A: Linked Data
The following article was written by Cameron Allen, Pierre Coyne and Beth Sarnie and is the second in our OSLC series.
In fact, if you were at Pulse 2012...you heard how IBM Watson will be used to help doctors diagnose medical conditions and improve patient care at WellPoint.
For those of you, like myself, that don’t have a Watson-like recollection, here’s a quick flashback detailing a millisecond in Watson's brain on a sample patient:
- Watson is given specific information on a patient’s symptoms, and makes a preliminary diagnosis of the flu as the most likely illness.
- Based on the unique patient's name, Watson looks up records of the patient's history for the past few years, providing new insights that point to the better possible cause of, for example, a Urinary Tract Infection.
- Based on the patient's family connections, Watson is able to use the family history to derive that the mostly likely cause is now diabetes.
- And finally, Watson is able to access a patient’s latest tests to derive a final diagnosis.
If you're in the business of IT, this may sound a lot like incident management. And as any level 1 support person can attest, diagnosing the root cause of an incident is much like diagnosing a patient's condition. You need information from multiple sources (e.g. service desk, license, CMDB, monitoring, and asset management systems), but more importantly, it has to be in context, up to date, and delivered in a timely basis to make an accurate diagnosis of the root cause.
The problem has always been that an incident manager, like a doctor, has to jump between tools, entering requests in each system for the right information...and that is time consuming. In some cases, information isn't readily available and must be requested from other sources, not under their direct control.
One of the ways Watson is able to be such a great diagnostician (and incident manager) is through "linked data," which allows it to seek out and find related information on the patient from multiple sources in a fraction of a second to facilitate faster, more accurate patient diagnosis.
Until now, an incident manager did not have this same luxury.
That's where Jazz for Service Management comes in. Jazz is IBM's realtime platform for integrating management across multivendor tools, and across service lifecycle processes and functions. Like Watson, Jazz for service management uses principles of linked data, along with community standards (including OSLC) to support Watson-like service management decisions, regardless of what vendor tools you have in place.
If you want to learn more about OSLC and linked data in the context of service management, join the IBM developerWorks Jazz for Service Management community for demonstrations, and to gain early access to beta software.
As I began to read through the press release about IBM's new initiatives to help Managed Service Providers (MSP's)
in the cloud space, it suddenly struck me - this is a great opportunity for ALL parties involved.
For MSP's, IBM is providing a bundle of services and support in the way of marketing skills, technical expertise and financing options. On the marketing side, MSP's will have the ability to better target their customers and generate demand for their services through IBM education that includes topics such as developing effective marketing plans and exploiting the burgeoning social media space. Additionally, MSP's can sell IBM SmartCloud services under their own brand names. On the technical side, MSP's will have access to four new "Centers of Excellence" (located in China, Japan, Germany; and New York City) where they can collaborate with IBM technical experts to build their cloud services, and connect with other IBM ISV's. In terms of funding their efforts, IBM announced a financing offer
which includes 12-month, 0% loans for IBM Systems, Storage and Software, and allows MSP's to defer payments for up to 90 days.
For end-users in the SMB space who often lack the necessary IT skills, this is a great opportunity to leverage local technology providers and take advantage of a cost effective "pay-as-you-go" model that cloud computing affords them. In addition, end-users will have the confidence of knowing that the services provided were built on an IBM platform.
Finally, for IBM, this is a great opportunity to expand its cloud ecosystem, and leverage the growing population of MSP's, who are continuing to gain traction in the cloud computing space for SMB's.
Here's the link where MSP's can go to sign up
The following article was written by Cameron Allen, Pierre Coyne and Beth Sarnie and is the second in our OSLC series.
In non-acronym speak, what I'm saying is that the future of service management has arrived in the form of Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration.
But, what is OSLC and what does it have to do with you?
If you are a user of service management tools of any kind, or rely on information from tools to do your job, then you probably know that finding the right information is half the battle, and getting realtime access to that information when it is not under your direct control can feel next to impossible.
OSLC means you can now leverage the simplicity and ease of web links to both find and share information across your management tools (be they IBM, or any vendor tools).
Just as web pages can be linked on the Internet, data can be linked together from one application to another – creating an application ecosystem where applications don't care what vendor they're from. They look up who has the data in a directory, and jump right to it.
OSLC is not something new, and Tivoli is not the first to adopt it for integration. If you're an IBM Rational user, you may already be a believer. IBM Rational, its users, and an extensive ecosystem of partners have been using OSLC to successfully interconnect the application lifecycle for years.
In fact, Rational Jazz is the realization of OSLC community specifications and shared services in an open platform that anyone can use to interconnect the application lifecycle. Rational just delivered their 4th incarnation of the integrated product offering called Collaborative Lifecycle Management based on Jazz.
