Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Frequently Asked Questions About PinkVERIFY
Stephen Mann at Forrester recently wrote a nice article about ITSM tool certifications. After reading a lot of mis-information (and mischief) over the years about tool certifications, I found Stephen’s article refreshingly well balanced and fair. He has followed up this original piece with another short article outlining some good advice to keep in mind when selecting tools (do not just pick something because it’s on the PinkVERIFY list!)
There were a few questions that Stephen posed that I thought it might be useful to try and answer.
But first, a little background information. PinkVERIFY highlights the essential functional requirements needed by any ITSM tool in order to support good ITSM practice according to the ITIL model. It’s broken up into a per process assessment. So a product can meet the PinkVERIFY “standard” for specific processes, but maybe not for others - just check the list, it’s pretty clear.
PinkVERIFY is not intended to provide recommendations for tools, but simply a list indicating what a tool DOES; not how well or how easily or how cheaply, etc. So more diligence needs to be done before making a commitment to any vendor.
PinkVERIFY is a free service provided to the ITSM practitioner community. It is also a paid service provided to the ITSM vendor community. The fees we charge are based on our best estimates of what it costs for us to provide this service. PinkVERIFY is not a major revenue earner for Pink and we do not have the same kind of approach to sales targets as we do for our Education, Events and Consulting services. Our primary financial goal is to recover our costs.
How it works is like this:
Step 1: Pink has listed on the PinkVERIFY web pages the mandatory functional requirements software tools should meet to support key ITSM processes according to the ITIL model. Anyone can view and download this information for free – practitioners and vendors alike. (I think it’s actually a goldmine of a free resource! Practitioners could use this to assess their current tools and maybe activate certain configuration options to improve functionality.)
Step 2: Vendors interested in having their product on the PinkVERIFY list are instructed to download the assessment (at no charge) and assess their tools against the criteria. They may find their tool already meets all the essential functional requirements, or that there are gaps.
Step 3: If the vendor does as we instruct and then wants to proceed to have their tool on the PinkVERIFY web page then they ask Pink to “verify” their self-assessment. We charge a daily consulting fee for this. Depending on how many processes are involved it should only take 1-3 days for the Consultant to complete the “verify”.
Step 4: If the tool passes the verification we include it on the list accordingly and we license the vendor to use the PinkVERIFY logo when promoting their product. There is another relatively small fee due here to cover our costs over the life of the product. (We learned the hard way over time that once the tool is on the list we still have quite a bit of work to do to, especially in ensuring the information there is up-to-date. You might be surprised how frequently vendor names and contact details change; even the name of their product and/or the version, etc. On more than one occasion a new version of a product has omitted functionality that will cause a failure if it were re-assessed. So we require that all new versions get a double-check. Rarely do vendors come forward with updated information, we have to be vigilant and regularly go out to ask - and this takes time and effort.
Step 5: Practitioners review the PinkVERIFY web pages when creating a shortlist of tools to evaluate. That’s it!
So here are the frequently asked questions, direct from the horse’s mouth:
1. Why PinkVERIFY?
When Pink publicly introduced ITIL to the North American ITSM community in the mid-1990s we quickly discovered the #1 FAQ - “This ITIL thing is a nice process model, but which tools work with it?” This question cropped up in EVERY ITIL Foundations class. As we all know, IT folks - especially in the US - love their tools! We thought it might be useful to provide these practitioners with a quick check-list of tools that met the minimal functional requirements of the ITIL model. The simple goal was to identify what a tool needed to do to support a process.
2. How Was PinkVERIFY Developed?
The initial version of ITIL was made up of over 40 books! Two were titled: “IT Service Support Tools” and “IT Service Delivery Tools”. We simply listed all the mandatory criteria included in those books and used them to create a simple assessment. It was all fairly black and white. The fact the list was compiled by an independent organization (Pink) with no ties to any tool vendor should have helped provide at least some degree of credibility. Nevertheless some years ago a few cheeky analysts at Gartner attempted to discredit the service by claiming we simply put products on the list if the software vendor pays us enough money. Utter nonsense! Any vendor who’s been through the process knows this is not true. The assessment criteria have always been free to download so anyone can do their own double-checking of a products applicability. Since the initial launch of ITIL, and PinkVERIFY, ITIL has been refreshed a couple of times and so we’ve endeavoured to keep the criteria up to date with new terminology and process evolutions.
