Tuesday, November 30, 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 Service Design. I will have to use multiple blog entries to cover this one. Of course, I am not covering the entire book. I am however, starting with covering the major activities of service design, namely
• Service Level Management
• Supplier Management
• Information Security Management
Believe me when I say that you are already doing the above. Let’s start with some obvious ones.
The activities are:
Agreements and reporting on agreements – from Service Level Management
Agreements with you customers: whether formal or informal every IT organization has agreements with their internal business customers. I am not saying they are bad or good. They are likely to center on technology such as systems, applications, response times, etc. This is common practice. The problem is your organization does not use an end-to-end service perspective and does not report from a customer point-of-view.
Agreements between IT groups: again whether formal or informal these agreements do exists and are often around escalation such as what to escalate, to whom and when. The difficulty here is getting the 2nd and 3rd level groups to start working on the escalated incident ticket and to provide regular feedback.
Agreements between IT and external vendors: there are many types of vendor; from suppliers to strategic alliances. Although there is a contract and it can’t be changed at this time and you were not involved in the negotiation and you feel the vendor got the better part of the deal does not matter. Make the best of it. Adopt good practices, then when the time comes around to renegotiate it might just be a better win-win scenario for all involved.
Speaking of agreements, there is likely to be a group of people who manage the relationship with the various third parties. They often have title like account managers, contract managers, vendor managers, etc. This is called supplier management. ITIL mentions a Supplier Contract Database (SCD) where the contracts are stored. The contracts might be electronically stored but quite often still they are printed and lie dormant in somebody’s filing cabinet. Those filing cabinets are part of the SCD.
Changing topics slightly, your organization must have some sort of security measures. Too often they center on firewalls, passwords, anti-virus and anti-spam software. But what about printers, and fax machines? People often leave confidential documents lying there for all to see. This is not good. What about leaving your workstation with your computer still logged on and various documents lying on your desk? Do you leave visitors roaming around your building? Can they connect to the internet using your wireless network?
What about cell phones? There is a lot of (very likely sensitive) information on these little devices. Many have cameras and can shoot videos. Are you letting strangers in with those devices? Are your shredding paper documents when you no longer need them? Are you destroying hard drive when they are no longer needed or found to be defective?
There is a lot to consider about information security. You need a very comprehensive policy document. Need help? Check out ISO/IEC 27000.
Identify who does the above in your organization. Identify where those documents are. Identify if the reporting is IT centric or from a business point of view.
Hint: everyone should have access to the above agreements and policies.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Things to do in and around Las Vegas #1
Introducing a series of posts with a different view on things to do in Las Vegas before, during or after the Pink Elephant IT Management Conference.
1) Visit Lake Mead and check the beach where Criss Angel “walked on water” for evidence of machinery and perspex. There ought to be public access to the site because there were lots of “accidental” bystanders.
You’ll need to figure out exactly where this is for yourself, sorry. We haven’t been able to confirm the spot.
View Lake Mead in a larger map
The credulous among you need to watch this
Criss Angel is a genius illusionist, one of the greatest ever. But magic doesn’t happen, except on bumper stickers on the back of battered old cars that look like magic never happens to them. Not even in Vegas.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I’ll be going green
I have decided my contribution to the upcoming Pink Elephant IT Management conference will be entirely green
My phone is an i-Mate PDA, which is a good example of extending the use of high-tech equipment. So long as the US border authorities don’t take it off me because either (a) they don’t recognise it or (b) they want it for the Smithsonian, then my only other concern will be lithium leaching into my pocket. Again.
On the other hand I have replaced the laptop I bought last year with a new one that has 8% less heavy metals and rare earths in it and uses 7% less power. The power savings alone will pay for it in 450 years. I sent the old one for recycling in southern China, after drilling the hard drive to ensure no third-world school children could have it. (Distributing free PCs disrupts the world economy causing unemployment amongst the poor - I read it somewhere).
Cotton is out. So too are petrochemical synthetics. I will be wearing an unbleached undyed hemp robe.
Due to concerns about phosphates I won’t be washing my clothes. Ever. Nor my hair. I’ll be tying my hair with a kudzu vine, which i will also use as a belt. Did you know that if all 400 million North Americans wore kudzu daily then this imported weed would be eliminated? So then you would have to grow it.
