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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Rollout Image Credit

Communication & Training Image Credit

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What Top Athletes and IT Managers Have in Common

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For centuries, athletes have shared one common goal: to win. No matter the sport, the best athletes face strict regimens, long hours, setbacks and victories, remaining agile through it all, in order to achieve their goals. Today’s top-performing, globally competitive and increasingly technology driven businesses are no different.

Nowhere is this athletic nature more apparent than in a business’ IT organization. With IT spending expected to reach $3.5 trillion by year’s end, an IT organization carries with it a big prize – one that, based on tools and technologies purchased and deployed, can either support or hinder the business’ overall ability to compete. As such, today’s most strategic IT organizations are adopting new protocols and performance measurements, such as IT service management, to drive efficiency and maximize their value-add to the business. It’s the IT manager’s job to ensure the IT organization has the right people, processes and technology in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.

Similar to how elite athletes approach their strict regimens – with a focus on mindset, health and wellness, training, and performance measurement – these rigorous disciplines can also be applied to how some of the most competitive businesses are getting ahead with seamlessly delivered IT services.

Having the Right Mindset, With the Help of Analytics

For starters, athletes and IT managers alike must encompass discipline and drive to be recognized for their performance. Similar to a top athlete looking to shave off even a tenth of their record time, IT managers must employ the same rigor to drive improvements in their service delivery. But how can the right mindset make IT more effective?

One of the biggest examples of an IT leadership’s mindset shift has been around the adoption of business analytics. While IT has often been the source of intelligence and inspiration for other departments, IT organizations have paradoxically lagged in terms of deploying their own analytics to support service improvement. In this instance, the change came after IT teams watched as other departments deployed analytics solutions and became more effective – much like watching another athlete win, while you’re sitting on the sideline.

Where IT managers traditionally used Excel spreadsheets to track and present their data on project management and operational and financial performance, the new shift in mindset and deployment of analytics has allowed for less time and money to be spent on IT operations and more on innovation that enhances customer experiences and outshines the competition.

Healthy & Wellness: The Drivers of Productivity

The world’s best athletes assess health and wellness by tracking everything from diet, exercise and oxygen levels, using that data to set goals for remaining in their best condition. In an IT organization, it’s the operational dollars that often keep it in top shape. However, it’s also about having access to data that provides a better view of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to maintain the utmost productivity and justify continued investment.

For example, as part of IT wellness, many IT managers aim to make their service desk more productive by minimizing reassignments, tiering escalations and reducing backlog.

Using data analytics to tackle this effort, IT managers can capture a visual analysis of the data, including outliers to reveal which service desk tickets are going unaddressed and which types of service tickets are creating the highest costs to manage.

Analytics are also increasing productivity by making managers more aware of strong and weak performers within the IT organization, providing detailed insights on who’s cherry-picking easy tickets and who’s slow at resolving business-critical tickets. This enables managers to more effectively guide their staff to proactively route incidents and requests to the right engineers from the beginning – remaining healthy from the start of any IT initiative.

The Benefits of High-Impact Training

Similar to the way athletes follow a regimented training schedule, IT departments must also develop a routine for implementing best practices and procedures. Just as with athletes, when there’s a new procedure or challenge at hand, training typically supports the behavioral change needed for realizing success.

In tracking training programs and success factors, many IT managers have deployed analytics with capabilities to provide regular progress reports on team members and their ability to adapt to the change. In the spirit of competitive nature, some managers even have a visible leader board showing which IT team members have learned the most or developed the furthest on what they’re being trained on, such as a new database technology.

Performance Measurement for Future Success

While IT managers and top-performing athletes share many similarities, it’s the goal of winning that is perhaps the biggest common denominator. For both, measuring performance is critical to future success.

Specifically within IT organizations, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is one of the main ways IT managers’ standardize their organization’s success to overall business goals. The ITIL framework encompasses processes, procedures, tasks and checklists, allowing the IT organization to establish a baseline from which it can plan, implement and measure against overall goals. It is also used to demonstrate compliance and measure service improvement.

Additionally, the implementation of problem management with IT organizations has helped to identify issues like recurring tickets, supporting IT managers in prioritizing changes and making recommendations that eliminate structural flaws. The result is defined metrics that reflect both successes and areas of improvement – the equivalent to a post-game talk from an athlete’s coach applauding a win but not losing sight of the next big match.

Winning With IT Analytics

For businesses to succeed in increasingly global markets, it’s important that they adopt an almost-athletic posture. Just like athletes, an IT manager’s job is never complete. Managers and athletes alike are competing for limited resources and need metrics to improve performance on an ongoing basis. Particularly within a business’ IT organization, a focus on the right mindset, health and wellness, training, and performance measurement, in addition to the integration of technologies like an analytics platform, will enable any company to remain competitive, with a more clearly defined path for their success.