3. Does Any Product Ever Fail?
Yes! Three of the large tool vendors at the launch of PinkVERIFY wanted to be first through the process. (I think two of them still claim they were first, but who cares now anyway!) Interestingly, the 3rd one failed. So right from the outset we’ve done an honest job. That failed product went through about 6 weeks of re-development by the vendor before eventually passing the “verification”. The vendor just didn’t understand the new concept of Problem Management prior to going through the PinkVERIFY process (remember this was in the very early days of ITIL in North America) but we quickly enlightened them and their product soon met the requirements. We’ve never publicized which ones fail, that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to help practitioners see which ones have actually passed the verification and also help the software vendor to understand why their product might have failed; encouraging them to do what’s necessary to make good. We’re pleased and proud to know that more than a small handful of products over the years have had re-work done in order to meet the PinkVERIFY requirements and thereby support good practice.
4. Can We Buy A PinkVERIFY Listed Product With Confidence?
You can be assured it meets the minimal functional requirements of the specific ITSM process, but the PinkVERIFY list should not be interpreted as any kind of recommendation list. There are so many other considerations that should be taken into account, such as cost, scalability, integration with other systems, ease of use, level of support, etc. etc. Think about when you might be in the market for a new TV. You may have a simple requirements list: screen size; physical size (does it fit the space I have available?); 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolution rate; LED, LCD or plasma; budget; etc. Using these requirements you may go online and make a shortlist of TVs that look like they will work for you. To me, this is a bit like the PinkVERIFY process - checking to see what’s out there and fits my functional requirements. But you then need to do more work before making a final decision. Going to the dealer to see what’s in-stock; what promotions might be available; assessing how each model actually looks; find out warranty details, etc., etc. So the initial requirements list helped you narrow the choices, but - unless it’s incredibly detailed - wouldn’t be the only consideration. For an ITSM tool you need to do more than just look at the functional requirements. So do not commit to a product JUST because it’s on the PinkVERIFY list!
5. What’s The Point If Almost Every Tool Is On The List Anyway?”
Really? When I hear this question I have to chuckle! Don’t you – as a buyer – feel confident when you buy an electrical appliance that the government has insisted it’s met mandatory safety requirements? Or that the doctor you’re about to entrust with your life is actually qualified to practice? Or that the food you’re about to eat is safe? Try finding non-approved electrical appliances in your local department store; or a doctor in your local hospital who isn’t qualified; or food on the supermarket shelf that hasn’t been approved for public consumption. So every product, doctor, whatever - is “on the list” but that doesn’t make the list redundant. There’s tons of such “certifications” across almost every industry and they serve a valuable service. I appreciate that an ITSM tool is not a matter of life and death, like selecting a safe product or choosing a suitably qualified doctor, still, using PinkVERIFY as a reference can be helpful and expedite your selection process. I’d be delighted if ALL products in the market were on the list. It means we’ve all bought in to a set of common standards which we think are useful. And it’s not just Pink creating those standards. The ITSM community at large has worked on improving ITIL over the years, and that work is reflected in PinkVERIFY.
These are just some of the more frequently asked questions about PinkVERIFY. If you have anything else you’d like to know, please leave me a comment here and I’ll do my best to provide additional information.
Good luck with your ITSM tool selection! And remember, I’m always interested to hear your experiences with either PinkVERIFY, or the tools.
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Monday, September 21, 2009
ITIL Software Scheme Goes Into Pilot Stage
You may have already heard about APM Group’s plans to launch an official ITIL software assessment scheme. Today an announcement was made explaining that this scheme is about to enter the “pilot stage”, and potential “Licensed Software Assessors” are invited to contact APM Group.
At Pink we have had the industry’s only ITIL software assessment scheme for over 10 years - PinkVERIFY. There are plenty of previous posts from me here explaining how PinkVERIFY works and why we do it. (For even more information you’re welcome to view the PinkVERIFY pages on our main website.) So what does APM Group’s announcement mean for Pink, and PinkVERIFY in particular?
