Friday, 30 December 2011

ITSM Predictions for 2012

I know what you are thinking.

"How come this blog is suddenly so active, he must be going through a quiet patch over the holidays"

Nothing could be further from the truth.

They say that if you want a job done you should give it to a busy man, and at the moment my team and I are very, very busy and the blog is getting written as relaxation in those short periods between client presentations, meetings and teleconferences. Given the global situation that isn't what you might expect, which only goes to show making predictions is a mug's game. So here goes:

1. Service Integration

Expect this to be the next big thing in ITSM.  It is already a central concept behind most of the mega outsourcing deals currently being negotiated in the UK and you can expect to see it filter through to smaller organisations, job adverts for Service Integration Managers, and tool vendors bigging up their support for it. OK I head up the Service Integration consulting team in TCS, so I would say that wouldn't I, but think of it the other way round

Why do you think TCS has a Service Integration consultancy team in the first place?

You don't know what Service Integration is?

Now isn't the time to enlighten you, but we probably need to talk.

2. Service Architecture

You can't take a service integration approach without having a deep understanding of how your systems and IT services map on to business value networks. The various varieties of uber technical architect and frameworks we've seen to date haven't cracked this one yet. Expect to see a higher profile for OBASHI and the emergence of a new breed of top down architect. If you think I'm talking about SOA then you are a lost cause.

3. Service Design

No, not in the ITIL sense, in the real sense that others are using it. Hand in hand with this will come a realization that Ian Clayton was right all along, and ITIL really isn't an Outside-In approach. Oh yes, a bonus prediction: Expect to see the term Outside-In misused and reduced to a meaningless cliché by those who don't get it.

4. Shadow IT 2.0

Not really a prediction because it is already happening and on many levels: BYOD, cloud, SocMed. The difference in 2012 is that IT departments will wake up to the fact is actually happening rather than just threatening to happen. The savvy CIO will think carefully but then act quickly.

5. Service Desk 2.0

The Service Desk has been at the heart of ITIL for so long that perhaps we've all started to take it a little bit for granted, but there are some real game changers out there. Self service, support for Shadow IT, the use of SocMed for support purposes, a renewed focus on the softer skills. Service Desk staff are living in interesting times.

6. Soft Skills

Here's a little insight. Research shows 80% of those who tell you that "People are more important than tools or processes" don't believe it themselves. 90% of those who say it don't practice it.

In 2012 people will 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.

By the way, I made those statistics up.

7. Hard Facts - Hard choices

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.

8. ITIL is so 2011

Don't get me wrong, ITIL remains a useful resource, but people won't find the answers they need inside its pages. Some will be seduced by the lure of alternative frameworks "Yeah, we used to be an ITIL shop, but now we are Lean/Agile/whatever" and find too late that that they aren't the solution either. Expect to see successful ITSM practitioners looking for answers from their peer groups around the globe and to take charge of their own destiny. Expect them to make new demands on the ITSM training market, tool vendors and conferences.

9. A New Kind of Event

There are incredible pressures on budgets for training and conferences, and a nagging doubt in the minds of many over what value the current offerings are really delivering. 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. Above all else expect them to deliver more real world takeaway action points  that people can apply in the office on Monday morning. If they don't, then let people know and don't waste your money next year.

10. Same Old Same Old

Stephen Mann's blog will continue to be insanely popular. I will continue to say "I think" and "What's really interesting" far too many times on every single ITSMWPROW podcast. Service Now will still be thought of as the exciting new kid on the block whilst getting the bulk of corporate sales. The majority of ITSM practitioners will continue to believe that quick wins are the key to success rather than facing up to the need for fundamental changes. THE event of the ITSM year will be the Pink conference in Vegas, even though my invite must have got lost in the post this year.The ITskeptic will still be scaling the walls of Castle ITIL, even though he's been given the key. Someone, somewhere, will realise that all that time and money they've spent on building a CMDB has provided zero benefit and a week before Xmas 2012 a major high street name will have a major outage that will be traced to a change.

Remember if these things don't happen in 2012 it doesn't mean I'm wrong. 
It just means I'm still ahead of the curve.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Episode 11: A Little Gentle Prodding

At the end of Chapter 10 Brandon Lane CIO and Jimbofin, Ghost of ITSM Present, are in a lift with Wysiwyg, leader of the ITIL Imps. Read on.

"Is it just me or is it a little stuffy in here?"

Whilst Brandon appeared to be addressing no one in particular it was no coincidence that rather acrid smoke was beginning to emerge from Wysiwyg's ears.

"He can't help it, it is a natural reaction of an ITIL Imp when they come into close proximity to the business. We suspect it is caused by the frustration they have that the business can't see that everything the ITIL Imps do is for the good of the business."

"What sort of things?"

"Oh you know, arcane and long winded change management procedures, management reports that don't tell the business anything they didn't already know, service catalogues in which the business doesn't recognise the names of any of the services, service desks that won't take your call because you haven't logged it on the self-service portal, capacity plans that..."

"OK, I get the point. Most of those things get me steamed up as well, but does he really think doing all those things is what the business wants?"

"Oh yes. Though I should warn you he's never actually met a CEO before. In fact we don't think any ITIL Imp ever has. We aren't really sure what will happen. There is a danger he might explode."

"Do you mean Wysiwyg or Hans?"

The lift jolted to a halt.

"I don't know, let's find out shall we?"

Brandon was used to waiting outside Han's office until called for, but Wysiwyg and Jimbofin marched right in, Jimbofin with the confidence that comes from knowing where the bodies are buried, and Wysiwyg with the confidence of someone who doesn't mind adding to the bodycount themselves. In any case Hans was oblivious to their entrance. He was obviously still trying to get someone on the service desk to take some sort of action, though he was now less concerned that the action was to fix his Blackberry* than that the service desk agent take some action involving a peculiar and possibly impossible feat of human contortion.

Wysiwyg prodded him with his trident.

"What the **** was that?" He looked up and for the first time seemed to see his visitors, or at least two of them. "And Brandon who the or what the **** is that?"

"Erm, this is Wysiwyg"

"Does he work for you?"

For someone going through as much as Brandon had been going through over the past few days, whether in reality or in his dreams, he still retained the quick thinking of an auditor.

"You wanted your Blackberry fixed, so I thought I would bring our best ...person....up to help you."

"That's your best person?"

"If you recall Hans, I haven't actually been CIO long enough to recruit my own team."

"And how did you know my Blackberry wasn't working since I can't get through to your so called Service desk to report it? Owww"

Wysiwyg had prodded him again. And this time he spoke.

"Well you are wasting your time ringing the service desk."

"Yes, I know that thank you, they are useless."

