Friday, March 22, 2013
On This Day In ITSM History
At the end of March, 1997 the 1st Annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition (Pink97!) was almost 9 months away. More to the point, it hadn’t been planned, or even thought of yet!
If memory serves me right, we came up with the idea of the Conference some time during the summer of 1997. When it came to fruition it was a single track event with a small table-top vendor exhibition in the lobby. The whole thing was introduced, delivered and wrapped-up in just 2 full days in early December at the Holiday Inn on King Street (now the Hyatt) in Toronto.
A grand total of 61 people attended!
I only have about 20 very grainy photos of that event. This is one of the best(!) showing me explaining the original ITIL Certification scheme (ah - life was so simple back then!)
I mention all this only because today - a little over 11 months before the 18th Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition at the Bellagio in Las Vegas next February - we already have more confirmed attendees than that final total from the 1997 event. Just goes to show you how far we’ve come. Not just in terms of the level of attendance, but also in the planning window. In recent years initial planning for each Conference begins 2 years out.
In early 1997 no one would have signed-up 11 months in advance for a Conference to be presented by a strange new company with the not so serious name of Pink Elephant.
Whereas in 2013 there are many who are familiar with, and value, the Annual Pink Conference, and they are so sure they’ll be there next year that they’re prepared to commit so far in advance and take advantage of the special Early Bird deals we provide. This year, register by April 19 and we’ll pick up your hotel bill for 3 nights at the Bellagio. That’s almost a $1000 value - more than the registration fee for Pink97!
We’ve come a long way in 18 years, eh?
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Talking About The Past, Present & Future Of Pink & ITSM
I was recently contacted by Oleg Skrynnik of Cleverics - an ITSM services organization based in Moscow, Russia. Oleg wanted to pick my brain about Pink Elephant and the future of ITSM for his blog. The interview was later published on the itSMF Russia website.
We talked a little about my background before Pink, how Pink got started and then the really interesting stuff - what’s happening in ITSM today and what we can expect in the future. Here is an English translation of the transcript.
OLEG: David, first of all I would like to thank you for this wonderful opportunity and for your time. I guess you are quite busy with all the great things you are doing with your fellow colleagues at Pink Elephant, such as annual Pink Conference. Let’s begin from the beginning. What’s your ITSM story? How did you end up being President of World’s leading organization for ITIL and IT Service Management?
David: I began working as an IT practitioner in the UK in 1976, and in 1986 I left my position as “IT Manager”.
So as many good consultants you’ve started in IT, from the ground?
Yes – I worked for 6 years in IT operations, then another 6 years as IT Manager. In the manufacturing industry. Then I joined a consulting firm which was co-owned by a gentleman called Malcolm Fry. Malcolm became my mentor and taught me a lot of what I needed to know to be a trainer & public speaker.In 1991 I moved to Toronto, Canada and started my own education & consulting business with my wife, Fatima Cabral. That company was later bought by a Dutch company called Pink Elephant, which had been founded in the Netherlands in 1980. Pink Elephant was then itself bought by another big Dutch IT services company, Getronics. However, in 1999 Fatima and myself made an offer to Getronics to buy the Pink Elephant brand world-wide and we moved the HQ back to Toronto. So we’ve been operating here in Southern Ontario and serving customers across Canada, the USA and elsewhere in the world for over 20 years now. That’s the short version!
What is Pink Elephant today? In which countries are you present?
Pink operates in about a dozen countries around the world, and with a small group of partners in about half a dozen other countries. You can find “Pinkers” (Pink Elephant employees) in Canada, USA, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, UK, Netherlands, South Africa, Singapore & Malaysia.
How many employees are working for Pink?
There must be around 200 Pinkers by now!
What is bigger – education or consulting services?
Education and consulting are BOTH significant for us! In some countries one is bigger than the other. I think that’s because our teams in various places have one of those disciplines as a clear strength, and the markets are different - so opportunities present themselves differently from place to place.
How many happy course attendees did you turn on to ITIL last year?
I’m going to guess we probably trained upwards of about 20,000 people in the last calendar year. We know it’s been well over 250,000 in the past 20 years. Most of those are ITIL certification courses – but not all. We also have a range of Pink-developed “How To ...” courses. We go and deliver training in many, many countries around the world. And some customers make use of the online versions of our courses - either self-paced or instructor-led. So, with the benefit of the Web, no matter where you are you can do a Pink course!