My shoes will be made from possum leather. Possums are an introduced pest in New Zealand (although protected in their native Australia). They are also widely available as road-kill so I will be recycling two. I hope to have the odour aspects of the tanning process resolved by February. [Note to self: ensure my tickets to the conference don’t route via Australia]
Since no power company in the USA will guarantee me that the power I consume is nuclear - the cleanest greenest power there is - I have had to settle for coal-sourced power. They tried to offer me wind-sourced power or solar-sourced but I wasn’t falling for that. The total eco-footprint of manufacturing solar cells or turbine blades, their limited useful lifetime, plus the impact of widely distributed installation and maintenance, means these are of course an eco-scourge.
I have also switched to a new hosting company, FriedServer, who use 10% less power for cooling their datacentre. Did you know that “According to figures from the ACM a 10% reduction in both server power and cooling in all datacentres in the USA would amount to a 0.04% change in total US energy consumption”. C’mon people! Let’s make a difference!
Time constraints mean I have to fly across the Pacific, but I am at least consoled that the flight produces much less pollution than a steamship. I will of course be riding from LA to Las Vegas by bicycle.
All my handouts will be printed in 6pt eco-friendly fonts, double sided, on linen paper, in special grey eco-ink.
They can’t be read sorry, but the earth comes first!
I will of course be using the same hotel towels every day until they stand up on their own. This will offset the carbon footprint of the hotel’s manufacture but possibly not also its air-conditioning. Anybody know?
And I always insist that my coffee is in a cardboard disposable container not foam. This makes me feel much better about the growing, harvesting, shipping, grinding and steam heating of the beans, even if I need two cups one-inside-the-other so as not to burn my hand.
Think about it, peeps! If we all do our bit in every little way, just imagine the difference we could make. Of course if only 5% of the most zealous and committed of us do anything, and everybody else concentrates on getting their family out of recession and building the world economy, then you only have to look at where the world has gone in the last hundred years to see where it will get to in the next hundred. I mean really!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Las Vegas dress code
Being a foreign chappie myself, I thought I’d offer some advice on the Las Vegas dress code for those who have not been there before, and especially for the overseas visitors who may not be as familiar with the Vegas culture.
Las Vegas Direct offers the following advice:
There is not a strict dress code for most of Las Vegas. However, if you follow a few simple rules you will never be out of place and probably receive better service…
Dressing for the Casino
During the day the rules for men and women are pretty much the same. Shorts or jeans, blouses, sport shirts with collars, and good taste T-shirts are all acceptable. Obviously, clothes should be neat and clean. The torn beat up look is definitely not in…
Dressing for the Nightclub
The nightclubs and lounges often have a dress code that they enforce. It is pretty embarrassing to wait in line to get in a club and then be turned away because you’re not dressed properly. People dress well at these places because they want to attract attention and of course be seen as attractive… [Of course]
Dressing for Just Walking Around
First, always dress to be comfortable when you are walking around. In the summer this means shorts. In the winter, this means jeans or other long pants. Keep in mind that Las Vegas is on the desert and it can get very hot and also very cold. Often it is hot during the day and cool or down-right cold at night So, if you are going to walk around at night, check with your hotel staff to see if a jacket is necessary. Be sure and wear comfortable walking shoes, places are further apart than you might expect.
Perhaps it is just my cynical and alien mind, but that reads to me like safety instructions for a toothpick. So let’s find something more practically useful.
The Vegas Hipster has the equally astonishing news that “it is usually hot in the summer time and temperate to cold in the winter” so we move on to Las Vegas Leisure Guide which has the slightly more useful advice that “Las Vegas receives less than 4 inches of rain all year. Rain is very unlikely during your visit.”
In desperation I offer the following dress rules for The Strip from personal observation:
- Give preference to synthetic textiles.
- It is acceptable to smother your clothes in rhinestones. (Also applies for women.)
- It is acceptable, nay preferable, for your hair to be rendered inert.
- Cosmetic surgery is only unacceptable if you are still undergoing it.
- No matter how cold the weather, don’t wear a hoodie unless you expect to be handing out business cards for escorts or strippers.
- So long as you dress in better taste than the buildings you are entering you should be OK. That puts about the same limits on you as entering a Star Wars bar scene.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Gonzo the undead
I was introduced to Gonzo recently. Gonzo is a server. A PC server, not a waiter. Gonzo runs Windows 2000 at some ancient patch level. Gonzo also runs an essential app from a vendor that still exists, but only overseas and they don’t support the app any more. The app doesn’t like any more recent version or patch level of Windows. No-one knows why. So Gonzo faithfully runs it every day. Don’t worry about Gonzo wearing out, because Gonzo is a zombie, one of the un-dead. Gonzo is a virtual server.
