Monday, October 25, 2010
How To Develop Business Focused Education & Training Plans
Our series of interviews with “Real Professors” continues with an interview on a topic I am passionate about: people in IT. Professor Tony Gerth is Clinical Associate Professor, Operations and Decision Technologies at Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. Professor Gerth is a highly seasoned and well rounded IT expert with practitioner, consulting and academic experience. He is also past-Director of the university’s MBA Consulting Academy, which prepares MBA students to take on IT consulting roles after graduation. His areas of specialty include: information systems management; IT organizational effectiveness; enterprise resource planning; organization Change Management for business transformation; realizing value from business and technology transformation.
At the upcoming conference, Professor Gerth will present a session on How To Develop Business Focused Education & Training Plans. He will discuss the business skills and management competencies required of today’s IT professionals – it’s not just about having strong technical abilities! IT organizations need highly effective IT managers and leaders, project managers, internal consultants, change agents, and ITSM program directors. We asked Tony a few questions in advance to give you an insight into this topic:
Do you think IT neglects people issues, especially professional development? Are we any worse than other professions?
Skills such as effective listening, public speaking, high performing teamwork are recognized as being important to all professionals. I think that they are more important for IT professionals for two reasons. The first is that IT professionals tend to be more like engineers and therefore need a bit more tuning in the people area. But, more importantly, maximizing the value from IT requires that the IT professional can understand the business needs and communicate the value of the solutions.
I see a lot of “amateur” trainers in IT: people who are the trainer because of their subject matter expertise, but with no skill or training in how to teach adults. Do you see that?
Adult learners, professionals, learn more from doing than hearing. The instructor might be an expert in building project plans or service catalogs or designing SLAs but that isn’t enough. Attending the lecture or workshop is not enough for the student. There should be an opportunity for the student to apply the tool in their job and get feedback from the instructor. What happens outside of the classroom is what counts. Action learning is a key part of our executive education programs.
IT has a reputation for failed projects. I’m of the opinion that the primary cause is failure of cultural change. The users and operational staff weren’t on board, weren’t involved or consulted enough, weren’t really and truly taught, and didn’t get enough consultation, coaching and other follow-up after go-live. What can we do to get broader cultural change efforts than a token training course?
IT oriented projects need to be viewed as organization change projects. The business needs to be on board right away and provide the right amount of leadership and sufficient resources. Ultimately it is the business that determines whether the expected value from the project is realized. The IT function must provide the project management and coaching required to support the business. I think that getting strong business sponsorship for IT projects is critical as well as allocating sufficient budget for training and follow-up. This requires business leaders to be educated more about these issues as well as taking responsibility for the results. There is a dearth of executive/MBA level education focused on IT projects and how to realize their value through effective organization change.
We ITSM folk love frameworks. I’ve used SFIA and I’ve seen the European equivalent. I believe there are several emergent IT-skills frameworks in the USA. Do you have a preference?
IT folks definitely love frameworks because they appeal to our sense of structure and comprehensiveness! SFIA for example has 86 skills at 7 levels, which is a lot to get your arms around! I don’t have a favorite as these are just tools to provide a starting point. Each company needs to assess their unique needs and pick the skills that are important to them, not because they exist in a framework. The value of the frameworks is that they provide a launching point for doing that analysis.
There is much debate around the ITIL certification scheme. How important is certification as part of training?
I think professional certifications are very important. They set a standard for the domain’s body of knowledge. Certification is a credential accepted by the industry that the person understands that body of knowledge. It is a great foundation on which to build. You still learn from experience of course!
What are the most neglected skills for ITSM practitioners?
I don’t want to give too much of my talk away, but suffice it to say that two neglected areas are critical thinking and communication skills. IT professionals need to take complex problems and create solutions to the “real” problem, not always the one the user articulates. Then they need to be able to effectively communicate to the users the value of the solution. These skills could use some honing.
Don’t miss Tony Gerth on How To Develop Business Focused Education & Training Plans. What does it take to really succeed in these key IT roles in today’s very challenging business environments? Professor Gerth will tell you! If you’re serious about becoming a more successful and well rounded individual, or developing stronger, more effective work teams, don’t miss this valuable session about how to develop business focused education and training plans.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Skeptical Rule #2: If it works it will immediately be widely exploited for commercial gain
Now extend that argument to ITIL-out-of-the-box tools, user-self-provisioning request catalogues, auto-discovery, CMDB, SKMS…
(xkcd.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.)
Friday, October 15, 2010
A tale of two leaders
What a contrast between two IT leaders, two CIOs, that I have dealt with.
J is entirely convinced that improving IT Operations is a three-step procedure for each ITIL process:
1) copy something off the Web or taken from a previous employer
2) have a line manager edit it to fit the organisation
3) the CIO announces that this is how we work from this day forward.
Repeat for next process. “We did incident in a week”.
The job is made even harder by an organisation with a terrible attitude to staff and a program of massive infrastructure changes, many of which involve outsourcing.
