Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Impetus For Applying ITIL Guidance - “Start Where You Are”
After reading Chris Gardner’s (keynote speaker at our next Las Vegas Conference) latest book “Start Where You Are” I can’t help thinking we could benefit from a dose of starting from where we are in IT management.
I frequently comment in this blog - and elsewhere - how I dislike seeing the term “implement ITIL” as it seems to convey an intention to do something simply because you can, rather than because you’ve thought about your needs and benefits. It often seems like people are doing ITIL because they’ve heard its the new big thing and “... if we don’t do it we’ll be left behind, so we have to do it, right”? No, don’t do ITIL because you can - take the guidance in ITIL and apply the parts which will contribute towards your measurable ITSM objectives (you do have some measurable objectives, right?)
To help you avoid the “Let’s Do The ITIL Project Syndrome” I will sum up the impetus for applying ITIL guidance in four common scenarios:
Do you have some clear evidence of pain? Is there something in ITSM in your organization that clearly does not work well? Not because you’ve paid someone to do a process maturity assessment and the score came up low, but because you see clear evidence of poor service, poor communication between IT staff, wasted resources or inefficiency, customer complaints, etc. To put it bluntly - is it blindingly obvious that something’s not working as well as it should? You don’t need a Consultant to tell you this or even to tell you what to do - at least not initially. Go browse through ITIL and see what it says about your issue. If you can’t get a good handle on what to do next, only then consider looking for personal assistance - maybe start in the social media world. There’s lots of free advice out there. Start where you are, but get moving to a happier place!
Maybe things are not obviously bad. You don’t have complaints and your measurements tell you that IT services are fit for purpose. IT staff seem to be working diligently and competently on the right things. Day-to-day changes are being handled OK, maybe because there’s not a lot of serious investment in new or improved IT services at this time. That’s OK. Your world seems bearable - for now. However, at some point in time (probably sooner rather than later) discussions will start on a major upgrade or migration or new business strategy of some kind. Whatever it is, it means change. Are you up for the challenge? Are your people, processes and technology quickly adaptable? If this scenario keeps you awake at night, it’s probably a good idea to start browsing ITIL to find out how you can be better prepared (as I wrote this last sentence I started identifying which ITIL books were the most relevant for this scenario and I ended up with all five! Hence ”... start browsing ITIL”). ITIL is not all about doing things differently today - there’s lots of good guidance on how to plan and prepare for the future - take it. You can keep your head in the sand and just muddle through as and when the demands start coming, but that’s going to create a stressful environment when the time comes and there’ll surely be lots of fall out - maybe you. So, start where you are, but get ahead of the game by preparing the way for tomorrow’s change (“sharpen the saw”).
A variation of Scenario 2. This time there’s some new legislative requirement that surfaces for your business - and it needs compliance support from IT. Now you can’t wait and muddle through, there’s a whole bunch of people expecting you to get your act in gear - and quickly. The difference between scenarios 2 and 3 is that the need and deliverables for the former are set by your organization - and you have some input into that. Whereas the need for scenario 3 is beyond your control. Do it or die. You don’t have any choice, and you can’t squeal, make excuses or screw up. The good news is that if you’re already following my advice for scenario 2, you’re well placed to handle scenario 3 - the difference is that there’s probably greater urgency and not much opportunity for negotiation. ITIL can help - browse it. Just to repeat - start where you are, but get ahead of the game by preparing the way for tomorrow’s change (“sharpen the saw”).
A further variation on scenario 2. This time it’s not about preparing yourself to be ready for change - you’ve already seen the light and now you know you need to change! Not because of some looming issue, but because there’s an opportunity to do things differently and you can see big benefits. Where scenarios 2 & 3 described proactivity - scenario 4 is super-proactivity! Enabling opportunities for the business. This is the type of thinking the business really wants to see from IT. Opportunities to either reduce costs or increase revenues that are not immediately obvious. But beware - you’re in danger of crossing the line into the “Let’s Do The ITIL Project Syndrome” if you get carried away. You only proceed down the scenario 4 path if you can clearly elucidate the needs and benefits for your ideas. Do the right things, not ALL things. So, unless you have a completely new vision from the top for how your ITSM organization really needs to be defined and structured differently - any need for change is hardly likely to require an all-or-nothing “let’s implement ITIL” strategy. Let me say this again (because it’s the most important statement I’ve written so far today!) - any need for change is hardly likely to require an all-or-nothing “let’s implement ITIL” strategy.
