New CEO of itSMF UK says, “ITSM needs to broaden its outlook”

ITSM needs to broaden its outlook
“…ITSM does need to broaden its outlook. ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile. If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes. “

I recently chatted to the new CEO of itSMF UK, Mike Owen, about his perspective of ITSM and challenges the industry faces.

In this interview Mike shares a great vision of where to take the forum and changes being discussed to the itSMF’s founding chapter. 

Q. ITSM Review: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Mike Owen: My background is primarily in marketing and then general management.  The first 15 years of my career were spent working in various companies including Time Warner, BT, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Grant Thornton – mostly in sales and marketing roles.  After I did my MBA, I then worked for a national NHS authority as head of strategic planning.  For the last 10 years I’ve worked across the commercial, non-for-profit and public sectors in various operational director, interim CEO and consultancy roles, specializing particularly in business-to-business sectors and membership organizations.  I’ve worked with professional membership bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, trade associations, and general business groups like Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

What interested me about the role at ITSMF UK was the opportunity to join an established membership body operating in a vibrant, exciting sector that IT clearly is – but where there was a fresh management challenge and an opportunity to further develop the organization, build its profile and help shape a new wave of growth.  I’ve previously been MD/CEO of three small member-based enterprises – including one in the field of facilities IT – and I have always liked the shared ethos of membership bodies, but where there is still a commercial imperative to make things happen and develop for the future.

What are you making of the world of IT service management (ITSM) so far?

I’m finding it very interesting so far!   I’m learning quickly and meeting lots of new people.   Although I’m new to ITSM, I actually see that as quite a good thing as it means I’m inclined to ask questions that perhaps some more technical people might not. It also makes me more interested in looking for the context of how ITSM fits in with the rest of IT and wider business management.

A few things that have particularly struck me so far are:

  1. ITSM is quite process and operations focused.  Certainly, it is very valuable for people working in ITSM to have good models and frameworks to indicate effective practice and how to carry out tasks, but I wonder if there is a need to increase focus on wider and more strategic areas affecting IT and service delivery – like business strategy, IT architecture planning, operational process design, business structure and culture, staff skills/job design, relationship management with partners/suppliers, client satisfaction measurement, risk management, service quality management and so on.
  2. ITSM currently appears to revolve substantially around ITIL.  Although this is, of course, a well established and proven approach, I don’t think one framework can fully suit every organization out there; in my opinion the field needs to be seen more as an overall suite of different tools and methods to suit different contexts and a constantly changing IT environment.  Other models already exist, of course, for example ISO 20000, COBIT, SIAM, Lean IT, and DevOps, but I think more needs to be done to present – and develop – ITSM as a discipline with a larger, richer, more flexible set of concepts, tools and methods.
  3. There is a lot of potential to take ITSM beyond the IT department and relate it to wider business functions.   I definitely get the sense that more and more people working in ITSM consider that the field needs to be seen in a broader and more holistic light than has been the case historically.  As IT is nowadays such a key driver and enabler of business strategy, operational processes and customer-facing products/services, I think perhaps ITSM needs to relate to that wider frame of relevance more, not just serve as a template for running and delivering internally-focused IT operations more effectively.

Do you think ITSM is in danger of becoming irrelevant?

Not totally, but it seems to me that ITSM does need to broaden its outlook.  ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile.  If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes.  IT often places too much emphasis on technical or operational processes.  How many people in IT currently stop to think “how does this process link to our customers?”  It’s pivotal that IT understands that it needs to have an outward, not just inward looking view of how to define the services that they are managing.

So in your opinion the future of ITSM lies outside of IT?

ITSM’s heritage is in the IT department, but I would say, yes, its future lies more outside of IT than in it.  I believe that the future of ITSM is more to help organizations manage and deliver their overall customer/market-facing services and operations where they have a high dependency on sound and effective IT. Today, ITSM is more often than not about running internally focused IT operational services.  Tomorrow has the potential for ITSM to evolve to be more about running IT-enabled, externally centred business/customer services.   As such, ITSM professionals will need to work more closely with marketing and service operations colleagues and complement their deep technical/IT knowledge with wider business knowledge.  In time, perhaps the sector will lose the “IT” from “ITSM”, but we need to careful we don’t stretch ourselves into being too generic!

So with regards to ITSMF UK, what do you see as the biggest challenge you have to face in the next 12 months?

Well, we need to continue operating a good day-to-day service for our members, of course, but there’s also a need to refresh the organization and put it in a strong position for the longer-term.  This year, priorities for us include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do things; improving our engagement with members; starting to develop and enhance our services and benefits to members; and building our marketing, profile and connections within the ITSM sector.   ITSMF UK has a very valuable role to play in the sector – as the leading membership body for organizations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.  Like any organization, we just need to keep moving and adapting to suit the world around us.

How do you intend to provide better value to your members?

Overall, itSMF is about providing value in several ways:  particularly:  boosting professional knowledge and learning to help organizations and their staff get better results from ITSM; networking and sharing between ITSM professionals; providing news, information and objective guidance about ITSM matters; helping to develop and promote ITSM as an overall discipline; and bringing together and representing the different parts of the ITSM sector.   We’ll be looking to steadily build value on all these fronts and we’ll be seeking to do this in some cases by working in partnership with other professional bodies and groups in the sector.

Furthermore, we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” membership approach to presenting a more tailored offer and service approach to the different parts of the community.  For example, we’ll be doing more to provide value to and support senior ITSM managers and leaders in our member organizations.   We’ll also be doing a lot more online.

What can we expect to see from ITSMF UK over the next 6 months?

