Winners and Losers in the ITSM Premier League

Six leading ITSM vendors went head to head this week at the itSMF UK Tools forum. The free event was held at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, home of the 2012 premier league winners Manchester City.

This was openly promoted as a tool focused event. A perfect opportunity for some of the leading lights of the industry to showcase their technology and highlight their competitive differentiators.

An opportunity to shine?

It’s a tough, competitive market out there. Differentiate or die.

I was eager to find out which vendors could articulate their unique qualities, who could position themselves in the market? Could they inspire confidence in buyers? Would buyers be safe in their hands?

The result? In my opinion – Delegates experienced the full spectrum from cutting edge to dull as dishwater:


Roy IllsleyOvum (6/10)

Roy gave us an interesting, thought provoking presentation. The content seemed to be a bit out of place for the theme of the day but otherwise it was great talk and I look forward to delving into the slide deck when it becomes available (Applying Lean principles to IT Strategy).

Patrick BolgerHornbill (9/10)

You can tell why Patrick has ‘Evangelist’ in his job title. Patrick gave us an inspirational pitch for not only his company but also the industry as a whole. If all Hornbill customers have the same software installed and the same ITIL training – how is it that they experience vastly different results? Patrick argued that it is because of the people. Hornbill believes in putting their successful customers on a pedestal when positioning their solution. Nice job Patrick.

Tony Bambury, FrontRange (1/10)

Tony provided us a live demo of their SaaS solution and ran through a user ordering an iPhone. I struggled to see how FrontRange differed from the rest of the pack. An opportunity missed.

Kevin Parker, Tom Burnell and James Warriner from Serena (8/10)

Serena have some closet amateur dramatics buffs in their midst. Serena declared an end to dull PowerPoint pitches and provided a refreshingly different demonstration of their technology. We were entertained by means of a reenactment of one of their ‘Doug Serena’ episodes.  For me, it would have been the presentation of the day – but unfortunately it was difficult to hear their presentation and the ‘actors’ were not always visible, so we lost the thread at times. Otherwise – an excellent slot by Serena and they should be congratulated for their effort, preparation and originality (the product looked good too!).

Dave D’Agostino from ServiceNow (5/10)

Dave gave a safe and steady presentation on ‘SaaS driving forces’ and positioned ServiceNow as a cloud platform rather than pure ITSM focused tool. I’m personally not convinced that the market needs telling the advantages of cloud anymore and I would welcome some more pragmatic advice about shifting services to the cloud. E.g. if you are in this particular industry facing abc market forces and xyz legislation this is what similar customers achieved. Perhaps it’s time to move the conversation on from ‘You don’t need to buy servers!’.

I also thought Dave’s ROI model of on premise versus cloud looked a bit shaky, given the likely implementation / customization costs of ServiceNow over a 3 year period – I would welcome some independent industry statistics on this.

Don Page, Marval (4/10)

I tuned out for Don’s session. It was entertaining but a bit of a rant. If I were a prospect for a new ITSM tool provider I would be left with the impression that Don is a great guy and unique personality, but I would be a bit lost if you asked me to remember the redeeming features of his solution, apart from ‘Buy British’.

Tony Probert, Cherwell (7/10)

Tony set out the stall for Cherwell in his no-nonsense forthright style. Tony urged us to think about business services over support and that if we were doing break-fix for a living we were ripe for outsourcing.

He openly stated that most of Cherwell’s features were ‘just like everyone else’ but then managed to clearly articulate their competitive differentiators:

  1. Code-less configuration
  2. Autonomy from Cherwell (not dependent on consultancy and feature lock down)
  3. and seamless upgrades despite customization.

Three bullets to separate Cherwell from the competition and an attractive proposition for those migrating from on-premise tools. That one slide was a refreshing change to the others of the day who struggled to articulate their competitive differentiators.


Same again next year?

Like the SDI tools day, this is a great format by the itSMF and I hope they repeat it again soon. As with regionals – perhaps some real life user feedback could be shoehorned into the day. Further upcoming itSMF events can be found here.

Great seminar location: The view from the 'Legends' lounge at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

Request Fulfilment in ITIL 2011

"ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process."

What is it?

The ITIL® Request Fulfilment process exists to fulfil Service Requests – for the most part minor changes or requests for information.

Request Fulfilment landed on us in ITIL v3 when there was now a clear distinction between service interruptions (Incidents) and requests from users (Service Requests for example password resets)

And what does ITIL 2011 give us?

ITIL 2011 sees a hefty revision for the Request Fulfilment process.  There are more detailed sub-processes involved with steps broken down logically.