"No," said Wysiwyg, "You misunderstand. Blackberries are unsupported VIP devices. The Service Desk won't take calls about Blackberries."

"What do you mean unsupported, it was IT who got me them in the first place, eventually. Oww, stop doing that."

Wysywig looked genuinely hurt.

"But I was just trying to remind you that you AGREED to them not being supported when we agreed to get them for you."

"Just for the record, because I'm sure someone is keeping it, Brandon, let me point out that IT didn't agree to anything. Do you know why? I'll tell you why, because IT doesn't have any authority to agree to let  me have anything or not. I tell IT what I want and you get it, with the money I let you have. At least that is the theory."

Brandon was wise enough to realise this was not the moment to say "Yes, but if I could just point out...."

"Yes, but if I could just point out"

Apparently ITIL Imps aren't quite so wise.

As the confrontation escalated Jimbofin tapped Brandon on the shoulder.

"Well, I'll be off then, though you'll be seeing me later, in real life, meanwhile enjoy the show."

"You aren't leaving me here with these two are you?"

"I'm afraid so, I'm needed elsewhere, but don't worry, the Ghost of Future present will be coming to help you soon."

And with that he was gone, but no sooner had he left than Brandon noticed the office becoming darker as a shadow fell. Hans and Wysiwyg seemed not to notice, so immersed were they in their full and frank discussion. Brandon turned to look at the doorway.

It was filled by a giant of a man with a flowing mane.


Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Letting Go

Probably the happiest days of my life were those spent as both a student and a lecturer at the UK government's Civil Service College. It saddens me that, now known as the National School of Government, it is scheduled to close in March. There is something deeply ironic and tragic in an institution set up to promote intelligent thinking amongst senior civil servants falling foul of an inherently flawed PFI deal.

Obviously the imminent closure has been playing on mind recently because last night I dreamt I was back there and running an updated version of what I always considered the most enjoyable course I ran -

An Introduction to Computing for Internal Auditors.

Yes I know it doesn't sound sexy, but I loved being able to remove some of the mystery about computing for an audience that was intelligent, inquisitive and scared to death of the subject, and seeing the scales fall from their eyes during the week, with the apprehension replaced by growing confidence.

I suppose it must be over fifteen years since I last ran that particular course, and a few things have changed. So how had I updated the course in my dream? I think my opening statement in the dream was something like:

Everything we used to teach was right then but wrong now

Even by my own standards that is quite a generalisation, but underlying it there is a genuine truth. Back in the time the course was first written IT was mostly delivered by in house IT departments operating to very strict and rigorously enforced standards. We included a session on timesharing and bureau computing but only because it was still on the exam syllabus, not because we expected the students to ever come across it in real life except for the processing of specific large batch jobs. There was a very tight coupling between physical and logical security as well; essentially if your data center was physically secure then so was your data and your code.

Then there was the thorny issue of the business trying to prise control of IT away from the IT department. This was a two pronged attack - one element was making the CIO report to the CFO, and the other was the purchase of their own PCs and software.

Obviously this had to be stopped.

After all you couldn't have the business deciding how to make the best use of It, could you?

If to some of you that feels like a somewhat antediluvian response then bear in mind we had good reasons to be cautious. The early days of end user computing were littered with examples of undocumented unsupportable, unmaintainable and un-auditable systems built by "experts" in the business using unsuitable platforms. Inevitably it was left to the much maligned in-house IT department to sort the mess out.

Shadow IT 1.0 was not a good thing

Shadow IT 2.0 : This Time IT is personal

Look at the IT world the business now inhabits. The in-house technically skilled IT team on tap has gone, to be replaced by a retained organization that might know ITIL and contract law but can't relate to a fourth normal form. At a user level we've locked down their desktops but they've got BYOD and web based services, and at a corporate level they can buy SaaS and PPU solutions.

Maybe this time around they aren't using these tools to build the ultra-complex and business critical liquidity model with arcane macros and calculations, but that doesn't mean what they are using it for is any less critical.

So lets stop it right now, right? Just walk away from the ipad and no one gets hurt.

Or then again, perhaps not. Perhaps this time around the business centric outside-in IT department is mature enough to face up to the challenges and to see the value of adopting an enabling role. Along the way perhaps that means letting go not only of some very old ways of thinking but even some recent thought patterns around CMDB, the service catalogue, SLAs and the Service Desk. Perhaps it is time for us to do some serious re-imagining of ITSM. I don't believe the answers are to be found in the pages of ITIL 2011 Edition, because I don't think the questions have even been asked yet, but here is a clue:

If you want to know what Service Desk 2.0 might look like, just take a walk down to your local Apple store


Friday, 23 December 2011

Episode 10: Xmas Present

We left Brandon Lane CIO at the end of Episiode 9 in the company of Jimbofin, AKA the Ghost of ITIL Present dealing with the prospect of explaining to Hans, the CEO, why no one on the service desk was answering his call.

"Tell me, Ghost of ITIL Present, this is really a dream isn't it?"

Jimbofin, Ghost of ITIL Present, paused briefly from his tuneless humming.

"Yes, of course it is, why do you have to ask?"

"I suppose I'd imagined you'd have just winked or something and we would have been in the CEO's office, rather than being stood here waiting ages for a lift, knowing that he's getting angrier and angrier that no one from IT is answering his call to the Help Desk"

Jimbofin looked at his watch, in the way that consultants do to remind themselves however dumb the question is they are still getting paid for answering it, or, for that matter, for not answering it.

"I'd like to look at your question from a number of different angles. First of all, just a little point, but ion the industry these days we no longer call it a Help Desk. we call it a Service Desk."

"Why is that? It just sounds like consultancy speak to me ."

"It is supposed to be because they provide a single point of contact for a wide range of services, but frankly it is because the users never find them to be much help. As for waiting for the lift, trust me it will become clear that this is part of the dream. For instance why do you think we are waiting so long for it?"

Jimbofin paused a beat.

"Actually don't bother thinking about it. You are still an auditor at heart and you'll be thinking through a nice rational explanation based on the heuristics the lift designers build in to optimise wait times across the floor of the building. Normally you would be right, but since this is a dream the explanation is much simpler: This is a lift designed and maintained by the IT department."

"Why on earth would an IT department design and operate the lifts?"

"Ah, apparently they've been reading that Business IT Alignment is old hat, and IT now is the business. So in this dreamworld IT have taken over running the business and the building. Don't worry, I'm sure it is probably safe."

At that moment the lift arrived, and after several aborted attempts the doors finally opened to let them in. The interior of the lift was unlike anything Brandon lane had experienced. He made sure to stand away from the wires that were most obviously sparking.

