Lather, rinse and repeat your process

shampooLather, Rinse and Repeat (LRR). Straightforward instructions. Hard to mess up. Or is it? If you follow these instructions, when do you stop?

The phrase has come to be indicative of two things; a) a way of pointing out instructions, if taken literally, would never end (or would continue at least until you run out of shampoo), or b) “a sarcastic metaphor for following instructions without critical thought”.

The author Benjamin Cheever wrote about these words in his book “The Plagiarist” (SPOILER ALERT – in the book, a marketing executive becomes an overnight legend by simply adding the word REPEAT to the instructions. Of course, sales of shampoo skyrocket).

The point is this, this is a process and the process has not changed or been updated in a long while.

Are you sure it’s a process?

Yep. Here is how I know.

The base statement of “Wash Hair” does not cover the steps needed to complete the activity. LRR fulfills the steps. LRR is not a procedure, as the activities do not provide instruction on how to complete the steps.

So what is the problem?

On the positive side, the process is simple and easy to understand. However, the biggest issue with it is “Do I really need to repeat”? “What happens if I don’t”?

So what’s the point with regards to ITSM?

  1. Let’s first look at the positive to LRR, it’s a simple process to follow, it isn’t complicated. Do we work to make ITSM process as simple as possible? My experience shows that we, as IT people, tend to grab Visio, graph every possibility without question, and produce a monster swim lane diagram. Do we add complexity because the customer requires it or because we have cool systems that do cool things? Or can we learn from the simplicity of LRR?
  2. Another plus point to LRR, the process is universal and aimed at the end-user. Regardless of why or where you have bought your shampoo, you know what to do with it when you are ready to use it. You can execute the LRR process with little training and/or thought. With regards to ITSM do we design processes to help our customers or to help IT? Can customers execute IT processes with little training and/or thought? It is always interesting to ask why we (IT) do something. It is shocking to see how many times the reason focuses on making things better for IT and not for customers.
  3. Then there is the negative, is the process a) even necessary, b) actually adhered to (I can’t say that I lather my hair twice, do you?). Lauren Goldstine takes on the need for LRR in a 1999 article entitled “Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Hygiene Tip or Marketing Ploy” In her article, Ms. Goldstine indicates that Repeat is probably no longer necessary due to the advances in shampoo tech, yet most shampoo bottles you look at will have the process. In ITSM do we spend time looking at how to make a process better?

Ok but seriously, what can ITSM learn from a shampoo process?

As ITSM practitioners, do we take the time to think about the processes we ask others to adopt? Do we work to remove obfuscation? Or do we trot out big ideas/opinions regarding how IT should work? To me, LRR is a reminder to design processes that can be easily executed and deliver desired results. With that in mind, here are my tips for process design.

Tips for process design

  1. Keep it simple – look for redundant steps. Remove points of “distraction” from the process flow. Ask frequently, “do we really need this step?” AND “what value does the customer get from it?”. If you cannot answer the value question, most likely, you do not need this step of the process. Other tests to verify your process is simple – can people easily explain and discuss the process? The more complex the process is the greater the chance that people will not internalize it and probably will not discuss it with colleagues and customers. If the team is not willing and/or capable of talking about the process, how will you get continual improvement to happen?
  2. Make it elegant – keeping it simple should not translate into “skimp on feature”. You should design processes to meet the needs of the business and to be easy enough to execute. The context of your situation should drive how elegant your process needs to be.
  3. Customer first – design every process with the mantra of “Customer First”. Take the time to learn who the customer is, why they need the process, and what they expect from the process. If you determine that there is a gap between expectation and delivered value, determine how to close the gap.
  4. Borrow liberally – don’t keep “reinventing the wheel”. Look at other processes (both inside and outside of your organization) and determine if the process/steps fit the context. If so, use them! The benefit is that IT teams should not need to undergo additional training since they already know how to execute specific steps. In fact, if I am in a service owner role, I would ensure that I look at the processes of my fellow service/process owners, and when I find a process that will work for my situation, I would simply declare “I follow team x process”. Doing this would alleviate me from the ownership and management of the process and documentation, but would also mean that I must work to build/maintain a partnership with the other service/process owners.
  5. Test – verify what you think will actually work. Get feedback from the folks who will execute the process (in fact, do this all the way through your design). Ensure the process will meet the expected business outcomes. Do not launch a process that will not meet needs or is not ready. At the same time, do not try to make the process perfect. Doing so means you will never launch simply because “it just needs a little more tweaking.”

