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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Reflections on PinkForum14

Pink Elephant’s Third Annual IT Service Management Leadership Forum (“PinkForum14”) took place recently in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I was there for my first time.  This is not a review of the conference, it is a personal reflection on what I saw there.

Pink Elephant CEO Fatima Cabral
(and me)

When I’m helping with a conference I don’t actually get to that many of the sessions.  I’m often preparing a session, planning with Pinkers, or - best of all - talking to conference attendees.  But I get a clear read of the vibe, of the attendee reaction.  And in the case of the PinkForum, Pink Elephant are clearly onto something.  It rocked. 

The theme is leadership.  This is not a CIO event: many of the attendees are CIOs, but a significant proportion are leaders in other roles, at all levels in the organisation.  Some are there because they lead and some because they are building their leadership skills.  For years now, David Ratcliffe, Pink President, has been calling out the importance of leadership to IT transformation.  But there were few (no?) opportunities for studying and building that capability… until PinkForum.

PinkForum follows a similar pattern to Pink’s annual ITSM conference in Las Vegas every February, in that there are inspirational keynotes interspersed with multiple concurrent streams of sessions from practitioners and Pinkers, but there the similarity ends.  The atmosphere is lot more intimate and laid back than the buzz of Vegas.  It’s about an eighth the size, and held in a more secluded venue where folks stay around, so everyone gets to know each other more readily.  It’s collegial: it feels like a small exclusive college campus.  With better food: the conference food was so good I stopped the chef when he was crossing one of the many courtyards of the venue, and complemented him.

As I said, I don’t get to enough sessions at conferences.  But I want to call out two presenters:

Stephen Wrenn, Global VP, Application Services, Johnson & Johnson.  I reckon Steve Wrenn is the Jack Welch of IT: sharp, energetic, insightful, tough, pragmatic, wise.  He hit us with an hour of down-to-earth common sense about the business of delivering quality applications.  Steve isn’t messing about: J&J have an IT budget of $6billion!  Steve focused on quality: he’s a SixSigma blackbelt if i recall correctly.  My favourite quotes
“If you don’t have time to do it right, where are you going to find time to do it over? “
but… “Don’t be perfectionist: Microsoft have trained people to be used to a few defects”
I tweeted that when Steve Wrenn reads The Phoenix Project, he’s going to think “heck we do most of this at J&J already”.  The Phoenix Project?  It’s a must-read book about new directions in IT.  I reviewed it here  (and provided an antidote to the Koolaid in the book).  After you read that, you might like to also read Charles Araujo’s Quantum Age of IT - after those two books you’ll be well equipped for IT’s future.

Malcolm Ryder, Principal, Archestra Research.  Malcolm’s session was the opposite of Steve’s: laid-back, contemplative, cerebral, abstract.  Malcolm took us through an excellent model of IT innovation.  I especially found the description of the relationship between CIO and CTO helpful.  For we philosophers of IT (Troy DuMoulin was there too) it was a real treat.

The other group who enjoyed the conference was the vendors. Because of the small numbers of attendees and vendors, we intermingle: the vendor stands are right there, in the midst of things.  There was lots of interaction, to the benefit of all parties.

Then there’s the venue.  When I first saw the faux-Spanish-mission architecture, I thought “oh dear”.  The lines between reality and illusion blur in the USA: sometimes it feels like one big theme park.  But the Montelucia Spa is just done so well that it works.  And it is really pleasant, with three pools, multiple bars and eateries, big cool suites, low rise buildings, lots of fountains and shady courtyards, and a great view of Camelback Mountain.

And of course the Pinkers are a great bunch of people

So all in all it was an excellent conference.  I’m fervently hoping I get the chance to go again.  If you are keen to attend, here’s an inside tip: the word is that Pink want to keep the event small, so rather than grow it they may run more events in other locations.  Where do you think there is a demand for an ITSM Leadership Forum?

Finally, have you spotted PinkNORTH14?  Pink Elephant are running a northern “regional” version of the ITSM conference for those who can’t or don’t want to get to Las Vegas.  This is another excellent idea.  I wonder if it will grow to the same size?  Perhaps we’ll see Pink16North and Pink16South?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

An interview with the 2013 winners of Project of the Year: the EMC UnITy initiative

As many readers know, each year Pink Elephant presents a set of awards at their IT Service Management Conference in Las Vegas in February.  The Project Of The Year award recognizes an organization that has demonstrated significant commitment to best practice frameworks including ITIL®, ISO, COBIT®, Lean IT, and Six Sigma.  This year the 2013 Project Of The Year award went to EMC’s “UnITy” ITSM implementation initiative.  We talked to Dana Swanstrom, the UnITy Program Lead, about the project.

For those who weren’t at the ceremony at PINK14, please tell us a little about your winning UnITy project.

EMC Corporation’s IT organization (EMC IT) led a major initiative – dubbed UnITy – to deliver the service management foundation and capabilities needed to continually improve its services. The program took a culture entrenched in old technology and habits, and introduced it to a new way of doing business.

The UnITy program addressed four key points within EMC IT:

  • Enhanced the customer experience by evolving IT’s perspective from a technology-focus to a service-focus, allowing the customer experience to drive prioritization and responsiveness
  • Enabled IT to operate as a business by optimizing processes and improving transparency through service metrics and better service quality
  • Aligned IT’s resources with customer expectations and improved capabilities such as self-service and the availability of better decision-making data
  • Optimized IT support to eventually realize millions in annual savings by reducing the use of in-house production support and managed service providers, the decommissioning of redundant IT systems, and the use of self-service to reduce calls to the service desk

The program is uniting IT to enhance the customer experience and was a critical component of EMC IT’s overall ITaaS transformational journey.

How did you drive the cultural change towards a service culture?

The UnITy program’s transformation workstream drove culture change through a comprehensive plan that:

  • Conducted workshops with IT leadership gain buy-in on problem definition and end state vision
  • Collaborated with IT organizations to gain buy in on IT’s core problems and solutions
  • Educated thousands of users on the new platform and processes
  • Communicated changes across IT and EMC

On the communications side, UnITy engaged in a multi-channel campaign to provide information in a number of accessible and understandable ways to EMC IT and the 60,000 EMC employees. Communication resources included:

  • An interactive intranet site where IT could find information about the program and ask questions
  • A regularly published email newsletter
  • Routinely scheduled global town hall meetings
  • A user engagement network that met weekly, championed the program, and provided feedback
  • A series of videos that featured IT and program leaders delivering key messages
  • Team members attended staff meetings of IT leaders to evangelize and educate the IT organization

Tell us more about your self-service capabilities.

A self-service portal was launched for EMC users to browse and order IT services, learn about solutions to common problems through self-help and knowledge articles, and request support for issues.  Prior to launching the portal, 95 percent of customer interactions started with the IT Service Desk, but since the launch EMC IT is trending closer towards 20 percent via self-service. There is massive opportunity to drive more customer interaction to the portal, translating to lower cost and higher customer satisfaction.

What are you doing to expose your knowledge base to users?

We made it easy to request the creation of knowledge from incident forms and the UnITy service catalog. The general knowledge base (KB) is accessible to all of EMC IT users and contains all EMC IT knowledge articles.
We are working hand-in-hand with all our knowledge owners and the service desk to support an effort we’re calling ‘Shift to Left.’ The idea is built around empowering our customers to help themselves and we’ve exposed knowledge articles to them through our self-help portal so they can find solutions to IT issues themselves. By doing so, we alleviate some of the pressure on the service desk to know it all.
Further, we will be building a capability which will allow our customers to request knowledge, thus adding to the KB goldmine. We also have support communities on internal social media sites, so we can crowd source solutions to common problems.

How are virtualization and cloud technologies impacting your IT service management?

Cloud and virtualization technologies not only drove EMC IT’s transformation, but they also presented a challenge and opportunity for the program’s efforts. From a business driver perspective, IT is competing with public cloud and platform offerings as our business looks to take advantage of their agility and lower costs. Therefore, EMC IT needed to put in place services with those same characteristics to be more competitive.
The on-demand nature of cloud and virtualization technologies presented a challenge and required the UnITy team to ensure IT’s processes and platform were aligned with the real-time provisioning and orchestration technologies that are inherent. As a result, the process and platform needed to be tightly integrated with other technologies to ensure data quality.
These were challenges that in the end were turned into opportunities, allowing the UnITy program to become more efficient and drive more value into the service EMC IT is delivering.

[A personal area of interest for me:] To what extent are you able to standardize incident and request responses?  Do you manage the non-standard stuff differently?

From an incident perspective, we are leveraging incident templates to standardize the way in which like incidents are handled.  From a request perspective, we have established service requests to standardize the way in which our most common requests are handled.  For incidents or requests that do not have established incident templates or service requests, the service desk agents are required to log tickets manually, using established configuration items to ensure the work gets assigned correctly. Moving forward, the program will look to standardize more requests.

Do you feel that ITIL-process-by-process is the ideal structure for approaching a transformation like this?  You grouped incident/request/knowledge in one phase, then problem/change/config in another.  Was this a natural division?  Did work cross over between the phases?

A process-by-process roadmap is logical and worked well for EMC IT, but the roadmap and timing of the process roll out was of great discussion. Several factors influenced our approach. First, the risk associated with a few burning platforms and our need to decommission them helped drive our plan. More specifically Knowledge, Incident, and Request resided on the highest risk platform, while Change, SACM, and our CMDB were on a lower risk platform. 
Another item we considered was the learning curve we faced as we moved to a new platform. We wanted to reach a certain level of sophistication before taking on the more complex and ever important CMDB. For those reasons, we first implemented Request Fulfillment, Incident Management and Knowledge and tackled Problem, Change and Configuration Management in the second phase.

What would you do differently if you did this again?

Taking on a project like UnITy is usually a once-in-a-career opportunity, so it’s not very often that you can implement lessons learned, but we’re doing that by taking our service management capabilities to other parts of the enterprise.  So, what would we change? First, we’d make communications and education efforts more applicable to people’s work by helping them understand how the new processes and platform will allow them to be more productive and enhance our customer experience.  Second, we’d spend more energy improving data quality across the program. Lastly, we’d make it more fun for everyone. We had a blast making the humorous video for the Pink Elephant award ceremony and received a great deal of positive feedback within IT.  We plan on using humor more to capture our audience’s attention and help make our messages resonate.

What have been the consequences or impact of winning this award?

Winning the award recognizes the team’s hard work and provides industry validation that the program’s accomplishments are significant, which builds even more credibility for the UnITy program within EMC IT. We’ll leverage the credibility and recognition to both market our initiatives to drive results and career opportunities within the program.

Lori Krikorian, Dana Swanstrom, and Sally Shane of EMC

What’s next for your transformation initiatives?

We aren’t done with our IT transformation. Phase III lies ahead where we plan to continue to improve the ITSM processes we’ve already instituted and introduce a few more processes. On top of adding more Standard Requests and Incidents, we’ll be solving the employee on-boarding challenge, automating the process so that new EMC employees and contractors can hit the ground running.
We’ll also add the Availability ITIL process, while enabling real-time integrations between our CMDB and Systems of Record to keep up with the speed of the cloud. We’ll be to formalizing the Continual Service Improvement process and we’re going to double down on service management education by enhancing it to include more specific use cases and examples of how it can be leveraged to improve EMC IT’s services. We plan to update training on a yearly basis to keep up with challenges and industry trends. In addition, EMC IT is being asked to offer service management capabilities to other parts of the enterprise, like our product development labs.

So there you go: a fascinating and innovative initiative from EMC.  Do you work for or know an organisation doing something equally exciting?  Nominate them for the 2014 awards, to be presented next February at PINK15.