This article was contributed by Simon King, Sr. Director – Solution Marketing, Numerify.

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Certification Spotlight: PMP or ITIL Expert?

4820274356_5e5db8f128_zI’ve seen various posts and conversations over the last year or so on certification where the recurring question is posed…

 

PMP or ITIL Expert?

Some may consider that the PMP certification is only useful for Project Managers or that the ITIL Expert certification only for ITSM professionals. This would be a limited view on the usefulness of both certifications. Either pursuit will certainly be more helpful than harmful to a career and if you can do both, it would be beneficial.

However, depending on where you are in your career, what you aspire to be, you may be more inclined to pick one over the other. Most of us are pressed for time and may not have the option of pursing both certifications, so we will have to choose.

So which one do I think is more useful and valuable? Let me take a minute to make my case…

 

Cost Containment versus Revenue Generation

There are two primary ways to increase profit – reduce your costs or increase your revenue. Which of these two aspects are you more interested in? Which of these two aspects are successful businesses more interested in pursuing? If we read “The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think” we know that successful companies tend to focus on being better before being cheaper and chase new revenue before cutting costs.

This would imply that a company is more likely to look favourably on and fund projects and efforts that generate revenue more so than they are on projects and efforts that look to contain costs. Take a moment to look up “CIO Revenue Generation” or “CIO Cost Containment” and you will find more articles about revenue and value creation than about pure cost containment.

Let’s take a moment and think about how this relates to ITIL and Project Management…

 

ITIL and Cost Containment

While ITIL does cover a wide range of subjects and aspects of IT Service Management, it is in practice primarily focused on IT Operations such as Process Management/Ownership and, more specifically, Service Desk processes and functions. This is evident by the number of job postings, discussions on social media  (it is interesting to note that here on The ITSM Review the top 10 searches are all related to process and Operations), and even Intermediary Certification results show a focus on Incident, Problem, Request and Change Management, with Service Operations and Operational Support and Analysis being the two most popular taken Intermediate Exams. At the same time there are very few jobs that require ITIL Expert certifications that have anything to do with Service Strategy or Service Design.

Focusing on IT Operations is generally about being more efficient, which essentially translates to cost reduction. There is also a strong case for ITIL helping the organisation be “better” – mostly through customer service interaction in Operations and continual service improvement (CSI) which is usually focused on Operations or Transition but is rarely done to improve something in Strategy or Design. Think about this, what is in your CSI Register right now? Is it “inside-out” (making IT run better) or “outside-in” (making a new product/service)?

These programs are often hampered by the difficulty in quantifying “soft costs”, they don’t generally create revenue and it is hard to measure how much money they will save the company. However, it is usually fairly easy to see how much the program cost. Ordinarily these types of efforts are not funded at all, not funded fully or brought to a premature end leaving everyone a bit unsatisfied with the results and a host of “lessons learned“. For example in his article 6 Barriers to Proactive Problem Management, Stephen Mann clearly states this is an internally focused, hard to quantify effort that is focused on cost savings not revenue generation.

 

Project Management and Revenue Generation

Project Management however is not primarily focused on IT operations but more likely to be involved in IT Strategy and Design on a more frequent basis than ITSM programs or efforts. Being part of IT Strategy and Design increases the opportunities you will have to be part of an effort to generate revenue not just opportunities to cut costs. Being a PM will more likely allow you to gain experience with a wider variety of IT Services and products and not just back-end IT (operation) processes. This type of experience will be much more useful as you manage your career and look for more leadership opportunities.

A PM will be involved in any new product or service being rolled out. These have a much higher probability of being “high profile” as they are much more likely to be tied to increased revenues or improving the company brand (making things better).

Keep in mind any major IT Operations effort (such as implementing an ITSM solution such as ServiceNow, BMC Remedy etc) will also likely be treated as a “project” and may come with a Project Manager. The ITIL Expert may be there as the Subject Matter Expert but may not be the one briefing senior leadership on the status – that is a job that is usually left to the PM.

 

Road Warrior or Career Ladder

So we can see that being a PM does not exclude you from ITSM efforts and is also more likely to include revenue or value creation projects. Being an ITSM professional is likely to be mainly focused on cost containment and nearly entirely within the ITSM space.  But what about the total number of job opportunities or types of opportunities?

Well, how many ITIL Experts does an organization need? At most maybe a half a dozen, but usually just one or two will suffice and quite often there are none. Organizations are much more likely to have several PMPs, maybe even 10 or 20 of them. It quite likely that the CIO or IT Director is a PMP as well whereas there are fewer that are also ITIL Experts.

Also, a job search will show that the majority of ITIL Expert jobs are for short term contracts (or Consulting Firms). You are more likely to find more long term employment opportunities as a Project Manager than you are as an ITIL Expert.

