Walk the line

Walk the lineLet me be upfront – I’m a newbie to IT the likes of which may provoke many a ‘pfft’ at my opinion. But bear with me, because I’m insanely passionate about what I do and I think I’m on a pretty good track.

Given that this is my first blog post, I thought I’d give a very quick rundown of how I got into – and I mean quick, because no-one likes someone hammering on about themselves (although if you’d like to come over and see some slides of my holiday last year I’d be delighted).

In at the deep end

I talked my way into a Service Delivery Manager role, with no experience, in January 2010 with a small IT outsourcing firm specialising in Managed Services. My job, essentially, was to make sure clients were happy with the 24×7 Service Desk, Field Engineers, and Project Services, that my company offered them. I dealt with everyone from Service Desk Engineers at companies where the IT department was 3 people in a closet, to CIO’s and CEO’s at $b companies.

This, without ever having worked in IT before – the week before I started, I spent on Google trying to figure out exactly what Managed Services was. In my third week I caved in and asked one of our engineers to explain to me what a ‘server’ was and exactly why it was important – because one of my customers was attempting to explain how frustrating it was that our engineers couldn’t get one restarted in a suitable amount of time. I frantically taught myself about SLA’s and Lean IT and Prince2 and Agile, I went out and got my ITIL and ISO20000 Foundation certificates, I read until I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. Eventually, I learnt to talk the talk and hold my own. And that’s when I started to realise that we were doing things wrong.

Ticking all the boxes yet doing it wrong

We had amazing technology and wonderful technical capabilities within our teams. We had fantastic Service Delivery Managers and Business Development Managers who were focused on the client relationship and SLA development. We had spent a fortune training staff in ITIL and having the business certified to ISO20000 standards. But we constantly got complaints. Our customers complained about staff attitude and lack of a sense of urgency – they felt like some of our engineers weren’t taking things seriously. We repeatedly breached SLA’s and never seemed to make an improvement despite wonderful new Incident Management workflows that would be drawn up regularly. We missed critical alerts and events, we were late delivering reports, our projects ran overtime – the only thing that seemed to keep our customers coming back were the Service Delivery Managers and the promises that “we can do better”.

I started thinking about this and trying to figure out how we were going wrong – we had ITIL, we had a great Service Management tool, we knew all the great methodologies – wasn’t that supposed to pretty much ‘be it’? What had we overlooked? Was there a better tool we should have used? The answer, of course, was no. We had – plain and simple – forgotten how to listen.

Two ears, one mouth

We’d stopped listening to our customers, and I mean really listening. They’d say “you’re taking too long to answer our calls” and we’d hear “oh, we need to improve our Incident Management”. They’d say “this problem happens every month” and we’d think “oh, we need to tweak our Problem Management”. They were after outcomes, and we were wrapped up in processes.

We’d stopped listening to our people – in an effort to meet the constant and unyielding demands of our paying customers, we’d ignored our team’s cries for structure, for career development, for accountability and responsibility, we didn’t ask for their ideas or their input. We stopping thinking about them as people and starting thinking about them as resources. 12 months after I had wandered wide-eyed and terrified into this wonderful world of IT Management I sat down with my CEO and said “Put me in charge of the team – I think I can fix it.” And, pleasantly surprising me, he listened.

Walking the line

And so did I. I went to our customers and spoke to them – and I mean really spoke to them. I asked them very frank questions like why they engaged us, what their expectations were of us, what they really wanted from a Managed Services vendor – was it ruthless efficiency, was it low costs, was it a relationship so that they felt like someone understood their business (it should surprise no-one that it was, of course, all three). And I went back to our team, and asked the same questions – why did they work here, what expectations did they have of us as a workplace, and what did they really want as an employer.

We took all this feedback and realised something – best practices are merely a means to an end. ITSM tools are just a vehicle for outcomes. IT Management, be it internal or external facing, is not about having the best tools or the best technology or the happiest customers or the most fulfilled staff. It’s about all of those things combining to produce genuine outcomes for your core customers. You can’t focus on one to the ignorance of the others – you have to walk the line.

ITSM User Personas

Persona: "the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others"

During my time in IT Service Management I’ve read my fair share of process and policy documentation. In fact, I think I’ve had the misfortune to read more than my fair share.

Process documentation is important, don’t get me wrong. Without someone taking the time to write down the intention, expected steps, outcome and quality checks within a module of work you don’t really have a process at all.

I was having a conversation this week with someone that was sure they had a process for something. It transpired that what they had was an unwritten set of best practices that everyone understood and followed. The outcome was actually fairly good and repeatable but by no sensible definition was this a process.

In fact the moment of realisation came when I asked if the best practices had changed over time. Of course they had as the team had learned and improved itself. But without proper documentation outlining the new steps to take nothing was truly repeatable. There was no real process.

Lean Process Documentation?

So, I am an advocate of writing documentation to support a process. But does it have to be so verbose, heavy in language, formal… and lets be honest. Boring?

Lean principles teach us how to identify “waste”. Any more than the responsible minimum is waste. Do we actually need to include difficult to read text in our process documentation? If they don’t add value to the reader surely they are wasteful and can be removed?

There are some practices that I use in my role in product development that I think would be really useful to IT Service Management professionals that are willing to take a fresh look at their process documentation.

User Personas in Action

A user persona is a method of representing an individual that is involved in a process. For example in your Change Management process you will have a number of different people to think about:

  • The person requesting the change
  • The person that peer reviews
  • The approver
  • The person implementing the change
  • The person who does a post implementation review

Each of these people have different requirements, concerns and objectives when working within the Change Management process. Does your process documentation accurately represent these people?

Each user persona should fit on a single side of A4 – An example, ‘Angie – Change Manager’ is below.

User personas represent real people within the process and I’d recommend using photos of your actual users. It’s a powerful thing in design meetings to have a set of personas pinned up on the wall and to actually see the faces of the people you are making decisions on behalf of.

Each persona has a short summary and then four sections.

  • What she’s thinking
  • What she’s hearing
  • What she’s saying
  • What she’s doing

The sections show the users concerns (“thinking”), the conversations that other people would start with her (“hearing”), the conversations she would start with others (“saying”) and her day-to- day actions within the process.

ITSM Caricatures

A persona should be a “caricature” of the different people that act the part within your process. You might seek out these people and interview them to discover what they are thinking, saying, hearing and doing. If you interview 4 different Change Managers and discover that they all have different concerns your “Angie the Change Persona” would be a representation of a person that has ALL of the concerns. You are aiming to discover the extreme points of view that these people exhibit and document them.

We try and use personas throughout our product development process – when we design a process defining these is a critical early step and we rely on them during Acceptance Testing to ensure we are getting feedback from all people.

Back2ITSM Personas

A few months ago I mentioned personas in the Back2ITSM Facebook group and got a good response. As a community resource I’d love to see a set of User Personas that cover all the roles in common ITSM processes. Imagine knowing that you need to write a new process for Configuration Management. Heading over to Back2ITSM to download a set of user personas for each role in the process would be a huge head start.
I’d love to see process documentation move away from mimicking legal documents with reams of dense text and move towards a more user centric representation of users requirements and concerns.

After all – your process affects real people. Lets find out who they are at the design stage and make the process more suitable for their needs.

Image Credit

The itSMF UK 2012 Awards, Real Stars & No Backslapping

As the UK’s largest service management user group with over 12,000 members, the itSMF UK is no doubt resolutely proud to be announcing details of the finalists for this year’s Service Management Awards. The group’s “glittering” awards dinner is held as part of the annual itSMF UK Conference, which will be held at the Novotel London West on 5th and 6th November 2012.

Not (we are told) just an industry backslapping and glad-handing exercise, the iTSMF UK awards are designed to honour the “real industry stars” in Service Management and to recognise the achievements of those who have shown real leadership, imagination and skill in addressing service management challenges within their organisations.

“It’s very satisfying to see people recognised for their hard work and inspiration. It’s also important to showcase real-life projects that have been completed – hearing about the issues that member organisations have faced and the strategies they have put in place to improve customer service can really bring the details to life and indirectly solve problems that other organisations may be battling,” said Colin Rudd, chairman of the itSMF UK.

There are nine categories this year, each of which has been precisely described as “highly competitive” in nature.

