ITIL Practitioner: Thoughts on the experience so far

3623768629_955cfaedca_oDoes ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? Having followed the teasers, blog posts, promotional videos and (some of the) discussions during 2015 I find the question difficult to answer, even after reading the book and taking the certification exam.

In fact, it might be stretching it to call it a hype, even though the press release stated that it was the “most significant evolution in the ITIL best practice framework since the launch of AXELOS”, and The IT Sceptic stated that even he “might even consider doing it”. A Google search on “ITIL Practitioner” today gives me slightly more than 90 000 hits, which is significantly less than “ITIL Foundation” (580 000 hits) and even “ITIL Expert” (350 000 hits). Compared to obvious IT hypes like “Big data” (54 million hits) ITIL Practitioner appears to be hardly noticeable. Nevertheless, my expectations were pretty high by the time I got my hands on some actual reading material.

In my experience, the syllabus is usually a good starting point for familiarizing oneself with new certifications, and this was no exception. The six learning objectives all began with “Be able to [do something]”, which did nothing to lower my expectations, and the assessment criteria filled them out very nicely. Time, then, to dig into the book.

Reading the book

Instant gratification!

Being impatient, I skipped the foreword and the presentation of the (quite impressing) team, and went straight for the good stuff. The introduction left me yearning for more. I loved the simple language, the examples and the down to earth approach. The description of a service strikes me as better than any I have seen in other ITIL books. If I could hand out the first chapter to ITIL Foundation course participants, I would. It really sums up the essence of ITSM in an easily understandable and well-formulated way.

If I should put my finger on anything in the introduction, it would be the presentation of efficiency and effectiveness as concepts. Personally, I would have preferred a little more focus and weight on effectiveness. Efficiency is running fast, effectiveness is choosing the smartest and quickest route. “Doing the right thing” should come before “doing the thing right”, or else you very quickly end up doing the wrong things very efficiently.

As I read on, the book continued to impress me. The easy language, the good examples, the references to other frameworks and methods, it all contributed to the overall great impression.

The guiding principles were very good, easy to follow and to agree with, and I especially liked the emphasis that they are not unique to ITIL or ITSM. I would have liked to see more on the interfaces between them, and how they interact with one another, but then again, they are guiding principles, not directing processes.

The many references to the Toolkit left me in an ambiguous state of mind. On the one hand, it was great to get tips of templates and tools, especially because they were placed close to descriptions of the activities they are meant to support. On the other hand, they had a tendency to break my concentration and flow because I felt I had to look them up immediately. I guess I’ll be less distracted by this the next time I read the book. The Toolkit itself was a great resource, with ample information and references.

In fact, references to other frameworks and methods such as Lean, Kanban, Scrum and agile were abundant throughout the book. Several pages at the end of chapter 7 was dedicated to describing these, and others. I found it very refreshing and appropriate, very much in line with my expectations. The only thing that gave me pause is that I found no mention of Kepner-Tregoe, which, in my opinion, would be a very relevant and useful tool for several topics.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the book, as I am sure most others will be too.

Passing the certification test

As with other comparable certifications, my exam preparations consisted mainly of working with the two sample exams I had at hand. The format was recognizable, with scenarios and multiple choice questions. Having taken a fair share of such exams, I entered into the task with my usual enthusiasm and optimism, both of which was soon put to the test.

ITIL Practitioner operates on Bloom’s level 3 and 4, same as the nine intermediate ITIL exams. Thus, the questions should test the candidates’ ability to effectively apply concepts, principles, methods and new information to concrete situations (level 3), and analyze situations, identify reasons and causes, and reach conclusions (level 4).

In my experience, both the mock exams and the actual certification test fall somewhat short of achieving this. I like scenario based tests; they feel more realistic and appropriate, but you need a certain amount of details to make it work. The intermediate exams handles this by limiting the number of questions, and so giving the candidate more time per question to handle the amount of information given, as well as using gradient style multiple choice.

The Practitioner exam is sort of a blend of the Foundation and the Intermediate type of exams, and ends up being a hybrid; more than Foundation, but not quite Intermediate. While this fits well with the announced placement in the ITIL hierarchy, I still feel that the test uses Blooms level 2 and 3 type of questions to test level 3 and 4 type of knowledge.

In summary, I think some of the questions are too open for interpretations, thus leaving the rationale open for doubt.

In fact, while I can agree with most of the answers and explanations in the rationale, I flat out disagree with a few of them. In my opinion, the rationales are the weakest part of the Practitioner experience so far, and I hope to see revised versions soon. Disagreeing with the rationale does not instill confidence before taking the actual certification test.

As for the test itself, the usual advices apply; read and understand all text, use the book actively, answer all questions. I am also looking forward to seeing some statistics on the pass rate.

In conclusion

So, does ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? As mentioned, I don’t really think it is a hype yet, so I’ll leave that particular question unanswered.

Does it meet my expectations so far? I’m inclined to say yes. The important part, the book, is definitely worth the read, and that really is what matters most.

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This article was contributed by Kristian Spilhaug of Sopra Steria . Kristian is a Norwegian instructor and senior consultant, delivering ITIL, PRINCE2 and Kepner-Tregoe courses and advice. He is usually denying the “senior” part, as there is still tons of stuff to learn. He is really enjoying delivering courses, though. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

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Release Management – How To (Part 2)   

Following on from Part 1 of our article on how to do Release Management – here are some tips on Release acceptance, rollout planning and communication & training.

Acceptance

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Any development code that results in a change to the live environment should be under the control of Change Management and be managed by the Release Management process. If you are finding that a high number of Release RFC’s are being rejected at CAB meetings then you need to investigate the reason for this. All rejected Release RFC’s should be tracked and reported on by Change Management.

The Release should be tested in a controlled test environment with known hardware and software configurations. The current list of release acceptance criteria should be reviewed and updated if appropriate. Release acceptance criteria will differ widely for different organisations as different companies will have different requirements. Your list of release acceptance criteria could include the following:

  • Has the release performed as expected across all development and test environments?
  • Has the back out plan been tested successfully
  • Are the release deployment instructions correct?
  • Has all appropriate support documentation been updated?
  • Has a training schedule been created / have all relevant teams received adequate training?
  • Has the release undergone extensive User Acceptance Testing (UAT) with involvement from all impacted customer / user groups?
  • Is the release performing as expected in test environments and free from defects?
  • If testing has identified any defects with the release is it possible to deploy with a workaround or should the release be postponed?
  • Have all impacted support teams received training in any new support functionality resulting from the release?

I like to borrow the Quality Gate concept from Six Sigma to make Release acceptance as effective as possible.Put simply, quality gates are a way of enabling your Release to move through the process quickly and safely making sure that all the quality criteria have been met. Quality Gates are not, I repeat NOT, road blocks or red tape; if anything they speed up the process (some checks can be automated) and cycle time is reduced because we’re getting it right the first time. Quality Gates are a set of predefined quality criteria that a software development project must meet in order to proceed from one stage of its lifecycle to the next and ensure. Quality Gates ensure that  formal checklists are used throughout the life of a project so nothing can be lost, missed or ignored and that formal sign-off and acceptance occurs at each gate ie no nasty surprises.