If you go down the ITIL Expert route, you are more likely going to find the majority of your opportunities on the road. You may have to start looking for new opportunities while still working the current one. This can be exciting for some, but for others, this can be a major source of concern. You can live that same kind of life as a Project Manager but if you want to land a more secure working life, you will find more opportunities to do so as a PM than as an ITIL Expert.

 

Higher Ceiling

As an ITIL Expert, because the majority of the focus is on back-end processing and more specifically on IT Operations (cost containment) you may find it difficult to make a transition to a leadership or management position that is not on a Service Desk or narrowly focused on process improvement.

As a Project Manager you will be leading people, and many projects are about new functionality, new service offerings, and may be more centered around new revenue streams. This is far more interesting to the business and as such far more impressive when looking to achieve a higher level leadership position within a company.

Also ITIL Expert is essentially as high as you will go in the field. Yes, there is the ITIL Master level, which there are approximately zero jobs for, and maybe…50 people in the world who have achieved this level. It is hard to know beyond an ego boost this certification would do for you and your career.

For the PMP you can go on to achieve the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification. Which there are hundreds of jobs postings for and have an average salary that is higher (as shown by this salary comparison) this certification is worthwhile and raises the ceiling on your income potential.

If you wish to become specialized then you can focus on Agile Project Management. There are several certifications you can achieve around this including ScrumMaster (CSM) and the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP). These open up more job opportunities especially as Agile and DevOps becomes more widely accepted and practiced.

In the broader ITSM world you also have options for other certifications such as COBIT or ISO/IEC 20000 certifications but neither quite have the job market demand to justify it. Neither will lead you to a higher salary but they may be just enough to make a difference on a bid or job interview for a specialized ITSM role.

 

Summary

While there is certainly value in getting an ITIL Expert certification I feel it is more limited and less applicable than the knowledge, skill and experience one gets as a PMP. If you absolutely love IT Operations, and process improvement and you don’t mind being a gun for hire (maybe you like being your own boss) then being an ITIL Expert is a great way to go. There is plenty of money in it, and plenty of opportunity out there.

However, if you career is more angled for long term career growth inside a company and you want to know more about the business aspect of IT then the PMP is the better bet. Being a PMP does not exclude you from ITSM efforts (as noted above) and in fact may make you better at pitching, managing, and implementing various ITSM efforts. It will also give you a better foundation to explore other aspects of IT.

 

Agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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A game is just nice to have right? – Wrong!

Paul Wilkinson
Paul Wilkinson

This article has been contributed by Paul Wilkinson, Co-Director and Co-Owner at GamingWorks. Ahead of his presentation at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition, Paul discusses Gaming – perceptions, deployments, benefits and more…

I must admit to being tired, frustrated, disappointed and angry at the latest mega hype around ‘gamification’. Why? You would think that being a company that develops business simulation games  we would be happy, right? Or perhaps you are still asking “what has ‘gaming’ got to do with ITSM”? You are probably thinking that gaming is just a nice way to make training more fun and interesting. You couldn’t be MORE wrong, I will show you why shortly.

I am happy that ‘gaming’ is getting attention. I am NOT happy about the general perceptions being created about gaming and I am NOT happy with the general way in which they are deployed.

These perceptions and poor deployment are damaging the credibility of gaming as valuable intervention instruments. In this article I want to try and demonstrate to you that a game isn’t just a nice to have add-on to ITIL training to make it less boring, nor simply a great way of creating more ‘awareness’. These are the LEAST valuable benefits of gaming.

General perceptions

The general perceptions, partly prompted by the new breed of software developers, is that gamification is all about digital, video, on-line, and engagement type games with leader boards, badges and rewards; great for marketing and driving traffic to web-sites.

When I talk to people about business simulation games they often ask “Where can we download it?”, “Is there an on-line demo we can play?”, “Can I install it on my iPad”, “Do I get to shoot people in the game?”….the last one was a joke by the way. It seems that people are prepared to queue up all through the night to buy the latest game that allows them to shoot people and score points! But they don’t want to invest in a business game because they don’t see how it adds value!

I am NOT saying that these computer based games are of no value. They are extremely powerful if used correctly, with a clear set of business objectives. I am simply saying there is more to gaming, such as classroom based business simulation games – dynamic, interactive, experiential learning environments  in which people have to work together, face-to-face to solve problems and learn.

Learning to discuss, engage in dialogue, make agreements, give and receive feedback, resolve conflicts, and convince somebody of the business case, these  are all difficult to simulate in a computer game.

Yet these are some of the competences required when deploying best practices such as ITIL, and these are some of the key reasons ITSM improvement initiatives fail! A simulation game is a great way to test and explore these types of behavior.

Deployment

People leap onto games as the next TOOL. Just like many organizations used ITIL as a TOOL to be ‘implemented’ – and generally failed, just like organizations who buy expensive service management TOOLS and then find they aren’t being used properly.

