Apollo 13, A Study in Service Management

Almost everyone knows the story of Apollo 13. Indeed it was made into a highly successful film starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell the mission commander. It illustrates how human ingenuity and carefully thought-out processes can be used in even the most challenging of circumstances to deliver success.

The parallels with IT service management best practice are striking.

There is a service desk (CapCom) handling all the communications between the astronauts and mission control. There are professionals dedicated to incident and problem management.

There are carefully thought out processes and a robust change management team responsible for making absolutely certain that the safety of the astronauts is never compromised by a poorly tested change. There is a carefully crafted strategy with clear mission objectives that had to be re-evaluated in the light of the catastrophic explosion.

Yet in all of this, the astronauts were returned to Earth safely.

Whenever Sysop consultants run our Apollo 13 simulation as an ITSM learning workshop, they observe the ITSM professional participants disregarding all that they have learned about ITIL® best practice. Processes, designed by the team to see them through the simulation, are forgotten and abandoned; communication breaks down; leadership seems to be lost in space.

The lesson from this, of course, is that this is exactly what happens in the workplace when best practice processes are stress tested by a major crisis. Just when reliable resilient processes are needed to support problem-solving and crisis management, best practice goes out of the window.

We often say that adopting service management best practice is as much bringing about culture change as it is about rolling-out the framework set out in the core volumes. If an organisation fails to win the hearts and minds of everyone involved in the provision of IT services, then an implementation of best practice, no matter how well intentioned, is doomed to failure.

Education or Training?

It’s an easy category to assign to us here at Sysop – we’re an IT Training Company aren’t we? Well actually it’s not as simple as that.  Although we’re probably best well known for out ITIL® training courses – they are actually education courses.

Our PRINCE2® courses are very definitely training courses, in that you would return to your office well-equipped to use the PRINCE2 methodology to manage any project for which you are responsible. ITIL® is different. There is no doubt that following your ITIL course you will better understand the ITIL framework and recommended best practice but putting that into practice will still present major challenges.  Chief amongst these is the cultural shift you need to bring about in your organisation – and that’s where the training begins.

Training is about helping people to do things in the workplace in a particular way – equipping them with skills, purpose and methodology. You and your colleagues will need to have a common understanding of exactly how ITIL best practice is to be implemented.

A Forrester report revealed that the biggest reasons for ITIL initiatives failing is resistance to change 52%, failing to get buy-in and acceptance , the second reason was lack of business support.  The training agenda that we have developed outside of our scheduled examination courses can help you to:

• identify, recognise and agree what challenges are faced by your organisation;

• look at these challenges from the perspectives of the various stakeholders;

• identify how stakeholders are impacted by current poor practice;

• facilitate practical workshops to identify problem areas;

• discuss and agree the consequences and risks of these problem areas;

• recognise and create ‘buy-in’ to the ‘need’ to find a solution to resolve them;

• identify stakeholders that need to be involved in process improvement;

• discuss and agree the solutions required to make process improvement happen;

• provide input to ‘Continual Service Improvement’ initiatives.

The experience we gain through this “training” work, of course, adds considerable value to our educational courses. But there is no substitute for focused training delivering clear and measurable objectives.


ITIL®, PRINCE2® are Registered Trademarks of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries

Wrapping in the Green Blanket

I noticed the adverts on the back of two vehicles today that set me thinking about how organisations can wrap themselves in a “Green Blanket” without necessarily reducing their carbon footprint at all.

The first was a van with a decal indicating that the vehicle had been limited to 70 mph in order to reduce its carbon footprint. Given that the maximum speed allowed in this country is 70 mph then all that this company is doing is obeying the law but claiming to be extra green in the process.

The second was a large vehicle proclaiming the green virtues of being based in Northamptonshire. Simply being based in Northamptonshire as cheap and convenient the area may be doesn’t in itself reduce a carbon footprint. I’m sure the company owning the vehicle has many green initiatives of its own – but these weren’t the credentials claimed.

It’s clear that at the corporate level the green agenda is considered significant. Companies do want to be seen as eco-friendly. However, certainly as far as IT goes, cost-saving has a higher priority that carbon reduction. A recent conversation with a customer confirmed this – no investment would be made to reduce their carbon footprint if it meant higher costs.

That says that the Sysop strategy on Green IT is for the moment at least the right one. We must encourage our customers to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce costs in the process. Once actions are in place then the momentum for carbon saving will grow exponentially.

A good starting point is the Sysop course leading to the ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT. http://www.sysop.co.uk/training-courses/sustainable-it/181/green-it-foundation-course