Some examples of quality gates include:

  • Code review: The senior developer will look at acceptable coding techniques and adherence to IT standards and best practices. The software design will be verified against the coding to identify any coding errors. Upon successful completion of the code review, the reviewing party will highlight required changes and corrections to the Release Manager so the appropriate action can be taken..
  • Environment review; the test manager will look at the environments used for testing the Release to ensure they are fit for purpose, managed effectively and are being refreshed at pre agreed intervals.
  • Ops review: The project manager will work with the support teams to review all support tasks needed to support the development environment and ensure all appropriate work instructions are in place..
  • Sponsor review: The project manager will review the overall project performance with the project / release sponsor. This review will determine the status of project costs and schedule.
  • Test review: The test lead and representatives from the Quality team will attend the test review to see if all builds were tested correctly and make sure the appropriate test scripts and procedures were followed.
  • Deployment review: The Release Manager sits down with the relevant dev and support teams to run through the implementation plan and to ensure everyone is comfortable.
  • Defect review; The Release Manager meets with business representatives, the Service Desk and the Project Sponsor to make a decision on if in the event of any defects; the Release is delayed or installed with Known Errors and workarounds.

Rollout

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There are lots of ways to deploy a Release safely into your environment. There is no one size fits all, it depends on the size and complexity of your organisation as well as appetite for risk. In the immortal words of Optimus Prime: “Autobots roll out!”

  • Big Bang
  • Phased / Pilot approach
  • Parallel
  • Push
  • Pull

Review the Release plan to include the exact details of the Release and how it will be executed. The release approach should also be considered to ensure it is appropriate of the type of release; different approaches such as “Big Bang”, phased / pilot, or parallel approaches can all be useful for different types of releases. A big bang release is whereby the release is deployed to all recipients at the same time. Advantages and disadvantages of the big bang approach are summarised in the following table:

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the Big Bang deployment method:

Advantages Disadvantages
Release is deployed to all users at the same time More risky than other deployment methods because if the Release fails or causes a Major Incident the Release must be backed out for all users
Training is only required for the new system and not for running both the old and new systems in parallel Training must be scheduled for all stakeholders prior to the release adding additional pressure to key release personnel
There is one deployment date which has been communicated to all stakeholders preventing any confusion around release scheduling As there is only one deployment date, any delay to the release may cause adverse impact to certain departments

 

Phased or pilot releases can be used to introduce new functionality to the end user base in a scheduled approach ensuring that the release has been successful at each stage before moving on to the next. Advantages and disadvantages of the phased / pilot approach are summarised in the following:

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the Phased / Pilot deployment method:

Advantages Disadvantages
Less risky than “big bang” deployment as the release is deployed to a set group of users at a time, thereby if the release fails it is backed out from one or a small number of user groups rather than the whole organisation. Release implementation will take longer as it will be deployed in a staged manner rather all at once.
May enhance the relationship between IT and the selected pilot groups as the two will work very close together if a pilot approach is used. Support for the release could be more expensive due to longer implementation windows eg needing contractors / consultants for longer

A parallel approach can be used to reduce risk for business critical releases. A parallel release works by having both the old and new system run simultaneously for some period of time after which, if the criteria for the new system are met, the old system is disabled.  Advantages and disadvantages of the parallel approach are summarised in the following table:

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the Parallel deployment method:

Advantages Disadvantages
Less risky than “big bang” deployment as the release as the original configuration is still available to users Expensive as it involves running two versions of a system in parallel for a length of time requiring appropriate support personnel, licensing costs and system capacity.
Less risky than phased / pilot releases as you have an instant roll back in that your original service is still available Risk of confusion to the user base as both systems are available at the same time
Additional training may be required for running both the old and new systems in parallel

Push deployments are used where the service component is deployed from the centre and pushed out to target locations.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the Push deployment method:

Advantages Disadvantages
IT are in control of when the Release is deployed and to which user groups End users could be inconvenienced if the update is pushed during an important task
Can be automated or built into a Microsoft group policy The network could experience performance issues if too big an update is pushed out
Ideal for critical security patches or antivirus updates

A Pull deployment approach is used for software releases where the software is made available in a central location but users are free to pull the software down to their own location at a time of their choosing. As some users will never pull a release it may be appropriate to allow a pull within a specified time limit and if this is exceeded a push will be forced, e.g. for an antivirus update.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of the Pull deployment method:

Advantages Disadvantages
Users can schedule updates at a time that best suits them Some users will never “get round” to installing the software so a combined Push / Pull approach should be considered eg users can pull at their convenience but If this hasn’t been done in x number of days the software is push out to the CI
IT doesn’t become a bottleneck; clients contact the server independently of each other, so the system as a whole is more scalable than a ‘push’ system Scalability can become a bottleneck; unless you deploy several master servers and keep them in sync, that one master will start getting swamped as you add more and more clients and thus will become your bottleneck
Follows the self service model – end users feel empowered


 

Communication & Training

Part of the By A Wall series.

It’s important to ensure that an appropriate level of governance is in place to support your Release Management is the introduction of governance. Setting up governance around a Release Management process will ensure the releases are implemented to a higher quality; it’s not just a case of channeling your inner Mr Burns (although that would be pretty cool).

A Release Board should be set up to control the formulation and implementation of Release strategy and in this way ensure the fusion of business and IT. The Release Board will also be responsible for managing risk, testing and formal senior management sign off in addition to the CAB approval discussed in the previous section. The Release Board will often make the final Go / No Go decision on whether or not the release can go ahead if a last minute defect is found.

The Release Board should meet frequently and should be made up of some of the following:

  • Release Manager
  • Change Manager
  • Configuration Manager
  • Project Office / Manager
  • IT Senior Management
  • Business Senior Management

Governance paths should be set up to underpin the Release Management process and establish guidelines, an example of which could be no first of type releases can be deployed by a big bang deployment and all impacted department should have additional floor walker support.

Regular release check point meetings should be held so that all stakeholders of the release are aware of the implementation details. Examples of meetings include:

  • Pre release implementation checkpoint meeting
  • Post implementation meeting
  • Monthly process review meetings with stakeholders in the Release process to review the Release schedule, any issues, SIP, etc.

A release / service readiness review should be carried out to ensure the production environment is ready for the release. Such a review could be carried out in conjunction with Capacity Management to ensure that all capacity issues are tracked and addressed in the Capacity Plan.

The release implementation plan, back out plan and any associated technical documentation should be distributed to all stakeholders well in advance of the go live date to prevent any confusion. A communication to end users / customers should be issued via the Service Desk if a Release will have a noticeable effect on end users; it is useful to build up a bank of template Release e-mails so Releases are communicated in a standardised way.

Regular meetings should be held with Problem Management so that any Known Errors can be distributed to impacted stakeholders prior to the Release going live. There should also be a documented procedure for providing the Service Desk with a list of Known Errors before go live so that they are able to log incidents appropriately and relate them to the correct Known Error. Before any release is implemented, the Service Desk should receive training on any key changes to existing functionality and should be provided with “quick fixes” from the support teams to ensure that simple issues can be fixed by at the first point of contact where possible. New codes and templates for the release should also be set up in the Service Desk tool.