"I'm told the voice recognition system is state of the art, but apparently they had to abandon it after Barclay Rae got stuck in it for a week because it wouldn't  recognise his Scottish accent. Anyway the Muzak is good...."

"What Muzak, I can't hear any"

Jimbofin gave a panel a strategic nudge with an elbow and the loudspeaker burst into tinny life

"Welcome to ITSM Weekly.....the Podcast......"

"You know it is amazing how quickly that becomes background noise, though I would hate to have to listen to it for more than twenty minutes. I'm quite happy the Lift Operational Options Project Imitative who designed this lift  haven't adopted Ian Clayton's Outside In thinking: Not being good with heights I don't fancy having to cling on to the outside of a lift, even in a dream." 

"Who is Ian Clayton? Does he work for me?"

For a second a look of  panic came over Jimbofin's face, the look you see on a consultant's face when they realise the client has actually read the PowerPoint stack and so the big reveal at the end is going to fall flat.

"Er, no, but you will be meeting him quite quickly, I erm, suspect."

By now the lift was moving, but Brandon was perplexed.

"We seem to be moving quite quickly, but the floor indicator says we haven't moved"

"Haven't you been involved in any IT projects like that? Lots of apparent action but nothing actually happens. As it happens we've don't bother getting out we are just picking up at this floor."

Had Brandon wanted to leave the lift he couldn't have done, because as soon as the doors opened two suited and fragranced men pushed in and pushed Brandon and Jimbofin to the back of the lift, then they turned and took up the inimitable stance of the alpha dog and the wannabe alpha dog.

Jimbofin and Brandon looked at each other and said in sync:

"Management Consultants!"

Well, actually they said

"******* Management Consultants!"

As soon as the lift doors closed the two identikit consultants relaxed a muscle or two and started to discuss the case. However hard he tried, and despite how loudly they were talking, Brandon couldn't quite make out what they were actually saying. He looked quizzically at Jimbofin .

" There's no point asking me what they are saying, they are proper Managment Consultants from ********. I am but a humble ITSM consultant unworthy to carry a bag for them. All I do is go in and clean up the mess they leave behind. Don't worry by the way, it works both ways so we can say whatever we want. Or at least it isn't that they can't understand us, it is more a case of us literally not existing in their world. Not only that but they've pressed the down button to go to the lobby, and we'll just have to go along with them."

"I can tell you what they are talking about though. They've just come from a presentation to senior management,  in fact Hans, the CEO, was chairing it. Do you want to guess what they were agreeing?"

"Let me have a wild stab - the new IT Strategy?"

"Yep got it in one. I'm sure Hans meant to invite you as the CIO."

Brandon loosened his tie.

"Is it just me or is it getting warm in here and we seem to be going a long way down to the ground floor."

Jimbofin smiled.

"I wondered when you would notice. I told you this was a dream, and it isn't all bad."

The lift stopped,

The door opened.

The management consultants walked forward

Disappeared from view

and screamed.

A strange red colored, clawed hand appeared around the entrance to the lift, followed by a horned face. The appearance would have been much scarier had it not only been ten inches tall. It gazed malevolently at Brandon and Jimbofin before breaking into a wide grin

"Ow we doin boss, awright? Cor blimey you should ave seen their little face when they realised where they were. And the lads say hats off to you sir for thinking of that little touch of diverting their mobiles to an IVR saying "Press 1 if you want to speak to the CEO....I'm sorry all our executive leadership team are busy doing a proper job" was sheer genius"

"I do my best. Brandon let me introduce you to Wysiwyg , head of the ITIL Imps and guardian of what Kelly would call IT Hell. Don't worry, you and I are only visiting, for now at least. And now we really must go and see Hans."

With that the doors closed, though rather quicker than Wysiwyg was expecting, leaving him trapped in the lift with them.

"Well this is a jolly, sirs, I don't get out of that lower lower basement much, and isn't it lucky I just had time to grab my red hot trident. I know how much CEOs love being prodded to do something by IT people."

Brandon looked at Jimbofin in despair.

to be continued....possibly before 2012

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The 3 Secrets of ITIL Success

One of the most talked about blog posts this year has been Stephen Mann's Top 50 ITIL Adoption Mistakes. I don't know why I've even bothered to put the link in, because you've almost certainly read it already. 

The bulk  of those 50 mistakes are symptoms of ITSM failure, not the root causes. Not making those mistakes doesn't necessarily guarantee success.

Looking back on my twenty odd years of experience in ITSM it strikes me that what is really interesting is the truth of a statement Ivor Evans made many years ago.

"There are only a few ways to succeed with ITIL but many ways to fail"

When I look at the ITSM initiatives I've seen succeed they have all had the same three basic characteristics in common. 

So what are they?

Timing and  Context

The secret of both great comedy and great ITSM is timing. The secret of many great ITSM initiatives is that they were launched at just the right time to exploit favorable tides and winds in the life of the organisation. Conversely many projects that were essentially sound have floundered because the time wasn't right. So what is the right time? 

Here are some pointers:
  • There is a burning bridge such as a merger/de-merger - preferably one with direct implications for the whole organisation, not just IT
  • The organisation is in a  period of positive disruption, for instance following the appointment of a new CEO
  • Key stakeholders are already pressing for change, especially customers and suppliers
  • Senior management have a bigger agenda that ITSM happens to align with.
Don't believe the "We succeeded because we got senior management buy in" line, the number of ITSM projects that can really claim to have created that senior management buy in can probably be counted on one hand. What the successful ITSM initiatives do is latch on to agendas that senior management have already bought in to.

People and Partners

Without exception the successful ITSM projects I've seen have owed a large part of their success to one or more key individuals who:
  • Understood the organisational culture
  • Managed according to the real world needs and resources not a fictional project plan
  • Remembered they were employing consultants and tool vendors because of their past experience and listened to their advice rather than using them as a bottle washer.
  • "Got" ITSM but without being ITIL bores
  • Cared, but made hard decisions when they had to
The same criteria could be applied to their key partners in the business, in their suppliers and  their advisers, whether consultants or tool vendors. 

And the third?
  • Training? Useful but not essential
  • New ITSM tool? Useful but not essential
  • Consultants?  Useful but not essential
  • Having me on their team.....pure coincidence, I'm sure*
There isn't a third. That's it. But no one would read an article on "The 2 Secrets of ITSM Success"

*for my US readers I should point out this is an example of self deprecating British humour.I like to believe that having an adviser  like myself who can inspire new ways of thinking, bring an external perspective to break up endemic group think and challenge well intentioned but flawed ideas is actually pretty much essential to success. I'm also grateful to Ivor for pointing out my spell checker had replaced "deprecating" with "depreciating" and for providing me with the exact wording of his quote.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Tinker, tailor, soldier...vendor

For all the faults it might have the ITSM community is generally a rather nice place to be. I believe that in comparison to the wider IT community we are much more welcoming of diversity and of influences from outside our own little world. We even have a good word to say about the users.