Service Management Project of the Year – Finalists: Vodafone, The Co-operative Banking Group, Avis Budget Group

Service Innovation of the Year – Finalists: Stockport Council, Sunrise Software, Fife Council, Telefonica UK Ltd

Service Management Team of the Year – Finalists: The Co-operative Banking Group, HM Land Registry, Foster & Partners

Submission of the Year – Finalists: Ian Macdonald, The Co-operative Banking Group; Kevin Holland, Independent Consultant; Andrea Kis, Macmillan Cancer Support and Matthew Burrows, BSM impact

Trainer of the Year Finalists: Peter Saul, Smatra, Duncan Anderson, Global Knowledge

Contributor of the Year Finalists:  Stuart Wright, Severn Valley ITSM; Jane Suter, Red Tiger Consultancy; Martin Neville, Audit Commission; Mike O’Brien, ILX Group; Alison Cartlidge, Steria; Steve Straker, Fujitsu Services

NOTE: The Paul Rappaport Award for Outstanding Contribution to ITSM Service Management is presented to an individual who has made a sustained and outstanding contribution over a number of years to the field of IT service management. Finalists are not publicised for this award.

Student of the Year – ITIL Finalists: Peter Mullett, Identity and Passport Service (EI – BCS); 
John Hyde, Emerson(EI-APMG); Paul Williamson, RFI Global Services (EI – PeopleCert)

Student of the Year – ISO/IEC 20000 – Finalists: John Griffiths, Fox IT; Richard Stone, Fox IT; Martin Lee Hall, ITSM Consulting; David Lucas, BT;  Paige Lattimer, Capita; Michele Campbell, Capita.

The event’s  dinner is being hosted by Dave Gunson who is a renowned after-dinner speaker “famed” for his confessions of an air traffic controller talks and written work.

Event Listing: itSMF UK Conference, London, November 5th & 6th

Coming of age: The 21st itSMF Annual Conference

This year the itSMF marks its 21st birthday. What a milestone! The ITSM Review will be there – please give me a shout if you would like to say hello.

WHAT

itSMF 21st Annual Conference. Full Agenda here.

WHERE

  • Novotel London West, Hammersmith, West London.
  • Hotel Website
  • Google Map
  • Address: Novotel London West, One Shortlands, London, W6 8DR

WHEN

Monday 5th November – Tuesday 6th November 2012

WHO

The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) – The premier community for leadership in IT Service Management (www.itsmf.co.uk)

BOOKING & FURTHER DETAILS

http://itsmf.co.uk/Conference/2012Conference/Conference_2012_Information.aspx

itSMF UK Conference

Image Credit

Fifty shades of BMC

BMC appear to be having a dizzy spell, a funny five minutes.

Firstly, they declare to the world they are for sale.

“BMC Software ($43.38, +$1.89, +4.56%) shares rose after sources told The Wall Street Journal that the company has been in contact with potential buyers, including private equity firms. The report comes after the firm was urged earlier this year by major investor Elliott Management to seek a sale.” Wall Street Journal, 1st October 2012.

“Bankers have approached potential suitors including software companies and large private-equity firms to see if they are interested in buying BMC or a part of it” CNBC 1st October 2012

What company does that in public?

Investors wanting their ball back and not wanting to play anymore is par for course, but I find it very strange to declare to the world that they want to sell ‘all or part’ of the business.

So it’s a possibility that BMC gets broken up into bits and sold, yard sale fashion, for whatever investors can glean.

What kind of message does this send to employees, let alone the sales pipeline? Perhaps they already have an offer on the table and investors are openly prostrating themselves to the market for a counter bid. Potential suitors include IBM, Oracle, Dell or private equity firms.

Dance Like Your Dad

Secondly, Last week BMC had a marketing mid-life crisis in what appears to be a desperate attempt to appear relevant to potential investors. BMC have borrowed phrases and logos from Apple, the most valuable company of all time.

‘Industry First – BMC Software Transforms the Service Desk Into a ‘Genius Bar’ experience.’ Nasdaq.com, October 11th.

2 minute BMC Video

Relevance at any cost?

Genius Bar? It’s embarrassing. It’s like watching your Dad dance at a party with died hair and botox. Where’s the true understanding of the market and the value the company can bring? Not to mention the flagrant violation of Apple trademarks.