Now, I like me a good diagram and finally Request Fulfilment gets a decent flow and most importantly the linkages to other interfaces to the other lifecycle stages are included in a lot more detail.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is far more detail in the section about the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that have been included.  Having experienced the hilarity of definitions of over-complex metrics – this is a good starter for 10, straight off the bat and of course can be added to suit an organisation’s needs.

But what does all this REALLY mean?

It means nothing if the best practices cannot be applied and adapted into real life.

  • Now we all know that at the back of a Service Request is a process that will step through authorisation, any interfaces to other processes etc., but the business value is to provide a quick and easy way for end users to get new services.
  • A mechanism to reduce costs through centralising functions.
  • Understand what other stages of the lifecycles are needed alongside Request Fulfilment – this does not happen in glorious isolation.

Is there such a magic bullet?

The simple answer?  NO!

But there are a few things that should be taken into consideration when looking at implementing Request Fulfilment (often as part of an integrated solution).

Let’s look at the easy stuff first:

  • Look at starting nice and easily with simple Request Models that will happen often, and can be met with a consistently repeatable solution.
  • Look at what kind of options you are going to put in front of the user.  Most people are now familiar with the type of shopping basket type approach through the internet so offer them a familiar interface, with as many options that can be pre-defined
  • Make sure that the different stages of the request can be tracked – the purpose is two-fold:
    • End users don’t get (as) ratty
    • Reporting and routing can be made simpler and more accurate with meaningful status definitions

Getting the hang of this…

  • Give some thought to how you want to prioritise and escalate requests depending on their complexity to fulfil, and again pre-define where possible.

Let’s do the whole shebang…

  • Eventually there will be a need to include financial approval(s) which in turn means sticky things like deputies and budget limits
  • There may also be external interactions with fulfilment groups dealing with procurement

Back up a second – who now?

  • Give some thought to which groups are going to be involved.  In my experience it is sometimes easier to work backwards, from the outcome to the selection and fill out all the bits you need in between.
  • Easy stuff is most likely taken care of by a single, often centralised group – typically the Service Desk, or in some cases specific co-ordinators who work at that Level One tier.
  • Decide if your existing resolver groups are appropriate for some fulfilment tasks or where you need specialised groups and build your workflows to suit.  Typically the first-line support group handling the request always has the ability to track the progress of the request, and is the point of contact for the end users.

Is that it?

  • Whether your request is a simple How Do I to a Hand craft me a personally engraved and gift wrapped iPad the request needs a defined closure procedure.  There has to be a mechanism to validate that the request has been fulfilled satisfactorily before it is closed.

How do we go about deciding what works and what doesn’t?

There is something I will state, use and promote constantly, and that is the use of scenarios.  These are invaluable whether you are testing a deployment, performing user-acceptance testing with a client, or whether you are just evaluating products.

  • Decide on what criteria you need to establish your end goal
  • Break them down to manageable steps, and here the ITIL 2011 activities and points are very nicely presented to give a starter for ten
  • For a product review, for example, look at how easy it is to configure – can I do this myself using demos on the web, or do I need a proper demo on site/webinar with a tool administrator
  • As an aside, what kind of administrative skill is required for your tool of choice?

This is a doddle, no?

A number of things can kill an otherwise promising and/or straightforward deployment:

  • Poorly defined scope – People wanting the process to do too much or not really grasping the idea that Service Request models should be pre-definable, and consistently repeatable.
  • Poorly Designed User Interfaces – The best back end workflows in the world will not help you if the user interface makes no sense to an end user.  Too often I have banged my head against a desk with developers who love how THEY understand what is being asked, so who cares if some desk jockey can’t – they can ring the help desk, right?  WRONG!  Missing the entire point of the business benefits for removing the need to drive everything through 1-2-1 service desk interaction.
  • What is worse than a front end you need a degree in programming to work through?  Haphazard back end workflow that twists and turns like a snake with a stomach upset.  Just keep it simple.  Once it starts to get super-complex, then really ask yourself is this a minor request or something that requires specific change planning.
  • Make sure your tool of choice is capable of measuring meaningful metrics.  Remember, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.  What are you looking to improve, why, what is the benefit, and what can it lead to in terms of Continual Service Improvement

There are, of course, interactions that I haven’t gone into any great level of detail in this article; but do look at one of our latest articles by  Rob England has already touched on this in: What is a Service Catalogue? here on The ITSM Review.

Image Credit

SDITS12 Session: "ITIL 2011: Any the wiser?"

2011 - Does anyone care?