Tivoli is now leveraging these same principles to help break down silos of information across the end-to-end service lifecycle. That means expanding the notions behind Jazz from service design and development to now include service delivery and management. We call this Jazz for Service Management.
Take for example, problem management. In order to diagnose and resolve a given trouble ticket, the problem information must be gathered and aggregated from multiple sources. We may need information pertaining to the application topology, the health of a system within that topology, outages or events that may be affecting the application, the CPU utilization, the versions and configurations of the hardware and software that this application is dependent upon. I could go on...
The problem is that all of this information lives in different places. You can either call around to the various owners of that information, or you pay a business partner to learn the API of the tool in order to get to the data, or you can have a highly skilled, in-house resource write the integration. These options require extensive expertise in vendor-specific APIs and lots of maintenance to keep them current.
OSLC utilizes community defined specifications for sharing and linking data applied to specific service management scenarios so that in a critical outage scenario, all relevant information relating to that outage can be accessed in real time from any number of sources, displayed in the context of that problem, in a single integrated view, with related actions that can be taken.
The difference is simplicity. You might be able to do this this now with a lot of experts and time but OSLC delivers simplicity.
And, most importantly, because OSLC uses community specifications for service management scenarios, integrations can be built once and applied across multiple 'related' OSLC-enabled tools. "Write-once, Apply-many."
For more information, listen to this podcast on the Tivoli User Community. This podcast provides a deeper insight into the next generation of service management built using linked data.
Also, at Pulse 2012 (video link), developerWorks' Scott Laningham is joined by Don Cronin, program director, Tivoli Technical Strategy and Architecture; and Mike Kaczmarski, IBM Fellow and Tivoli Chief Integration Architect to discuss the Magic of linked data.
Leave your comments on how you are using OSLC in your organization below and don't forget to follow us on Twitter @servicemgmt and be sure to bookmark our OSLC story on Storify.
The following article was written with significant contributions from Cameron Allen, Pierre Coyne and Beth Sarnie
Question of the day: why is IT agility so darn elusive?
Follow up question: after spending multiple millions in technology to improve service delivery, quality, and productivity, why do so many line of business executives perceive that IT is still not moving "fast enough?"
Silo'd information presents a big speedbump to agility. According to the 2012 IBM study of CEOs, high performing organizations are able to access data 108% more, draw insights from that data 110% more, and act on that data 86% more, than their underperforming peers.
Which brings us back to the specific problem: Information exists, but it is not shared. Information remains trapped in silo'd tools and departmental applications. It's not only not moving "fast enough," it's not moving at all.
If you agree with ITIL and related methodologies, agility is directly linked to your IT processes. So while we can improve process methodology and connections across roles and functions, and within specific technology siloes with tools, if the data and resources can not be freely shared across process-enabling tools, then its all for not.
Going one level deeper, what is the cause of this 'information black hole', where data enters tools, and is never seen again? Your reality is that you probably rely on a mix of multi-vendor tools. Those vendor tools rely on proprietary APIs for integration and trying to make tools with different APIs communicate requires the IT equivalent of a team of United Nations translators, where each is an expert in their applications main language (API). Once successful, the herculean effort can create a constant maintenance cost, and might not work well in the end - things will be lost in translation. That said, even single vendor tool suites are notoriously difficult to integrate.
So what can be done?
Stop for a moment and consider the best example that demonstrates simplicity of integration on a massive scale. It's the Internet. With the Internet, you can get information from millions of different web sites and all you need is a browser.
So for argument's sake, if tools are the equivalent of web sites, then all we need are links to connect two tools. We can take that one step further, borrowing principles from social networks like LinkedIn or IBM Connections, where we can search for one person, and see relationships to other people (making searching for data across tools much easier).
That in essence is OSLC (Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration): A set of open, community agreed upon specifications for linking tools using web technology. (And before you ask, no. It's not a standard, because apparently standards alone have not done the job)
Data from any vendor tool is registered in a directory like a search engine, where other tools can find it, its relationship to other data, and access it via simple web link technology. Not similar to the Internet, but exactly like the Internet.
What that means is you can easily interconnect tools and processes. You can even replace tools with competitive tools - eliminating vendor lock in. It also means you can re-purpose one integration across a series of 'like' tools. "Write once, reuse-many" inherently applies here. All of this translates into simpler and faster access to information by people and tools, better analytics leading to better decisions, and better automation of workflow.
Now, IT will be seen as agile.
No longer elusive.
This is the first in a series of articles we will be posting about OSLC. Feel free to leave your comments below. Be sure to listen to the podcast we did for OSLC on the Tivoli User Group - TUC Podcast: OSLC Series - Learn how Tivoli’s enhanced architecture strategy will help you simplify integration across products – IBM and Other Vendors, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter @servicemgmt.