If they really want to capture the current zeitgeist and lure fickle investors maybe the ITSM suites should be called:

‘Fifty shades of IPad-Tweet-X-Factor in the Cloud’?

Uncertain Future

Idle speculation and jaded cynicism aside, the people I feel sorry for most in this whole shambles are the good folks working the cogs at BMC.

Who wants to work for a company that publishes a press release openly stating they are open to breaking the company into pieces, asset strip and maximise shareholder return, especially in the current climate with families to feed and mortgages to pay.

I recognise the importance of venture capital to accelerate growth and build the appropriate resources to build good teams in this industry – but for pity sake – does it have to be such short-term nonsense? How about a bit of leadership?

Your ITSM Career Path

"A career in service management can be an amazing ride."

So you want to make your career in IT Service Management (ITSM).

Are you sure?

You do realize that you will be doomed to receive that glassy-eyed stare from people at social events when you are forced to admit that you work in “IT”?

The ones that don’t make some excuse to answer a phone call, go to the bathroom or get another drink, will hang around because they want to ask you how to get rid of a virus on their home PC!

Only nerds and geeks work in IT, don’t they? To be moved there from the business is some sort of cruel punishment.

Think again, within Service Management there are roles for a wide variety of skillsets, some technical, some not. A great IT Service Management team will have a good balance of both.

Entry Level ITSM

Take the normal “entry-level” service desk analyst (operator, technician or whatever your business decides to call them). In a large operation this person may only need to have a great phone manner, the ability to follow a script (although I really hate these!), listen to what the customer is saying and then log and categorize a call appropriately. They will need to be able to know the difference between a service request and an incident, hardware and software, and understand which services a customer is talking about. Most service desk tools will take care of everything else for them, assigning to the right team or agent.

The skills in a slightly smaller service desk may extend to doing simple first line resolutions such as a password reset (if you can decide whether this is an incident or a service request, there is a large group of people waiting for your answer on LinkedIn!), or other, simple repeat incidents. On a smaller, more expert, service desk you will need to pick up more technical type skills to enable a higher rate of first time call resolutions. But this should not require you to have in-depth technical IT training, just a modicum of common sense and the ability to follow instructions should do the trick.

What I would love to see is the service desk analyst role being seen as a career, not just a stepping stone, a good service desk team member is worth their weight in gold. I was a very good service desk analyst but, sadly, the salary rate for someone in that role generally stops somewhere around the “just able to survive” mark, so to get ahead personally and secure your financial future you have to get out and move on. It is time for CIOs and the like to start thinking outside the square and come up with ways to make this position more valuable, and it is possible to do this…but that is something for another article!

Business or Technical

If you are going to move out of the Service Desk arena, there are basically two ways to head. If you have more of a more technical bent, then you are most likely to head to infrastructure, network administration, database manager roles and the like. The rest of this article is probably not so much for you!

ITIL and other best practice frameworks give a multitude of career paths to choose from for people wanting to pursue a career in ITSM. At a practitioner level, larger organizations will have full-time roles for change managers, configuration manager, problem managers, incident managers…even knowledge managers (a neglected role, in my personal opinion) and other specific ITIL roles. The world really is your oyster. Smaller organizations may bundle roles together into broader service manager roles.

Get some training under your belt in the disciplines that you want to pursue career-wise. While your goal may be that elusive ITIL Expert qualification, bear in mind that it is very difficult to get an employer to fund training to that level, and I can understand why…most ITIL experts will be found working in consultancy roles, either independently, or for vendor organizations, and any employer who understands the market will know this…investing in training you to that level is, in all likelihood, going to benefit someone else. The only time I have seen an employer willing to invest in this level of training was when the person undertaking the training was also willing to sign a contract committing them to working there for a three-year period following their training. This really was a win-win situation for both parties, at the end of the three-year period the “expert” had real life experience of heading a successful ITSM improvement program, and the business had reaped huge benefits from that same program.

The Dark Side

Now we need to talk about something that practitioners may consider to be the “dark side” of the force of ITSM. Working for (shhhhh…don’t say it too loudly) a VENDOR (key in the sinister Mwah-ha-ha, or Jaws theme music!). Let it go people! Vendors deserve huge kudos in our industry…did you enjoy the last conference you attended? Do you think that could have happened without vendor community support? Do you think that itSMF, SDI, HDI or ISACA would be here if it were not for vendor sponsorship?