Having gained my ITIL® V3 Foundation Certification before the new ITIL 2011 updates, I was really keen to hear this key-note seminar, at the recent Service Desk & IT Support Show 2012.

There was small gathering for the post-lunch session, and the assembled panel certainly did not lack experience.

Roy Illsley, Ovum, led the panel discussions, and was joined on stage by Ben Clacy, Chief Executive of itSMF UK, Don Page, CEO of the Marval Group, and Sven Strassburg, IBM.

Most people in the room seemed to be using at least some level of ITIL in their organisation, but as to the specific nuances between ITIL V3 and 2011, well that was anyone’s guess.

Something that I had not been aware of, raised by Don Page, was that the advent of ITIL 2011 was also supposed to bring a lot of complementary material, but none has materialised.

A quick check on the official site still has ITIL v3 complementary material, and indeed I managed to snaffle a selection of “Little ITIL” books that were being handed out free, because people are clearing stock for the new versions.

The view from itSMF was: “Just do the bits you want to.”

And there we started to diverge.

The Business Benefits

A question from the floor was around the thorny topic of how to sell the benefits of ITIL to the business.

It is a valid response to say that the business SHOULD be taking an interest on what it is paying out for.

But I am not entirely sure that answered the question, and the conversation then seemed to sit in the IT/Business separation arena.

OK – so we got the business bought in – does my new tool make me coffee?

 “A fool with a tool is still a fool.”

At this point I rather hoped we might start to venture into something I believe in quite strongly in that the ITSM processes in particular should always be the fuel that drives the Service Management tool engine.

But alas the topic stayed on fairly esoteric grounds.

A very valid point, again from Don Page, came in response to query about whether it was time “IT” was dropped from ITIL.

He believed, however, to do that would maybe dilute the content so much as to make it unworkable.

Sven Strassburg gave examples where ITIL was maybe being used to drive processes in nuclear power plants, or aircraft.

  • There was a quick wrap up where we just came back to the same points – adaptable to environments, check.
  • Something to help put structure around processes? Check.

So … what IS ITIL 2011?

It is apparently much improved, but I will make that investment in the books and will see for myself.

What I want to know more about, though, is exactly what complementary material should have materialised with the new version.

As part of my role at The ITSM Review, I want to run an article looking at what ITIL information is out there (and more importantly of actual use to people) ahead of doing courses/gaining certification.

What is it that we are missing?

Does anyone care?

The people currently on a whole heap of ITIL related groups on Linked In care a lot about this!

Which version do I need?

Can I get by with the old V3 for the new exams?

I think it is safe to say that for those taking the new exams, they will have to be at least aware of the differences with older versions that they may have access to, and newer material, for the sake of terminology in the exam.

Is there a quick way round this?

Not as far as I can see.

Start making friends with people who can help you plan for training

Look for helpful material out on the web specifically on ITIL 2011

Are you, Ros, any the wiser?

As an analyst, with experience mainly around the Service Lifecycle, I knew coming into the show that I would need to get up close and personal with ITIL 2011.

As someone with a solution architect background, I have seen projects flounder without due thought around how this is sold, but in my past life have been too low down the food chain to influence those kinds of discussions.

But at its very essence – ITIL is still an adoptable and adaptable set of guidelines.

My view, therefore, is as it was before.  Just needs an update!

For more information on the specific updates, please refer to ITIL Publication Updates

Knowledge12 Review: "Digital natives are spending more time in the feed"

Aprill Allen, Fred Luddy & Breed Lewis in New Orleans for #Know12
Aprill Allen, Fred Luddy & Breed Lewis in New Orleans for #Know12

This review has been contributed by Aprill Allen.

Collaboration and automation were the themes of the Knowledge12 event, ServiceNow’s user conference, which was held in the newly reopened Hyatt Regency in New Orleans from the 15-17 May.

CEO, Frank Slootman, opened the event with a packed keynote session. Announcing the move to a high availability architecture, with a secondary, fully-redundant data centre, and the intention to bring IPO soon (NYSE:NOW), Slootman sees the cloud-based software solution evolving to “touch things instead of people”.

Slootman also gave a nod to the rise in the use of social software in the workplace. Digital natives, in particular, are spending more time in the Live feed (ServiceNow’s activity stream) and less time with email. Will ServiceNow succeed in displacing email altogether? Not on it’s own, but it’s certainly claiming to be part of the movement to do so. But what I can see is ServiceNow shaking up an industry that’s been moving at glacial pace for quite some time. Traditional vendors are reconsidering their offerings and partnerships, while ServiceNow plans to displace the legacy providers when organisations start seeking consolidation and globalisation of their IT management systems.

