About sysopitsm

Stuart Sawle has over 35 years experience of IT. He started his career in 1965 working for Dunlop on the then very advanced LEO III and progressed into Operations Management before switching to a technical career in 1972. In 1985, Stuart founded Sysop. At first providing technical support consultancy, Sysop progressed to add technical training to its portfolio and latterly creating an enviable reputation as one of the most highly respected advocates of the ITIL Service Management disciplines. Stuart is a Fellow of both the BCS and IMIS.

High Velocity Service Management seminar whitepaper

Sysop hosted a couple of back-to-back seminars in London and Manchester on 5th and 6th December 2018. Across the two events 34 people represented 26 separate organizations from varying market sectors. The topic for the day was High Velocity Service Management, a relatively new term that has arisen to reflect how IT Organisations are adjusting the way that they provision their services to meet increasing demand from the business.

We kicked off the events by getting the delegates to discuss amongst themselves:
“What would you consider High Velocity Service Management to be?”
The responses back from the individuals and the groups discussions were captured and form the basis for the “High Velocity Service Management” the following Wordcloud:


There was consensus that High Velocity Service Management included adapting to an agile approach to service management. The high velocity element referring to how quickly IT can respond to changing needs of the business. Management approaches such as DevOps, Agile, Lean, IT4IT and ITIL were all mentioned as key contributors to a high velocity approach. Other interesting related terms such as collaboration, automation, flow, culture, mindsets, iterative were also mentioned. Breaking down silos, balancing risk against stability and less process focus kept cropping up in the feedback as well.

This exercise served as a useful introduction for the day and helped to set the scene. It was clear that there already was an overall awareness in the room about the changing world for service management. It was therefore interesting to find out the progress that had been made in aligning IT services to adapt to these ways of working.

We therefore asked the group:

“What progress has been made within your organization in introducing a High velocity approach to service management?”

The responses are summarized as follows:


These responses were interesting with nearly a 1/3 indicated that they had made no progress and are trying to understand the benefit before moving things forward.  This also goes hand-in-hand with the same low percentage of responders who are yet to adapt their service management capability in line with this approach.  This indicates that for many, they are still at the early stages of identifying how to leverage new ways of working.

The largest response with over 69% indicated that an agile approach is being deployed from a development and/or projects perspective.  We often find that without agile thinking in service management then silo working is inevitable with new developments “thrown over the fence” for Operations to support and from discussions with some of the delegates this behaviour was evident at the coal face.

It was clear from all respondents that the vast majority had invested in cloud technology for the provision of some of their key services but only just over half were using the technology as an aid for faster deployment. This, alongside a low score for automation being used indicates the full potential of technology solutions are still to be realised.

Around two thirds of the respondents demonstrated an awareness of the need to change mindsets and attitudes of people having indicated they have made progress in this area and this will be a key part of introducing new approaches.

The Changing ITSM LandscapeLandscape

The first presentation session for the day took a step back and looked at why the change in landscape for service management.   Specifically, what is driving the need for change, looking at the modern business world and digital transformation leading to high velocity service delivery.  Approaches such as Agile Service Management, DevOps, SIAM and VeriSM™ have emerged and/or increased in relevance as strategic approaches to keep up with change.

We explored how technology was having a dramatic effect on how businesses do their business. Increasing dependencies on technology establishes the IT service provider as more of a business partner, converging IT and the business to work together as one. Digital Transformation has emerged with the realization that technology can drive business growth and help to increase market share. This increasing demand from the business has led to the need for faster response in delivering projects and implementing changes, with any delays impacting speed to market and reducing competitive advantage.

IT service management has traditionally had the perceived concern of controlling change and protecting the environment, managing risk as the highest priority. Whilst this approach is still necessary, innovation is becoming an increasing priority and finding the balance is the key to how to structure the service management capability.
Whilst ITIL® has been globally recognised as the go-to service management framework, other approaches have emerged which have perhaps been better equipped to manage the balance of innovation against risk. This is one of the main reasons for ITIL to be updated which we will cover later in this white paper. The following approaches were specifically covered:

  • Agile as an approach introduces an iterative way of delivering value whether that be through development, projects or the management of services.
  • Lean has introduced an approach that maximises value by eliminating waste part of which is driven through automation.
  • DevOps has introduced a collaborative approach, embracing Agile, Lean and service management principles.
  • Cloud technology has provided flexibility in terms of options for provisioning services and cost models.
  • Increased dependency on cloud service providers has accelerated the need for the role of a service integrator and SIAM (Service and Integration Management) an approach that is growing in relevance.
  • VeriSM™ is Service Management for the Digital Age and its strength is the recognition that an integration of management approaches is inevitable for success.