We’ll be moving forward on all the development areas I referred to earlier, but the areas of marketing and member communications will see some of the earliest changes.  For instance, we have already introduced a much better Forum website whose functionality we will be developing steadily over the coming months – including expansion of our online reference resources. We’re refreshing the look and feel of our communication materials and tools and we’re revamping the editorial approach to our main publication, ServiceTalk to integrate it better with online media and cover ITSM issues, news and topics in greater depth.

Mike-Owen
Mike Owen, CEO itSMF UK

The other major thing happening in the next six months, of course, is our 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition.  We’re also continuing to run our wide range of regional meetings, specialist topic seminars, and advanced masterclass events.

We’ve also started successfully to expand our membership base – that’s both our number of member organizations and the number of individuals registered to use our Forum’s facilities.

In the past resource has been an issue for ITSMF UK, how do you intend to achieve all these planned changes and updates?

By running a tight ship and moving forward in a careful but steady manner.  We’ll prioritize what we do, always staying close to what members want, and we’ll work with our members and external partners as effectively as possible.      I should stress that you don’t need to have lots of people to do more things. It’s about better utilizing the talent you have and involving members and appropriate external partners where necessary.

We also want to do more to facilitate and encourage more ‘peer-to-peer’ member activity and more support between members themselves.  A membership body like ITSMF UK shouldn’t just be about a central office doing things for members ‘out there’:  a Forum is equally about members networking and sharing with each other directly.  That’s the beauty of a body like ours and something we want to expand further, making more use of our website and social media.

What’s happening with the Big4 agenda? Will you be planning a Big4 for 2015?

The Big4 agenda has been about trying to stimulate discussion, support and information around a particular set of ITSM topics that members told us last year they were particularly concerned about: back to basics, skills, managing complexity, and ITSM and agile.  The initiative has been very useful, with activity ranging from dedicated seminars, online discussions, and articles in ServiceTalk and, of course, shaping many of the sessions at our upcoming 2014 Conference.

Of course, though, there are always many, more topics and issues on the minds of ITSM professionals at any one time and the Forum always needs to relate to those wider topics too.

In terms of thoughts about 2015, it’s a bit early to tell how we’ll approach the initiative next year, but certainly we’ll be minded to keep it as a useful way to help engage with members and assist in focusing our activities.

You mentioned the ITSMF UK Annual Conference and Exhibition, what can we expect from the event this year?

Well, we’re very confident it’s going to be another great event – the premier exhibition, conference and awards event for the UK ITSM sector!   Still three months ahead of the event, we’re already delighted with the level of bookings – from delegates, sponsors and exhibitors.  We’ve got a wide range of major and leading organizations who will providing speakers this year, including:  Aviva, EE, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Telefonica, Axelos, Capgemini, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy, and the NIHR Clincial Research Network.  The conference will have over 30 separate presentations and workshops and the ITSM Exhibition will have over 40 exhibitors from major product and service providers across the ITSM sector.  I’m really looking forward to the event. 

What can we expect from ITSMF UK in the future, above and beyond just the next 12 months?

What I can say at this stage is that we will continue the journey I outlined earlier of steadily building the Forum and adding more and more value to both members and the wider ITSM sector.  We need to be realistic, it’s going to take 18 months to two years to do everything we want to best fulfill the role of being the leading membership body for organisations, managers and staff involved in ITSM.   Everything will come in steady steps, but the overall goal is to better support our members, to help people adapt and succeed in this new age of ITSM, to represent the ITSM community, and help promote the overall value of ITSM.

It’s an exciting mission for ITSMF UK.  Everyone at the Forum is motivated by it and we view the future, with all our members, with a great deal of confidence.

The ITSM Review team welcomes Mike to his new role and looks forward to collaborating with itSMF in the future.  

 

itSMF networking meeting, York, UK

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Free Networking Event – Open to non-members

itSMF UK are holding a free networking event in the Biltmore Bar and Grill in Swinegate, York, from 6-8pm on Wednesday 14th May.

This event is for anyone in York and surrounding areas who works in IT service management (ITSM). It provides an opportunity to meet with fellow professionals and to learn and share how to best apply techniques from ITIL and other frameworks.

The intention is to foster a local ITSM community, holding regular itSMF UK Local networking events and inviting guest speakers to talk on topics of interest.

Light refreshments will be provided, courtesy of IT Training Zone, and all attendees will receive a copy of the Introductory Overview of ITIL 2011.

The format of the event will be: welcome and introductions, a short presentation and discussion on getting the most out of ITIL, followed by networking and refreshments.


WHAT

itSMF UK Local Event

WHERE

Biltmore Bar and Grill in Swinegate, York

WHEN

14th May, 6-8pm

COSTS

Free of charge – open to members and non-members

RSVP

Register online or contact Kevin Holland or Claire Agutter

Review: Nexthink for Integrations

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch In the emerging IT management category ITOA (IT Operations Analytics) Nexthink provides a very different view and, when integrated into ITSM, can provide a real-time analytical interface into processes for proactive, rather than reactive management.
Strengths
  •  Offers a completely different view of information within an enterprise
  • Everything is displayed in real-time and with the integration options to key ITSM tools, the combination really lends itself to larger organisations and those running complex migration/transformation projects
Weaknesses
  • As ITOA is a new category, it requires financial commitment from other departments to cover this level of end-to-end management and analytical capability – Probably not for the very small organisations.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Nexthink’s customer base is more focussed on larger companies.They are classified for this review as:Specialised tooling, requiring integration to ITSM.