Through a show of hands, the audience revealed ServiceNow’s PaaS delivery isn’t limited to just IT service management, either. Around 10% are using the platform to develop non-IT solutions as well, one of which—a swing band management system—was nominated for this year’s Innovation of the Year.

It was Fred Luddy’s keynote on day two of the conference that everyone had been waiting for, though. The 2000-strong audience watched with a quiet intensity while ServiceNow founder and chief product offer, Luddy, showed live demonstrations of upcoming functionality, including the collaborative ability Slootman had described the previous day, coming in the next release (Berlin). The new feature allows for the capture of activity stream conversation inside an incident report, providing faster case management than what purely form-based systems allow. This excites me, not just because of the sheer convenience, but because this is where I want to see knowledge management going. This is the kind of paradigm shift knowledge management really needs.

Luddy then went on to demonstrate the “power of the platform” by building a business application in six minutes—a feat he passionately believes anyone should be able to do without the need for coding skills. The calling card of the future Calgary release will be “regular people making meaningful apps.”

Knowledge12 might be over, but delegates, partners, employees and others have left energised. If not from the keynotes, then certainly from the many breakout sessions and labs across the week.

Were you at Know12? What sessions blew your mind and what do you intend to change in your workflow as a result?

This review has been contributed by Aprill Allen. Image used with permission from Macanta Consulting.

The Curious Technologist & The Case of the Analogies

Sometimes technicians, to paraphrase the character of Ian Malcolm, are: “… so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

As the new analyst for The ITSM Review, I was presented with the objectives and characteristics of the role – namely that of The Curious Technologist.

As I embark on this odyssey, I want these articles in particular to be a little more anecdotal in nature, as this subject can be as dry as toast (see what I did there?)

Incoming…

I landed in the world of ITIL back in 2005, when bids were looking for my organisation to demonstrate ITIL alignment and revolved around seemingly holy grail of Configuration Management

A simple gallop around potential contacts in the geographic regions, and within the various departments showed that everyone had their own ideas of what Configuration Management.

There was actual configuration setups of machines, to the rigidly adhered to ITIL descriptions in the book.

Welcome… to Jurassic Park!

Perhaps my favourite, certainly for Configuration Management was the ‘Jurassic Park’ principle.

Ask any technical group what their discovery tool does, and you will receive the most complex, macro-ridden spread-sheets with all manner of data widgets that can be scanned.

Trying to change the mind-set of technical folk to focus on configuration item data that is relevant is a challenge.

In the film, as the main protagonist, John Hammond, is smugly announcing his plans to literally unleash recreated dinosaurs on the unsuspecting tourist public, a mathematician specialising in chaos theory sets him straight.

Sparring from the start, the character of Ian Malcolm chides him for taking work that others have done, and just taking that extra (terrifying) step.

Sometimes technicians, to paraphrase the character of Ian Malcolm, are: “… so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Whilst maybe not as (fictionally) fatalistic, this is true when we looked at the depth of scan-able data versus what is actually required to make Configuration Management achievable.

The next logical step was to analyse the list of discovered widgets but to ask two key questions:

  1. How frequently is the data element scanned?
  2. How current is it kept and used as part of another process?

Not surprisingly, a lot of things are scanned once, and never once referred to again, or even updated again.

The linkage with Change Management in particular proved to give us the grounds to define the “highest” common denominator, which is the most typical configuration item to be affected in a change.

And therein lay the basis for our definitions (in this case) on standards.

 “Here in my car, I feel safest of all…”

Perhaps my most constant analogy of all was one that was taught to me as I was preparing for my first billable project.

In moving to a new role recently I was fortunate enough to be working on a different service desk tool, and indeed my late career was often spent moving clients from one tool to another.

There is no real difference in the raison d’être of a tool – it exists to take a ticket from the start of its life-cycle journey to another.

Processes are the fuel that will drive that engine – but essentially a ticket is opened, it is assigned, it is resolved or closed.

Not unlike a car.

I could give anyone of you the keys to my car and with a few moments of familiarisation someone could drive it away.

Simplistic analogy?  Yes.

But it is often a necessary first step in detaching recipients from their emotional attachment to whatever tool is being replaced.

Welcome to… The Curious Technologist…

A lot of these articles may well be anecdotal, but in my years of watching some of the best consultants at practice, the ability to boil down a complex requirement or approach sometimes requires a more simplistic touch.

After all, if the prospect of moving to a new set of tooling meets with barriers straight away, then how will the deployment ever move forward?

Sure, the use of film lines or pop culture may cause me more amusement than my audience, it does bring a mechanism to channel people’s thoughts along a different line, which is vital in the complex environment we often work in.

