Justin Timberlake, Asset Disposition & Rocking IT Security; Knowledge 16 – Day 2

Day 2 of Vegas!

After an amazing breakfast (cake!) it was time for the first keynote of the day.

Drive The Service Revolution – Dan McGee, Chief Operating Officer, ServiceNow

Dan opened the day in style with his take on what customers want: “what matters most to our customers? Ease of use!” Dan went on to explain the challenges faced by most organisations wrangling with complexity whilst trying to deliver value.

Dan talked about how moving to a single platform makes life easier:

Dan continued by talking about how just having a single platform isn’t the answer. To be truly efficient, we need a platform that enables people to collaborate easily; giving customers a connected experience across the platform.

Dan talked about the new ServiceNow Connect model for managing inbound communications “Connect is way more than chat, people can subscribe to information so that the right information can find you”. Dan continued by explaining that the Connect experience is available on every application within the ServiceNow platform using visual task boards to promote ease of use.

Kevin Murray (Senior Director of Product Marketing at ServiceNow) and Farrell Hough (GM & VP ITSM & Product Operations at ServiceNow) joined the stage to demonstrate how easy Connect is to use, raising, assigning and escalating an Incident in mere seconds.

The next part of the session focused on the sparkly new partnership between ServiceNow and Microsoft

It’s always nice when companies play nicely with each other and this collaboration means that companies transitioning to a public cloud environment can better manage their cloud resources with a single system of record;  letting users track all their cloud resources through a self-service portal.

Dan moved the session on to talk about security. According to Dan “security is broken. It takes organisations an average of 206 days just to spot a breach”. Dan continued by running a demo of how ServiceNow can handle security showing how the connected workflow can patch a security threat in seconds going through the Incident – Emergency Change process.

Dan talked about the practical experience that went into ServiceNow’s security ethos, “the last thing you want to do at three o’clock in the morning when you’re dealing with a crisis is to pull out a long procedure, written on a pdf by a consultant” I hear you Dan, as a former Major Incident Manager for a large investment bank, I’ve been there. Dan talked about how important security was to ServiceNow sharing that third party penetration tests are carried out on every single ServiceNow release.

The Penultimate part of Dan’s session focused on customer service management. As Dan explained it, only 8% of customers think they’re experiencing good customer service. Doing nothing is not an option”. The ServiceNow customer service management technology will help customers “get off the ticket treadmill” and customers are reporting an average of 92% less time being spent on recurring Incidents. Campbell Soup and Bector Dickinson both shared their experience of how ServiceNow have helped them to be more efficient. It was then time for more product demonstrations as Deepak Bharadwaj (General Manager, HR Unit at ServiceNow) and Pat Calhoun (SVP Product at ServiceNow) joined Dan on stage to show how ServiceNow can be used to onboard a new hire just from a mobile phone app.

Dan finished on a preview of forthcoming attractions. A full benchmarking analysis tool of how ServiceNow compares against other industry players will be released in the autumn (or the fall if you’re reading this from the US) so watch this space!

The IT Asset Disposition Marketplace at eBay – Richard Donaldson, Director of Business Operations & Strategy, eBay

Richard’s session was about the Asset Management journey at eBay. Richard started by giving the audience some background on eBay. Not only is it the world’s largest online marketplace, it manages over 900 million live listings, has 83,000 physical servers and more than 433,000 network ports. That’s one complex environment.

Richard recounted how he had discovered the need for an Asset Management strategy when he realised that his organisation was paying over the odds for support costs, sometimes paying for support on assets that had already been returned.

Richard talked about the strategy used, meaning that eBay were able to move towards a leaner asset and inventory model. On talking about generating business support for Asset Management, Richard had this to say: “I’d love for Justin Timberlake to make Asset Management sexy because the cost savings are astronomical”. Us too Richard, I’m bringing Asset Management back anyone?

Richard explained about the need for business buy in and the need for service refreshes “we use Amazon, eBay and Google at home, then we head into work and it’s like going back to the stone age” Richard then shared some of the benefits realised from doing Asset Management; on retired hardware alone, his company makes over $20 million dollars a year by selling it on to be refurbished and resold after wiping the data “believe me with what we use to wipe our servers, not even a cockroach could survive”.

Richard concluded by sharing his three top tips:

  1. Asset disposition is a key pillar of lean inventory management
  2. Purchasing, management and disposal of assets is inefficient across all industries
  3. A market place for IT asset disposition can create value for all organisations

Panel Session: The Service Revolution in Risk & Compliance

Next up was an panel of experts talking all things ServiceNow risk and compliance. The panel was made up of:

  • Nathan Dupirack – Product Manager – ServiceNow
  • Carri Thompson – Director of Governance, Risk Management & Compliance – ServiceNow
  • Andrew Wheatley – Head of Internal Audit – ServiceNow
  • Tina Price – AVP IT Security & Governance – Careworks
  • John Johnson – Director of Internal Audit and SOX Compliance – Red Robin

The first topic up for discussion was how ServiceNow can support Governance Risk & Compliance or GRC.  John talked about how ServiceNow had enabled his organisation to move from spreadsheets to a single out of the box SOX solution and Tina shared how using a dedicated tool had given her organisation a more holistic view of risk enabling her department to be more streamlined and efficient.

Andrew gave the audience some background to GRC and ServiceNow explaining “our priority was to step away from the 90s technology and automate the workflow to manage risk;  our main focus is automation, self service and transparency”. Carri gave the audience an idea of the commitment ServiceNow has to GRC, ServiceNow is aligned to 15 different standards and frameworks.

The second topic of discussion was how GRC can evolve over time. Tina talked about how GRC can be applied beyond auditing to support other areas such as IT Service Continuity Management. Tina shared her top tips for GRC transformation “look for quick wins to drive adoption and evolution; it gives your stakeholders and auditors the message that compliance is important to you”. John advised delegates looking to introduce continuous monitoring to ensure that ownership is in place and that a process exists to manage exceptions.

CMDB Optimisation At Johnson & Johnson – Anders Rajka, Senior Business and Information Technology Executive at Johnson & Johnson

My afternoon was rounded off by a session on CMDB optimisation. Anders opened the session by giving the audience some background information on Johnson & Johnson. J&J are a global leader in healthcare (and baby shampoo) with 128,000 employees. The J&J CMDB has over 5 million CIs, over 4,600 service requests for CI reports and over 4,000 ServiceNow users or as Anders put it “a big company with big complexities and lots of technical debt.”

The J&J Configuration Management mission was to reduce the number of applications by 40%.  They did this by moving to a federated CMDB model in order to support IT operations, enable a move to a cloud based environment and increase transparency. This led to cost savings through removing duplicated and legacy assets as well as increased customer satisfaction.

The J&J CMDB optimisation project was implemented over 3 main releases, using Agile to keep the project on track. This included 38 user stories, 1o epics over 3 releases and 8 sprints proving that you can use Agile and Lean in a validated environment. Anders talked about the need for effective organisational Change Management to drive service transformation sharing that he used the CIO newsletter to promote the benefits of the CMDB.

The benefits of the project were impressive; a 47% reduction in CIs, 895 reduction in relationships and 1,000 end users trained. The downtime associated with product upgrades was reduced by 50%, data quality was improved and the improved service visibility lead to a reduction in Incident resolution times.

Anders concluded by sharing his three top tips:

  1. Keep your CMDB simple and federate where you can
  2. Adopt Agile and Lean for a quick return on value
  3. Enable transformation via effective organisational change

 

That’s all for now; come back soon for our recap of Day 3!

 

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Change and Release Management: What are they? What’s missing?

Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

I was recently challenged by Mike Orzen (co-founder of Lean in IT practises and my mentor) to answer a simple question: what do you think the purpose of change and release management is in ITIL or any other IT best practice framework?

I started by asking what aren’t they?

Change is not about doing the change, and release is not about managing the approval of a request to change. Change helps me make a decision; it answers the question WHY with a “yes” or “no”. But “yes” or “no” to what?

How many times has a request been approved, but what was delivered did not match what was approved? If IT has no value until it releases something that is usable to a customer, we better be sure that “yes” and “approved” are used for getting an organisation to be competitive, compliant, reliable, secure and cost-efficient as quickly as possible. Lean helps by creating a value stream from idea to solution, in a similar fashion to the ITIL lifecycle of service strategy to service operation. In both cases, the solution to the customer needs to be delivered as timely as possible.

You can’t manually approve every request as this would block the flow in the IT value stream. So the creation of standard change types assist in identifying low-impact, repetitive, and easy to fix types of requests.  LeanIT likes standard work, as once you know if the request or change will not place the organisation at risk of losing a customer or wasting money, you can then automate the decision process to flow the request to the design phase, if required. If it will impose a risk or loss, then the request can be routed to a more formal approval process that can also be leaned over time.

Change should control every aspect of a release (the doing process of an approved change), so we have to look at all of the places change gets involved to help design a fast, flowing stream across IT, and ultimately one that works from the customer (pull) instead of IT pushing releases to the customer.

So where does or should change get involved?

An example:

The above could form the basis of a release process. I am sure more questions are needed, but if we allow the various teams to continuously improve the above, we can release valued services into the organisation. The teams might use lean methods such as kanban boards to control work, kaizen to improve work and agile or DevOPS to get services developed and agreed.  Another aspect of lean that the table demonstrates is waste removal. If the change gateposts help to reduce defects, re-work, wait time between tests via automation or script reuse, for instance, then the flow of the value stream is enhanced end to end. Removing or automating/facilitating the gates in a formal process will also help increase flow resulting in a better time to market, quality enhancement, productivity improvement and cost reduction.

Configuration management – the needed process for ITSM & lean success

To be effective (first) and efficient (second), we need data.  Where are requests, business cases, regulatory and architectural requirements for design, code, tests, or service acceptance criteria kept for example? We turn data into information to gain knowledge to deliver value. Configuration management is the data to knowledge management process. The information in a configuration management database (CMDB) can be used to enhance the way a process, team or tool performs. For instance, if we create a cycle of CCRCCR: (change to configuration to release to change to configuration to release…) to be as fast as possible; then the agility of creating solutions in a timely manner becomes our standard culture or way of working.

How do we start?

I suggest by mapping the value stream, as much as possible, from end to end.  At first you may only be able to do the parts internal to IT but keep adding until you have the entire value stream from requester to customer mapped.  Lean value stream mapping helps improve how an IT organisation, business enterprise and partners create and improve ways of work.  Get as many representatives as possible involved in a mapping exercise and use post-it notes to visualise the current way of working.   Try to get the people that do the work involved as this generates buy-in for future change improvements.  Your post-it notes could include time of steps, teams involved, tools used, etc.  Don’t trust what you create in a conference room.  Go out and see (lean calls this “gemba”) to validate your understanding.

Now return to the conference room armed with your knowledge and improve the flow of the stream (steps). Add a few measures to control the flow of the stream and most importantly BEGIN.  Don’t wait for the tool changes or other procrastination reasons: start using the new way. Check how changes are approved, the steps performed to create a release, the results of any improvement (agreed and tracked) and use the CMDB to maintain the information such as your review of other ITSM processes. You can continue to create a unified view of your IT practices, processes, tools, capabilities, etc. The lean trick is to make checks or improvement a daily part of work, not something owned by the program team, but by the people doing the activities all along the stream. Let them own and celebrate the success.

