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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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.
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I am just back from a week working in
Although the shadow of the tsunami and very real loss to the community endures, the human spirit carries on and people still laugh and enjoy life. One of the pleasant surprises is how universal humour can be. It is also easy to forget how quickly people’s behaviour adapts and copies from those around them. You really only notice the extent to which you adapt when you get back home. For example it took me a while to stop bowing to people and also to stop smiling at people in the street, restaurants etc – or certainly to stop expecting them to smile back.
I also got used to things that I would
expect not to cope with easily. Specifically after the first day or so I was no
longer bothered by how much my room on the 16th floor shook when one
of the steady stream of aftershocks wobbled
But coping without things you have got used
to does happen – and it is clear there are some very direct lessons for service
That made me think of just how complex our everyday infrastructures have become, with so much more than electricity on our critical list. It perhaps should be a compulsory occasional exercise to think through just how many things we presume will be available – not just the obvious (utilities, access, people etc). I am sure we would all be surprised at some of the things we tacitly depend on – and equally sure there are good stories to be told about some of them – any offers?.
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I delivered an SM simulation for a client in the middle of a tropical paradise in
Well, like Frank, I was there to work, and work I did –another successful and fun game – I always enjoy how much the delegates enjoy the experience; we should all have more work that actually makes people happy.
We had a mix of
nationalities and cultures on the game – a real challenge but one that brings
its own extra flavours. I was thinking about those cultural variations on the drive
My driver was a very nice man – a pleasure to share a space with, just enough English to converse, comfortable with silence and caring enough to return from a rest stop with an unsolicited bottle of water for me; plus a cheerful insistence that I try local specialties that I might not have seen before So, all-in-all, clearly he is a man who wants me to be comfortable and survive the journey.
So, why did he frighten the living daylights out of me at irregular intervals on the way? Simply by behaving normally for his culture: using road verges to pass trucks at high speed on the wrong side, overtaking in the middle of road works, driving at high speed within inches of other vehicles. While this seemed reckless to my culture, it is everyday for Brasil. It made me realise that as well as the social variations, culture extends to acceptable risk – what would just result in a late arrival in western Europe is met with a calculated risk to get past the slow moving obstacles, a culture that values speed over safety perhaps? Or more likely just the inevitable reaction to the extreme traffic volumes and conditions there. I didn’t see it as a better nor a worse attitude, just a different one – and there being differences left in the world is something I, for one, feel is an unmitigatedly good thing.
many Brasilian taxi drivers before, so I was not surprised, but what did amaze
me was how quickly and unnoticed that culture got into my thinking and
unconscious actions. Back in the
So if we copy cultural elements so quickly after so short a visit – and that copying spills over into our next situation, do we do that with our customers too? Do we bring the needs of the previous customer we worked with to our next, even if it isn’t the right culture for them? Maybe this is just one more thing for us to watch out for in our business relationships?
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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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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 was teaching an ITIL course last week – with the managers’ bridge route to the ITIL expert about to close, there was a sudden need for a trainer and I got the chance to pick up a training gig in
For all its economic challenges it is good
But I had a great time work wise too, a rare opportunity to focus again on the ITIL material, a reminder of some parts I had all but forgotten – including some it seems I wrote myself. Most important though was the chance to talk with the others on the course, getting an insight again into how this stuff works in the real world – the delegates all being part of our managed service accounts and delivering real service management to real customers on a day-to-day basis.
I guess I need that reminder now and again:
writing, talking – even thinking – about things is good and important stuff,
but if we lose sight and touch with actually doing the things we talk about
then inevitably we will get that writing and thinking and planning wrong. I was
lucky enough to visit some real service management workers the week before
also. That was in
So - a couple of weeks of good lessons for me, and I hope for my students also. I had a good reminder of the need to keep real, to encourage reality above ideals. I learned not to presume how a place will be, nor to be too concerned if it looks a little different to begin with. Despite appearances, service management issues have more in common than you might think – across counties, cultures and industries – which gives us all a large community of colleagues to discuss matters with and to exchange ideas and conversation. I guess that is what we look to organisations like itSMF to facilitate in the widest sense: service management craic.
Anyway – I am looking forward to keeping in touch with service management reality – through talking to and working with people in real service management jobs, be that through training, conference discussion or more directly. We all need that good mix of ideas and practicality.
 Go ask an Irish friend if you don’t know the word: you will know the concept because good conversation and pleasure in good company is not an Irish preserve, although they are especially good at it – and one of the few to have coined a word for it.