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 04/24/14 at 05:48 AM
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Choosing my PINK14 Sample Itinerary

With over 160 sessions to choose from, there’s something for everyone at the Pink Elephant 2014 International ITSM Conference.  If you’re not sure which sessions to attend, Pink provide a number of sample itineraries.  Some are customized to specific roles and focus areas and some are chosen by individuals.  My offering is here (pdf).

It was hard work making these choices, and some are dependent on where you are on your ITSM journey right now, so i thought it would be useful to publish a rationale behind the choices.  I hope you will find this an interesting discussion to help you in making your decisions.

The challenge with a content-rich conference like the Pink Elephant IT Service Management Conference is that there will always be conflicts: multiple options you really want to see which are on at the same time.  One strategy is to bring several workmates and ensure you get coverage between you, then allocate a day when you get back for mutual sharing.  For most of us, we just have to make the hard calls.  So these are my top choices in each time-slot, and what tough choices they were. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

4:00pm – 5:00pm: Conference Optimizers

Go hear Troy DuMoulin.  Not only do I love Troy’s mental models, but cementing behavioural change is what ITSM is all about.  We’ve banged away at “IT as technology” for a decade, then “IT as processes” for a decade.  Finally we have come to the understanding that everything we do to improve is about people, and specifically about changing behaviour (I prefer “changing behaviour” to the more common term “change culture”.  You can change the behaviours long before you can get the culture to shift.)  I forget what year I presented He Tangata: IT Is The People at the Pink conference, I think 2010.  Finally it is becoming commonly understood, and Troy’s session will be foundational.
This means you will miss Jack Probst reviewing the book The Phoenix Project.  Read the book and read my review of it  … or go to the session repeated at breakfast on Wednesday morning.

Monday, February 17, 2014

7:15am – 8:15am: Breakfast Clubs

The Lean principles are important … for the standardised “half” of your activities.  Manufacturing-derived optimisation techniques only work for repeatable standardised transactions.  The other side of IT is all the variable unpredictable stuff we deal with, where such techniques are less valuable.  I explore this dichotomy more in Standard+Case.  I’m presenting a workshop on it at PINK14, and I wrote a book on it.  I discussed it on Pink’s Practitioner Radio episode 44.
But not as important as COBIT.  ITIL will dominate the ITSM landscape for some time to come, but COBIT is more important and more valuable.  It is my primary reference framework, as I explained in my Showdown Of The Methodologies at PINK12. Everyone in IT needs to be familiar with COBIT.  I’ve been picking it as a sleeper about to take off… but I’ve been picking it for years now.  I still think it is going to be big. 
So go to Jennifer Wels’ session if you aren’t familiar with COBIT and go to the Lean session if you are.
Unless you are highly technical, in which case go to the SDDC session.  This is one of the pillars of DevOps and DevOps is going to rock our world (though not as soon nor as thoroughly as pundits and The Phoenix Project would have you believe).

8:30am – 9:00am:

Don’t miss the keynotes.  I’ve missed a few over the years and always regretted it.

10:30am – 11:30am:

Now it gets even harder, with so many “coal face” sessions from real practitioners to choose from.  Some will resonate with you because of the particular problems your organisation is wrestling with right now.  If so, go.  Bringing back tangible actionable value is one way to ensure you get to go to the conference again next year.

The generational issues discussed by George Spalding are important.  As I said already, IT is about people.  You can’t shy away from the “wetware” issues.  I know I struggle with coming to grips with the new generations.
And Agile is another of those fundamental techniques like Lean that can be applied to ITSM to great effect.  I’ve used it myself, e.g. in my Tipu public-domain CSI method which I presented some years ago at this conference.  I’m a vocal critic of Agile as a software development technique, so if you share my prejudices don’t be put off.  Agile introduces volatility, unpredictability and – frankly – looseness into software that gives me the willies in a production environment.  There are only two states in software: working correctly, or catastrophically wrong.  But people and process are different.  Humans are adaptable and self-adjusting: we work around broken bits, we leap gaps, we correct mistakes.  Agile techniques are far more acceptable for developing practices than they are for software.
But I’d have to go for James Finister talking about Service Integration (“SIAM”) and Multi-Sourcing.  Jim is of course a lot more evangelical than I am on this topic, but it is nevertheless one of the biggest challenges facing IT now and into the future.  That’s why we made it the topic of our inaugural Pink Think Tank at PINK14.

Track 9 – Pink Think Tank

IT Service Management is at a cross-roads. The pace of change of the IT sector is accelerating. We are moving into a brave new world where we lose control of most IT assets; data is hosted, systems are outsourced, users are empowered to self-provision. It is a generally held belief that in future, the role of ITSM will be to govern, integrate, manage, monitor and improve IT operated by external parties. With ITSM being called on to change and change quickly, Pink Elephant is proud to move this discussion forward by bringing together some of the world’s leading ITSM thinkers to form the Pink Think Tank. The Pink Think Tank will gather prior to Pink14 to consider some of the toughest questions in ITSM. They will present their results to you at the Pink14 conference, as well as contributing their expertise with sessions of their own choice in a Luminary Stream.
Never before has there been such a gathering of ITSM minds to work together. Pink Elephant is proud to facilitate this contribution to the advancement of ITSM.

11:30am – 3:35pm: Exhibition Showcase Open

Come and see me in the Exhibit Hall.  I have a sofa – a treat after hours walking and standing on those concrete floors.

11:30am – 2:00pm: Lunch/Concurrent Breakout Sessions

You can eat when you get home.  If you are American, you probably eat too much anyway (said the guy carrying 15 extra kilos).  Go to the sessions.