Also, stay tuned to the blog for more in our series of articles about OSLC.
PS a reminder that InterConnect 2012 in Singapore is coming. October 9-11 and it's going to be an amazing conference. Tiffany Winman has a great post about it on the IBM Software Group blog.
I recently discovered ANOTHER great resource for IBM Business Partners. The IBM "Ready To Execute" initiative, which was originally launched internally to improve the quality of our marketing campaigns and drive higher quality leads, has been extended to Business Partners. In a nutshell, Ready to Execute is a web-based model that provides the foundation and all the elements for launching an effective marketing campaign, including multi-touch e-mails, telemarketing scripts, digital strategies, and compelling offers.
As I began researching all the specifics of the program for our Business Partners, I stumbled upon a blog post
from one of my colleagues in Software Group, Jacqi Levy, who has done a fabulous job of summarizing the benefits of the program, as well as providing a great overview on how Business Partners can get started on launching a campaign. Nicely done, Jacqi!
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
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
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:
- Once you realise that trust depends on quality of presentation
at least as much as on accuracy, should you focus more on that? Certainly
you have to take presentation seriously, because the corollary is that if you
deliver perfection but don’t make it look good, then no-one will believe
it even though you are right.
- Whose responsibility is it to check – and is it even possible? I
suspect this discussion will take us into the territory of ‘governance’. But
even before we get there it implies that User Acceptance Testing needs to
do more than look at things. Of course yours does, doesn’t it?
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?
I’ve had a recent burst of situations where things just seem to be difficult for no obvious reason, and maybe that has made me even more cynical than usual - yes, it is, just about, possible. My first assumption – of course – is that these are yet more examples of bad service management. Each is one more case of services not being matched to customer requirements, but then maybe a sneaking suspicion creeps in: are they really deliberately designed to deliver what the real customer wants, rather than the apparent one (or user as ITIL might call them).
Of course we have all experienced this to some extent: the complaints department that is very hard to contact, with a premium rate phone number and an interminable set of IVR choices before you can get anywhere near a real person – all costing you £1.75 a minute to listen to. Typically we give up in disgust just after we have spent more on the phone call than we spent on the product we are trying to complain about. While the first thought is that the supplier hasn’t thought through how they need to be contactable, second thought makes you realise that they don't want people being able to complain easily. And if you have an angry customer who is unlikely to buy more from you, then you might as well make what money you can out of them calling you to complain and tell you they won’t buy any more. So maybe this is actually clever design – to meet the primary customer’s requirement?
Sometimes you just aren’t sure – I was also watching someone applying for a visa – for a well known country in North America. It reminded me very much of the classic customer complaints system I just outlined. Rather confusing instructions, no web-based option to book an appointment – only telephone at £1.23 per minute (plus ‘network extras’ whatever they might be), and then surprise, surprise a computerised voice – talking slowly - offers you some options. Appointments are issued, it seems ‘en block’ and you are warned you must queue outside, whatever the weather. Oh, and no mobile phones or any other electrical items can be taken into the building, and, no, there is no facility to leave them anywhere safe while you go in.
So, is this bad service build, or is it carefully designed to reduce the number of applicants? After all, the people who need visa are – by and large – from less affluent countries, and won’t spend that much when they get there. Could be the whole service was carefully designed to discourage.
Now I suspect the real truth is a perfectly justifiable need for security and a sensible imperative to reduce costs. But it does perhaps make you realise that it is oh so easy to get sidetracked and judge things only by what are actually the second level measures and deliverables, rather than being sure we tie everything back to our organisation’s overall visions and objectives.
It is not always as easy as it sounds – especially in large companies where day-to-day operations can be a long way from corporate targets. For example, focusing on selling widgets that work, continue to work and get fixed quickly should they fail means that you probably just focus on ensuring your direct customers are happy widgetters. Yet if the profit margin on widgets is low, the market difficult and competitive and your widgets do tend to break more often than other manufacturers’…well then the best contribution to your corporate objective of maximising shareholder return is, quite correctly, to get out of supplying widgets altogether. Even if that means abandoning your long time faithful widget customers, well, if you have got your overall prime objective right, then abandoning them is right for the company.
We see the same thing with internal services, is that travel booking service there to make it easier for you to spend the company money on travel, or is it there to make sure you only go through with it if you really need to go? If reducing costs is what the owners of that service want, then ease of use is a bad thing.
Secretly though, I suspect a lot of bad service really is just that. But – it can be a fun game to play next time you get bad service. Is it really bad, or is it targeted to drive you away because that’s what they want? Is it hard to buy something because of incompetence or because the profit margin is too low?