Join us for our second live ITSM webinar on Release Management on Thursday 25th February at 2:00PM GMT. You can watch live, or on demand by registering here.

That’s all for now, come back soon for our final article in the series where we’ll look at go live, early life support and review & close.

 

 

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Guest Blog from PINK16: Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks

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Following the awesomeness of #PINK16 last week, we were lucky to bump into @gamingpaul! Paul very kindly agreed to write a guest blog for us on his session, so here it is in all it’s glory!

 

 

 

‘Why is this content at the end of the conference? This should be a Keynote topic!’ – CEO

In this blog I want to give my very brief impression of the Pink Elephant Conference and explain the comment above from a CEO that attended my workshop session, which I think should give us all room for thought.

First of all my impression. For me one of the key themes than ran through this year’s conference was ‘Culture’. Not explicitly, but it surfaced in all of the presentations I attended. There was also less focus on the traditional ITIL content and more presentations and workshops around DEVOPS, LEAN, and AGILE showing how these approaches are complementary to ITIL.

I was also pleased to see more sessions including the word ‘Value’ in the title. However as you will see later we still have a way to go far as this is concerned.

I attended some of the DEVOPS and LEAN sessions as I was eager to learn more myself. They all stressed ‘People’ as the most important aspect:  ‘attitude’, ‘mindset shift’, ‘culture change’, ‘new ways of behaving’, ‘engagement’, ‘involvement’, ‘team working’, ‘collaboration’ ….In short ‘Attitude, Behavior, Culture’. As Rob England pointed out in one of his thought provoking sessions ‘Messing with your head: How Devops changes everything’, he summarized that what is happening in our Industry represents a significant transformation, a major change to the way we collaborate and behave. Fortunately there was a whole stream devoted to Organizational Change Management to help organizations deal with this transformation.

In all my years of attending ITSM conferences I have never seen Troy DuMoulin, one of the Pink Elephant – if not the ITSM Industry – experts so passionate about LEAN IT and what it means, and I have never seen Rob England so in awe of what DEVOPS means to the future of ITSM, stating that it took him a few years to fully realize its significance.

This conference saw the launch of the ITIL Practitioner, which also stresses in its Guiding principles the need to ‘Focus on value’, the need for end-to-end ‘Collaboration’ and has a whole section devoted to ‘Organizational Change management’. It would appear that the practitioner ‘Guidance’ is a timely development in the ITIL portfolio.


 

The comment from the CEO and the results and takeaways from my session.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to run a workshop at the end of the conference using the ‘Attitude, Behavior, ABCCulture’ (ABC) cards. (ABC is included in the ITIL Practitioner, Organizational Change Management Toolkit). With all this ‘Transformation’ about to descend upon us I used the ABC cards to ‘Surface resistance’, which both ITIL and the OCM body of knowledge stress as an important aspect of change. In the workshop I also wanted to show how the ITIL practitioner guidance can help us prevent, or effectively deal with this resistance.

I am sure we all recognize that the adoption and adaption of frameworks such as ITIL, DEVOPS and LEAN meets with resistance, certainly everybody that attended our stand confirmed this.  Resistance is a perfectly normal part of change, however the idea is not to let the resistance derail the ‘Value’ the change is trying to create, after all that is what we are trying to achieve with all these frameworks…..right?! I presented our global findings that reveal that the majority of organizations still do not get the HOPED for Value.

At the start of my workshop I asked if anybody could explain the definition of a service according to ITIL. Nobody knew the answer (I have now asked this question to more than 15.000 ‘ITILites’ world-wide. Less than 5% know the answer….let alone what it means for their organization).

The CEO in my session said: ‘I don’t get it. What am I missing? If they come back from ITIL training – like the people in this room, and people in my organization – how come they don’t know Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks and what it means to their organization?….otherwise what is the point of the certification!’

That is exactly one of the reasons for the ITIL Practitioner I explained.

The delegates used the ABC of ICT cards to identify resistance they see, or expect to see when adopting ITIL (or any other framework for that matter). The top 5 cards chosen were:

  • Never mind about following procedures…..just do what we usually do
  • Everything has the highest priority according to the users
  • IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority
  • Process managers without any authority
  • Plan, Do, Stop….no real Continual Improvement Culture

The CEO and her direct report chose the card below …explaining that this is what the CIO (No longer with the company) and an external Consulting organization had promised her! Yet she sees little return on the investment (Which could be explained by the fact that so few ‘ITILites’ seem to know the definition of a service)!!!!!


 

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I explained that the cards chosen in this session are the top chosen cards world-wide in workshops, and have been so for the last 15 years!!!!…………..!!!! I think this deserves a number of exclamation marks. Certainly the CEO in the room gave a large ‘!?’ which prompted her to ask ‘Why wasn’t this session a keynote session’?

The delegates were now asked to choose a top card, based upon the following: ‘Which card may be a cause for other cards, or which card causes the most negative impact on VOCR?

They were also asked to describe ‘Which ITIL Practitioner Guiding Principle(s) underpin this top card and needs to be addressed? And which stakeholders now need to display what behavior to address this’?  (Because of the short duration of the workshop we focused on 3 stakeholders:  The CIO, the process manager, the line manager)

Before the exercise began, I used this slide to explain the Guiding principles to the delegates, and how they fit together in the context of the ABC issues they recognized. I suggested they all take it away, pin it up on the wall and use it as a sanity check for their own ITIL initiative.


 

GW 2

 

These were their findings:

Top card chosen:  Not understanding business impact and priority.

Impact: Wasted costs, potential lost value, risk to the business.

Guiding principles underpinning this: Focus on value (understand the business processes and help with the right investment mechanisms), Design for experience (understand user impact, priority, urgency & design priority and escalation mechanisms accordingly), Observe directly (If the business doesn’t know, then watch, observe, advise).

What needs to be done to solve this? Which Stakeholders need to display which behavior?

Stakeholders:

CIO:

  • Set up effective communications and get buy-in (communications also means ‘walk-the-talk’, ‘lead by example’).
  • Setting expectations – the what and the why (creating a sense of urgency and creating a vision).
  • Establishing value (high level VOCR and ensuring this is translated into the 4 P’s – People, Process, Product, Partner capabilities (ensuring a holistic approach).

Process Manager:

  • Selling Value (communicating the value to be achieved and how the ITIL initiative will realize this).
  • Training (with a focus on VOCR to be achieved using ITIL, not just theoretical ITIL training but practical AND contextual – what does it mean for us as an organization and for you as a team/individual).
  • Establishing metrics/KPIs (collaboratively – internal and external).
  • Managing day to day effects (with Line manager) –Is this fit-for-use, fit-for-purpose.
  • Accepting Line manager feedback (from teams – in terms of CSI requirements).
  • End-to-end collaboration in design (4 P’s).

Line Manager:

  • In day to day operations supporting the process manager.
  • ‘walk-the-talk’ (empower the process manager).
  • Policing: (rewarding desirable behavior, where necessary confronting undesirable behavior).
  • Identify with teams pain points that are barriers to value. or suggestions for improvement – give feedback to process manager (Use CSI registers).
  • One to one interaction with employees (make agreements on desired behaviors, focused on process related activities in relation to VOCR).

To close down the workshop I asked ‘What are you now going to go and do differently as a result of THIS session, something you hadn’t discovered in other sessions’?

