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

Fifty Years – A Major Milestone

I don’t normally like admitting to my age – but this week I am celebrating a pretty major milestone – 50 years in IT. I’ve always considered myself particularly lucky to have begun an IT career when the industry was in its infancy, when we were fresh-faced, young and pioneering.

I left grammar school at 16 with a handful of ‘O’ levels and had been intrigued by computers for some little while. Luckily, for me, a neighbour friend was an IT Operations Shift Leader at Dunlop and suggested that I apply as a trainee operator. I took to it like a duck to water. Operating large mainframes which were tape-based was demanding work physically. The tapes were 3.600 ft zinc spools and some 100 tapes per shift needed to be mounted / demounted on the eight tape decks on each of the huge LEO III mainframes. Understanding what was going on came much more easily. I had a natural aptitude for IT and in that respect it has never been hard work.

I was just 19, when my boss asked me to set-up and run an offline job-assembly function. The goal (successfully achieved) was to improve consistency and reduce job-assembly errors. This work caught the attention of a senior colleague who head-hunted me to join him as Chief Operator at Halfords in the centre of Birmingham. The small ICT 1901 mainframe here was a step down from the sophistication of the LEO and, at the tender age of twenty, I had the challenge of supervising the operation of three shifts, job and data control.

I began to take an interest in the George II operating system and pioneered its implementation to streamline operations and reduce mis-operation. This led to a change of career as I learnt how to program in PLAN – an assembler language proprietary to ICT 1900 mainframes. I loved it and determined a short while later that I could earn much more money as a freelance programmer.

Very soon I was assigned to a major development project for Woolworth – all in COBOL. I hadn’t written a COBOL program in my life but I had, at least, covered the basics in a college course. My PLAN and GEORGE II experience stood me in very good stead and I quickly earned a reputation as the technical guru. I could understand diagnostic dumps when many of my colleagues found them perplexing.

I was a freelance programmer at Woolworth for nearly three years when the new Data Centre Manager asked me to join the management team and establish a competent technical and operations support department – again with the principal objective of improving consistency of service and reducing error.

Now I was really in my stride. I had some very competent technical guys but the challenge was to develop the operations support group, exploit the operating system and bring real business benefit to the organisation. This opportunity was enhanced when I led the project to migrate the George II workload to the newly launched ICL 2900 range under VME.

This was exciting pioneering written large! Woolworth IT developed a reputation for leading-edge technology and practices and I was often invited to speak at User Group conferences and joined working parties to help steer ICL development plans – most of them focusing on reliability, consistency of service and error reduction – a bit of a recurring theme here.

My responsibilities at Woolworth increased and I was given responsibility for not only the Rochdale data centre but also the data centres in Swindon and London. Life was certainly getting exciting!

In 1985 everything changed. A new IT Director changed the technical direction from ICL to IBM. Senior IT professionals with extensive experience of IBM operations were parachuted in and I was offered a very attractive package to go do something else – and that something else was Sysop.

The early days of Sysop saw an increasing fruitful partnership with ICL. We pioneered the development of storage management systems to exploit the capabilities of automated tape libraries – always looking at ways to help clients reduce cost, improve reliability, and improve storage management.

Then along came ITIL®.

In 1990 Sysop was one of only three companies who offered training in IT Service Management. The other two no longer exist – which makes Sysop the world’s longest exponent of ITIL. Sysop consultants have travelled the world, working with clients in across Europe, Australia, South America, USA, the Middle East and South Africa.

We continue to innovate and see ourselves as a new breed of IT educator. My team champions the alignment of IT with business, promotes the pivotal role of the IT professional and believes that the primary purpose of training and education is to change behaviour in the workplace.

Our mission is to provide a more creative and stimulating, world class educational environment that addresses vital areas of IT service management. Our training and education is designed to make ITIL more accessible, digestible and relevant for its clients, while its practical workshops can be tailored to the specific needs of the client organisation.

Our goal is still to help our clients improve their IT services focusing on reliability, consistency of service and error reduction – Now that does sound familiar?

Am I going to retire? Not while I’m having so much fun!

Stuart Sawle
http://www.sysop.co.uk
ITIL® is a trademark of AXELOS Limited.

Serving the Customer

I live in the foothills of the Pennines. Just a short walk from my house, up t’hill, is a pub/restaurant that has superb views of the Roche Valley and further beyond to Merseyside and East Lancashire. Not for nothing is it called the Fair View.

