Cloud & Service Management blog
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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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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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Over the recent Christmas break, I found myself at lunch with an Enterprise Architect and the conversation turned – as it does - to the future of the IT industry. we agreed on the topic of what IT jobs and attitudes should be over the next 10 years – others at the table disagreed with us – but that’s a topic for another blog another day.
Now I live in a Service Management space, and so clearly I know that everything – at least everything about creating and delivering IT services – is wholly contained within a complete picture of service management: because everything flows from the need for the service – in terms of value conceived, engineered and then delivered to the customer.
So, imagine my surprise when the enterprise architect (let’s call him Kevin J) came out with the phrase – introduced as though it were universally accepted knowledge – that everything is contained within the concept of enterprise architecture and all other things fit inside that. Well, you would think that one of us has to be wrong – but maybe not?
Seriously though, I do realise that each of us has a coloured view of the world. But even when you know you might be, if not actually biased, at least running along familiar tracks rather than striving for objectivity, it can still be a surprise when you run into what seems a different perspective.
Of course – in this instance it isn’t really a different perspective at all. Human Beings to tend to fit external matters into handy pigeon holes – and those pigeon holes are inside our own pigeon house – service for me, EA for Kevin.
Maybe we just need to get all these different perspectives in one room and get them to agree on which view is right? I suspect, however, that this has been tried – and failed. Because it isn’t conflicting theories we are dealing with here. Instead it is that familiar old chaos machine – people and perceptions. They are all right (and all wrong too of course, but this early in a new year let’s try and be optimistic).
Trying to look at the situation simplistically, it seems to me that we have had lots of good idea over the last 20 years or so that have been helpful – but we live in a complex interrelated world and each successful approach brings you to an edge or interface where you are dependent for further success on the neighbours. Human nature makes us jump to the conclusion that if the neighbours used my approach then they would do better. Maybe it’s true but maybe it’s not – maybe we have as much to learn from the neighbours as they have from us?
Let’s analogise that to real neighbourhoods. Is there anyone who doesn’t think things would be better if their neighbours behaved more like them and adopted their processes,and practices – especially things like where it is OK to park and when it is OK to be loud? But actually they have slightly different needs (maybe because of things we don’t have like kids and dogs or a job that requires shift working) and so they do need to do things differently. But still there is much to learn from each other; simple stuff like where did you get your fence fixed etc and more strategic stuff like comparing mortgage plans or discussing the best school options.
Within our IT/services/architecture kind of world we have the same chance to benefit from discussions with our neighbours. And just like with our domestic neighbours, the best way to get along and help each other is by accepting others’ perspectives as equally valid. It is good to see initiatives like devops starting to encourage this. My major familiarity over the past 20 years has been service management but I can see both lots to learn from our neighbours like EA and development and also lots we can help with too.
Have you spoke to your neighbours recently? And if so was it with a predisposition to teach or to learn?
 OK, I am joking a tiny bit here.
 That is a deliberate singular, not a typo!
 If you don’t know about devops – I mentioned it months back in this blog https://www-304.ibm.com/connections/blogs/59c1123b-0353-458e-a719-b002d84108d5/entry/devops_should_i_have_known_what_that_is1?lang=en_us
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ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  ivor itsmf devops service-management itil itsm ibm 3,559 Visits
A while back I wrote a blog just mentioning devops, and what a sensible idea it seemed – certainly the word ‘devops’ hit some bells and I got 3 times my normal hits in the first day. At the beginning of this year (2012 in case you got here late) I wrote a blog inspired by a discussion with a TOGAF fan; I felt we in parts of the IT world need to talk to our neighbours a lot more.
I was reminded of these by seeing several devops write-ups recently (separate articles in itSMF UK and US magazines in the same month). Both are encouraging and make the unavoidable point: what devops suggests as a matter of principle is clearly something to be supported like the proverbial apple pie. It is just so obvious, it has to be right - why would you not use the people who built and know a new piece of software (or anything else for that matter) to get it in place and working, and as first point of call should anything not work as expected?