Could you please compare ITSM culture in different countries?
This is a BIG subject!
People – and their performance – is the most significant criterion for success within IT Service Management. And the culture (a set of attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours) is a product of the people. So understanding the culture is very important when we engage with our customers. You can easily fail in your objectives if you don’t take into account the culture within the organization. A successful approach in one organization might be a messy failure in another.
But culture in an organization is not just dependent on the country you are in. There are more cultures at play than simply the national culture. Identify a group of people who have something in common – an employer, an industry, a club, a country, in fact a community of any kind and you’ll start to see a common set of attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours emerge. So businesses and industries have specific cultures too. It’s not just a national thing.
For example, if a North American multi-national sets up shop in south-east Asia we might see aspects of both types of national culture present. But if that organization is a bank – then there’s a banking culture you can expect to see too, and quite possibly the “banking culture” will dominate - strong on approvals, permissions and routine. People DO follow processes and respect the hierarchy in banks! (as they do in government organizations).
So it’s not about countries then?
This is a very interesting topic. A common mistake I see people making is to accept sweeping generalizations based on geographical culture. As a result of globalization you sometimes don’t see as many differences as you would expect.
Having said all that, you specifically asked about national cultural differences, so here is one example from our experience. As a general rule, workers in Asia are more likely to need to get permission before proceeding with a change – they do not want to by-pass the boss. While in North America people are often rewarded for using their initiative and not bothering the boss!
I am always careful to explain that cultural differences are just that - “differences”. Different does not mean better or worse, just different! But if you understand the culture of the ITSM group you’re working with then you can adjust your style (as a Trainer) or recommendations (as a Consultant).
Now let’s move on to the topic of great public events. Pink’s Annual International ITSM Conference is well known all over the world, and we even heard about it here in Russia. How it all did started? Why Pink did it?
When we started Pink Elephant in North America in 1997 we wanted to let businesses here know about this best practice framework called ITIL. We were quite nervous about what the reaction would be because ITIL had been “invented” in the UK and Americans, particularly, might not welcome anything that was “not invented here!” We decide to “launch” ITIL in North America via a conference. It was billed as the “1st Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition” and we had a grand total of 61 attendees. That was December, 1997 here in Toronto.
We were encouraged by the response because we had people travel from all over the US and Canada. So we quickly scheduled the “2nd Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition” for June, 1998. It was only 6 months later, but it was in the next calendar year so we thought it was OK to call it the “2nd Annual Conference”! Around 100 people came this time. By year 4 we were in Orlando in February, 2000 with over 400 attendees and it’s been growing steadily ever since.
How the idea developed over the years?
Our goals at the Conference are to Educate, Inspire, Entertain and Connect people. “Educate” might seem obvious – that’s what any conference should do; provide people with new ideas and information. But we also want to Inspire people to take the new knowledge and actually do something with it. And if we’re asking them to give up a few days and possibly travel a long way to be there, then let’s also provide an “Entertaining” environment. More recently with the advent of Social IT we have recognized the importance of “Connecting” people to each other – to continue the learning beyond the Conference.
Last Pink12 Conference, which was just held this past February, was huge – 16 years in a row, 15 tracks, more than 160 sessions, 40+ sponsors… How was it?
This past Conference went very well, thank you!
We had lots of positive feedback from our attendees and exhibitors. The exhibitors particularly value the event as it attracts exactly the target audience of decision-makers they want to connect with. People who attend the Conference for the sessions tell us they value the content most of all, plus the networking opportunities.
In Russia it’s very hard to sell the event of this kind with no free admittance – what’s Pink’s secret to get such a big crowd together for their money?
The success of the event is no secret. Anyone can do it if you have:
I am joking, of course, when I say “anyone can do it”! This is a VERY big project, and it can be very risky because so many things need to be just right if we are to be successful. Because the event is obviously tied to a particular place and a particular date, sometimes things outside of our control can get in the way, such as weather, natural disasters, political or social distractions, the economy, etc. etc. We have been affected by ALL of these over the years! But the Conference Team we have at Pink Elephant is very experienced and does a great job of managing all aspects of the event in which we DO have control. Such as project planning, venue management, content management, marketing, sales, on-site production and logistics, etc. I am particularly proud our the small team who identify the topics and select the speakers. This is so important if our event is going to be special and valued by customers. In fact, this is what our customers tell us they value most about the event, and it’s the main reason they keep coming back.
Overall, I know everyone at Pink is very proud of our Conference, and our Conference team!
So you even have a dedicated Conference team at Pink Elephant! What is the Conference for you now then? Is it an opportunity to promote your brand and services, a way to earn some money or means to grow the market?
We have always reinforced to the Team that our #1 priority is to be profitable with the Conference. This objective goes hand-in-hand with delivering something worthwhile for the customer. It’s difficult to have one without the other. So it’s important to treat the Conferences we do as a line of business, not a special marketing initiative. This forces us to look at the event from a customer’s perspective. We need to deliver value to the customer and not just do things that we want to do – which is what can happen if we just treat it as an extension of marketing. No one wants to go to a Conference and sit in sessions where you’re being sold to.
Being at the world’s largest (as far as I know) ITSM company, you no doubt know latest trends on the market. Could you please share with me your thoughts? In which way ITIL is moving? How ITSM principles are applied, what is hot right now? All the marketing buzz words such as clouds, BYOD, social – how are they influencing our precious ITSM world?
It’s more about IT service management than ITIL. ITIL is only one way to achieve your objectives. It’s good, but it isn’t a methodology with rigid “must do” practices. You can take some good ideas from ITIL, plus some good proven ideas from elsewhere, plus your own practices that work well – and establish a good IT service management operation.
In the market right now we’re hearing lots of buzz about other practices that can be adopted to help corporate IT. I think one of the key drivers for continual change in how we manage IT services is the very fact that many IT services are now outside the control of corporate IT. So this introduces the subjects of Cloud IT, Social IT and the consumerization of IT leading to BYOD.
These are all trends that tell us our co-workers, users and customers are becoming more sophisticated in their expectations and demands. So how does IT Service Management support or enable these trends? I think this is a very important question, and I’d like to see more of our leaders in ITSM step forward and acknowledge that the very core of IT – the infrastructure & services – is changing. People can get IT services themselves, they don’t always need a corporate IT function to do any heavy lifting, or give permission. We’re all “activating” web-enabled services and mobile devices with great ease, low - or no - costs and with startling results. I still think there’s a role for ITSM here, but we must stop thinking that the only IT infrastructure & services that matters is the stuff that’s bought, implemented, managed and supported in-house.
Do you think that this will lead to the dramatic changes in IT Service Management as a concept? If so, what are those changes? Many experts believe that ITSM will stay intact, but we need to change the way we implement our processes to deliver services, and the services will be different, but the concept of IT-delivering-services-not-products will stay.
Correct! We still need ITSM. It’s just important to accept that IT services can come from other places, not just in-house.
What is the most important thing in ITSM for 2012? Why?
I’m not sure I’m a good predictor! Although we’re already well into 2012 and some things are becoming increasingly apparent:
Thank you for your time, David!
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Project Planning v Annual Business Planning
Make sure you do a good job of project planning - how can you argue against that? Absolutely - don’t go into major infrastructure or service changes without a plan that will contain risks and guide you to a successful conclusion. OK.
But annual business planning? The text books will tell you this is important and valuable too. But my experience in this millennium is far from consistent with that view. At Pink we start our annual business planning in earnest in early September and usually have most important decisions and a budget wrapped up by late November. Of course, come January the real work starts as we then manage the business with the annual business plan front and centre as a reference. Sounds straight-forward, eh? Let’s look at the reality ...
In 2001 we showed up one Tuesday morning to have our first group management meeting on business planning for 2002. After about 30-40 minutes we broke up the meeting and spent the next couple of hours watching TV. Oh, I forgot to mention - that was Tuesday September 11, 2001. The next few weeks and months we had no idea what to expect in 2002. All we could do was focus on what we could control (the Strengths & Weaknesses of the SWOT), but we had no idea what the world was going to be doing around us. What we did see quite quickly was that no one was keen to travel to public classes. And some competitors in our industry either went to the wall or booked heavy losses.
