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David Ratcliffe, President, Pink Elephant

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    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    “Alignment or Integration” & “Compliant or Compatible” - These Are NOT Just Semantic Arguments!

    This morning on the TwitterBlogosphere (sorry - I agree we need a shorter, sweeter word here. It will come, I’m sure, but for now I’m stuck with TwitterBlogosphere!) there were a number of discussions which really caught my attention. They highlighted for me how a particular choice of words can indicate a poor understanding of the context - ITIL/ITSM, or even just an immature thinking process. I offer (for your delight!) some optimum terminology that I would respectfully suggest we all get into the habit of using in ITSM.

    First - “Business/IT Alignment”. That’s not what it’s about. It’s “Business/IT Integration”! If IT is “aligned” with the business that means it’s separate and is trying to line up. IT is not a separate entity from the business, it’s PART of the business. So IT better get itself properly integrated into the business, not aligned. IT needs to be aware of business objectives and then make sure that IT services enable and support those business objectives. Stop saying “Business/IT alignment”!

    Secondly - Such-and-such is “compliant” to ITIL. No it can’t be! I don’t care what it is (usually we talk about tools in this context) but you cannot be compliant to some good ideas and recommendations - which is all ITIL is really. But you can be “compatible” to ITIL. (For a more complete explanation of “compliance” vs. “compatible” see the PinkVERIFY page at our main website.) And for those of you like to churn out the “oh, it’s just semantics!” argument and simply refuse to believe that these two words are not synonyms of each other, I’ll give you my favourite analogy. When you’re looking for a life partner are you looking for someone who’ll be compliant, or someone compatible? See - there’s a BIG difference!

    (23) Comments
    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/27 at 12:10 PM
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    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Managing Mobile Computing & Social Media - Implications for ITSM?

    One of the purposes of a mature IT Service Management operation is to secure and gain control of your valuable assets in IT. That would include many things, but especially hardware, software & data. (There are other purposes for ITSM, of course, such as clarifying roles, delivering fit-for-purpose IT services, etc. etc. but for now I’m thinking particularly of that aspect of ITSM where we need to secure our assets, and especially corporate data).

    A few years ago we started to get nervous when people began using PDAs to carry around corporate data, often in an insecure way. What were the implications for ITSM? I don’t remember we did much about that, other than try to close the door after the horse had bolted. “No data can be hosted off-site”. Right, but what about all those gigabytes on all those belts and in those purses? Same thing with people working from home, synchronizing their email and who knows what else on the family PC.

    It used to be just email and then static Web 1.0 websites - at least they were under quite strict control, usually with some bureaucratic (but effective) change control. But then fast forward a few short years and along came Web 2.0 and stuff like blogs have become commonplace, in fact almost required tools for many businesses (hence the reason I’m typing this right now!) Now we have people chit-chatting with customers, peers and even competitors in quite off-hand ways on the various social media sites - often exchanging ideas and possibly even corporate secrets. So I ask the question again - what are the implications for ITSM? Do we have a responsibility to set some parameters for interacting on the Web? As web-enabled tools become easier and easier to use, and more and more powerful - are we just assuming everything will take care of itself? Or are we asleep at the ITSM wheel yet again?

    Of course I’m not saying that we should be closing down these applications, just wondering whether there’s more we should be doing to protect our corporate assets and more fully leverage the benefits of new technologies. Looking back at the relatively more secure datacenter world of the 70s & 80s (where ITIL V1 really did provide something much closer to a comprehensive blueprint for managing those more “fixed” IT resources than ITIL V3 does today) life in ITSM seemed like it was a real piece of cake compared to now. Which, of course it was! Seems to me we’ve just kept looking the other way as mobile computing, then Web 2.0 technologies and more lately social media applications have appeared to sneak up on us - no questions asked! But they didn’t sneak up on us at all, I just think most of us have simply not been smart enough to spot the implications soon enough. So we did what’s easiest - nothing.

    It can never be too late to incorporate this new IT culture into ITSM (social media as IT services?)

    Oh, oh - ITIL V4? I think I’d better stop now!

    Your thoughts?

    (1) Comments
    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/26 at 03:51 PM
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    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Twitter? Yes But ...