One of the top ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) worst practice cards chosen in workshops world-wide is  ‘A Fool with a tool is still a fool’  – It’s not about the TOOL, it’s about what you do with it. I often hear people say ‘We played a game…..didn’t see the results we HOPED for’. ‘It was fun, created energy but…’. That is because they deployed the game as a TOOL; a product.

A game is not a one-size-fits all, just like ITIL needs to be customized to the needs of the organization, just like a tool needs to be customized to the needs of the organization, so too a game facilitation needs to be customized to the needs of the organization.

Gartner predicted that 80% of gamification investments would fail because of poor design – not aligning them with the organization’s needs. Questions need to be explored such as: what problem are we trying to solve, what behavior do we want to confront, to learn, to test, to explore, who needs to play which roles and why? What will we do with the captured learning and improvement points? Basically a game needs to be played in the context of the organization to ensure a maximum return on the investment. However when done well the returns are high.

A game needs to be part of the learning process

This means that a game needs to be part of a learning process:

  • Before activities (customization)
  • During activities (facilitation, fit-for-purpose, fit-for-use)
  • After activities (transfer & embedding).

Unfortunately many organizations do not do this, they simply say “let’s play an ITIL game and let people learn about ITIL”! – just like many  people don’t do this with ITIL training either  – “let’s send people on ITIL foundation training to get an ITIL certificate and learn about ITIL” they say.  “Oh?” we ask “and what problem do we HOPE to solve by sending them on the training? How will we ensure the learning is transferred to the workplace”? – questions which are often just meets with blank stares!

Is it any wonder that with more than 1.5 million ITIL certificates still many organizations fail to get the HOPED for value?

So how is a game going to help with all this?

I’m glad you asked.

We recently conducted a survey with training organizations and customer organizations into the effectiveness and benefits of simulation games. This survey was conducted with consulting and training companies offering games and customer organizations who have used games. It is interesting to see the difference in perceived benefits between the training companies offering the games and the customer organizations who took the time and effort to do the groundwork (before-during-after).

Our first survey question was ‘when are simulation games most effective?’ The answers were:

  • To support culture change initiatives
  • To create understanding and ‘buy-in’ for a best practice (such as ITIL, Prince2, PMI, BPM, CoBIT)
  • Translating theory into practice
  • Breaking down silos and creating end-t0-end, ‘team working’

5clubscardjpegAs you can see simple ‘awareness and understanding’ scores number 2 in the list and supporting a culture change initiative within IT scores the highest.  Failure to address organizational culture was named as the top reason for ITSM initiatives failing according to the OGC planning to implement service management book. This is one of the reasons we published the ‘ABC of ICT’ book and assessment (card set) to help address these issues, and this is where a simulation game starts to get serious.

Serious gaming to solve serious problems.

Our second question was ‘what are the benefits of simulation games?’.

Attitude change

  • Better understanding and buy-in for ITSM best practices, experiencing the benefits
  • Better understanding of other groups perspective
  • Better understanding of customer expectations and customer centric behaviour
  • Agreed improvement actions captured and a willingess and commitment to execute them

Behaviour change

  • Improved quality of services resulting from the change in behaviour as agreed in the simulation game experience
  • People started applying the behaviour they had experienced in the simulation game
  • Reduces time, cost and effort to implement as people have a better understanding of how to apply after following a simulation

Culture change

  • People started confronting each other on ‘undesirable behaviour’ as they had experienced in the simulation
  • People got together more after a simulation game to analyze and improve their work together, ‘improving your work is your work’ – CSI

As can be seen from the responses games are considerably more than simply instruments to make training more fun or just to help create awareness.

Top benefits as perceived by training and consulting organizations

  1.  ‘Better understanding and buy-in for the benefits of ITSM best practices’, which helps address the biggest reason for ITSM improvement program failures – Resistance to change.
  2. Better understanding of other groups perspectives’, which demonstrates a simulation’s effect at ‘breaking down organizational silos’ and helping to ‘foster end-to-end working’ and ‘more effective team working and collaboration’.
  3. Better understanding of customer expectations and customer centric behavior’, which shows a simulation helps ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’, and ‘IT is too internally focused’.
  4. Agreed improvement actions captured and a willingness and commitment to carry them out’. Which shows how a simulation can help provide input to a service improvement initiative. Creating a shared perception of improvement needs. This helps ‘Empower’ people to improve their own work.

Top benefits as perceived by the supplier organization

  1.  ‘Improved quality of service resulting from the change in behavior as agreed in the simulation game’. This shows how a simulation has a positive impact on creating ‘desirable behavior’. Participants learn how to translate ‘knowledge into results’, which leads to quality improvements.
  2. People started applying the behavior they had experienced in the simulation game’. This shows how a simulation helps ‘translate theory into practice’. This also demonstrates not only buy-in to the new ways of working, but also a commitment to execute.
  3. Reduces time, cost and effort to implement (best practices) as people have a better understanding of how to apply after following a simulation’. This shows how a simulation can help reduce risks of an ITSM improvement initiative from failing (70% still do not gain the hoped for value from an initiative), as well as speed up the adoption and value realization.
  4. People got together more after the simulation game to analyze and improve their work together’.  This shows how a simulation helps foster a culture of ‘continual service improvement’ and enables people to apply a pragmatic approach to analyzing and improving their work.