The answers were:

  • Go back and identify the ‘Value’ we THINK we’re trying to achieve and make sure we all understand this.
  • CEO: Find out where are we now, what did we get from our investment so far? We spent money on ITIL but I don’t recognize demonstrated VOCR? Find out where we are and start from there.
  • We are very busy – pick a small problem that is worth working on and make sure we get value (internal and external) from the effort.
  • Ensure teams know the ‘WHY’, why are we doing ITIL? Get teams involved as early as possible in communication and in collaborating to improve
  • Calling STOP on our corporate ITIL initiative! I am QA. This has really helped me see that we are doing it wrong? Wasting time, effort and we are at risk of failing! Then I want to re-engage and agree a shared direction forward.
  • Go back and train people. Communicate impact, priority and urgency and explain what we are doing in line with this.
  • Do this exercise with the leadership team! Or at least with the Team Leads and champions who need to lead the improvements.
  • Reach out to end users, discover their needs, if they can’t state them, then observe directly so we can advise, and design improvements aligned to this.
  • Be more transparent in choices, move more slowly with things that have impact, demonstrate this and then make the next choices.
  • As a supplier ‘facilitate pain relief’ – help avoid these pitfalls and common mistakes and waste

Was the ‘Practitioner’ materials and the exercise useful and necessary? 100% agreed. All wanted a copy of the Guiding Principle slide.

CEO: Why has this taken so long?! This one sheet explains it all, and is simple to use, we have seen so much focus on the theoretical certificates. This is what is needed, a pragmatic and practical approach.

 

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PINK16 Day 2 PM & Day 3 – Dead Cats, Football Legends & Batman

Multi-Speed IT Rob England, The IT Skeptic

Kicking off the afternoon on Day 2 was the legend that is Rob England aka The IT Skeptic

Rob opened his session by explaining that for IT to truly deliver value “we must accommodate multiple cadences; your IT cadence must be matched to the speed of your business”.

Rob went on to talk about how in order to stay relevant; we need to change our working culture: “Change Management need to move from Change control to Change facilitation”. The other example he used was avoiding “dead cat syndrome” aka as the Dev guys chucking something over the fence into production and expecting the Ops guys to make it work seamlessly. As a former colleague from Pink would say “that’s taking blind optimism at step too far”

Rob talked about how using the standard case model can add value; talking about having a standard lifecycle aligned to the bespoke requirements of your business. Looking to the future; Rob talked about how Change Managers will build the lifecycle so that Dev can manage production. He talked about the need for culture change stating “we will need a cultural change towards trust and empowerment. We need to stop people from gaming the system”.

On a practical level Rob talked about how faster doesn’t always = riskier explaining “you can automate controls within your pipeline”. Rob went on to talk about practical examples in Release Management “if you package everything into one massive release and chuck it into production, why are we surprised when everything breaks? If you’re releasing every day and something breaks, you know exactly what caused it so you can fix it straight away.”

Rob ended on this final message: “To deliver value, you need a spectrum of speeds that empower the business”. Go Rob”

Success Under Pressure: Gary Bailey, Former Manchester United Soccer Star & Speaker

The final session of the afternoon was with Manchester United legend Gary Bailey. In the interests of honesty, I was born on the United side of Manchester and then moved to Dublin when I was 6 months old. I’ve always been a massive Man Utd fan and always will be so excitement about this session from my side had reached almost Start Wars proportions.

Gary’s session was based on the premise that effective leadership under pressure is critical for achieving success. Gary shared the G.R.E.A.T principles of how to thrive under pressure and become even more successful in business.

Gratitude – or as Gary put it; look for the new in everything; be grateful for the good and for when you’ve avoided the bad stuff. Essentially;

Reframing: stop the inner criticism and reframe them. In other words; so what if that one person at work doesn’t’ like you. Lots of other people do.

Energy; aka exercising and STEPPING AWAY FROM THE SUGAR.

Advancement; keep improving or get left behind.

Teamwork: as Gary put it; say nice things to people as oxytocin is a natural cuddle drug.

Day 3

Morning Keynote – Four Conversations For Success – Stuart Knight

Stuart opened the morning with a session on creating powerful relationships. Stuart had been the MC and facilitator for the entire conference so a big high five to him for doing such a brilliant job.

Collective Genius: The Art & Practice Of Leading Innovation – Troy DuMoulin, VP, Research & Development, Pink Elephant

@troydumoulin ran a session on the principles of innovation, leaders of innovation, creating the environment & willingness for innovation and the 6 leadership paradoxes. As Troy put it; “innovation is a team sport. There is no guarantee that something will last forever, especially if we don’t focus on innovation”

Or, in other words: “get off the hamster wheel of death by organising for innovation”.

The second part of Troy’s session was the 6 paradoxes of collaboration:

Paradox 1; Affirm the individual and the group nn

Paradox 2: support & confrontation; allowing people to ask the hard questions within clear supportive rules

Paradox 3: Experimentation v performance; aka maintaining a sense of urgency

Paradox 4: Promote improvisation & structure ie more jazz ensembles over marching bands

Paradox 5: Show patience and urgency; ie create a leadership within peers

Paradox 6: Encourage initiative from the bottom up and intervene from the top down ie only get involved when people start throwing food at each other.

IT Governance Vs. Compliance : Taking Back The Strategy High Ground – Peter Hubbard, Principal Consultant, Head of Product Portfolio Development – UK, Pink Elephant

The final session we attended starred Pete Hubbard from @pinkelephantuk

Pete’s an ex colleague so there was no way I was going to miss a chance to heckle support him. Pete’s opening note was around governance and red tape explaining to his audience: “if people are complaining about red tape then you’re doing governance and compliance wrong.”

Pet went on to explain how COBIT can be used to support strategy by providing enhanced levels of governance and control.

Pete talked about process overkill asking the audience “put your hands up if you’ve seen an organisation with all 20 odd ITIL processes in place. Keep it up if it’s been a success.” You can imagine the response; as Pete said – it’s magical unicorn time.

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Pete explained how to use COBIT to ensure your ITSM processes map directly back to senior management objectives:

To recap: COBIT is an awesome way to map IT processes to business goals. Just remember; it’s there to enhance strategy alignment not replace it!

His final piece of advice on governance? “I don’t care if you use ITIL, COBIT, DevOps or a ouija board as long as your processes are effective, efficient and transparent.

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Nice work Mr Hubbard –  ex colleague high five!

With that, it was time to find the airport to make the long journey home. Thank you so much to @20yearspinky for having us. It’s been an amazing conference, and we’re already planning a return trip next year.

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Two Speed Transition – Agile vs. Traditional

The service transition SIG presented an interactive session at the itSMF conference in November to discuss modern innovative and traditional approaches to Service Transition.

The conference session covered Release Management, Service Catalogue and Early Life Support and arguments were made for both traditional and more modern innovative approaches in quick fire 5 minutes presentations.

After each round, the audience discussed and voted which approach they preferred.