Just occasionally though I become aware of a little bit of lazy "them and us" thinking, as if the ITSM world is divided into three classes:

Practitioners, Consultants and Vendors

This always reminds me of this famous Marty Feldman comedy sketch. Once upon a time I'm sure trainers would have been mentioned in the list, but for some reason they no longer do, which I suspect is more of a comment on the general view of the current  ITIL training scheme rather than on the trainers themselves. As for analysts....

Whenever I hear someone split the world into those three categories I can always hear a silent judgment being made in the background.

Practitioners think consultants swan around the world coming up with great but impractical ideas, and that the vendors are out to shaft them whenever possible in search of a sale.

Consultants think practitioners have a blinkered view of the world and the memory of as goldfish, and that the vendors are out to shaft the entire industry.

Vendors just wish they had more friends.

Seriously we can't help stereotyping both companies and individuals, but it is a dangerous view of the world. Whilst this article is, mostly, meant to be humorous in intent the catalyst for it has been some of the debates around #back2ITSM.

Let us get a few things straight first of all. At a company level the ITSM industry wouldn't be where it is today without a lot of support form both consultants and vendors. Some of it might be well publicised, like the sponsorship of major conferences, but a lot of it goes on behind the scenes with the commitment they make to committees and the IP that they release to the community via ITIL, COBIT and ISO 20k.  When I made the original comment to Stephen Mann, which prompted this blog, and in turn led to #back2ITSM, about taking into account vendor contribution it was because I was aware of how many tool vendors do give back, not because of a concern about the number who don't.

What they bring to the ITSM table is of immeasurable value. I was about to get all Bladerunnerish but the truth is both consultants and vendors get to see an incredible range of real life ITSM experiences. Let me emphasis the real life aspect. It is out in the real world that we make our incomes, both as companies and as individuals. And not only do we see things, we are intimately involved and invested in them.  Yes I have started saying "we" because ... no wait, I'll get back to that point later but yes I am a consultant.

At this point I'm sure the practitioners will be jumping up and down saying "What about the contribution we make?" and justifiably so. On #ITSMWPROW it is always a true privilege to have guests from practitioner organisations, and presentations from practitioners are key to the success of both the itSMF and SDI. Just like consultancies and vendors many practitioner organisations generously allow their staff time to do some of the boring behind the scenes work.

Consultants and vendors don't have a duopoly on IP, either. Charlie Betz' first edition of  Architecture and Patterns for IT Service Management, Resource Planning and Governance: Making Shoes for the Cobblers Children  written when he was a practicing IT architect stands out as both an  incredible example of practitioner IP and an incredibly long title. The link, incidentally, should take you to the current edition which really is a must read book.

I want to change track slightly here. So far I've mostly been talking about organisations, but mention of Charlie reminds me that I really want to talk about the danger of labeling individuals with these artificial titles.

The truth is that many of us move seamlessly between these worlds, often without anyone noticing. The practitioner might find themselves working on an ITSM project and in effect takes on an internal consultancy role, or they might develop their career by moving to work for a consultancy or a vendor. Don't make the mistake of thinking that traffic is all one way, either. I know plenty of people who've moved from being consultants or vendors to return to the coal face as practitioners. Heck, I did it myself a few years ago when I moved from QuintWellingtonRedwood to a financial services company.

Why do people make that sort of move? Well I would argue it is often because they still have a thirst to make life better for customers and users and to make a real difference to the way IT is delivered.  But, leaving that aside, the reality is that  many consultants spend considerable amounts of their working life doing a "real job" as interim managers or on a body shop basis. Likewise many vendors have staff who spend most of their time on site with clients. You don't need to spend long talking to the likes of Don Page, Pat Bolger and Ian Aitchison , for examples, before you realize how deeply embedded their experience is in the real world and the lives of practitioners.

From a very personal perspective I might have the word Consultant on my business card, along with a lot of other words  but I also represent an outsourcing vendor, and just because I'm not a practitioner anymore doesn't mean I've forgotten what it was like to be one, or that I don't still get my hands dirty whenever I get the chance. In fact, like all of us who do so much to make ITSM work, I could say

Friday, 18 November 2011

Making Back2ITSM Work

A while ago Stephen Mann used his Forrester blog to launch the concept of Back 2 ITSM.

He summed it up as a call to:

  1. Recognize that we are a community and a community that often struggles with the same issues (particularly with ITIL adoption).
  2. Offer up our time to help out others (and often ourselves).
  3. Identify where our efforts need to be applied (for example with the creation of a set of standard (core) ITSM metrics and benchmarks).
  4. Deliver on our promises to the ITSM community.
  5. Never stop trying to improve our collective ITSM capabilities and the quality of delivered IT and business services.
I would like to think that these align very closely with the ethos this blog has always had.

To get the ball rolling he launched the Practitioner Health check which is being hosted by Hornbill and at the itSMF UK Conference this year we used our recording of the ITSMWPROW podcast to formally launch the Twitter hashtag #Back2ITSM and we will continue to use the podcasts to spread the  message. 

Stephen has set up a  Linkedin  but most of you know my opinion of Linkedin groups. We've also just established a Facebook page and group as an experiment. 

So, all very laudable, but will it work?

I'm a practical kind of guy. No really, I am, despite what my wife says. So the theory sounds good but good intentions aren't enough. We need actions. I'm also an auditor, so I have a somewhat cynical view of human nature, so I worry that some might subvert the concept to their own ends. You don't need to be an ITSkeptic to imagine a vendor labeling a sales pitch with the Back2ITSM label. 

Making it Happen

So here  our my ideas, and I stress that that is all they currently our:

Branding -  We already have the hashtag but it would be useful to have a logo vendors, conferences and blogs could use to show both their support and that the content is in line with the ethos of Back2ITSM

Quality -The branding needs to be backed by some form of community enforced quality control.  That probably means having a very simple set of guidelines and requirements , for instance requiring content to be published under a Creative Commons licence.

Accessibility - The content needs to be easy to access, perhaps via a central hub web site.

Co-operation - Where solutions already work they should be exploited rather than re-inventing the wheel.I don't, for instance, see Back2ITSM as competing against itSMF or SDI, but perhaps I foresee those bodies putting event on that would have Back2ITSM branding. I'm glad to say both SDI ansd itSMF UK have already made offers of support.

Making Connections - For me what lies at the heart of Back2ITSM is people giving their time, skills and experience to help others. Only so much of that can be done on paper. How doe we facilitate this? Social media is obviously one channel but I believe that a Back2ITSM conference, or unconference might be a jolly good idea, whether as a standalone event or as part of an existing event.

Well, those are my initial thoughts, what are yours?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Usual Tumbleweed

Quiet here, isn't it? Not a lot of action since my Week in Provence, which seems like a lifetime ago.

Needless to say a lack of blog activity actually  means I've been ferociously active elsewhere, so here is a quick update.

First of all I do have a day job, and recession or not TCS continues to do rather well for itself, and I'm pleased to say that my Service Integration and IT Governance team is no exception with great year on year growth. Of course that does mean I sometimes actually have to do some work. Unfortunately the two big developments I've been working on will have to stay under wraps a little longer, but watch this space for announcements.

One TCS initiative  that I can tell you about is that we were privileged to have Mark Toomey deliver an ISO 38500 Masterclass to our team. As far as I know we are the first major consultancy to make such a public commitment to this relatively new standard. Delivered in Mark's inimitable style the course generated a lot of debate and a lot of great ideas.

Needless to say I've continued my ranting on the ITSM Weekly Podcast Rest of the World edition.  I got extremely animated about metrics, and at the live recording (sic) we made at the itSMF UK conference I voiced my concern at the lack of a sense of urgency or any call to arms from within the industry during these interesting times.

Despite my rant the conference itself was a good event. As well as the live show we collected material for two other podcasts including a "vox pops" of delegate impressions.There is no doubt that the new location is much better than Birmingham in nearly all respects, except possibly the exhibition hall. It was good to meet up with so many people, though as usual I came away not having managed to speak to many of those I wanted to. I'll repeat something I've said before and which was echoed by others - if you see any of the so called ITILuminati wandering around at these events do feel free to introduce yourself and chat to them - most of them they don't bite.

There were a number of highlights for me. Sharing  a table at the gala dinner with the likes of Ivor Evans, Phil Montenaro and John Groom brought back memories of the early days of ITIL and Stephen Mann's session on Value was a timely reminder that we can't chose to avoid key topics just because they are difficult. Hopefully I'll be contributing a guest blog for Stephen on how my pet topic of service integration can help make the value proposition more explicit.

Bright-talk ran an interesting on line summit on Service Catalogues this week, and all the sessions are available for off-line listening. I took part in the panel debate with Chris Dancy, Charles Betz and Charles Araujo. We had got some interesting questions from the audience, and some equally interesting mixed  feedback.  Clearly from some of the comments there are people who still think there are simple answers to very complex questions that lie at the heart of service management - like "What is a service?"

Chris again raised a point that I made after Pink11 which is that there are some very different perspectives on ITIL and ITSM on the two sides of the Atlantic, reinforcing the idea of two nations divided by a common language. The reasons for this deserve a post of their own.

And finally.... and probably the main reason I've been too busy to post...and as Stephen Mann has just reminded me, the ITSMWPROW News Poodles, Daisy and Darcy, produced four little news poodles. Say hello to Roxy, Digby, Dougie and Ruby

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Week in Provence - Part 1


I've been threatening to write about cycling analogies and ITSM for some time. I've just returned from my annual cycling trip so this seems as good a time as any to do so. In this part I'll talk about he links to ITSM initiatives, in Part 2 I'll look at the links to everyday ITSM delivery.

A sensible pace
Strictly speaking I should say I'm currently retuning from it, since I'm writing this on the TGV between Montelimar and Paris at 320km,which is a lot faster than we've been cycling all week.

The TGV at Montelimar 

We've been cycling at a steady touring pace, all thirteen of us maintaining the same basic rhythm and going at the right speed to get to our destination at round about the right time. If it looked like it might start raining in the afternoon we've speeded up a little, if we wanted to take in the scenery a little we slowed it down. What we haven't done is to set off at break neck pace and found ourselves exhausted by lunchtime and struggling to continue after lunch.

ITSM initiatives need to find the right pace. It is better to be consistent than to rush ahead chasing the low hanging fruit only to find the imitative runs out of steam after the first eighteen months

The Chain Gang

Of course if you threw a random thirteen cyclists together the chances are they wouldn't all want or be able to cycle at the same pace. Our group isn't random though, having first met over ten years ago we've self selected from a wider gene pool so that we end up cycling with a group who stay together from the first day of the holiday. 
The team in action near Les Baux

That wasn't always the case in the early days. Typically the end of the first day would find us stretched out across the countryside in various states of health. We would still wait for each other but it wasn't very efficient. The reality is that even now we have variations in pace, for instance I'm never going to be the world's fastest climber, but I can set quite a pace on a flat road for long periods. Overall it all balances out.

Here comes the ITSM lesson:

ITSM works best when the teams and improvement initiatives delivering it can work at a similar speed and don't have to play catch up. Too often an imitative in one area gets delayed waiting for the other areas to catch up with them, and often by the time the others have caught up any benefits from the first teams effort in achieving an early delivery has been dissipated

Just Getting Along
Lets talk about the team for a bit. We have a lot in common, but there are also intrinsic differences that are inevitable when you bring together Belgians, Brits, Canadians, Minnesotans, New Yorkers and the Swiss. To get on we have to make compromises, and we have to accept our differences rather than pretending they don't exist. Needless to say humour plays a big part in keeping us a cohesive unit,even if our humour differs as well. There is also a language issue, made worse on years like this one where we ware cycling in a country foreign to all of us. For my part I spent less time perfecting my French than in improving my colloquial New York expressions, though pronouncing “Howudoin” remains beyond me.

Humour,compromise and making an effort all make ITSM more effective, as does recognising that teams, and the business have different but legitimate agendas.

We had two new team members this year. One will be invited back, one won't. Lets call the one we won't be inviting back: Carping Cathy. You know the type. Egocentric, constantly finding fault , unable to adjust to the mood of those around them and passing on information at critical times that is either irrelevant or out of date. How do you cope with them?

In the short term you ignore the whiners, and leave to the people who brought them on to the team to deal with them. In the long term you remove them from the team. If you don't you'll lose other good people I've seen far too many ITSM initiatives founder as a result of trying to bend backwards to keep those sorts of people happy


Some objectives are inherently hard to reconcile. I go cycling to lose weight. In Ireland that's easy, but in France, where I got to eat well, it isn't so easy. This year is the first time I've come back weighing more than at the start of the week. On the other hand few things are worse than cycling when you are hungry, or getting to a town at the end of a day to find there isn't a decent place to eat.
Pistou - the local soup

Maintaining morale and energy is vital but you also need to balance the different objectives. Another common mistake in ITSM initiatives is mistaking the kudos of accepting an ITSM project of the year award as the main objective, not delivering continued QoS to the business.

Don't Climb Every Mountain

Our route passed the foot of Mt Ventoux, one of cycling’s most famous climbs and the the site of the death of one of Britain's cycling heroes. As reasonably fit cyclists, who the previous day had done a 350m climb before lunch, It would have been very tempting to fit in an attempt to cycle up the 21km route with its constant climb and several sections of 1:10. Tempting but silly. None of us had been in training for a ride like that and we were using rented bikes that weren't really suitable.
That is yesterday's ride in the background

Just because a goal is in front of you doesn't mean it is a good idea to go for it. Of course you could spend a lot of time and effort implementing a CMDB, but do you really believe the effort would meet with success and merit the effort and pain involved?

It is all about the bike

Those of you who follow me on twitter will have picked up that as a non car driver I own a variety of bikes. Each has a purpose and each has limitations. On this occasion we were riding heavy hybrid bikes. They had the gears to get us up any hill, eventually whilst carrying a heavy load, but they aren’t the kind of bike I ride at the weekend when I want to cover 80km before lunch. The tools you have often dictate the path you take.

My steed for the week

If you want to do something different you might need a different tool, but you should expect that to have limitations in turn.

Its not all about the bike

If you aren't au fiat with cycle racing it is hard to get over how fit racing cyclists are. The best bike in the world ridden by an overweight forty eight year old is still going to struggle going up hills. Then again on the last day, having left the 350m climbs before lunch behind, we were cycling through the dead flat marshland of the Camargue and it was hard to stay excited, especially since the pink flamingos remained elusive. Needless to say we compensated by upping the pace considerably.

An exciting road in the Camargue marshes

As with the equipment side of the equation you have to adopt what you do to the capabilities of your team. At the same time a team that isn't being stretched is going to get bored so you need to make sure their personal and team capabilities are enhanced

Dealing with Novelty

I love my American cycling friends dearly, except when it comes to roundabouts. They just aren't used to them. Cycling in the UK roundabouts are an unwelcome and dangerous occupational hazard. Cars cut you up, it is hard to match your speed to the traffic flow, and all I want to do is get off them as quickly as possible. And to add to that on the other side of the channel I have to remember to cycle around them anticlockwise (With great timing as wrote that last sentence the Eurostar I'm now travelling on entered the Channel Tunnel ). On the other hand my American companions appear to have no conception of giving way to traffic already on the round about, and see roundabouts as as nice place to have a stop and chat about the scenery.

You say rest stop, I say roundabout

It is easy to underestimate the risk inherent in novel situations. The team need educating in new ways of behaving. Old ways of behaving run the risk of leading to a Darwin Award for removing yourself from the gene pool.

Changing direction

Even when we are highly skilled we can find external circumstances forcing us to do things we hadn't planned. In my case it was a lorry coming the other way down a very narrow road. Essentially I had tow choices. I could have braked hard or I could have swerved onto the gravel. Unfortunately I was day dreaming at the time and made the mistake of trying to do both things at once. The result was I skidded hard, jammed the rear brake on and lost my chain. The side of my leg also made contact with the side of the bike which wasn't a pretty picture the next day. The moral?

When you have to change direction quickly prioritise actions and try and keep your reaction as straightforward as possible rather than trying to change everything at once

Which way do we go?
There were lots of great things about this trip but the standard of the road book provided wasn't one of them. One of the team members provided an excellent translation of them from French into English, but the problem was that the original French instructions were incomplete and inaccurate. Remind you of anything? OK that link was a bit obvious even by my standards.

What would have made life a lot easier would have been a good map on which we could have plotted our route in advance and clarified any discrepancies between the instructions and the map. It goes without saying that we could have used Google earth or one of the specialist cycle route mapping tools to do that – if we had had access to them in the mountains and if the data roaming charges weren't so excessive.. Unfortunately high tech solutions often let us down when we most need them

Don't take the quality of frameworks like ITIL for granted and make use of other frameworks like COBIT, ISO 20000 and ISO 38500 to provide a wider context

Where Next ?
Here I am at the peak of my fitness regime for the year. I can look back on a successful trip with well earned satisfaction, but if I sit back and do nothing for the next twelve months I'll be flabby and unhealthy. So it is important that I keep my cycling routine going, even through the winter months when the sun of Provence will be a distant memory. And what better motivation can there be than planning next year's trip when hopefully we will be returning to Ireland for the masochistic pleasure of hills, rain, wind, cold and over priced Irish cooking.

ITSM doesn't finish with the end of an implementation initiative – that's when the really hard work begins

Friday, 9 September 2011

Episode 9: Downtime is Forever

Brandon Lane CIO blinked. He was still recovering from the visit of the Ghost of ITIL Past, and now the Ghost of ITIL Present stood in front of him. The blinking having not worked he tried a heavy sigh.

Jimbofin, for such it was, raised an eyebrow and said nothing. Eventually Brandon gave in.

“I guess I’m still dreaming?”

Jimbofin smirked.

“Of course you are, but you are in good company. Look outside your office door.”

Brandon got up and looked outside the door. He was greeted by the sound of loud snoring and the sight of his IT department slumped over their desks. Everyone that is except the help desk staff, they were still hard at work answering calls. Jimbofin and Brandon walked up to them. Brandon spotted Kelly walking towards them and was about to ask her if she’d noticed anything odd, when she walked right through him.

“I don’t get this” said Brandon, “What’s going on?”

“Well, let us start with your help desk first. They can’t afford the time to dream, but they are so busy dealing with the reality of the impact of poor service on the users they also can’t afford to take any notice of management. It is as if you don’t exist to them.”

There was a commotion as one of the help desk agents collapsed at their desk.

“I thought you said they were too busy for dreaming?”

“They are, he’s not dreaming, he’s just collapsed from exhaustion. It is a totally different phenomenon. You know it is funny, but it can be hard to tell two things apart that look similar but underneath the surface are totally different. Look at this for instance...”

Jimbofin had wandered over to the desk of Richard, the help desk manager, who unlike the rest of his team was clearly dreaming. Jimbofin was pointing at a large pile of books on Richard’s desk.

There was something both familiar and strange about them. “What are they?” Brandon asked.

“Behold ‘ITIL 2011 Edition’ in all its weighty glory. Richard never stops telling anyone who shows the slightest sign of interest that this is an ITIL v3 shop, if you could see into his dreams you would see him standing up in front of an audience at an itSMF conference telling the world how this is the first organisation to become ITIL 2011 Edition compliant thanks to his initiative”

“Really? That’s....interesting...what would it mean?”

