Cloud & Service Management blog
ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  ibm itil itsmf ivor tivoli abc-of-ict service-management 989 Visits
ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  service ivor empowerment ibm service-management itsm tivoli itil 1,232 Visits
I recently had some first hand experience – from the receiving end – how much of an effect genuinely good customer service can have. The experience started in dismay but was recovered well beyond expectation.
Anyway, to start at the beginning ….
I had to go and ‘swear an affidavit’ –
which for those of you not into the jargon of jurisprudence means to formally
promise what you are saying on a form is true. In
Now, it started, I admit, with me failing in my responsibility to be a proactive customer. I did not think
through what I knew. County Courts in
So, I had a perfect example of a ‘Moment of Truth’; putting me instantly, and very extremely, ‘anti’ the staff and the processes. It seemed obviously the staff are required to leave common-sense at home and not bring it to work with them.
And thus, in a bad mood I reached the court officer with whom I was to sign and swear that my forms told the truth. She spots my mood, finds out why and explains that the rules are for protection and cannot be altered – causing no improvement in my mood. She then looks at my forms and points out that I have not brought all the right documents – and then throws in for good measure that my solicitor has supplied my with the wrong set of forms.
So … it is now clear to me that I have driven into town, paid for my car parking, lost my knife for the duration and all for nothing because my paperwork is wrong. But fear not – after this it gets better. I had been expecting a businesslike word or two of sympathy and if I allowed myself a glimmer of optimism then maybe even an explanation of what I needed to go back and fetch, so that it would work when I came back.
Instead the lady reacted very differently. She pointed out that the forms I have forgotten are copies of documents they already have lodged with them, and that they have blank forms of the right kind. She fetches the missing forms, lends me a pen and helps me understand what is needed on the right form, checks it through, makes corrections and then duly witnesses it and formally logs it in the system as sworn and correct. As she put it “Well the purpose is to get your stuff recorded, if I can make that happen then why wouldn’t I help?”
Of course she was perfectly right, her job is to help get these things done, and so thinking for herself and helping people get there is an obviously correct attitude. Isn’t that exactly how everyone in service delivery sees it?
Well, of course we all know that it isn’t – not yet! The sad aspect of this kind of story is how surprised we all are by them – that they are worthy or repeating because this quality of service is still unusual.’
The key aspect of this story – with its two different approaches to dealing with the customers - is how much good service experience depends on customer facing staff that are knowledgeable of the customer’s context and goals. But more than that even, the management trusted and empowered (at least some of) their staff to use common sense and do what was right – maybe even if it didn’t follow exact procedures.
Are the customer-facing staff in your organisation trusted and empowered? If not, is it because they can’t be trusted, or because they have been given the knowledge? Or is it just that no-one has ever thought it would be a good idea to trust and empower them? What happens in your organisation – do you get good service or do you a strict process delivered, whether or not it is appropriate?
Rebecca Swindell 270003U1MK REBECCA.SWINDELL@UK.IBM.COM Tags:  itsm ivor service-management swindell 1,444 Visits
Last week the IBM attended the UKI itSM Forum and what a great event it was! Some really thought provoking and motivating sessions, as well as some truly interesting conversations with our clients and prospects.
Below are a few of the highlights from the sessions attended - would be great to hear anyone else’s thoughts on what their key take-home messages were from the event.
Session 1 – Introduction by Barry Coreless – Chairman of the itSMF
Barry talked about how he sees the future of ITSM – the growing automated and ever more complex tool sets, and an ever increasing bewildering array of devices. The main take home message for me was that he believed that organisations that linked best practices and industry disciplines are the ones that will truly succeed.
Session 2 – Keynote from Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE
A fantastic motivational speech from Tanni – including memorial statements like “if you are going to spend time thinking... then think BIG!” She spoke about why it is important to think about how you can be the best you can be and how individual success if not always about the individuals themselves, but about the team they have around them. Tough times call for tough choices, she continued, and it is how you deal with these, improve and move on that is what will make you successful.