H, on the other hand, wants a two-year plan to improve the service culture of his IT team.
To do this, he is focused on empowering and growing two key line managers who show willing but lack confidence and skills.
His biggest concern is how to measure the cultural improvement.
The approach (which hopefully I’m writing for him) is to run process improvement initiatives which all form part of a change plan and transform the attitudes and behaviours.
It is made much easier by an organisation-wide program of cultural change currently underway, which we can slot into.
J doesn’t need me any more. It’s mutual. I’m praying H will hire me.
It’s the people, stupid.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
You are already doing Service Management - Part II
As I stated in my previous blog entry:
ME – YOU ARE ALREADY DOING SERVICE MANAGEMENT.
YOU – HUH?
ME – You are working for an organization, the organization uses technology, the organization has many departments. It does not matter if you work in the private sector, public sector or for a not-for-profit organization. It does not matter if you are doing it internally or if you have outsourced it.
YOU – HUH?
ME: A rose is a rose is a rose; right? It does not matter if you work in the private sector, public sector or for a not-for-profit organization. Every organization has to manage the information it needs to operate and keep operating
Let us look at the activities of Continual Service Improvement (CSI). Of course, I am not covering the entire book. I am however, starting with covering the major activities of CSI, namely
• The 7-Step Improvement Process
• Service measurement
• Service reporting
• Return on Investment for CSI (ROI)
Believe me when I say that you are already doing the above. Let’s start with the 7-Step Improvement Process.
The activities are:
1. Identify what you should measure: Ask the business which information they require, need in order to make the best possible business decision possible.
2. Identify what you can measure: Make sure you have not only the tools to capture the information the fields in the databases for manual entries but that the personnel understand WHY this information is to be captured.
3. Gather the data: Your organization has many automated passive and active monitoring tools as well as a lot of people doing data entry in various databases in the form of incidents, problems, changes, plans, projects, etc.
4. Process the data: You organization has tools to compute various totals, percentages, tables, graphs, bar charts for many periods ranging from ‘real-time” to “annual” reporting and every period you need in between
5. Analyze the data: I could make a lot of jokes here, but in my career, I have seen too many people skip this step and jump directly to the next one, presenting the data. This is where people prove their worth to an organization by identifying trends, positive effects, issues, but often only report on negative aspects.
6. Present and use the data:
• Part A: Present the data: This is the report. Line managers present their reports to their managers. For each higher level of management, receiving a report from subordinates is actually part of their “gather the data” activity. This is repeated until the information reaches the required management level. A good report will contain, the facts, this results, positive and negative as well as recommendations for improvement where applicable along with justification and analysis of costs and impacts if the improvement is done or not
• Part B: Use the data: This is where the decision trickles down from the top. Before anyone can do any improvements, authorization to proceed must be granted by the appropriate authorities (business and management). Can you say Change Management? Can you say Project management?
7. Implement corrective action: Now that you have the authorization to improve something; do it.
Service measurement and service reporting:
What’s the difference with the reporting you already do? Simple, you are likely to be reporting in bits, bytes, MIPS, gigabytes, and CPU cycles, uptime and downtime. This is all nice and it is required. However, this is not the complete picture. Your report should go further by translating the above information into some of the following:
• Uptime and cost of keeping the service up and running including measures implemented at ensuring things don’t fail or making failures transparent to the customer. Can you say “pro-active activities?”
• Downtime and the cost of repairing and correcting the issues
• Productivity improvements and losses
• In short, report in terms the business understands and wants to know about. However, remember to ask them which information they require (see step 1 of the 7-step process – Identify what you should measure)
Prove your worth and that of your initiatives. You need to identify where the money goes and if the time and money spent on improvement initiatives are worth it. Please remember that the ROI can be expressed not only in terms of money but in intangible terms as well such as perception, customer satisfaction, ease of use, responsiveness, etc.
Identify who does the above in your organization. Hint: everyone should be doing the above.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Protecting your IP when speaking
Sometimes I’m left to wonder if a speaker even intended to leave me something useful to take away. You’d almost think a few speakers were deliberately obfuscating. With that in mind I prepared these special instructions just for them:
When you speak at a conference it is most important to make sure your presentation looks most informative whilst giving away as little of your intellectual property as possible.
The main principle here is to keep the “key” - the essential concept that unlocks your profound-looking bullet points and makes them comprehensible. You only deliver the “key” verbally.
So those who attend your session will see a slide that says:
- Half consultants
- Third tools
- Sixth training
The speaker notes say
“According to Bruton in 2004, the typical breakdown was:”
When you present this slide you will say
“According to one survey, the typical breakdown of external costs was… “
Anyone else reading that Powerpoint months later will puzzle over the slide and derive little value from it. So too will most of the attendees. Given the rule of thumb that folk only recall a quarter of what you say, 75% of those who were actually there will be equally stumped.