Presenters were as follows:

Release Management

  • Agile – Matt Hoey
  • Traditional – Sue Cater

Service Catalogue

  •  Agile – Patrick Bolger
  • Traditional – Vawns Murphy

Early Life Support

  • Agile – Jon Morley
  • Traditional – Peter Mills

The final scores were as follows:

Two speed transition

As you can see in the table above, the audience favoured Matt’s approach to release management but were on the fence for both Service Catalogue and Early Life Support.

My key takeaway from the session was that most folks were keen to explore new innovative approaches as long as the key benefits were adopted from traditional methods.

Two Speed Transition – 5 minute Video Summary

For further information on the Service Transition SIG please visit www.itsmf.co.uk

PINK16 Day 2 – Ship Wrecks, Innovation & Sacrificial Firings

IT Excellence Awards

Day 2 opened on a real high with the Pink Elephant ITSM Excellence awards. The winners were:

Best Innovation: Utopic

Practitioner of the year award: Robert Nessler of the state of Colorado

Project of the year award: Assurant

A huge congratulations to all the award winners and nominees – you’re all rock stars! The full list of nominees and winners can be found here.

Chairman & Founder, Delphi Group Tom Koulopoulos

@TKspeaks was the morning speaker for day 2. Tom opened by explaining why connectivity is everything:

Tom explained that innovation is key: “Only through disruption does innovation occur. The challenge is, we don’t like disruption, we love the pattern. We’re moving from an era of digitisation to an era of datafication. Ignoring disruption and innovation is no longer an option”. As uncertainty increases, so does opportunity”. Tom went on to outline the four types of innovation:

  1. The device – we can’t have iTunes without the iPod.
  2. The data – we add in  iTunes so that people can listen to music.
  3. Personalise the experience – genius playlist
  4. Tell customers what they need based on our behaviour – Amazon suggestions

This leads to a fifth step; Is when innovation is automated to be systemic within the process.

The second part of Tom’s session focussed on the Datification process. Tom explained that for effective datification “deliver experience first, mobile enable, add personalisation, reduce friction, and create an ecosystem.”

The final part of Tom’s presentation focused on collaboration. As Tom explained it “collaboration will help us solve the big audacious problems from climate change to world hunger. Problems won’t be solved by individuals; they will be solved by groups and teams”. Tom’s final piece of advice was this:

Turning A Vicious Cycle Into A Value Cycle – Gary Case, Principal Consultant, Pink Elephant

Next up was Gary Case from Pink Elephant. Gary’s session was a back to basics session on how Incident Problem & Change Management rule the world. Think about it; without them your Service Desk gets overrun because there’s no root cause analysis getting done. Things start getting missed and balls are dropped. To add insult to injury; Changes are deployed into the live environment that may fix one thing but break everything else. As Gary explained it “we need to have defined processes in order to be effective. We need to be great at communication to keep the business informed.

Gary went on to explain about the importance of Service Targets stating “We need to have Service Targets as well as SLAs in place otherwise how will we know what to aim for?” When asked how to stop people from bypassing the process; Gary’s take was for us to lead by example; or as he put it “IT people! Stop bypassing the Service Desk and follow your own cotton picking processes!”

Gary’s passion for Problem Management was plain to see. When he was explaining it to the audience he said this “if you want to improve availability, performance and customer satisfaction then do Problem Management.” He also suggested that for such an important process, Problem Management does have a name that will make people panic. Let’s face it in the real world, how many business professional will happily admit to having oodles of Problems? I’m with Gary that it’s time for a name change to something like Opportunity Management. Hey AXELOS – maybe one for ITIL 4?

Gary then moved on to talk about Change Management. He referenced the Gartner analysis that between 70 and 80% of Incidents were caused by Change and how we need to do better. When asked how he would deal with people by passing the process, Gary replied “for blatant process refusers, if you implement a Change without following the process, consider yourself gone”. Or as @knappst3r  put it:

Gary finished with this: “value proposition goes beyond SLAs. It’s all about the business.”

Enterprise Service Management: It’s Time To Share ITSM Best Practices Outside Of IT – Alan Berkson, Director Of Community Outreach, Freshdesk

The final session of the morning was @berkson0’s take on Enterprise Service Management. Alan started his session by explaining what it was like working in IT supporting traders at an investment bank “you haven’t lived until you’ve had a trader screaming at you because a trade floor app isn’t working”. As someone who did a 4 year stint in London working for an investment bank I feel your pain Alan.

Alan continued by explaining that Enterprise Service Management was common sense “by applying ITSM principles outside IT we can set expectations and measure how well we met them”. Alan talked about the drivers for Enterprise ITSM; consumerism, business function demand, better ITSM solutions and increased vendor marketing.

The next part of Alan’s presentation focused on the benefits of Enterprise Service Management:

  • Better service
  • Increased governance and control
  • Better customer experience
  • Improved efficiencies and operational costs
  • Better ROI
  • Improved visibility into operational performance
  • Standardisation

The final part of the session was a practical guide to introducing Enterprise Service Successfully. the golden rule according to Alan is this “don’t treat Enterprise Service Management as an IT project” I completely agree with this. If you speak techie language to the business, they won’t understand you never mind buying in leading to an Elliot from Scrubs situation:

Allow for differences and don’t try to help other corporate service providers before helping yourself (or as Elliot would say “get your own fricking house in order first”).

That’s all for today, come back soon for the rest of day 2 as well as the final day of the conference!

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Pink16 – Movie Stars, Huskies & A Zombie Apocalypse!

It’s Vegas baby! As media partners, we’ll be attending the event, tweeting, live blogging and carrying out interviews with all the movers and shakers of the ITSM world so without further ado, here’s our review of Day 1 of Pink16.

Pink16 Opening Keynote – Martin Short

The conference was opened by Emmy & Tony Award Winning Actor, Comedian, Writer, Singer & Producer and all round legend, Martin Short. The conference room was packed and the sense of excitement was palpable. Martin shared his life story of loss and how he came out the other side stronger, refusing to be a victim. Here he is in action:

Martin’s session was a funny, inspiring and insightful story of loss and empowerment. He also shared some very important life lessons:

The Best Of The Best; Blending AGILE, DevOps, LEAN UX & ITIL – Andrew Humphrey, Head of Service Management, Auto Trader

The first practitioner session of the day was @4ndyHumphreys take on all things ITIL, Agile, Lean and DevOps.

Andy talked about the importance of effective Service Transition:

Bonus points to Andy for using a picture of cute huskies to demonstrate that very point:

Andy explained that by having smaller releases, the process becomes faster and safer. As the success rate grows, you can look to reduce the time spent on Change freezes or at least reduce their duration. Andy shared some practical advice on streamlining processes explaining “we used to have a two hour CAB attended by every department. Now we have a ten minute stand up meeting over a Trello board”. He also shared the pizza team model:

The result? A total shift in working culture; instead of rigid project cycles or contractor armies, both operational and technical issues were highly valued and operational responsibility within each squad was greatly improved.