Both articles argue that ITSM people should embrace the ideas rather than rush to defend their empires. Devops is not the only example, but it seems to me that what we might be faced with is set of approaches all driven from disparate firm foundations in our vast ocean of IT and services.
In fact the commonality between the approaches is massive, especially once you get past a temptation to overly rigorous application. It amazes me that the same IT people who would never dream of reading the instructions before using their new technology toys insist on applying every word of best practice.
If you want an example of how ITIL® overlaps the base devops concept look at section 6.7, page 236 of Stuart Rance’s Service Transition book in ITIL 2011.
The point I really wanted to make is that we need to get above the point of origin and see identification, creation delivery and operation of service as the real goal and the subject of some integrated guidance. Everything we have so far shows its origins.
I started my career helping organisations establish and improve services, I got sidetracked into IT and oft-times I miss that bigger image. I still find it hard to think only of IT aspects and solutions, but I find I am often talking with people – suppliers and customers – who are content to be restricted to IT aspects.
In the short term I think what we need is more selling of the neighbour’s ideas. I want to see devops being evangelised by someone from the ITSM community, and we need the converse too. Otherwise it can feel like the recommendations for apple pie are coming exclusively from the apple marketing board; doesn’t mean they are wrong but they can less than convincing, especially to a cynical audience or to one that has something they feel they must defend. Maybe I have stumbled onto my subject for next year’s conferences – anyone interested in inviting me?
 You call them methodologies, frameworks, revelations, best practices or whatever – I was searching for a generic term, if you have a better one let me know.
 In case you don't like what is there, I should point out the content of that section comes from the 2007 version, which was not written by Stuart. There is simple diagram here that makes the point, but it is Crown Copyright so I dare not use it here, so please o look if you are interested.
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I went to an itSMF
Now that kind of thing, apart from making me feel old (which is, admittedly, a fair enough feeling at my age) also made me look back and think on where we (the ITIL community) have come from and where we are now.
The first thing that occurs to me in thinking back to the early days of ITIL is that we now find ourselves in a place that none of us imagined we would. Don’t get me wrong, the original inventors and drivers of the ITIL idea were not short on confidence or vision, nor in seeing the benefits that documenting this aspect of best practice would bring. But I suspect that world domination of this industry sector by the word ‘ITIL’ was beyond even their best possible visions.
The key to the expansion of ITIL was that it quickly became about more than just the books. The ITIL advertising leaflets produced in the mid 90s coined the term ‘ITIL philosophy’ to represent this expanded
scope of ITIL. I suppose I should confess that I invented that phrase and also the diagram that went with it – a version from about 1997 is shown here. The accompanying words suggested that, even back then, less than 1% of ‘ITIL-related sales’ were about the actual ITIL books, and the rest were evolved services.
The fact that I couldn’t even hazard a guess at what that percentage might be today indicates a few, pretty self-evident truths:
Some other things have changed too.
Nowadays the maturity of the ITIL ideas means most players are focused on market share rather than growing the sector itself. That means more competition than there used to be. Nonetheless there are still lots of examples of that collaboration still easily found. Probably the best example is the ‘Back2ITSM’ facebook group – a place where free advice, constructive debate and openly shared thoughts are still the norm.
The itSMF was born in 1991, and played – probably – the major coordinating role is promoting the idea, importance and approaches of service management. Like ITIL, itSMF predates the term ‘service management’, having started as the ITIMF. Even here we have seen a lot more competition during the last third of its lifetime: both competition from other community organisations and also considerable internal competition. I hope itSMF will evolve form this to carry on delivering benefit to its members. I am a bit too frightened to work out what percentage of my time has been given to itSMF over the last 17 years – or at least frightened what my employers over that period might think. But that commitment does make me wish hard for its future health.