Gonzo isn’t the first zombie server I have met. They all have been un-nervingly dangerous. Not wildly swinging knives dangerous. Coiled venomous glittering killer eyes dangerous. I call them black-box bombs and I wrote about them before on my blog
It is the ancient application that nobody understands any more. The one that never seems to get funding for replacement but the users can’t live without it. heck it is too hard to replace. Nobody knows how it works. They don’t even exactly know what it does. The experts have died, the vendor went bust, the documentation is lost. There is no source code, no data model, no spec. It ran on its own server for years, as I say lurking in the corner. It was “black boxed”: everything it needed was moved onto the one server - op sys, database, batch processing - so there would be no version problems with upgrades. Nothing else was allowed on there in case it got upset.
Then the servers were all rationalised, consolidated, virtualised. The decrepit old machine vanished. Now the application runs in a virtual server: even more invisible, even more forgotten, even less understood.
From time to time it hiccups, has a tantrum, glitches. Someone calls the service desk. Nobody knows what to do except restart the virtual machine. Fingers are crossed, breaths held, then it comes back up and sinks into obscurity again. Until next time. Until the day it doesn’t restart. Every time it plays up, every time there is a crash of the parent virtualisation server, every time there is a DR test, every time the virtualisation software is upgraded… they are like pulling the trigger in Russian roulette. One day luck will run out. And there is no plan B.
Does your site have a black box bomb ticking?
One day Gonzo will crumble into a pile of dust, with just the outline of a grinning skull remaining. And he will take the life-force of his host applications with him to the afterworld. The apps will be dead too. With no recourse, no alternative, no recovery.
The zombies are amongst us. They are almost invisible, except to the zombie-masters tending them. Are they even on your continuity and availability plans? Are their replacements in the service pipeline? In many cases I bet the answer is “no”.
A methodological approach (such as ITIL V3) to service portfolio forces us to deal with Gonzo. We discover his presence, acknowledge it, understand the risks, and mitigate them. Usually we plan his replacement or the retirement of the service he provides.
Otherwise, one night (it’s always in the night and usually when you are on leave) he flies away and leaves the service in ruins.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
ConfBOK: Which Conference?
As part of our ConfBOK Conference Body of Knowledge, one high-level question to address right up front is which conference you should attend.
I say “conference” singular because the chances of getting to multiple conferences in a year are fading away for many in the current recessionary climate. (If you are one of those Pollyannas who think it’s all over, read this). Which makes it all the more important to get to the right one.
If you get to choose which conference, this advice is for you. Even if you don’t get to choose, don’t be afraid to put up a case to go elsewhere. All you need is to show greater value to your boss, or even - in rare cases - to the company.
- Range of content. Conferences are not just for confirming what you know, they are for picking up new ideas and monitoring where the bleeding edge is. So you always want to go to a few sessions outside your comfort zone. Pick a conference with lots of content to choose form, and a diversity of subjects. This conference scores big on both.
- Quality of content. Who are these people? Have you heard of any of them? Google a few. What proportion are vendors? I think 20%-40% suppliers is a good ratio. More than half is a bad sign. Not a show-stopper though: this Pink Elephant conference is about 50% Pinkers, but when a company sells intellectual property - i.e. expertise - as Pink do, then I’m prepared to be forgiving of this rule of thumb. When presenters sell software, I know for a fact the odds are lower - but not zero - that you are going to hear from a thought leader.
- Suppliers. Part of keeping your thumb on the pulse is seeing what the vendors are up to and what’s new. Yoiu want a good variety: some or all of the big traditional suppliers balanced by a selection of the pioneers and innovators. This conference scores again.
- Learning. In addition to sessions, look at the other learning opportunities. You can buy additional training before or after the conference, and there are a bunch of workshops included in the conference including one from me, Making IT Real, based on my satirical book Introduction to Real ITSM. Also don’t miss the sessions from “real professors” which are being featured on this very blog.
- Fun. Is it half a week of your life well spent? The Bellagio in Las Vegas. I rest my case.
Yup. You’re going to the right conference.
Exciting Opportunity For A Couple Of Senior IT Managers At The Conference!
I already posted on the President’s Blog about this. Sorry for the duplication of announcements - but this is exciting stuff!
Captain Mike Abrashoff wants to discuss ideas, experiences & tactics with a couple of our senior IT manager customers in the Day 2 opening keynote. If you’re up for sharing the spotlight with Capt. Mike then let us know ASAP. There’s only room for two people! You can read more details here.