Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Rising Wave Of Enterprise IT Certifications
Surf’s Up—Grab Your Board
It has been two weeks since our whirlwind Asian tour that took us to Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and I am still suffering from the last vestiges of jet lag.
While I am no stranger to life on the road, this particular trip gave me new and very important insights into the growing global markets blossoming in the regions of South East Asia and Greater China. In my last post I talked about a book called “The World is Flat” written by Thomas Friedman that explores the effect these growing economies are having on the global market. Much has already been said and written on how off shoring and international outsourcing opportunities are changing the labour market across the globe.
An area that has not received the same literary attention has been on the declining ability of IT professionals to differentiate themselves from their peers. We have traditionally done this by seeking out and stockpiling technical certifications to attach to our resumes. The principle being that the more Microsoft, Cisco, Novel, etc… certifications one obtained the better positioned we were for the good paying jobs. Yes, experience is the true test of our abilities but it was often the number of certifications that initially got us that first interview.
However, what happens when these certifications flood the market and now countless thousands of Asian IT professionals seek and gain these same certifications but offer their services at a much lower cost. The answer is that these certifications become commoditized in a flooded market.
This trend then puts pressure on individuals and organizations looking to differentiate their workforce and services to find new badges and certificates to obtain.
In my opinion this observation is one of the primary drivers behind the rising interest in education and certifications that are oriented at Enterprise IT Management practices rather than a pure technology focus. Examples of these types of certifications focus on enterprise IT roles such as: Service Management, Security Management, Project Management, Solutions Architecture and Information Risk Management.
While the need to differentiate oneself in a crowded market is indeed an effective driver, I see three primary contributors to this rising interest.
Three Drivers For Enterprise Certifications
- The evolution of the IT organization from technology to service management. The Service Organization
- The rising interest and adoption of general IT controls based on growing legislative and compliance requirements.
- The growing commoditization of technology focused certifications.
At Pink Elephant we have certainly seen this trend proven in the growth of our ITIL and COBIT education business and this is validated in the exam statistics provided by EXIN and ISEB. If you look at their statistics, interest and growth in ITIL certification more than doubled starting in 2005 from the previous yearly trends (coincidentally the same time period when these three drivers began to kick in).
Ask yourself if this is truly a coincidence or are there profound drivers at play here that are re-shaping the focus of our industry and personal IT careers. Just as a last piece of information consider that in 2005 more than 25% of the ITIL certifications globally were awarded in China.
Yes the world is flat after all!
Troy’s thoughts, what are yours?
”It’s a small world but I wouldn’t want to paint it” ~Stephen Wright
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The World Is Flat!
The World Is Flat After All
As some fellow Pinkers and I head off for an Asian tour to share knowledge about IT Service Management and ITIL I find myself reflecting on the power of a common definition of terms as a tool for communication and collaboration. Throughout history the power of the spoken and written word has been without a doubt one of the most important tools in developing a vibrant local and regional economy. However, due in part to the great diversity of languages spoken around the world and their geographical separation, these economies have been largely regionally contained.
Consider however what happens when the boundaries of your “Local Village” begin to expand or disappear due to the introduction of web based collaboration technologies, rapid transit and shipping capabilities that enable you to setup a call center anywhere in the world and have a product shipped to any location within the period of 5 business days.
The answer to this question is explored in a very interesting book called “The World Is Flat” written by Thomas Friedman.:
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century is a best-selling book by Thomas L. Friedman, analyzing the progress of globalization with an emphasis on the early 21st century.——- Friedman recounts a journey to Bangalore, India, when he realized globalization has changed core economic concepts. Due to this discovery, he suggests the world is “flat“ in the sense that globalization has leveled the competitive playing fields between industrial and emerging market countries. Wikipedia
In his book Friedman explores 10 flatteners, so to speak, that have created a leveled economic playing field. For more information on these 10 flatteners check on the link to Wikipedia I have posted above.
However, I would like to extend Thomas’ model with the additional consideration of common language or at least the adoption of a common definition of terms as an important enabler of this global economy. From an IT context this can be seen evidenced by the global adoption of accepted IT Management frameworks such as ITIL, COBIT, CMMI, etc. My belief is that the adoption of these best practice frameworks plays a critical role as an enabler to international communication and collaboration within organizations and providers alike.
One of the primary benefits of adopting an IT Management Framework such as ITIL has been the accepted use of a common vocabulary and lexicon. For example, consider your own work life experience in your local office or plant environment. How much time is spent in meetings, email trails or other forms of communication arguing about what is meant by a specific term such as “What is a change?” Now add to that conference calls and discussions with other regions, languages and cultures within your own company not to mention the inclusion of vendors and managed service providers and your head begins to hurt.
In short, significant time is wasted every day simply dealing with the challenge of basic communication that could be better spent on problem solving and getting things done.
This is where the power of standards comes in, Friedman addresses this several times in the context of his 10 flatteners and I would suggest that in this context the use of common definition of terms and IT business processes across companies, vendors, regions and continents goes a long way to facilitating the reality of an international collaboration.