Commercial Summary

Vendor Nexthink
Product Nexthink V4
Version reviewed V4.4
Date of version release May 2nd, 2013
Year founded 2004
Customers 450+
Pricing Structure # of Physical and Virtual Endpoints/Desktops# of Citrix UsersPerpetual and SubscriptionDiscount for volumeMSP/SaaS pricing is available to partners that want to deliver End-user IT Analytics as a service
Competitive Differentiators
  1. Nexthink provide End-User IT Analytics – the tool analyses data from all the endpoints and extrapolates information from that perspective to identify trouble spots.
  2. The analysis is in real-time – patterns and any anomalies detected are constantly being evaluated.
  3. They turn the end-user and endpoint data into a level of intelligence and insight to sit alongside IT Service Management and offer a level of integration with known vendors to complement them in a number of areas.

Independent Review

thumbnailThere is something always beguiling when products talk of heat-maps and show dynamic visions of where network paths are failing, and to see it in real-time brings out the magpie in technical reviewers.

Starting at the top, they provide a customisable dashboard that would catch the eye of CIOs and the review got to examine a little more breadth to the product.

In essence a driver agent is sent to all target endpoints and it sends the real-time data back to their own engine where the information can be shown in a dashboard display of high level information about the number of issues. The collector can even send back information when the endpoint’s CPU is overwhelmed.

Applications for end-points can be profiled before a rollout – for example testing out builds on particular hardware to see how effective the build is for machines.

Once you come away from the high level dashboard, there are detailed “heat-maps” that begin to show you where issues are building up, and specific trouble area can be drilled into. These lower level graphics are typically what operations centre staff and advanced technical support will get the real value from.

The level of intelligence to extrapolate information, purely from the end-point perspective is what makes the product stand out.

Whilst the product can stand on its own merits, its real value is when it is integrated with ITSM and their partnership framework opens up the right doors for the company. Nexthink have integrated with leading ITSSM tools including BMC/Remedy, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

Their value is to help organisations to see the big picture and enlightened organisations are realising that they need this more holistic view.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

Nexthink have worked to develop an ITSM Solution Pack that maps their capabilities with 17 of the 28 ITIL 2011 processes.

They are not an ITSM tool, but they recognise that the real value of their product comes with integration into key ITIL processes.

Security Controls

They have also developed a Nexthink Security Solution Pack and have mapped the product with leading security standards.

Asset and Configuration Information

Their integration partners include: Microsoft SCCM, Symantec/Altiris, LANDesk, Matrix42

They bring in the information to help build up their picture of the end-point interactions.

Additional Areas of Integration

  • Event Correlation

Nexthink have integrated with Event Correlation Engines with companies such as BMC, CA/Nimsoft, HP and IBM).

Because they report the global end-user events, they can correlate those to show in real time which server is affected (the Nexthink collector is only placed on endpoints).

  • Security

Nexthink can also add an extra measure of vulnerability assessment and can assist with compliance testing.

  • Transformation

An ideal area for consideration is the use of Nexthink for large, complex Transformation projects – combined with standard ITSM tooling the combination can provide much better guidance on what is going to be involved with a large transformation project.

Nexthink Service Management Customers

From the Nexthink Brochure

  • Innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and workplace transformation.
  • Self-learning and artificial intelligence constructs meaningful patterns and IT analytics – patterns are analysed in real time (every minute), enterprise wide.
  • What makes Nexthink unique is the real-time analytics of all executions and all network connections and the corresponding visualisation that provides new visibility and insight at that moment in time.

In Their Own Words:

Nexthink is the innovator of End-user IT Analytics for security, ITSM and transformation.  Nexthink turns end-user and endpoint data into intelligence and insights. Our software uniquely provides enterprise-wide, real-time analytics covering all endpoints, all users, all applications and all network connections with visibility into your IT infrastructure and service delivery.  Nexthink helps IT Departments connect, communicate and collaborate to achieve their major goals and to optimize endpoint security, operations, support, and workplace transformation projects.  Nexthink real-time analytics and visualization extend help desk, server monitoring, APM (application performance management) and PCLM (PC lifecycle management) tools and provides essential visibility for IT Governance.

Nexthink serves mid-size and enterprise companies utilizing a leveraged partner model.  Nexthink is a registered trademark of Nexthink SA. To learn more, visit http://www.nexthink.com

 Screenshots

Further Information

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

A vision for ITIL

examSince the UK Government transferred ITIL (and the rest of their best management practice portfolio) to AXELOS there have been lots of suggestions about what they should change. I’ve been involved in discussions about the future of ITIL with many people, face-to-face and in social media, and there is clearly a lot of passion as well as many creative ideas. This article is my contribution to the ongoing debate.

Three is the magic number

When I think about ITIL, I think of three distinct things, and it is really important to distinguish these, and to make sure we plan what is needed for each of them.

  1. A body of knowledge that can be used by IT organizations to help them create value for their customers. This body of knowledge is available in the form of five core publications, plus a number of complementary publications, but I think of knowledge as something that lives in people, that they can use to do something useful. In this sense, ITIL really is owned by the huge community of service management practitioners who use it to inform decisions about how they will plan, build and run IT services.
  2. A collection of training courses that people attend to develop their knowledge, understanding and competence. These courses are based on the ITIL publications, and often lead to certification, but they are distinct from both of those. The purpose of the training should be to help people develop knowledge, understanding and competence that they can use to help them improve how they manage IT services to create value for their organizations or customers.
  3. A set of exams that are used to certify that people satisfy the requirements of specific syllabuses. These exams are used to demonstrate that people have knowledge of ITIL when applying for jobs or tendering for contracting opportunities.

One mistake I have seen in many discussions is to confuse two of these things. If we don’t look at the requirements for each of them separately then we will never plan well, but if we plan them each independently that won’t work either!

Here is what I would like to see in each area.