Spend time in the design phase determine what constitutes “success” for the process and make sure you measure as you test.

Then, with all of the steps above: Plan, Build, Test. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

It really is that simple. And yes, the idea for this article came to me in the shower.

Image Credit 

I'm not saying my opinion is better than yours, but I do have a klout score over 60

Learning to play nicely

This article has been contributed by Chris Dancy of ServiceNow.

Introduction

There are 30 million reasons to care about your Klout, but for now, don’t.  In the future (36-48 months) something like a klout score could determine your position.

If your name is not on this list please connect with Martin. The names are an arbitrary list of names of people using twitter who speak about ITSM.  For the sake of full disclosure, you could add any person on twitter to this list who is an expert in gold fish and if they had a high klout score, they would be above all the other ITSM “experts”.  To learn more about klout and the industry of influence, I encourage you to read on.

Digital Influence 2012

Do you remember when only CXO’s, Analysts and Speakers had any real sway over our organizations?  Do you remember when we paid for advice that seemed like common sense?

The marketing of digital influence is a fools game, unfortunately many people love to play games for a living.

Let us first set some parameters before we have this talk.

Yes, I am in fact, an authority on the topic of social media and online influence.  Why am I an authority?

  1. I have had the good fortune to spend four years watching every single person, organization and marketing team in the IT space joining in this social media game and succeed or just die.
  2. I don’t abuse social media (more on this later).
  3. Klout, Peer Index, Kred.ly and Empire Avenue say I am an expert, so THERE, I must be!

Yes even I laugh out loud a bit at number three.

Second, this topic is about as explosive as calamities in the catholic priesthood, and probably more so as it involves people e.g. humans.

Humans are a nasty bunch, they like to judge, list, order, measure all in the name of gaming some dissociative sycophancy they acquired while working through an oedipus complex.

Yes, I do suffer from a bit of sardonic misanthropy and it is shameful.  Daily I struggle to allow humans back into my life. Sometimes I hasten the technological singularity just so I can get back to dealing with objects that can’t be programed in objective hubris.

Finally, we need to look a bit of history on the World Wide Web to understand how we ended up here.

The Rise of the Spiders

The rise of the search engine grew out of the need to find order in the volumes of information being shared on the web.

That’s it.

Nothing else.

There were many search engines in the 1990’s.  The first WWW search engine I ever used was yahoo.

I remember be so overwhelmed by the answers that I didn’t care if they were correct or not. This feeling of euphoria with “any” solutions rather than the correct solution can only last so long.

Finally as many people were celebrating the non-event of Y2K, they returned to work and found their peers were using this site called “Google”.

Google was so cocky in it’s early days, they proudly presented users with a button labeled “I’m feeling lucky”. The “lucky” button was basically just Google’s way of taking you to the first hit you found without looking at any others.

Google had so successfully indexed pages using an algorithm called PageRank, that people were flocking to the site to find information for most of the 2000’s.

This is where our story turns a little dark.

Remember those nasty humans I mentioned above?  Well a small group of them said, “Hey, we can make money by being “Internet Search Experts” (read social marketing expert).

These Internet Search Experts quickly spawned an industry, a multi BIILLION dollar industry called SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Business spent billions handing over their websites to these gurus who hacked and cracked their way to fortune.

Many people will still argue the merits of SEO as a real skill.  Call me old fashion but I consider shoeing horses a skill, not jacking up HTML.

SEO WAS THE FIRST MAJOR PUNCH IN THE FACE THAT MARKETING, INDUSTRY ANALYSTS AND PUNDITRY TOOK IN THE FACE.

The SEO industry changed a lot of people’s lives.  Developers were now in marketing, content creators were now experts on Google rankings and blogging was about to change the game again.

Between 2005-2010, blogging, YouTube, peer networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace), read “Social Media” threw the entire SEO industry into a tailspin.

Enter 2012, close to a billion 3G enabled handsets all sharing data, experiences and information.

Just as in 2000 with the vast amounts of data that Google conquered, today’s consumers are overwhelmed with information pumped from everything around them.  The Internet of things has taken over and Google can’t keep up.

Remember those nasty humans I have mentioned twice now?  Well a small group of them have created another billion-dollar engine, this time around “Social Media”.

Information Democratization

There is a minor difference in 2012 from the SEO experts of last decade, Information democratization.

You don’t need to teach people how to share (although we should while we have a chance add digital literacy to every high school, university and corporate environment).

We are at the beginning of a change in the way we do everything and by 2015 we will have close to two billion people sharing just as much if not more information because of the rise in mobility.  For more information on mobility and big data, I have a slide deck here.

Phew!

Social Analytics

Wait, you still haven’t talked about klout or this “influencer list”.

Much controversy has been generated by Klout.

On one hand Klout could be a very easy way to know with a fair amount of certainty that a social object (in this case, a person) is sharing and sharing information “correctly” that is relative to your search.

On the other hand, Klout could just been seen as an arbitrary algorithm that is making some people “better” than others and lacks any real transparency.

Sound familiar?  Yes, these were the same arguments made by proponents and opponents of Google circa 2000.

Personally I understand the klout backlash; I understand the misgivings about any influence system.

For the first time in my professional history, we have the BEGINGINGS of a way to measure KNOWLEDGE WORKERS.

This scares and it SHOULD scare you (Open the FUD gates).  This should scare you more if you are in Information Technology or any type of knowledge sharing field.

We are at the beginning of being able to ascertain via algorithms, “how you share” and if you are practicing “good digital etiquette”.

This is the most revolutionary thing to happen to human kind since we became able to share books in codec form to the masses.

THIS REVOLUTION WILL BE THE SECOND AND FINAL BLOW TO THE FACE OF MARKETING, INDUSTRY ANALYSTS AND PUNDITRY.

Unfortunately hubris, greed and ego are fighting very hard to beat back the systems such as klout.

Humans don’t like to be told how to share.   Humans want to act they way they want period.  Think of the first year of school.  Kids don’t share and have to be taught, how to share and WHAT to share.  Teachers measure students “social” skills early in school to let parents know how their child is progressing, or if that same child is in America, how much to drug that child into submission.

So what does this mean to you and your klout, kred.ly, peer index or empire avenue score?

Hopefully nothing, but personally, I do hope people take more time to start acting less like children and more like “CO-operative Knowledge workers”

Klout and all the influence systems, have very little to do with how many “followers” someone has.

They are about WHAT is done with the information that is shared by a person.

This presents two very distinct problems for “Social Media Experts” and the rest of us.

  1. How do we separate out what we share so it’s relative to the people following us(our customers)?
  2. How do we know what is good ” digital etiquette “.

First, as Christopher Poole stated during a keynote, at the web 2.0 summit in 2011“It’s not ‘who you share with,’ it’s ‘who you share as,’”

Therein lies the first key to this puzzle; currently we don’t have the complex systems to sort out sharing.  So folks like myself, share as different people, multiple twitter accounts, multiple Facebook’s, etc.

I respect my audience.  This respect is real therefore; I know it is absolutely impossible to follow more than 150 people per Dunbar’s Number.

If you are following more people than 150, you are lying to yourself and those people you are following.

There is a major benefit to following everyone who follows you, you get MORE followers.

In this case QUANITY doesn’t equal quality or substance, and klout and the rest of the systems see right through you.

The second problem, How do we know what is good digital etiquette?

Again, it’s a lot like real life, you don’t steal, you don’t brag and you don’t talk needlessly.  If you really care about digital etiquette, I have three blogs you can read here.