“On the basis that the difference between v3 and 2011 Edition is that all the inconsistencies and mistakes have been taken out then someone as literal as myself might suggest it would mean you’ve stopped being inconsistent and  blindly following what ITIL says even when it is mistaken. In reality of course it means nothing at all, especially since your department can’t get the basics right. For instance, what did you ask Richard to do when you spoke to him earlier?”

“I told him to get out here and find out what the issues with the changes to the MFD IP addresses were.”

“Did you? That sounds sensible. I’m sure he dashed back here and set up an online conference to get to the root cause of it all, having stopped only to brief the helpdesk team on a consistent message to give out to callers. Shall we have a look at what is on his screen?”

Brandon leaned forward to look. Then he stood back and looked up to the heavens, before looking back to Jimbofin.

“What should I do?” He asked, “It is so much worse than I realised.”

“Oh I don’t know, I think he did quite well to get ten euros for his old ITIL books on eBay.” He paused. "Perhaps it was unfair of me to use your account to make the bid."

Brandon glared at him.

“Oh don’t worry, it isn’t like we are in real time here. We are in the IT department time-zone, things are different here. For instance down here if there is an hour’s downtime one week time heals itself so that the IT department forget about it as long as they still meet their SLA at the end of the year. Not in the business though, up there that one hour becomes indelibly etched into the corporate memory and stretches into an infinite perception that the systems are always down”

“Well thank goodness that this is just a dream. It would be dreadful if whilst everyone was dreaming down here the rest of the organisation was trying to get on with its normal business.”

“Yes that would be quite awkward wouldn’t it, er, yes. Did I actually say that? Remember what I said earlier about the help desk being too busy to dream? Perhaps you’d better listen in on one of these phones...”

Brandon raced to the desks and picked up the first headset he could find


Brandon sighed. He would recognise the sound of the CEO’s voice until the last syllable of recorded time.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

To put it another way....

In my post earlier today I linked to the self congratulating page of reviews for ITIL 2011 Edition.

James West tweeted that

"If ITIL v3 was so hard to read in the first place, as these comments infer, why wasn't it called a draft?"

Good point James, so why don't we turn those comments around to refer to v3.0:

'ITIL lacks  clarity and consistency amongst the five books , is difficult to read and hard for users to understand.
'The first edition contains many inconsistencies to be removed .
'Although these are a  great set of books there is content  that needs clarification or correction, and other topics I wish had more coverage!
'ITIL publications require an astounding improvement . The language and descriptions are not clear and concise, and don't give  the reader a clear appreciation of the processes and stages of the ITIL lifecycle.'
 'ITIL is a useful resource but not an essential one.
'Strategy is not accessible. It doesn't flow, it  doesn't link up to the other stages of the lifecycle .
' ITIL Service Strategy is not an easy read. it is too theoretic and not practical.
'Service Design. is like a 'jigsaw' puzzle without the picture on the box.'
ITIL Service Operation ' is ambiguous, and inconsistent especially around roles and responsibilities, particularly in technical management, IT operations and applications management.
'The inclusion of proactive problem management and additional analysis techniques [in ITIL Service Operation] would be of great value.' 
'Service Transition has many confusing aspects.  SKMS, CMS, CMDB  is a mystifying and unhelpful maelstrom.
Service Transition lacks synergy making it hard for the reader to locate like-for-like content across the process areas covered. More practical application and alignment more closely to real-world experience would be useful'

Now, aren't you glad you spent all that money on the v3.0 books and training?

ITIL 2011 Edition

As I write this the ITSM community is eagerly awaiting the release of  ITIL 2011 Edition due on 29th July.

Many of us have no real idea what to expect from it except the crumbs of information provided by the FAQ and the self-congratulating review page.  This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by ISACA who ensure that drafts receive a wide audience before publication, a point picked up on by several blogs.

As you would expect Rob England has a few thoughts on the subject, and so does my colleague  Stephen Mann from the ITSM Rest of the World Podcasts. Like most of us they have not seen any of the content, so their comments refer mostly to the process around the revision.

It seems like only five minutes ago that v3 was launched with much hoo-hah, but like Stephen I wonder what change it has really brought about at the coal face. Also like Stephen I have still to see what I consider an ITIL v3 implementation in the wild - I think his blog post accurately reflects the reality that many who claim to have moved on to a v3 paradigm are still struggling to effectively deliver in areas that date back to v1.

I can't help feeling cynical about the new edition. However it is being dressed up this new version has been required because there were major mistakes in the way v3.0 was delivered, such as a lack of consistency and accessibility. Hopefully those two issues will largely have been addressed in the new version, and if so it is to be welcomed.

So what are my concerns going forward? I have three major ones:

The first is that ITIL continues to lack a central set of principles and propositions to guide ITSM design and delivery. Until it does so it will remain, as Ian Clayton would put it, Inside-Out rather than Outside-In. If the only answer to "Why should we do it this way?" is "Because ITIL says so" then ITIL remains broken.

Secondly I'm concerned that the ITSM/ITIL industry will hype up the significance of the changes to promote yet more training and ancillary publications of dubious value.

Thirdly I suspect the world portrayed in the ITIL books will continue to be a long way removed from the reality that most of us recognise in our workplaces. When I look back to the v1 books - and I do - I find them grounded in real life as it then was.

In the run up to the launch I intend to cover all three of these points in more detail. You can also expect to hear them, and more, debated on the podcasts.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

SDI 11

I've just returned from an exciting two days at this year's Service Desk Institute Conference and thought I would share a few thoughts with you post event.

Before going any further I have to thank the SDI for providing me with a free pass for the two days so that we could record an ITSMWPROW podcast there. More of that latter.

Being an inveterate people watcher I found the mix of the audience interesting. This is very much a grass roots service desk practitioner event and that was reflected by the people in the room, but all were unified by an overwhelming enthusiasm for what they do - not because they think it is interesting, but because they believe it is important to the people they serve.

I'll call out, perhaps unfairly, two teams for special mention. The Kent Council IT service desk have recently retained their SDI 4 star rating, and talking to Paula and Emily on the first of the two SDI11 podcasts we recorded it was clear that they are driven by a desire to go on improving the service they provide whilst acknowledging the constraints the UK public sector is currently working within. They also echoed a common message among attendees - addressing customer satisfaction mechanisms is a real challenge.

The second team I'm going to call out have addressed that challenge head on. TNT Express, the well deserved winners of the Large Team Award. They get close to the customer by sending team members out to experience "a life in a day" of their customers, which means helping out the delivery drivers on the road wearing overalls and safety boot. Again we will be featuring them on an upcoming podcast and I really urge you to listen to what they have to say.

The great thing about a conference like this one is that the technology stays firmly in the background and the spotlight falls on people. This was certainly reflected by the messages of most of the speakers. I'm sure that for a lot of people Catherine DeVrye's sessions were inspirational.