Body of Knowledge

The body of knowledge has a number of problems which should be addressed in a future release.

  • It needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world. It doesn’t offer sufficient guidance in areas such as Supplier Integration and Management (SIAM), integration across the service lifecycle (ITIL service design has virtually nothing about application development for example), management of complex virtual and cloud environments, and many other areas. It would be great if ITIL could adopt ideas such as Rob England’s Standard+Case for example.
  • Even though the 2011 edition fixed many inconsistencies, there are still some contradictions between how terms are used in the different publications and how inputs, outputs and interfaces are defined.
  • The books are very long, and somewhat repetitive. It is a huge challenge for most people to actually read them!

The ITIL body of knowledge also has a number of great features which I would hate to lose. Probably the best feature of ITIL is that it is NOT a standard, it is a narrative. It tells stories and provides examples of how other organizations have done things that can be copied. Any future development of ITIL must retain this narrative approach.

I think we could resolve the issues with the ITIL body of knowledge by defining a service management architecture. This could be done at a fairly high level and would allow us to simultaneously define a lifecycle, and processes, and many other views and ways of thinking about service management.

The architecture could show how the bits fit together without providing excessive detail of how each part works. We could then charter authors to write narrative that fits within the architecture. This would retain the narrative approach that ITIL does so well but put it within a more formal structure which would improve consistency.

It would also allow for different narratives that could even contradict each other, that fit within the same architecture. For example there might be different descriptions of incident management for use in a complex multi-supplier environment and an in-house IT department.

I don’t think we should be in too much of a hurry to create a new version of ITIL, it’s more important to get this stuff right than to get it fast, but I would love to see AXELOS working towards this vision of a properly architected approach to IT service management, especially if they can adopt the ideas I have previously suggested in ITSM Knowledge Repository – proposal for ITIL owners to ensure that we get input from the widest possible community of ITSM practitioners.

Training Courses

I see many different problems with ITIL training courses:

  • In my opinion they are too focused on the exams rather than on helping people to develop knowledge, understanding and competence. There are some very good training providers, but price pressure in the market drives many of them towards lower cost, shorter, exam-focussed courses.
  • People often leave the courses with a complete misunderstanding of what ITIL is, and how it could be used to help create value for their customers.
  • Due to the above issues, many people think that ITIL is a rigid framework of bureaucratic processes, this leads to some very poor practices that don’t provide value to anyone.
  • Very large numbers of people attend ITIL Foundation, which is often simply an exercise in cramming facts. There is a lot of material to learn in a fairly short time, and only a very talented trainer can motivate people to really care about creating value for customers while communicating this amount of information in the time available.
  • Almost all of the courses focus on ITIL exam syllabuses. These may not be appropriate for everybody in the organization, and many people would be better off with more focused training that teaches them how the things they do contribute value and how they could improve their practices.

There are a number of things that could be done to improve ITIL training. I would like to see more training organizations provide courses that focus on how ITIL can be used to create value, rather than on fact-cramming. I love the ITSM simulations created by G2G3 (and other organizations), and I am very encouraged that Capita (the majority owner of AXELOS) now also own G2G3.

I think the main thing that is needed to improve ITIL training is to somehow separate it from the exam system. We could do with some really good marketing of non-examined training courses that help practitioners develop the knowledge, understanding and competence that they need to create value for their customers.

Exams

I don’t think the ITIL exams  should be changed in the short term. It will take a long time to create a new version of ITIL, especially if AXELOS follow the suggestions I have made above, and I think that making significant changes to the exam system before there is a new version of ITIL would create significant problems for the market. It would take more than a year to create a new exam system, and training organizations would then have to create new courses.

There would be confusion over the value of the retired exams; training organizations would incur a huge expense to create new courses for the same expected revenue; and if there is an expectation of a new version of ITIL in 3 to 5 years then the ITIL exam market may stall completely. These issues are amplified by the need to release exams and training courses in many languages to support the worldwide community.

In parallel with work to create a new version of ITIL, I think that AXELOS should work with all the stakeholders in the exam system to understand what is working well and what could be improved. The first step of this should be to identify the correct stakeholders. We talk to exam institutes and training organizations, but spend far too little time trying to understand the needs of the organizations that use ITIL. AXELOS should talk to a wide range of IT organizations, IT recruiters, outsourcers and other users of IT service management about what they want from an exam system.

In summary

I think we should be working towards releasing a new version of ITIL, based on a formal architecture, in 3 to 4 years, and I think we should create a new exam system at the same time. Meanwhile we should help create more value in the short term by creating more innovative training courses that are not solely focused on the exams.

Image credit

Met Office reduces (software) forecast errors

The Met Office has to implemented a new software release and deployment automation solution to reduce the number of software planning, delivery, deployment and execution errors it needs to handle on a day to day basis.

A weather
Image credit: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

The UK national weather and climate services authority has worked with specialist partner in release and deployment management solutions Cachet Software to implement the XebiaLabs Deployit product.

This installation is intended to enable the Met Office to save time, with tests already showing a substantial reduction in deployment times compared to their in-house solution.

It will also help reduce errors and increase efficiency of preparation and deployment.

Overall, the solution is hoped to increase accuracy, speed and scale for the Met Office’s deployments of new applications and services — the organisation had previously confirmed that it needed a flexible solution that could better scale and support continuous delivery of primarily web-facing services to millions of customers.

NOTE: The team at the Met Office manage hundreds of projects and services across dozens of servers — until recently, release preparations were manual, meaning each step would be subject to time-consuming checks to ensure it was planned and executed properly.

By applying deployment automation best practices with Deployit, the Met Office will be able to reduce the risk of deployment errors whilst enabling an increase in the number of deployments. Deployit will also ensure more efficient performance and deliver the ability to keep track of deployments and report on deployment results, leading to a substantial improvement in efficiency of the service delivery process.

Alan Morbey, Configuration Management Team Leader at Met Office, commented: “At the Met Office our deployments were both increasing in volume and complexity whilst staff resources were limited.   Deployment automation using Deployit has allowed us to cope with both of these issues, minimise deployment errors and helped us to further safeguard our production environment, key to delivering services to our customers. Deployit is  already showing some very encouraging results, with deployment times being substantially reduced .”

NOTE: The Met Office uses more than 10 million weather observations and a supercomputer to create 3,000 tailored forecasts daily. These briefings are delivered to the general public, Government, businesses, the armed forces and other organisations.

Stuart Kenley, MD at Cachet Software Solutions, added: “Customers today expect up-to-date services at all times, which means IT departments need to deploy more, faster and accurately. Continuous delivery is becoming a must-have for all companies. We are delighted to be working with the Met Office, having been able to help them through the process of selection by conducting a due diligence to choose the best fit for their specific requirements.”

Teleopti Shines With 4 Star SDI Certification

Swedish WorkForce Management (WFM) and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) company Teleopti has been awarded a “coveted” 4 star Service Desk Certification maturity rating from the Service Desk Institute (SDI).

The company had held a 3 star certification since 2010. Teleopti’s service desk joins a select group of worldwide teams who have achieved a 4 star certification including those from Telefónica, Sodexo, tickets.com and Vocalink.

Performance spanning all concept criteria

Providing support to customers in over 70 countries, Teleopti’s multi-lingual service desk, situated in Sweden and China, was praised by SDI for “raising its performance across all concept criteria” during a period of rapid expansion in to new global markets.

Düring: 4-star performer
Düring: 4-star performer

The most notable areas of improvement were:

  • certification concepts of processes,
  • partnerships and resources,
  • customer satisfaction and,
  • social responsibility.

NOTE: The SDI’s SDC audit evaluates service desk operations against an internationally accepted global standard for best practice, providing companies with a benchmark to form a baseline for service improvements.

Based around ITIL and ITSM frameworks, this certification evaluates companies in the following areas: incident and problem resolution; change and release management; service level management; availability and capacity management; configuration management; business continuity and financial management; knowledge management and customer relationship management.

 “We are delighted to receive this recognition from SDI for the continuous investments in providing an exceptional level of support to our customers and partners. Closeness is an important company value and Service Desk is the corner stone in fulfilling this. In the annual customer survey, year after year, more than 9 out of 10 customers state they would recommend Teleopti as a vendor to other companies” says Olle Düring, CEO of Teleopti.

Service Desk Manager at Teleopti Maureen Lundgren expands upon Düring’s comments saying that increasing the firm’s Service Desk Certification maturity rating is the result of a company culture where the customer always comes first.

It is also down to a dedication to defining, refining and documenting roles, responsibilities and processes,” she said.

Howard Kendall, Master Auditor at SDI summarised by saying: “The 4 star Service Desk Certification rating is an excellent achievement and testament to the well-structured programme of continuous improvement that Teleopti has in place. Coupled with this, we have evidenced exceptional leadership and excellent communication to staff who in turn are consistently motivated and developed.”

Why the CIO won't go the same way as the VP of Electricity

Dead as a...
CIO, Dead as a… ?

Commoditisation is, without doubt, a massive and revolutionary trend in IT. In just a handful of years, a huge range of industrialised, cost-effective solutions have created rapid change, so much so that some commentators now predict the end of the corporate IT department altogether.

Info-Tech Research Group’s June 2013 article highlights a comparison made by some, between today’s CIO, and the “VP of Electricity” role apparently ubiquitous in large organisations at the turn of the last century.

As electricity supply standardised and industrialised, the argument goes, the unsuspecting VP of Electricity (and presumably their whole department) found themselves anachronistic and redundant.

It’s a very flawed comparison. There can be no doubt that consumerisation is a reality, but business IT and electricity provision are very different things.

IT Service is not a light switch

Utility electricity is what it is: we may have a choice of billing suppliers, and perhaps several different options at the point of connection (such as smart metering), but the end user sees very little difference: it’s the same product from the same wires. I flip the light switch, and the light comes on. There is very little scope to vary the service, at the point of consumption, to gain significant competitive edge.

Hence, from the end-user’s point of view, electricity is an absolute service: it’s either there, or it isn’t (and usually, it’s there: Britain’s national grid, for instance, works to – and achieves – a 99.9999% reliability target. By comparison, the granddaddy of commoditised IT infrastructure, Amazon AWS, offers 99.95% – lower by a factor of 500).

By contrast, our customers experience IT as much more than a simple on/off service. It is far more complex, multi-faceted, and variable. We could frequently change our electricity supplier, and our customers and end-users would never be aware. However, change one of the many elements of IT with which they interact, though, and we can make a significant difference to their working day.

For many end-users, in fact, the “light switch” experience seems a long way off. A Forrester study of 900 end users and 900 IT professionals, in January 2013, found, for example, that 84% of business users experienced a severe or moderate impact on their ability to be productive on a monthly basis, as a direct result of IT issues. 14% experience difficulties at least once per day. The study also revealed that there’s a large gap between how the business thinks about IT and how IT thinks about itself. The difference varies regionally, between 13 to 16 percentage points.

If it’s done well, however, IT is an immensely powerful and proven asset to the business. MITSloan’s seminal 2007 study, “Avoiding the Alignment Trap in Information Technology“, identified a best-of-breed group of organisations delivering true “IT-enabled growth”. This group, representing the top 7% of their large sample, was found to be achieving an average of 35% compound annual growth rate, while spending 15% less than the study average on IT.