Image Credit

Service Desk and IT Support Show 2012 – All in all a good two days.

Diversified Communications reported a 13% increase in attendance

Just before taking up my new role here as an Analyst for The ITSM Review, I was lucky enough to be given the chance to come to this show as preparation for the task ahead.

Certainly on the second day, in our London “drought”, the shelter from the torrential rain provided by exhibitors was interesting, perplexing, and at times irritating, thankfully not in equal measure.

 A Commercial Success

Diversified Business Communications UK reported an impressive 13% increase in visitors for the Service Desk & IT Support Show, held last month, heralding a success as its new owners.

The two-day show drew 4,495 ITSM and IT support professionals from thousands of leading UK and European business organisations, over 24 and 25 April 2012.

“The reaction to the show this year has been incredible,” said event manager Laura Venables.

From visitors to exhibitors, from sponsors to speakers, everybody gained real value from being involved and we’re delighted that it was a complete success.”

The Foot-soldier’s view

It was an interesting two days for me, leading into my new role as an Analyst for The ITSM review mainly because it has been a while since I have been to any technical conference shows like this.

Back in my early days we graduates would all gallop gleefully around the big exhibitions at the NEC, and we were allowed, as it gave us a good chance to learn those all important networking skills.

Also, we weren’t ‘useful’ yet; once you get established in client projects, these jaunts soon disappear from the diary.

It is not as easy as it looks to just launch into conversations with people, even if they ARE trying to sell you something.

For this role in particular, I have to strike a balance between getting information, and giving some kind of perception that they will get anything other than an independent review, should we ever choose to do one.

Of course, it has been amazing for putting faces to some of the great-and-the-good names of Linked In group leaders, providing me with hopefully some good material for my ITSM Review articles.

Review

It would be unfair to base my review on my tired legs, and worn out stand-staffers fed up of smiling, so it’s best to round up my experiences based on the second morning.

  • For the most part, exhibitors are keen to greet with the words “are you looking to invest in a new [insert offering here],” and some seem a little disappointed if they find out you are Press.
  • Others see it as an opportunity to find out if they can send you more stuff.

There have been a couple of disappointments though.

  • One vendor seemed uninterested to the point of: “here’s our literature, email if you have questions.”
  • One key ‘Best Practice’ organisation was not really capable of giving me their three minute elevator pitch and finally just resorted to suggesting I read their website, or maybe come to an event.
  • My pet peeve is where you are having a conversation with someone and suddenly they spy a more established customer and bellow across at them in the “old pals” style with delightful in-jokes and joshery – plain rude, in my opinion.

Conspicuous by their absence

Perhaps more confusingly, some of the biggest players in the ITSM field were not here.

IBM, for example, have a SaaS ready model for their IBM Tivoli Service Request Manager suite, yet they were at Infosec show next door, but not here, with a product that focuses on Service Desk, Incident, Problem and Change Management etc.

Meanwhile in one of the larger displays, BMC are proudly announcing to anyone and everyone about their ability to appeal to any size of market.

The giveaway chart

Now, young or old, a vital part of any conference is the amount of freebies you can get!

Herewith, my run down of what I got!

  • The boys from Service Now won my heart with coffee, jellybeans, a metal pen and an iPad stylus.
  • Followed by the ITIL Training Zone with a nifty plastic card holder (handy for hassled commuter travel cards especially!).
  • Pink Elephant were promoting their latest facilitation offering, looking at Attitude, Behaviour, Culture (ABC) and bravely gave away their ABC decks of cards.  I say bravely, because the cards on their own are amusing, but the value is the workshop that fits around it, and it’s a subject I intend to dig into for The ITSM Review.
  • BMC had a little plastic dancing/boxing man, which was cute but really served no purpose other than to set up to two of them and watch them fight to their plastic death.
  • Axios gave away the smelliest plastic bags but maybe I should thank them as it meant no-one was keen to stand too close in the rush hour tube journey.

Best Value Add

Some stands gave away content on USB memory sticks – especially vital if you want to demo ITSM up in the clouds.

Looking at these purely in the context of my new role, these were the best prizes of the lot.

Will I do this all again next year?

All in all, for me anyway, it was a good two days, and something I see myself doing more and more.

Having worked largely in the enterprise solution space, and rarely having implemented in small-scale projects, it was especially interesting to stop in on some of the less ostentatious stands.

I look forward to testing out a number of demos, getting started with a cycle of Operational Assessments and Product Reviews.

But right now, I would settle for a comfy pair of slippers to rest my tired feet.

