Monday, 16 December 2013

Personal Mission Statement

I made fun in my last post about a "naughty" list for ITSM but please don't be deceived. I, and those around me that I care about very much have been deeply hurt about some of the developments in our "community"

So let me state very clearly my personal agenda.

I'm not an idealist, I like to think I'm a realist. Much of what we do in IT is driven by commercial imperatives. I have a very tough financial target to reach each year. Most of what you see of me here and on other social media  has to fit into the margins of managing an eight figure P+L account.

I was criticized recently for overvaluing the "real world" of practitioners over that of conferences and think tanks. Well I'm sorry, but that is reality. ITSM takes places at the coal face. Time spent in committees and conferences helps the community and I've spent my fair share of time doing it over the last 25 years, but it isn't where ITSM happens.

I also come from a very ethical, rational and let us by very honest a very British background. That actually means not that I'm hell bent on political and economic domination of world economies, after all we lost our empire long before I was born, but rather that I believe in democracy, community and valuing others.

In recent months I've been accused of xenophobia. That is incredibly hard to stomach when I've worked across different geographies most of my life and currently work for an Indian company managing a multinational team.

I also believe deeply in the sharing of IP, and have long been a supporter of the Creative Commons Licence. I also realise though that commerce depends on the protection of IP, especially when that IP was created as part of a commercial arrangement.

To put this in practical terms I think there is lots of IP in our industry that is twenty years old and deserves to be set free because retaining it doesn't benefit anyone. But don't for one moment forget the investment UK government made in developing ITIL and that ITIL is theirs's (and now AXELOS's) to do with whatever they want.

There are behaviours that I'm afraid are prevalent in any industry that are also found in IT and ITSM that I find abhorrent. Let me be very clear what they are, and that I will not tolerate them:
  • Censorship of opinions that differ from your own because they don't fit with your contingent agenda
  • Bullying of those perceived to be weaker than yourself.
  • Claiming to speak for the community, the great unwashed and  the disenfranchised when you don't 
  • Setting rules you can't and don't live by yourself
  • Spreading FUD in support of a personal agenda
  • The rewriting of history to suit yourself
This has always been, and always will be, an independent blog. Long may it remain so.

Naughty or Nice

So once again it is the time of year when I start to think about my ITSM predictions for the year ahead. Looking back I think I'm going to invoke the qualifying statement I made in 2012. Just because they haven't come true yet doesn't mean they aren't going to. I'm going to finish my ITSM year with a change of direction and instead of predictions I'm going to give you my  Naughty or Nice list. Those who are on the naughty list might want to look out for the ITSM Krampus paying them a visit

So, let me review last year's predictions.

I said that Service Integration was going to be big, and  it certainly has been and continues to be so . SI, SIAM, MSI call it what you will but it is turning out to be a significant element in pretty much all the major European outsourcing deals, especially those that cover multiple geographies and we are seeing increasing interest in North America. If you want to know more then Pink14 is probably the place to be early next year. There will be an MSI think tank reporting back on the topic, and I'll be speaking on the cultural lessons to be learned.  I suspect in 2014 we will see tool vendors talking about their  explicit support for SIAM.

Service Architecture is now set to be a fundamental building block to the future shape of ITIL with the Taking Service Forward initiative. The need to impose some form of architectural rigor on the ITSM world was a key point to come out of the initial workshops with AXELOS. It is also clearly a key requirement of any IT department that is going to survive and thrive in the coming storm that the end of the recession will bring....more on that later.

The same could be said for the non-ITIL version of Service Design and I continue to be disappointed that this isn't seen as a vital part of the ITSM toolbox. Meanwhile the issues around Shadow IT 2.0 appear to be manifesting themselves primarily in the security realm, with unknown quantities of data finding their way on to BYOD and non corporate Google Docs and Dropbox accounts.

I'm glad to see that Service Desk 2.0 is beginning to gain some traction and Aale's hard work promoting it is beginning to pay off as people realise that the current view of service desk, incident, request, and problem  is not fit for purpose.  The need for soft skills  has been highlighted by the selection of skills as one of the #ITSMBig4 topics by itSMF UK. Interestingly Andreas Kis's presentation on Business Relationship Management  has now had over 7000 hits on slide share and remains in high demand for international conferences.

The impact of the need for hard facts and hard choices is going to be a killer in the next eighteen months. I'm already seeing our major clients preparing for the end of the recession. At one level this is good news, especially since it is being recognized that all aspects of IT have been suffering from unsustainable levels of under investment.  The bad news is that IT isn't going to have a free ride as we come out of recession. The need to support a return to strategy driven by mergers, acquisitions and divestitures is going to put a lot of pressure on IT departments, and rightly or wrongly, they will be in the firing line if IT gets in the way of that strategy.

Is ITIL up for the challenge or is it still "so 2011" Well as it stands I don't think it is, but I've been encouraged by much, though not all, that AXELOS  have managed to do so far and what they have planned. I'm particularly happy with the way they have reached out to the international ITSM community. My concern is that they need to be more agile than the customer base for ITIL whilst not raising questions about organisations existing investment in ITIL. They have a tough challenge ahead of them and the jury is definitely still out. I'll say more about this in the New Year

What about my prediction of a new kind of ITSM event? Well it looks like my 2012 prediction was closer to the mark, with the established events taking a hard look at how they could be improved. My takeaway from all those I was directly or indirectly involved in is that the organisers are all making a real effort to respond to the needs of the community and thriving in world where the new SocMed is face to face contact. Charlie Araujo deserves a special call out for sticking his neck out with the RevNet idea at Fusion that led to SMCongress even if I stand by my apparently heretical stance that SM Congress has to prove its value before being hailed as a success.

Obviously the same old same old prediction came true. That is how it should be. I think I've been proven right about the decline of ITSM blogs as well.

If I got anything wrong then clearly it is that the ITSM world still hasn't woken up to the need to address the scarily complex parts of ITIL and ITSM, like cost and capacity, that can't be solved by sound bite solutions.

Looking forward to next year my predictions, which should come as no surprise given the above, are:
  • SIAM and MSI will reach the tripping point where they are a significant aspect of any major outsourcing deal and ITSM solutions will be judged by their ability to support SIAM
  • The ITSM world will increasingly reach out to other allied disciplines, such as architecture, devops, and auditors rather than trying to re-invent the real. This won't be out of choice but because it will be the only route to survival.
  • Business strategy, and therefore IT strategy, will be dominated by MA & D
And now, my naughty or nice list.

The Nice List

Sadly one of our number that Father Xmas won't be visiting this year is Ashley Hanna who died recently. I don't claim to have known him as well as many. My main contact with him was in BSI/ISO committee meetings. Anyone who has been involved in those will know that they could try the patience of a saint. Ashley was always the first to volunteer for such mind numbing tasks as reviewing a draft of the standard for the umpteenth time, or mapping exhibit A against exhibit B. He was a deserving winner of an itSMF Paul Rappaport award and will be much missed.

I'm glad to say that Stuart Rance, the most recent recipient of that award, and an erstwhile colleague of Ashley's, is very much still with us, and remains one of the nicest people in the industry. 

I've already mentioned Charles Araujo for his bravery in setting up RevNet but he earns his mention here for the way he managed the aftermath of the SM Congress "debate" on SocMed. 

Actually I think 2013 was a year when itSMF chapters around the world stepped up to the mark and improved their game by listening to their members and encouraging new voices in ITSM. 

And whilst I'm still in the skeptical camp I think everyone at AXELOS deserves a special mention. I don't think many people realise how small the team there is.

Finally I'm going to mention Sophie Danby because in 2013 she has done so much to reach out and support individuals in our community and has made so many events truly social. 

So boys and girls, as an expectant hush falls over the auditorium and we come to my naughty list let me remind you there is still time to mend the error of your ways.

And now we have to leave the ITSM Naughty List Awards  for a repeat of Gogglebox*.

*Oh deary me, I seem to have mad a UK centric cultural reference, that must be clear evidence of my inherent xenophobia.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Code Complete

Browsing over my bookcase the other day, in search of books that could be replaced with a Kindle version to free up much needed physical space I came across my old copy of Code Complete.

I've been flicking through it with more than idle curiosity since I've recently been playing around in Python before taking the plunge and buying a Raspberry Pi to support a domestic dark budget project.
This is the book I wish I'd had at the start of my IT career when I constantly felt I was reinventing the wheel. It offers the sort of guidance that is useful in the real world. Clearly the content is driven by the sorts of things people did  back then, such as  "debugging by superstition". Obviously no one would fall in to that trap these days. 