    I love using Twitter - but not exactly as was originally expected by the developers.

    The “What are you doing now?” question holds no interest for me. I give enough attention to my close family and friends than to start feeling interested in all the day-to-day drivel of some other poor soul’s existence. I guess the odd announcement about something significant in your personal life does no harm and can safely be skimmed - but when you’re tweeting repeatedly throughout the day about:

    how frustrated you are that the train is late

    or how much you enjoyed/hated lunch

    or how happy you are because your toddler just threw up on the nosey neighbour

    or how delighted you are that your favourite team just beat their mortal enemy

    or how much you just loved that episode of Big Brother last night

    or .... whatever

    Then you’re filling up my “tweets to review” list and therefore it’s going to take me more time to scroll down and look for the really interesting tweets. More to the point - you’ve lost me as a follower.

    Seems I’m not the only one who thinks this way - I just found a soul mate who feels the same way!

    The beauty of Twitter is that the frustrating experience I just described cannot outweigh the value and kicks I get from reading the tweets that DO interest me, and tweeting and re-tweeting about stuff I think my followers would be interested in. And I guess that’s the key. Virtually all my followers are in the business of IT management and I doubt they can give two hoots that my favourite soccer team is now in 6th place in the EPL (so you’ll get no tweets from me on that subject!)

    I find Twitter to be an amazing tool for quick connections to information, news and ideas from others in the ITSM world. I know that’s not very close to “What are you doing now?” - but life evolves, and so does Twitter. When Mr Bell invented the telephone did he envisage it to be a tool to enable better communication in business, or something that teenagers could use every evening to natter away for hours and hours? Possibly the former, probably not the latter. But so what, the telephone has been a great tool for multiple purposes - and Twitter can be too.

    A few months after I started tweeting my primary use is still to connect with the ITSM world. I look forward to the day when I have the time, inclination and discipline to expand my tweeting into other areas - but I promise it will be via multiple accounts for different purposes. My ITSM TwitterBuddies have nothing to fear.

    Click here to see what’s going on right now in my Twitter world!

    (1) Comments
    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/24 at 10:16 AM
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    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Just Been Told About ITIL & Wondering What To Do Next? Here Are Your First 4 Actions!

    If you work directly in IT Service Management in what I call a “Practitioner” role (maybe in IT support, Network Management, or IT operations) and you have some management responsibility - then you’ll be expected to keep up-to-date with trends in the industry. You’ll also be expected to apply any “best practices” (or “good practices” as some now prefer to say) to improve effectiveness and efficiency in your area. You’ve heard there’s a thing called ITIL, but what now?

    Here’s some very basic, entry-level advice for getting started with ITIL. Nothing too strenuous - I promise. And no expensive education programs, consultants, new tools or assessments! You don’t need any of those to get your feet wet with ITIL.

    1. Get Yourself a Quick Overview

    Don’t sit down and try to read all 5 “Big Books” as a start. You’ll never finish (even the first one) and you’ll be overwhelmed. Begin by getting a quick tour. An interesting ITIL orientation book is “Service Management for Dummies: IBM Limited Edition” published by Wiley. I guess it must have been commissioned by IBM for their staff and customers. I was given a copy by George Spalding - don’t know where he got it and therefore I’m not sure where anyone else can get a copy (hey - do some Googling and I’m sure it will turn up somewhere!) Anyway, at about 96 pages it’s really easy to skim through and pick out the important bits (I must admit to doing a rapid skim through chapter 3 - “The Customer is King” and dwelled on the later chapters instead). I really like how it doesn’t just focus on ITIL. Even in 96 pages there’s space to review many other related frameworks like COBIT, ISO, eTOM, etc. There are other overview books, of course, including the official ITIL introduction but if reading books is not for you, then take a drive through Pink’s free “Online ITIL Overview”.

    2. Now Pick Something Obvious That Can Be Fixed (Low Hanging Fruit)

    From your overview experience you should begin to identify where your IT service management organization might be particularly weak. If your organization is like most others, then it’s probably going to be in IT Support (Service Desk or Incident Management) or Change Management. Don’t be tempted to start in the areas of Problem Management, Service Catalog or Configuration Management just yet. They may look interesting and compelling, but there’s other things you need in place first before you can have success in those areas.