Session 3 – our own Ivor Macfarlane – Can IT people be Service Managers?
Ivor was introduced as a man whose middle name was “ITIL” and clearly his reputation preceded him, as we had a full house with over 60 of the 300 delegates in the room. Ivor spoke about how Service Managers generally have a low profile, and are orientated to achieving another person’s hopes and desires. He carried on the debate by saying that the best attribute a Service Manager can have is to be invisible! Continuing that if management don’t empower you as a Service Manager then your stuffed! A final take key message was then given, “Go to the board – change the change process!”
Session 4 – An interactive panel session hosted by Don Page
Some really interesting stats came up in this session to the questions asked to the delegate audience my favourite 3 below:
1. 1. Cloud Computing is here to stay – what effect will it have on ITSM?
Major – 43%, A bit – 36%, A little – 17%, No Opinion – 4%
2. 2. Your business now understands and is taking seriously the importance of ITSM as an essential business enabler?
Very Seriously – 12%, Lip Service – 42%, We don’t talk to them and they don’t take us seriously -20%, Don’t Know– 9%, Don’t Care – 17%
3. 3. Should organisations encourage Social Media to facilitate communication between IT and end users?
Actively encourage and support – 45%, Natural Course – 37%, No -13%, Don’t Know – 2%, No Opinion – 4%
Session 5 – Stephan Mann – Forrester Research - “Anyone questioning your value?”
One of my favourite sessions from the event, very interesting to hear an analysts point of view. He started by stating that Service Managers can’t deal with the value because we don’t understand the cost, there is little transparency IT costs and the value it brings. He continued saying that costs are continually being cut, whilst the demand for IT continues to grow. He told delegates to take an honest look at their ITSM capabilities and short comings, in context of what business needs, then link IT services to business outcomes. Final message for me was “Cost is important but value is more important... if we could demonstrate the value they would be encouraging us to spend more”.
Session 6 – Martin Neville – Flattening the Curve
In the last session of the day, Martin discussed what companies should be looking for from their tool providers, and that the best tool providers are proactive not reactive. He set out ground rules for both sides – be honest from the start, early efforts pay interest in the long term, perception is reality – stats do not lie, the time to innovate is at the start – not when things are looking desperate, short term contractual wrangling will damage the relationship long term and most importantly KEEP talking!
Nigel spoke about how vision is our most valuable asset and leadership is an act, rather than a position. We need to show up and engage! It needs to be a progressive improvement, baby steps are ok, and it needs to be realistic, achievable and practical – don’t aim for perfection, do something practical. His take home message for me really was for success, we have to acknowledge the reality of uncertainty.
Session 2 – Christian F Nissen – CRN People, Denmark – Acquisition and Implementation of ITSM Tools
Another really interesting session, starting with the question should organisations use a SM suite of tools from one vendor, or best of breed tools from various vendors and attempt to integrate them. The answer is not as simple as it seems! He emphasised the importance of running a Proof of Concept before ever fully implementing a new tool. Organisations need to ask themselves, is this vendor that is sleeping or evolving and improving?
Session 3 – Dennis Shields - The 2010 Machine
My final session of the day, Dennis opened the session by explaining people like direction, but believe their managers are out of touch. Bad management however means the unit will not function properly. People need to be given clear and fair directives, otherwise efficiency plummets and costs escalates, we need to take a long term perspective if the company and its infrastructure is going to be successful.
In summary, fantastic event, and can’t wait till next year!
IOD 2011 is just around the corner, and it should be no surprise that I was psyched to learn that Washington correspondent and anchor for BBC News Katty Kay is hosting the conference.
Full disclosure: I drive a Mini Cooper, I watch Doctor Who and I follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter.
So, yeah. I was also excited to see that she's going to be on stage with great IBM speakers like Jeff Jonas, Robert LeBlanc, Mike Rhodin and Steve Mills.
