex-auditor"


(For those who haven't yet got it the character of the Ghost owes much to Terry Pratchett's anthropomorphic personification of Death, who ALWAYS TALKS IN CAPITALS and doesn't really get on with the Auditors)

"So first of all I'm rational enough to know that this is still a dream sequence in which all my anxieties about taking over the role of CIO of a dysfunctional IT organization are playing out "


"Probably not quite as well as my second point, which is that being the ex Chief Internal Auditor I know where all the bodies are buried, and might even have stood at the graveside and passed Hans the shovel on a few occasions. So I know he wouldn't really sack me when he could just promote me. Again."


"Referring you back to my point that this is a fantasy I think we can dispense with the cardboard box. Especially since in reality I spent most of the weekend lugging them around moving office. Also, by the way, if your constant references to the cardboard box are a feeble attempt to set up a punchline about 'out of the box thinking' then I can do without it"

The Ghost looked slightly crestfallen.


"Anyway, I've read my Dickens so I'm guessing this is only a possible version of the future, not the inevitable one. So rather than packing up and giving up I want to learn from it. First of all can you show me how this is impacting other people?"



Afterwards both the Ghost and Brandon agreed that probably hadn't been the best idea. The party to celebrate the demise of IT was still in full swing when they left.


"I have to say that I am a little curious, though also a little fearful....."


"No, it turned out rather well for me didn't it? A partnership at that management consultancy firm, the start up cloud based service management tool company, the brilliant moment where Hans approached me asking for a job...."


"But what about my people? What about my team, what happened to them?"

They stood outside the building and watched them leave. Not only the IT staff but even the ITIL Imps came skulking out of the lower basement . It struck Brandon that in daylight some of the imps actually looked quite Elvish.

Initially he was quite surprised to see Dmitri, the Head of Development, and Maarten, the Head of Security leaving the building along with the others. They and their teams had always been the survivors, adept at ensuring the blame always landed in someone else's in box.

As if reading his thoughts the Ghost spoke


Next came Jake, the young techie Brandon had met only that morning. Brandon noticed he was carrying one of the largest cardboard boxes, stuffed in roughly equal measure with manuals and sci-fi memorabilia.

"Where's Richard, the Service Desk Manager?"


"And what about Kelly, I don't see her here at all"

In a blink they were back in the Service Desk area. It was deserted. Where Kelly normally sat there was just a dusty abandoned headset lying forlornly against a blank screen.

"I've seen enough. Is there somewhere I can go to find out how to stop this all happening? Somewhere where...."


"Hi Brandon"


They were in a piano bar. It could have been any time of day or night, which was the first clue Brandon got that they were in Vegas.  The  person who'd just greeted him by name was the piano player, though he didn't look like your typical piano player and the Scottish accent was unexpected. He was playing a cover version of Sarah Vaughan's 'What's so bad about IT' which Brandon thought a touch insensitive.

They were sat in a circle of empty chairs. A second man walked up to them, sat down and said

"Hey Brandon, Älä kuuntele kaikkea tuota hullua ITIL juttua."

This, thought Brandon, is going to be interesting.....


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Episode 12: The Ghost of ITSM Future

A quick recap, because after all it is exactly a year since the last chapter appeared. I've been busy, so get over it. Brandon Lane CIO fell asleep whilst waiting for his first Monday morning team meeting, and has been visited in turn by Ivor Evans, the Ghost of ITSM Past and Jimbofin, the Ghost of ITSM Present. Now, as he finds himself in the office of an increasingly irate CEO with Wysiwyg, the ITSM Imp,a third ghost has appeared; that of ITSM Future or Ian Clayton as he is otherwise known.

Now read on,:

"Oh ghost of ITSM future, I fear you most of all" Declared Brandon, in what he himself would admit was an overly melodramatic tone.


Pause for a beat


"But will it be painful?"


By now Wysiwyg had transferred his attention from Han's to the new ghost and was busy trying to prod him instead. The Ghost  bent down and picked the imp up by the scruff of the neck.


Where there should have been a dreadful shriek and a flash of lightning leaving behind nothing but a foul smell there was nothing, apart from the foul smell that lingered like references to ITIL v3 over a year after the release of 2011 Edition.

"Hello," said Wysiwyg "It seems I'm still here."


"Nope, why change a winning strategy?"

Actions, it is said, speak louder than words. This particular action on the part of the Ghost of ITSM Future involved an elegant drop-kick that propelled Wyswig out of the window without having the chance to open it first.


Hans stood rubbing his ankles where Wysiwyg had been stabbing him and survyed the room. Since Wysiwyg was an intangible being the window was still intact  and the Ghost of ITSM Future being a figment of Brandon's imagination  the main thing Hans found to survey was Brandon.

"IT is a complete and utter mess in this organisation. You keep asking us to invest in new technologies and new ways of running IT but the end result always seems to be the same.  Well from now on things are going to be different. From now on we will be investing in technologies directly, and doing things differently ourselves. I've just been meeting with the management consultants and we've agreed the new IT strategy is to move everything to the Cloud."

Hans, The Ghost and Jimbofin pronounced in unison the holy words that mention of the Cloud required:

"Whatever that means"

"What it means, Brandon, is that you are fired."


(to be continued....?)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ban The SLA

At the recent itSMF UK conference in London one of the more controversial slides was Mark Smalley's "Ban the SLA" which got a round of applause in the room but unleashed some pretty emotional debate afterwards and on the podcast.

I asked Mark to expand on his thinking for this blog, and this is his response. Before anyone posts a particularly inflammatory response I should say there seemed to be some sort of eventual consensus at the conference that the slogan has to be seen in conjunction with the concept of a Service Charter, as Mark suggests.

Ban the SLA

Business people just don’t get it.

This strange stuff that we IT folk force-feed down their throats.

Like SLAs.

All very high-ceremony, with formal procedures for this and that, most of which seems inside-out if not inside-in. Subtle differences between incidents, problems and service requests.


They only play along with this SLA nonsense because they know that it’ll cost them even more time and energy to get us to change our ways. So then we get into discussions about response times and resolution times with us saying
 “No we can’t possibly guarantee a resolution time because one of the widgets is out of support”.
And they say “Yes but all I want to know is what kind of a delay will I have when there’s an outage”
… “Oh, we couldn’t possibly say – it depends on so many variables” …
 “But you’ve been doing this for years, surely you know what to expect?”

And so it continues, ending up with both sides adding preconditions and exceptions and penalties. This reminds me of the build-up of nuclear weapons half way through the previous century. And the Ban the Bomb movement and nuclear disarmament.

I believe that the time has come for the Ban the SLA movement leading to an Anti-Ballistic SLA Treaty and a Strategic SLA Limitation Treaty (SALT), leading in turn to Service Level Agreement Termination (SLAT) and SLA disarmament.