The more I reread the book the more I remembered embarrassing coding errors from my past, but also how valuable those experiences have in shaping my current world view. It is vital in the ITSM world that we promote and value the service desk, but it is also incumbent on us  to remember that the rest of IT is also important, and has their own best practice, their own cultural values, and their own ways of messing things up.

It also reminded me that in our headlong rush to embrace new frameworks we too often forget that  IT is not a new industry and surprisingly few of the issues and challenges we face are genuinely novel, or require completely new ways of working. More often than we admit our "new" ways of working are anything but new. Instead they are either the re-invention of preexisting good practice or the repetition of an approach that didn't work the last time somebody tried it and probably won't work this time around.

This was brought home to me during the recent twitter chat on the #ITSMbig4 driven by @itSMFUK. One of the key topics identified  is "Back to Basics - revisiting the basics for today's rapidly changing, multi-service provider IT environments" 

The twitter chat that followed the announcement of this topic was quite interesting. There is a recognition that this isn't about repeating the material that belongs on ITIL 101 training courses. Rather it is about reminding people of why we do ITSM,  about helping people do the basics well, which they know they struggle with, and not focusing on esoteric aspects of ITSM when users still can't work on their first day in the job because their IT access hasn't been enabled.

I look forward to seeing where this goes over the next year.

Meanwhile for those still wondering about the relevance of a ten year old book on coding best practice I'll point you in the direction of the author's more recent book on Rapid Development which is now taking up much deserved space on my Kindle.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Little Less #SMCongress, A Little More Action Please.

You might have missed the fun and games around #SMCongress. Rob has summed up the skeptical perspective on it rather well  and I've already had my chance to quiz some of those who were in the room on a  podcast.

So I wasn't planning to make any specific posts on it.

After all being specific seems to be the one thing SM Congress isn't about. Yet.

Now before we go any further let me declare an interest. I had a an invite to attend Fusion as a member of the itSMF USA RevNet sessions that produced the concept of SM Congress. I know my thinking is usually aligned with most of the people who were there and that there isn't much that came out of it that I would probably have disagreed with - apart from ditching the hideous Universal Declaration of Digital Rights, which is a fail on so many counts.

The reason I couldn't take up the invite to attend was because I was busy  in the real world that pays the bills and keeps the lights on. That real world is a very interesting place at the moment as organisations ready themselves to come out of recession. Many aspects of received ITSM wisdom will I'm sure be reevaluated  as a result. The shift to align ITSM with the Agile manifesto, as SM Congress suggests, will be an interesting challenge. It is one we have long ago come to terms with in TCS, which is why my SIAM team is part of the same practice as our Agile team.

But it is a real world challenge, and needs critical thinking, careful presentation and new tools if it is to be successful. You don't just bolt on agile thinking to existing models and mindsets.

If there really is a brave new world then it has to be packaged and sold to multiple stakeholders with hard facts concrete solutions and practical help. Above all else it has to be aligned with their pre-existing objectives and agendas. That doesn't mean sustain the status quo for the sake of it but it does mean the solution has to fit the problem, not the other way around.

The constant retweeting of self congratulatory messages about how, with 170 on line signatories, this is the biggest thing ever in ITSM is a self destructive behaviour on so many levels that opens the whole movement up to ridicule unless matched by actions. Lets put this into perspective. there are over 2 million  people with ITIL qualifications. The Back2ITSM Facebook group has over 700. Most of the attendees at the RevNet workshop have over a 1000 twitter followers each.

Most worrying for me about this kind of messaging is the underlying sub-text that there is some kind of competition, and that somewhere out there is an opposition that needs to be revolted against. I have enough respect for the majority of people who were in the room to think that they are neither so naive as to think there really is such an enemy, nor so politically manipulative as to want to create one. However the history of revolutions is not a happy one and I highly recommend a little light reading  Another cautionary tale about power politics from an Irish perspective can be found here .

There is a reality though that we probably do need to face up to. We like to talk about the ITSM community as if it is a homogeneous group. I've railed in the past about the perception of them and us divisions . It is silly though to expect that we will all align all the time. Different geographies, different scales of organisation, different specialists that fall under the ITSM banner and different levels of management all need to make ITSM work for them in specific ways within a more universal framework.

The ITSM SocMed world doesn't have to act as one, and we should not expect the entire ITSM SocMed world to share all the same cultural norms.  That requires respect for how those other cultures prefer to work and think and an understanding of their requirements. Much of the initial  noise around SM Congress can be traced to this, particularly given how passionate and committed members of the community are, and how independently minded some of them are.

If people didn't care they wouldn't care.

So what does SM Congress need to do?

Thankfully a lot of effort is going into sharing the message at other conferences, such as the itSMF UK and Estonia conferences and this needs to continue if it is to succeed.

In Europe there is very limited interest in conceptual models so if SM Congress is going to have any impact on this side of the Atlantic it needs a road map and to articulate the benefits for both organisations and individuals, as AXELOS is beginning to do.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to prove that this time things will be different and to highlight real successes that come out of the initiative.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A Flying Visit to ITSM 13

This year the TCS speaking slots at the itSMF UK conference were in the capable hands of my colleagues Martin Goble, Andrea Kis and Martin Neville so I thought my attendance would be overkill.

However at the last minute I decided to pop in, primarily to hear the latest updates from AXELOS update. Oh yes, and for the gala dinner.

Since it was a very quick visit my impressions are just that, and not an in depth analysis of the event.

First of all I think the move to Birmingham is a good idea. Those of us who attended the SDI conference back in June will know that Birmingham is a lively place and the ICC is right in the middle of things.

Also familiar to visitors earlier in the year would be the helpfulness and friendliness of staff at the venue which wasn't always the case in Hammersmith.

Personally I found the exhibition space a big improvement with much more space for mingling and chatting. Having said that none of the exhibitors I spoke to claimed to have been rushed off their feet with the number of visitors. I also noticed that a lot of visitors weren't making much effort to talk to their fellow delegates. This for me remains the big contrast between the itSMF conference and the other shows we attend.

A good number of people turned up for the AXELOS  update. Whilst they continue to make all the right noises in terms of intentions I'm afraid a lot of people are echoing Aale Roos' concern that the newly announced maturity assessment appears very old fashioned and cumbersome and very far from what we would consider current good practice.

It is tempting at this point to talk about how the SM Congress that arose out of Fusion 13 in Nashville was being talked about, but to be honest I think Rob England's post  from the other side of the world mirrors the general response. Incidentally we did an ITSM RoW podcast to discuss the SM Congress with Charles Araujo. Click on that link and you'll see we are moving the podcasts to become hangouts.

The only other part of the event I can comment on is the dinner, which was as enjoyable as ever with great company.

And that brings me to the absolute highlight for myself and several others which was that this year's Paul Rappaport Award for Outstanding Contribution to ITSM was awarded to Stuart Rance. I know from working with Stuart both on the Back2ITSM initiative and in the AXELOS workshops just how well deserved that award is.

Finally a big thank you to Ben Clacy and the itSMF team for making it all happen. As most of you will probably know Ben is moving on to a new challenge and I would just like to record how much I've appreciated the changes he has made to the itSMF during his tenure.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

JV Doing

When the ITIL joint venture was announced there is no doubt I was in the 'more sceptical than The Itskeptic' camp,  and somewhat cynical about the Capita charm offensive.

Perhaps I've fallen prey to that campaign myself,   but so far I've found  AXELOS very willing to engage in challenging debate, and to talk to those of us who from time to time have found ourselves outside the walls of  Castle  ITIL.

Which is how I found myself today at the first of their workshops to discuss the way forward.  At this point I have to say that I can't go into detail about what was discussed,  but I can give you some flavour of the event.

I guess some observers would say the attendees were the usual suspects,  and biased towards England and North  America,  although to be fair Barclay Rae was there as well to represent Scotland.

What was refreshing though was to hear so many of the ITIL 'Great and the Good'  speaking honestly about the constraints ITIL has worked under in the  past, and the mistakes we've made along the way.

This was balanced by a real desire to move forward and review ITIL from first principles. This can  only be a good thing.
Let me stress that this was only the first day of the first workshop.  Nothing is being rushed into,  but nothing is sacred,  and the views of other geographies and interest groups will be actively canvassed. 

But so far so good....

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Whose Problem is it Anyway

I'm sat at Euston station on a train to Coventry that is both late and having to absorb passengers from an earlier cancelled train.  The root cause is a damaged power cable and I understand that this is outside of St Richards control.