There has certainly been some buzz from industry observers in recent weeks as people tried to understand what APM Group was doing, and why. Why launch a software assessment scheme competitive to PinkVERIFY? The short answer is - it’s not. It’s actually an accreditation scheme where firms like Pink who have an ITIL software assessment service can have their service accredited by APM Group.
If you’re still not sure how this will work - here’s a very appropriate analogy. What will happen is the same as what happened years ago with training courses. Pink Elephant developed the very first ITIL course in 1992. But soon afterwards other organizations developed their own ITIL courses and the exam bodies made sure that a minimum standard was met for these courses by introducing an accreditation scheme - hence we now have ATOs (Accredited Training Organizations). So if you’re looking for training then chose an ATO and you have some confidence that you’ll be buying a decent product. It’s the exact same thing we have here with the ITIL software assessment scheme. APM Group are providing an accreditation service for anyone who wants to assess software as being ITIL compatible. Meet APM Group’s requirements and you can become an LSA (Licensed Software Assessor). Up until this year, PinkVERIFY has been the only such scheme in existence. But APM Group’s initiative allows for other organizations to develop their own PinkVERIFY-type of service and APM Group will accredit them, ensuring that all such schemes meet at least a minimum acceptable standard.
So PinkVERIFY is not going away. We have recently been in discussions with APM Group to have Pink, and PinkVERIFY, accredited within this new scheme. There were only a small number of changes we have made to the PinkVERIFY criteria and method - and so we’re ready to go! Going forward, any software product that satisfies the requirements for PinkVERIFY will also qualify for the APM Group’s “ITIL swirl”.
This is good news for everyone. And we’re very proud and pleased that APM Group has recognized the work that we’d done over the past 10 years with PinkVERIFY - there are currently dozens of products on the PinkVERIFY list. We’re looking forward to working with existing PinkVERIFY vendors to validate that their products qualify to have the “ITIL swirl” added as an additional “badge of approval”. Watch this space for more updates very soon.
(This post was updated on September 24 to clarify one statement in the penultimate paragraph).
Certification • Industry News • PinkVerify • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
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!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
More on “ITIL Certification of S/W Products”
Just been directed - via the Twittersphere - to an article stating that “ITIL certified products are no magic bullet”. I couldn’t agree more.
The writer - Michael Lohr of Tripwire - gives an excellent analogy of how snow tires can be a big help in winter driving conditions, but if the driver is irresponsible or not qualified the snow tires alone are not going to save you. (I’m paraphrasing). I couldn’t agree more.
Getting back to ITIL, he then goes on to say “My fear is that companies will buy these so called certified products thinking they have bought the magic bullet to solve their ITIL project but instead they’ll skip the hard part which is designing the processes for their organization. So instead of a magic bullet they’ll just shoot themselves in the foot with a real bullet”. I couldn’t agree more.
But then he makes the statement “How does buying a certified ITIL product help with the implementation of ITIL? I’ll give the simple answer – IT DOESN’T!” I couldn’t DISAGREE more.
That’s like saying snow tires DO NOT help when driving in snow. Of course they do - as long as they’re used by someone who also knows how to operate a vehicle in winter driving conditions.
I’m really in violent agreement with Michael when it comes to putting the emphasis on smart people working with good processes and reliable tools. The tool isn’t the magic bullet - it’s the smart people using good processes.
So how does an “ITIL certified” tool help?
Well, going back to the snow tire analogy .... would you be happy if your tire manufacturer simply stuck a “snow tire” label on an ordinary tire? Probably not. You’d expect there would be some kind of industry recognized definition for what makes a good snow tire. And it would help if you could trust someone who was independent of the snow tire manufacturer to document the criteria and do spot checks.
“Yes - this tire meets the standard needed to be called a “snow tire” - we know because we’ve assessed tires made by this manufacturer!”
That’s what we’ve tried to do with PinkVERIFY for the ITSM tool world. We’ve never said that if you buy a tool on the PinkVERIFY list you’re assured of operating a best practice ITSM environment. That’s like saying “Drive with these snow tires and you’ll never run off the road.” You wouldn’t trust anyone who made that false promise, would you? All we say with PinkVERIFY is “Look at the list and you can be assured these tools meet our standard for “ITIL compatible” - the rest is up to you!”
So just in case you haven’t got the message here, I think both Michael and I agree, you need three things:
1) Smart people working with
2) Good processes enabled by
3) Appropriate tools - probably from the PinkVERIFY list.
And I put them in that order very deliberately!
Certification • Practices • PinkVerify • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
10 Things You Possibly Might Not Know About Pink Elephant In 2009!
1. We now have a “Self-Paced Online” version of the ITIL Foundations course. It’s delivered via the Internet and includes a web-based Foundation exam at the end. You can start, pause, re-start and finish the course anytime you like, and from wherever you happen to be. You can also go back and review any portions of the course as many times as you like over a 12 month period.
2. We also now have an “Instructor Led Online” version of the ITIL Foundations course. It’s also delivered via the Internet, but in real time. You “attend” and interact with other “attendees” as well as the Instructor, just as if you were in a classroom together. At no additional charge you also have access to the “Self-Paced Online” version of this course (see #1 above) so you can review all of the Foundation content as often as you wish over a 12 month period.
3. The “Self-Paced Online” ITIL Foundation course is now included – at no additional charge - for all attendees of our traditional classroom based ITIL Foundations courses. Pink presents the classroom course in over 50 cities around the world as well as inhouse for hundreds of customer organizations each year.
4. We now have a “Personal Education Pass” which allows you to attend as many of our publicly presented courses as you wish in a 12 month period. So, if you plan to attend more than 1 course in a year, a Pass is almost certainly going to save you money. In fact, if you’re planning to do the V2 Service Manager program you need to buy the Pass - it’s cheaper than the V2 Service Manager course fee!!
5. We now have “Team Tickets” to make it more affordable for organizations to establish competence teams. It’s got to be more effective for an organization to have their IT service management improvement efforts led by multi-disciplined teams rather than an Expert individual.
6. In August we launch our new “Regional Education Symposium” concept - in Scottsdale, Kuala Lumpur & Singapore. The Symposium is where we present multiple courses in the same location at the same time, providing attendees with greater opportunities for networking and participation in optional value-add sessions – just like at a Conference. In the UK we call this “PinkWEEK” – and the first offering is scheduled for Wokefield Park (Reading) in September.
7. All of our Consultants have attained “ITIL Expert” status in the ITIL V3 certification scheme. We aren’t called “The ITIL Experts” for nothing!
8. We don’t want you to “Implement ITIL”. Seems like an odd thing for us to be saying – surely we have a vested interested in promoting the use of ITIL? That’s true, but “use” is the key word here. You don’t implement ITIL for the sake of it. You refer to the ITIL guidance and practices that will help your organization achieve short-term & long-term objectives. That’s it. Do what’s necessary.
9. As of early June, we already have over 300 “early birds” signed-up and confirmed for our 14th Annual ITSM Conference next February. The first of those signed-up and pre-paid within a week of attending the 13th Conference – last February! They have the confidence that Pink will once again deliver the best ITSM event in the industry.
10. Pink is trying to be Green. I have posted about this subject before, but it’s always worth taking the opportunity to remind ourselves this is a never ending initiative. Our recent efforts to develop product for delivery via the web is undoubtedly going to reduce the Pink carbon footprint (think of all the travel we will NOT have to do!) But that’s not all - for the past 3 years we have discontinued printing those huge manuals for our conference attendees. You know what I mean – those massive binders that include copies of handouts for EVERY session (even though you can only physically be present in less than 10% of the actual sessions on the agenda!) Instead we make all materials available for download from our web site. Print what you need! And in 2009 we discontinued providing drinking water in plastic bottles. Instead we gave everyone a personal flask to re-fill from coolers. If you have ideas for how Pink can be more Green - please let me know.
Certification • Events • Practices • PinkVerify • (0) Trackbacks • Permalink
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I’ve seen something of a buzz in the blogosphere lately about tool certification. Mainly because another consulting firm has decided to come up with another scheme to compare ITSM tools to ITIL.
