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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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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In every walk of life we see the components in things:
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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.
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I’ve done a few talks to camera recently – interviews at the itSMF Spain conference and a mock programme at the UK. The UK thought I was perfect for ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and I have to admit I fit the title’s parameters. I watched the people using modern video equipment and it did make me feel old. Nearly 40 years ago I was editor of the student TV society at University and I was recalling how many of us it took to deliver 30 minutes worth of black & white programme onto 2 inch wide reel-to-reel video tape. It seems all but unbelievable watching the kids now (the age I was then) record it in perfectly balanced colour on something the size of a small book – when our kit weighed more than the library. But the whole situation is another example of getting focused on the changes and missing what stays the same.
While the television technology has changed beyond recognition, the basics of interviewing haven’t. So hopefully I helped by trying to follow those basic rules for an interviewee – ignore the camera, keep talking, try to say something interesting. You can judge for yourself at http://www.best-management-practice.tv/best-management-practice-at-the-itsmf-uk-conference-2010. (Actually if you are sad enough to be interested in the earlier ITIL days, I shall be writing an article on that next year.)
So, this TV stuff is like most services these days – the technology bit keeps changing, using new ideas – basically becoming far more complex to understand whilst at the same time becoming ever easier to use. That means customer expectations keep increasing (you don’t find many people content with black & white TV any more) but at the real core, the prime deliverables remain the same. We might talk more and more about plasma vs LCD, 3D, surround sound, HD and all the rest; but the real satisfaction comes from watching people be clever, funny, informative etc in a way that holds our attention and entertains us.
And there is the heart of most of what I have been talking about at conferences for the past few years. It is easy to measure things like pixels and screen size and the number of channels and hours of programming available, but so much harder to measure what we actually want from a TV service.
Keeping that old television link, last week was the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder: a sad time for anyone of my age and background. So I found myself watching old clips of Lennon on a programme recalling his life. Now the man was clearly an extremist with impossible dreams – and I may well return to my belief that we need some extremists to make the majority move at all, but that’s another blog. One of his lines, though, did trigger the realisation that this need for real measurement isn’t a new idea. He was ranting about governments (as usual) and said “If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government etc., and the Russian, Chinese, what they are actually trying to do, you know, and what they think they're doing, I'd be very pleased to know what they think they're doing”. Now he followed that with “I think they're all insane!” which perhaps is more about presumed results than objective measurement, but nonetheless the basic concept is interesting.
We want to know what is at the heart of our and others’ behaviour but it is very difficult to express that. It is hard even to ask sometimes in a way that doesn’t sound as if you have failed to pick up the social or business norms; because often we just presume there is a reason and take the usual comfort in things ‘that have always been done like that’. Maybe it is just easier to hide behind the numbers and the detail of how you are doing things rather than making it all that clear what it is you are trying to do, why you are doing it or even who you think you are doing it for.
One last seasonal example maybe, since it is mid-December as I write this. Many of us will get back to work in January to be greeted by the question ‘Did you have a good Christmas?’ For those who did, you will know without recourse to precise measurements – it isn’t based on the number of presents you received, how many carols you sang or how much turkey you ate. Unless the biggest fun you have is skiing, it probably won’t have mattered that much if it snowed. But if you had a good Christmas then you will know – but my, isn’t it hard to set genuinely accurate measures beforehand?
And what can we learn from that, or at least set out to do better? Maybe if we are buying or delivering any kind of service we should at least try to be aware of – if not the ultimate – then at least a higher level goal. And don’t be surprised or disappointed if your expensive new TV might not affect the entertainment value, although it will help you see the ball better in the cricket, and that might be an important factor. And at work, a new finance package won’t make your profit margins higher – but it might tell you faster what they are, and perhaps that makes an important difference. Just be sure that’s important enough for what it is costing you, and that you know the knock-on effect onto the higher level measure.