Zap The Zombies & So Much More – Michelle Kerby, Sr. Director For ITSM, BMC Software

Next up was @michellekerby of BMC on the impending zombie server apocalypse. A recent study by BMC found that over ten million zombie servers globally wasted more energy than eight large power stations; a worrying thought, as well as the environmental implications, there are also risk and compliance issues to address as well. Michelle demonstrated how BMC Asset Management can effectively identify and reduce zombie servers:

In the event of any zombie apocalypse – this is my plan:

Pink16 News – ITIL Practitioner Course Announcement – Pink Elephant AXELOS & PeopleCert

After a quick lunch, I caught up with the guys from Pink Elephant ,AXELOS & PeopleCert to talk all things practitioner related. Troy DuMoulin from Pink explained the reason for the course stating that it will bridge the gap between the theory of the Foundation and Intermediate courses by giving delegates a solid business skills overview around CSI, Organisational Change Management, Communications and Measurements and Metrics. I for one can’t wait to do the course when it becomes available as I think anything that gives course attendees more practical skills can only be a good thing.

How To Be A People Magnet – It’s Easy Peasy! – Allan Pease, Author & Motivational Speaker

The final session of the day was run by motivational rock star @allanpease.

Allan gave us an insight into how important body language, emotional intelligence and non verbal cues are when dealing with people.

His advice?

Well that and not getting locked out of your hotel room in the middle of the night when you’ve forgotten to pack your pyjamas but that’s a story for another time!

That’s all for now, come back soon for our coverage of day 2!

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Incident Management Group Test 2016 – The Results

This group test is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Incident Management’ market area. Our remit was to explore how toolsets can support and optimise the Incident Management process.

Incident Management Overview

Incident Management is a key part of the ITSM Software Market – think about it – what organisation doesn’t do Incident Management? Incident Management is one of the most visible processes in the ITIL lifecycle. The aim of Incident Management is to restore usual service to customers as quickly as possible and with as little adverse impact whilst making sure nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about. Can you imagine what would happen if end users couldn’t raise Incidents or contact the Service Desk in the event of a crisis? I reckon it would be 5 minutes max before total chaos.

When I’m explaining the Service Desk and Incident Management in ITIL training; I refer to them as the superheroes of the ITSM world. Let’s face it; they’re constantly firefighting, at the sharp end of the user community if something’s gone wrong as well as being under targets that would make lesser beings hide under their desk whilst mainlining vodka.

Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world
Frontline service desk and incident management, heroes of the ITSM world!

Incident Management is a rockstar process and deserves a rockstar tool to support it so without further ado, let’s get started!

Customer Numbers

  • Alemba (UK) – 300+
  • Atlassian (Australia) –  15,000+
  • Cherwell Software (USA) – 1,000+
  • HPE – Hewlett Packard Enterprise (USA) – 1,500+
  • InvGate (Argentina) – 3,000+
  • ManageEngine (India) – 100,000+
  • Marval Software (UK) – 500+
  • Matrix42 (Germany) – 3,000+
  • Nexthink (Switzerland) – 600+
  • Summit Software (India) – 100+

Incident Management Group Test – The Players

Alemba Ltd.

Strong Incident Management offering which puts the end user experience at the heart of the tool.

Funky user interface using bubbles to highlight workflow and orbitor tool that aids the user by highlighting available actions.

Facebook style notifications alert users and technicians if the ticket has been updated with a handy “add me” option for Major Incidents.

Special module for displaying analytics to Service Desk screens – great idea that does away with the need for manual processes and faffing around with USB keys.

Atlassian

Solid Incident Management functionality. Atlassian are Incident Management ninjas; they aim to get customers up and running within one – two weeks of buying the tool.

Integration with Hipchat for easy chat and video calls.

Seamless integration with other JIRA products so that the customer has a consistent user experience.

Cherwell Software

User friendly user interface with Outlook integration to make it easier of users to log tickets.

Xmatters compatibility gives it advanced SMS gateway, telephony stats, monitoring and fault tolerance functionality.

Thriving customer community; FAQ’s, “how to” guides and oodles of free apps.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)

Awesome landing page that empowers everyone from end users to senior management to customise and view reports.

Revamped reporting module that completely removes the need for any Crystal Reports faffery. Relationships clear and specific; instead of vague linked records, tool delivers meaningful linkages such as “fixed by Change” or “caused Incident”.

Big data is used to power the Knowledge Base; fixes and workarounds are automatically suggested and hot topics can identify Incident trends and proactively raise Problem records.

InvGate

Brilliant customer focused ethos: “Service Desks are like snowflakes, no two are alike”.

User interface modelled on common social media platforms making it easy for end users to navigate.

Service Catalogue actively encourages end user to use the self-help route and gives a virtual high five message for every Incident logged.

Market leading gamification; kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

ManageEngine

ManageEngine user their superpowers for good; free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tools available via the ManageEngine website.

Thriving user community; customers have access to over 90 products and free tools.

User friendly interface; users can chose from raising an Incident or a Service Request and FAQs are on the right hand side of the screen meaning that help and further information is easily accessible.

Impressive use of predefined categories and email integration – tickets can be auto logged and updated without duplication of effort.

Marval Software

Outstanding Incident Management functionality.

Just like Starfleet, Marval have a prime directive, theirs is to enable people to be as productive as possible as quickly as possible.

Special instructions field part of every customer entry.

Each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts.

Integrated ITSM process driven solution which is service and customer centric underpinned by a service portfolio.

Brilliant use of Near Field Communications, you can log an Incident simply by zapping a smart tag.

Slick Major Incident process that closely links into Problem, Change and IT Service Continuity Management.

Use their powers for good out in industry, regular contributors to the itSMF and Service Desk Institute.

Matrix42

Initial landing screen is very similar to your standard Microsoft offerings so most users will find the familiarity of the dashboard makes it easier to navigate.

Analyst screen easy to customise.

The tool can be configured to integrate with CTI systems so you can start a phone call and have it added to the audit diary.

Fab use of automation so you can use workflows to schedule routine tasks like server reboots.

Concurrence management is in place so if more than one person is updating the Incident at the same time, the data is merged and nothing is lost.

Nexthink

A vendor that loves talking to customers and end users!

Impressive IT analytics tool to drive proactive Incident Management.

Initial dashboard gives you an immediate, real time view of business critical services.

Automation drives out white noise and focuses on anomalies; enabling Service Desk Analysts to focus on the most important issues to the business.

The end user analytics support asset tracking and licensing monitoring.

As part of the product training, Nexthink advises Service Desk analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; maximising value and improving the relationship between IT and the rest of the business. Love it when a vendor recognises that the end user is everything!

SUMMIT Software

Easy to navigate user interface – when an end user logs on to raise an Incident they can see their five most recently logged Incidents along with status information.

Analyst view flexible and easy to customise.

Service Request module is directly accessible from the Incident screen and is clear and fully configurable. Up to ten levels of approval can be used which to me covers every possible scenario.


Deep Dives


The Group Test Process

It was really important to me that the group test was fair. Each vendor was asked to fill in a questionnaire and then I had an individual session with each supplier to demo the tool and to ask lots of geeky questions. All the vendor presentations were slick and professional; it really helped me when vendors went out of their way to tailor the session to differentiators and functionality that was value driven.

Key Benefits of Incident Management

ITIL defines Incident Management as “the process responsible for managing the lifecycle of all Incidents. Incident management ensures that normal service operation is restored as quickly as possible and the business impact is minimized.” An effective Incident Management tool is a fundamental part of delivering Incident Management to the rest of the organisation.

