Thursday, 26 April 2012

SDITS 12 - A New Beginning?

Some exhibitions and conferences just have a buzz about them.

Pink 11 for instance was a stand out event which is still sending ripples out through the ITSM community that are influencing people who weren't even there.

Last year's Service Desk and IT Support Show was getting there. This year's was definitely buzzing.

We've recorded tons of material for the podcasts, including an episode towards the end of the show that included an incredible mix of incredible people saying incredible things. I'll update the link as episodes become available but for now here is the review of day 1

I've said before on the podcast that I think this show is many things to many people, so my experience is only one take on it, but there seemed to be broad agreement that this year was very successful.

To be honest I found that for the second year running I failed to achieve a lot of my objectives. I didn't get to speak to half the vendors I wanted to, and the less said about the number of sessions I managed to attend the better. In fact I only just made my own session on Lean ITSM. Yes, my unsubtle hints last year must have paid off.  The reason I struggled to fit things in was the sheer volume of conversations I was having with other attendees and exhibitors. Incidentally it was great to meet so many people who read this blog and listen to the podcast, thanks to all of you who found the time to say Hi, and apologies to any one I didn't get round to meeting.

I was actually quite taken aback by the number of people who came to my session. Since I tend to take on the more esoteric subjects it isn't often I have people standing in the aisle to hear me.The message that IT is about delivering value to others and to do that you need a cultural shift is hardly new, but at this year's event there seemed to be a lot of people for whom that message was really hitting home and it was echoed in several sessions. Other hot topics included BYOD and the ever popular Service Catalogue

Sessions generally were really busy, the only disappointment for me was that the audiences in several of them seemed reticent to raise questions. I did feel the programme was a little more exciting than last year, but as ever at this event it was clear that many in the audience were looking for really useful ideas to take away, not just theory. Which is a nice link into the launch of the new Back2ITSM website. OK there isn't much there yet, but we got promises of help from some big names in the ITSM world, so watch this space.

It was interesting to observe tool vendor stands. I got the distinct impression that there were more in depth conversations taking place and that prospective customers had done their homework and had a really good idea of where they were intending to go with a new tool-set. Mobile and social seemed to be high on many wishlists.

Maff Rigby and James West have posted their views on the show which are well worth reading. James has some concerns about the overall impression it gave of how we are reacting to change - it is probably a good job Rob wasn't speaking. I understand where James is coming from, but it took his article to remind me why I gave this post the title I did.

I believe that we will look back on this show in the same way many in the industry look back on Pink11, as a landmark event where we, as an industry, realised, in a multitude of different ways, that we have to change how we work, how we support the business, how we support each other and how we educate and support our teams.

No, the show didn't provide all the answers, but the questions are now on the table in full view, the genies are out of the bottle, and the elephant has been asked to sit down and take tea with the vicar.

I'm going to end by returning to the subject of the podcasts, because as I said we finished the show with a humdinger of a recording. Clearly a lot of people were really energized by the show and hopefully that energy will keep us all going to the next big event on the UK calender, and no, I don't mean the Olympics or the Jubilee.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Think of a number between one to four.

100 years ago the Titanic sank.

When the Cameron film first came out I was cycling around County Cork, Titanic's last port of call. Very popular apparel were t-shirts with the slogan:

"The ship sank. get over it."

I was reminded of this today when one of my colleagues posted it on Facebook. It also reminded me of a capacity management class exercise we used to do on the ITIL v1 courses.

Imagine, and I know this will take some imagination, that the unsinkable SS Itil is sailing towards America wth the class of 20 people on board.  Remember this was a long time ago when ITIL hadn't conquered America. Unfortunately en route it runs into an iceberg and starts to sink.

Don't worry though. Those clever people who developed ITIL didn't make the same mistakes as the White Star line, and  there are four life boats, each able to carry 5 people, so enough for all 20 people in the class. More worrying though is that the boat is sinking quicker than expected and you've only got time to get to the first lifeboat you chose. Remember that number I asked you to think of at the start of the article. Oh come on it wasn't that long ago. That's the number of the lifeboat you are racing for.

OK, now unless there happen to be 20 of you gathered around the computer screen this is where you have to trust me.

Out of any random group of 20 people there is a very high probability that more than 5 will have chosen the number 3 lifeboat, so some of you will be in the water, or will go down with the ship. That means that even though SS Itil had sufficient capacity on paper it didn't in reality. On every single occasion we ran this exercise, and that is a lot of times, lifeboat number 3 was overloaded

This illustrates a very important point about capacity management. design a system to cope with an evenly distributed  average capacity and it will fail. Not "it might fail" but "it WILL fail" . Maths can prove the point*.

Why do so many people go for number 3?  That has less to do with maths and more to do with psychology. First of all people will tend to ignore  lifeboats 1 and 4 because they are the "obvious" choices.That leaves a choice between 2 and 3, Remember how I asked the question? " Think of a number between one to four." Without realizing  it people hear  "a number between 1,2,-,4" and fill in the missing gap in the sequence.

* Unless the underlying capacity requirement is absolutely even so the average= the maximum and the minimum

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How Time Flies

Unlike the prolific Stephen Mann I am dreadful at going considerable periods without blogging.  Some of you might have noticed that in fact my general socmed profile has been rather quiet of late, and indeed I would like to thank all of you who have messaged me to check that I was OK. Yes I am, but my attention has been elsewhere recently both professionally and personally. We introverts sometimes need our space to do our deep thinking in, and that is where I've been of late. I must ask my Finnish friends how their concept of hiljaisuus works on-line.

Of course I haven't been that quiet - I've still been churning out episodes of ITSMWPROW with the usual suspects, attending ISO committee meetings and doing BrightTalk webinars, and I'm in the middle of writing my presentation for SDITS in a couple of weeks time. The net result is the last month seems to have flown by.

Time is a curious concept. One of the challenges I find in ITSM is maintaining multiple perspectives on it. There are those things that are important from a day to day perspective and those things that can only be achieved over the long term. Often hard won progress can be lost imperceptibly as our attention wanders elsewhere. Many of us make the mistake of focusing too much on a single time frame. Often the choice of that time frame is very defensive "I'll do it tomorrow, or when I retire" or about trying to believe we are more in control than we really are "If I can just get to the end of my to-do list for today I'll be back on track". Very often our chosen time-frames don't correspond with those others around us are working to. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of metrics where we are often reporting on the least useful time periods for our customers. Two weeks into April do I really care what happened in March?

The mis-match can also be found in how we sell and (attempt to) deliver the benefits of ITSM initiatives, which is what led me to develop my road-map based approach to ensure alignment. It is more of an observation than a criticism that early versions of ITIL talked about operational service support and tactical service delivery, both of which were based around easily recognizable time-frames. Since ITIL v3 the focus on the service life-cycle is perhaps less tangible and more abstract to many readers.

A curious thing to examine is the careers of people in ITSM, especially those who at some point have made a name for themselves. Some seem to choose to endlessly repeat - in a good way - the same pattern but moving between organisations, others claim to "grow out" of ITSM and move on to the next great thing.

Sometimes it is good idea to sit down and examine where we are from multiple perspectives. Sometimes it is good to sit and think "What are going to leave behind us?" Sometimes we just need to ask "What next?"