Saturday, 24 April 2010

Augmented Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 23 April 2010

Mobile social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Grumpy Old Man

It's my birthday!

OK, I'm not actually that pleased.

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

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

And gosh, isn't he grumpy!

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

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

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

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

So the good  memories....

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

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

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

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

...and that is about it.

Now, on to the negatives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The International Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Brandon Lane CIO - Episode 5

The PA From Hell

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

Flattery also usually works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He'd got to ten before she stormed in.

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

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

She stormed out.

She was back thirty seconds later.

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon could see Lynda was struggling..

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

So what exactly do you do?

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

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

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

Back to the question in hand though. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I guess more recently Service catalogue/portfolio manager.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 12 April 2010

And your specialist subject is?

I get woken up every morning by my wife's toy poodle.

Daisy greets every day with so much joy I wish I was on whatever she is on.

Five thirty in the morning and Daisy is ready to face the new day.

Personally, I'm usually not.

But hey, who can resist such enthusiasm?

Now recently there has been a whole bunch of posts saying ITIL is over the hype curve, and a bunch of posts saying it ain't so... and personally I don't give a damn, because I retain my enthusiasm.

If I can be bothered I might add the links here, but currently ask yourself "Am I bothered?"

What concerns me is we need a realistic view of what ITIL is all about. So what answer do we come up with?

And at this point I refer you back to two of my earlier posts. Is ITIL a profession, and if it is, what kind of training scheme do we need to support it?

And now I ask you the killer question. You are at a party. I don't know, perhaps you've even blagged your way  on to the Pink 11 VIP list. A vision of loveliness, or even Chris Dancy, comes up to you and says those magic words.

"What do you do for a living?"

You are an ITIL expert, OK, should be an easy question to answer. You do...what exactly?