11:45am – 12:45pm:

I really like Pink Elephant’s organisational maturity model which Jack Probst is presenting, though the part linking it to the ITSM work required at each level veers a bit close to “ITIL processes as units of work” which I disagree with.
But I’d pick Douglas Smith talking about The Human Factor as it sounds like actionable stuff I can apply now to behavioural change, and all new ideas are welcome right now. 

1:00pm – 2:00pm:

If you have too many IT projects, and/or you can’t meet the organisation’s demand for IT services and changes fast enough, go to my session on Meet In The Middle: Slow IT & Fast IT.  That will apply to all of you.  Every year I come out with one Big Idea that I think is really, really important.  This is it for Pink14.

2:15pm – 3:15pm:

Tough choice again.  I’ve worked recently helping a government department think of service management beyond IT.  That helps you show the value of IT and extract more ROI from ITSM investments. So Service Management At CERN – Not Just For IT Anymore is interesting.
But I’m going for Plan, Build, Operate – The MetLife Way. Because it combines discussion of applications-centric operations – close to DevOps concepts – and managing IT suppliers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

7:15am – 8:15am: Breakfast Clubs

If you have any interest in IT leadership, go to IT Leadership Roundtable Discussions – How To Successfully Lead Change.  If you have an interest in the ITIL body of knowledge go to The ITIL Roadmap: Driving ITIL Forward from AXELOS - the new owners of ITIL.  Otherwise, Chris Dancy is always mind bending: It’s Not Self-Service If It Actually Empowers People.

10:30am – 11:30am:

Arrrggg!  For those involved in IT leadership, come to my session Raising IT: Don’t Let IT Fall Victim To Bad Parenting.  If you are coming to my workshop on Standard+Case, go see The Rebirth Of The IT Artist as important background.  Otherwise I’d go to On Time, Every Time, Within Budget & With Zero Defects – That’s The Nationwide Way for more glimpses of the future of ITSM.

11:45am – 12:45pm:

If you fancy yourself as an “ITSM philosopher”, its Charles Betz hands down: Semantics Matter: How Mental Models Determine The Possible. And Gary Case is talking about those people and culture issues again with The Biggest Challenges Of Implementing Major Change & How To Overcome Them.  But I’d go to Troy DuMoulin on Dev&Ops: A Tale Of Two Tribes Under One Flag because trying to find the common ground between DevOps and ITSM has been a particular interest of mine over the past year.  I started the Kamu initiative to get people talking about it.

1:00pm – 2:00pm:

Hopefully we will come up with something really interesting when some of the best minds in ITSM (and me) get together in that Pink Think Tank before the conference.  We have set ourselves the objective of delivering actionable advice on dealing with (multiple) service providers.  We’ll be presenting the results in the Pink Think Tank Summary session.  But I would understand if you went to Karen Ferris on Balanced Diversity – A Portfolio Approach To Organizational Change.  I consider this to be part of the future of ITSM: a framework for changing people.

2:15pm – 3:15pm:

If you aren’t familiar with Kotter’s 8-Step Model, go hear it from Gary Case.  If you are in an IT leadership role, go to The Power Of The Pyramid In Leadership.  Troy is looking at more cultural change issues.  But I always want to hear David Cannon, one of the most respected thinkers in ITIL, so I’d go to Surviving The Business Apocalypse.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

7:15am – 8:15am: Breakfast Clubs

Another chance to hear about The Phoenix Project book, but I’d go to the IT Support & Service Desk Forum.  After all these theories and high-performing practitioners, it’s good to get back to coal-face service support now and then, back to the coalface.  It keeps us grounded.

10:30am – 11:30am:

If you want to know more and ask questions about the output of the Pink Think Tank, come to our Power Session for a panel discussion.  My pick isn’t a pick: I can’t choose between Rodrigo Flores whose aaS Is On The Line and Mark Smalley who suspects You’re Seeing Someone Else, Aren’t You?, both of whom are talking about a similar thing from different perspectives.  Mark will be entertaining and challenging, and Rodrigo will be a voice from the dark side.  You pick.

1:00pm – 3:45pm: Half–Day Workshops

Personally I’d go to The ITSM Leadership MasterClass from David Ratcliffe, who ought to know.  Unless you run a team of responders (e.g. a service desk), in which case come to my workshop on Standard+Case to see service response in a whole new light.

Remember: go to what resonates with your own reality right now.  And have fun!  See you there.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Applying ITIL, Lean, and Six Sigma to achieve your goals

At Pink13 in Las Vegas this past February, Martha Wenc, Process Development Manager at Jazz Aviation LP presented her four year ITSM journey in the session “Using Complementary Methodologies For Your ITSM Flight – A Jazz Aviation Success Story”. Operating scheduled passenger services on behalf of Air Canada, Wenc’s team was tasked with developing and strengthening the service management process within their Information & Communication Services Group. In her session, Wenc successfully demonstrated how drawing upon her experiences as a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, Myers-Briggs facilitator, and Lean Instructor kick-started the IT department’s adoption of successful ITSM practices.

The audience loved it.  The presentation won Case Study Of The Year, which recognises the individual with the highest overall rating for a case study presentation delivered at the conference.

So it seemed to me a good idea to find out more about it.  I interviewed Martha recently.

Tell us about Jazz Aviation

Jazz Aviation is a regional airline which flies over 800 flights each day to over 80 destinations throughout North America – from Northern Canada as far south as Texas and spanning the breadth of North America from coast to coast.  We operate a capacity purchase agreement with Air Canada to feed their network.  Jazz provides service to and from many smaller communities in Canada and the United States under the brand name Air Canada Express. We also operate to larger centres at off-peak times as a complement to Air Canada’s schedule.

The Capacity Purchase Agreement (CPA) with Air Canada is the core of our business. Air Canada purchases substantially all of Jazz’s seat capacity based on predetermined rates. In reality, we are a contract carrier for Air Canada and operate our flights on their behalf. The CPA provides commercial flexibility and connecting network traffic to Air Canada, while significantly reducing Jazz’s financial and business risks.  We also operate additional charter services.