An interesting alternative to SLA’s is the Service Charter. Not the same Service Charter as defined by ITIL 2011 as “A document that contains details of a new or changed service” but a high-level document that sets intentions and general expectations. Deakin University in Australia has a good example and, strangely enough, most service charters seem to be used down-under. It’s only fair to state that that a service charter is not detailed enough replace the contract between business and IT, but it is certainly a more fitting instrument to lull them into a false sense of security before launching our all-out service level attack.  

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

We Need to Talk About the Service Catalogue

Back in 2009 one of the first posts on this blog was a link to an article I wrote with Michael Jagdeo about how much rubbish is talked about the Service Catalogue. Since that article is no longer available, and taking into account some of the recent heated discussion on Twitter and Back2ITSM perhaps it is time to re-visit the key points.

The sad thing is most of what you read or hear about the SerCat has little relationship to the real world. Of course there are people who want you, or convince themselves, that it is the most important thing ever. Usually this is because:
  • They can charge you a lot of money for their product
  • They can charge you a lot of money for a year's work helping you create a service catalogue
  • Having spent a lot of money on a product and consultancy they aren't going to admit it didn't achieve anything - so if nothing else they'll claim it moved them to ITIL v3


Before talking about the truth I guess we need to address the  two big myths,

"The service catalogue was the big innovation that distinguished ITIL v3"

Funny that, because back in 1993 we were teaching about the service catalogue on ITIL courses and you'll also find it referred to in PD0005, the BSi guide to Service Management published in 1998.

To be fair back then the guidance was so vague that you were pretty much on your own. The examples we used to hand out on courses were orientated towards sales and projects - so a new external customer or a new project starting up could be made aware of the options available to them in choosing new services. In the service catalogue you might find the gold, silver and bronze contingency options, and whichever one the customer chose would end up in the SLA.

The other thing to point out here is that much of the utility that  ITIL now attaches to the service catalogue and portfolio would still have been done under previous versions of ITIL but under different headings. For instance we preached that CMDB and the cost model needed to be tightly coupled .Services were a "virtual CI" and output cost units equated to services. We also recognised that portfolio management was going on within the wider context of the IT department.

OK, that's a history lesson. It doesn't have a material impact on whether or not you should be implementing a service catalogue.


"Introducing a customer facing Service Catalogue improves the customer perception of IT"

What gets me about this one is that no one seems to ever ask the customer. Whilst I don't subscribe to the view that all of ITIL is too theoretical this is one case where I do think ITIL has lost touch with reality and swallowed the kool-aid of wishful thinking. It amounts to

"We think the customer should like it, so they must do"

So what  happens in reality? The IT department spends a year producing a two inch thick document, or an impenetrable Sharepoint site. How does the business react?

"Wow, that's fabulous, after giving you millions of pounds year after year you can finally tell us what it is you actually do?"


If you are a CIO who needs a service catalogue project to identify what you do for your customers I think you should seriously consider another career. Especially when, in the majority of cases, when the business open the Service Catalogue they find it almost totally inaccessible and that it talks about services in a language that is resolutely unaware of just how "inside-out" it is.

What the business actually think is:

"Are you telling me you guys didn't know what it is that you do?"
"There is nothing in here that I recognise as a service"
"How is this supposed to help me?"
"Well I won't need sleeping tablets anymore"

Now some of you will be thinking that this only applies to a badly constructed service catalogue and that a good one would deal with all of these issues. The problem with that is I still haven't seen an example of a "good" service catalogue that stands up to scrutiny.

Hands up here, I include the ones that I've occasionally been forced to write.

At this point let me quote that brilliant Irish comedian Dara O Briain at one of his less successful early gigs

'This is awful, I am causing you more pain than you are causing me.’

So let me suggest...

What You Really Need to Do

First of all take away from ITIL the bits that are good and useful.

  • You and your customers do need to know what services you offer.
  • Different audiences at different points in the service lifecycle need different views of your service portfolio 
  • Services are customer facing 
  • Services are what you should cost and price
If your customers ask you what you do that adds value for them then you don't know your services.
The Architectural Review Board need a different view of your services to the one the HR Director needs, and that is different again from the one a service designer needs. What they all need is different from what you need yourself to manage services internally.
Database tuning is NOT a customer facing service.
If you can't easily integrate IT costs and process with the business cost model then you probably aren't costing services.

That's pretty much it really, but here are some more tips.

Understanding your services doesn't mean being able to look them up in a catalogue.  Watch how a good salesmen sells. What they understand is the customer need and how they make the customer feel that need has been fulfilled. That means being able to engage the customer in a conversation about what a service means for them.

Make sure you understand the fundamental difference between an aspirational service  catalogue aimed at customers and a transactional request catalogue aimed at users. Integrate the request catalogue with the service desk self service portal.

Understand that business services aren't simple to identify - the business operates a complex value network.

Understand how good cost models work and apply that thinking to your service model.

And most important of all...

If you are going to build a service catalogue "for the business" at least have the decency to ask them what they want it to look like and how they think they might use it.



Friday, 9 November 2012

My First ITSM Conference

To balance out my own view of this year's itSMF UKconference I've asked Andrea Kis to provide a practitioner's perspective:

" I have been always a keen follower of itSMF and its events, contributors, publications and occasionally I have even managed to get hold of the Service Talk Magazine to read too. Sadly so far I haven't worked for organisations who were members so attending the annual ITSM conference was always a very distant wish.

This year, however, thanks to an amazing offer from Matthew Burrows at BSM Impact to collaborate on an article about Business Relationship Management, I have found myself being involved with itSMF UK despite not being a member. Our article was published in the summer edition of Service Talk Magazine and later it became a finalist in the Submission of the Year Awards.

Then thanks to even more kindness and generosity by Sophie Danby of Ovum and Ben Clancy and itSMF UK I was invited to ITSM12 taking place in London.

I was incredibly excited about the conference because I believe that meeting like-minded professionals is the perfect opportunity to broaden my own knowledge, share and exchange ideas and learn a lot. As a comparative novice in the Service Management industry I was very excited to be meeting some of my ‘ITSM Heroes’ in person and I was very much looking forward to seeing the presentations of those who I have seen presenting on other conferences and I've learnt to expect good thought provoking topics from.

What surprised me at the conference was the one shade of gray of the delegate ‘pool’. There were moments when I’ve felt I was possibly in the wrong place, as if I had wondered into a Victorian British Gentlemen’s Club in St James’s. It made me wonder where are the new faces in Service Management, where are the newcomers, where are the new generation passionate service managers who can continue and build upon the established building blocks of this industry? I wonder what can be done to bring out more of the ‘freshers’ into the light?

I think I would try and reach out to more practitioners, engage with them before the conference, give platforms to more real life studies and practitioner experiences. It is the perfect opportunity for all on different experience levels to get together.