In general, Incident Management is made up of the following steps with monitoring, communication, ownership and tracking carried out by the Service Desk:

  • Incident detection – something falls over, has performance issues or isn’t as it should be
  • Logging and recording; capturing all the details in an Incident record
  • Categorisation and prioritisation – ensuring that the Incident is categorised against the correct service and has the appropriate priority set by impact and urgency
  • Initial diagnosis -first go at resolving the Incident. If the Incident is resolved by the Service Desk at this point it is known as a first time fix.
  • Escalation -there are two types; Functional, where it goes to the next level of support eg from first line to second line support and Hierarchical, where something gets escalated to a team leader or manager.
  • Investigation and further diagnosis – where we figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it.
  • Resolution & Recovery -we’ve fixed the issue – happy days – normal service has been restored!
  • Closure -ensuring the end user is happy and closing off the Incident record with resolution details.

The following are some of the benefits of using a dedicated Incident Management toolset:

  • Models and templates to ensure all Incidents and Service Requests are handled consistently
  • Central point of capture so that nothing is lost, ignored or forgotten about.
  • Better adherence to SLAs, OLAs and UCs due to toolset monitoring.
  • Major Incidents workflow; especially with automated communication workflows.
  • Better results for Availability and Capacity Management; if Incidents are logged and managed effectively; they will also be resolved more effectively meaning that downtime and performance issues are minimised.
  • Increased Configuration Management accuracy; the Service Desk can check and confirm CI data when logging Incidents.
  • Enhanced management information regarding service quality due to reporting dashboards
  • Increased customer satisfaction.

Market Observations

From carrying out this group test, it quickly became clear that the Incident Management toolset game has been well and truly upped. Recent developments have seen a number of technical innovations that have allowed increased automation, faster delivery and quicker benefit realisation. The areas of differentiation in the market are therefore defined in the following terms:

  • End to end approach- the days of silos or everyone working in their own little bubbles are well and truly over. The most effective tools are aligned with other ITSM modules such as Configuration, Change, Problem, Service Level and IT Service Continuity Management.
  • User-friendly navigation -the most effective tools had the user journey modelled on common social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. By making it easier to log Incidents and Service Requests not only are we encouraging our customers to buy in to Incident Management, we’re getting them back up and running quicker via self-help and Knowledge Management.
  • Flexible workflow -there is no one size fits all. A start up IT organisation with less than twenty employees will have different requirements than a global financial institution with thousands of employees so flexibility is key.
  • Automation – models, templates and workflows all take the pain out of logging and managing Incidents and anything that makes the Major Incident process less of a nightmare or avoids someone having to get out of bed to reboot a server (automated task management) has got to be a winner!
  • Gamification – we work in IT – we are techies, geeks and engineers saving the world one Windows update at a time so work should absolutely be fun! Not only does gamification drive engagement from both end customers and support personnel; by rewarding people with fun badges and bragging rights in the office, we drive up productivity as well.
  • Big Data – a recent US study estimates that poor data quality costs US organizations over $600 billion a year. Missing, incorrect or out of date information is completely unacceptable in a service driven environment. Enter big data analytics which streamlines the Incident Management process, promotes self-service / self-help via Knowledge Management and allows users to log Incidents via smart tags without a single inbound call to the Service Desk.
  • Value driven approach – ever since the launch of ITIL V3; value has been the name of the game. By doing Incident Management we are committing to our customers. This commitment isn’t applying lip service, talking a good talk or even asking “have you tried switching it off and then on again?” on loop. This is about delivering our customers the service that they deserve. By committing to Incident Management via a solid process and toolset; we’re saying to the business – we care.

Strengths & Weaknesses

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Best Overall: Marval Software LimitedIM Best Overall Winner 2016_Marvel

Awesome tool. Everything about it was lovely to use both from an end user and a techie experience. It’s apparent from working with Marval that they’ve spent years sat beside Service Desk analysts and support techies watching them work, seeing the pressures they’re under and figuring out ways in which the tool can make life easier. It’s slick, user friendly and enterprise focused and a fantastic option if you want to take your Service Desk, support teams and Incident Management to the next level.  Some of my favourite things about Marval are the following:

  • The user information: everything from service information and CI data from the CMS to locational info (with Google Maps) and a special instructions section (FYI; my special instructions would be please send coffee and chocolate)
  • Automation: keyword lookups for suggested models and templates
  • The Knowledge Base: each Knowledge entry has a set of work instructions, useful links, tools and diagnostic scripts. The idea behind this according to Marval is that this information can be pre-populated by second and third line techies.
  • Near Field Communication or NFC: if you happen to walk by a jammed printer, you can let the Service Desk know simply by zapping the label – how cool is that?
  • Slick, effective Major Incident process with solid links to Change, Problem and IT Service Continuity Management.

Marval is fantastic option if you need your Incident Management process to be customer and service centric, bulletproof and mature so we’ve given them the Batman award for best overall Incident Management tool for this group test.

Best Innovation: InvGate Inc.

Gamification is used to fantastic effect to make Incident Management easy, scalable and fun whilst the user interface makes for an efficient, positive customer journey. Some of my favourite things about InvGate are the following:

  • IM Best Innovation 2016_InvGateThe login screen can be configured for single sign on, linking into Active Directory / Windows authentication and also works with Mac machines.
  • All the major navigation buttons are placed at the top of the screen and a social interaction log (similar to the Facebook alerts function) can be expanded to view recent interactions between the Service Desk and the end user.
  • If a user goes down the self-service route – they get a really cool “Kudos” message for successfully logging the Incident. It’s a lovely touch that gives a virtual high five to the user for rocking self-help.
  • Market leading gamification: kudos points for adding Knowledge Base article, merit badges for resolving Incidents within SLA and mini quests to encourage healthy competition between Service Desk Analysts.

InvGate is fantastic option to get up and running quickly; not just for ITSM but for other functions such as HR and Facilities. Gamification and a user centric interface makes this effective and fun to use so we’ve given them the Star Wars award for best innovation for this group test.

Best Use of Analytics: HPE

IM Best Use of Analytics 2016_HPIndustry leading use of Big Data analytics makes HPE the standout in this area. Some of my favourite things about HPE are the following:

  • Fully configurable landing page and introduction screen
  • The revamped reporting capability: point and click, oodles of config options and no complicated third party reporting software needed
  • The chat functionality: the system will even suggest people that could help resolve the related Incident!
  • The big data powered Knowledge Base with smart task management and keyword lookups
  • Heat mapping to view trends and anomalies

HPE is a fantastic product for large organisations. The tool has a comprehensive engine behind it that can manage any enterprise level ITSM task it encounters. Big Data analytics drive efficiency savings and support a move to more proactive service model without compromising on functionality or management information so we’ve given them the Spiderman award for best use of analytics for this group test.

IM Best For Proactivity 2016_Nexthink (3)Best for Proactivity: Nexthink

A powerhouse of proactivity. Here are some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • A new approach and a proactive way to do Incident Management – can notify users of a fault and work on a fix without a single inbound call to the Service Desk
  • Landing page gives a clear view of the operational status of all business critical services
  • Designed to remove white noise so Service Desk Analysts can focus on “the serious stuff”
  • Part of their training is to encourage analysts to spend the time saved by automation to go out and talk to users; which can only be good right?