You have a diverse range of skills: Six Sigma, Myers-Briggs, Lean.  Tell us about your IT journey

I was initially assigned to work with the IT department as a Black Belt in 2007.  Within our Six Sigma team we had been encouraged to use whatever tool was appropriate to get the job done, whether it be an analytical tool from Six Sigma, Lean, or Meyers Briggs.  I did not know anything about IT, however I had done some work with the IT Director on a Customer Satisfaction survey.  There was some curiosity about ITIL amongst the group; so a small team was sent to an ITIL Foundations course in 2007.  We returned from this training very excited about the possibilities and immediately started making changes to improve our Incident Management process – our first ITIL alignment project. 

Aligning our processes with ITIL best practices became a key part of our corporate strategy for 2008 and it then became my full-time job.  It helped a lot that we had Management support going into the training, and that Senior Managers supported our efforts to train all IT employees.  Initially everyone was given a quick high-level overview and over the next few years a concerted effort was made to gradually send people to ITL training.  By 2012 all of our IT employees had attended foundation-level training, approximately 60 employees.  We also had a core team of individuals trained at higher levels.  Training everyone was important to ensure everyone understands where we are headed with ITIL both to build engagement and to demonstrate corporate support for the initiative and changes which continue to come.  We operate with a lean team of one employee focused on ITIL day-to-day (me) with a small group of others who are interested in making change – however the changes are applicable to everyone.  It has been interesting to see the shift in focus within the ITIL community away from data and analytics to focusing on people and cultural change.  It may be that change is more easily achieved in a smaller organisation like ours as we have the flexibility to be nimble and continue to push change at the pace that the organisation and the people are able to adapt.

Please tell us about what you achieved at Jazz, for those who weren’t there for your presentation at Pink13

ITIL was sought out to address low employee satisfaction levels and because it fit well with the work our Six Sigma team was doing.  From the very beginning our goal has been to improve customer satisfaction.  Our customers are all Jazz employees, so we are focused on meeting employee needs.  ITIL and Six Sigma are both very customer-focused in their approach but Six Sigma provides the analytical tools to be able to measure progress.  Our approach has been to focus on making improvements in whatever area is causing the greatest pain.  Prior to focusing on ITIL, 36% of our employees were dissatisfied with the service they received from us.  By 2010, after 3 years of effort, we were able to decrease this to 18%.  At the same time, the number of Very dissatisfied employees dropped by more than half and the number who reported being Very Satisfied increased from 9 to 17%.  I look forward to another survey to validate that our trend is still on track.

It makes a change to hear a case study of somebody using a diverse range of complementary methodologies to approach the change in people and practices which is an ITSM improvement.  Explain for listeners how they work together to produce a result

Six Sigma is an important part of what I do, I think of ITIL as providing the goals and Six Sigma as a toolkit which provides the means to get there.  ITIL lays out a direction for improvement although there may not always be a clear path to follow to get there.  We tend to run multiple projects simultaneously and use the tools which relate to the goal—Six Sigma for reducing errors, Lean for waste reduction, Meyers Briggs for understanding team or change management issues caused by different personality types. Six Sigma is great when you have a clear goal to measure and develop a baseline for long-term improvement, however Lean can be faster and more engaging for a team.

Is it essential to bring in such formalised methodologies or skillsets to facilitate change?

I don’t believe so, the key point is to focus on our goals and discuss the process with the people who are closest to it, while keeping the customer in mind.  We do a lot of Voice of the Customer work, to ensure that our goals remain aligned with the customer’s needs.

How was it winning the Case Study Award at Pink13?

It was a shock!  Pink brings together such a vast range of people who share an impressive knowledge and range of experience related to Service Management.  It is really amazing to be recognised amongst such a brilliant and accomplished group.

What has happened since winning? 

Back to work!  The Pink conference is a great rejuvenator that provides us with fresh ideas for where to improve next.  We are always viewing the conference through the lens of whatever is on our plate for the coming year.  This year is project and alignment focused, so for me, that was top of mind.  We do meet afterward to compare notes and ensure that the good ideas are not lost, some are acted upon immediately while others will be incorporated into next year’s plan.

What is your current or next initiative?  What are you working on?

We are currently working on a program to improve our project lifecycle flow by combining a variety of methodologies that we use at Jazz.  We are calling it Idea to Operate as it follows the lifecycle of an idea from the conceptual stage all the way through to being used within the operational environment.  The Idea to Operate program merges the various internal processes that we have in place at Jazz to ensure that new initiatives handled consistently.  It also helps us to move service management beyond IT as it is a valuable discipline throughout the organisation.  This way,  we can route all corporate projects through a consistent process, pull in the appropriate talent and the right time, and have cross-disciplinary teams of IT Managers, Project Managers, Continuous Improvement Specialists, Finance, Procurement… everyone speaking the same language and functioning with the same flow.  The goal is to improve our project success rate. 

Congratulations to Martha Wenc, and to Jazz Aviation, for the recognition of their achievements so far!

Martha will be back at Pink14 to present “Cleared For Take-Off – How To Implement An ITIL-Centric Service Lifecycle Approach”, so don’t miss it!

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 09/10/13 at 04:56 PM
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Monday, July 08, 2013

“Pink Control To Commander Hadfield!” (apologies to David Bowie)

Yes, it’s now official.

Colonel Chris Hadfield, Commander of Expedition 35 to the International Space Station, will be the opening keynote speaker at #Pink14, the 18th Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas in February 2014!

We’re excited, are you?

If you missed all the buzz in the news when Commander Hadfield left the ISS in May, 2013 - then maybe this will give you a little insight as to what you can expect when he takes the stage at the Bellagio on February 17, 2014 ....

Can’t wait to hear what lessons we can learn about vision, planning, continual improvement, experiential learning & simulations, leadership, communications, risk management and social media!