One summer evening, I decided to take some friends there for an early dinner. We walked in to an almost empty restaurant and asked if the upstairs facility (with better views) was open. “Not on Tuesdays” was the response. “OK”, I said, “we’ll eat downstairs”.

“Have you reserved a table?” I was asked only to be turned away from the almost empty restaurant when I said I had not. This was no up-market gourmet establishment. It was a cheap and (not so) cheerful family joint. Needless to say I’ve never been back. To this day, I cannot fathom what possessed them to turn away six hungry customers.

Sometimes I’m asked to summarise just what IT Service Management is all about. It’s a very difficult question to answer in just a sentence or two and the answer is likely to vary depending on the background of the person who is asking.

ITIL® provides a framework for the best-practice management of IT services. Its starting point is the shared understanding of what the business’s goals and objectives are and how IT can help in their achievement. It emphasises that IT exists to support the achievement of business objectives and that well designed and delivered IT services are a vital element of this.

When I’m speaking to service management students, I emphasise how crucial “good IT” is to the well-being of the business – how important are the skills and capabilities of the IT team.

At the same time, I emphasise that the IT team rarely generates direct revenue for the business. They don’t manufacture the products the business sells. They don’t achieve sales to the business’s customers. They aren’t in the supply chain for the business’s goods and services.

Their role is to support their colleagues that do!

For the most part, the colleagues at “the sharp end” cannot do their jobs of manufacturing, selling or delivering the products of the business without IT. It is up to IT therefore to ensure that the IT services are there, fit for use and fit for purpose whenever the business needs them.

And that’s where somewhere we go wrong, failing to see our colleagues as customers. We obstruct rather than facilitate. We cite the change process as the reason we can’t help expedite a change. We quote the SLA’s “agreed service hours” as to why we can extend them today.

Our processes need to be enablers of service to our customers not barriers. Successful IT service management is more about a customer centric service culture than it is about processes and targets. Let’s not let down those revenue earners that depend on us. They bring the pennies in – not us!

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

Is giving 100% too much?

I read an article in the Financial Times (Rhymer Rigby, 16th March 2014) that asked the question “Is giving 100% too much?” The article focused on productivity and effort but it struck me that the general thrust applied equally to the ITIL® Continual Service Improvement process.

The Ft article quoted Graham Allcott, author of How to be a Productivity Ninja, saying that people often look at tasks the wrong way – they focus on the detail of what they are doing, rather than the impact it has. “It is actually far more practical to think in terms of the 80-20 rule and focus ruthlessly on doing things that have the greatest impact.”

That, of course, is the essential point of the first stage of the CSI improvement process – “Understand the Vision”. What is the business mission? What are the business goals? Are the improvements we are contemplating going to deliver justifiable business value?

Just because we can make an improvement doesn’t mean that we should. The effort expended might achieve a better return if it were directed elsewhere. The cost might not be justified by the benefit to the business.

There’s an old, light-hearted, quality question. Which is the better bag: a designer leather hand-bag; or a supermarket carrier bag? The answer, of course is that it depends on the use to which it is to be put. A designer hand-bag won’t carry very many groceries and ladies would look pretty silly in the night-club dancing around a supermarket carrier bag.

The primary purpose of Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is to continually align and realign IT services to the changing business needs by identifying and implementing improvements to IT Services that support business processes. Of course, any improvement comes with a cost which must be justified by the value of the improvement.

Continual service improvement needs to consider the degree to which the portfolio meets the business needs. The value of continual service improvement is realised when there is closure of the gap between what has been promised and what is delivered. There needs to be a deliberate effort to recognise when requirements have changed and respond accordingly.

This is where we need to challenge ourselves. Is enough, enough? The law of diminishing returns and the Pareto 80:20 rule both indicate that there will be a point when further improvement is not justified. The (Act) point in the Deming cycle that directs us to seek out other opportunities – gradually and incrementally improving all that we do – for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Stuart Sawle

www.sysop.co.uk

 

Adopting ITIL® Best Practice

One of the recurring themes of questions from budding ITIL® Experts is what’s the best way to go about implementing ITIL® – putting into practice what I’ve learned on the courses?

Well the first thing you should remember (and I’m sure your Sysop lecturer will have pointed this out) is that you don’t ‘implement ITIL®’ ……..whatever your boss says! Your task is actually to think about implementing (or better still adopting) best practice Service Management.