What is really really annoying me is that I can overhear the on train  crew discussing the situation. So do you think they are most worried about their passengers being inconvenienced and possibly having a massively reduced at seat service - or do you think they are moaning about how the disruption affects them,  how it is all the fault of "management" and how they can get away with just serving a cold service to make life easier for themselves?

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Fairy Story

Once upon a time a teacher was telling the children in her class a fairy story. Oddly the story begins the same way as this one, with those same magic words

"Once upon a time there was a lonely Princess living in a castle. Once she had been a much loved Princess, but her fairy godmother hadn't been to see her for many years, her mother had died. Her father, the King, really didn't have much time to spend with her. Her brother, the Prince, didn't have much time for her either, and mostly when they met they squabbled over words.

It is true she did have some friends, who lived in the forest, the fawns and the dwarfs, and she would go and visit them, and they would tell her how beautiful she was, and that she really was very useful to the kingdom.

Then one day the King announced he'd found a new wife, and she was coming to live in the castle, in fact he'd already given half the castle and all the kingdom to the new queen, the poor Princess's new stepmother.

Can you guess how the story ends, children?"

She waited. Sure enough two hands stuck up in the air. One belonged to the sweetest girl in her class, and the other to the noisiest boy you could ever imagine. Because she was a good and caring teacher, and wanted everyone to have their say she really really wanted to let the boy go first, but the because she was also a really really nice person she decided to ask the girl first

"Please Miss, was the new step-mother really the fairy godmother, and did they all live happily together ever after and did all the fawns and all the dwarfs come and live in the castle and wait on them hand and foot, because she was beautiful, but she still remembered they were her friends so she would spend lots of time playing with them still, and were they happy ever after, and was everything in the kingdom wonderful for ever and ever and ever?"

The teacher smiled and was about to say "Yes, yes that is just how it was" but then she remembered the noisy boy still had his hand in the air, and being a very very good teacher she knew she had to ask him what he thought happened next.

"Miss, Miss did the step-mother turn out to be really really evil? Did she make the Princess do all the chores and make do with old clothes? And did she make the King get off his throne so that she could sit on it? And did she send men out to round up all the fawns and dwarfs, even the right gobby midget, and make them work really really hard and not give them any hamburgers to eat or any time off at all, and did she make them do the really really really hard work like spellin and sums and stuff?  I bet she didn't want to marry the King anyway, I bet she really wanted to marry the Prince"

The teacher really didn't know what to say, because in her heart she knew that whilst the little girl had told her how the story really should end, she knew the little boy had told her how most fairy stories really do end, when they don't take out all the nasty bits.

That night when she got home, to her ordinary little house that was nothing at all like a castle she asked her partner what she should have said.

"Well I think you should have told them it was all very strange for the first few days, and then they settled down and became a typical family, that sometimes they were very happy, and sometimes they were very sad. Sometimes the step-mother did bad things she should have been sorry about, but wasn't, and sometimes the Princess was spiteful, because she could be. Then there were days when the sun shone, and everybody laughed."

The teacher smiled "But what about the dwarfs and fawns?"

"Oh, the boy was right about them, they still get dragged into the kitchens and made to do all the hard work, but the girl was right too, because they weren't unhappy, because they loved the Princess and only wanted what was best for her."

So there you have it.

Now what  do you think REALLY happened?

Now, close your eyes and wish really really hard.

It is pure coincidence that the Capita ITIL deal was announced today.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

ITSM Mojo: Restored!

I asked Darren Hampton to write about a first time visitor's experience of the Service Desk and IT Support Show. This is what he had to say:

I very nearly didn’t go. Sure, I read the leaflets and looked at the website but I dismissed it as just another show – grab a few leaflets and pens, avoid the gaze of suppliers and if accidental eye contact meant I had to chat, to play the trump card: “Sorry, I don’t have the budget this year”.

Then the unexpected happened: a Twitter conversation with James Finister and Barclay Rae about losing one’s ITSM mojo, which was the subject of their recent podcastand I was prescribed an intensive two day course of ITSM mojo restoration. Off to London after all!

I’ve not attended SITS before so I didn’t know what to expect entirely. I was surprised that most delegates seemed to be experienced practitioners; it would have been good to see evidence of our future replacements taking an early interest and adding some youthful enthusiasm. I can’t thank James Finister and Andrea Kis enough for taking me under their wing and introducing me to so many people over the two days, and it’s highlighted that I’ve not got the best out of shows in the past. It turns out that many of the suppliers I’ve been avoiding are also incredibly passionate about doing ITSM properly, and they’re more than happy to talk ITSM for the sake of it (and a gentle mention of how their product will help, of course). If you’re not spending your downtime between seminars talking to people, you’re missing the biggest benefit of the show.

The seminars are really the reason a lot of people attend and I was no exception to the rule. My first step was to plan my days around the seminars I wanted to see and as always there’s one slot where you need to be in three places at once. There was a booking system for the seminars... but the sessions sold out within minutes of the show opening each day. It was a real shame that so many delegates had to hang around outside a couple of the theaters listening for snippets. Great talk, but I wish I could have seen the slides. Also, a top tip: Remember to schedule some time for lunch.

Highlights for me had to be Barclay Rae’s ITSM Goodness talk, of the seven steps to achieve real success from ITSM efforts. Encouragingly, in my organisation we’re already investing in the right areas but Barclay’s words of advice not only validated our roadmap but helped me realise why we’re finding it a difficult journey.

Andrea Kis’ talk on business relationships being vital at all levels of the support structure was a wonderful thing to behold. My take-home message was that every contact with a user is a chance to build a relationship and it starts first and foremost, and most frequently, at the Service Desk. Make your users feel individually valued with the personal treatment and enjoy the increase in customer satisfaction. (She also referenced this comic strip  which, in its entirety, isn’t completely safe to view at work. It’s all true though.)

As an ITSM practitioner, was it worth it? Will I go again next year? Mojo restored? Definitely. I’ll be looking forward to catching up with friends and acquaintances I’ve made this year, and be hoping to make many more. Hopefully I’ll be able to give something back as well, by introducing someone new to a circle of enthusiastic, passionate and, above all, helpful people.

That Was THE Show That Was

I would love to talk about this year's Service Desk and IT Support Show that has just finished at London's Earls Court.

Actually I would love to be able to talk about anything, because after two days of intense, insightful non-stop discussion about all things ITSM I've completely lost my voice.

The other downside of such a packed two days is trying to package all my thoughts into a blog, but here goes anyway:

A major change this year was that Gartner have become the headline sponsors.This was one of several factors that seems to have led to a shift in the audience away from operational support staff and towards decision makers. There were a lot more suits wandering around than in previous years. The vendors at the exhibition certainly seemed to feel this was a positive change, and as Martin's blog highlights the vendors came away feeling very optimistic, The exhibition provides real ROI for the exhibitors compared to other shows where the exhibition is more of a side show to a conference.

Having said that the quality of the conference programme is constantly improving, so much so that this year even Kaimar was relatively happy with it, although that might be because he was one of the presenters. I know I wasn't alone in having to make hard decisions about which sessions to go to and it was particularly great to see so many international speakers, like Kaimar, Kathryn Howard and Daniel Billing.

Daniel Billing

We were joined for the pre-show preview podcast by Jeff Brooks from Gartner and his two key note sessions were excellent, though I wonder if some of the audience went away disappointed because he didn't spoon feed them simple answers - for the simple reason they don't exist. You can hear more of Jeff, and what he talked about, on episodes 55 and 56 of the podcasts that we recorded live from the show and which will be available soon.

Jeff Brooks
Jeff also chaired an entertaining and provocative panel session on "Who is murdering ITIL?" There was a long list of suspects to be considered, and I could probably have added a few more, but I think there was a general feeling that the current ITIL training has a lot to answer for. It raised a few issues that I think might deserve a blog post of their own.

Who Murdered ITIL? The Usual Suspects

A highlight for me was Andrea Kis's presentation on getting the Service Desk involved in Business Relationship Management and her message that every interaction with the business is important and that what happens in those micro-interactions is far more important than creating an ITIL based BRM "process". Andi also held her own in a debate with Jeff on the podcast that had the rest of us rolling on the floor.