Rob England: What is a Service Catalogue?

"The menu analogies we see all the time when talking about service catalogue are misleading. "
"The menu analogies we see all the time when talking about service catalogue are misleading. "

We are looking at railways (railroads) as a useful case study for talking about service management.

What is the service catalogue of a railway?

If you said the timetable then I beg to differ.  If you said one-trip, return and monthly tickets I don’t agree either.

The menu analogies we see all the time when talking about service catalogue are misleading.

A menu (or timetable) represents the retail consumer case: where the customer and the user are one.  In many scenarios we deal with in business, the one paying is not the one consuming.

The service catalogue describes what the customer can buy.  The request catalogue is what the user can request.  Consider a railroad cook-wagon feeding a track crew out in the wilds: the cook decides with the railroad what to serve; the staff get a choice of two dishes.

The cook’s services are:

  • Buying and delivering and storing ingredients
  • Mobile cooking and eating facilities
  • Cooking food
  • Serving food onsite

That is the service catalogue.  The railway can choose to buy some or all of those services from the caterer, or to go elsewhere for some of them.

The menu is a service package option to the “cooking food” service.  The railroad chooses the options based on cost and staff morale.  The menu gives staff the illusion of choice.

First and foremost, a service catalogue describes what a service provider does. How often and what flavour are only options to a service or package of services.  A railway’s service catalogue is some or all of:

  • Container transport
  • Bulk goods transport (especially coal, stone and ore)
  • Less-than-container-load (parcel) transport
  • Priority and perishables transport (customers don’t send fruit as regular containers or parcels: they need it cold and fast)
  • Door-to-door (trucks for the “last mile”)
  • Dangerous goods transport (the ethanol delusion generates huge revenues for US railroads)
  • Large loads transport (anything oversize or super heavy: huge vehicles, transformers, tanks…)
  • Livestock transport
  • Rolling-stock transport (railways get paid to deliver empty wagons back their owners)
  • Finance (a railway can provide credit services to customers)
  • Ancillary freight services: customs clearance, shipping, security…
  • Passenger transport
  • Luggage
  • Lost luggage
  • Bicycles
  • Pet transport
  • Food and drink services (onboard and in stations)
  • Accommodation (big Indian stations all have dormitories and rooms)
  • Tours and entertainment (party trips, scenic trips, winery trips…)
  • Land cruises (just like a cruise ship but on rails)
  • Travel agency
  • Bulk goods storage (railroads charge companies to hold bulk materials in wagons for them awaiting demand: they provide a buffering service)
  • Rolling stock storage (in the USA railroads make money storing surplus freight wagons for other railroads)
  • Rolling stock repair (railways repair private equipment for the owners)
  • Private carriage transport (in many countries you can own your own railroad carriage and have the railway carry you around; a fantasy of mine)
  • Property rental (many large railways are significant landlords)
  • Land sales

Where’s the timetable or ticket pricing now?  It has such a small part in the true scope of a railway’s services as to be trivial.  More to the point, it is not a service: tickets are request options associated with one of many services.  Users don’t request a service: “I’d like an email please”. No, they make a request for an option associated with a service: provision email, increase mailbox, delete account, retrieve deleted email etc…

People confuse their personal consumer experience with business: they try to apply consumer experience models to business processing.  Most customers don’t want a service catalogue “to look like Amazon”.  They want meaningful business information.  The best vehicle for that is usually a text document.  The users/consumers of a service(s) may want to see the requests associated with that service(s) in an Amazon-like interface.  Sometimes there may even be a valid business case for building them a groovy automated request catalogue, but it is not the service catalogue.

The service catalogue defines what we do.  It is not simply an ordering mechanism for customers.  That is that personal/business thing again.  A service catalogue has multiple functions.

  1. Yes it is a brochure for customers to choose from.
  2. It also provides a structure to frame what we do as a service provider: availability planning, incident reporting, server grouping… Once we have a catalogue we find ourselves bring it up in diverse contexts: “we see the list of services show up in the table of contents”.
  3. It is a reference to compare against when debating a decision
  4. It is a benchmark to compare against when reporting (especially the service levels, but not only the service levels)
  5. It becomes a touchstone, a rallying point, an icon, a banner to follow.  It brings people back to why we are here and what we are for as an organisation.

You don’t get that from Amazon.

Then we come to that endless source of confusion and debate: technical service catalogue.  That deserves a whole discussion of its own, so we will look at it next…

MALC: Capstone? Or headstone for serial qualification hunters?

Capstone? Or headstone for serial qualification hunters?