There can be no doubt that service management has a challenge to identify how best to move forward.  The following points provide a summary of the session:

  • High velocity Service Delivery is no longer an option but a necessity
  • Difficulty of adapting varies depending on existing practices and approaches
  • There are many developing/emerging approaches to help
  • Bi-modal IT introduces complexity & challenges but is the key to success

MarsLander™ – Agile Service Management simulation workshop

img_2714bThe next part of the event was for the delegates to experience the MarsLander™ simulation workshop. Based on a journey to Mars, this simulation practically demonstrates service management adapting to the changing landscape and it will help organizations start their transformation journey. It will help them to explore what Agile, Lean and DevOps are all about. How to use typical Agile and Lean principles and apply them for their own service teams. It will open the mindset of managers and employees and will help them better understand how this simulation can help develop new ways of working, collaborating and aligning with new frameworks, at the same time learn about continual learning and improvement in iterative steps.

Why a Simulation?

Business simulations such as ‘MarsLander’ are experiential learning instruments based upon learning-by-doing. A scientific study shows the effects of this type of learning and how this increases the retention of knowledge and skills gained through training, helping to maximise the Return on Value (ROV) from a training investment.


The Rounds

The full simulation consists of 4 rounds but only rounds 1 and 2 were run on these events to give a flavour of what can be achieved.

Round 1 – Launch preparation

In preparing for the launch of the rocket, the team explored the backlog of issues, features and projects and planned when to execute all the work. They considered the service requirements and made the first service design.

Specific aspects that were introduced in this round were:

  • Visualization, KanBan
  • Product backlog
  • Service Levels
  • Service and improvement backlog
  • Team work

At the end of the 1st round, we asked for feedback on the delegates feelings from the round.  This can be summarized as follows:

  • There was an emphasis on individual tasks and not on the overall mission
  • There was Silo working throughout without effective cross-team communication
  • Confusion was presented as it was a challenge to understand what was going on as there was no visualization
  • Bottlenecks arouse where individuals were too busy, slowing down progress
  • There was uncertainty of roles and tasks where people were not sure who was doing what
  • There was a lack of information being shared
  • Overall it was summarized as chaotic

Round 2 – Launch and encounter Hardy IV

In round 2 the rocket was to be launched and commencing the flight to the comet Hardy IV. The Purpose of this part of the mission is to collect data from the tail of Hardy IV as part of mission goals.  The team had to deal with some new issues and new requests from Mission Control.

Specific aspects in this round were:

  • Product Owner, and their role
  • Flow of work
  • Customer centric
  • Priority/Value creation
  • Processes and service design
  • Shared focus and goals
  • ITSM constraints:
    • Disconnection between operations and development
    • Silo thinking and working
    • Lack of team work
    • Lack of flexibility

Photographs taken from the events.  An innovative floor Kanban board, Fixes and changes being implemented and the more traditional visualization.

Following completion of this round, the group were asked to reflect back on the journey that had made. How had they improved between the two rounds and what learning can be taken from this that they can take back into their organizations and do something with. This is a summary of these outcomes:

  • Establishing Ownership.
  • Better hand-offs leading to better flow.
  • How to prioritize and who should influence this.
  • Clarity of mission objectives was vital for success
  • Value creation through business outcomes.
  • Teamwork led to better results removing silos.
  • Shared goals provided a focus.
  • The value of “Stop & review”.
  • Empowering individuals to make decisions.
  • Although still chaotic, there was more organization.
  • Stand-ups helped planning.
  • A valuable exercise is to establish where work comes from
  • If there is spare capacity, then identify and utilize it.
  • Step back and look at interactions.
  • Movement & culture shift
  • Sharing Pain can lead to better outcomes.
  • Look at what has actually been achieved from an organization perspective.
  • Improve end-to-end communication
  • Visualization through Kanban is effective
  • Better prioritization is needed.
  • Stand-ups helped establish where to improve
  • Sticking to roles drives compensation behaviour
  • Redefining the model of team for agility should be considered.
  • Multi-functional teams are more effective.

In the space of a few hours, these outcomes were achieved and added significant value to the learning experience of the participants. The full-day MarsLander workshop goes onto explore agile concepts further focusing on the following:

  • Service Teams
  • Multifunctional teams, team work
  • Agility
  • Service Improvement backlog
  • Theory of Constraints, Bottlenecks
  • Metrics
  • Quality at the source
  • Planned and unplanned work
  • How to work with vendors in multifunctional teams?
  • How to transfer from traditional ITIL® into a more Agile way of working
  • How to prioritize the improvement backlog?
  • How do the traditional ITIL® processes operate in an Agile way of working?
  • How did we apply various best practices to deliver value?
  • What are the new competences we need to develop in our own organization?
  • How did we change our way of working? What was the approach?
  • How did we supported Mission Control to create value?
  • Did we become more effective and efficient as a team?
  • How did feedback help us to become a better team?

The MarsLander™ Agile Service Management workshop will be updated to bring it in line with ITIL®4 in February 2019.

ITIL® 4 Update

ITIL itself is going through a transitional period in recognition that the world is changing. The 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us which is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.

The world’s most widely accepted Service Management framework has had to adapt accordingly to maintain relevance. A key element to this is how service management theory can be put into practice to enable businesses to drive digital transformation. The “4” in ITIL 4 is to actually in reference to the 4th Industrial Revolution, acknowledging the impact it has had and will have on service management.