Andi Kis ready to wow the crowds
For the third year running I found myself not having the time to do the exhibition justice and I didn't get to speak to many of the vendors I had on my "must see" list. In part that is because those that I did see I spent a long time with, having in depth conversations. As usual Ian Aitchison from LANdesk and Pat Bolger from Hornbill both stood out for their insights into the wider issues of ITSM.  As already mentioned the vendors went away feeling optimistic about the market, and many have picked up, as we have at TCS, that some customers are becoming much more pragmatic and outcome driven  in their approach and less fixated on ITIL and artificial maturity levels. Incidentally here is a tip for a few vendors: I head up the service management consultancy team in Europe for one of the major IT service providers - you might want to try actively seeking me out and engaging with me at these events.

Not for the first time at UK events it was disappointing that the twitter stream was dominated by the same old faces, yes, mine included, and vendors. I'm sure a lot of value from some of the presentations deserved to be echoed to a wider audience. Certainly if you have time I would recommend looking at some of the #SITS13 tweets.

Several people commented on what a difference social media has made to their experience of this event over the years and that was certainly true this year.  Tweets and facebook posts from last year's show along wtih the podcasts had certainly helped raise the profile of the event overseas and I lost count of the number of nationalities present at the #Back2ITSM dinner on the Tuesday night. Mind you most people there had lost the ability to count anything. by the end of the night. Both new and old visitors commented that being able to meet up with connections made via #SocMed and then being able to directly access their wider networks added real value to the experience and I'm sure a lot of people made many new connections. Incidentally Sophie Danby from Ovum deserves a special mention for organising the dinner and helping the networking process. Perhaps next year the dinner will become a more official event.

So that's it for another year, though I've found a willing volunteer to write another "First time visitor's perspective" piece which should be appearing soon. As always a massive thanks to everyone who made the event so worthwhile and enjoyable, and a special thank you to Gartner and Laura Venables for their support of the podcast posse.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring Cleaning

Sub zero temperatures, sleet and the return of British Summer Time. Yes, it is an English spring and time to think about a clear out, and to ask yourself:

 Do we really need all those consultants cluttering up the corridors?

Now obviously I think consultants are a good thing, after all consultancy is what I do for a living, at least in theory. And that, actually, is my point. A lot of consultants are employed doing work that isn't actually consultancy.

In my own case I have to point out the reason I don't spend my whole time doing consultancy is because relatively little of my time is billable to TCS clients, instead my focus is on building long-term relationships between TCS and our clients.

On the other hand there are those consultants who are primarily driven by what we in the trade call afterwork. Afterwork is where big consultancy firms make their figures. Afterwork is where they place under skilled junior staff to fill up every empty desk in your workspace. Now there are lots of consultants, especially those in large consultancy firms, quite happy to take your money and run. Equally there ae many who will question what they are getting out of the engagement.

The question you need to ask yourself is very simple:

What value am I getting from employing a consultant?

To answer that question you need to consider what the alternatives are. Could you take on an interim manager? Should you skill up your own team? Could you shift to a lower level of consultancy firm? Could you exploit the consultancy capability of your technology vendors? Alternatively are you under-exploiting the consultants you currently have on site, and gradually reducing their ability to influence where you are going?

My rule of thumb is that if a consultant has been on site every week for more than three months then you need to start asking some hard questions of yourself. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Them and us - again

Just over a year ago I wrote a blog about about how unhelpful and judgmental some of the perceived divisons in the ITSM world are.

Sadly as 2013 begins it seems that  it is once again open season on consultants and our contribution to the ITSM community.

Oddly I'm finding that most of this criticism is couched in language that sounds more  like consultancy speak than anything that I've heard from any consultants over the last year. As a result I must admit I'm finding it hard to understand what exactly it is we stand accused of, apart from not being practitioners not talking about things that practitioners perceive to be of immediate use to them, and generally dominating the conversation.

Whilst I do understand some of the frustration,  perhaps it is time for a bit of a reality check, or at least a more balanced point of view.

I'll admit I have limited time for "consultants" who fall into the category of instant expert., and that some of the criticism has them in mind. It might be the company I keep, or just that I avoid Linkedin discussions, but I don't see as many of them as I used to.The majority of consultants who have high profiles in the ITSM community aren't of that sort. Neither are they pure blood consultants who came straight in to a mainstream generalist management consultancy  before the ink was even dry on their MBA. The majority of the ones I know have all spent time at the coal face. Not only that but having become consultants doesn't mean they are no longer involved in real world ITSM. Moving from client to client and solving ITSM problem after ITSM problem they probably see more of the wider real world than the average practitioner. Trust me, not many ITSM consultants spend their days getting called in to have cosy chats about blue sky thinking with CxOs over tea and biscuits.