Since I am obviously a big Douglas Adam’s fan I can’t help but throw in a reference to the “Babel Fish.” Of course for those of you readers that have never read the “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” this reference will not make any sense. So to provide some context before you think I have veered off on some strange tangent . The Babel Fish according to Douglas Adam’s fictional writings is this amazing fish that once stuck in your ear translates all foreign language into something you can understand.
“The Babel fish is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.” ~ Douglas Adams
Since we can’t put our hands on such a useful animal as the friendly Babel Fish the next best thing we have is the adoption of a common definition of terms using these accepted IT Management frameworks.
So next week when David and I are speaking with IT Management professionals from Bejing and Shanghai about IT Service Management and ITIL, one of the benefits we will be promoting is the sociological and economic benefits of adopting a common definition of IT Management terms.
Troy’s thoughts, what are yours?
“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~Robert McCloskey
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Our BIA Is MIA
One Hundred & One Uses For A Business Impact Assessment (BIA)
Based on the news we receive daily around natural disasters, state-wide wild fires, the ongoing interest in Homeland Security, and the growing risk of identity theft, the dependency and risk related to the IT element of our digital economy is driving an increasing focus on availability and disaster recovery.
This growing sense of awareness and urgency is requiring more and more companies (and rightly so) to conduct a comprehensive risk analysis around business continuity assessment with a major focus on IT services or at least technology dependencies.
Arguably, the place we start this journey of risk identification is the same place we start any improvement initiative. This journey begins with the first question of self reflection: Where are we now? To be followed of course with the subsequent questions (where do we want to be? How do we get there? and are we improving?) before completing the quality circle and starting over with our first question.
However, for the purposes of this article we will deal only with the first question in relation to an IT Service Lifecycle process that ITIL calls IT Service Continuity (ITSCM). In principle, one of the first activities of this process is to incorporate the input of a Business Impact Assessment from its parent business process called Business Continuity Management into a series of activities that right size an adequate level of IT Service Continuity response and capability in relationship to business risk and criticality.
Notice I said “In Principle” I make this distinction due to the fact that I find that a large majority of IT continuity planners have no BIA to work with. In short, the BIA is Missing In Action (MIA) and it is often up to the IT organization to approach the business unit leader to begin the process of establishing which IT services are considered vital to business survival and to struggle with trying to get consensus on the fact that not everything can be classified as business critical.
The ITIL V3 Glossary Defines a BIA as:
Business Impact Assessment: BIA is the Activity in Business Continuity Management that identifies Vital Business Functions and their dependencies. These dependencies may include suppliers, people, other business processes, IT services etc. BIA defines the recovery requirements for IT Services. These requirements include Recovery Time Objectives, Recovery Point Objectives and minimum Service Level Targets for each IT service.
The process an IT continuity manager establishing a BIA is the following typical dialogue:
- ITSCM Manager: Business unit leader, here is a list of the IT services we provide, can you please rank which business functions and corresponding IT services are business critical?
- Business Unit Manager: 90% of the services on this list are considered as having a high criticality and warrant a high level of continuity and disaster recovery services.
- ITSCM Manager: Are you sure that all of these services should be ranked as business critical? This will come with quite a price tag.
- Business Unit Manager: Yes I am sure, this is a vital business unit to corporate success, the list stands and, oh by the way, I need to elevate two more services I missed ITSCM Manager: Ok, considering that you have listed these services as business critical and that they have a fast recovery requirement and level stipulating the need for a dedicated hot recovery site these services will cost you $$$$$$$$$$.
- Business Unit Manager: Are you crazy, there’s no way I am paying that!
- ITSCM Manager: Ok, then what services should move down the list or can be removed from it entirely?
- Business Unit Manager: Well I suppose we can make these few adjustments.
- ITSCM Manager: Ok, let me come back with a revised adjustment of the projected costs next week.
Intermission while the actors cycle through the last 5 lines of our play multiple times until the cost is balanced with the level of risk (be patient this can often take months).
However, finally we will emerge from this dialogue with an agreed BIA from which ITSCM will build the disaster recovery capability it has been approved and funded for. For most companies this is where the use for this hard won information starts and stops.
But wait, there are so many more uses for this business intelligence that needs to be integrated into other service management lifecycle processes.
Here are a few to consider:
Incident Management & Problem Management: The BIA classification should be synchronized with key policies such as the prioritization model used for Incident support and root cause prioritization. For more information see the following post: The Practicality of Prioritization.
Change & Release Management: The BIA classification should synchronize with the policies which determine the risk level of a change or the production readiness requirements of a release.
Service Catalog & Service Level Management: The details agreed to within the BIA should be published in the catalog and be signed off as attributes of the service level agreements.
Availability & Capacity Management: Service sizing, architectures and monitoring levels should be designed in accordance with the business criticality established within the BIA.
Service Portfolio, Demand & Financial Management: The planning, costing, budgeting and recovery for services as provisioned should be aligned with the level of IT service continuity required by the BIA.
The challenge we face as often discussed in this blog is that we operate in silos and that critical data is often not integrated into the other processes that require it.
No person, nor process is an island!
Additional discussion on risk can be found at the following link: A Risk by Any Other Name is Still a Risk
Troy’s thoughts, what are yours?
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.“ ~John Donne