Commoditised tools

In our IT Service Management functions, commoditisation is just as much a reality as in any other facet of IT. As Gartner Research Director Jeff Brooks put it, “In the ITSM space, and more specifically the use of ITSM tools for IT Service Desk, we continue to see vendors provide commoditised tools”.  Does that mean, then, all of those tools, and the functions which use them, are as good as they will ever be? Clearly not: in January 2012, Brooks’s organisation observed that the average maturity level in IT Infrastructure and Operations was 2.35 on their 1-to-5 scale: a “disheartening conclusion”. As Brooks added: “Opportunities for differentiation exist, but the vendors have yet to capitalise on those prospects”.

He’s right. Even as the service desk, or any other ITSM function, becomes ubiquitous enough to be considered by many to have become commoditised, our customers expectations evolve and change. The age of the smartphone has increased mobility, and put leading-edge, location-aware, always-on technologies into homes and pockets. New-look frontline services like Apple’s Genius Bar have created demand for new ways to get support. On-demand commodity services, though convenient, create new management challenges around costs, control, and alignment. We should never consider ourselves finished.

Growth is driven by effective alignment of technology and processes. Henry Ford did not change the car industry simply by switching to standardised services. He created differentiation by aligning great processes with great technology. Some of those technologies, such as his electricity supply, would likely have been the same commodity service consumed by all of Ford’s rivals, but he made the difference with the things he created around them.  Fundamentally, as long as technology and innovation can give one business an edge over another, the role of the technologist – including the CIO and their business unit – will be relevant.

After all, if all companies were to standardise on a single set of commoditised IT offerings today, by tomorrow some of them would have found significant advantages in breaking out of the pattern.

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Integrating IT management data to support ITSM

Integrating IT management plumbing to support ITSM processes
Integrating IT management plumbing to support ITSM processes

With my Incident and Problem Management focussed review completed, I am now turning my attention to my next review project: Integration tools that compliment ITSM.

Integration Tools complementing ITSM

One of the key elements of delivering quality service to an organisation is to ensure that teams have relevant information to hand, to assist in having a clear understanding of the situation.

But even the most inclusive IT Service Management Tools offer integration to complementary tools to make end-to-end management achievable.

Whether it be speeding up implementations by cleaning up the original data needed to set up the system in the first place, to incorporporating Systems Management data, we want to take a look at the supporting products that help us manage IT and business services end to end.

What are we looking for?

  • Pre-Deployment Set-up – User data, location data, HR information (managers, budget centres)
  • Integrations to Asset and Configuration information – A lot of the main ITSM vendors offer integration connectors to pull in the “meat” of the ITSM sandwich
  • Event Management – Alerts are generated for anything and everything in a managed estate, but how is the wheat sorted from the chaff so that only the vital, service-affecting information gets through?
  • Support Services – Remote Control, Communications Platforms during Major Incidents and Support Chats etc.
  • Resource Management – Integration with Email/Schedules of support staff workload scheduling and management of projects within the ITSM tool
  • Any other useful data that supports ITSM

Why do we care?

Whilst it would be lovely to think that there could be “one ring to rule them all”, the reality is that as comprehensive as ITSM suites are becoming, they are likely to be deployed into environments that will require an element however small of integration.

This may be something as simple as connecting to Active Directory to pull user data and related location and organisational information in, to taking an asset baseline, to start the journey into Change and Configuration Management.

All of these require some form of data integration – the easier the better.

But companies on the periphery of the suites are recognising that there is an area for innovation and providing enhancement to that service, for example reducing time to initially deploy, or being able to take over a machine as part of the problem determination actions in an incident record, and logging all that information in the record.

Think of it as the backing singers to the main act, or the instrumental solo – the supporting tools that help drive the overall efficiency of an IT Service Management solution for a business.

If you offer technology in this area and would like to participate in our next review please contact us.

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Everything is improvement

Traditionally Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is too often thought of as the last bit we put in place when formalising ITSM.  In fact, we need to start with CSI, and we need to plan a whole portfolio of improvements encompassing formal projects, planned changes, and improvements done as part of business-as-usual (BAU) operations.  And the ITIL ‘process’ is the wrong unit of work for those improvements, despite what The Books tell you. Work with me here as I take you through a series of premises to reach these conclusions and see where it takes us.

In my last article, I said service portfolio management is a superset of organisational change management.  Service portfolio decisions are decisions about what new services go ahead and what changes are allowed to update existing services, often balancing them off against each other and against the demands of keeping the production services running.  Everything we change is service improvement. Why else would we do it?  If we define improvement as increasing value or reducing risk, then everything we change should be to improve the services to our customers, either directly or indirectly.
Therefore our improvement programme should manage and prioritise all change.  Change management and service improvement planning are one and the same.

Everything is improvement

First premise: Everything we change is service improvement

Look at a recent Union Pacific Railroad quarterly earnings report.  (The other US mega-railroad, BNSF, is now the personal train-set of Warren Buffett – that’s a real man’s toy – but luckily UP is still publicly listed and tell us what they are up to).

I don’t think UP management let one group decide to get into the fracking materials business and allowed another to decide to double track the Sunset Route.  Governors and executive management have an overall figure in mind for capital spend.   They allocate that money across both new services and infrastructure upgrades.

They manage the new and existing services as a portfolio.  If the new fracking sand traffic requires purchase of a thousand new covered hoppers then the El Paso Intermodal Yard expansion may have to wait.  Or maybe they borrow the money for the hoppers against the expected revenues because the rail-yard expansion can’t wait.  Or they squeeze operational budgets.  Either way the decisions are taken holistically: offsetting new services against BAU and balancing each change against the others.

