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Pink16: So Little Time, So Much to Learn

Posted by on February 2, 2016 in ITSM
  Pink ITSM conference It’s that time again, for one of IT service management’s (ITSM) “grand slam” industry conferences – Pink Elephant’s Pink16, now in its 20th year at the swanky Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. But sadly not for me, instead I’ll be watching the conference from afar this year (via Twitter). It doesn’t stop me dreaming of the sessions I’d attend though, and I’ll be recommending these to my colleague Ami Shimkin and anyone else willing to listen. The theme of this year's conference is “IT @ The Speed of Change” – with Pink Elephant stating that IT teams now “need to be quick, lean, innovative, proactive, timely and effective.” As per usual, there’s a wide range of content, some would say too much content, crammed into three days across the following session types and tracks:
  • Keynotes
  • “Power hour”
  • Pre-conference optimizers
  • IT leadership
  • IT strategic management
  • Lean IT and Agile
  • Service support and operations
  • “How to” ITIL clinics and workshops
  • DevOps
  • Organizational change management
  • Pink Think Tank
  • Tools and technology
  • Cyber risk and security management
  • Ask the expert breakfast club
  • Half-day workshops
So much content that it really is an excuse for human cloning. Alternatively, you just have to realize that you can’t see all the sessions you want to, pray for minimal session clashes, and selectively pick what you imagine to be the best use of your limited time. But I’m happy to help, with the following suggested sessions. And please excuse the odd early-bird session – I selected what I deem to be the most promising sessions no matter when they are.

Pink16 Must-See Sessions (Well, According to Me)

07:15 Monday, February 15: “The IT Renaissance” with Rob England, The IT Skeptic (Track 2: IT Strategic Management)
Rob will talk to how the world of IT is changing – from the drivers to the effects on corporate IT. Listening to Rob speak about anything IT and ITSM is a no-brainer, so to hear him talk about how so much is changing from employee expectations through to the technology itself is definitely a must-see session for me.
10:30 Monday, February 15: “Pink Think Tank Summary – What They Really Talked About Behind Closed Doors” with Rob England, The IT Skeptic (Track 8: Pink Think Tank)
Sorry to recommend two Rob sessions in a row, I can only blame the schedulers and the fact that Rob is doing so many sessions at Pink16. This session provides feedback from the collected conversations and noodling of a number of ITSM “big thinkers.” It clashes with Earl’s presentation below, so you could always flip a coin as to which of the two you attend. And, if like previous years, Rob will most likely produce a white paper on the Pink Think Tank outcomes.
10:30 Monday, February 15: “Don’t Rain On My ITSM Parade – Transitional Change Management When Moving to the Cloud” with Earl Begley, Total Quality Manager, Analytics & Technologies, University of Kentucky (Track 9: Tools & Technology)
Earl is a well-respected ITSM practitioner and we have to take advantage of good practitioner advice whenever we can as it’s not as common as I’d like it to be. In this session, Earl shares the lessons learned from a higher-education IT department’s journey from a risk prone, on-premise data center to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model.
14:00 Monday, February 15: “Why Governance of Enterprise IT (GEIT) Is Not a 4 Letter Word!” with Robert E. Stroud, Forrester Analyst and ISACA International President 2014/15 (Track 2: IT Strategic Management)
Rob is a seasoned presenter from his days in a senior ITSM role at CA Technologies, plus his international itSMF and ISACA positions. Now a principal consultant at Forrester Research, I’m sure Rob will deliver an insightful overview of where IT organizations need to be from a governance perspective in the light of the rapidly changing IT and business landscapes.
07:15 Tuesday, February 16: “Helping Managers Enhance Skills & Services With ITIL Practitioner” with Kaimar Karu, Head of ITSM, AXELOS Global Best Practice (Track 9: Tools & Technology)
Kaimar will discuss the current skills gap in the IT industry and the impact it has on the way we deliver services. He’ll be using the new “ITIL Practitioner” syllabus to outline how individuals and teams can improve, with an emphasis on communication, change, and continual service improvement.
10:30 Tuesday, February 16: “Bimodal IT: Shortcut to Innovation or Path to Dysfunction?” with Damon Edwards, Managing Partner, DTO Solutions
He’s a well-known DevOps figure, so I’d bet that Damon’s bimodal IT session will be of great value to those wanting to hear more about the future of IT management and ITSM. If you can’t make this one, then look out for Damon’s second session later on the same day, at 14:00, called “The History Of DevOps (& What You Need To Do About It)” (Track 6: DevOps).
14:00 Tuesday February 16: “The CMDB in a Cloudy & BYOD Universe” with Carlos Casanova, President  & Solutions Architect, K2 Solutions (Track 9: Tools & Technology)
Sadly, Carlos’s session clashes with Damon’s second so it’s another flip a coin time. Carlos is co-responsible for what must be the biggest-selling CMDB book ever, along with Forrester analyst Glenn O’Donnell, and it’s great to see him talking CMDB in a world where cloud and BYOD make configuration management even more complicated, yet even more important.

