Cloud & Service Management blog
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I am writing this on a plane back to England from Madrid, at the end of a pretty hectic few weeks that involved speaking at five itSMF events in five different countries – from Finland to Spain. There has to be a good joke somewhere in a run of 5 events that started with the Finnish – but I’ll let you work that that one out for yourselves.
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Today we trust computers – literally and unconsciously with our very lives. I was reflecting on this level of trust when I got £50 of cash out from my local ATM and declined the offer of a receipt. Seems I now have total faith the computer systems will ‘get it right’. I’ve come a long way from keeping all my own cheque books to cross check against later bank statements.
Now, combining that faith with a little healthy British cynicism, and triggered by watching the Olympics tennis finals on TV, a mischievous but irresistible thought came to my mind.
It used to be that when a ball hit the ground near the line we relied on the human eye to say whether it was ‘in’ or ‘out’. That caused disagreements and discussion – and - in tennis often - sulking, swearing and the full range of petulant behaviour.
Nowadays that is all replaced by referencing the technology. When there is doubt – or one of the players questions a call - then we simply ask the computers. What we get then is a neat little picture representing the appropriate lines on the court and a blob showing where the ball had hit. So, problem solved: disappointment still for one player but, so it seems, total acceptance that the computer is right. After all it is an expensive system working away inside a very expensive box – must be right, mustn’t it. Or to put it another way ‘computer says in’, who would argue?
But what occurred to me is this. All we can actually see is some boxes around the court, and a stylised display with a blob on it. That could be delivered by one person with a tablet showing the court lines and them touching the screen where they think it landed. Very cheap and still solves all the arguments because – naturally – everyone trusts technology don’t they!
Now – of course, and before anyone calls their lawyers – I am not suggesting for the merest moment that there is the slightest possibility of such a thing happening. But it’s fun to think it might be possible. There is little public awareness of what accuracy the system – and here I presume it does really exist – works to. If you dig around on the web you can find out (the answer by the way for tennis is 3.6mm). You also find out there is some very minor grumbling and questioning going on. But that seem at geek level – in everyday use the audience stands instantly convinced.
So, thinking it through there are a couple of interesting consequences to real IT life:
I guess my big issue is to wonder how comfortable we are – as the deliverers of the technological solutions for our customers – and especially our users - to have such blind faith. Of course, people being the irrational things they undoubtedly are, that blind faith in the detail is often accompanied by a cynical disregard for overall competence – think faith in ATMs and on-line bank account figures with the apparent level of trust in the banking industry as a whole.
As a little codicil to the story, I registered with anew doctor yesterday – the nurse asked me questions, took blood pressure etc and loaded all the data she collected into a computer. The system was clearly ancient, with a display synthesising what you typically got on a DOS3.0 system. First thought: ‘OMG why are they using such old software, that can’t be good? Second thought: ‘They’ve obviously been using it for years, so they really understand it, have ironed out all the bugs and it does what they need. It ain’t broke so they aren’t fixing it’. But my instinctive reaction of suspicion of it for not being pretty was there and I had to consciously correct myself.
Would you as a service provider prefer more questioning of what you package up and present to your customers and users, or are you happy to have that faith? My own view is that the more blind faith they have in you, the more the retribution will hurt if things do go wrong. Or perhaps that’s just me being cynical again?
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Well, we are well into 2012 now and we have just about got though the ‘my predictions for 2012’ phase and in to ordinary routines again. Whatever the predictions, like with most years I predict that 2012 will look a lot like an older version of 2011.
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ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  itsmf service-management ivor itil 1,526 Visits
In every walk of life we see the components in things:
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I recently booked my travel for a business trip to the
If there is
anyone out there actually reading this stuff, and is in Vegas for Pulse, or at
the LIG is
But – not
unusually – I have distracted myself a little from where I thought I was going
when I started writing this. So … I booked some flights: from
Let me divert again a little bit and remind you – because you are all experts and know this stuff – about a basic knowledge management concept; the spectrum that runs data->information->knowledge->wisdom. At the beginning data is extensive but not too helpful. If it ever reaches wisdom it actually helps you survive and thrive.
But back to that
travel information I was getting. Remember I had booked a flight in late
February to the
I interpret it –this may be grossly unfair of me, but I am the customer and customer perception is what matters – like this: travel advice is being planned and delivered by someone who goes to the same desk in the same office everyday, and rarely puts foot on an airplane. Of course the real culprit behind this is ease of programming – data is cheap and plentiful, applying some basic ideas to turn that into information is quite fun, sounds good and means you can despatch all sorts of travel notice updates to people who will be travelling sometime in the future. But it is – sorry but it really is – just using data because you have it. Maybe they bill on the number of messages? Maybe they really think I want to know? The real consequence is that I delete these emails unread now – so if they were by some miracle to send me something useful, I would miss it altogether.
last year this system showed the kind of silo thinking that comes from not
knowing the customer’s environment – the kind you often see in service
management reporting. I spoke for itSMF
Now of course
I suppose if somebody were to ask me what I want notifications about, I would be happy to work with them, and set up delivering something that goes beyond information, starts delivering knowledge and gets me the wisdom I need to make the right decisions.
But if that is actually ever to happen then those of us receiving all this useless information need to realise it is – mostly – our fault. I could have responded offering to help them improve, I could proactively tell them what I need – I could offer some of my time as an investment in my own future knowledge and wisdom deliverables. But It is easier (and more fun?) to carp and whinge – so maybe my New Year’s resolution should have been around practising what I preach – doing what I talked about in my itSMF conference presentations last year – and to start being a good, committed constructive customer because it won’t get better otherwise.