Our improvement programme should manage and prioritise all change, including changes to introduce or upgrade (or retire) services, and changes to improve BAU operations.  Change management and service portfolio management are both aspects of the same improvement planning activity.  Service portfolio management makes the decisions; change management works out the details and puts them into effect.

It is all one portfolio

Second premise: Improvement planning comes first

Our CSI plan is the FIRST thing we put together, not some afterthought we put in place after an ‘improvement’ project or – shudder – ‘ITIL Implementation’ project.
UP don’t rush off and do $3.6 billion in capital improvements then start planning the minor improvements later.  Nor do they allow their regular track maintenance teams to spend any more than essential on the parts of the Sunset Route that are going to be torn up and double tracked in the next few years.  They run down infrastructure that they know is going to be replaced.  So the BAU improvements have to be planned in conjunction with major improvement projects.  It is all one portfolio, even if separate teams manage the sub-portfolios.  Sure miscommunications happen in the real world, but the intent is to prevent waste, duplication, shortages and conflicts.

Welcome to the real world

Third premise: we don’t have enough resource to execute all desired improvements

In the perfect world all trains would be controlled by automated systems that flawlessly controlled them, eliminating human error, running trains so close they were within sight of each other for maximum track utilisation, and never ever crashing or derailing a train.  Every few years governments legislate towards this, because political correctness says it is not enough to be one of the safest modes of transport around: not even one person may be allowed to die, ever.  The airlines can tell a similar story.   This irrational decision-making forces railroads to spend billions that otherwise would be allocated to better trackwork, new lines, or upgraded rolling stock and locos.  The analogy with – say – CMDB is a strong one: never mind all the other clearly more important projects, IT people can’t bear the idea of imperfect data or uncertain answers.
Even if our portfolio decision-making were rational, we can’t do everything we’d like to, in any organisation.  Look at a picture of all the practices involved in running IT

You can’t do everything

The meaning of most of these labels should be self-evident.  You can find out more here.  Ask yourself which of those activities (practices, functions, processes…  whatever you want to call them) which of them could use some improvement in your organisation.  I’m betting most of them.
So even without available funds being gobbled up by projects inspired by political correctness, a barmy new boss, or a genuine need in the business, what would be the probability of you getting approval and money for projects to improve all of them?  Even if you work at Google and money is no problem, assuming a mad boss signed off on all of them what chance would you have of actually getting them all done?  Hellooooo!!!

What are we doing wrong?

Fourth premise: there is something very wrong with the way we approach ITSM improvement projects, which causes them to become overly big and complex and disruptive.  This is because we choose the wrong unit of work for improvements.

How to cover everything that needs to be looked at?  The key word there is ‘needs’.  We should understand what are our business goals for service, and derive from those goals what are the required outcomes from service delivery, then focus on improvements that deliver those required outcomes … and nothing else.

One way to improve focus is to work on smaller units than a whole practice.  A major shortcoming of many IT service management projects is that they take the ITIL ‘processes’ as the building blocks of the programme.  ‘We will do Incident first’.  ‘We can’t do Change until we have done Configuration’.  Even some of the official ITIL books promote this thinking.

Put another way, you don’t eat an elephant one leg at a time: you eat it one steak at a time… and one mouthful at a time within the meal.  Especially when the elephant has about 80 legs.

Don’t eat the whole elephant

We must decompose the service management practices into smaller, more achievable units of work, which we assemble Lego-style into a solution to the current need.  The objective is not to eat the elephant, it is to get some good meals out of it.
Or to get back to railroads: the Sunset Route is identified as a critical bottleneck that needs to be improved, so they look at trackwork, yards, dispatching practices, traffic flows, alternate routes, partner and customer agreements…. Every practice of that one part of the business is considered.  Then a programme of improvements is put in place that includes a big capital project like double-tracking as much of it as is essential; but also includes lots of local minor improvements across all practices – not improvements for their own sake, not improvements to every aspect of every practice, just a collection of improvements assembled to relieve the congestion on Sunset.

Make improvement real

So take these four premises and consider the conclusions we can draw from them:

  1. Everything we change is service improvement.
  2. Improvement planning comes first.
  3. We don’t have enough resource to execute all desired improvements.
  4. We choose the wrong unit of work for improvements.

We should begin our strategic planning of operations by putting in place a service improvement programme.  That programme should encompass all change and BAU: i.e. it manages the service portfolio.

The task of “eating 80-plus elephant’s legs” is overwhelming. We can’t improve everything about every aspect of doing IT.   Some sort of expediency and pragmatism is required to make it manageable.  A first step down that road is to stop trying to fix things practice-by-practice, one ITIL “process” at a time.

Focus on needs

We must focus on what is needed.  To understand the word ‘needed’ we go back to the desired business outcomes.  Then we can make a list of the improvement outputs that will deliver those outcomes, and hence the pieces of work we need to do.

Even then we will find that the list can be daunting, and some sort of ruthless expediency will have to be applied to choose what does and doesn’t get done.

The other challenge will be resourcing the improvements, no matter how ruthlessly we cut down the list.  Almost all of us work in an environment of shrinking budgets and desperate shortages of every resource:  time , people and money.  One way to address this– as I’ve already hinted – is to do some of the work as part of BAU.

These are all aspects of my public-domain improvement planning method, Tipu:

  • Alignment to business outcomes
  • Ruthless decision making
  • Doing much of the work as part of our day jobs

More of this in my next article when we look closer at the Tipu approach.

Planning for Major Incidents

Do regular processes go out of the window during a Major Incident?

Recently I’ve been working on Incident Management, and specifically on Major Incident planning.