We had some fun with the Twitter competition “Guess The Keynote”. If you guessed correctly then stand by - we’ll be in touch with a special treat for you!

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Posted by David Ratcliffe on 07/08/13 at 11:05 AM
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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Guess The Opening Keynote Speaker for Pink14!

Today we’re excited to launch a fun competition linked to Pink14 - the 18th Annual International ITSM Conference & Exhibition.

Every year we’re proud to feature some great keynote speakers at our flagship Conference. And every year our customers tell us how the keynote speaker line-up just seems to gets better and better. 2014 will be no exception!  The Conference team has been working hard behind the scenes to make sure we meet all of our 3 primary objectives with every keynote speaker we select:

1. Educational – we need to learn.
2. Inspirational – we need to be motivated to change.
3. Entertaining – we need learning to be fun! It helps us to stay engaged.

The complete line-up is not yet complete, but we’re almost ready to announce the opening keynote speaker. However, before we do, we thought we’d have a little fun! Between now and Monday morning (July 8th) we’ll be tweeting clues about the identity of our opening keynote for Pink14. There’ll be a few more clues over the weekend, and early on Monday. Then we’ll announce the answer - and winners - mid-morning on Monday.

All you have to do is follow @TheITILExperts and watch for the clues with the #Pink14 hashtag.

Make sure to RT with the #Pink14 hashtag when you’re submitting an answer. You can have as many guesses as you like!

If you aren’t using Twitter - yet - it’s easy to get started. Just go to and follow the instructions to sign-up (all you need is your name and an email address).

While you can have as many guesses as you like, we won’t acknowledge the winners until mid-morning on Monday July 8th.

While this is all in good fun, we promise there’ll be nice prizes for the winners – maybe even one or two special prizes for excellent speaker suggestions!

Good luck – and have fun!

(1) Comments
Posted by David Ratcliffe on 07/03/13 at 10:34 AM
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Final thoughts on Pink13

George Spalding, our ebullient Master of Ceremonies and one of the driving forces behind organising the whole event, gives us his parting thoughts on Pink13.  He and the team are already hard at work on Pink14.  Will I see you there?

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 04/22/13 at 06:13 PM
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pink13: another great ITSM Conference

Pink13 is done and dusted.  All would agree it was a great conference ... again.  The Pink Elephant team do it year after year.  I’m looking forward to the next one - I’ll be at Pink14 next year.  See you there!! 

Here is a retrospective I put together of Pink13 for those who missed it, or those who just want to reminisce for a moment.

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 03/14/13 at 08:38 PM
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Looking back at the ITSM Extreme Makeover

Pink Elephant Principal Consultant Jack Probst was the Pink Elephant lead on the ITSM Extreme Makeover, a project we have blogged about before, where several vendors donates resources to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center to “make over” their IT practices.

Coming up to Pink13, and with almost a year gone since the project wrapped up, it is time to look back and reflect on what went down and what we can take away.


Here are some pictures from the Christmas party Jack referred to:

You can see Jack at Pink13 and ask him more about the ITSM Extreme Makeover.

(8) Comments
Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 01/29/13 at 09:29 PM
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Astro Pinky!

Some of us get a lot more excited than we should about the latest Pink Elephant conference mascot.  Me for example.  Every year I wait with bated breath, and pester David Ratcliffe for hints.  So here is he is for PINK13: Astro Pinky

Astro Pinky has his own Twitter account where you can follow all the news about this years conference, live, real-time, right through the conference.  So this is an essential account for all you twitterati to follow.  And of course, keep watching the hashtag #Pink13.

The ‘astro-connection’? Why, one of the keynote speakers is Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson!

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 01/24/13 at 05:16 PM
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Some ITSM Christmas Carols

To celebrate Christmas the ITSM way, here are some suggested carols and Christmas songs:

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
    An ITSM conference
  • Silent Night
    The peace that only a silent phone can bring
  • Hark the Herald iPhones Sing
    The opposite of Silent Night
    See also It Came Upon The Midnight Clear
  • O Come, O Come, a Manual
    The last resort of technical support
  • We Three Kings of Orient Are
    HTC, Huawei and Samsung
  • How much is that iPad in the window?
    The joys of BYOD
  • Root Cause the Red Faced Vendor
    Blame the vendor, that’s what they are for.
  • While Shepherds Watched
    The night shift operators
  • Christmas is Coming
    A real project milestone
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain
    Management reporting
  • The Little Drummer Boy
    How ITSM consultants feel sometimes
  • Let It SNOW
    The cries of one particular service desk vendor
  • The 12 Days of Christmas
    We already did that one

Happy Holidays everyone!

(11) Comments
Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 12/23/12 at 04:03 PM
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Self-Empowered Leadership

One of the primary messages in recent times from David Ratcliffe, President of Pink Elephant, has been Seff-Empowered Leadership.  He spoke about it at PINK12, at the Pink conferences in Mexico and Asia, at the ITSM Leadership Forum, and in his blog earlier this year

The first ITSM Leadership Forum was an event run by Pink Elephant in Scottsdale, Arizona in August this year, and equally it is a community discussion, right now, online.  The event and the discussions intersect on the session descriptions.  Read that sessions page: it is structured as a set of key questions for ITSM leadership.

The theme of leadership can be expected to re-emerge just as strongly for PINK13, so I took an opportunity to talk to David about ITSM Leadership.

(19) Comments
Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 10/22/12 at 05:11 PM
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Evolution in IT Management

IT Management doesn’t stand still.  If tracking the current directions in IT Management is part or all of your mission at PINK13, here are some sessions to attend.

Over the three or four decades of the IT sector, we have matured as an industry and a profession.  We have had some step changes and some evolution.

Service Management was a very influential concept which took decades to take hold in IT.  It brought exciting concepts from the service industries.
Quality management ideas like Deming, Six Sigma and Lean come from the manufacturing sector and also slowly took hold.