As if that wasn't enough (and there are a bunch of other IBM speakers not listed), guest speakers Mike Lewis and Billy Beane will also be there. Mike Lewis wrote the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and Billy Beane is the VP and General Manager of the Oakland Athletics (the subject of the book).
I know, right? It's a pretty great group of speakers.
Having attended IOD in the past, it's a great show that I know that customers and business partners are going to get a lot of value out of.
Tivoli will be at IOD, and we're looking to meet customers such as yourself who are attending the conference. Here's a list of where you can find us:
...and speaking of Las Vegas and IBM Conferences. The Pulse 2012 call for speakers deadline is fast approaching (November 7). See Jen's Pulse blog for the details on how you can submit a session proposal.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  ism cloud ibmcloud service-management 2,021 Visits
Today, IBM has a number of exciting announcements around SmartCloud. It's such a big announcement that we might have to turn it into a national holiday (which wouldn't be cool for the one dude waiting by the mailboxes for his copy of Zookeeper on BluRay).
Why Cloud? Why Now?
When we listen to customers across industries, we hear them tell us about the bold moves they must make to stay ahead of their competition. They tell us about how they need to quickly and efficiently provide new and innovative services to their customers.
Speed to market. Efficiency. Reducing costs.
These are their watch words and they look at cloud computing as a technology that offers these advantages.
That said, there's also a requirement to ensure the same levels of governance they currently have set in place. They also want to ensure that they are reducing (not increasing) their level of risk. And, of course, it has to be done securely.
Can all of this be done with cloud computing?
I would not joke about delaying that dude's copy of Zookeeper if it wasn't.
In all seriousness, yes it can and IBM has been helping customers do this for a while now. We've been successful with a large number of customers already and these new announcements build upon our previous success and really enforce our message: "Rethink IT. Reinvent Business."
IBM offers clients the freedom of choice to find solutions that meet their business requirements ranging from a portfolio of cloud solutions targeted directly at the enterprise to a choice of delivery models (public, private and hybrid) as well as expertise and service management capabilities.
There are a number of announcements in this launch across every brand in IBM (all of which are on the website).
For this blog post, I'm going to focus on IBM SmartCloud Foundation.
IBM SmartCloud Foundation
There's a full press release on this, but basically the SmartCloud Foundation family of private cloud solutions help companies quickly design and deploy private cloud environments with a new level of control over cloud service delivery and management.
As organizations take the next step beyond virtualized data center and begin to expand their cloud environments, they are concerned with managing what has become known as "image sprawl."
The SmartCloud Foundation portfolio contains these offerings:
For more information around everything that is happening with IBM SmartCloud contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
PS nothing against Zookeeper, but it got stuck in my brain after watching Six Days To Air: The Making of South Park.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ email@example.com Tags:  analyst-report apm service-management magic-quadrant ism 1,986 Visits
Good news from the Application Portfolio Monitoring (APM) team.
The 2011 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring (APM) has been released, Gartner has identified IBM as a leader.
I think I speak for everyone at IBM when I say, "W00T!" (which is leet, for "awesome!")
Talking to customers, this is no surprise. The APM portfolio is a "fan favorite" among companies worldwide and IBM is delivering solutions built on innovative technologies that provide superior value for our customers and their business.
For folks familiar with our APM portfolio and for new readers (welcome), I recommend getting your hands on a copy of the Garnter Magic Quadrant for APM and see what they have to say.
Next, there a number of useful pages about IBM Tivoli monitoring solutions on ibm.com.
And, of course, contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website to talk about the Magic Quadrant and how the product portfolio can meet your business needs.
In the comments section below, please feel free to talk about the APM portfolio and how you are using the products in the portfolio.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  analytics ism bizagility tbsm bsm business-agility service-management 1,227 Visits
I am going to tell you a story, and the truth is it's probably pretty familiar to you already.