I love networking, and being a bit of a Miss Chatterbox [Editor’s note: We’d noticed] I really enjoyed all the conversations I had with fellow delegates. It would  be good however if delegates could have more opportunity to be able to bond and chat without having to do so on the vendor exhibition floor, on the limited space lunch area and bar or between seminars when you need to rush to the next presentation.

I was also surprised to see how many ‘theorists’ attended and how rare it was to bump into a real life practitioner, someone  who doesn't just preach the best practice theories and frameworks but actually does them. It would be great to see more presentations by practitioners to see how something can be achieved and done. I would love to hear about CSI, problem management, business and IT alignment, basically all those exciting hot topics and theories told in practice, in real life. I may be too passionate but it frustrates me if I hear or read too much about what doesn't work, how it should work or what should be done about it, yet I don't see many practical solutions and real life examples.

Because of this reason I thoroughly enjoyed Angela Wint’s (London Borough of Merton) presentation Turning Adversity into Advantage – Supporting the Council’s Transformation Strategy It was an excellent insight into the journey of the Council’s transformation agenda and how was it supported by IT.

Also I have been extremely taken by Mark Smalley’s presentation Reinvent IT Service Management and Pre-empt Occupy IT which made me realise that I am a partisan revolutionary service manager who has never been limited by thinking inside the ‘IT box’. After his presentation I was even more determined to go poke and persuade others working in IT to open their eyes and stop worrying about the so called gap between IT and the Business and between IT processes and Business processes. That gap is something we created for ourselves in a space where there shouldn't be any gap at all.

It was a real pleasure to meet Paul Wilkinson finally whose blog is a big favorite of mine since I’ve read an excellent rant about why everything is IT’s fault

I have always had a deep respect for Stuart Rance and Aale Roos so I was delighted to meet them in person. Aale’s Unlearning of ITIL and Stuart’s common sense approach to service availability is something everyone should learn from. Meeting Kevin Holland, who was weirdly kind and made me laugh a lot, embarrassing Jimbo Finister with my outspoken battle comments (he will hide under chairs when Hurricane Kis will approach next) and finally meeting Mark Lillycrop in person were other peak points of my conference experience I will fondly remember.

It was great to discover that I am not the only maniac who demands amazing quality of service and observes service processes everywhere. This discovery even resulted in inventing a buzzword for 2013 with Michael Busch (ServiceBlub) and Mark Smalley: OCSD (Obsessive-Compulsive-Service-Disorder). This is something we want to build upon and expand it’s possibilities so watch this space.

I would also like to say a few words about meeting Kathryn Howard who is a delightful, beautiful lady with a strong intelligent presence to look up to. The service management industry needs strong women so other women can be inspired to follow a career path into it.

All in all it was an excellent experience attending ITSM12. Thank you for those who made it possible for me to attend and my thanks to everyone whose task was to make the event possible and made everything run smoothly. Ben disguised as a wedding party organiser with an ear piece and organiser in his hand, the facilitators, guests and presenters alike."

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


This year was the 21st itSMF Conference. I nearly didn't go. I'm glad I did. Some people didn't.

What more do you need to know?

The event has settled comfortably into the two day London based format and this year everything from registration through to the pacing of the awards dinner seemed slicker than ever. The two day format does come with a couple of catches. A 9.15 start makes a very long day for those of us traveling to the event  on the Monday. I had to be up at 5 am and found my bed at 1 am . Needless to say others were up much later than that in the bar enjoying the now mandatory piano sessions with Matt Burrows and Barclay Rae. With only two days and six streams the chances are also higher that interesting sessions are going to clash with each other.

What one person finds interesting might not be what others want to hear. I'm very conscious of this whenever we discuss events on the podcast  because we go to so many conferences that it is hard for us to judge their value to first time and practitioner attendees. Most of the feedback I heard was positive, and that certainly came across in the two very animated conference review podcasts we recorded and which should be out soon. I've also got Andi Kis to write a review from her perspective as a practicing service manager.

Talking of feedback I was disappointed by the low level of Tweeting going on using the #ITSM12 hashtag. Mostly it was the usual suspects, which was fine but they also tended to all be in the same sessions. It would have been good to have had tweet walls around the venue as well instead of the odd single, and often very out of date tweet going up on the screen. Whilst I'm talking of feedback the conference app was a useful tool but could do with a few tweeks to make its use more obvious.since it took me quite awhile to discover where the session  feedback button was. Perhaps I'm just a bit slow when it comes to all this technology malarkey.

So what about the sessions?

Simon Wardley was an interesting opening keynote speaker who delivered the sort of data and content rich material I like. Others in the audience I spoke to seemed to like it too. I'm not sure if any of us took in everything he said but for me it certainly kick started a conference experience that was about disruptive evolution rather than desperately trying to maintain the status quo.

Being the TCS European Lead for Service Integration I couldn't really resist Steve Morgan's session on Service Integration. It was one of many sessions this time around that I thought would have benefited from a longer time slot because SI is a big topic with lots to debate. I believe an upcoming itSMF London  and South East Regional group meeting in January is going to do just that with Kevin Holland scheduled to be one of the speakers. As for Steve's conclusions, well it is interesting to see that all of us involved with SI recognize that it is a developing area and neither suppliers nor in house IT departments are really up to speed on it yet.

Speaking of Kev Holland I missed his session on Service Integration and the cloud so I had to wait until we recorded the podcast with him to discover that "What the Romans did for us" was to coin the phrase caveat emptor. I still don't know what Boris Johnson did for us though.

If I'm honest I was a little disappointed in the one practitioner war story session I went to. Angela Wint from Merton Council has been a great guest on the podcast and was a well deserving winner of the 2011 ITSM Champion award so perhaps my expectations were set too high and in contrast to Steve's session I thought the material on introducing self service was stretched out to fill the slot. Others raved about it though.

I missed out on a lot of the official conference activity over lunch and the early afternoon whilst having the sort of intense ITSM conversations that only happen at an event like this. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding  the networking and discussions that take place provide a lot of the value of attending these conferences. For me it was a personal delight to meet up with so many international speakers and visitors, especially those I hadn't seen since Pink 11. Equally it was enjoyable to broker some introductions between my connections.

It wasn't until I was on the way home after day 2 that I realized how few exhibitors I'd spoken to even though I had a long list of those I wanted to chat with. In fact I'm not sure any of them even managed to scan my badge. I also didn't get to meet many new faces although I know many were at the event for the first time. The exhibition was clearly a success with people were showing a genuine interest in the stands they were visiting rather than just killing time. APMG deserve a special mention for the mini seminars on a wide range of topics they were offering on the stand as well as some very refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails.

The real interest for me was in the first two sessions I went to on day 2.