But That’s Not All…

So that’s just some of my recommendations for the session tracks. I’m sure the keynote sessions will be great too. The one by Tom Koulopoulos, chairman and founder of Delphi Group, in particular looks very interesting. Plus, there are the final-day afternoon workshops of which I’d personally opt to attend Paul Wilkinson’s of GamingWorks – his sessions are always funny and informative. Then finally, and I’m not just saying this because I work for an ITSM tool vendor, make good use of the expo hall time. Not just to grab freebies and to win prizes, but to also speak to vendors about ITSM best practices and the new challenges they are seeing with customer ITSM activities. It’s a great place to learn too, if you ask the right questions. Read this blog about getting the most out of ITSM conference expos for more on this. We would love to have you as our guest at the SysAid booth, so please pop by for a chat about ITSM best practice and the ITSM community as a whole. You can find out who will be attending from SysAid on our event page for Pink16. If you’ve chatted with us at an industry event before, then you will know that while we are there to demo SysAid (especially our new reporting and BI capabilities!), we are also there to spend time talking with IT professionals about the challenges and opportunities they face. And you’d also know that we have the best swag at every event! So please come by to say “hello” at Pink16. Joe the IT Guy loves all the attention.
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How You Can and Should Manage Availability of IT Services

Posted by on January 26, 2016 in ITIL
Manage Availability of IT Services In my recent blog 5 New Year’s Resolutions for ITSM Practitioners, I recommended that people should think about how they manage availability. I was surprised by the number of people who contacted me to say that they thought I had got this one wrong since availability management isn’t that important. I don’t think I got it wrong and this blog explains why. Well-run IT services make a huge contribution to a customer’s business, and this means that when those services aren’t available, the negative impact can be huge too. If we don’t plan to deliver the right level of availability, we’re just relying on luck, and, as we all know, hoping for the best isn’t a viable management strategy. Availability management activities can be broken up into three distinct areas:
  • Understanding and negotiating customer requirements
  • Designing services so they are able to deliver the required availability
  • Ongoing management to ensure agreed targets are met or exceeded

Understanding and Negotiating Customer Requirements

How available does a critical IT service need to be? How often have you worked with customers where there are no clear availability requirements beyond “It must be available all the time” or “We want 100% availability”? The biggest problem with this kind of target is that it gives you no guidance on how to design the service and its recovery mechanisms. You should never agree to targets like these. You will fail. Maybe not this week or this month, but eventually there will be some downtime. What’s more, you will not have the tools and the knowledge you need to manage that downtime effectively. One IT organization that I worked with designed a shiny new service that included clustered servers, RAID disks, dual network paths, and many similar technologies. The solution was designed so that routine hardware failure would have caused the service to stall for 20 to 40 seconds. Not bad, you might think. Nobody could possibly notice such a short interruption of service. Sadly, the availability target was poorly defined. When I elicited the customer‘s actual requirements, it turned out that they needed the solution to recover within 250mS (that’s a quarter of a second) whenever any component failed. A longer recovery time than this would have had a huge business impact. A major business project had to be put on hold for a year so that a new IT service design could be created! You must define availability requirements based on a thorough understanding of how the IT service supports the customer’s business processes, and what the impact of failure will be over different time periods.

Designing Services so that They Are Able to Deliver the Required Availability

When you design services to deliver the level of availability your customer needs, regardless of the technology you choose, you need to consider two things: reducing the frequency of failure and reducing the time taken to recover after failure. Failure happens less often when you use reliable infrastructure, with simple well-understood components. Ideally you should standardize on a small number of infrastructure components that you know well; this can help to reduce the chance of unexpected interactions. You should also use fully tested well-designed software, reusing existing software components wherever possible, rather than starting every project from scratch. The modern trend towards use of containers facilitates this, as new solutions are largely built from existing containers that are already well tested and well understood. Reducing time to recover is probably the most important aspect of availability design. If you think through all the different ways that IT services could fail, and plan how you would recover from each of them, then you can make a huge difference to availability. The concept of anti-fragile takes this to another level by accepting that failure cannot be prevented and designing services that can rapidly recover from almost any failure.

Ongoing Management to Ensure Agreed Targets Are Met or Exceeded

It isn’t enough to make sure that you include availability management when you first design and deploy services. You have to manage the availability of those services on an ongoing basis to ensure that agreed levels of availability are met. Here are three activities that need to be performed:

Testing Countermeasures to Ensure that They Will Work When Needed

Failover and recovery measures that you have invested in may not work when you need them if you don’t test them at regular intervals. I have reviewed many different IT services, to help identify risks.  In nearly every review I have discovered countermeasures that would not have worked when they were needed. Sometimes this was for technical reasons, but often it was simply because people did not know the exact steps they were supposed to follow after a failure. A regular schedule of testing verifies that everyone knows exactly what to do. So make sure the testing covers all of your recovery mechanisms, not just failover but also restoring backups, invocation of service continuity plans, and anything else that might be needed. Organizations that use the anti-fragile approach may actually inject random failures on a regular basis to make absolutely sure that the recovery mechanisms work correctly.