Here goes: in today's competitive market, your services are what make your organization innovative. They are what set you apart from your competition.
They are what have taken your IT from being seen as a "cost center" to playing a role as one of the most crucial parts of your organization's success (or failure).
The services you provide are what make your organization innovative. Failure on the part of IT can mean failure for everyone.
(No pressure. Am I right?)
By definition, a competitive market is one that is in constant states of change. New customer demands. Competitive maneuvers. New service offerings. Industry or government regulations.
Speed is of the essence. But, of course there's the need to ensure that everything stays within the governance you've put in place, your security policies and of course you're trying to be as risk adverse as possible.
Doing all of this while navigating the complexity of your IT.
(Like I said. No pressure.)
This is the story you already are pretty familiar with. So now, let's talk about what we do about this.
Today, Tivoli along with Rational and WebSphere are a part of a larger IBM Software Group launch around Business Agility.
There are a number of announcements around Business Agility - about providing you with "business agility levers" that assist with combinations of technology capabilities that accelerate the path to agility with reduced cost and greater efficiency.
This is the start of a series of blogs where we'll be discussing a number of the business agility levers. Today, I'm going to talk about one; Predictive Business Service Management. My next blog will focus on Collaborative Development & Operations.
Predictive Business Service Management
With Business Service Management solutions from IBM, organizations are able to put services in the proper business context so that both IT and the business teams can accurately see the complex relationships their services and supporting technology infrastructure have with each other.
On Tuesday, IBM announced a new version of the Tivoli Business Service Manager solution. Key to this new version (Announcement 211-444) are role-based dashboards with easy self-service, drag & drop capabilities to customize a user’s visibility into key service health indicators, KPIs, and business or IT detail required for their role or tackling a current issue.
That level of "Visibility" can be taken to a new level when organizations leverage Predictive Analytics.
Business service disruptions and outages cost organizations millions of dollars per year. Even with existing investments in infrastructure monitoring and performance management solutions, organizations are often unaware of an impending service issue…until it is too late.
Predictive Business Service Management identifies performance issues in an organization's IT and network infrastructure prior to these costly service disruptions or outages. With this type of early warning system, detection is done early enough that mitigating steps can be taken to stop the issue from ever negatively impacting critical application or business services. Put simply: it finds problems before the organization knows to look for them.
Also on Tuesday, IBM previewed a new solution for predictive business service management that will address predictive business service management (Announcement 211-468).
For more information around everything that is happening around the Business Agility launch contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
Also, we're doing something a bit new with this announcement. The IBM Software Group Blog, Impact Blog, Rational Blog and this blog are all telling the story together. You'll be able to click across the different blogs and get more information about all aspects of this launch.
Update: there's a great website for the Business Agility launch, specific to Tivoli and service management on our website.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ email@example.com Tags:  integrated-service-manage... virtualization vca service-management get-cloud-ready hybrid video ism 1,860 Visits
Rod Atkins (my General Manager back when I worked in pSeries and now Senior Vice President, IBM Systems and Technology Group) has been using the term "tune to task" in place of "fit for purpose."
In her guest blog post on the Mainframe Zone, Mary Shacklett does an excellent job in explaining why words do matter.
What I took away from this is that, either way, it speaks to the need for Visibility, Control and Automation™ (VCA).
The realities of the business today are based on heterogenous environments that continue to transform and evolve and becoming increasingly complex as you start to build private clouds and then as you start to pull public cloud resources into your organization to then create a "hybrid" cloud environment.
Much like what we discussed in the security video, the fundamentals are still the same. This becomes a conversation multiple platforms. "Tuned to task." Requiring the same levels of VCA as you use to maintain the levels of governance and reduce risk and for your business before you embarked on this journey.
"Have it to you by lunch, boss!" I'm sure is not the answer that you give. Right?
Here's the thing: it's not all doom and gloom. By any means.
Bowman Hall and Barbara Korte are back to talk about some of the challenges our customers are facing managing heterogeneous and hybrid environments in the Cloud, and what IBM can do to assist.
They discuss a broad range of questions you might be thinking about (like managing multiple hypervisors) but more importantly they discuss the approach that only IBM has for providing VCA as the cornerstone for your service management practice.
As a marketing guy, I can tell you that we planned it so that VCA was the central theme for all of our videos (YouTube playlist).
Take time to watch the video (and the others in our playlist) and contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website to talk about VCA and what you're doing with cloud in your organization and get cloud ready!.
* PS: the first draft had me writing this blog referencing Star Trek, but I couldn't find a Klingon dictionary to hit my punchline properly so I abandoned that angle. Kreplach.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  ism service-management security get-cloud-ready virtualization video integrated-service-manage... 2,130 Visits
A few years ago, I worked on organizing an analyst summit for IBM where we announced the (then new) IBM Security Framework.*
Cut to today and the IBM Security Framework is still at the foundation of Smarter security solutions from IBM.
The IBM Security Framework. Visibility, Control and Automation.™
when we talk to customers about how to address their business pains, the fundamentals remain the same even though the technology continues to advance in new directions.
With Cloud and Virtualization in particular, the technology is certainly changing at a pretty fast clip.
Take a look at the fourth video in our series, "Cloud Enabling Your Data Center: Security and the Cloud" where Joe Anthony, IBM Director, Security, Risk & Compliance Product Management, talks about the IBM Security Framework and how it addresses the Cloud and business pains our customers are trying ot address.
The message and the focus of security and the Cloud is still very much rooted in the IBM Security Framework.
As a reminder, the entire video series can be seen using the YouTube Playlist (Get Cloud Ready).
For more information contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
* To be clear, I had nothing to do with building the IBM Security Framework. I was just the project manager for the event. Like Jarvis in the Avengers. (as a side note: one thing I learned about event planning - coffee, coffee, coffee!)
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ email@example.com Tags:  ism integrated-service-manage... service-management get-cloud-ready virtualization video 1,773 Visits
A few years ago, IBM began talking about Visibility, Control and Automation™ (VCA).
VCA is the cornerstone of Integrated Service Management. It's how we help clients achieve success.
VCA is not only critical for optimizing return on Virtualization and Cloud, it also applied to end-to-end business services.
To steal a phrase: it's about the service.
The third video in our series is "Cloud Enabling Your Data Center: The Importance of Integrated Service Management In The Cloud" and it is presented once again by Bowman Hall and Barbara Korte.
Bowman and Barbara do two things in this video: they give a great overview of Integrated Service Management and its concepts as well as talk to how that aligns with technologies such as Virtualization and Cloud.
Achieving world-class business services for your organization does not mean abandoning the tenants of your service management practice.
Visibility, Control and Automation™. In a cloud computing environment.
We call it Integrated Service Management.
For more information contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  virtualization image-management video get-cloud-ready federated-image-managemen... integrated-service-manage... service-management ism 2,790 Visits
Episode 2 of our Cloud video series (see previous blog post) is live.
One of the advantages of virtualization is the ability to "grow" the data center without having to constnatly add new hardware. That said, those virtualized servers need to be managed efficiently, or the benefits are quickly lost.
Watch this video featuring IBM Senior Product Manager Robin Hernandez and learn how IBM tackles the complex problem of image management and how it impacts the business.
For more information contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ email@example.com Tags:  get-cloud-ready integrated-service-manaag... virtualization video service-management ism 2,195 Visits
My bosses gave me a very simple task, "Solve the confusion surrounding some of the questions our customers have around cloud computing and service management."
I told them I'd have it done before lunch.
And if you believe that, you have way too much faith in my marketing abilities (hi, mom!).
In all seriousness, you have questions about cloud computing. Lots of questions.
Cloud is everywhere and there's a lot of information that our customers are having to sift and sort through.