Set some stretch goals for how long it should take to agree a requestor, how fast to perform a release etc. Look at quality, productivity, stock reduction (number of tests or environments needed) as examples.  PLEASE note that cost is a benefit and if you see that as a target it may be viewed as a job-cutting exercise when it should be viewed as a job enhancement opportunity.

Please let me know what you think and try blending Lean into your ITSM world.  Have fun doing it!

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

Building the business case for configuration management

Carlos Casanova
Carlos Casanova

This article has been contributed by Carlos Casanova from K2 Solutions Group

At last year’s itSMF USA conference in Nashville I had the pleasure of meeting Dagfinn Krog from itSMF Norway. We had a great conversation regarding configuration management and The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, and during the conversation, there were some references to attending the conference in Norway, but nothing I took all that seriously. Much to my surprise, a few weeks later I received a formal invitation to not only attend the conference in Norway but to participate in three different sessions.

Having never traveled to the region before, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in what many describe as “one of the best service management conferences in the industry”. Shortly after accepting to participate, I received an invitation from Tobias Nyberg from the itSMF Sweden to meet the itSMF Sweden team in Stockholm after the conference in Norway. To say I was thrilled to be invited to the region and meet with their member and discuss configuration management would be an understatement.

This conference was, in some ways, very different to the many ones that I have attended in the US. The primary differentiator being that this one was much more personal. It could have been the size, which was at record number this year, but personally I think it was more than that. There seemed to be a more “family” feel to it which, for a foreign traveler was very welcoming. From first arrival in Norway to final departure from Stockholm, I could not have asked for a more personal and warm reception from everyone. It’s as if we had known each other for years.  A huge thank you to all involved for making a long trip away from home that much easier.  Ok… now on to why you actually read “ITSM Review”

Configuration management workshop

As I mentioned, I participated in three sessions, of which this was the first. This pre conference workshop focused on developing the business case for your configuration management efforts. We had a great group of individuals participating that were slammed with far more materials than they could ever have possibly absorbed in such a short time, but they all did a great job working through the five activities we had scheduled to start formulating the basis of the business case.

  1. Why is configuration management Important to my organization?
  2. What does “value” look like to my organization?
  3. How will each process area reap “value” from the configuration management initiative?
  4. What should I expect to encounter within my organization that will hinder value from being achieved?
  5. What will I do in the first 30 days once I get back to start generating value?

In a three hour session with a total of approximately one hour to work on the activities, it wasn’t expected that they would form cohesive thoughts and statements but, at a minimum, they would start formulating the foundations of their argument. In much the same manner, we can’t cover all the material from the workshop in this article but, below are some highlights for you to think about.

  • Without configuration management, your level of operational maturity will always be limited due to lack of insight into how devices and services mesh together to deliver business outcomes.
  • If you can’t define/demonstrate what “value” looks like in your organization and to the various domains that must participate, everyone will define it themselves. Leaving it up to each area to define without guidance will most assuredly result in a variety of expectations which you will likely never be able to meet.
  • Identify your biggest challenges immediately and address them or set a path around them. If it’s people, find out what their biggest desire is and see if you can satisfy it. If you can, they will be your biggest advocate and asset to success. If you can’t avoid, if possible, impacting their area for as long as possible until you have established some traction and a broader support base to take them on.
  • Get started. You can’t keep putting it off. The challenge of not knowing has always existed and has only gotten worse.  Waiting for a better time to do Configuration Management is silly. Do something, anything…. and do it now.

What Configuration Management, CMDB and CMS is and isn’t

This session was predominantly based upon materials from my book (The CMDB Imperative)  and framed the core concepts around executing a configuration management initiative. Unfortunately, whether it is clients in the US or individuals in Scandinavia, there are some common areas that everyone seems to struggle with implementing and/or understanding.