Aale Roos and I have been collaborating for some time on the concept of Service Desk 2.0 and he has been making waves with his message that it can be useful to Unlearn ITIL. In the Nordics this has led to him being recognized as a major contributor to the ITSM industry. Having seen some of the venom that has been unleashed on him by the old guard here and on other blogs I was intrigued to see how his session was going to be received. I'd already been told there was disquiet in the iTSMF UK about its content, so I was keen to get a ringside seat.

I think Aale himself knows that the thinking behind Unlearning ITIL still needs some work. The result is that it is easy to find individual elements of the presentation to pick on and pull apart and in doing so to believe you are undermining the whole concept. I'm afraid that's exactly what one well known member of the audience did. It made for some interesting traffic on twitter.

My take-aways on the subject at the moment are:

  • ITIL is claimed to best practice but  even in basic areas such as incident and problem management what ITIL suggests isn't in line with Lean, ToC, Agile, and  (non-ITIL) Service Design thinking or the best approaches to those subjects outside of ITSM
  • The customer and user view of service expectations is evolving much more rapidly than the underlying ITIL operating model
  • Education that focuses on what ITIL says distracts delegates from exploring how to make ITSM work in practice
I'm sure Aale will comment himself on whether that is a fair representation of his position, but I have to say reading what I've just written it makes perfect sense to me and echoes what I'm seeing in the real world.

Aale did make a point of stressing in the podcast that he isn't advocating throwing the ITIL baby out with the bathwater.

The session led to probably my favourite tweet of the conference, from Clare Agutter

Their tiny arms make it hard to tweet #itsmdinosaur

If retweets are anything to go by though I think Mark Smalley's session probably produced the most popular tweet of the event, and since I sent it I got the benefit of all the klout:

IT is Something the business don't understand delivered by people they don't trust

Mark, whose job title seems to have changed from IT Paradigmologist to Ambassador, gave an inspiring session on the reality of trying to understand the business and how BiSL might help. One comment of his that got the room clapping but divided opinion was

Ban SLAs

Let us be honest SLAs don't really capture the essence of the true service that the customer wants, and as we know metrics drive behaviours so if the targets are sub-optimal so is the service.

I spent the last two hours of the conference recording two episodes of the podcast and I really wish we'd done them as a formal session in front of an audience because the debates were really powerful. So let me thank our international band of contributors

Kaimar Karu, Stuart Rance, James Norris, Ros Satar, Kathryn Howard, Kevin Holland, Aale Roos and Ben Clacy. Unfortunately my lens wasn't wide enough to get them all in. Ben's contribution was linked to the upcoming joint venture "sale" of ITIL and his time was very much appreciated when I'm sure he had better things to do with the conference coming to a close.

I did feel that both overall attendance was down, and some sessions were very poorly attended  so I'm waiting to hear what the official figures were. I did notice some companies and individuals were noticeable by their absence, and a few people told me that with money being tight they might got to the SDI conference instead next year.

Overall conclusion? As always it was an enjoyable event and it was great that this year there were a few more sessions pushing the boundaries and leaving ITIL trailing in their wake. Will I definitely be going next year? Well that depends on a lot of factors but I'm not a very representative member of the audience. If you haven't ever been to one, or you haven't been for a couple of years then I think it is a good investment.

Friday, 17 August 2012

In my list of what really matters... might surprise you to know ITSM is nowhere near the top.

I mention this because my twitter persona gets a certain amount of negative comments for not always being 100% focused on ITSM.

Let me make a small but significant point. My Twitter account is mine. It isn't a TCS persona and it isn't a "Brand Finister" one. If I wanted it to be either of those things I would create a separate #SocMed persona, and I suspect I would have twice the number of followers I currently have. Now I know there are a lot of people out there who are very carefully manipulating their on line persona.

Not me.

I'm essentially existential.

I care about the visual arts, ethical behavior, music and poetry , health care  and somewhere steaming up behind is ITSM. If I'm honest simple concepts like wanting to make a decent living are probably still ahead of ITSM in my little  list. I have a little list, and if you don't get the cultural resonance of a comment like that, well then I don't care what you think about most other things.

If I'm really, really honest even little steam trains come above ITSM in my list of what matters.

I came across one of my old finals papers the other day.

I love Question 6 "Why not be an emotivist?"

At the time I was doing the exam I didn't have the confidence to write the obvious answer

"Because it doesn't feel right to me"

Sit back, listen to Vaughan Williams' 9th symphony and tell me where does ITSM really sit in your personal list of what you care about?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Getting up to date

Yes yes it is a long time since I last posted. For goodness sake even the Spice Girls have managed a reunion in the interim.

Trust me, if I'm not posting here either A )I'm at Le Mans or B) TCS is very very busy, and this year I didn't manage A because of B.

So where do I begin to play catch up? You know I don't think I can. I've spent the last five months criss-crossing the globe and doing some major deals that I might one day be able to tell my grandchildren about, but not you, or at least not yet.

Let me share two quotes with you, though, from clients about my team

"He has been visible, available and accountable" 

Well shouldn't that be tattooed on the butt of every service manager?  I hope it applies to all my team, so it would be invidious of me to single out Martin. But hey, what the heck, he deserves it.

And, oh let me polish my fingernails before I share this one with you, and buff up my cuticles

"We think there are only two companies in the world who can do what you do"

Dead right, there are, and one of those is lying to you.

Or in other words I've not been busy here because I've been very busy elsewhere,and I've been busy because most of my predictions about 2012 are coming true, big time. Actually, scarily true and scarily big time.

So I'll also just throw in that I have a couple of speaking engagements coming up, including another Bright Talk seminar and an itSMF Ireland event. I'm still waiting for the Pink 13 invite, hint hint.

If I had one massive plus point to make at the moment it would be how much I enjoyed the ITSM MSc. open day at Northampton University. Hopefully we will be releasing an ITSMROW podcast in the next few days, but  essentially I was gob-smacked by the quality of the dissertations I've read from the graduates.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The 6 Deadly "I"s of IT Managers

Where ITSM experts are gathered together it is an unwritten rule that certain topics get mentioned on the pretext that they are analogous to ITSM. I won't list them all, but for example we devoted a large part of a recent recording of ITSMWPROW episode 41 to discussing whether a service catalogue is like a restaurant's menu, or more akin to its website.

Aviation safety is another one, whether it be the systems needed to keep track of different components over their lifetime, or the importance of checklists.

On British Radio there is a rather funny show that pokes fun at the aviation industry, called Cabin Pressure. On a recently repeated episode they listed the supposed "Six 'I's " of decision related pilot error. Now as far as I know the list is fictional*, but I still think it bears examination from an ITSM perspective

  1. Impatience
  2. Impulsiveness
  3. Invulnerability
  4. Insecurity
  5. Indecision
  6. "I know best"
*But my readers know better, see the comment from Ken below. Interestingly the FAA talk about Hazardous Attitudes whereas I believe the equivalent part of the UK's  pilot raining talks about "Error Proneness"


I'm always amazed how many times organisations ring me up saying they want an ITIL assessment and "Your consultant has to be able to start next week" Lets think this one through. You've been delivering sub standard ITSM for years (for such calls inevitably come from such organisations) but suddenly you must have a report next week? That sounds like part of a well thought out strategy. Not. And of course one any ITSM improvement initiative is underway these same organisations will expect instant results even though you've spent ages explaining to them that cultural change doesn't happen overnight. Because the impatient organinsation doesn't see those instant results they'll often change direction before an initiative  has had a chance to work. In this they resemble the impulsive organsiation.

