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