Measuring and Reporting Availability

It can be very difficult to measure and report the availability of an IT service in terms that are meaningful to customers. If one user has a faulty laptop, then the service may not be available to that user at a critical time, and this could be just as significant as a failure of a server or a critical application. Similarly, if just one transaction fails, this may be of low significance, or it could have a major impact on the business. Your measurement and reporting should reflect the customers’ experience of availability, not just data about technology components. This measurement and reporting must include the entire end-to-end IT service, not just the application or the server.

Intervening to Ensure that Availability Targets Are Met

Simply producing a report each month that shows when you missed the agreed targets is of very little benefit. Measuring and reporting availability is of most value when it helps you ensure that you meet your targets. If you monitor availability trends, you can identify IT services that might be in danger of breaching their targets in the future. This will give you time to identify improvements you can make to ensure you do meet the targets. You can also set warning thresholds so that you are aware of services that might breach their targets during the current measurement period. Then you can take measures to ensure targets are not breached. For example, one of my customers has a process that detects any service that has exceeded 50% of its allowed downtime during a quarter. They then take the following actions to ensure the target is met:
  • Put in place a change freeze until the end of the quarter
  • Ask a senior support person to review recent downtime to look for issues that might repeat
  • Set a flag on the service desk to raise the priority of any incidents
This active intervention has enabled them to reliably meet their availability targets for many years.

Summary

If you just monitor and report availability, then sometimes you will have to tell your customers that you failed. Alternatively, you could implement some of the ideas in this blog to actively manage the availability of your IT services, and ensure that you reliably meet your customers’ expectations.  Which do you think is better? Why not start now by discussing the ideas I bring up here with your IT team and thinking about which you can adopt straight away? Image credit
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ITSM and Business Intelligence: Why Do We Continue To Ignore Our Wealth of ITSM Data?

Posted by on January 19, 2016 in General IT
brain.jpg I’ve written about IT service management (ITSM) and the opportunities of business intelligence (BI) before, but that was four years ago, as an industry analyst. Since then, I’ve seen very few vendors shouting about the fact that they have upped their reporting, and potentially BI, game. It’s really odd, especially when you consider how the ITSM marketplace has embraced the Nexus of Forces, a concept (developed by global research and analysis firm Gartner) that describes “the convergence and mutual reinforcement of social, mobility, cloud and information patterns that drive new business scenarios.” So while the ITSM world has dipped its toes into the first three of these forces (social, mobility, and cloud) with varying degrees of success, the latter (information patterns) continues to be largely overlooked. Why do we continue to waste the BI opportunity that sits atop our wealth of ITSM data?

So What about Information and BI for ITSM?

ITSM solutions house a great deal of IT-related data. Whether it be in a configuration management database/system (CMDB/CMS), a service catalog, or within the more-transactional records for incidents, service requests, problems, and changes. But how many IT organizations are using this data to better understand their past and to influence their present and future? We might look for incident trends for problem management purposes. And we often have a death-by-metrics approach to performance reporting, where it can take someone a week to pull together a monthly reporting pack that gets very little attention or reads. But beyond the number of incidents handled and level of first contact resolution, what could the wealth of ITSM data be telling the IT organization and business colleagues about the past and the future?

So What’s Stopping the ITSM Data Opportunity?

I’d like to think that few would argue with the saying that “good decisions are guided by good data” or the logic that great businesses are built on good decisions. So why aren’t IT professionals using all their ITSM data for greater insight and better decision making? Maybe all the hype around “Big Data” has made people think that the ITSM data set isn’t big enough to pay attention to? Or maybe the cobbler’s children principle applies with IT folk, who are too busy dealing with other business information needs, resulting in no time to deal with its own needs? Maybe it’s because we are not numbers people in IT? If the numbers have $ or £ signs in front of them then I could believe this, but when we are talking volumes and percentages, I think not. Pardon my stereotyping, but I can’t think of many other corporate groups that are as excited by the quoting of statistics as IT professionals. Is it because we don’t see the need for planning and improvements? For most businesses, the IT and cloud-service infrastructure, and annual IT budget, are now so large (and potentially still growing) that the failure to plan and to continually seek out improvements in efficiency and quality of service is not an option. It happens, it has to happen, although one could question how much better it could be with more and better data or information to fuel decision making. Finally, is it because ITSM solutions don’t give as much insight into the data they hold as they could? I think we are getting warmer. It’s a common complaint from ITSM tool customers – with the native reporting capabilities often seen as difficult to use, ineffective, or both.

