Thursday, 17 May 2012

The 6 Deadly "I"s of IT Managers

Where ITSM experts are gathered together it is an unwritten rule that certain topics get mentioned on the pretext that they are analogous to ITSM. I won't list them all, but for example we devoted a large part of a recent recording of ITSMWPROW episode 41 to discussing whether a service catalogue is like a restaurant's menu, or more akin to its website.

Aviation safety is another one, whether it be the systems needed to keep track of different components over their lifetime, or the importance of checklists.

On British Radio there is a rather funny show that pokes fun at the aviation industry, called Cabin Pressure. On a recently repeated episode they listed the supposed "Six 'I's " of decision related pilot error. Now as far as I know the list is fictional*, but I still think it bears examination from an ITSM perspective

  1. Impatience
  2. Impulsiveness
  3. Invulnerability
  4. Insecurity
  5. Indecision
  6. "I know best"
*But my readers know better, see the comment from Ken below. Interestingly the FAA talk about Hazardous Attitudes whereas I believe the equivalent part of the UK's  pilot raining talks about "Error Proneness"


I'm always amazed how many times organisations ring me up saying they want an ITIL assessment and "Your consultant has to be able to start next week" Lets think this one through. You've been delivering sub standard ITSM for years (for such calls inevitably come from such organisations) but suddenly you must have a report next week? That sounds like part of a well thought out strategy. Not. And of course one any ITSM improvement initiative is underway these same organisations will expect instant results even though you've spent ages explaining to them that cultural change doesn't happen overnight. Because the impatient organinsation doesn't see those instant results they'll often change direction before an initiative  has had a chance to work. In this they resemble the impulsive organsiation.

It might tell you something about my own failings that whilst I tend to be quite dismissive of the impatient I have a certain sympathy with the impulsive. This is the manager who will pick up every new idea with the enthusiasm of a puppy chasing a ball, until they get distracted by something else new and shiny. The downside is that they don't provide the strong and constant messaging that the workforce need to feel that management is committed to a new way of working. A classic example was a CIO I knew who couldn't go to a project meeting without telling that project that they were his most important priority. An hour later he would be telling another project that they were his most important priority. He genuinely meant it, at least for as long as he was in the room with them.

Impatience I find annoying, impulsiveness I find amusing, but invulnerability I find frightening. One of the main reasons goes back to my early career in CIB investigating corrupt police officers, and then as an auditor with one eye always on the lookout for management fraud. A common theme was the manager who believed they were invulnerable to censure and could therefore do whatever they wanted, whether it was sexual harassment, financial fraud or just plain bullying. I'm afraid I've seen it in a lot of senior IT managers, especially those who have worked their whole career in one organisation and "know where the bodies are buried" and it definetly spills over into their view of the value, or not, of ITSM.

Organizationally I also come across entire IT departments who believe they will never be outsourced, and therefore never understand the reality of needing to change in anyway that is more than superficial. Sadly they don't realise how vulnerable they are until it is too late.

Perhaps this is sometimes the flipside of invulnerability. There are so many mangers, not just in IT, whose insecurity breeds paralyzing fear. They know what they should be doing but don't have the confidence to do it, even if they know what they are currently doing is obviously counterproductive. It also leads to...

I'm not sure about this one, but I do know...

I Know Best
This must surely be the most dangerous of them all. Linked inextricably to our old friend The Dunning-Kruger Effect.  I never fail to marval at the number of managers who are presiding over chaos and disaster who bring in an external advisor for no purpose, it seems, except to tell the expert they he/she is wrong and they are right. That's annoiying for the consultant, but how much worse it must be for those stuck in the crew of an Admiral Tyron.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Lure of Shiny New Toys

I like to think that, at least for someone working in the IT world, I am largely immune from shiny new toy syndrome. I just don't get that excited by technology, unless it is powered by steam and runs on rails - and no I don't mean ruby.

However, I have to admit that I've been watching developments in the Android smart phone world very closely of late, though the rumours that I was salivating before the Galaxy S3 launch are untrue. What is true is that I make fairly limited use of my personal phone, an ancient HTC Desire, for making phone calls, and a lot more use of it for note taking, mind mapping, internet browsing and games playing. Above and beyond anything else it is also the hub of my SocMed world.

So yes OK, you've got me bang to rights, this whole article is really my justification for upgrading to a new phone.

Seriously I believe we are beginning to see devices come on the market that add a new dimension to the supposed BYOD debate. Looking at the connectivity offered, in theory at least, by the S3 the question for ITSM practitioners becomes not  "How can we control, BYOD?" but:

"How can we exploit BYOD?"

Imagine a user whose main device is not working. Running  a Service Desk 2.0 like solution on a  BYOD device would enable the user to still report the incident using a mobile optimised browser version of the self service tool. They could even take a picture of the error message they are seeing on screen and append it to the incident record.

That incident record could also contain details of the physical location of the user that could be vital in identifying the best source of local support for them, and directing them to the user.

The mobile then becomes the best communication channel between support teams and the user, with an enormous amount of information being able to be pushed out to the user, including "how to" videos and updates specific to their location.

The user of browser based apps might in any case allow the user to make use of them on the phones as a workaround, at least for some critical elements of their workload. I've already worked in environments where the user's workspace follows them around seamlessly from device to device. Indeed none of this is new, the technical capability to do any of the things I've mentioned has been there for sometime, which begs the question:

What is needed to make it work in reality?

I think the answer is threefold. The first two are quite rational.

  1. A rethinking of how our processes need to be adopted and taking care to avoid pushing out unnecessary and irrelevant information to users 
  2. Building the processes  in a collaborative manner so they become business solutions not IT toys
The third is less rational and more psychological:

"Exploit everyone's underlying love of shiny new toys"