Chris Dancy

Summary

In summary, follow less people, before you post anything to ANY social network, say to yourself, Is this of interest to anyone outside of my mother and spouse?  If that answer is no, back away from the mobile device or keyboard.

You can do this, I would not have taken time to write this piece if I didn’t believe and see first hand many knowledge workers who are starting to respect the time of their customers (followers).

You will be met with doubters, these are the same people who don’t care about, reply to all emails, klout or any digital influence system.

Deep though, in the darkness of their cube, will stare wildly watching their blog stats, their Facebook notification indicator, their likes, their YouTube views and their unread inbox count.

These are the knowledge workers of yesterday.  These people don’t care about actual klout, they are the game players who never shared and will never share without a fight.

See you on the playground, and until then be kind to each other.

This article has been contributed by Chris Dancy of ServiceNow.

Image Credit

Vendor Booths at Conferences Need a Shakedown

Vendor Booths at Conferences Need a Smack Down
Time for a new model?

I was lucky enough to attend the first day of the ITSMF conference in London yesterday. Having spent most of the day in the exhibitor lounge I can’t really comment on the speakers and content, but the whole event was very well organized and it seemed to have a great atmosphere, great networking and great people.

I have previously attended this event as a vendor so it was interesting to see the other side of the fence. Getting people to your stand is an age old problem but the disconnect between vendor booths and delegates seems to be getting worse, especially for tool vendors. This is not a criticism of the ITSMF conference per se, but conferences generally.

Exhibitor Booth – A Twenty-Year Old Concept?

The rest of vendor marketing seems to have moved along with the times with the introduction of email, web seminars and to a degree, social media. But with the exception of electronic swipers and polluting hashtag streams – has the conference vendor booth concept really progressed in twenty years?

The ITSMF team did a good job of delivering a compelling agenda with varied content and speakers. But most of the exhibitor lounge seemed to be disconnected from the delegates like awkward boys and girls at a teenage disco. We’re in the same room, we have shared interests but I’m not sure where to start…

In dating terms the current exhibitor booth model is like a nightclub – your luck in finding a suitable date is strongly dependent on serendipity; who is there at the time and who you happen to bump into. Whereas exhibitor booths should be closer to speed dating – aligning customers with problems with pain with solutions.

I don’t claim to have an answer for this issue, but one idea that springs to mind is breaking the traditional vendor hall into themes as chosen by delegates prior to the conference. So for example some key themes might be consumerization of IT, doing more with less / accountability and maturing your operation.

Exhibitors could populate ‘zones’ dedicated to certain subjects and delegates with an interest in that topic could immerse themselves in what the industry has to say, and offer. For exhibitors – If you don’t feel confident speaking about the key concerns of the industry – what are you doing at the conference?

Permission

I believe the disconnect can be boiled down to permission. The marketing guru Seth Godin refers to permission based marketing; the tectonic shift between outbound and inbound marketing. I strongly recommend Seth’s book for anyone trying to grapple with modern marketing, it is very readable and accessible (The much hyped clue-train manifesto remains half-read on my bookcase gathering dust next to ‘A brief history of time’).

Outbound marketing refers to ‘if you throw enough at the wall something will stick’; cold calls, leaflets, advertising. Inbound marketing refers to getting found by prospects and ‘earning their way in’ by providing value.

Let’s start a conversation based on something I know you are interested in, have a brief discussion, then we can both walk away from the show knowing we have something of interest to talk about in the future. I have your permission, a topic of conversation and a common interest. I don’t think swiping my badge in exchange for jelly beans whilst you tell me about your latest release constitutes value.

An intangible part of the conference process is networking, catching up with old colleague in the industry and having a bit of fun. Daft toys , in nothing else, are a bit of fun and good ice breaker. However if I were a marketing manager looking to justify my attendance at such a show it has to be based on hard economics.

These conference are important. Many people in the industry get great value from them. Exhibitor booths are an important part of the financial model of a conference – either the exhibitors need to up their game or the model has to change.