As businesses and governments continue to develop and design products and services that are increasingly interconnected, IBM is working with clients to help them build the competencies to manage these products in smarter ways. This week at Innovate, the Tivoli and Rational teams, delivered several sessions to the agenda that demonstrated to the software developers, clients, and business partners how to design develop, deploy an manage smarter products by linking development and operations using Cloud technology. I was thrilled to see the level of interest and enthusiasm from the audience for Integrated Service Management. Many of the sessions were standing room only, including the track kickoff, which had to be moved to a larger room! Sessions that were not SRO were also very popular with nearly full rooms.
We were lucky to capture Bala Rajararaman, Tivoli Distinguished Engineer and Top Gremlin-Buster, along with Moe Abdula from Tivoli Development, who shared their passion for Smarter Products and Services by integrating the tools, processes and data of development and operations.
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concerned with things that change over time and the danger of being out of date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.
I was driving back from Heathrow on a recent Saturday – having gone there to collect a visitor. On the overhead information signs on the motorway was an illuminated warning sign. I had never seen this sign before, but immediately clear that this was warning me that there was an accident ahead. This exploration of graphics rather than words seems a very sensible step for a country that welcomes foreign visitors – and more so in the run up to the impending Olympics.
I have been (thanks to my work) to many countries. Some (like Brasil and Egypt) I would not dare to drive in, some (like China) I am not even allowed to drive in – but in many
I have rented cars and driven without significant mishap. But always when driving I am grateful for intuitive signage – and also very appreciative of the standard road signs across Europe. In fact it wasn’t till I got to Quebec and saw my first ‘Arête’ sign that I fully realised how much I had taken for granted the standardisation in road signs across the language range of Europe. (For those not familiar with European road signs – they say ‘Stop’ in all the EU countries, even France.)
The places I find it hardest to drive around are the ones that rely on long wordy description to convey messages to drivers. Now when this happens somewhere like Poland, I have no chance and just have to guess – or more often follow they guy in front and hope that they know what they are doing. But even in the US, where they seem committed to this kind of thing, where the language is similar to English, I find it very difficult to get the message quickly without being distracted. By the time I have read all the words I have often missed the chance to do what it was telling me.
The need for intuitive communication has been around for a long while – a great example of somewhere that has seen the need and met it well for many years is Amsterdam airport, as a transfer hub, it is specifically targeted at delivering services to the widest range of languages. Their use of intuitive graphics has been impressive for over 20 years. And of course it has to be because people transferring planes at Schipol do not have the opportunity to attend a training course on how to navigate the airport.
Nowadays that luxury of training people in how to use things is getting rarer and rarer – we have to be able to use things we have never seen before, most notably things appearing on our PCs when we use services over the internet. But also those PCs themselves and the services we use at work – I don't know the figure but it sure feels like there is much less user training than there used to be.
So – great to see the UK government getting on board with intuitive communication; surely as service managers we all need to think of how to get messages across to our customers and our users quickly and reliably. Oh, and cheaply too, your CFO will love the reduced need for training – and pretty soon are likely to be questioning the need for expensive training for something that doesn’t deliver immediate intuition.
When I saw Tom Cross give a talk at Innovate 2010 in June, I was first struck with the nonchalance with which he spoke of the black market business of Internet data. I could not have been more intrigued if I were watching a movie adapted from a John Grisham novel. He seemed to have some emotional distance from what creeps most of us out about our mail. And I’m not even talking about email. I mean the good old-fashioned USPS mail. I KNOW I am not the only one who has worn out a few paper shredders thanks to Citibank, Chase, and the like.
The second thing that hijacked my thought train for more than a few moments was how network vulnerabilities are created for the explicit purpose of learning cyber criminal behavior. Like signing up for as much spam as you can. Sure it makes sense to me now. But I am still vaguely uncomfortable talking publicly about threat and attacks. It seems akin to Batman and the Joker building websites to promote their plans to outsmart the other. What was I not getting? By now I was considering slipping quietly out of the room to silence the voice in my head saying I had been foolish, very, very foolish in my confidence as a clever and vigilant consumer of Internet Things.
Realizing that I had some mental catching up to do, I stayed for the lasting impression that could keep me awake at night: just how easy it is to steal digital data. As I struggled with the impartial irony of how enormous yet simple a cat and mouse game Web App security is, visions of Tom and Jerry danced in my boggled brain.
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
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:
We presume that what is important to us is what is important to
our customers, users or others that matter. Is this a common manifestation
of IKB (the ‘I know better’ syndrome)? Most of suffer this from our parents,
then grow up and do it other people.
We don’t know who to ask – and we don't know what to ask them.
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
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.
 For once this isn’t just me making ideas up. I wrote a psychology
essay on this topic at University – way back towards the middle of the last
 This was discussed in the ITIL books for Small Organisations –
versions 1, 2 and 3.
That was a cheap ploy for me to work in a comment about how excited I am that Austin is well on it's way to getting a Formula 1 track (Statesman).
Shameless? Or brilliant? You make the call
Anyhow, the title is a pun on the Random Access Compression Engine™ (RACE) architecture that is a part of the Storwize offering that IBM recently acquired.
I want to welcome all the Storwize employees to IBM (hello!) and let our customers know that this is some pretty tight technology and it's worth reaching out to your IBM sales rep or business partner to learn more about it.
Storwize provides real-time data compression technology to help clients reduce physical storage requirements by up to 80%*, which improves efficiency and lowers the cost of making data available for analytics and other applications.
Here are three good links for more details on the aquisition as well as a quick video featuring Doug Balog, Vice President of IBM Storage.
The group is made up of a very diverse audience, including IT professionals, analysts, IBM Business Partners and of course, IBMers.