I will get down from my soap box now (and I don’t work for a vendor organization right now).

There are fantastic opportunities for ITSM specialists with vendor companies, think about it, you get the chance to get into a business, work with them to improve their ITSM practices and then move on to the next site. There is a great sense of achievement on offer in this sort of role. If you are at all like me, you like a challenge and this is where you can get it. Vendors generally get called in when things need to be fixed, and these are exciting times. Maybe I have a short attention span, but spending a few months with a customer, really helping them to introduce best practice into their service management is exciting and to be able to do that time and time again is exhilarating!

A career in service management can be an amazing ride. Mine has taken me around the world and allowed me to meet some amazing people, both virtually and in person. It was never a career path I had imagined in even my wildest dreams, to be honest if I had dreamed about a career in any version of an IT world I would probably have considered it a nightmare! My journey is continuing as I augment my traditional service management skills with new social technologies… I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Germany’s first dedicated ITSM showcase: SITS Europe

A new German trade show for the IT Service Management (ITSM) market and tech support industry has been announced by Diversified Business Communications UK, organiser of SITS, the firm behind the Service Desk & IT Support Show in London.

SITS Europe is the latest addition to Diversified UK’s trade show portfolio. The event will take place on 24-25 September 2013 in Berlin and the organisers describe it as the “first dedicated industry showcase” for Germany’s ITSM sector.

Service desk Mecca

The show will be run in partnership with Messe Berlin in Germany and modelled on Diversified’s SITS event in the UK, which has been running for 19 years and attracts over 4,500 service desk and business professionals annually.

“Germany is the largest economy in Europe and has one of the largest markets for the ITSM sector in the world.  Yet incredibly, until now, it hasn’t had a dedicated trade show for this ‘mission-critical’ industry,” said  Laura Venables, event manager of SITS UK.

“The driving force behind the idea has come directly from the industry and it has been tailored specifically to meet the needs of the German market.  The organisations we’ve been working with for the past six months all agree there is a huge gap for an effective event like this, which is much more business-focused than the more traditional conference models.”

Deep learning resources

Positioned as a highly focussed event providing businesses of all sizes with the opportunity to source new technology, services, suppliers and solutions, SITS Europe will also provide its visitors with an unrivalled opportunity to learn from some of the industry’s leading experts and subject specialists in a first class conference and education programme, consisting of keynotes, seminars, workshops and round table discussions.

“We are very excited to be working with Diversified UK to create a strong task force using both of our expertise to provide the European ITSM market with a high profile market place,” said Dr. Christian Göke, chief operating officer of Messe Berlin GmbH.

More info at http://www.servicedeskshow.com/sits-europe

An army of ITSM'ers

Last year over 1.5 million people took their driving test in the UK.

Budding drivers refer to the ‘Highway Code’, a high selling booklet designed to teach trainee drivers about navigating roads, cooperating with others drivers and staying safe.

So can we assume that the UK gained 1.5 million new road safety enthusiasts with a passion for road markings and road signs?

No.

It means 1.5 million people took their test. They went through the motions, they learnt a skill in order to meet the minimum requirements to get the job done and get on the road.

@ClaireAgutter

Claire Agutter of ITIL Training Zone recently stated that 20,000 people take their ITIL Foundation every month.

So we have 20K more ITSM enthusiasts? Call me a cynic, but I think not.

We have 20K people a month that ‘went through the motions, learnt a skill in order to meet the minimum requirements to get the job done and get on the road‘. In the case of ITIL foundation maybe it is to get that next job, make their CV more appealing or because the boss said so. Maybe some of them are tomorrow’s ITSM revolutionaries?

I think it is fantastic that ITIL training has such a good throughput but think it is a little misguided to use ITIL training as the litmus test of the ITSM industry.

In another correlation with driving tests, road safety campaigners are frustrated that few people refer to the Highway Code once they have passed their test.

“Millions of copies of the book have been sold, although whether many people refer to it once they’ve passed their driving test is doubtful, a point of frustration for many road safety campaigners.” The Telegraph

What do you think? What is the true indicator of ITSM Industry health?