Which is why back in May, I assembled a group of sales leads, marketing peers, development executives...literaly a "who's who" of cloud computing at IBM and asked them this:
What are the questions our customers have around cloud?
That started a series of conversations that led us to several core questions, and we got to work.
We enlisted some of our top people working on cloud and we asked them to get in front of a video camera and talk directly to you about these questions.
The result is a video series we call, "Cloud Enabling Your Data Center."
Today, we are releasing the first video: "Achieving Greater Efficiencies With Virtualization And Cloud Computing (Service Management Across The Entire Infrastructure)"
This video features two of our top sales executives; Bowman Hall and Barbara Korte. Barbara is a sales executive for Integrated Service Management and you might remember Bowman Hall from the Cloud demo during the Pulse General Session.
As I said, this is the first of the video series. Future videos will be released in the next few weeks.
We also have a short URL that goes to a landing page we've put togther with additional cloud materials and (most importantly) a full list of Pulse Comes To You and Impact Comes To You events that are happening in your area.
Even if you went to Pulse or Impact in Las Vegas this past year, these local events are great opportunities to deep-dive into a topic like cloud computing as well as meet your peers and local subject matter experts.
More to come and please feel free to comment below about your thoughts on Cloud.
And, as always - for more information contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website.
PS also this week, we announced a new version of IBM Tivoli Service Automation Manager (Announcement Letter 211-256). The new release allows IT service providers to onboard multiple customers, deploy IT services very quickly across multiple platforms and hypervisors, maximize resource utilization and drive cloud operations effectiveness and efficiency by adding storage support and expanding on network integration. Learn more about the new features and the product on the product page.
ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  itsmf japan itil ibm business-continuity ivor service-management tivoli 1,426 Visits
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?.
Noah Kuttler 110000SVNJ firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  service-management integrated-service-manage... zenterprise mainframe ism 1,248 Visits
If I was a minstrel, I'd be writing a song about our most recent press release (yes, I still have Game of Thrones on my mind).
On Tuesday, IBM announced an exciting new offering in the mainframe portfolio.
Many of the analysts have focused on the $75,000 entry price point. And that's cool.
There are customers who on Monday didn't think that they could afford a mainframe and are today putting it on their short list. What they will find is a platform that is highly reliable and will help them achieve the levels of innovation needed to drive their business.
Of course, I'm an Integrated Service Management guy and at the end of the day it's all about the service.
Which is why the good news is that we provide a Integrated Service Management capabilities and portfolio solutions for the mainframe.
A solid portfolio of hardware and software that continues to get stronger. To quote Ana Gasteyer as Martha Stewart, "It's a good thing."
For more information contact your IBM sales rep or one of our Business Partners using the Business Partner Locator website and feel free to leave comments below about your positive experiences with the mainframe.
* Statement of direction is intended to provide insight into IBM plans and direction. Availability, prices, ordering information, and terms and conditions will be provided when the product is announced.
All statements regarding IBM's plans, directions, and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice
ivor macfarlane 2700022KPS IVORMACF@uk.ibm.com Tags:  ivor ibm itsm devops itil service-management tivoli 1,447 Visits
After my last blog – asking what devops was – the idea of collaboration across the whole life of service has been in the forefront of my mind. From that wider perspective I was musing around one of my frequent topics – how we fail to get the service right because we don't understand how it is being used, or what the customer really cares about.
Actually the simple picture of supplier and customer doesn’t really describe the world most of us have to live in. If we go with the ITIL concept of a customer (someone who has financial influence or authority) then we also need to worry about what our users think. In other frameworks you might hear a more general concern about taking the whole range of stakeholders into consideration. Doesn’t matter which recipe you follow – does matter that you see the complexity.
Some of the problems come from being so close to how things are done (rather than why they are being done), and by being so close to what you think matters that you don't spot what matters to those receiving the service. Sometime it is the silliest things that make the customers and users unhappy and reject a service. Maybe that is an example of the ‘One Bad Apple’ syndrome – something firmly embedded in the human condition seems to be our ability to allow one bad aspect to overbalance a dozen good things.