So, looking back should makes us appreciate where we are now – nostalgia can be deceptive for usually the past wasn’t better; because progress is exactly that – going forward and getting more. And wherever ITIL is now, IT Service management has come a wondrous way in the last 20 years. Global technology changes have made a difference to that journey; we’ve seen personal computing and the internet make all but unbelievable levels of change. We may well see Cloud do the same; personally I think cloud might do that by freeing us from some of the technical baggage and letting us see and address real service management issues, without the obfuscation of technology issues or the opportunity to hide behind them any more.
We’ve seen a move from books being the go-to source of wisdom when ITIL started to an amazing range of information sources. Nowadays your typical service management will expect their influences to come via social media, electronically delivered white papers and the like. Interestingly, in many cases, they would also expect them to come for free, and that throws a real challenge on the thought leadership business. If ITIL 4 ever happens I think it will be a radically different entity from versions1-3.
Where I want to see ITSM going is towards SM. IT is now so pervasive that it is everywhere, which to me means that ITSM cannot be a subsection of overall SM anymore because it logically applies to everything, since all services now depend on IT. Nevertheless, IT has treated SM well, and – after some effort –has taken it seriously. I hope those lessons will work their way into broader adoption and we will see an improved – and critically an integrated – approach to service management across enterprises because of that. I am driven to optimism in this (not my natural state you understand so it is noteworthy) by the fact that, alongside this blog, I am involved just in this same month in a webinar and an article for IBM’s SMIA series on the idea that IT is now spreading its ideas – and delivering its technology and specifically its evolved software solutions – to the broader enterprise needs.
I wonder what we will be saying in another 20 years looking back – maybe ITIL will survive another 20 years, maybe not, but I am certain service management will progress and improve.
 And the top two names I would put here are Pete Skinner and John Stewart – perhaps our least sung heroes, especially the late Mr Skinner – but pivotal all the same.
 I don’t plan to, and hope no-one else is tempted – there are far more constructive things for intelligent service management practitioners to progress knowledge about.
 And if you are interested (sad?) enough to be reading this then you should be part of that group if you aren’t already.
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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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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.
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No trouble spotting the biggest news in service management this week – with COBIT 5 available. I guess with both ITIL and COBIT having released new versions over the last 12 months, that should tell us something about the SM industry. Mostly, I think it tells us that as a concept and topic to take seriously, service management is not going away any time soon.
But I suspect we might reading more in the next few weeks of the ‘should I do ITIL or COBIT’ type of question. That’s a shame, because it is still not a sensible question. Both ITIL and COBIT are expanding their scope of course and that means more and more overlap, but I can’t – admittedly after quick glance through only –see where any real conflict.
Of course COBIT is still a product of ISACA and it builds upon a philosophy of control and governance. ITIL initially came from a team set up to advise on approach rather than massive detail and that still shows even in the 2011 version I think. And I do still believe any serious SM profession would have both on their (electronic) bookshelf, the way a good cook will have books by more than one cookery author on their kitchen bookshelf.
Analysing the content, requirements and fine print can come later – and will open us up to all sorts of interpretation and contextual adjustment. But some things hit you straight away. The core COBIT product is available for free and takes up 685k of pdf file. The core ITIL books cost around £300, weigh five kilos and/or take up 77.4MB of my hard drive inside a fancy secure Adobe reader to make sure I don't pass them on to anyone who hasn’t paid their £300. Now I know that there are lots more books around the COBIT 5 core than give you more detail – and ISACA charges for those - but still I must confess to liking the idea of free entry to the gig even if it doesn’t get you that near the stage.
Putting a positive spin on the size differential and the lack of real conflict, you can see that it shows how the two products can be seen as complementary: COBIT’s distillation of what should be done and structure with ITIL’s more wordy guidance.
And COBIT’s heritage shows through with several pages on maturity assessment – great stuff for the ‘give me a number’ crew.
But maybe the most encouraging thing is the differences that exist – the pretty clear realisation that frameworks aren’t competition but different perspectives. Everyone in this business is really concentrating on helping each other get better at delivering value to the customer. COBIT 5 will help so this is a good week.
Now all I need is a long flight somewhere to give me peace and quiet to read it carefully.
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