During my time in IT Operations I saw teams handle Major Incidents in a number of different ways. I actually found that in some cases all process and procedure went out of the window during a Major Incident, which has a horrible irony about it. Logically it would seem that this is the time that applying more process to the situation would help, especially in the area of communications.

For example in an organisation I worked in previously we had a run of Storage Area Network outages. The first couple caused absolute mayhem and I could see people pushing back against the idea of breaking out the process-book because all that mattered was finding the technical fix and getting the storage back up and running.

At the end of the Incident, once we’d restored the service we found that we, maybe unsurprisingly had a lot of unhappy customers! Our retrospective on that Incident showed us that taking just a short time at the beginning of the outage to sort out our communications plan would have helped the users a lot.

ITIL talks about Major Incident planning in a brief but fairly helpful way:

A separate procedure, with shorter timescales and greater urgency, must be used for ‘major’ incidents. A definition of what constitutes a major incident must be agreed and ideally mapped on to the overall incident prioritization system – such that they will be dealt with through the major incident process.

So, the first thing to note is that we don’t need a separate ITIL process for handling Major Incidents. The aim of the Incident Management process is to restore service to the users of a service, and that outcome suits us fine for Major Incidents too.

The Incident model, its categories and states ( New > Work In Progress > Resolved > Closed ) all work fine, and we shouldn’t be looking to stray too far from what we already have in terms of tools and process.

What is different about a Major Incident is that both the urgency and impact of the Incident are higher than a normal day-to-day Incident. Typically you might also say that a Major Incident affects multiple customers.

Working with a Major Incident

When working on a Major Incident we will probably have to think about communications a lot more, as our customers will want to know what is going on and rough timings for restoration of service.

Where a normal Incident will be handled by a single person (The Incident Owner) we might find that multiple people are involved in a Major Incident – one to handle the overall co-ordination for restoring service, one to handle communications and updates and so on.

Having a named person as a point of contact for users is a helpful trick. In my experience the one thing that users hate more than losing their service is not knowing when it will be restored, or receiving confusing or conflicting information. With one person responsible for both the technical fix and user communications this is bound to happen – split those tasks.

If your ITSM suite has functionality for a news ticker, or a SocialIT feed it might be a good idea to have a central place to update customers about the Major Incident you are working on. If you run a service for the paying public you might want to jump onto Twitter to stop the Twitchfork mob discussing your latest outage without you being part of the conversation!

What is a Major Incident

It is up to each organisation to clearly define what consitutes a Major Incident. Doing so is important, otherwise the team won’t know under what circumstances to start the process. Or you might find that without clear guidance a team will treat a server outage one week as Major (with excellent communciations) and not the next week with poor communications.

Having this defined is an important step, but will vary between organisations.

Roughly speaking a generic definition of a Major Incident could be

  • An Incident affecting more than one user
  • An Incident affecting more than one business unit
  • An Incident on a device on a certain type – Core switch, access router, Storage Area Network
  • Complete loss of a service, rather than degregation

Is a P1 Incident a Major Incident?

No, although I would say that every Major Incident would be a P1. An urgent Incident affecting a single user might not be a Major Incident, especially if the Incident has a documented workaround or can be fixed straightaway.

Confusing P1 Incidents with Major Incidents would be a mistake. Priority is a calculation of Impact and Urgency, and the Major Incident plan needs to be reserved for the absolute maximum examples of both, and probably where the impact is over multiple users.

Do I need a single Incident or multiple Incidents for logging a Major Incident?

This question might depend on your ITSM toolset, but my preference is to open a separate Incident for each user affected in the Incident when they contact the Servicedesk.

The reason for this is that different users will be impacted in different ways. A user heading off to a sales pitch will have different concerns to a user just about to go on holiday for 2 weeks. We might want to apply different treatment to these users (get the sales pitch user some sort of service straight away) and this becomes confusing when you work in a single Incident record.

If you have a system of Hierarchical escalation you might find that one customer would escalate the Major Incident (to their sales rep for example) where another customer isn’t too bothered because they use the affected service less frequently.

Having an Incident opened for each user/customer allows you to judge exactly the severity of the Incident. The challenge then becomes to manage those Incidents easily, and be able to communicate consistently with your customers.

Is a Major Incident a Problem?

No, although if we didn’t have a Problem record open for this Major Incident I think we should probably do so.

Remember the intended outcome of the Incident and Problem Management processes:

  • Incident Management: The outcome is a restoration of service for the users
  • Problem Management: The outcome is the identification and possibly removal of the causes of Incidents

The procedure is started when an Incident matches our definition of a Major Incident. It’s outcome is to restore service and to handle the communication with multiple affected users. That restoration of service could come from a number of different sources – The removal of the root cause, a documented Workaround or possibly we’ll have to find a Workaround.

Whereas the Major Incident plan and Problem Management process will probably work closely together it is not true to say that a Major Incident IS a Problem.

How can I measure my Major Incident Procedure?

Simon Morris

I have some metrics for measuring the Major Incident procedure and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments for this article.

  • Number of Incidents linked to a Major Incident: Where we are creating Incidents for each customer affected by a Major Incidents we should be able to measure the relative impact of each occurance.
  • The number of Major Incidents: We’d like to know how often we invoke the Major Incident plan
  • Mean Time Between Major Incidents: How much time elapses between Major Incidents being logged. This would be interesting in an organisation with service delivery issues, and they would hope to see Major Incidents happen less frequently

There you go. In summary handling Major Incidents isn’t a huge leap from the method that you use to handle day-to-day Incidents. It requires enhanced communciation and possibly measurement.

I hope that you found this article helpful.

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