We’ve also hatched a few ideas of our own in the IT sector, such as Corporate Governance of IT (ISO/IEC 38500), Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and Knowledge Centered Support (KCS).  The first of those - Governance - is having a huge influence on IT Management at the moment as we come to better understand the political and organisational requirements to realise value from IT

And of course we have developed our own bodies of knowledge such as ITIL and COBIT, which now become world leaders and offer value back to the other business sectors.

The other great area of growth in our sector has been our maturing of understanding of “People Process Technology”.  We started as a tech-obsessed industry sector, then ITSM led us to understand the importance of process as well. Finally - FINALLY! - in recent years we have grasped that IT is all about people.  In this decade the people message is coming through strongly in many areas, e.g.:

  • Karen Ferris wrote the seminal book Balanced Diversity which pretty much nailed the practice of cultural change in IT for me.
  • David Ratcliffe, the Pink Prez, talks of Self-Empowered leadership. 
  • BYOD and social media aren’t technical issues or process issues.

So Governance and People are the huge tectonic shifts in IT Management at the moment as we continue to grow as a sector.  Look for a number of sessions on these topics at PINK13, including:

  • Leadership: Helping Others To Succeed :- Bernardo Tirado, CEO and Founder, The Project Box, LLC, Six Sigma Black Belt
  • fact the whole of Track 1 – Leadership & The ABCs Of ITSM
  • The LOE Index: A Quantitative Tool For Measuring The Individual Response To Organizational Change – An Overview :- Dr. Victoria M. Grady, PhD, Assistant Professorial Lecturer, Department of Organizational Science, Columbian School of Arts & Sciences, George Washington University
  • Business & IT Alignment: What It Really Means :- Paul Wilkinson, Director, GamingWorksBV
  • Tips For Cementing Organizational Change :- Troy DuMoulin, Vice President, Professional Services, Pink Elephant
  • Align IT – For Free! :- Niel Nickolaisen, CIO, Western Governors University
  • Linking Company Strategy To Portfolio Management :- Marc van der Heijden,  Vice President Global IT – Competency Center Sales, Adidas-Group
  • Organization Change & ITIL Service Improvement Initiatives: A Look At 3 Models :- Rae Garrett, Principal Consultant, Pink Elephant
  • The Neuroscience Of Leading Change :- Samad Aidane, Founder, Guerrilla Project Management
  • Using Myers-Briggs To Manage Your IT Project Team :- Bernardo Tirado, CEO and Founder, The Project Box, LLC, Six Sigma Black Belt
  • ITSM Parenting:  Raising Empowered & Self-Sufficient IT Staff :- Andy White, Principle Solutions Marketing, BMC Software
  • Mavens, Connectors, Salesmen – What Every ITSM Leader Needs To Know About Them :- Jack Probst, Principal Consultant, Pink Elephant
  • Navigating The Cultural Silos Of The IT Value Stream :- Troy DuMoulin, Vice President, Professional Services, Pink Elephant
  • What IT Governance Isn’t :- Rob England, The IT Skeptic

...and many more.  These are presentation topics we would seldom have seen five years ago, related to People or Governance.  In 2013 there are too many to list.

In addition to these really big shifts, there are some smaller “quakes’ going on, lesser step changes in IT Management, such as

  • The Service Management Office 2.0 :- Troy DuMoulin, Vice President, Professional Services, Pink Elephant
  • ...and my own humble contribution to ITSM step-change, which I am really really excited about: Applying Adaptive Case Management To ITSM: The Standard+Case Approach

Please indulge me while I rant about that last one, as it is my own personal passion.  Not many things get The IT Skeptic all fizzy and enthused, but this does.  I think it is a really important change to the way we think about ITSM.  Standard+Case is about applying a body of knowledge called Adaptive Case Management to ITSM, synthesising it with your existing process approach.  Standard+Case (S+C) applies to anything that requires a human response: there’s either a standard response or there isn’t.  If you only look at one new idea this year, look at this one. It is an ITSM game-changer.

If you want to keep tabs on the current evolution of IT, these are all sessions to attend at PINK13.

(2) Comments
Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 09/28/12 at 08:41 PM
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Interviewing Brian Newcomb, Pink Elephant Practitioner of the Year

A year ago I interviewed Brian Newcomb, on behalf of Ohio State University who won the Pink Elephant ITIL Project of the Year last year.  Now Brian’s back in another interview, but this time because he personally won Pink Elephant ITIL Practitioner of the Year this year.  Which is great, because we get a second snapshot of where OSU and Brian are at on their ITSM journey. 

My favourite quote from the interview: “Fundamental questions, and when you ask them you get the crickets”. 

You can hear more about Brian’s work at OSU at the 17th (SEVENTEENTH!) Annual ITSM Conference and Exhibition next year, where Brian is presenting on Balancing Continual Improvement At Ohio State University:

    So, you’ve implemented Incident, Problem and Change management.  OK, you’re done!  Right? Well, wait a minute…not so fast!  IT Service Management initiatives are not about being “done” but about what’s next? Not satisfied to rest on the laurels of their 2010 Project of the Year win, OSU embraced a Balanced Scorecard as a means to measure process performance, and maintain momentum to implement additional processes and drive continual improvement; not an easy task when you are one of the largest US universities with over 100,000 users. Join Brian, the 2011 Practitioner Of the Year as he shares practical and proven tips on how OSU maintains the passion to drive its ITSM initiative.
(1) Comments
Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 08/14/12 at 02:13 PM
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Talking with Cathy Kirch about her award-winning ITSM work at AllState

Congratulations to Cathy Kirch of Allstate Insurance Company for winning Case Study of the Year at the 2011 Pink Elephant ITSM Conference.  The award was for Cathy’s presentation Application Management As Part Of The Overall Service Management Lifecycle: how Allstate Insurance tackled Application Management under the ITIL framework while avoiding the creation of redundant support silos and new processes to what are already in place on the Infrastructure side.