Where do you start? We will have talked you through well over twenty processes and a variety of functions. How are you supposed to implement all that? Well again, remember what you were taught, implementing the processes is about adopting the ideas and adapting them to fit the needs, culture and requirements of your organisation. It’s not about applying the guidelines in the books word for word!

Remember that IT Service Management is, for the most part, a cultural change. To be successful, regardless of the focus — innovation, growth, culture, cost structure, technology — a new methodology of change leadership is required. That suggested by Dr. John Kotter is an excellent methodology with 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.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk
ITIL® is a registered trademark of Axelos Limited.

Motivation – the key to success.

We have all experienced those days where we wake up feeling alive and alert. We head out to work and tackle everything at breakneck speed, not stopping for a drink of water. Once we’ve done that we move onto the next thing. Finishing work, we’re struck by the desire to continue. We get in and clean the house, put food on, head to the gym and so on.

We’re motivated.

Sadly, these days are a rarity for the majority of us. Sometimes getting out of bed is the most we do in a day.

Imagine a whole team working with that full tank of gas, powering through work like there’s no tomorrow, motivation in abundance. Think how much work you’d get through!

Creating and maintaining that motivation is the trick – the truly tough part.

Here I’m going to show you how to maintain that motivation in your team and increase their productivity.

Praise

Nothing helps motivate someone like praise. If your team have been working on a project for a long time and finally completed it, let them know how well they’ve done. Regardless of the size of the job completed you should always offer praise.

They’ll work harder next time to receive that praise again.

Reward

To keep the team happy you should always complement your praise with a reward. Again, it doesn’t have to be a huge reward. It can be anything from bringing in a cake for them or taking them up the pub. But make certain that it’s you that’s thanking them – not a faceless expenses claim.

Think about it, if your team start associating their hard work with a reward from you personally then they’ll be much more inclined to stay on point.

Keep them involved

If your company’s management team hold weekly meetings or something similar, why not invite one of your team members along with you? This will mean that they get to come and see how the company is working and give their input. Nothing helps motivate someone like feeling that they’re acknowledged at work.

The work environment

Although discipline and targets are important try and keep things as relaxed as possible. In my experience working in a relaxed environment encourages people to work. People tend to rebel against strict regimes so keep things loose. Your team will enjoy work a whole lot more.

Be happy

If you come in to work in a bad mood, that will reflect onto your team. You need to come in to work with the attitude that you want your team to come into work with. A happy team are much more likely to work hard. Keep them happy by giving them my first two points: praise and rewards.

There isn’t any really secret trick to keeping a team motivated. You simply have to consider their needs and wants. Tell them when they’ve done a god job, let them know that their opinion is counted and stay positive.

Stuart Sawle

http://www.sysop.co.uk

Achieving that Change in Culture

I was reminded this week of some of the barriers to the successful deployment of service management best practice. We tend to think, rather simplistically, that attending the training courses and gaining the qualifications will empower our teams to get on with the deployment of ITIL®.

If one were to attend a Microsoft Excel course, we could be confident that we would be able to carry those skills into the workplace. We would understand how to use the advanced functions and facilities of Excel and be able to explain and demonstrate them to our colleagues.

Service Management, however, cannot be deployed by one person in isolation. It’s something that has to be adopted right across the organisation. It requires the co-ordinated information and process flow from many roles and responsibilities. It also needs a deep understanding of why ITIL is so important. In fact it needs a culture change that places the emphasis on customer service and delivered value.

We were engaged in a project at major hospital where this realisation was brought home to us very forcibly. We had conducted some ITIL Overview training in preparation to a roll-out of what we thought would be a fairly straight-forward Incident & Problem Management process design.

What became clear, from blank expressions, was that although the team involved understood the words and diagrams of ITIL processes – they just couldn’t grasp how it would apply in their highly specialised functions within the hospital. There was an almost total culture gap. We weren’t on their wavelength and therefore our illustrations of how ITIL worked in practice were incorrectly aligned.

To overcome this, we engaged the team in an Apollo 13 simulation workshop. The difference was amazing. The team engaged almost immediately, motivation levels were clearly much, much, higher and the communication barriers eliminated.

The success was so striking that our client authorised the publication of the case study in IT Training magazine which is reproduced on our website. Here is the link: http://www.sysop.co.uk/your-account/downloads?c=8. You may need to register to access it and I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the trouble. Some good lessons for us all in how to bring about the culture change needed to make a real go of ITIL.

Stuart Sawle
www.sysop.co.uk