How ITIL adapts to enable and support high velocity service management is one of the key reasons behind the update, acknowledging and integrating with other approaches such as Agile, Lean and DevOps. A summary of what ITIL 4 will bring is as follows:

  • Practical & flexible to support Digital Transformation
  • Help align human, digital & physical resources
  • Emphasis on business & technology world and how it will work with Agile, DevOps and Digital Transformation
  • More relevant to developers, practitioners and businesses
  • Emphasis on the importance of collaboration, transparency, automation and working holistically
  • Moves from traditional process lead delivery to faster quality and value driven delivery for people & organizations

The first development is the release of the ITIL 4 Foundation course which will be available from February 2019. The next release will see the advanced modules released to provide either a practitioner or strategic approach depending on the course and qualification. Here is the ITIL 4 Certification Scheme:



The feedback from two events demonstrated that the participants took a lot away from each of them. It was clear that the various 26 organizations in attendance had made varying levels of progress in embracing high velocity into their service management practices. Despite this it was clear that everyone recognised that change was on the horizon and aligning to a high velocity approach for service management will help to better support the demands from the business.

The changing service management landscape explored the changing business world and the increasing dependency on technology. Key to service management coping with this demand is how it adopts an integrated approach of the various practices that are available to them – ITIL4, DevOps, Agile, Lean, etc should all be considered alongside each other taking into account specific organizations requirements.

MarsLander demonstrated the concepts and ideas that are being deployed out there in the industry and the value they bring from the point of view of an improved service management capability. The workshop itself can bring value to organizations at the start of their transformation journey and/or to support on ongoing initiative.

ITIL 4 is here and fully embraces high velocity service management. MarsLander will be updated to align to ITIL 4 and should be considered for practical learning of the new world alongside or instead of traditional examination-led training. The ITIL 4 qualification scheme outlines the planned release of courses into 2019, providing a transition path for existing ITIL Experts and a streamlined scheme for those in the early stages of investing in their ITIL education.

Sysop are grateful for all the participants for their contribution throughout the day. A special thanks to GamingWorks and Jan Schilt for providing us with use and delivery of the MarsLander™ simulation.

For further information on anything covered in this whitepaper then please contact Sysop at admin@sysop.co.uk or +441706 361110.


ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.© Sysop Limited 2018. This document and its contents are not to be reproduced without permission from Sysop.


A Year in Review and What Next?

As the year draws to an end, it seems a suitable time to reflect back across the previous 12-months and look forward to what the following year will have in store for us.  I have heard it said many times that now is the most exciting time to be in IT. There has definitely been a shift in emphasis as IT organisations are looking for more agile ways of working to cope with ever increasing business demand.  Technology is now seen as a differentiator for doing business and this has led to the much-used buzz word/phrase – Digital Transformation.


Across 2017, Sysop have added to our service portfolio to recognise this shift of emphasis to enable us to better meet the needs of our customers.  At the start of the year, we partnered with the DevOps Institute to enable us to offer the DevOps Foundation® and Certified Agile Service Manager (CASM)® courses.

We understood from our customers that ITIL® alone was no longer enough for IT organisations to keep pace with business requirements.  We heard views of ITIL being out-dated, too bureaucratic, a dirty word in some organisations and that a movement towards DevOps was inevitable – the death of ITIL perhaps?

This of course is not true with even Gene Kim, the co-author of “The Phoenix Project – a novel about DevOps” and the “DevOps handbook” (both highly recommended reading by the way), founder of TripWire and huge DevOps advocate sharing the view that:

“It’s my firm belief that ITSM and the DevOps movement are not at odds. Quite to the contrary. They are a perfect cultural match.”

 “I’ve always believed that DevOps and ITIL should be able to peacefully coexist.”


For 4 consecutive years, Business and IT Alignment has been the number one priority for CIOs but despite this, the role of the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) continues to be under-valued.  As businesses look for technology-led solutions to drive them forward then the role of BRM will be key to delivering this – providing alignment or perhaps convergence.  With IT and the Business no longer talked about as separate entities and “them and us” replaced with a strategic partnership with shared goals.

With this in mind, we partnered with the BRM Institute so that we could offer the BRM Professional® qualification. We expect BRMs, Service Delivery Managers, or indeed anyone who interfaces between IT and the Business for the provision of IT services to take great value from this course.


Today’s IT Organisation is more dependent on 3rd party providers than ever before with an increase in Cloud solutions and tactical outsourcing of services.  Integrating these complex solutions/services is a challenge and the direction provided in ITIL for Supplier Management is not detailed enough to provide guidance on how to cope with this.

Service Integration and Management (SIAM) is something that has been around for a number of years but 2017 saw the release of the Body of Knowledge at both Foundation and Professional level – formal best practice for the integration and management of services across 3rd parties.  Sysop added the SIAM Foundation course into our portfolio to provide formal qualification led training to our customers in this area.

Business Simulations

We’ve always been huge advocates of the business simulation workshop type of training – an experience of learning by doing.  We have been offering the ITSM simulation based on the Apollo 13 mission for many years but we also now have available simulations to include:

  • DevOps – The Phoenix Project
  • Agile Service Management – MarsLander®
  • Business & IT Alignment – Grab@Pizza™
  • Project Management (Agile or PRINCE2®) – The Challenge of Egypt
  • Cyber Security/Risk Management – Oceans99™

We have seen that theory based examination courses can only take the learning experience so far – despite our best efforts to bring them to life with practical exercises and real-life stories.  A practical business simulation puts the participants in an experiential environment and enables them to get things wrong and see the benefits of the steps of corrective action.

This comprehensive portfolio enables us to go into 2018 with services that support the needs of our customers to help them improve their IT services.


2018 itself will present us with further opportunities.  AXELOS have announced a formal review of ITIL with a view to introducing updates at some point next year.  The focus of the review is to identify how to more formally acknowledge and align to some of the approaches described in this blog in an attempt to improve the perceived relevance of the framework.  As an Accredited Training Organisation, we at Sysop await the outcome from this review to identify the impact on the ITIL Qualification Scheme and the services we provide – we will communicate this to our customers in due course.

We are also pleased to see the launch of VeriSM™ – “Service Management in the Digital Age”.  A well-respected team of ITSM professionals have identified the need to pull together best practice guidance to demonstrate how the increasing number of frameworks, methodologies, approaches, etc can work together to deliver value for businesses.  A qualification scheme will be announced shortly and Sysop will announce VeriSM courses in our portfolio in Q1 2018 – so watch this space.

2018 does indeed promise to be an exciting year!

ITIL® and PRINCE2® are registered trademarks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

DevOps Foundation® and Certified Agile Service Manager (CASM)® are registered marks of the DevOps Institute.

SIAM® Certification is a registered trademark of EXIN Holding BV.

BRMP® is a Registered Trade Mark of Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc.

Business Simulations are offered in partnership with GamingWorks BV.

Business & IT Alignment – BRM & the Dominos Effect

  Aligning IT with the Business seminar

On 19th October 2017 Sysop hosted an “Aligning IT with the Business” seminar.  The event was attended by 14 people representing 8 organisations across a mixture of the public and private sector.

Business and IT Alignment has been the number one priority for CIOs for 4 years running.  It is clear going off the initial input from the delegates on the seminar that progress is being made but there is some way to go here.  The group were asked how they would describe the alignment of IT Services with Business Strategy in their organisation.

Here is a summary of the responses:

  • Inconsistent overall, some departments work well with ICT but this results in “siloed” alignment & unevenness across the board.
  • This is an ongoing initiative across the last 2-3 years.
  • Appointed Account Managers and Business Development teams to support this.
  • Some areas are more mature than others – key business units are aligned with IT. Formal stakeholder engagement policy launched this year.
  • We are moving towards a converged strategy.
  • Challenging – the business has a number of meetings to cover the subject but we do not share sufficient information (in both directions) for this to be properly aligned.
  • As a managed service provider, the BRM is more relevant.
  • We are introducing business capability modelling.
  • It can be problematic due to being a local authority with changing priorities.
  • Needs improving from both sides. IT needs to make better use of the opportunities to discuss and share strategies with the wider business.

This feedback comes as no surprise given the delegates interest in the main topic of the day.

Further probing into how effective the IT Organisation is at meeting the needs of the business identified some interesting points:

How would you describe your IT Organisations effectiveness at meeting the needs of your business? (Tick all that apply)                                                                                                                                   
There is IT representation on the “top table” of the Business. 57%
We have initiatives in place to improve the relationship between the Business and IT. 50%
Our IT Strategy is aligned with that of the Business. 43%
It is a challenge to get Business buy-in to IT improvement initiatives to better meet their needs. 43%
As an IT Organisation we do what we believe the Business expects 36%
Digital Transformation is formerly cited as helping shape the future of the Business. 36%
Our organisation see IT as a strategic business partner – an enabler for business. 21%
We have effective communication between IT and the Business with the ability to identify customer needs and/or demonstrate value of IT services. 21%
We have clearly defined BRM roles to maintain an interface between the Business and IT. 21%
We can quantify the value provided by the IT Organisation to the Business. 0%

Only half of the candidates believed that their organisation was taking steps to improve the relationship between Business and IT and less than that considered that the IT Strategy was aligned to that of the Business.  If there isn’t alignment between the strategies and no real initiative to improve the relationship then where is the appetite for innovation and digital transformation?

Further responses also indicate a disconnect with regards to the potential IT has in driving the businesses forward – lack of buy-in for improvement initiatives, IT not seen as a strategic business partner and an inability to identify customer needs.

The Business Relationship Manager role is growing in importance to address many of these issues but yet only 21% of the respondent’s organisations have clearly defined BRM roles.

Perhaps much of this mis-alignment is understandable when you realise that none of the delegates felt that the value provided by IT can be quantified or demonstrated.  If IT isn’t able to clearly articulate the value it provides and the potential value it can bring then the business will never see them as a strategic partner.


The group were then asked what challenges are facing IT in Aligning to the needs of the business.  A summary of their responses was as follows:

  • Funding
  • Regulation
  • Innovation
  • Keeping pace with change:
    • Business
    • Technology
    • Customer Behaviour
  • Process Alignment
  • Standardisation
  • Being Agile in a Controlled way
  • Prioritisation
  • Competing Forces
  • Business As Usual versus New projects
  • IT should “Just do it”
  • New ideas
  • Lack of understanding of business problems
  • Throttling the demand pipeline.
  • Risk Management
  • BRM versus Stakeholder Management


The group were then introduced to the Business Simulation – “Grab@Pizza” provided and delivered by Paul Wilkinson from GamingWorks.  Paul introduced the session by stating “70% of the IT departments are unable to demonstrate value to their business.” – this is in perfect alignment with the delegates responses of the day with regards to quantifying value to the business.

The group were randomly allocated roles in supporting a successful pizza franchise “Grab@Pizza”.  Sales figures for the previous 6 months had been below expectations and the group were tasked with implementing a recovery plan.  This plan was dependant on understanding business demands, translating them to IT strategy and organisation of IT Support, IT Operations and Change Management.

An initial round of planning and then implementation of the strategy began with the group uncoached on how best to align the IT services to the Business demands.  Without this guidance then a lot went wrong (feedback captured from the delegates):

  • Manic – pulled from all angles
  • Lack of role clarity and authority
  • Business
    • Worried
    • No Interface
    • No Governance
  • IT – no understanding of business impact and priority
  • IT & Business – Alignment needed
  • IT role clarity needed. What is difference between BRM and Service Manager

Paul led a facilitated session to improve business and IT alignment and resolve these issues as they prepared for the next round.

Improvement focus was given to Value Leakage & the role of Business Relationship Management.

Specifically, this broke down to a number of areas:

  • VOCR
    • By refreshing the ITIL definition of a service, the key characteristics of Value, Outcome, Costs & Risks could be considered at the centre of all activity.
  • Push back
    • It is generally accepted that the business does place unreasonable demand on IT at times but by speaking in the terms of VOCR will empower IT to have sensible conversations with the business when prioritising workload.
    • This dialogue will help the business also understand the need for effective strategic prioritization and decision making when there is strong demand and resource constraints (IT Governance).
  • BRM
    • The BRM can help translate business needs into VOCR and together with Service Manager translate this into ITSM capabilities, at the same time the BRM can translate IT and ITSM concerns and needs for the business.
    • Effective BRMs can help provide input to help Resource Planning and identify skills needs.
  • ITSM
    • IT processes were operating in SILO’s and were not aligned or integrated which is what many delegates recognized. The team explored the interfaces needed between ITSM processes.
    • We explore the needs of Incident management. What information do you NEED for effective resource planning, to identify skills needs and to prioritize work?
      • Trends on calls (growth per type)
      • Projected calls (based upon new business features and usage)
      • Business planning (what new business features are in the pipeline, have users been effectively trained)
      • Priority & impact of outages (per business unit & critical time periods)
      • Changes carried out and level of testing
      • Changes NOT carried out. E.g capacity issues, problems (these will maintain or increase these types of incidents).
      • Infrastructure upgrades

It was clear that processes can only be effective and deliver real Value when ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ information needs are aligned. Many of the business related information needs can be provided by BRM.

By applying this thinking into the planning phase for the next round then the group were much more successful with meeting the needs of the business and delivering a better overall performance. Financial growth targets were achieved, share price increased, there were no damaging articles in the papers affecting image and losing customers and new franchises. The team was thinking in terms of ‘business impact’ rather than servers, systems, upgrades and incidents.

The takeaways captured by the individuals at the end of the round demonstrate how the learning performance and indeed addressed many of the challenges identified at the start of the day.


  • It is important to know the strategy and the portfolio of business changes (SPM)
  • There needs to be effective priority & decision-making mechanisms at all levels
    • Strategic (Portfolio of business features, risk and compliance)
    • Tactical (Prioritisation of builds, releases, changes)
    • Operational (prioritization of incidents and problems)
  • We need to ask upstream and downstream to other processes and teams ‘what do you NEED from me to get your job done….This is what I NEED from you’.
  • Authority (It must be clear where decision making authority lies)
  • Business impact (All in IT must understand the impact of their work in terms of value creation and Value leakage. This helps answer the ‘Why’? question.
  • There doesn’t need to be a CAB meeting, there needs to be the right people engaged and involved to determine impact and to agree and authorize changes,
  • When the business has a high demand for new IT (across all business functions) we need to scale up the BRM capability.
  • Open honest communication between business & IT
    • Share Plans
    • Ask Why?
    • Give honest feedback
  • Role clarity with clear lines of communication (in Both Business & IT).
  • Asking questions, seek clarity, confirm understanding. Avoid assumptions!
  • Translate Capacity growth/issues into Business Terms
  • ‘value’, ‘Outcomes’, ‘Costs’, ‘Risks’. All must understand and use these terms to help balance decision making and allocating resources.
  • Use Business Language not IT terminology when discussing with the business
  • Reserve time (even in regular meetings) to reflect and agree improvements.
  • Break down silos – ensure end to end service


Thinking from the “Outside-In”

Ian MacDonald was able to bring his great experience to the seminar and explore Service Strategy from different perspectives Inside-Out and Outside-In.  In summary, it is common for IT Organisations to be inwardly looking out to the business with a focus on the internal view of services. Measurements and metrics are technology focussed – e.g. percentage availability of servers.  By developing an Outside-In perspective with a focus on customer needs helps to ensure services better meet the needs of the business with key metrics being more relevant to the business.

The Foundation for Convergence

Next, Simon Kent from Sollertis explored IT & Business Alignment “convergence”, Digital Transformation, and the BRM Institute qualifications.  Business Relationship Management plays a key part in delivering digital transformation and as a profession is increasing in demand.  Professional certification through the BRM Professional qualification provides an individual with a baseline of knowledge of the responsibilities required to be an effective interface between the Business and IT.


Seminar Feedback

The seminar was a great success, best demonstrated by some of the comments from the delegates:

 “Grab@Pizza was a good interactive session that showed rather than told.”

 “A day well spent!”

“A useful and thought-provoking seminar providing a useful vision of the needs and requirements to overcome common business operation.”

“So many courses omit the practical application of theories and/or best practice.  This course was the opposite and Grab@Pizza was a fantastic experience.”

“Thought provoking!”


The day’s outputs really demonstrated the importance of value in building a trust relationship between IT and the Business.  This is unlikely to be achieved overnight but will be eventually achieved with incremental steps in the right direction could lead to a “Domino” effect (no apologies for the Pizza pun)!


Developing a greater understanding of value from the business perspective is key to working towards meeting their needs.  If this value cannot be demonstrated by IT then it is no wonder that IT is not seen as a Strategic Business Partner.  Digital Transformation alludes to technology being the driving force behind business growth but this potential can only be realised once true value is understood.

Unexpected business requirements come along that impact IT and change the order of priorities.  The bad news is that this problem is unlikely to change, changing requirements come from the business and IT does need to adapt.  However, by having a true grasp of value then a trust relationship can develop that would enable the business and IT to have a sensible discussion about resource planning.  Talking in a language the business understands would encourage them to decide what can be dropped and/or what timescales can be relaxed elsewhere to cope with changing business needs.


The Grab@Pizza simulation used on the day clearly demonstrates the key components needed to bridge the Business and IT gap.  With this alignment being such a priority for today’s CIO then the simulation is a great way for IT to open up dialogue with the business and demonstrate the appetite to understand value.  IT Services can then be structured in an optimised way to best meet these needs leading to better support from the business and an improved overall relationship.

Business Relationship Management

The role of BRM is key to helping with Business & IT Alignment and is unfortunately one of the most over-looked processes in the ITIL framework.  The BRM Institute have formed to address this situation.  Their Mission is as follows:

“To inspire, promote, and develop excellence in Business Relationship Management across the globe, leading to outstanding business value for organizations and professional fulfilment of every individual member of the BRM community.”

The Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) qualification provides a comprehensive foundation for Business Relationship Managers at each level of experience.  As a Registered Education Partner of the BRM Institute Sysop offer this training from our public locations or as an onsite course.

Sysop are grateful for all the participants for their contribution throughout the day. A special thanks to Paul Wilkinson from GamingWorks for delivering the Grab@Pizza simulation and Ian MacDonald (SYSOP) and Simon Kent (Sollertis) for their contributions on a very valuable day.


ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

BRMP® is a Registered Trade Mark of Business Relationship Management Institute, Inc.


Are your IT Services becoming stale?

I am sure that your organisation strives to offer your customers (internal and external) a consistently reliable standard of IT service – and why not?

The accepted usage of the word (Wikipedia) is as follows:

Consistent behaviour or treatment.

“the consistency of measurement techniques”

Synonyms: evenness, steadiness, stability, constancy, regularity, uniformity, equilibrium, unity, orderliness, dependability, reliability, lack of change, lack of deviation.

We certainly want to give our customers the feeling that they are dealing with a business that is dependable, orderly, reliable but not to the extent of being boring and perhaps too predictable.

But let’s look at that Wikipedia definition again – it includes the phrases “lack of change, lack of deviation”. Is that what we really intend? Static, not improving, not moving with the times?

The emerging methodologies of DevOps and Agile demonstrate an increasing requirement for us to deliver business benefit quickly. However, we do want to be consistent in the way that we deal with our customers.  They need to feel that there will be no negative surprises in the product, quality of service that we offer so that they will have above all that very desirable outcome for any customer or client – peace of mind.

This means that all those great qualities of which we are justly proud like service, product and above all quality should be taken as givens. This is why the well-established disciplines of ITIL® service management are so valuable. But we need to ensure that these disciplines are not set in concrete. The dynamics of today’s business drivers require swift, responsive adjustments to the way we work.

Modern, effective IT organisations do need to invest in the DevOps & Agile way of working. In doing so they will quickly appreciate that neither replaces the ITIL® disciplines – more they depend on them for underlying quality and direction.

The guidance given in the recent AXELOS practitioner publication goes a long way to squaring this particular circle. For our part, at Sysop, we have taken care to make sure that our Practitioner training course helps our students to better understand the need for a flexible approach whilst maintaining, indeed improving, service quality.

Positive change is a necessity of the modern IT organisation. Make sure your consistent approach encompasses a consistent desire to improve, change and innovate.



I am indebted, once more, to my good friend Ivan Goldberg for the inspiration for this blog (www.ivanjgoldberg.com).

Finding Focus for your Plans.

I am indebted to my good friend Ivan Goldberg for the inspiration for this blog www.ivanjgoldberg.com.

Stephen Covey in his benchmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says that we should always put first things first.  On the face of it that is almost a truism but the question is, how often, in reality, do we achieve that desirable outcome?

There is the well circulated story of the supposedly well-organised manager. He was asked: did he have a to-do list?

He did, he said, and went to his trusty laptop to demonstrate.  There was a total of 72 items on the list ranging from “Contact the bank to discuss the overdraft as requested” to “Clean the car”.

He was pressed to disclose how many of these items he thought that he would actually complete. He said that there were so many that he never seemed to achieve any of them.  In any case, he went on, day to day things get in the way and the list just got longer.

What a waste of time and effort.  It has been wisely said that rather than have a to-do list we should have a NOT to-do list and in his case the first item on that should be stop doing a to-do list.

The caveat is of course that unless the to-do list is valuable, achievable and realistic then it is worthless.

It can all be resolved by some discipline in two respects; (1) To restrict the to-do list to no more than three items and (2) To set the priorities on the list and not to divert except in exceptional circumstances.

The reason for a list of three items is a function of immediacy of memory. Three items can be recalled very easily and adding further items can start to clog the memory.  Additionally it is far easier to set priorities.

If this is too extreme consider a Kanban board. A Kanban board is a work and workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work.

All the items on the list need to be focused to the benefit of the business and lead to a defined and specified outcome.

If these simple rules are not followed then the likelihood is that items of little or no value can intrude and get in the way of what is really significant.

The really important feature is to set your priorities.  Look at what you are planning to do, define each item in whatever terms you decide are relevant to the success of the business and then decide the priorities on each item.   Don’t change unless something exceptional merits the change.

Moreover, keep to the priorities that you have set.  We can be so easily distracted by the day-to-day happenings in the business that very often the really significant things take a back seat not by design but by happenstance.

There is no doubt that it demands self-discipline. If these priorities are so important to the future of the your organisation then nothing should get in the way of fulfilling them.

The natural concomitant of this discipline is the essential need to have a team to whom you can and do delegate in the safe knowledge that they can be trusted implicitly to perform.

Ask yourself the key CSI questions:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • How am I going to get there?
  • How will I know I’ve arrived?
  • How do I maintain my improvement momentum?

Alongside these one can consider the personal self-searching questions that will help you get that “to do” list down to a manageable and productive size:

  • What should I do more of?
  • What should I do less of?
  • What should I STOP doing?

Happy planning!


Demonstrating Value to the Business

For many years the ongoing mantra emanating from IT journals, blogs from so called IT evangelists and IT conferences has been ‘the need for IT to demonstrate VALUE to the business’.

As IT Service Management professionals, we understand the commercial importance of IT needing to demonstrate business value. However the topic is often expressed in fiscal and business school language that resonates with the senior members of the IT directorate, i.e. Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) but sadly excludes our IT colleagues.

Typically for most IT professionals involved in day to day IT service provision this fiscal and business school view of value seems somewhat divorced from the day job. In fact, when we better understand the concepts of value and how customers ultimately determine whether the IT service provision is providing business value, then we can see a direct and strong connection between our day to day ways of working and the delivery of value for money IT services.

This connection has been recognised and emphasised in the new ITIL Practitioner Guidance publication. ‘Focus on Value’ now being defined as one of the new 9 guiding principles that help distil the core messages of ITIL.

However, to focus on value requires us to first better understand what actually constitutes value from the customer’s perspective. We can gain a good insight from the ITIL Service Strategy core publication which defines the characteristics of value as:-

• Defined by the customer
• Affordable mix of features
• Achievement of objectives
• Changes over time and circumstances

It further expands our understanding of value by explaining the ‘structure’ of value. The book explains how the customer view of value is derived from 3 aspects:-

• Value Creation – To deliver value, the IT services provided must enable the business to achieve their business outcomes. This is a given and is not influenced by low cost. Consider if you buy a cheap rail ticket the desired outcome for you is the train departs and arrives on time. The reduced fare is of no relevance if you arrive 2 hrs late and this completely disrupts your plans.

• Value Add – The terms value added, adding value, value add inter-alia are used where additional benefits have been provided to the customer which they were not expecting and have been provided typically at no additional cost. Consider here how CSI can make a significant contribution in demonstrating to customers the value add being provided from the IT service providers people and their capabilities. The greater the value add provided the more this begins to influence the customer perception of value for money.
• Value for Money – It is only when the customer starts to consider the ‘Cost’ incurred against the ‘Value’ and benefits gained that a sense of ‘Value for Money’ is formed. As stated above, business outcomes have to be achieved before value for money is considered. The additional value provided will also strongly influence customer perception. However, If customers believe their IT costs are too high and not competitive then regardless of how well their business outcomes have been met and the additional value provided, this will create a feeling of poor value for money and a view they could get the same service at a lower cost elsewhere.

The insight provided from the above provides us with some essential learning about the customer and how they determine value. What emerges is that the ultimate decision on whether the IT services utilised have provided business value and value for money remains solely with the customer and that their view of ‘value’ is a judgement that is significantly influenced +/- by perception.

There is no point telling the customer the worth of the IT services provided and the fantastic capabilities of the IT service provider organisation if the customer doesn’t see, feel and sense the value provided.
Remember the famous saying that “perception is reality”? Where customers are unsure of the value provided by their IT service provider then their perception is set accordingly. The danger here is that in the absence of value, then this brings into sharp focus cost. Being viewed by your customer as a cost is a precarious position to be in and likely to lead to low levels of customer satisfaction and being viewed as providing poor value for money. Loss of business is a possibility.
Good IT service providers will recognize the importance and relevance of positively influencing the customer perception of value and value for money as this is more likely to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, instill over time customer loyalty and retain their customers’ business.

Managing customer perception and their expectations is now such a commercial imperative that this should be an essential tenet of the IT service providers Service Management strategy.

When we consider ITSM strategy the ITIL guidance offered is to base this on the four pillars of service management. The ‘Four P’s’ recognizes that the value to customers in the form of high quality IT services cannot be achieved without the ‘alignment’ of all People, Processes, Products and Partners. This in essence is the ‘raison d’etre’ for IT Service Management to ensure value is delivered to customers from affordable IT services that provide good value for money.

However, as we have already seen value and value for money are interesting concepts in that they are ultimately determined by the customer and significantly predicated on perception. An extreme view to make a point could be, that for the IT service provider regardless of how well they execute their service management capabilities, how reliable their IT services are and how cost effective they are at IT service provision, that this doesn’t guarantee that their customers will feel they have had value for money. This requires the IT service provider to be proactive in positively influencing their customers perception so they see, feel and sense the value being provided.

So for the IT service provider to be successful requires more than just the Four P’s. It also requires a good understanding on how customer perceptions are formed and how these can be positively influenced so that customers can more readily recognize value and value for money from their IT service provider.
We therefore contend that Perception’ is now the Fifth P. How perceptions are positively influenced needs to be factored into your Service Management strategy and planning. In practical terms this should include:-

• Stakeholder analysis to identify and segment customer stakeholders into those who pay for the service, those who agree the SLA and those who use the service to help shape a targeted approach to 2-way communications.

• A communications strategy is required to ensure key stakeholders across the business receive timely and appropriate communication to enable the IT service provider to proactively demonstrate where they are making a difference to the customers IT services.

• Communications plans are devised for each Stakeholder grouping making use of the most appropriate communications channel, i.e. Face: Face, Email, Reports, Flyers.

• Reward and Recognition systems are geared to encourage people to focus on value to the customer and using their insight, knowledge and skills to identify and drive the low cost or no cost opportunities that help optimise service and costs for the customer.

• A CSI register(s) and supporting process is implemented to ensure all CSI improvements are captured, mapped to the relevant IT services and customers groups with benefits quantified in business terms.

To summarise and provide some final food for thought….. there is no value in value of your customers don’t recognise it and therefore no matter how good you are, if your customers can’t see, feel, or sense it, then you’re not delivering value and you are now seen as a cost!
This blog is a precis of a white paper “Recognising Customer Value” written by leading Sysop consultant Ian MacDonald and qualified as a finalist in the 2017 itSMF awards. To see the full paper, follow this link: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=1

ITIL Practitioner – The Lessons for Business Relationship Management

I’ve been really busy these past several months: first of all developing Sysop course material for the new ITIL® Practitioner course, getting it accredited, getting qualified myself and finally delivering the initial outings of, what is becoming, a really useful and very practical course.

It has also set me thinking about our Business Relationship Management Workshop. The Practitioner syllabus and material has made me reconsider many of the practical areas of IT service management and how organisations can make sense of the documented best-practice and successfully adopt and adapt it to the benefit of their the employer organisation.

I have absolutely no doubts about the importance of the Business Relationship Management (BRM) role to the successful provision of IT services but I do wonder if the artificial segregation of the business and IT into customer and service provider is the most effective way of handling this critical relationship.

The Practitioner material does at least recognise two models of service provision – covering outsourced as well as insourced IT. In all it stresses the importance of stakeholder management and communication – vital activities regardless of which model is most appropriate for you as a service provider.

A key objective of the IT Service Management training that we offer is to foster an increased awareness of business priorities within the IT service provider organisation. Taking account of the key messages from the Practitioner material will add considerable value to our current BRM workshop and help bring ever close our ultimate goal of everyone taking ownership of the business, its mission and its goals?

This will certainly keep me busy over the summer months!

Stuart Sawle