Since Cathy has won a couple of awards at the ITSM Conference now, I thought it was time we learned more about her and what she is up to:

What is your role at Allstate and background?

My role is as an internal consultant for Allstate Insurance with a focus on Information Technology Service Management (ITSM).  My position is mapped to a job family called Service Manager.  My key responsibilities currently include Service Transitions focusing on Release and Change Management integration and moving the process adoption and improvement forward.  I am also the coordinator and subject matter expert for IT Service Management training.  Along with my primary roles, I provide consulting services for the various leaders in our organizations, this is how I got involved with Application Management.  Two years ago an organization was forming to support various applications. The leader reached out to me to ensure that they aligned with best practices.  We conducted a workshop and were able to draw out the scope of their organization by aligning it to Application Management.  Since then additional organizations have been created and align to do the support in a centralized way for many applications in our various business verticals.

My Background- I have 35 years experience in different areas of Information Technology and have served in almost every aspect defined in IT Service Management.  My earlier years were spent in application development in areas of Claims Reserve systems, branch office accounting, and a Technology component inventory system.  I did both development and systems design work in those years and then moved into Technical support providing support for transaction management, database design, implementation and support. Then, I began focusing on the Data Warehouse implementation to provide program and project management services bringing server, database and storage together with the warehouse analysts and developers. 
In 2004, we formalized our approach to IT Service Management leveraging ITIL, CobiT and PMBOK. I have played various roles in this space and am currently titled an ITSM Consultant.  Our roles in ITSM have evolved as the journey has moved forward and ITSM has become a way life in the technology area with a focus on how to support the broader Allstate Insurance Corporation. 

For me personally, I am currently active in the industry in roles such as Chair for priSM America’s;  and president of itSMF Chicago LIG. I have also been a previous examiner for APMG. And, I was the Pink Elephant ITSM Practitioner of the year in 2007. I just recently was awarded the Case Study of the year in 2012, I will be joining Pink Elephant at the PINK ASIA Conference this summer. 

What was the scope of Application Management?  In particular, how much did you bridge that traditional divide between Solutions/Development and Operations/Production?

Application Management teams have evolved and been created as a result of applying efficiencies.  This was not started as a form of a project or organizational direction which made this journey even better to watch!  As I mentioned earlier, one group realized the tie to the ITIL Framework and leveraged what was written around Application Management.  Being able to tie those concepts with the design and direction of the ITSM processes made it clear on how to construct the new organization.

Today the groups who are performing Application Management roles sit with the functional or application organization verticals.  They have become the conduit to almost every touch point of IT Service Management with the exception of Release Management.  The organizations followed the same path as ITSM implementation. For example, in the beginning, some focused on Incidents, then Change impact, then Problem Management followed that and now pretty much the entire lifecycle.   

How good was ITIL as a reference for Application Management?

The ITIL reference was just that – a reference.  There is a lot more that could be written in this space for startup, scope, activities, efficiency and approach to maturation.  For us, we created a workshop with an external partner to walk the first group through the understanding of the general ITIL framework and understand what their goals and objectives were.  After that the outputs from various ITSM processes were understood and how an Application Management area can provide value by being the one stop shop for the various applications that support our services.  Finally, it was about expectation setting and managing everything from application mapping, environment design, operational readiness, disaster recovery, procurement, deployment and change evaluation.

How did you avoid having redundant Infrastructure and Application Management processes, policies and support?

At the beginning of the ITSM launch, one of our Sr. Vice Presidents had a sign in his office that said, “Enterprise spoken here” and that has been a cornerstone of delivery ever since.  We have had to reinforce and ensure that the ITSM processes were built for both Infrastructure and Application. This was not an easy task as the two areas have been separated since the 80s.  We have had to ensure everyone executes one process and does not build their own version so that we avoided redundant processes.  Since the processes started in Infrastructure a keen eye had to be understood on how it impacted the Application areas.  We always start by identifying roles, then the activities and lastly the tasks for a given process.  From there it was our leaders on the Application Management side that realized the value of consolidating into an Application Management group to ensure proper support with clear accountability. 

Tell us about the holistic across-the enterprise strategies for all Application Teams.

Our Application Management teams have formed their own council to synergize and ensure alignment for the applications they support and the overall enterprise view.  With so much middleware today and integrated applications, even application management cannot work in a silo.  The Application Management teams then live into the mandates and standards of ITSM processes but also keep an eye on the business needs and perceptions. 

Are there any new developments since the conference, and where to from here with Application Management?

Each of our Application Management organizations have been aligned to have direct line of site to the business. This establishes accountability and creates a better partnership with the business.  The division organization now owns both solutions /development as well as application management.  This construct allows the application management organization a seat at the table and positions us to be more proactive with input in the Service Strategy and Design lifecycles.  For example, during the Software Delivery Lifecycle SDLC phase, input is provided around operational readiness requirements which has the advantage of past lessons learned to be input to future success.

What is your next challenge?

I am not sure we have any real identified challenges in front of us. However, there will always be a positive challenge to keep everyone focused on the journey we have started.  I am excited to share that there is work going on to bring Release and Change together as well as expand Change into more of a management process.  Each step of the way we will continue the ITSM journey, looking for improvements based on metrics, business needs and enabling solutions in the most cost effective way possible.  There is excitement throughout the organization as we embrace service management as a way of doing our business and cope with the natural challenges of organizational and human change.  Stay tuned as we advance the organization and share our lessons learned as we move forward.

Cathy will be back at Pink13 with two sessions:

priSM – What Is It & Why You Should Care (as mentioned above, Cathy is the Chair of priSM America)

An ITSM Journey – 10 Years Later, where Cathy will profile her organization’s Service Management journey, and how they have kept the momentum going into their 10th year and integrated the processes beyond Service Operation and Service Transition.

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Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 06/23/12 at 09:23 PM
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