I have to come clean and admit that I did spend several hours this week doing the blue sky thinking, but it was with analysts, not CxOs, it was challenging in a good way rather than cosy and there certainly wasn't time to grab a garibaldi. Don't forget that I'm lucky enough to work for a company big enough to absorb the overhead of sessions like that; many consultants in smaller companies or running their own companies effectively have to do all their non-client specific thinking in their own time and at their own cost.

Meanwhile my teams were getting their hands dirty...... see, that's the other problem. I can't tell you what my team have been doing for two very important reasons. The first is client confidentiality and the second is protection of IP. Those limitations are very, very real. So there is a whole raft of stuff I could have shared with you over the last three years that I'm just not going to. Again this is even tougher for those in smaller companies where clients are more readily identifiable and IP is hard won.  In the early days of the itIMF, before the second I got substituted with ans S, I was amazed at how often people expected to get free advice from consultancy companies just because they had made the inquiry via the itIMF office rather than directly.

So since I can't talk about what my teams are doing, let's get back to the blue sky thinking.

I get the feeling people think that debates about whether a process is right or wrong is akin to debating how many angels can dance on a pin. And if at the moment you are at the bottom of a deep, deep hole with your budget slashed, your staff unhappy, your customer screaming  and a service desk tool  that isn't fit for purpose I can understand why you feel like that., and why some of the discussions might look more like a display of competing egos rather than anything of practical importance.

Be kind, rewind. As I said most of the consultants I engage with in public have a background as practitioners, but with the luxury, and it is a luxury, of being to step back a little to take in and analyse the big picture. We see people blindly following a process workflow just because it happens to be in a book, and not questioning if it is right for them, or even  if following it comes at a net cost. We see people implementing "silver bullet" solutions, and we see people looking for that sense of comfort that comes from doing what everybody else is doing, Above all else we see people doing these things and not even realising it is what they are doing.

And we see what happens as a result.

That is why we debate some of these things. We would love to tell you some of the specific experiences that have led us to think the way we do - but that would mean revealing things about past and present clients and that wouldn't be professional. If what we are saying seems to conflict with your own pet theory it might also be worth checking whether we've seen other people try and put that theory into practice.and seen what happened next. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

Peter Brookes posted an interesting quote today

"The wise do at the beginning what fools do at the end.":

I'm not accusing anyone of being fools, but sometimes people are saying things that aren't obviously important or useful to you today, but might come to be highly significant down the line. 

Do consultants dominate the ITSM SocMed channels too much? Almost certainly.We aren't paid to be shrinking violets and we are passionate about what we do. We do hate silences , so if there is a gap in the conversation ti is likely to be a consultant who rushes in to say the first thing on their mind.  That's probably why I don't get invited to so many parties these days. Equally though we are passionate about uncovering and encouraging new voices from the practitioner community. 

In fact I briefly considered writing a section about what ITSM consultants would like to see practitioners bring to the SocMed table, but I think that would be to misunderstand the community every bit as much as the blogs criticizing consultants. Instead I'll just say this:

Practitioners give what they available to give, just as consultants do. 
Remember, recognise and respect our differences and we'll all get along just fine.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Ten ITSM Articles that you haven't read

For the simple reason they are still in my drafts folder.

1.The Road to Hell : Why pundits who with the best of intentions dumb down advice and distort reality for those starting out in ITSM ultimately harm us all.

2. The Enemy Within : The danger from ITSM trolls in the community and in your organisation

3. Slafail: Brandon Lane discovers the pitfalls of SLAs as a silver bullet

4. Warm Bread Roles: How your customers really judge service and easy ways to impress them

5. A Passage to India : An insight into the culture of Indian based IT suppliers

6. ITIL Isn't Theoretical Enough : Why ITIL would benefit from an underlying set of precepts and application of the scientific method.

7. I Had a Dream : We are surrounded by non-IT paradigms for ITSM but prefer to try and re-invent the wheel

8. Mr CMDB Imperative: The night I met Glenn O'Donnell

9. Knowing Me Knowing You : The importance of constantly rediscovering your customer

10. The Only Way is Ethics  : Philosophy and ITSM