Nexthink empowers the Service Desk and makes Incident Management proactive so we’ve given them the Superman award for proactivity for this group test.

Using their powers for good award: ManageEngine

IM Best Using Powers for Good 2016_ManageEngineManageEngine are definitely on the light side of the force with their free PinkVerified Incident & Knowledge Management tool available for free from their website. Here are some of some of my favourite things about the tool:

  • Thriving user community
  • User friendly self Service Portal – users can raise an Incident or Service Request and browse through the FAQs
  • Multifunctional – the tool can also be used for desktop support, the deployment of software upgrades, patch management and the management of mobile devices

ManageEngine pride themselves on having a significant percentage of the functionality of the four biggest ITSM vendors, so by offering their Incident & Knowledge Management tool for free they deserve the Black Widow award for using their powers for good for this group test.


Deep Dives


Disclaimer Scope & Limitations

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.

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Release Management – How To (Part 1)

One of the questions I used to get asked all the time as a consultant was how to get started with Release Management. Most organisations start with Change Management and then as they mature; look to add additional governance and control with Release Management.

7382239368_ba418d5b73_m (1)

Here are some areas to focus on when looking at ways to formalise  your Release Management process:

  • Policy
  • Release Planning
  • Design & Build
  • Acceptance
  • Rollout
  • Communication and training
  • Distribution & installation
  • Early life support
  • Review & close

Release Management Policy

A solid policy is one of the most aspects of a good Release Management process. Put simply, your policy is a list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” regarding the Release process. No matter who the customer is; whenever I create a Release Management policy, I ensure the following three things are addressed:

  1. Definition of a Release
  2. Release schedule
  3. Governance

Let’s start with the basics. ITIL terms a Release as “One or more changes to an IT service that are built, tested and deployed together. A single release may include changes to hardware, software, documentation, processes and other components.” In practice, every organisation will have a slightly different criteria for selecting the Release route. Some organisations have very defined release criteria, conversely, I’ve worked with organisations where anything touching the code of a transactional website was classed as a Release, everything else was a Change. Whatever your setup, I’d recommend a simple matrix that guides people as to which cycle to follow.

Scheduling needs to be addressed as part of the policy. How many releases do you need to have? Some organisations go for monthly or quarterly Release cycles; at the other end of the scale you have Amazon who deploy a new software release every 11.6 seconds. Make sure  timescales are set in your policy and that it ties in with the related Change Management policy.

Appropriate levels of governance must be in place to support the Release Management process. The policy should set out what Releases can simply be approved at CAB and what Releases need a higher level of approval eg from a Project or a Release Board.

Release Planning

Make sure that the content and scheduling of each release is agreed early on; so regular meetings with both development teams and business representatives is a must. Make sure the Release schedule (documented in your policy) is combined with the Change Schedule. The easiest way to do this is to raise a Change for each Release and then link the information; that way it shows up on the schedule, CAB are aware of the timings and because the Change record contains a link to the Release documentation there’s no duplication of effort.

Effective Release planning means that downtime and  inconvenience to the business is minimised as multiple Changes are packaged into one Release. This approach also saves money as avoiding multiple downtime windows means less overtime, external support call outs and paying out for service credits.

Design & Build

Carry out a review of your supporting players. Work with Configuration Management to ensure that the software in your Definitive Media Library (DML – or DSL; Definitive Software Library if you’re old school) and Hardware Store (HS) are consistent with the Configuration Management System (CMS). Wow – just reading back that sentence; that’s a lot of ITIL terminology – here’s a quick beginners guide if you’ve just read this and wanted to panic and / or cry:

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DML: Definitive Media Library – one or more locations in which the definitive, authorised and licenced versions of all software Configuration Items (CIs) are stored. In practice; The DML is your application library or server; it’s there to make sure only authorised and safe software is installed across your company.

HS: Hardware Store – secure storage of definitive hardware spare components and assemblies. In practice this is your store of spare PCs and laptops for spares and “hot swaps”.

CMDB / CMS:  A database used to store configuration records throughout their lifecycle. The configuration management system maintains one or more configuration management databases, and each database stores attributes of configuration items, and relationships with other configuration items. If that’s still making your head hurt, here’s a quick diagram to help explain:

Diagram 1: Scary Terminology Explained

CMS

HS DML

Now that we’ve got the technology squared away; by checking that software from DML and hardware from DHS are consistent with CMS you may find unused, “spare” software licences and you may find hardware that can be used in production.

Look at the environments (if any) you have for testing Release content. If more are needed but money is tight could the cost be shared with other departments initially? A training environment could also double as a pre production environment. Tight management can reduce the need for multiple environments; someone (usually the Release or Test Manager) looks after who is using the environments using a “booking out” process and ensures that the environment is refreshed on a pre agreed regular basis.

Come back soon for Part 2 of this article; where I’ll give further tips on building a Release Management process.

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Coming Soon: SIAM Group Test

Our next Group Test will explore how toolsets can aid you on your SIAM journey:

SIAM:

Service Integration & Management (SIAM) is the term given to a multi-vendor service model, where the traditional service towers (storage, network, infrastructure, desktop, service desk, etc) are sourced to a supplier eco-system.

This is supported by an internal or external SIAM function which delivers IT Service Management, end-to-end governance and business focus, as well as undertaking the integration of the various service provider capabilities, into a business facing service

Tool Criteria & Scope:

Our remit is to explore how dedicated toolsets can aid SIAM and deliver value to the client organisation.

The group test will focus on specific SIAM challenges, rather than duplicating the test criteria typically associated with the procurement of a Service Management tool. The tool review will focus upon the following areas:

  • Integration of the tool with other tools for exchange of master data, ticket data and CMDB / Asset data (including relationships between CIs)

  • Ability to onboard / offboard service providers

  • Ability to manage master data (priorities, locations, users, etc), including maintenance, bulk upload, and reconciliation

  • Ability to support configuration changes to workflow

  • Ability to support serial and parallel assignment of tasks to different service providers, potentially across toolsets

  • Ability to track progress of assigned tickets and tasks in real-time, generating automated alerts in accordance with user defined near-breach/breach parameters

  • Ability to apply multiple SLA/OLA/UC clocks to a single ticket and run these in parallel

  • Ability to produce comprehensive reports on Service Provider SLA performance service tower performance and end user SLA performance, both in real-time and on-demand

  • Ability to act as the point of control between IT supply and IT demand

  • Ability to manage Change & Release Management across multiple suppliers – how to carry out a solid risk assessment across multiple vendors and multiple roles

  • Effective management of commercial component; for managing contracts, procurement, service level penalties, invoicing, etc.

  • Effective management of integration component for all activities that focus on the actual coordination of the services provided by the multiple suppliers, and can be split up in three sub-layers: managerial (e.g., vendor analytics, project management), operational (e.g., cross-supplier change management), and infrastructural (e.g., data dictionary management) aspects.

  • Ability to support common use of data to eliminate duplication and make it easy to update individual data elements

  • Appropriate, role based security so that only authorised personnel can access information

  • Workflow engine to support multiple service towers

  • Defined forms to support multiple activities and roles

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” in Service Integration and Management.

For more information of if you’d like to take part in the assessment please contact us!

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