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.