It might tell you something about my own failings that whilst I tend to be quite dismissive of the impatient I have a certain sympathy with the impulsive. This is the manager who will pick up every new idea with the enthusiasm of a puppy chasing a ball, until they get distracted by something else new and shiny. The downside is that they don't provide the strong and constant messaging that the workforce need to feel that management is committed to a new way of working. A classic example was a CIO I knew who couldn't go to a project meeting without telling that project that they were his most important priority. An hour later he would be telling another project that they were his most important priority. He genuinely meant it, at least for as long as he was in the room with them.

Impatience I find annoying, impulsiveness I find amusing, but invulnerability I find frightening. One of the main reasons goes back to my early career in CIB investigating corrupt police officers, and then as an auditor with one eye always on the lookout for management fraud. A common theme was the manager who believed they were invulnerable to censure and could therefore do whatever they wanted, whether it was sexual harassment, financial fraud or just plain bullying. I'm afraid I've seen it in a lot of senior IT managers, especially those who have worked their whole career in one organisation and "know where the bodies are buried" and it definetly spills over into their view of the value, or not, of ITSM.

Organizationally I also come across entire IT departments who believe they will never be outsourced, and therefore never understand the reality of needing to change in anyway that is more than superficial. Sadly they don't realise how vulnerable they are until it is too late.

Perhaps this is sometimes the flipside of invulnerability. There are so many mangers, not just in IT, whose insecurity breeds paralyzing fear. They know what they should be doing but don't have the confidence to do it, even if they know what they are currently doing is obviously counterproductive. It also leads to...

I'm not sure about this one, but I do know...

I Know Best
This must surely be the most dangerous of them all. Linked inextricably to our old friend The Dunning-Kruger Effect.  I never fail to marval at the number of managers who are presiding over chaos and disaster who bring in an external advisor for no purpose, it seems, except to tell the expert they he/she is wrong and they are right. That's annoiying for the consultant, but how much worse it must be for those stuck in the crew of an Admiral Tyron.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Lure of Shiny New Toys

I like to think that, at least for someone working in the IT world, I am largely immune from shiny new toy syndrome. I just don't get that excited by technology, unless it is powered by steam and runs on rails - and no I don't mean ruby.

However, I have to admit that I've been watching developments in the Android smart phone world very closely of late, though the rumours that I was salivating before the Galaxy S3 launch are untrue. What is true is that I make fairly limited use of my personal phone, an ancient HTC Desire, for making phone calls, and a lot more use of it for note taking, mind mapping, internet browsing and games playing. Above and beyond anything else it is also the hub of my SocMed world.

So yes OK, you've got me bang to rights, this whole article is really my justification for upgrading to a new phone.

Seriously I believe we are beginning to see devices come on the market that add a new dimension to the supposed BYOD debate. Looking at the connectivity offered, in theory at least, by the S3 the question for ITSM practitioners becomes not  "How can we control, BYOD?" but:

"How can we exploit BYOD?"

Imagine a user whose main device is not working. Running  a Service Desk 2.0 like solution on a  BYOD device would enable the user to still report the incident using a mobile optimised browser version of the self service tool. They could even take a picture of the error message they are seeing on screen and append it to the incident record.

That incident record could also contain details of the physical location of the user that could be vital in identifying the best source of local support for them, and directing them to the user.

The mobile then becomes the best communication channel between support teams and the user, with an enormous amount of information being able to be pushed out to the user, including "how to" videos and updates specific to their location.

The user of browser based apps might in any case allow the user to make use of them on the phones as a workaround, at least for some critical elements of their workload. I've already worked in environments where the user's workspace follows them around seamlessly from device to device. Indeed none of this is new, the technical capability to do any of the things I've mentioned has been there for sometime, which begs the question:

What is needed to make it work in reality?

I think the answer is threefold. The first two are quite rational.

  1. A rethinking of how our processes need to be adopted and taking care to avoid pushing out unnecessary and irrelevant information to users 
  2. Building the processes  in a collaborative manner so they become business solutions not IT toys
The third is less rational and more psychological:

"Exploit everyone's underlying love of shiny new toys"

Thursday, 26 April 2012

SDITS 12 - A New Beginning?

Some exhibitions and conferences just have a buzz about them.

Pink 11 for instance was a stand out event which is still sending ripples out through the ITSM community that are influencing people who weren't even there.

Last year's Service Desk and IT Support Show was getting there. This year's was definitely buzzing.

We've recorded tons of material for the podcasts, including an episode towards the end of the show that included an incredible mix of incredible people saying incredible things. I'll update the link as episodes become available but for now here is the review of day 1

I've said before on the podcast that I think this show is many things to many people, so my experience is only one take on it, but there seemed to be broad agreement that this year was very successful.

To be honest I found that for the second year running I failed to achieve a lot of my objectives. I didn't get to speak to half the vendors I wanted to, and the less said about the number of sessions I managed to attend the better. In fact I only just made my own session on Lean ITSM. Yes, my unsubtle hints last year must have paid off.  The reason I struggled to fit things in was the sheer volume of conversations I was having with other attendees and exhibitors. Incidentally it was great to meet so many people who read this blog and listen to the podcast, thanks to all of you who found the time to say Hi, and apologies to any one I didn't get round to meeting.

I was actually quite taken aback by the number of people who came to my session. Since I tend to take on the more esoteric subjects it isn't often I have people standing in the aisle to hear me.The message that IT is about delivering value to others and to do that you need a cultural shift is hardly new, but at this year's event there seemed to be a lot of people for whom that message was really hitting home and it was echoed in several sessions. Other hot topics included BYOD and the ever popular Service Catalogue

Sessions generally were really busy, the only disappointment for me was that the audiences in several of them seemed reticent to raise questions. I did feel the programme was a little more exciting than last year, but as ever at this event it was clear that many in the audience were looking for really useful ideas to take away, not just theory. Which is a nice link into the launch of the new Back2ITSM website. OK there isn't much there yet, but we got promises of help from some big names in the ITSM world, so watch this space.

It was interesting to observe tool vendor stands. I got the distinct impression that there were more in depth conversations taking place and that prospective customers had done their homework and had a really good idea of where they were intending to go with a new tool-set. Mobile and social seemed to be high on many wishlists.