This is MS-Powerpoint’s greatest contribution to the world - rendering your content sufficiently incomprehensible after the event so that your IP remains safely locked away.
If you provide a session paper instead of bulleted slides as the takeaway then protecting your ideas is very hard indeed. They will slip out whatever you do. The next thing you know people are contacting you wanting more information and/or they are passing the paper around their personal networks. If you want to clutch your precious concepts tightly to yourself, that won’t do at all.
And if your not like that, if you really do want to share ideas with your audience, please take the time to think about how your Powerpoint reads to someone who hasn’t attended your session. And how it reads for most mortals a few months after they attended your session. Read it with the fresh eyes of one not yet enlightened by your knowledge. At a minimum provide decent speaker notes in the PPT. Better still, write an accompanying white paper. Pink Elephant have a long tradition of sharing IP - to see that just read their other blogs more sensible than this one. If you are speaking at the upcoming conference, don’t let that tradition down. Oooh, I just made a rod for my own back!
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Here is another in our series of posts by the Real Professors of the 15th Annual IT Management Conference, where we welcome Dr. Howard Gitlow, PH.D., Executive Director, Institute for the Study of Quality in Manufacturing and Service and Professor, School Of Business Administration, University Of Miami. Professor Gitlow’s areas of specialization are the management theories of Quality Science and statistical quality control. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and a member of the American Statistical Association. He has consulted on quality, productivity and related matters with many organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies.
As well as a session on Dashboards At The University Of Miami, Professor Gitlow is delivering a session on Six Sigma Management, which has been embraced by many respected CEOs and used by many highly successful organizations. This session will provide an overview of the theory, tools and methods of Six Sigma management – with special emphasis on the service organization model. Professor Gitlow explains the background for Six Sigma including definitions, success stories, ingredients for success, benefits and costs, recent developments and how to assess organizational readiness. He will also review the administrative systems of Six Sigma Management including policy management, daily management, and cross-functional management.
Six Sigma doesn’t get mentioned in the ITSM worlds as much as one might expect. It seems to me that only some of the more advanced ITSM practitioners make use of it. Perhaps one reason is because ITIL doesn’t make much reference to it. Even the CSI book, written by our friends at Pink, doesn’t exactly place it at centre stage, with two passing references in the whole book. The whole of ITIL is very introspective with little integration with any other frameworks, but Six Sigma should have a higher profile in ITIL. What are we missing out on when we don’t include Six Sigma in our ITSM activities? What’s the value statement?
Six Sigma is one of several forms of Quality Management, and all of them are valuable if used in the correct circumstance. All forms of Quality Management, including Six Sigma, promote the virtuous cycle of quality which is described below.
Improved Process Flows
Reduced Total Defects
Improved Communication (Provides A Common Language)
Reduced Cycle Times
Enhanced Knowledge (And Enhanced Ability To Manage That Knowledge)
Higher Levels Of Customer And Employee Satisfaction
Decreased Work-in Progress (WIP)
Improved Capacity And Output
Increased Quality And Reliability
Decreased Unit Costs
Increased Price Flexibility
Decreased Time To Market
Faster Delivery Time
Conversion Of Improvements Into Hard Currency
So, an organization that doesn’t use Six Sigma (or another form of Quality Management) will miss out on the virtuous cycle of quality.
Is Six Sigma too technical, too esoteric?
In my opinion, there is no doubt that Six Sigma has been designed and is taught in an overly technical and esoteric way. Normally, this should have stopped Six Sigma from becoming so popular, but I guess “its juice is worth the squeeze”.
We in the ITSM world want to use Six Sigma to improve IT operational processes. Is that what it is good for? How well is it suited to that?
The purpose of Six Sigma management is to rigorously and relentlessly reduce variation in all key processes of an organization to improve its bottom and top line. It is an excellent vehicle for process improvement through the reduction of unwanted variation in processes which usually create repetitive problems, and cause large amounts o9f uncompensated overtime.
Do I have to be a maths wiz to use Six Sigma? And doesn’t it require a lot of detailed measurement?
Six Sigma management can be practiced at several levels, ranging from a simple and non-mathematical application of the 5S method (keeping a neat and tidy workplace) to a full blown, and perhaps, mathematical application of the DMAIC model. The later type of application is extremely metric driven.
What do you see for the future of Six Sigma?
Six Sigma has been around for 25 years (since 1985) and it seems to be gaining in popularity. It is increasingly being taught in Schools of Business, especially in combination with Lean Manufacturing. Recently, Six Sigma has been criticized as inhibiting innovation. This is untrue in my opinion. First, Six Sigma has the innovation based DMADV model, and second, it can be used in concert with “skunk works.”
There you go. I have been reading up on Six Sigma and considering certification. Six Sigma provides a powerful tool for objective assessment of ITSM progress - we ITSM practitiners should pay it more attention than most of us do. Start at the conference - check out the sessions by Professor Gitlow.