To sum up - ITIL isn’t just about improving what you’re already doing today, something else will be crossing the horizon soon and you need to be ready. But that doesn’t mean you have to jump on the ITIL train with stops at all processes on the way to expected utopia!
Avoid the “Let’s Do The ITIL Project Syndrome”. Do what you need to do, no more and no less.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
We Can Have Fun With ITSM - But Watch Out, “Da Ali G” Of ITIL’s About!
Seems we’re surrounded by disclaimers these days. Whether it’s McDonalds advising you that their coffee is actually hot (thank goodness!) or the airlines telling you to wear your seat belt because there might be turbulence (”... and for those of you who haven’t been in a car since about 1964, you insert the clip into the buckle like this ....”) - well now it’s our turn!
Yes, disclaimers have arrived in the world of ITSM blogs.
I’m referring to the IT Skeptic’s new initiative - “The ITIL Wizard”. I’m sure many of you are already familiar with the IT Skeptic’s blog - providing lively discussion (no arguments, just healthy debate) about the dos, don’ts and politics of ITSM. His latest venture - The ITIL Wizard - is a spoof(-ish) Agony Aunt column intended as just a neat little diversion from the more mundane world of hard facts and strong opinions. The ITIL Wizard invites his readers to send in their most pressing questions about life with ITSM, giving Mr Skep the opportunity to weave large doses of wit, irony & silliness into his answers. And who can blame him for that? It’s always good when we can lighten things up, right?
Oh if only life was so simple! Seems like some folks are taking his “advice” too much to heart.
“No, no - it’s just a bit of fun!” After just a few days of starting the new Wizard “service” The IT Skeptic has had to post this note:
Please be aware that The ITIL Wizard is satire. It is not meant to be taken seriously, it should not be used as advice on ITIL or anything else, it is frequently wrong (though occasionally alarmingly right).
Here’s a sample:
I hear ITIL is just a blend of TQM and PRINCE2. Is that right?
I’m sitting the ITIL exams soon and the answer to this might help me.
Experienced ITIL Consultant
Yes, pretty much. There are bits of the old IBM red books thrown in there too for operations stuff, but mostly it is just TQM. Every ITIL process in the books is built around the Demming Cycle of Plan-Check-Do-Act. There’s a whole book on that: Continuous Service Improvement, though it somehow makes the four steps into seven and the diagrams show it as eight so I’m a bit confused about that aspect.
And as you say, the rest basically comes from PRINCE2, or so I gather. They are both created by OGC (that’s the British Government’s Office of Government Computing) so that would make sense.
The ITIL Wizard
As you can see, you need to take The ITIL Wizard’s advice with a hefty pinch of salt (make that a bucket-load). Even though the example I showed is fairly short and sweet (!) I started counting the “errors” in the Wiz’s reply and ran out of fingers on my hand! Great stuff!
I guess Mr Skep knew he was in trouble when smart consultant types started posting comments to earnestly correct some of the Wizard’s bad advice! I won’t show any of those examples - you’ll have to go visit The ITIL Wizard pages yourself!
This all reminds me of “Da Ali G Show” - but in reverse (see this video of Ali G interviewing Shaquille O’Neal and you’ll see what I mean). Ali G likes to ask silly questions and make outrageous comments, but in an earnest style, trying to solicit serious answers from people who haven’t yet tumbled to the ruse. With the Wizard we have reasonable questions soliciting silly responses delivered authoritatively.
Getting back to the disclaimer idea - I guess I need to say that what I’ve written here should in no way be construed as criticism of The IT Skeptic. Mr Skep is doing a fine job, it’s that Wizard guy we have to keep a close eye on!