I had my own version this week, when I found myself refusing to continue with an online application for a new bank account because the software insisted on spelling my name incorrectly. (For reasons I cannot fathom, it seems to have decided that any name starting with ‘Mac’ must have a capital afterwards – so it turns ‘Macfarlane’ to ‘MacFarlane’ without giving me the chance to turn it back.) I didn’t stay around to see what else the service offered, I just closed the web page and got my new account somewhere else that will let me spell my name properly.
But there is also the positive face of the same coin – the power of ‘cool’. Imagine you have found the perfect shoes for your child – scientifically designed to protect their feet while supporting their bones and they are even waterproof. As a caring parent these are the only pair of shoes you want your child to be running about in (see IKB later in this blog). As it happens your dreams have come true because your child loves them. Is it because they are good for them, and will help their feet develop properly – no, they agree to wear them because the heels light up with each step. They will wear them – and save their feet – but only because they are ‘cool’ – according to rules you will never understand. By the way, don’t think the illogical ‘cool’ factor only applies to children, it is there in just about every service you deliver or use – at work or at home. If you look for it then you will see it. I don’t want to make this posting too long or I could list dozens – but just imagine trying to sell powerful and effective software products against others with less relevant features at higher cost – but with a fancy graphical interface – sound familiar to anyone?
If you think about these two situations – where apparently less important elements disproportionately affect decisions - I am sure you will find many examples of the two extremes; like the fast-food restaurant that you still avoid because of one bad burger or one element of bad service, hundreds of miles away and several years back.
Those issues tend to come from how the service is delivered, yet the same problem can easily come from how it is built (like my name issue). But one of the differences is getting the message back to where it might make a difference, because at best the complaints go to the operations side of the house, and this does not get fed back, maybe because it is dismissed as trivial – because it doesn’t seem important to whoever received the message.
It isn’t just about hiding complaints though, we also have the ability not to pass the cool factors back. Do we always find out why people really like something? It seems to me that we don’t often ask the right people the right questions. And it also seems there are simple reasons why we do that:
Both of these situations are understandable – after all, we are human so of course we see things first and best from our own perspective, and without being forced out into another’s environment then why should we have the ability to understand people we have never met? The second is also inevitable in the complicated amalgams of customers, users, services and suppliers we exist within. Never mind the neat little service chain pictures you get in the books – it doesn’t really look that simple, it looks complicated, and mostly because it is complicated.
We can do something about these difficulties – but they require addressing the way we – and our colleagues – think, and that takes time and effort.
There are other causes and factors – and maybe there is one we could do something about, and it is something that would magnify the beneficial effects when you finally get around to addressing the two points I listed above: when we do find things out we don’t tell the people who could do something about it. And the very best way to get that wrong is to build silos within your supplier organisation and stop people sharing ideas and information.
After that last blog on devops, I was thinking about that particular kind of communication issue. There is something deep rooted in the human psyche that needs to dismantle their immediate environment into teams (or groups, or departments or silos or tribes – call them what you will). IT organisations are perfect examples – with high level internal teams always emerging once they gets past a certain size. And if you separate into teams that feel the need to compete, then helpful messages will not be fed across between them. So what was built wrong and delivers the wrong thing stays there and will be wrong in the next version too. That is the inertial element of behaviour that initiatives like devops and whole service lifecycle approaches have to contend with. We shouldn’t think it can be as easy as just telling people to collaborate and communicate. Like all challenges we need to recognise what we are fighting – and to fight back.
So – what are good ways to start? Perhaps as simply as recognising that while we might bond comfortably into (say) a ‘development’ team or an ‘operations’ team (or any one of a dozen more) – that doesn’t make the other team the opposition – I think that would be a good first step, if we can finally realise that – by and large – what benefits one team also benefits the other.