James West picked up an interesting theme about the role of ITIL at the event, which I think reflects what we are hearing at other conferences as well, and the theme was also evident in some of the comments made by various industry gurus on Barclay Rae's ITSM TV.

Having put in a lot of links to Twitter accounts in this article I should mention  Frieda's session on social media. It still seems to be the case that Twitter is under used at UK ITSM events which is a real shame, especially for those who cannot attend in person.

So there you are. We will be covering a lot more from the conference in the upcoming podcasts, but a heartfelt thanks to Howard, Emma Tessa and the rest of the SDI team.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Putting Social Media into ITSM: Part 3

The Big Payoff

In Parts 1 and 2 I tried to give a general overview of social media and the issues around it.

The crux of the matter is though there is a lot of talk about social media and ITSM, but not many ideas for how it can be used in reality, either now or in the future. So here is my very own set of ideas. Well I might have borrowed one or two of them, after all you can't have social media without plagiarism.

Intelligence Gathering
Trawl external and internal social media to get a feel for what people are saying about you and your competitors. Whats that, you say you don't have competitors? Trust me if you work in IT you do. Don't fall into the spy mentality though. And if your customers and stakeholders aren't saying nice things about you think long and hard about how to react.Of course gathering intelligence is no use unless you can turn it into actions...

Incubating Innovation
Don't just lurk on social media, use it to try out ideas with an audience that is generally going to be on your side, but also has a tendency to be brutally honest. Thinking about changing service desk hours? Ask what people think. Better still ask them for ideas, like that unified new starter process that combines HR and IT requirements. After all it is all about....

Perhaps this is too basic to even mention? Social media  is all about communication and communication is a two way process. Ask and listen. Listen and ask. In time you will....

Build Relationships
An issue many of us face in IT is that our relationships with customers are asymmetrical and skewed towards certain kinds of interactions, often ones where the customer isn't happy. Use social media to build relationships with the user and customer community.In fact why not...

Build a Community
Corporate attempts to plug into the knowledge, ideas and energy of the workforce are notoriously prone to failure. Trust me, I've seen the state of far too many internal ITSM Wikis.Make use of the self-organising nature of social media to promote communities, and if possible to build bridges between communities to create highly connected "small worlds". Get your super users together, they might even help you....

Educate Users
People listen to their peers, or those they naturally respect. So why not use peers to educate other users? This is especially useful when uses face issues that are around a mixture of IT and business process, not pure technology issues. Another way to get both users and support teams engaged is...

DARPA have turned what was a game into a way of crowd sourcing how an autonomous sub-hunting vessel should search for its prey. OK, actually I got bored after playing it for half an hour, but the concept is good. So how about a "game" where support staff score points for solving issues they haven't come across before, or for visiting users at their desks? Don't forget the game isn't over until you've killed the boss.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Putting Social Media into ITSM Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about how some of us are using social media to build a wider ITSM community. In this post I was going to talk about the much more interesting issue of whether we can use social media as an ITSM tool in the real world. Before I go rushing of into blue sky thinking though it is worth thinking about the ITSM lessons we can learn from those organisations that are using social media well. And lets first poke fun at a few people who just haven't got the hang of it yet.

You Can't Bury Your Head Deep Enough in the Sand 
-or "In the Twitterverse everyone can hear your scream"

Whether your organisation has a social media strategy or not your people and your customers are out there using it to talk about your organisation. It could be someone complaining about their boss on Facebook It could be a dissatisfied customer complaining baout poor service. And it could be someone trying to tell you what makes you great.

I just did a search on Twitter for the first company I could think of. It happens to be a British high street retailer. Actually, since the comments were almost all positive I'll tell you it was W H Smiths.Now if I was in marketing with them there would would be a while load of conversations I could be opening up with people  to build on that good basic vibe.

@WHSmith_UK follows 18 people and has tweeted 6 times. The last was in December.
@WHSmithLtf follows no one and has never tweeted.

Do I need to tell you about @WHSmithPLC, or can you guess?

OK that is a company, not an IT department, but you get the point.

Just because you aren't part of the conversation doesn't mean people aren't talking about you.

Now just do a quick Twitter search for "IT Department" and see what the ratio of negative to positive comments.Better still, try this Twitter search:

helpdesk :(

Another classic comes to mind here. @Patb0512 was waiting int he queue for breakfast at the Bellagio and tweeted an "observation" about the length of the wait and the probable quality of the breakfast if he ever got to eat it. The original tweet was quite amusing, but it was funnier still to see the Bellagio had a robot hard at work re-tweeting any tweets containing the hotels name, whether positive or critical. Incidentally based on Pat's tweet I didn't even bother joining the queue.

A word of caution here. What to one middle aged manager might appear a foolish approach to social media might actually be a very savvy approach as far as the target audience is concerned.  For instance in the SDITS11 panel discussion someone joked how ludicrous it is that packets of Pampers diapers/nappies have a suggestion that you should follow @pampers. Yet why on earth is that ludicrous? Look at that Twitter account and you'll see a fair share of marketing messages, but you'll also see near real time interaction with customers, dealing with their real life problems. In fact what you see emerging is something @barclayrae described in that same panel session as "an authentic persona"

The Secret of Success is Sincerity - Once You Can Fake That You've Got it Made
 - Jean Giraudoux

Personally I believe Barclay is spot on with his observation of how important projecting an authentic persona is, and also in going on to say that in the multi-threaded world of social media authenticity becomes hard to fake.Those organisations that use social media well recognize that, but it is a warning to IT departments with our tendency to hide behind technology.

In Part 3 I will finally get around to addressing specific ideas for the use of social media for ITSM, but for now let me leave you with

Finisters' Rules of  Social Media.

  1. Listen to what users of social media are saying - but in conjunction with traditional means of marketing and communication
  2. Listening means reacting in a way that makes the customer feel they are being listened to. My personal pet hates are automated DMs* from Twitter accounts with thanking me for following them.
  3. Talking of DMs, consider when to respond privately and when to respond publicly
  4. Remember in social media land everything becomes public
  5. Despite what Meg Ryan told you, there are some things you can't fake
  6. Be aware of the difference between tweeting as a company and tweeting as an individual, but recognize that it is a soft boundary. Don't use a personal account to constantly promote your company, but don't hide the fact you have a commercial interest either.
  7. Use humor, but use it appropriately
  8. Remember the large part of your customer base that isn't currently using social media
  9. Use different tools for different jobs. What works on Facebook won't work on Twitter but...
  10. ...use different mediums in combination, so for instance use Twitter to promote a YouTube video

*DM - Direct Message - a tweet sent privately that only the recipient sees.