OK – I’m off to find the ‘help us improve our service’ button on the web site. See you at Pulse?
 Best explanation of the step from knowledge to wisdom is one I stole from my daughter, Rosie and it goes ‘Knowledge tells you a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable; wisdom is knowing that but also knowing not to put it in a fruit salad’.
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People seem to like a thing to be right or wrong. Yet the older I get the more it seems to me that very few things are totally right, and that there is rarely only one right answer to real situations.
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I set out do this blog as a pretty shameless advert for my article in the latest issue of the itSMF International magazine. So let’s get that bit out of the way first – it is here – read it soon!
But actually thinking about the itSMF magazine leads naturally on to talk about the itSMF International publishing and the recent success stories – and success stories should be talked about, so I’ll do that now. It has been a while since the international publishing committee of itSMF (IPESC) faded out – but while IPESC may be dead, I felt its spirit, innovation and enthusiasm resurrected at our recent chapter publishing meeting. IPESC was always full of good intentions, but the difference now is the ability to take ideas forward to our itSMF’s own publications – and to produce good things.
The magazine is one of those things. It may not be exactly War and Peace – but it is the kind of things that professional service managers might read, enjoy and then look for the next issue coming out – exactly the positive reinforcement cycle we need to create a tipping point. Actually, the meeting itself was another great thing. So far as we can tell this was the most chapters ever represented at any kind of itSMF meeting – including all previous AGMs.
IBM – along with TSO – sponsored the meeting, and we also hosted it at the IBM Amsterdam office. That sponsorship gave me the right (and from my management’s perspective, the obligation) to a 10 minute agenda item to address the meeting. Now, those of you who know me will realise I don’t usually need the justification of an agenda item to talk. But, given the nature of my audience, I wondered what to talk about in that formal situation. The obligatory ‘IBM has something you might be interested in seeing’ bit was easy – a quick demo of our new G2G3 developed virtual simulators – plenty about those in other blogs on this site so go read them I won’t repeat it here.
My main message – and one I feel strong enough about that I want to repeat it here – was how important sponsorship like this is.
itSMF is (also rightly) proud of its ‘owned by the members’ and ‘not for profit’ nature – and so it shapes the community more than any other organisation – or more accurately it helps its members shape and develop that community. But being not for profit doesn’t stop there being bills. We all share in this service management community, and it seems to me both right and necessary that the key players in the industry take seriously the need to also be key supporters of that community.
For many sponsorship is seen as a way to
keep conference prices low, or just about advertising leverage. The sponsorship
of meetings like the publications gathering in
So what I spoke about in
itSMFI is producing important parts of our professional future, and there is the chance for all players in this community to support - big companies with big sponsorship through to individuals getting involved and active. So get on board - please.
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For most of last week I was attending and – I hope – contributing to itSMF’s international publishing meeting. This was held in
Now, first a little background, just in case there is anyone who does not know what the itSMF is. The letters stand for IT Service Management Forum – and that sums it up quite well: a place for those interested in ITSM to talk, learn, teach, compare and discuss. Part of that communication naturally involves publication – and our group focuses on that – from reviewing others’ books through translation and dissemination to encouraging authoring and publishing books. Crucial to its attitudes and success, itSMF is a non-profit organisation, owned by its members.
OK, as you may imagine it is – as well as serious working meeting – a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues of the ITSM global village. And the active ITSM community really is like a village, except that it spread across some 50 countries – we have all the relationships that you would expect: friends, enemies and lots in between.
All of us have our day jobs, many of us
working for cut-throat competitors but that all gets set aside and we settle
back into our ‘all in this together’ mode. One of things that I came back from
That makes the non-profit member owned organisations a lot like government – and like governments today we are strapped for cash. These are hard times and no-one has much in the way of spare money. But we still strive to fight against what would be a sensible approach for an organisation focused on shareholder value. We still need to deliver what the ‘right things’. From our publishing perspective it would be tempting to look only at safe books – rearranging established best practice into easier, shorter or simpler reads. Instead though, everyone at our meeting sees that we need a focus on innovation and stretching our industry.
Of course we need to be financially successful with enough of our projects, and we have work to do on building a firm base to take ourselves – and our industry – forwards. But I am proud that the books we have already managed to publish contain real industry innovations and new perspectives – both on service management as you would expect but also into wider topics such as organisational change.
So, I came back feeling the need to write down how much work people put in – for nothing – last week. I’m not claiming I did that much, but lots of work was put in, and even more commitments made to keep the momentum going and I felt that it was a few day’s work I was proud to have been a part of and an effort worth recording here. In some later blogs I might relate more about other aspects of the trip - like using budget airlines and the change in perspective of value that goes with that.
So – please go read about what we have already managed (6 books published, quarterly magazine, whitepaper competition etc.). You can find out about the books are – and read the magazines for free by going to http://www.itsmfi.org/content/publications. If that gets you interested in how you can get your ideas written up and out there then get in touch. My portfolio responsibility is ‘Authoring’, so I would love to hear from you. We are keen to find new authors, for whitepapers, books or articles – and happy to offer any level of support you might need – from final review through mentoring and even to co-authoring or ghost writing.
By my next blog, I will be back in successful company mode, but it is good to remember that the commercial companies also live in and benefit from the wider community. It is good to see that being recognised through sponsorship and support. IBM sponsored the meeting last year - this time we had support from TSO and BTC. massive thanks to those companies. With more support next year we should have more people and achieve even more.