Maff Rigby and James West have posted their views on the show which are well worth reading. James has some concerns about the overall impression it gave of how we are reacting to change - it is probably a good job Rob wasn't speaking. I understand where James is coming from, but it took his article to remind me why I gave this post the title I did.

I believe that we will look back on this show in the same way many in the industry look back on Pink11, as a landmark event where we, as an industry, realised, in a multitude of different ways, that we have to change how we work, how we support the business, how we support each other and how we educate and support our teams.

No, the show didn't provide all the answers, but the questions are now on the table in full view, the genies are out of the bottle, and the elephant has been asked to sit down and take tea with the vicar.

I'm going to end by returning to the subject of the podcasts, because as I said we finished the show with a humdinger of a recording. Clearly a lot of people were really energized by the show and hopefully that energy will keep us all going to the next big event on the UK calender, and no, I don't mean the Olympics or the Jubilee.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Think of a number between one to four.

100 years ago the Titanic sank.

When the Cameron film first came out I was cycling around County Cork, Titanic's last port of call. Very popular apparel were t-shirts with the slogan:

"The ship sank. get over it."

I was reminded of this today when one of my colleagues posted it on Facebook. It also reminded me of a capacity management class exercise we used to do on the ITIL v1 courses.

Imagine, and I know this will take some imagination, that the unsinkable SS Itil is sailing towards America wth the class of 20 people on board.  Remember this was a long time ago when ITIL hadn't conquered America. Unfortunately en route it runs into an iceberg and starts to sink.

Don't worry though. Those clever people who developed ITIL didn't make the same mistakes as the White Star line, and  there are four life boats, each able to carry 5 people, so enough for all 20 people in the class. More worrying though is that the boat is sinking quicker than expected and you've only got time to get to the first lifeboat you chose. Remember that number I asked you to think of at the start of the article. Oh come on it wasn't that long ago. That's the number of the lifeboat you are racing for.

OK, now unless there happen to be 20 of you gathered around the computer screen this is where you have to trust me.

Out of any random group of 20 people there is a very high probability that more than 5 will have chosen the number 3 lifeboat, so some of you will be in the water, or will go down with the ship. That means that even though SS Itil had sufficient capacity on paper it didn't in reality. On every single occasion we ran this exercise, and that is a lot of times, lifeboat number 3 was overloaded

This illustrates a very important point about capacity management. design a system to cope with an evenly distributed  average capacity and it will fail. Not "it might fail" but "it WILL fail" . Maths can prove the point*.

Why do so many people go for number 3?  That has less to do with maths and more to do with psychology. First of all people will tend to ignore  lifeboats 1 and 4 because they are the "obvious" choices.That leaves a choice between 2 and 3, Remember how I asked the question? " Think of a number between one to four." Without realizing  it people hear  "a number between 1,2,-,4" and fill in the missing gap in the sequence.

* Unless the underlying capacity requirement is absolutely even so the average= the maximum and the minimum

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How Time Flies

Unlike the prolific Stephen Mann I am dreadful at going considerable periods without blogging.  Some of you might have noticed that in fact my general socmed profile has been rather quiet of late, and indeed I would like to thank all of you who have messaged me to check that I was OK. Yes I am, but my attention has been elsewhere recently both professionally and personally. We introverts sometimes need our space to do our deep thinking in, and that is where I've been of late. I must ask my Finnish friends how their concept of hiljaisuus works on-line.

Of course I haven't been that quiet - I've still been churning out episodes of ITSMWPROW with the usual suspects, attending ISO committee meetings and doing BrightTalk webinars, and I'm in the middle of writing my presentation for SDITS in a couple of weeks time. The net result is the last month seems to have flown by.

Time is a curious concept. One of the challenges I find in ITSM is maintaining multiple perspectives on it. There are those things that are important from a day to day perspective and those things that can only be achieved over the long term. Often hard won progress can be lost imperceptibly as our attention wanders elsewhere. Many of us make the mistake of focusing too much on a single time frame. Often the choice of that time frame is very defensive "I'll do it tomorrow, or when I retire" or about trying to believe we are more in control than we really are "If I can just get to the end of my to-do list for today I'll be back on track". Very often our chosen time-frames don't correspond with those others around us are working to. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of metrics where we are often reporting on the least useful time periods for our customers. Two weeks into April do I really care what happened in March?

The mis-match can also be found in how we sell and (attempt to) deliver the benefits of ITSM initiatives, which is what led me to develop my road-map based approach to ensure alignment. It is more of an observation than a criticism that early versions of ITIL talked about operational service support and tactical service delivery, both of which were based around easily recognizable time-frames. Since ITIL v3 the focus on the service life-cycle is perhaps less tangible and more abstract to many readers.

A curious thing to examine is the careers of people in ITSM, especially those who at some point have made a name for themselves. Some seem to choose to endlessly repeat - in a good way - the same pattern but moving between organisations, others claim to "grow out" of ITSM and move on to the next great thing.

Sometimes it is good idea to sit down and examine where we are from multiple perspectives. Sometimes it is good to sit and think "What are going to leave behind us?" Sometimes we just need to ask "What next?"

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Two Tribes

I blogged recently on the artificial and unfair distinction that people draw between vendors, consultants and practitioners.  As 2012 progresses I'm being sadly reminded time and time again that we appear to be inherently tribal. I believe this is deeply damaging to ourselves, to those we manage, and to the organisations that we serve. To my mind a key part of the Back2ITSM ethos is to dissolve some of these tribal barriers and to leverage the cross cultural insights, but we can only do that if we face up to the current reality.

The Biggest Division of All

I want to begin by talking about what I believe is the biggest split in the ITSM world. It is an elephant that moved into the neighbourhood a few years ago, but seems to be putting on weight.

I'm talking about the split between the ITIL world and the Service Desk world. Having opened up the debate about Service Desk 2.0 it has become abundantly clear to me that there are those out here who do not consider the Service Desk to be full members of the ITSM club. What is so striking is that so many who hold this view appear to have little in the way of real world experience of 85% of the content of ITIL.

Going into an unknown future I think this is a very short-sighted view and symptomatic of how many who claim to be driven by ITSM are actually just opportunists along for the ride. The question the business is asking is "Who is adding value?" Ultimately it is up to the business to answer that question, not me, but I know who my money is on.

A Question of Geography

I have a Hootsuite twitter stream that catches all mentions of  ITIL, ITSM, COBIT etc.  I'm increasingly aware that a lot of the content in that stream is not in English. Needless to say as an employee of an Indian company operating on a global company based out of India I'm very aware that different cultures have different approaches. The divisions that worry me most though are those between cultures and geographies that can appear superficially similar. Just like the Brits and the Yanks the ITIL world is one divided by a common language. We need to be aware that what is accepted as the ITSM norm in a sleepy little place like London might not hold good on the other side of the world

The Haves and Have Nots

As I write this Pink12 is in full fling in Vegas. Perhaps fling isn't the best choice of term, though then again perhaps it is. as we know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless it is on Twitter. I have to admit I would rather be there this year than locked in an office writing this blog as displacement activity for producing a couple of sales pitches.

The truth is though I am incredibly lucky. I come across many dedicated ITSMers who cannot get funding to go to events in their own country, or to buy the ITIl books, or to get training beyond the foundation level. Those people need our help. We don't help them by brining out ever more complex education programmes and wholesale revisions of ITIL

The Connected and the Disconnected

In my first incarnation as an ITIL consultant I couldn't belief how many IT managers I met who had absolutely no experience of, or idea about, what other IT departments were doing. These were the dinosaur managers who had never worked outside of their own data centre, who brooked no argument and said they were willing to sack whoever was responsible for the poor perception of IT by the business, as they sat in front of a wall covered in six month old graphs plotting 100% availability despite the service failing more often than I've failed my driving test. Don't ask.

Today I come across managers who see no reason to use the internet or twitter to reach out to their peers, their stakeholders and their customers. I'm going to repeat something I used to say many years ago

"You can't hope to be world class whilst you only look inwards - you need to see what world class really means and learn from it "

The Givers and the Takers

We are exceptionally lucky in the ITSM world, despite the odd moan, in having a community that is willing to support others with advice that is hard earned but freely given. The list of names I could mention here would be a lengthy one. There are also many out there who want to sit back and listen to what the active community is saying. I have no problem with that at all. What I despise is those who see ITSM as purely and simply a way to build their own reputations and line their own pockets. I have a little list of the prime suspects, I suspect others have longer lists since I tend to give people and companies the benefit of the doubt.

The Winners and the Losers

We live in interesting times. The economic fallout is sill in progress, combined with changes in the way businesses operate and  how technology facilitates business. Many in the ITSM world are still living off the fat of the land. I am still idealistic enough to believe that the future belongs to those who can put the good of the community ahead of naked self interest.  I've talked about several divisions between tribes, but when you analyse them you begin to realise that really there is only one division that matters:  There are those who care, who strive and who deliver, and then there are.......the others.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Service Desk 2.0

OK, this is important, now listen very carefully chaps  I'll say this only hold on, no, I'm going to spend most of 2012 yelling this from the rooftops.

2012 is the Year of Service Desk 2.0

You first heard me talk about it in my predictions for 2012 , and like #Back2ITSM it is already gaining momentum despite being a Work In Progress. Aale and I have already presented a very sketchy outline of the concept in a recent Bright Talk seminar, and work is well underway on a joint white paper in conjunction with Aale's continuing exploration of why we need to Unlearn ITIL*,

Let me sum up SD 2.0 for you as it stands.

First of all we aren't talking about a product or a methodology, although I can see how both those elements could be developed. SD 2.0 is about an approach, and it is an approach based on the realization that a lot  of conventional thinking around the Service Desk** is in danger of becoming obsolete before the year is out. You know as I wrote that I could picture Rob England reaching for his bottle of green ink to say that we are just scare-mongering to earn consultancy dollars.

Whether we like it or not both customers and users (and as I wrote that I could imagine Aale reaching for the green ink as well, because he thinks that is part of ITIL speak we should unlearn) are having their personal experience of IT transformed. The use of mobile devices has exploded and people are bringing them into the workplace. They are also beginning to experience, accept and except*** new support models, of which the Apple Genius Bar stands out.

SD 2.0

  • Users will be accessing and using services on non standard BYOD devices in the workplace on the road and at home, and some of those services will themselves not be provided by the IT dept.
  • Users will combine different services in real-time to support business processes, in the way they built email into critical business activities without telling IT they were doing it.
  • Users will use self-service /Google/SocMed facilitated peer support before coming to the SD - filtering out all the simple,typical first time fix interactions. Aale and I like the term interaction which we've borrowed from the SDI
  • When they speak to the SD the users will by default know more about their issue than the agent who is desperately Googling to catch up with them
  • Since the interactions are non-standard the simple ITIL process models will be hard to apply and harder still to measure meaningful - we need to de-construct them and reassemble them in more useful ways. Charlie Betz has been contributing to that discussion with some "must read" papers.
  • When users interact with the SD they will expect that Apple Genius Bar experience, not a dumb (in the nicest sense) agent.


In the beginning there was the Help Desk. Then ITIL got hold of it and we saw the wholesale renaming of Help Desks as Service Desks. This was done with the best of intentions, but I don't believe the expected value was delivered to the business. It was bad timing that in the UK this shift in thinking coincided with the move to the wholesale out sourcing of service desks off shore.

A well thought out SD 2.0 strategy**** would include:
  • Accepting the reality that this is happening
  • Blending on shore and offshore support so self service interactions are fielded by an industrialized service desk back office
  • Making the service desk genuinely accessible to users - no more "Service Desk - No Visitors" signs on doors
  • Integrating innovative channels for both support and knowledge management
  • Revising the entire metrics framework to build a newly balanced scorecard
  • Enabling and empowering service desk teams and removing micro-management***** 

A Beautiful Dream

Perhaps Rob is right, perhaps this is all wishful thinking. But why not think it - and if you think it, why not make it happen?

Please, please let me know your thoughts.

"Transform or you will be transformed!"


Judging by some of the comments and the blog Rob posted in response to this one I need to make some points much clearer to avoid either confusion or willful misrepresentation. I don't want to edit the original text because I stand by the integrity of what I said. So I'm afraid you are stuck with a shed load of footnotes. I've put them in small type though, so they will be easier to ignore for those who want to. Also so that hopefully the footnotes will appear shorter than the article. 

* "Unlearn ITIL" is the tag Aale is using. My own view is that we need to unlearn certain elements of ITIL, but  perhaps more importantly we need to unlearn bad habits that we all develop when thinking about and with ITIL. For instance we can get too hung up on the flowcharts in ITIL being holy writ. We gloss over that ITIL seems confused over what is a process, a function and a capability, and that the "common vocabulary"  breaks down when you try and use it across a complex supply chain. In this specific context my main beef is that "incident" "event" "request" "change" and "problem" as defined in ITIL don't explain what exactly the service desk should be doing, and how that links to what is happening in the world of the user. I'm not saying they are wrong, I'm saying they represnt a partial, slightly artificial and inadvertently inside-out view of the world.

** It is inevitable that this article will be seen in the light of a larger debate about ITIL and ITSM, but my prime focus here is the Service Desk. There is a certain snobbishness in the ITSM world about the Service Desk, as if they are not members of the club.

*** This is something a lot of people seem to be missing. This is not like previous IT led attempts to get users to use the technology. This time it is the business who are keen to explore new ways of working. After all nobody likes hanging on the phone for half an hour just to get  their password reset. Disintermediation has become a fact of life, just ask your high street insurance broker...ah, you probably can't because they lost their job four years ago.