So back to the title. ‘A game is just nice to have right?’ – yes if you want to simply use it as an off the shelf TOOL to create awareness.  Wrong! If you want to help change the attitude, behavior and culture in your organization and ensure a sustainable, lasting improvement that delivers value.

Want to hear more from Paul? He will be presenting in Birmingham at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition, 4-5 November. You can catch him on day 1 for his session “Grab@Pizza – Experience Business & IT Alignment in ACTION” (please note that this session has limited attendance), and/or day 2 looking at “Creating a Measurable Return on Value of an ITSM Training Investment”.

About Paul:

Paul has been working in the IT Industry for more than 30 years fulfilling a wide variety of roles from Computer Operator, to Systems manager to IT Services manager. Paul has been actively involved in ITSM for more than 20 years as both an Senior consultant, Service development manager and as ITIL author. He was a project team leader for the original BITE (Business IT Excellence) ITIL process-modeling initiative, and co-author of the ITIL publication “Planning to Implement IT Service Management”. He was a member of the ITIL advisory group for ITIL Version 3. Paul is also co-director and co-owner of GamingWorks, the company that developed the internationally renowned ‘Apollo 13 – an ITSM case experience’ ITIL simulation game. He was also co-author and cartoonist for the itSMF ‘Worst practice’ publication “IT Service management from Hell” and more recently the ‘ABC-of-ICT’ publications focusing on Attitude, behavior and Culture within IT organizations.

BCS event review: An evening with Axelos

Greg
Gregory Bayliss-Hall

On the 12th September AXELOS (the new commercial joint venture between the UK Government and Capita) arranged an evening at the BCS offices in Covent Garden to discuss its plans for the future of ITIL, and the rest of the Best Practice Management portfolio, now that they’re the new custodians.

When I arrived, long before the presentation started, I couldn’t help notice a large crowd of people already there (I’m normally the first) – inside and outside the event rooms people where busy chatting, networking and enjoying the refreshments. The atmosphere was building – attendees were genuinely excited and concerned as to what AXELOS had planned.

AXELOS is a hot topic

It’s currently the hottest topic in the ITSM space – reflected when a week before the event the venue was fully booked. Luckily for us nobody was disappointed – BCS had the capacity to move the event to a larger room to accommodate a diverse audience that included ATO’s, consultants, penguins, ITSM tool vendors, sector analysts, and practitioners like myself to hear what Chris Barrett – Director and “opening batsman” for AXELOS had to say about the new joint venture.

AXELOS themselves are in their infancy and are still pulling together a management team and working towards full autonomy by 1st January 2014. The new joint venture will no longer be bound by government constraints, “the shackles are off”, which in my opinion can only be a good thing. Asked who keeps AXELOS on the straight and narrow – Chris replied “the community”.

The evening

Over the 90 minute session Chris walked through his slides giving the attendees an enthusiastic insight into the JV which was reciprocated by a lively audience who came armed with an arsenal of questions.

Quality, relevance and innovation were the themes running through the presentation and are clearly a strategic aim of the JV. The quality is there, but Chris is keen that AXELOS raise the bar, improving the framework and making it more relevant to specific groups such as practitioner’s and CIO’s.

This will come with ideas such as

  • Stronger links to its community and stakeholder groups with a more open and less isolated stance
  • Referencing areas that other frameworks do well that isn’t a key strength of ITIL and complimenting the ISO standards that ITIL helps to underpin
  • Different flavours of courses – refresher, advisory and tailor made training for an organisation could be offered as well as of off shelf learning
  • Internationally they’ll focus on areas that are more relevant to different regions, cultures translations and local nuances; these will be carefully thought through to grow the brand

Training

Training was a hot topic and as with any change people get anxious, some were hanging off each and every one of Chris’s words. He explained it isn’t about doing away with how things are done now – but exploring opportunities such as gamification and giving the end user more options.

The best training in my opinion still comes from having a trainer who has been there and has the experience (and scars) to convey the learning’s. Whether this is via slides, e-Learning or gamification doesn’t matter. It’s about how it feels and the choices that are the best for each individual.

It’s no secret that G2G3 was recently acquired by Capita (the bigger half of the JV) and naturally there will be some influence. Chris added that in his mind this adds to the quality and fuels the innovation, but stressed that it would not be mandatory, simply an added choice for ATO’s. Personally I can’t wait to try it!

Modulate ITIL?