I really don’t want to get into a discussion about this other scheme (not enough information has been published anyway), and if you want to know what PinkVERIFY really is - then you can find it all at the main web page.
However, I do want to explain a little about the origins of PinkVERIFY, just to set the record straight on some people’s perception that this is some huge money-spinning scheme we have going!
In the late 1990s our Consultants were doing a lot of public speaking about ITIL across the USA and Canada and the number one question was always “This sounds great, but which tools can support ITIL?”
We went first to CCTA (now OGC) and suggested they introduce a scheme where practitioners could check a list to see which ITSM tools matched up to the requirements in two of the books in ITIL V1 - “IT Support Tools” and “IT Delivery Tools” (yes - there really were two books in the original ITIL that explained what to look for in tools!). CCTA said “No thanks - we don’t want to do this”.
We then approached itSMF - same answer. So, we did it ourselves, hence PinkVERIFY - which we designed by referencing those two books in ITIL V1.
The goal has always been to provide advice to practitioners on which tools they might want to put on their short-list; and to give vendors a place where they could show the world that they were making an effort to keep ITIL in mind when building their products. This has never been something we look upon as a major revenue earner at Pink. In fact we have no targets to drive PinkVERIFY business. We look upon it as a service to the industry, and we did it because no one else wanted to. The fees we charge vendors are simply what we think is reasonable to cover our costs for:
1. Doing the initial assessment (it can take anything from half a day up to two days to assess any product - depending on the number of processes it’s aimed to support).
2. Monitoring their use of the logo. Lots of them over the years have “stretched” their claims of how Pink has endorsed their products - we learned very quickly that we need to be constantly vigilant if the PinkVERIFY list is to maintain credibility. So we challenge any vendor that uses the PinkVERIFY logo erroneously, or uses the logo to make claims of compliance (see the web page for our views on “compliance” vs. “compatibility”)
3. Version monitoring of PinkVerified products - to ensure that the vendor only associates the PinkVERIFY logo with the actual version of the product that was assessed. Again, we quickly learned that as new versions of products come out, they sometimes incorporate functional changes which might invalidate their PinkVERIFY status - it has happened! So we keep check of new versions and remind the vendor not to automatically associate this new version with PinkVERIFY. They need to have us check that the new version still deserves PinkVERIFY status. This is why you will sometimes see “old” versions on the list, while a newer version might not have been assessed yet.
So the fees we charge are simply to recover costs, not to make big fat profits! Which, by the way, is why you’ll find PinkVERIFY in the “Research” section of our web site and not the “Products” section.
If you have other questions about PinkVerify that are not answered on the main PinkVERIFY page - I’d be happy to answer them for you.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Don’t “Implement ITIL” And Don’t Expect Tools To be “ITIL Compliant”
I was so impressed to see this article by Aiden Lawes. He has summed up in a relatively brief and eloquent one page piece what I’ve been saying for many, many years - ITIL is not a methodology or a standard, it’s just some good ideas for you to pick through and adopt. Use it where you see a benefit.
This is exactly why, with the PinkVerify program (for assessing how software tools match up to the processes and activities in ITIL) we say “here’s a list of tools that are compatible to ITIL”. You can never say “compliant” - because that’s where you start down the oxymoron path. You need a fixed methodology to describe a supporting tool as “compliant”. And - if you think that “compatible” is a synonym for “compliant” - please take a look in the dictionary, there’s a world of difference:
Compliant: conforming to requirements; produced in accordance with a specified body of rules
Compatible: capable of living together in harmony; able to exist together with something else
If that’s still not clear enough for you then answer this question “When you pick a life-partner, are you looking for compliance or compatibility?” See the difference now?
With PinkVerify we set out to provide - free to practitioners (we charge the vendors a fee to cover our costs) - a list of tools that we’ve checked for compatibility. It’s as simple as that. Use the list as a first point of reference to help draw up your shortlist. Furthermore, contrary to what I’ve read in a few blogs the past few days, there’s no mysterious way that any tool gets on the list. It’s nothing to do with who “Pink’s favourites” might be - that’s not one of the criteria! Look at the PinkVerify web page and download the free assessment to see how a tool gets on the list.
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