Do the new higher level certifications announced recently represent a pinnacle of an ITSM professional’s achivements?

Update to ITIL® Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) and ITIL Master Qualifications

1st May 2012 saw the announcement that the top two tiers of the ITIL qualification pyramid are now updated to ITIL 2011 and live.

For most of us, the Foundation Certificate and the Intermediates are a realistic aim for a competent grounding in the theory of ITIL.

The exams take the form of multiple choice questions and scenario based questioning.

Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC)

  • MALC is the final module of the Intermediate Service Lifecycle and/or Capability modules that leads to the ITIL Expert certification.
  • The new qualification is aligned to the 2011 edition of ITIL and has increased in difficulty from the Intermediate Qualifications.
  • The exam paper is longer with more questions and more is based on case study.

Where the Intermediate qualifications look to provide either broad management/leadership focus or more detailed ITIL practice execution, MALC pitches itself at business, management and organisational leads.

Maggie Kneller, MALC project manager, said:

“The new MALC takes a managerial, strategic perspective of ITIL across the lifecycle.

“It has been our aim to produce a MALC syllabus and examination which is deserving of its position as the final ‘capstone’ leading to the prestigious ITIL Expert certification.”

ITIL Master

Hot on its heels was the announcement of the ITIL Master qualification going live.

  • This qualification differs from other core qualifications as the assessment method is through written submission and candidate interview.
  • Candidates have to explain how and why they have chosen to adopt, adapt and implement core ITIL concepts within the workplace, across the entire service lifecycle.
  • This can be based on projects conducted in the past (and maybe using earlier versions of ITIL guidance) or can be used to formulate and implement a future service improvement program.

Sharon Taylor, ITIL Chief Examiner said:

“I am very excited that the ITIL Master programme is now a reality for the many ITIL Experts who have been anxiously awaiting its launch.”

Richard Pharro, CEO of the APM Group said:

“The ITIL Master Qualification enables the most experienced IT service managers and practitioners in the industry to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and capability; defining how to approach real-world situations, apply appropriate ITIL concepts and create solutions which demonstrate continued effectiveness and benefits to the business.”

Rob England (aka ITskeptic) commented:

“The ITIL certification edifice grows higher and heaver.”

In his blog he queries who these qualifications are aimed at?

Capstone or Headstone?

We probably have all come across incredibly well qualified consultants who know ITIL better than it knows itself.

But as Rob points out in his blog, to even take the MALC qualification, you have to amass the requisite Intermediate points.

Alas for practitioners, there is no other way of attaining the ‘capstone’.

I am looking to work through the Intermediates as soon as it is financially viable, because it speaks to the experiences I have garnered at the coal face.

My comfort zone is the Service Lifecycle, but the options allow me to spread my wings and try the Service Capability modules for much more detailed process implementation knowledge.

Reading the account of someone who was on the pilot programme, it does present a challenge and focuses on aligning real experience to the complete lifecycle.

They have senior management experience, backed up with practical knowledge as a Service Manager.

Perhaps the benefits of climbing to the top of the pyramid is that it might prevent serial multiple-choice exam-sitters to get the top qualifications without ever having been involved at any level of a Service Management deployment.

I would be very interested to know from a recruitment perspective if search mechanisms pick up anything beyond the word ‘ITIL’ or maybe the Book titles when CVs are scanned.

More info here:

Introducing Ros Satar

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Ros Satar to The ITSM Review.

Ros is joining as a regular blogger and ITSM technology Analyst.

ROS SATAR


“An IT Architect, with close to 20 years experience, working both in direct commercial engagements, and more recently within the outsourcing services.  Worked most recently in the Retail, Finance & Insurance, and Government/Transport Sectors.

Strong technical, business and project skills around Business Analysis and IT Architecture/Solution Design, and Deployment in Transition/Transformation projects, specializing most recently in ITIL ® Service Management Engagements.

Responsibilities include Stakeholder Management, Project Management, User Acceptance Testing and Service Commencement.”


Ros Satar, Analyst and Writer for The ITSM Review

Gadget Girl!

Ros is an ITSM Solution Architect and Process Consultant.

Her journey in ITIL/ITSM began in 2005 when she jumped into the deep end of Configuration Management, and then swam out to the wider ITSM Ocean.

She quite likes it there… technical enough to remind her of her roots, but diverse enough to have opinions on lots of things, based on large customer projects throughout her career.

As well as writing for The ITSM Review, Ros is also following her passion for sports writing and is currently studying for her NCTJ Diploma in Multi-media Journalism.