An idea being bounced around is to modulate ITIL. Benefits of doing this would be not having to have a refresher every five years, keeping it progressively updated and relevant, improved interaction with MSP and Prince2 leading to the possibility of a common glossary, and learning the parts of ITIL that are relevant to you. For those in the audience that have been “doing” ITIL for a while, this approach has a sense of ITIL V2 about it.

The AXELOS plan and challenges

Short-term – Minimal disruption to the ecosystem

Medium-term – Continue relationship building with the various stakeholder groups and organisations such as The BCS, ITSMF UK and SDI

Long-term – Developing brand ITIL and ultimately achieving the goal of making ITIL a global framework truly recognised internationally, developing new Best Practice Management products and working with other frameworks.

ITSM Pen
ITSM Penguin – a familiar face at AXELOS events

Final Thoughts

This is nothing short of an ambitious vision from AXELOS. Inevitably there will be difficult key decisions to be made and “not everybody will be pleased, but everybody will be listened to” – Aspects of ITIL and the Best Practice Management Portfolio need to be nurtured and invigorated and it’s reassuring to know that this is the direction AXELOS is taking.

Chris had a good innings and took a record breaking 49 questions from an empowered audience that evening and probably many more afterwards. I guess he may have come away from the BCS that night feeling like he scored his first century.

As always, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct. You can also follow what’s happening by looking for their communications on Twitter or Google+

This article was contributed by Gregory Baylis-Hall, IT Service Management Analyst at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. Enthusiastically geeky about the Service Management schema – he enjoys working out how it all connects together. Follow him on Twitter.

Future of ITIL workshop – some shared feedback

Word Cloud of all feedback from attendees Not just feedback listed in this article
Word Cloud of all feedback from attendees
Not just feedback listed in this article

Following on from the two-day AXELOS workshop, ITSM Review reached out to the attendees with three simple questions:

  • How did the workshop go?
  • What were the key achievements?
  • What do you think are the key opportunities for the future?

We also asked the AXELOS team to summarize their thoughts from the two days.  The following article is an overview of everyone’s responses – common points made by attendees have been moved to the introductory paragraph of each section.

So, how was it?

The workshop was deemed a great first step from AXELOS (and hopefully the first of many). It was a dynamic, open and customer centric series of discussions and debates, which were received well by all those who provided feedback.

“Good to feel part of a team – level of consensus very encouraging”Ivor MacFarlane, IBM

“The workshop was wonderful, it was a great opportunity to participate with other thought leaders”Anthony Orr, BMC

“It was exciting. I’m now much more optimistic about the future of ITIL”Claire Agutter, ATO Council

“It was refreshingly forward thinking. I felt that my input was listened to and all divergent views were given respect”Sharon Taylor, Aspect Group Inc

“It was great to see AXELOS’ openness and receptiveness to suggestions and feedback from the workgroup for improving the highly successful ITIL framework” – Colin Rudd, itSMF UK

“I really enjoyed sharing thoughts, ideas, challenges and opportunities with other experts and I was amazed by how much consensus there was about most of the issues we faced”Stuart Rance, HP

What were the Key Achievements?

The consensus was that the future of ITIL looks very positive. The collaborative approach was praised and the group felt that there was a real focus on increasing the success and value of ITIL to both businesses and individuals. AXELOS are listening (and they do realize that more input is needed from a wider cross-section of stakeholders from different geographies) and are clearly focused on opportunities to deliver value to the market without radical disruption or alarm. They also realize that market research and communication are critical before making decisions and open dialogue with the community is therefore very important.

“The key achievement for me was the recognition by AXELOS that our community is diverse and complex and that there will need to be extensive consultation and care to avoid unnecessary disruption to the services. It was clear that this is not an exercise of ‘fixing’ ITIL but of actively planning its future evolution to meet needs” – Sharon Taylor, Aspect Group Inc

“The biggest achievement was in listening to the “voice of the customer”, listening to those who actually use ITIL”Andrea Kis, Tata Consultancy Services

“Lots of input provided from different perspectives, covering ITIL content, exams, training and ecosystem” – Stuart Rance, HP

“There was a welcome absence of politics and person agendas, it was all about the success of ITIL”Jayne Groll, ITSM Academy

“The ‘role-diversity’ of attendees allowed us to not only see the bigger ITIL ecosystem but also to offer different perspectives on legacy issues”Stephen Mann, ServiceNow

Where are the Key Opportunities moving forward?

Everybody agreed that AXELOS need to keep the momentum going and must continue to have open communication with ITIL users, stakeholders and the wider community. They need to remain committed to providing visibility of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind ITIL moving forward and must ensure that there are no surprises for the market by sharing with us their long term plans.

“There is a real opportunity to elevate value of ITIL to organizations, executives and community as a whole” – Anthony Orr, BMC

“For me, the key opportunity would be the “onion” layers of content that could be available to the community (some for free, some for a fee), including benchmarking and more practical application. Couple this with potential digital technology to deliver dynamic intellectual property and the industry becomes better able to adapt and supplement” – Jayne Groll, ITSM Academy

“The opportunity is to continue to collaborate with ITIL users, stakeholders and the community and use these discussions as a basis to improve and develop a business model that supports timely, well planned, inclusive, transparent and communicated information. The JV model releases former constraints of ITIL management and frees up the innovation opportunities to bring ITIL forward in step with need and not chasing them.” – Aspect Group Inc

“Global-best-practice looks like it could finally become global best practice” – Stephen Mann, ServiceNow

What did AXELOS have to say?

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group on day 2

“The workshops tackled a vast array of content regarding the future of ITIL and PPM, all in a relatively short time.  It was intense but we maintained a positive outlook, stayed focused on the future and left no elephants in the room.

It was good to move from listening to doing, in this case to work through the main priorities that need to be addressed.  We’ll now factor those into the planning process for this year and for 2014 when AXELOS is fully operational.

Key achievements included the development of ideas and concepts like the “Onion” or “Doughnut” (for PPMers) that provides a framework to enable community collaboration, development of modular materials and potentially tackle “two speed ITIL”.  It was also useful to discuss the needs of the wider global community and also what this all means to the end user or practitioner.

Where to next?  Well it’s great to have crossed the start line and now these workshops have provided us with a script for wider stakeholder engagement.  The skill is going to be in maintaining the momentum whilst focusing on the priorities and this is where AXELOS will need to demonstrate leadership.

Overall, great debates, great ideas and great opportunities.” – input provided by Chris Barrett, Director at AXELOS.

In Summary

It’s a great start. There was much consensus, risks and opportunities were agreed, and the two-day event ended on a very positive note.

AXELOS knows that it needs to elicit more, focused input, particularly from other regions, and that communication in general is critical.

So, there is still a lot to do, but on the evidence of this workshop it’s clear that AXELOS is doing all the right things ­– and AXELOS knows that the world is watching and waiting.

Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct. You can also follow what’s happening by looking for their communications on Twitter or Google+

Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight

AXELOS

The following comment piece is contributed by Stuart Rance of HP and Stephen Mann of ServiceNow.

Yesterday a number of ITSM professionals convened in London to talk about the future of ITIL. From the get-go, it was stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to provide input to AXELOS’ thinking and not to make decisions.

Who was involved?

It was a passionate group of people that represented: ITIL authors, examiners, consultants, service providers, vendors, penguins, and AXELOS. The attendees were:

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
AXELOS CEO, Peter Hepworth and ITSMPenguin

And of course ITSMPenguin. Everyone had opinions and ideas to share and it was a good mix of people.

Some attendees travelled a long way to attend: Anthony from Houston, Sharon from Canada, Jayne from Florida, and Rob Stroud would have attended from New York but for personal reasons. Even though most of the attendees reside in the UK, they work for global organizations and as such have global experience and global views. Not withstanding this, we all agreed on the need for more input across geography, culture, industry, and language.

If you wish to provide your input please respond to this blog (in the comments section) or email AXELOS direct.

Community input

You can already see much of the input from things people have already shared with the ITSM community:

Scope and content of ITIL

The discussions included the scope, content, and structure of both ITIL and the ITIL exam system. And started with people suggesting ideas for strategy and principles for ITIL going forward. It was surprising how long this took (shouldn’t we already know this?) and not unsurprisingly everyone agreed that ITIL should be driven by business and customer needs.

Other suggestion related to:

  • Having a visible set of values
  • Separating architecture and structure from narrative and examples
  • Collaboration with a wide community of practitioners, examiners, trainers, consultants, vendors, and industry bodies across geographic and industry boundaries
  • An emphasis on relevance to end-user organizations
  • Quality being more important than time to market.

From a content perspective, AXELOS introduced the concept of what it calls the “Onion Model”, shown below, that encompasses the previous feedback on how there is a need for different types of content and, importantly, community input to the ongoing development of ITIL.

photo

Where:

  • The centre has the very stable ITIL core
  • The next layer has modular content such as role or industry-specific information
  • And then further layers have more practical content such as templates, guides, and case studies
  • The very outside layer is community owned and community driven with AXELOS and the community curating and promoting this

Content is able to move inwards as it becomes accepted best practice.

                                       Training and exams

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group

We discussed the importance of people, culture, and organizational aspects. In particular the need for more practical guidance about how IT organizations can benefit from the experience of others, and how they can start to gain value from ITIL within their own organization.

There was a lot of passion around training and exams. An interesting point was the absence of guidance on the development of skills such as negotiation and management as part of effective IT service management. Everyone recognized the need to make the exam system more valuable to both individuals and employers. But there was a consensus that that any change requires more input, more time, and needs great care not to disrupt the status quo. Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL exams, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct.

Next steps

Following day two of this workshop (a second blog will follow), AXELOS will continue to seek out global community input.

If you want to follow what’s happening, please look for their communications on Twitter or Google+

As always, thoughts and comments are encouraged.

Free ITIL Training?

Free ITIL TrainingI have a confession – I am a data squirrel.

Any template, anything Visio-flavoured, anything that might prove useful for meetings, documentation – I snaffle it and put it somewhere safe.

Freebie ITIL material, however, is a different beast.  There are things out there if you look, some useful, somewhere one might have to be a bit more creative, but there is stuff out there.

Free ITIL Training

There is no getting away from the fact the ITIL books and initial training costs money.  So to stumble across a free ITIL training overview merited a look.

First up – you cannot get away from this, you HAVE to register for most of the freebie-offers.  If handing over a decent, credible email is not your cup of tea, then this quest is not for you, traveller.

The prospect of a two-hour ITIL “taster” came to me through an e-newsletter from The ITIL Training Zone and I settled down to run through the training.

The Free ITIL Training course does require an email to access it, which will need verification, and will come back your ID and password, within a matter of minutes.

Registering

You are asked if you are a total beginner, someone who has Foundation certification, or if you are an expert (on the first pass) and then takes you to the course.  I logged in again to see if it changed the presentation depending on what you pick, but didn’t see the options again, so maybe this is more for analytical purposes.

It would be fascinating to see what the spread of participants are.

The course itself

The layout appears on the right and is broken down to handy links so you can just dip into what you want if you need to.

  • Introduction – The first bit covers a lot of probably the least useful bits of ITIL training in ANY course, if I am being honest – the history of ITIL. But it constantly asks the user to imagine how everything that is being taught relates to your own environment, putting it in context from the start. It introduces the concept of a case study that you follow throughout the course as well.
  • The core books – This is maybe the most daunting bit – there are lots of sections to go through, but they are in smallish chunks of around 6-10 minutes, and can be paused.
  • The last bit – With the case study that you follow throughout the course, and examples of real cases, the course constantly reiterates that you need to look at the wider piece and understand how it can help you in your organization.

What I liked

It’s nice and concise and it covers the details that you need.

It is worth noting that it doesn’t go through all the processes in Transition, and with good reason – this is a FREE taster to give people the basics of ITIL ahead of maybe doing the courses for real.

Maybe because I have worked across a range of roles, I can look across the piece and understand the larger end-to-end picture.  It constantly reiterates the approach of applying what you are being told to your own organisation.

People approaching ITIL education in general need to be of a mindset that it is a journey and not a quick-fix.

What people might NOT like

Globalisation

The first company I worked for was a multi-national corporation, centred in the US and the majority of our online training is produced in the US.  I have absolutely NO issue with hearing an American voice, but I have been on courses where people whine about Americanisms (there’s always one!).

Globalisation is prevalent in our industry and if this is an issue for you then perhaps this is not the course for you (or dare I say it the industry for you!)

Implementing ITIL

One of the things that always amuses me from trawling the Linked In groups is the sharp responses to queries about:

“I want to implement ITIL… give me x, y, z”

You will invariably see people slap that down with:

“You do not implement ITIL, you adopt, adapt, create and define policies and processes and deploy an ITSM tool to enforce, etc”

The course validates this phrase with talking about the processes and how they interact, and again this is an introduction to the basics.

And above all, it mentions the “journey” that you take in Service Management, which is often the answer given to the “implement ITIL” queries – so I think the course makes that distinction as you delve into it.

For beginners – this is in terms they understand – but would be interesting to see if more advanced courses still talk in those terms, or whether they make the “adopt/adapt/journey” distinction.

ITIL Lite – free or chargeable?

This is a taster course for offerings run by a training company – and there are links to a more formal corporate targetted ITIL Lite course on their website.

The benefit is, understandably, no additional marketing and links.

Just to reiterate – I am reviewing the completely free, ads-and-all version.

Would I recommend this?

I would definitely point people starting out in ITIL at this course, and in fact chatted to someone at a Regional itSMF UK seminar about this very course as an awareness starter for their staff.  They had also looked at it, so it is getting known as a key free resource.

A much respected ITAM colleague asked me whether it was worth their going for their ITIL certification, concerned about learning.  Unfortunately there is no short cut or free ride to the certification, but I would certainly point them at this for the basics, and leave them to make their mind up as to whether to go any further.

My final point focuses around the PDF “Report” that you are also able to download.

It boils down the concepts covered in the course, as well as the focus on applying the case, and packs a lot in to 80 pages.

Calling it a report really does not do it justice – it is the course material in its own right – showcase it as such, and maybe make this a core part of the ITIL Lite branding.

All in all this is a great introduction to ITIL for people thinking about certification, or getting people up to speed with the terminology.