Things were relatively predictable and manageable in the 4 years following 2004. But then in 2006 we started our annual business planning around the same time of year again, and in the back of our minds was the fact that we were in the middle of a major re-write of ITIL. Little did we know what to expect closer to the launch date. But we were going to find out, rather inconveniently, right after we finished our annual business planning. In January 2007 we started to hear whispers about a new ITIL certification scheme, and it was going to be launched at the same time as the new books - in June. Thanks for the heads-up, you guys! We were well into the new year before realizing (being told, actually) that we had to re-develop most of our education portfolio, and start launching it at the end of Q2! Just in case you’re not following me here - 2007 was a bit of a dog’s breakfast compared to what we had planned.
Then, within a few months of the launch of ITIL V3 we started our planning for the following year. Problem was, we were now in the middle of “The Great ITIL V2-V3 Transition Scare of 2007”. Trying to predict levels of business for new products that The Powers That Be hadn’t even fully defined yet was “think of a number time”. We’d have done just as well with a dart board or even a stray dog barking out numbers. Funny? No.
Fast forward to September last year and we started planning for 2009. The economy is in meltdown and .... well you know the rest.
What’s the point!!
Of course annual business planning involves not just making decisions about what you want to do - things within your control. But also trying your best to be ready to navigate around the outside forces - which are beyond your control. In the years I’ve mentioned it’s clear that outside forces enjoyed a disproportionate amount of our attention. That was 4 out of the last 8 years we were thrown serious curve balls. A ratio like I’ve never seen over my 30 years in the business.
So here’s my plea to that Great Program Manager in the Sky. For 2010, please, please, give us a break!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Pink Going in to 2007
Today we’re a very stable, successful and growing company with our HQ in Toronto and operations in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. We also do business through partners in China, South Korea, Japan, the middle east, and central & south america. This coming year we plan to make greater forays into China, and we’re also working on a start-up in Dubai.
When people ask me “... where do you see the Company in 5 years?” I always say “I don’t know, let’s see what happens!” That’s not because we don’t care or don’t have ambition. We just don’t think you can plan that far ahead. We have to expect that there’ll be new opportunities and that will mean change. In the meantime - we promote and protect the Pink Elephant brand.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Pink in the New Millennium
The RCC operation in the Netherlands continued to enjoy great success through the 90s. There were, by now, a growing number of businesses being acquired and initiated - each with their own brand and market, but all in the areas of IT outsourcing and related services such as consulting & education. Then in 1999 the RCC owners decided to take the Company public. As part of this process they decided to create a single brand for the whole group. The two biggest parts were Roccade (outsourcing) and Pink Elephant (infrastructure management services), and so they decided to rename the consolidated business - PinkRoccade!
A plan and timetable was quickly developed for re-branding all entities within the group. However, before the switch was made in North America another important and far reaching decision was made. The PinkRoccade management decided to divest of all businesses outside their home markets of the Netherlands and UK. To cut a long story short, Fatima and I decided to buy back the North American business along with rights to the (seemingly defunct) Pink Elephant brand in all other territories. So Pink Elephant was saved (by the skin of it’s teeth!) and since then we’ve continued to grow as an independently owned and operated Company and brand completely separate from PinkRoccade.
To close the door on the PinkRoccade era, in early 2006 the PinkRoccade company itself was bought out by its biggest Dutch competitor - Getronics.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Pink in the Pacific Rim
The old Mayflower International business had developed many relationships and customers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia in the early 90s, and soon after we became a Pink Elephant company we took the opportunity to discuss the potential for these markets with our Dutch parent. As a result, a new Pink Elephant business was started in Sydney, Australia in 1998, and a branch was opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia just over a year later.
Pink Elephant and itSMF
Just before that first NA conference in 1997 we got a call from a gentleman named Ken Hamilton who said that he was planning to launch itSMF in the USA. We invited Ken along to make his pitch to the Pink attendees, and a number of organizations ended up joining itSMF as a result.