  1. CMDB versus CMS – They aren’t the same thing.  Understand the difference and which approach is most likely to work for you. Very briefly, they can be thought of as…
    • CMDB – A conceptual structure that provides perspective to the relationship between two objects controlled in a single data store.
    • CMS –  A conceptual structure that provides perspective to the relationship between two objects across more than one controlled data stores
  2. Relationships – Without them, you really don’t have configuration management, you have watered down asset or inventory management. You’re basically a manifest manager. Sorry!
  3. Transforming Data into Information – There is no shortage of data in every organization. We’re drowning in it.  Problem is, there is no context to it. Configuration Management adds context.
  4. Complexity – Yes, it can be complex if you let it be. Cut through it and look at it through a small network/neural network perspective. Focus on singular connections between items. Then repeat for the next and the next. Eventually you’ll identify them all.
  5. Perspective and Layers – You need to, if you haven’t already, adopt the perspective of the consumer rather than producer.  It is all about producer-consumer relationships and the view from the other side is not always attractive and you need to know that.
  6. Transitioning and Awareness – Your organization didn’t get to where it is overnight and it won’t sort itself out overnight. Set realistic expectations. Expect potholes and speed bumps. Plan for them and factor them in. Be aware of your surroundings at all times because they will sneak up on you.

Establishing a common vision of what “it is” and what “it is not” is instrumental to the likelihood of success. Set a sound strategy and vision and then start small and work at a tactical level to deliver value at regular intervals. You need the small “wins” early to stand a chance at bigger accomplishments later.

Anything about Configuration Management

The last configuration management related session I conducted for itSMF Sweden members, where we held an unstructured question and answer session whereby the individuals simply asked anything related to configuration management. We then had an open conversation about the question and/or statement.  From questions about specific challenges to advice for how to go about doing something, this session solidified my early sense that their challenges, questions and concerns were not very far from their peers in the US or UK.

They were challenged by essentially the same things:

  • Lack of and/or constantly changing “leadership”
  • Poor, nonexistent constantly changing directives
  • Cultural resistance to changing how it’s currently done (a topic discussed extensively in the round table session I also participated in about the Future of ITSM at the Norway conference)
  • Misunderstanding/confusion of the difference between ITAM and SACM

The first three of these challenges are interrelated and based on poor or frequently changing leadership.  Think of leadership as a compass.  It sets direction and vision for where you need to go. If the compass is broken or the owner of the compass continually picks a different location to sail towards, you will never reach your a destination. When this occurs, the masses lose general confidence in leadership and will no longer feel that they should exert energy towards moving in any direction set by them.

An individual I met a long time ago, who was at the time working for a global enterprise well known for their musical chair approach to “leadership” had been subjected to this type of environment for years. He told me without shame or hesitation, (paraphrased) “I just need to get my work done today.  I have outlasted the last three CEOs & CIOs. I will outlast the next three if I just ignore the latest leadership whim and just do the work as I know it needs to get done. I’d like to believe that the next guy will be different, but I have lost faith in that potential so I just focus on doing my job today.”  The bottom line; without strong, reliable and consistent leadership, even the best ideas are likely to fail and breed a bad working culture.

The last item listed has been a more recent awareness as I have worked with more mid-sized clients typically less mature in their operational processes. As these companies try to improve their operational maturity and IT cost accounting, they recognize the need to first capture and maintain lists of devices in their environment and what they cost; i.e. asset and inventory management. However, with all the talk of how configuration management enables you to see all the devices, they tend to make the connection, incorrectly as it may be, that configuration management is the mechanism by which this is done. So, these companies venture down the road labeled “configuration management” unknowingly in search of “asset and inventory management”.

In summary

All in all, the events in both Norway and Sweden were excellent and I strongly recommend that if you have the opportunity to attend next year, you do. The organization of them is top notch, the venues are as you would expect and most importantly, you will be welcomed as though you have been part of their family since birth. Go and enjoy, you won’t regret it professional or personally.

This article has been contributed by Carlos Casanova from K2 Solutions Group

Strategy, IT value & buzzwords – is there an elephant in the room?

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Meeting Sophie Danby from ITSM Review

This was my first time attending the Pink Elephant conference and I must say, I was very impressed. I had heard that Pink is the “must-attend” service management conference and I’m pleased to say that Pink did not disappoint. The Pink staff, the sessions, and the people all are top notch, even the food was great. To post every highlight would simply be impossible but here are the “standout” items (at least in my mind)

Keynotes

There were multiple keynotes across the conference, but there were two in particular that really stood out for me.

Commander Chris Hadfield – Commander Hadfield fulfilled my boyhood dream; become an astronaut. What stood out to me in his presentation was the human that he is. Simply the person that he is was what was inspiring about his session. His recollections of the moment he looked out of the windows of the International Space Station at the beautiful thin slice of world we inhabit. The recollection of struggling to understand a Russian-speaking colleague. His memory of helping lead thousands of school children in a song (he truly capitalized on the opportunity of the song lyric “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”.). There isn’t any doubt that Commander Hadfield is an incredible man.

My takeaway – Practice Failure. His stories of how he and the ISS team dealt with emergencies all lead back to the practice of situations that might. Success is an important trait for many of us, but are we successful because we practice success or because we practice failure?

Caroline Casey – There are those moments when you see some step onto a stage and you just know they are genuine. And then there is Caroline Casey. This woman’s story is incredible, moving, and tugs at your heart. Her outer beauty is truly diminished by her inner beauty.

My takeawayA disability is in the eye of the beholder. We all have our disabilities. How are you working to make yours an ability?

Takeaways from the conference

There were many, but here is my top seven:

  • Over the next year, IT will be squeezed like never before. IT teams will need to make tough decisions on the services they offer and how to collaborate with other/external providers. Demonstrating value to the business will be more critical. The ability to act with agility will become a greater differentiator.
  • Strategy still matters. In my discussions with many of the attendees, strategy seemed to be the sticking point in adoption plans. Many of those I interacted with are looking back at their strategic development of services to ensure the business is able to see the value their IT team provides.
  • Discussions around buzzwords seem to be diminishing. While CMDB and BYOD were topics on the session agenda, they were not mentioned as frequently as words like leadership, management and value.
  • The business will be looking to IT to prove value
  • Culture is the next great differentiator
  • IT generally does not understand how to work/use governance. The business is depending on IT to fit into existing governance models OR to advise on changes. Does IT have skills in this area?
  • There is and will continue to be a multitude of framework/methodology options. There is not a “cookbook” for service management. Be like an “Iron Chef” – make something dazzling with your secret ingredient – IT needs to become a “melting pot” – input/ideas from areas mixed into a delightful concoction that will please the palette of the business

Networking

I had the good fortune to meet many of the people I interact with on Twitter for the first time at Pink14. There are too many to mention here and I would most likely forget someone, but please allow me to say:

  1. It was an honour to meet you
  2. Thanks for the time you spent discussing service management with me and for those who were out with me at all hours
  3. The pictures aren’t getting posted anywhere!

It truly was a great gathering and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

Why is configuration management so tough?

phones
IT Hoarders – do you really need all those old IT items that you no longer use?

Overheard at a recent conference:

“Oh, we are working on configuration management…Why? Because it’s an ITIL process”

I cringed.

The conversation continued with “…yeah, I don’t know why it’s not going well. We bought <well-known tool name here> which has a CMDB. We have been adding configuration items (CI) into the CMDB for the last two months. Nobody in the IT team is using the CIs for incidents or change…”

I walked away, no longer wanting to hear any more of the gory details. Unfortunately, I feel this is more the norm than the exception. Let us take a few moments to examine why.

IT is a version of “Hoarders

IT is notorious for buying lots of stuff (that is a technical term) and equally notorious for not decommissioning items. Working in Higher Education, I often see departments who have plenty of funds and those departments who have to do whatever necessary to survive. This culture propagates surviving on the “scraps” thrown off by the “rich” departments when they get new items. IT often helps “repurpose” equipment to defer costs. Unfortunately, we end up with rooms full of devices, some of which may be running important business operations, with limited knowledge of what/how they are connected, the service they help provide, or why. Sometimes it may even become difficult to know who supports the device.

These actions have positioned IT to have a “hoarder” mentality. Don’t think so? We all know the team mate who has a copy of Windows 3.1 on 3½” disk who is hanging on to them because “…you just never know when the might be needed…” The spare equipment room, items sitting on inventory shelves, unappropriated devices in communications closets, servers under desks, overhead desk cabinets full of various versions of software, all adding up to “a big ol’ mess”.

With this much stuff, the task of building usable CIs becomes daunting. The sheer volume (thousands of items) becomes overwhelming and dooms the thinking of the configuration management team to “…we can’t do this…”.

It’s all about the CMDB

Ask this question “Are you doing any type of configuration management?” There is a good chance you will get a response of “Yes, we’ve got a CMDB”. This is just maddening.

I do not blame vendors for this. It is the vendor’s job to promote its products, but unfortunately, too many folks take the information provided by the vendor and translate it into “…to do configuration management we need a CMDB…”” to making your configuration management process work. Configuration management is about understanding the items that make your services work and their relationships. The CMDB should help the IT team mitigate risk during change decisions, help in trending during problem management, and allow the IT team to understand the impact of their operational decisions.

Education on Configuration Management

Where is the education? Now before all the ATO send me hate mail, I’m taking about where are the practitioners talking about configuration management? Formal training is not the issue. There seem to be very few good storytellers out there when it comes to configuration management.

In fairness, the reason there may be so few good storytellers may be due to how much context plays in configuration management. Let’s be honest, the context of my organization is different from the context of your organization. Incident management runs pretty much the same across all organizations. Simple premise of “get the issues resolved as quickly as possible” translates to everyone. The stories are transportable to each organization regardless of context. Because of this, ideas become quickly adaptable and usable.

With configuration management, we do not see the same ability to be transportable. Configuration management begins with the relationship of your services to the business. It becomes difficult to adopt an idea that does not match with your context.

Configuration management also seems to be the place most people really want a “recipe” for. “Just tell us how to do it”, the phrase uttered from many configuration management teams who realize the level of work they will need to do just to figure out where to start. Education on configuration management is most likely not a fair phrase. Configuration management does require a “deep dive” into the method and diligence to obtain desired outcomes. Make sure your team has the passion and the “intestinal fortitude” to make the tough decisions to build a configuration management process for your context.

“Ownership” of CIs

When you start discussing Configuration Management, you will undoubtedly run into folks in your organization who feel they “own” whatever CI you may be discussing. Sometimes their attitude may be perceived as “…this <device> is my responsibility…how dare you have an opinion on what I should do…” or “…I don’t report to you…you can’t tell me what to do…” They come by this honestly. For many years, IT perpetuated “silos” and one did not simply cross boarders without permission. Because of the way IT has worked in the past, many people see the items that they manage as “personal” pieces of their work and change for those items “require” a personal level of collaboration with the individual.

As we know, ITSM breaks down this paradigm and promotes a spirit of service across departments. Unfortunately, this does not always hold true when it comes to people managing devices. Depending on your organization culture, you may have teammates who do not buy in to the concept of configuration management. The configuration management team must do everything they can to break down these walls and ensure all teammates understand configuration management is not about taking away authority. Building a plan that helps IT deliver great services depends on team member participation at all levels. If your organization culture values individual performance over team achievement, you will have problems getting configuration management to stick.

Final Thoughts and Tips for Configuration Management

Configuration management is tough because:

  • Everyone in IT must commit to the process
  • It depends on organizational context
  • It may require big organizational change AND individual change

Tips:

  • Understand the services your organization offers. Have discussions regarding CIs around how they relate to services.
  • Find people who are willing to do the deep dive into Configuration Management and who are willing to change the organization. Having a few “cynics” who are willing to challenge ideas is a good thing as long as they are working for the betterment of the business and not disrupting progress.
  • Repeat with me, “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CMDB!” The CMDB should be something that helps accelerate other processes.
  • At some point, someone is going to take the change personally. The Configuration Management team should practice dealing with this issue. Have a script on how to respond when challenged with why the change is necessary. Remind others, it’s about us looking good.
  • Take the time to move a CI through its lifecycle manually. Doing so will help the Configuration Management team understand how CIs are used with other processes, the relationships CIs have with services, and if your process meets your context. Once you have perfected the flow, use the CMDB to accelerate processes.

Configuration management is not impossible but it does require commitment, compassion, and compromise. Be sure to build a team that has the passion to build a configuration process and to help IT commit to using it.

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University of Exeter Students Choose Twitter for IT Support

Given the choice, University of Exeter Students Opted to Receive IT Support Updates via Twitter

The itSMF held their UK South West & South Wales Regional meeting at the University of Exeter this week.

The theme of the day was processes and toolsets with a big emphasis on member interaction and discussion.

In a nutshell: A good day. Recommended.

Two presentations really stood out for me during the day. Firstly Deborah Pitt, Configuration Manager at Land Registry Information Systems in Plymouth, gave a compelling talk on how she managed to convince various IT teams within Land Registry to buy-in to their CMDB. In short, Deborah recalled her strategy of badgering, evangelising and more badgering.

Winning Friends and Implementing CMDBs

Deborah shared with us that she increased engagement and adoption with the CMDB by farming out responsibility for configuration items to various IT teams. For example, the team responsible for management of blackberry devices were assigned ownership of Blackberry data within the CMDB, a great strategy for building confidence in the system and getting users to let go of their precious excel sheets.

“Although process and tools have both been important in getting buy in from consumers and owners of the data that goes into the CMDB, another, often overlooked factor has been a major plank of getting the message across.   This is building successful, communicative relationships with both consumers and owners.  Through selectively targeting the audience and tailoring the message, Land Registry have been able to build enthusiasm for CMDB, such that there is now a widespread take up of CI use and ownership.” Deborah Pitt, Land Registry.

Bring Your Own Pot Noodle?

However, for me the most interesting talk of the day came from the hosts: Zach Nashed who runs the IT Helpdesk at the University of Exeter.

Zach shared how the IT support team at the University were coping with the changing demands of students. It was interesting to hear of the changing attitudes towards IT support since tuition fees were abolished. Since students will be paying £9K per annum out of their own pocket from 2012, this was beginning to translate into higher expectations and demands of IT support (e.g. If I’m paying £9K a year to study here I’m not paying extra for printing).

The IT team are also under increasing pressure to provide 24/7/365 IT services for multiple devices per student. For example students are arriving on campus with a laptop, tablet and phone with all flavours of platforms and expecting instant compatibility and high-speed ubiquitous WIFI access.

Fish Where The Fish Are

To provide higher levels of support at the University and align closely with current requirements Zach and his team hold focus groups with students. As a result the University has begun to explore Twitter as an IT support communication channel. When given the option, students at the University chose Twitter as their preferred update mechanism.

I think this is an important point for anyone considering implementing social channels into their support infrastructure. When considering implementation with a particular channel we need to consider:

  1. Do our customers actually use this social media channel?
  2. And do they want to hear from us when they are using it? (Zach noted that although students spent a great deal of time on Facebook their preferred update mechanism was Twitter)

If students of today are recruits of tomorrow then this initiative paints a picture of IT Support in 2015.

The University of Exeter are a long term Hornbill customer and are exploring a module from Hornbill specifically for twitter integration. Want to know how they get on? Follow them here.