    3. Get More Detailed Knowledge & Start To Improve

    This is now the time to review your first “Big Book” - with all the nitty-gritty ins and outs of whichever weakness you’ve decided to focus on. If you’re following the examples I gave earlier, then you’ll find IT Support guidance in the Service Operation book, and Change guidance in the Service Transition book. Don’t look to implement a complete end-to-end “thing” (process or function), instead look for specific practices and activities which make sense and start there. Change the way you do something, making sure that whatever it is will result in a benefit - however small. It may be just an activity which improves your record keeping, or communications between your team and another. Think about your change as just a first step - like the first brick in something more complete that will be constructed over time.

    4. Take Another Improvement Step, And Another

    Building on what you did first, improve a related practice or activity (this is where the “Big Book” can help - by showing related activities as inputs and outputs of a larger process. And so on, and so on. Very quickly others either in your team, and in other teams, will see that things are getting better. This would be the time to start talking about how ITIL has helped. If you try to get people on board too soon - before making any improvements - there’s a danger it becomes too much talk and not enough action. Get some wins under your belt and then you’ll be in a much stronger position. It’s hard to argue with success.

    Good luck!

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/19 at 08:41 AM
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    Monday, August 17, 2009

    “Good To Great” - Implications for IT Service Management Projects


    I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Mainly through the thoroughness of the research, in “Good To Great” Jim Collins and his team present a compelling case for identifying the most valuable criteria for lasting business success.

    It’s NOT about charismatic leadership.

    It’s NOT about a bold vision & strategy.

    It’s NOT about tackling resistance to change.

    Its’ NOT about a whiz-bang new of set of tools

    And it’s certainly NOT about creating a burning platform of urgency through a special project or campaign.

    All of the above may well generate some “good” results in the short-term, but if you want lasting success then the items I just listed will actually get in the way! To move from “good” to “great” you’re going to need what Collins calls “Level 5 Leadership”, along with the right people in the right roles; a clear understanding, focus and passion for your core business; a culture of discipline; “accelerating technology” to increase your effectiveness & productivity; and continual steady effort - rather than any major revolutions, restructuring or change.

    In fact, in the great organizations that Collins’ team studied many of the staff there commented that they were unaware of any special new way of doing things. They simply commented on a passionate commitment to get the right people to do the right things, consistently.

    There’s clearly a great lesson for us in IT service management. I’ve already commented here more than once my concern that in our industry too many people seem to be fooling themselves with searches for quick, magic bullet solutions, whether it’s through new tools or the false expectation that ITIL promises a utopian future - “All we have to do is implement ITIL!”

    Which is why we’re using Collins’ lessons as a major theme for our next Conference in February 2010. We already have many sessions specially commissioned to specifically address the topics Collins discusses in his book. So you’ll be hearing less from us in future about how “ITIL is the solution to all your problems!” Instead it will be more of “Make sure you understand what you’re supposed to be doing, then get the right people doing the right things!” ITIL certainly has a very important part to play, but it isn’t the #1 success criterion.

    We hope to see you next February - if not, do yourself a favour and get yourself a copy of “Good To Great”!

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/17 at 08:36 AM
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    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    CSI Is Not Just An Entertaining TV Show!

    My Pink buddy - Gary Case - has just penned a great new paper entitled “CSI: Bringing It To Life!”

    Being the co-author of the ITIL V3 book on the subject of “Continual Service Improvement” there should be no one better qualified to address this important subject. Even in such a short (16 page) paper he doles out plenty gems of advice. For example, if you haven’t yet started measuring services - start NOW! “But where do I start?” you may ask. Start by asking key stakeholders to identify up to 3 things about the service that’s important to them. Their answers should give you big clues what you need to be measuring.

    Gary also takes the opportunity to explain the roles of “CSI Analyst” and “CSI Manager”.

    So, if you’re intrigued by the whole subject of CSI but have not yet got around to reviewing the ITIL book - this paper is a great introduction.

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    Posted by David Ratcliffe on 08/12 at 04:02 PM
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