Since then we’ve always been happy to do what we can to promote itSMF (http://www.itsmf.org). In the UK, Holland and Canada there were Pink folks directly involved in helping start up itSMF entities. But in each instance they stepped aside once things had gained momentum. That’s because we believe that itSMF should be dominated by the practitioner community, not the vendor community. We’ll always support a healthy itSMF - we’re just not so keen on vendors playing key roles in setting policy and direction. So if you’ve detected any tension between Pink and itSMF - now you know why!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Pink in North America
I need to go back a little bit to set the scene for this new phase. During the 1980s I worked in the UK for a now defunct IT education & consulting firm. My colleagues there included Alan McCarthy, Ron Beales, Ken Wilson & Malcolm Fry. One of our customers at that time was CCTA - who invited us to contribute to the ITIL project. But in 1991 the wheels began to fall off the business and we ended up going our separate ways. Malcolm went independent; Alan, Ken & Ron formed DCMS which, as I mentioned earlier, morphed into Pink UK in 1992; and I moved to Canada.
In Toronto I started a new IT education & consulting business - Mayflower International - with Fatima Cabral. Then, in late 1996 we got a call from the Pinkers in Holland asking if we’d like to start Pink Elephant in North America. Remember, they’d already acquired my old buddies in the UK and now they wanted to expand even further afield internationally.
To be honest we were not really sure how North Americans would take to an IT process framework developed in the UK. Nevertheless, one of the first initiatives we took on was to promote ITIL certification courses. It might not seem so now - with the benefit of hindsight - but at that time we thought it was quite a risk. So, in mid-1997 we began delivering the very first public ITIL Foundation classes in North America. Later that year the first IT Service Management Conference was presented in Toronto, and it’s been an annual fixture on our calendar ever since. There were only just over 60 attendees at that first Conference, but it quickly became clear to us that this was the start of something which could be very, very big. Now, our 11th Annual IT Service Management Conference & Exhibition is coming up in Las Vegas this February, and we’re on track for around 2000 attendees.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Pink Joins the ITIL Bandwagon
The CCTA in Norwich (UK) initiated the ITIL project in the mid-80s. But even before Pink had expanded into the UK in 1992 (see my previous post) Pinkers in Holland as well as the “pre-Pinkers” in the UK had been independently contributing to the ITIL body of knowledge. Once the UK company was established, Pink Elephant began demonstrating more significant commitments to ITIL. A couple of initiatives that immediately spring to mind and which have had far-reaching implications since then are:
1. UK Pinkers helped start up what is now called the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF). In fact, this not-for-profit networking forum had Alan McCarthy and Brian Johnson as founding members and officers. (Brian was a CCTA employee at the time who later worked for Pink in the early 90s and again in Canada in 2003-2004).
2. In that same year Pink Elephant was chosen to develop the very first certification course in ITIL - the Service Manager. This task became the responsibility of my very good buddy, Ron Beales. Ron has the proud distinction of being the world’s first ITIL certification Trainer. Ron did a great job, and obviously liked the work - because he’s still working for Pink today and doing the same thing 15 years later! I like to introduce him as - “Ron Beales, The Father of ITIL Training!”
Friday, December 01, 2006
Pink Goes International - to the UK.
By 1992 Pink Elephant had expanded the scope of operations to include education and consulting services.
And that same year the Pink Elephant brand was introduced into the UK through the acquisition of a small education business called Data Centre Management Services (DCMS), owned by Alan McCarthy and Ken Wilson. This new Pink Elephant UK company played a significant role in introducing Pink to the English speaking world.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Pink Elephant: The Start Through to the Early 90s
I’ve not been involved in Pink Elephant from the start but I’ve talked to people who were, and the story goes something like this ....
Sometime around 1980 at the University of Delft in the Netherlands, three students started a part-time business where they got themselves - and some friends - placed on evening and weekend work within the computer mainframe environments of some of the larger organizations in the area. Organizations like IBM and DOW Chemical, as well as various Dutch goverment departments. It worked well. By the time their studies were finished they had a nice little business going. Two of them decided to stick with it - Michiel Westerman and Willem Middelburg. Over the next few years they grew Pink Elephant tremendously, and by the time they decided to sell their business, in the early 90s, they were very profitable and employed well over 1000 staff. The new owner of Pink Elephant was the Roccade Group (RCC), a large outsourcing company based in the Netherlands.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The Pink Elephant FAQ
The most frequent question I’m asked is “how did you come up with that name?” It’s not always the first question that crops up, but usually after all the business discussion is out of the way I can almost count the seconds! ”....... so how did you come up with a name like Pink Elephant?....”.
Well, stayed tuned and you’ll get to understand why the question is not so straightforward to answer .....