**** It seems eminently sensible to me that with the prospect of these changes on the horizon a professional IT department would be looking at the potential implications. Most of the suggestions I make here hold good whether the so called "revolution" takes place or not. I am left uneasy by the comment from more than one pundit that the service desk will "just evolve" to meet these challenges. The last twenty years of trying to get a reasonable standard of ITSM into many organizations should have taught us that it isn't going to work like that. What is true is that some service desks will end up extinct. 

****** The three most ardent critics of this article are people who I have a lot of respect for. It saddens me, then, when one says "I notice all the people who say xxxxx  are all IT technical people" and another "Sometimes I think we're surrounding by highly dangerous ITSM Consultants armed with a few certificates which are no substitute for using your brain"  Now let me be perfectly clear that there are areas of the ITSM  world where I totally agree th. However I'm far from convinced that it is highly relevant or helpful to this particular debate******. Those being vocal on both sides of the argument all have many years practical experience of ITSM and all have a reputation for promoting the cultural aspects of ITSM. I ended the article with a quote from Rob Stroud for a reason. 

******* I'm British. I'm being polite. What I actually think is unprintable and I've broken the * key on this computer from over use.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Service Integration

One of the questions I get asked quite frequently, given my job title, is

"What exactly is Service Integration?"

It is actually a very good question, not least because in my experience many organizations are persuaded by third party advisors to commit their long term service strategy to a service integration model without fully understanding what it is and what the implications are of what is a very big subject. So big in fact that it really deserves a book to be written about it. In the meantime this will have to do as an explanation of  what SI is, why is it attractive to organisations, and what the ITSM implications are if it is to be successfully implemented, including my top ten tips.

What is SI
It is clear that there is no single consensus on what constitutes SI. There is range of overlapping strategies that fall under the broad label of Service Integration (SI). The definition I find most useful is: 

“The management by a supplier filling some or all roles of the traditional retained service management organisation of e2e service levels delivered by multiple suppliers”

I believe that a key aspect of SI is that the SI provider acts as a virtual constituent of the retained organisation, but the paradigm SI model includes:

  • The SI provider taking on commercial risk for the delivery of services in return for outcome based rewards
  • The SI provider takes on a governance role as well as a management role
  • A 'Plug and Play' approach towards suppliers, allowing for rapid re-sourcing and effective 'co-opetition' between incumbents
  • The SI provider having full authority over all other suppliers
  • The SI provider driving innovation and transformation of service provision.
None of these elements are individually novel, and neither do they all need to be present. In reality many SI solutions are much less strategic in their remit than this and   in some cases there is little commonality between two approaches both legitimately labeled as SI.

For instance ownership of the contracts with other suppliers might stay with the retained organisation with  the SI provider only being  held contractually responsible for their own performance in monitoring and reporting on other suppliers. In other case the contracts might be novated to the SI supplier and the SI supplier held directly responsible for the failure of other suppliers to meet their targets.  In an extreme case, the individual suppliers might all be achieving their targets but the SI supplier is required to handover service credits because the required e2e service is not being delivered.

We are even seeing organisations who talk of providing an “internal SI solution.” If we accpet that as a valid use of the term does the the definition of SI become

"Any strategy designed to align the performance of individual suppliers with an e2e service delivered to users and customers"
Is that just a way of saying SI is the same as e2e service management? I believe that in many cases it is, even if that wasn't the original intent.
Why is SI Attractive?

As I've already said many organisations are being propelled towards an SI solution by an external advisor, and some observers have described SI as “a solution in search of a problem” An informal analysis of organisations adopting SI suggests that there are genuine factors driving them towards this approach. These include:

  • Struggling to understand how their complex value networks map on to both suppliers and customers
  • A lack of appropriate experience in managing multiple contracts and frameworks of service level agreements to specify a level of e2e service
  • They experience of individual suppliers comfortably meeting their contracted service levels whilst the overall service remains unsatisfactory to the customer and user communities
  • Wanting to see collaborative innovation from their suppliers.
  • Recognizing traditional approaches have failed to integrate suppliers into a common culture

In theory these can all be addressed by conventional ITSM best practice but the SI provider has the advantages of access to tools, skills and in some cases contractual relationships that are not available to an in house service management team. For instance a large outsourcer filling the SI role will be able to leverage global alliances with other suppliers.

A number of SI initiatives have been apparently cancelled, or replaced by conventional sourcing strategies, before contracts have been let because the IT department has not articulated or sold a business case that makes sense to their board. In particular a number of boards have questioned why SI is being planned as an additional layer rather than replacing managers within the retained organisation. The benefits for the business, as opposed to the IT department, have still to be quantified in the traditional terms of lower costs, improved quality, greater innovation and higher levels of assurance. 
Making SI a Success

As the SI market begins to  mature it is becoming easier to assess the features of a successful solution, at least in the short term. What is clear is that it is not a one size fits all solution, it is an approach that needs to be tailored to match an organisation's current and expected level of service management maturity, and their appetite for risk and innovation. 

My top ten stand out features of a well thought out approach are:

  1. Absolute clarity of roles, responsibilities and authorities across all parties and a common vocabulary
  2. The risk born by the SI provider has to be aligned with the level of authority they have over other suppliers.
  3. There needs to be a clear roadmap for the entire life of the SI contract that is linked to the delivery of value to the business.
  4. The SI TOM needs to be designed holistically across the retrained organisation, the Si provider and the other suppliers, rather than expecting a supplier’s SI capability to be bolted on to a pre-existing structure.
  5. A white box approach to data and information needs to be established by the SI provider to ensure there is one version of the truth across the value network.
  6. Establishing a truly e2e view of services to customers is a vital element, requiring the services of service architects using frameworks such as OBASHI
  7. Maximum benefit is delivered when the SI provider is the supplier with most “skin in the game” rather than a supplier limited to just providing the SI function. Whilst SI independence is important this can be guaranteed by appropriate governance and reporting lines.
  8. ITIL, ISO 20k and other frameworks and guidance cannot be applied out of the box. Asking the SI provider to “conform to ITIL 2011” is not a sufficient specification to ensure the desired outcomes
  9.  Process workflow needs to be optimised to take into account the differing service targets across the value network. Techniques such as lean and the Theory of Constraints are extremely useful in an SI environment.
  10. The retained organisation, SI provider and other suppliers need to develop a common and collaborative culture rather than developing an adversarial model

I believe that over the next two years we will be hearing an awful lot about Service Integration as a number of significant contracts to deliver SI are awarded. The UK's Ministry of Justice, for instance, is currently tendering for an £18m SIAM (Service Integration And Management) contract. As of today the market is still relatively immature, with very few organisations actually operating an SI model. My personal view is that as SI develops it will become more distinct from the simple e2e service management model, with more emphasis on the commercial and innovational aspects, but that the techniques developed under the SI banner will in turn influence more an more aspects of ITSM.