Members of this group share knowledge, news, training, and events around Service Management solutions, including Tivoli, Rational, WebSphere, Information Management, Storage, Security, DevOps, Smarter Planet, Green IT and Cloud Computing!
So join our group, and initiate a discussion, or weigh on on an existing discussion!
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
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 England you can either pay a
solicitor for this service, or you can get it for free at the county court. So,
of course, I went off to the County Court.
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 England are where the most
serious crimes are tried, so it is where the most dangerous criminals would be.
A moment’s thought, therefore, would make it obvious that there will be fairly
impressive security. But of course I was just thinking about delivering a form
so the metal scanner and request to empty my pockets took me by surprise. And
my producing my Swiss Army penknife from my pocket sent the security man into
action. The knife was confiscated – suggestions that I wasn’t even in the
building yet and could just go back, leave offending items in the car and start
again, were not allowed to be considered. I was told that I could not get my
knife back when I left but instead I needed to write in to the court manager
asking for it to be returned by post.
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
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?
Are you looking for a reason to head down to Florida next month?
Tivoli will have a large presence at next month's Innovate2011 conference in Orlando, with over 30 sessions which highlight the Tivoli/Rational integration, and six booths in the solution expo. In addition, you can check out the Tivoli executive speaking engagements including Danny Sabbah (GM, Tivoli Software) at the executive summit presenting on
'Collaborative Development and Operations', Jamie Thomas (VP, Tivoli
Strategy and Development) on organizational agility and efficiency, and
Steve Robinson (GM, IBM Security Solutions) on 'Security in Industries'.
Also, be sure to check out the 'Service Management Simulator Experience' at Innovate, a hands-on role playing game focusing on the challenges and business value of
implementing Service Management best practices in a real life scenario!
Now that Pulse is in the rear view mirror, we can focus our attention on INNOVATE, Rational's flagship event for 2011.
Innovate 2011 is the event for software innovation. It is the conference totally focused on helping you transform software innovation and accelerate better business outcomes.
Need another reason to attend Innovate 2011?... You can also take part in the 'Service Management Simulator Experience', a hands-on game focusing on the challenges and business value of implementing Service Management best practices in a realistic and exhilarating scenario. Over the course of a few hours, you'll use gaming and role playing dynamics to mirror the real-world interaction between IT and the business, from both a strategic and operational perspective. In the end, you will come away with an actionable understanding of how the effectiveness of IT processes impacts your business! - For more information, visit the Simulator web page - Check out this 3-minute youtube video from a previous workshop - Read the rave reviews
- To register or if you have questions, send an email to email@example.com
BTW...Readers of this blog may recall that we also conducted a simulator workshop at Pulse this year.
Join us and the Tivoli community at Innovate 2011 – it’s a great opportunity to network with your peers and take away valuable insight that you can use today. If you haven’t yet registered for the conference, you can register here.
We love our planet, Mother
Earth. Don’t we? As for me, having been born and brought up in a place so close
to nature, away from bustle of city, and having studied ‘Environment and
Resource Economics’ as one of the subjects in my Post Grad, these things have
always been the driving forces behind my love and fascination towards Mother
Earth. And, since Mother Earth is inseparable from the technological revolution
and innovations happening around us, it gives me a proud feeling to be an IBMer
who works towards Big Blue’s mission of a Smarter Planet.
Visibility, Control and Automation™ is how
IBM defines service management which, when obtained for the smarter business infrastructures and end-to-end service
chain, can take any business to its zenith and contribute in making our
Mother Earth a Smarter Planet.
IBM’s Tivoli® Software places
IBM in a unique position to help the clients provide smarter solutions and the
expertise needed to design, build and manage a infrastructure that enables them
to improve service, reduce cost and manage risk.
Not long ago, while surfing
through our case study database, I stumbled upon a Tivoli success story that
caught my attention and I’m happy to share the same with our readers here.“Schweizerische
Bundesbahnen (SBB) Leverages rail system and network transparency to keep
trains on schedule”. Wow, the title looked so fascinating to me and that might
be because I’ve had many not-so-good-train-experiences, delay in arrival or
departure and the likes (which I always dislike).
(SBB), or Swiss Federal Railways, is Switzerland’s leading transportation
company.SBB transports over 800,000
passengers and more than 220,000 tons of cargo each day, maintains 3,011
kilometers of track that connects more than 800 rail stations and also a large
construction organization that engages in roughly 5,000 construction programs
each year. However, due to inefficient monitoring systems, a one day system
problem in 2005 had stranded nearly 200,000 passengers, costing almost US$5
million. Hence, SBB was looking for a more aggressive service management
strategy to prevent future events of this type and operate 9000 trains a day
without any hassles.
customizable user interfaces that increase network transparency, and helps
support staff to be better informed about infrastructure health. 2.Leverages proactive management and automated
alert systems to recognize and repair more than 50 percent of issues before
they can impact operations. 3.Increases the availability of SBB’s train
network by approximately 2,000 minutes per month - therefore saving
approximately US$2.3 million each year.
Martin Schaeren, Head of BU
Service Management, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), is all praise for IBM, “Trying to manage 3,000 kilometers of track
is a particularly daunting task. But, by leveraging our new IBM solution, we’re
able to see our entire infrastructure clearly and respond to problems before
they can affect our operations.”
Well, a commendable success
story indeed. We, the IBMers, sincerely, wish that all the railway systems of
our world become ‘smarter’, sooner than later. What say?
If you are friends of Tivoli experts on Twitter, you may see #tivtour tweets quite a bit this week. See my recent write up on this topic to learn more about the mystery event. Also, see Twitter Search for #tivtour on Twazzup
for a running stream of related tweets and photos. The Tivoli Tour runs
at many IBM locations this week and in Brazil on May 29. So you can
expect to see more Twitter conversations in the near future.