Next time you get awful service, maybe it is worth congratulating the service provider about their commitment to higher objectives, maybe even ask them if they would be so kind as to tell you the corporate objectives they are rigorously pursuing; so you can write to their CEO and congratulate them too on how well their staff strives to reduce unhelpful customer satisfaction. Or then again, they may not be so pleased to hear from you after all, and just leave you with an expensive IVR system to listen to.
A colleague of mine just introduced me to another great Tivoli resource for Business Partners. The Tivoli Knowledge Center
is a great place for partners to get the training and skills to successfully sell, service, and become certified on our most important and strategic IBM Tivoli product lines. It includes marketing tools, as well as technical, training and sales resources.
For those partners who are new to the Tivoli family, there is a very intuitive "Getting started with Tivoli" section. For the 'seasoned veterans' who already have a relationship with Tivoli, there are quick links to sales kits, sales plays, and incentives.
One of this month's top stories will point you to the Business Partner Summit presentations from Pulse 2012. Within that page, you can find a link to the "Small Deals Equals Big Revenue"
charts that were presented by Tamara Crawford and Michele Payne to an audience of about 60 partners at Pulse 2012. I was fortunate enough to attend that presentation in Vegas, and got some great insight from the presenters and the partners, who offered up a lot of great questions and comments.
The Tivoli Knowledge Center
can be found within the PartnerWorld web site so feel free to share this resource with YOUR colleagues!
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
I was driven to these thoughts by a really good
posting on Back2ITSM from Stephen Mann about Spiderman and the Avengers. He was
concerned with things that change over time and the danger of being out of date
and therefore no longer correct. You
should read that posting – in fact if you are interested in service management
you should get already be looking at this facebook group – very much the place
Anyway, I am not going to repeat Stephen’s
words here – rather I want to follow a tangential aspect of right and wrong
that his posting triggered in my mind.
It’s just that I don’t think that right is
always an appropriate idea, and I think too many people in service management
think there is a right answer to every question. Actually, truth be told, if I
risk making it way too clear that I am a grumpy old man, then I think there is
far too much expectation of there being a right answer in most aspects of
I don’t know if commitment to that concept of
‘one right way’ is something that we are born with or something we teach our
children. I suspect the latter; certainly it is there at an early age. I recall discussions with my girls about
nursery rhymes. Several versions are around – different recordings,
publications etc inevitably with slightly different words in them. All of my
girls wanted to know which one was the ‘right’ version – certain in their own
minds that one of them must be right, and the others therefore wrong.
The more data and information we ‘enjoy access
to’, then the less chance there is of any one set being ‘right’. I have even heard as an explanation that we
now live in a scientific age – that older attitudes to life were less precise.
And yet I was taught – as a science student – that a solution is right for its
context not necessarily in an absolute sense. I recall one electronics lesson
that has always stuck in my mind and served my in very good stead in my working
life, across a whole range of service management – especially in measurement.
It hinged on the lecturer going through the
week’s assignment which involved working out the effective resistance of several
configurations of components. We had all
(and I mean all, from the clever geeks, to the lazy ones like me) worked it out
using the given resistances of each element in a frighteningly complicated
configuration, and come up with a precise effective value for the combination.
The lecturer drew it on the board, then proceeded to wipe out most elements as ‘not significant’
– left about three components and did the calculation in seconds. We all screamed ‘cheat’! He laughed, reminded
us that the stated resistance of the components is given as ±10%, so there was no point in taking
seriously anything that wouldn’t affect the answer by more than a few percent.
I spoke with the lecturer afterwards and he
admitted they did the same exercise every year to get that very point across.
The right answer is one that fits the circumstances, be that imprecise measures,
limited time, lack of profile with management or whatever situation you
establish you are in.
That lesson about being right enough for the
job is one we are losing with modern technology giving us an answer to
ridiculous precision from input that is
often little more than a guess.
That principle of knowing what is needed before
you deliver is – of course – far more universally true than just being about
measurement. But it is easily forgotten in an age that often delivers more
answers than questions.
For most of last week I was attending and –
I hope – contributing to itSMF’s international publishing meeting. This was
held in Warsaw
in beautiful spring weather, while
was being blasted by wind and rain. That was nice but nowhere the most
important or most pleasurable thing that the week had to offer.
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 Warsaw thinking about was
that different set of attitudes we have while focused on itSMF business. Some
of that rests upon the different nature of not for profit organisations – at least
compared to the more usual owned by shareholder companies. It is hard sometimes
to make the switch, but a good lesson for anyone in the service management business
to realise the differences that do exist. Probably the best description I know
is this one: ‘Commercial companies need to do things to in order to make money;
not-for-profit organisations need to make money in order to do things’.
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.