She says…

“When I am not knee deep in paper and having a love/hate relationship with my many gadgets, I can be found putting in time at various sporting publications writing about people who are way fitter than me.”

They say…

“I have worked with Ros for many years through many technologies, as Architects we are often expected to look at a product and immediately articulate the benefits / return on investment and potential pitfalls in implementation. Ros has the ability to go “Wide” and go “Deep” into the technology and exercise it within an inch of its operational life.”

Welcome Ros!

SERVICE DESK 2.0 -The Service Desk is dead…long live the Service Desk!

Service Desk 2.0
Service Desk 2.0: More about services, products and capabilities, less about incidents and fixes.

We all know the world of IT is developing at a frightening pace.

Has Service Management been left in the dust?

I recently corresponded with Aale Roos,  ITSM Consultant and founder at Pohjoisviitta Oy, who argues that the old perception of the Service Desk has to be replaced with a new way of thinking.

Q. The ITSM Review: Aale, could you tell me a bit about yourself ?

In 1989 I left my job at a Computercenter to become an ITSM consultant (We called it Data Processing Management Consulting back then, the company was called DPMC Oy)

In 1992 I started Help Desk Institute in Finland. By 2002 I was completely bored with help desks but saw that ITIL was coming and went into ITIL training and consulting.

Then in 2007 I thought that ITIL V3 was a big mistake and concentrated in ISO 20,000 instead.

Today I see a renewed interest in support but I think that ITIL is way behind. People don’t want to hear the same old stuff.

Q. What led to your Service Desk 2.0 Concept?

There are three major reasons why the good old Service Desk model is fast becoming obsolete:

1. Users Got IT Savvy

The concept of a Single Point Of Contact (SPOC) was a great innovation. Instead of having several numbers like PC support, operators, telecommunications etc. to call, the IT end users were given one single number and a promise that they would get help. The model was a great success; it was a major improvement to the previous situation, both for IT and the users of IT services.

There is nothing wrong with the SPOC model itself, it works fine if there is a fairly homogenous group of customers who have the same problems. This happens when people are confronting something complicated which is new to them and the 20/80 rule works; if you can solve 20% of issues, you can solve 80% of end user calls. That was the situation with IT before year 2000. It was new and complicated and people had repeating problems that were relatively easy to solve.

Today almost everyone is used to IT and can solve simple problems themselves. People are not afraid of computers like they were in the 1980’s when this model was invented.  There is no homogenous group of users with easy problems, users are different and their problems and needs are more specific.

2. Diversity vs. Standardization

The second major change is the technology. There have been two major waves of computing and a third is emerging: first the central computing with mainframes, then the personal computing with PC’s and now the consumer computing with iPads, Apps and Cloud. One of the key concepts in ITSM is standardization. Support and maintenance is much easier if users have standard equipment. BYOD is an anathema to this but is becoming reality. People use the tools they want to use and now consumer products are overtaking corporate IT. It is hard to support something you do not know.

3. Paradigm Shift in Support

The third change is the real game breaker. The whole Service Desk / incident/ problem -thinking is based on the assumption that technology malfunctions but is easy to fix. There must be one person per x hundreds of users. This model would not work with consumer services where one person can support a million users. FaceBook has 845.000.000 users and 3.000 staff. I would be surprised if more than 845 of them would be doing support, probably less. WordPress has 20 million customers and 10 happiness Engineers to support them.

The only way to support millions of users with one person is to make products and services robust, reliable and easy to use and that is exactly what has happened.

Aale Roos

Q. What does Service Desk 2.0 mean in practice?

Do we still need a service desk then? Yes we do but it has to change. The old ITIL Service Desk is like the old Service station including as garage. Handy if your car broke down. The new service station does not fix cars but sells food. Handy if you are hungry.

The new Service Desk 2.0 is like the Applestore. It is not about incidents and fixes, it is about services and products. Or maybe it is really about capabilities, Service desk 2.0 strives to give you better tools.

The new model plays down the SPOC model. Yes, there is a number but it is ok to contact the expert direct. They key is service, not incidents. Self service and peer support are important. SD2 is the place for new solutions. Feedback is also important, SD2 listens to the customers and drives service improvements.

Q. There seems to be increased interest in Service Catalogue – in this the answer to swapping the focus from call volumes to services and perceived value?

Yes, exactly.

Q. What key steps would you recommend for embracing the requirements of the modern day service desk?

  1. Learn to use new tools and keep up with you front runner customers.
  2. Be active in sharing new solutions.
  3. Be visible in social media
  4. Understand that peer to peer support happens

Aale Roos is an ITSM Consultant and founder at Pohjoisviitta Oy.

See also: