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.

stuart.sawle@sysop.co.uk

http://www.sysop.co.uk

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!

stuart.sawle@sysop.co.uk

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
http://www.sysop.co.uk

Attaining Service Management Maturity

I enjoy the conversations I have with students attending our ITIL® courses. They normally revolve around the maturity of their organisation compared to documented best practice. This has led Sysop to put a survey in the field to see if we could establish the overall take-up and maturity of IT service management. The results are somewhat alarming:

OVER 50% OF COMPANIES ARE NOT READY FOR MAJOR INCIDENTS!
• Over a third have an IT-business alignment problem
• 37% point to low or no IT professional development
• 13% have no Change Manager

33% of respondents say they ‘need to do more to align their IT with the business’, with 4% admitting that their IT-business alignment is ‘poor’. Almost two in ten also say that management has ‘no understanding’ (5%) or a ‘poor understanding’ (14%) of the importance of IT to the business.

You can read the full report here: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=10.

So what do you do if you think your organisation is deficient?

Remember that IT Service Management is, for the most part, a cultural change. To bring about this level of change requires patience and tenacity. I would endorse the methodology suggested by Dr. John Kotter – it has just eight steps.

Step 1: Establish a Sense of Urgency
Help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately.

Step 2: Create the Guiding Coalition
Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team. Make sure this group includes a senior management sponsor, management buy-in is key.

Step 3: Develop a Change Vision
Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision for Buy-in
Make sure as many as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.

Step 5: Empower Broad-based Action
Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions.

Step 6: Generate Short-term Wins
Plan for achievements that can easily be made visible, follow-through with those achievements and recognise and reward employees who were involved. If you are a million miles from having a Configuration Management System, despite the fact that it would be wonderful, to have one in place don’t even try to start with this! Look at the areas that you already do pretty well but could do better, this will give you a good starting point.
Approach the task by trying to see which gaps in your processes you could bridge with least effort.

Step 7: Never Let Up
Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

Step 8: Incorporate Changes into the Culture
Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession. Remember the advice of W. Edwards Deming: gradual, incremental changes are most easily assimilated.

Check out our acclaimed Service Management Workshops. http://www.sysop.co.uk/training-courses/69/tutorled-courses#c72

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.

Is the Service Provider / Customer Model Flawed?

I’ve been busy of late preparing our recently announced Business Relationship Management Workshop. The workshop programme has set me thinking about many of the practical areas of IT service management and how organisations can make sense of the documented best-practice and successfully 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.

There are numerous other examples of specialist service departments within business organisations: HR, Finance, PR, Estates, and CSR. The heads of these departments would be horrified if they were not considered to be part of “the business”. So why does IT continually place itself at arms-length?

I am reminded of the story of the US politician who visited NASA. A keen gardener himself he was interested in the activity of the man working in the neatly-tended flower beds. Approaching this man, the politician enquired as to what he was doing. “Sir”, came the reply “, I’m helping to put a man on the moon!”

Part of the answer is our attempt to design one model that covers outsourced as well as insourced IT. Part of it could be the sheer size and intensely specialist elements of IT. Part of it could be the attitude of the business itself – not understanding IT and therefore introducing intermediaries to translate business language into technical requirements and vice versa.

A key objective of the IT Service Management Training that we offer is to foster an increased awareness of business priorities within the internal IT service provider staff. Should we not, therefore, strive to achieve the ultimate goal of everyone taking ownership of the business, its mission and goals?

There lies the rub!

I suspect that even if we achieved this magnificent goal, the business would still want to deal with the ‘techies’ at arms-length. It is an imperfect world. This is why we need IT professionals who can bridge the divide. We need IT professionals to fill the role of Service Owners, Service Managers and Business Relationship Managers. These professionals essentially take on the responsibility for continually seeking opportunities to exploit Information Technology to further the aims and objectives of the business.

Until the day dawns when the technology is understood by everyone, when business objectives can be achieved without whole armies of technical staff, we will need these vital intermediaries.

Stuart Sawle
http://www.sysop.co.uk

Service Management more than an Operational Discipline.

Once every quarter the ITIL® examination bodies release the statistics for examinations taken by geographic territory.

It’s good to see that the world-wide numbers of IT professionals taking service management exams is still increasing but I find it disturbing that so many do not extend their professional development beyond Foundation level. The total number of IT professional sitting the ITIL Foundation exam is ten times more that the total number of students taking Intermediate exams. This means that only about one in a hundred goes on to qualify as an ITIL expert.

I know, from contact with clients, that service management is far from a mature discipline. The operational processes (Incident, Problem etc.) are generally well established. But clients are still struggling to gain control over key processes like Change and Asset Management.

It’s very obvious from looking at the job titles of course attendees that the desire for ITIL competence is still very much skewed towards the operations support and technical areas. It is still pretty rare to see IT professionals who work in the design or transition lifecycle stages – let alone strategic management.

I am absolutely convinced of the value of sound service management processes. I know that client organisations can benefit enormously from the ITIL service management framework. We have to persuade designers and developers to take a greater interest in developing their service management skills?

BCS, itSMF and AXELOS have a key part to play here.

Stuart Sawle
http://www.sysop.co.uk

Software Asset Management – the Missing ITSM Ingredient

When I’m talking to customers, I’m continually reminded that many (or should I say “most”) of them have no accurate records of what IT assets they have or where they are located. For the most part, of course, I’m referring here to physical items of hardware. The problem is worse, much worse, when one considers software assets – for here there is a question not just of good management control but a legal obligation to adhere to licence and intellectual property agreements.

One of the most productive ways of helping a customer to reduce their IT costs is to carry out a hardware and software audit. So often we find hardware maintenance contracts in place for hardware assets that were disposed of years ago and of course the same is true of software assets.

However there is a massive sting in the tail in the case of software assets – Licence types and rights to use.

Probably the most common gotcha is the over-deployment of a software item. How many active copies is your company licenced to deploy, how many are actually deployed and where are they?

Another of the more common “gotchas” with licensing, is that sometimes people have purchased upgrade licences, but not considered the whether the base licence is already in place to upgrade from. No base licence – no rights to upgrade!

Another one of the “gotchas” is accounting for deployments. E.g. thinking that Microsoft Server 2008 (Standard Edition) can be virtualised as many times as a company likes. (Technically, it can be – providing you are prepared to pay for it!) Unlimited virtualisation rights are the preserve of the Datacenter edition of the product!

Take the time to research Product Use Rights and licence metrics – not least in the development environment: does your licence permit the installation for the purposes of testing, demonstration and evaluation or are further licences required?

The standard ITIL programme of courses covers service asset & configuration management but goes nowhere near the specialist requirements of software asset management. Let’s hope that the new AXELOS arrangement gives due prominence to this very important IT discipline.

For your information our next Software Asset Management courses are 9th June in Heywood (Manchester) and 7th July in London. Click here for more information.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk