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.