The Case for Business Intelligence in ITSM

Many IT organizations will already be leveraging ITSM data to some degree; I’ve already mentioned incident trend analysis and performance reporting. But what could be achieved through easier, and more insightful, access to the data trapped within an ITSM solution? I’d like to think that we are only limited by the available technology and the power of our imagination. And perhaps the courage to dig into the data not knowing what we will find. So consider being able to benefit from the following capabilities:
  • Understanding how the IT ecosystem works in reality to identify which service level targets can’t be (consistently) met, or conversely those that can never fail and are as such pretty useless as targets.
  • Demonstrating how upping or lowering service levels will increase or decrease IT costs versus the change in business performance. It could be an easy way to reduce IT costs with a minimal impact on business operations.
  • Using “predictive analytics” to understand the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.
  • Using ITSM data from various tool modules to create a real-world service taxonomy. This could be as part of a larger service portfolio management initiative.
  • Correlating service desk contact methods to issue type to understand how best to encourage and increase self-service adoption.
  • Improving service desk efficiency and effectiveness. It could be as simple as refining the incident classification hierarchy or as complex as understanding “flow” across a number of common service desk scenarios.
  • Improving the IT knowledge base and self-help facility, and consequently reducing service desk workload.
Then there are opportunities around other ITSM needs and activities such as more accurate availability and capacity management decisions, reducing change risk, improving governance, reducing financial “wastage,” and improving customer satisfaction.  And I’m only just scratching the surface in this blog. I’m sure that there are many more opportunities that can present themselves when greater access to ITSM data is made available. What would you like to be able to do? Image credit
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Problem and Incident Management Benefit from a Joint Effort

Posted by on January 12, 2016 in ITIL
Problem & incident management go together Nearly 30 years ago, ITIL® launched itself on an unsuspecting world with five books published. One of those was called Help Desk, and another one dealt separately with Problem Management. The separation of two requirements – dealing with calls and getting people working again – was one of the key elements of the fledgling ITIL guidance. The help desk, via the incident management process, was meant to deal with the immediate effects and get people working again. Problem management, on the other hand, was all about finding out what went wrong and preventing it from happening again.

They Are Different But…

In the 1990s ITIL advocated the need for a clear distinction between incident and problem management, but later thinking promoted the idea that integration of the two is very beneficial.
Like with all the ITIL processes that are considered part of service management, the basic principles are ones we are used to in our everyday domestic lives. For example, let’s think about cooking one of your regular recipes – something simple like pasta bake. You get it prepared and ready for the oven, and then can’t find the baking dish you normally use. What do you do? Dinner has to be ready on time so you use a different dish, a bit bigger than your usual one. The bigger surface area will affect the outcome of the dish a bit – topping will be spread out more, thinner depth causes quicker cooking, changing the texture slightly perhaps? So… maybe not perfectly suited but it will do the job and have dinner ready on time, which is your priority for now – incident solved. Later on, you go in search of the missing dish, or perhaps even buy a new one to replace it – problem resolved. However, this simplistic approach – solve incident now and problem later is not always best. We need to consider some other aspects too:
  • Is the incident solution actually good enough? In our example, would the family prefer to have their dinner later but cooked as usual?
  • Alternatively, if the other dish works just as well – or maybe even better, then do we even need to find the usual dish or replace it?
So, the feedback from the incident and its resolution is important input to problem management. If the improvised solution actually delivers as good or better a result, problem management folks need to know so that they don’t spend time working on a solution to something that now doesn’t need fixing. Otherwise, they could well be successful in restoring the original situation when what you have now is actually better!

Keeping the Channels of Communication Open

We can therefore see that ongoing communication between incident and problem management is also an important element, because incident management actions and observations can be a major influence on problem management in several ways:
  • Does the problem actually need solving at all?
  • Is the (intended to be) temporary quick fix actually good enough to be a long term fix too?
  • What kind of effect is the issue having? Is it costing more money or good will? Are the customers unhappy? Is it seriously affecting the business performance?
  • Even in the early stages of trying to fix a problem, ideas may generate better temporary solutions, and these should be fed back to incident resolution – like suggesting a trip to the take-away instead of cooking at all, for example.
To find the underlying cause, the problem management investigation might need to check, or seek additional, information. In our cooking example we might need to ask what else was happening when the incident occurred. Was the dishwasher running for example? Have storage locations been changed recently? Has a child just gone off to university and maybe taken some kitchenware along to use in the dormitory? In the more complicated IT service management (ITSM) world, ongoing communication is vital to help understand causes. Incident teams might be asked by the problem team to be on the look-out for certain incidents, perhaps changing the normal priority settings to help detect trends. While the roles are different between the incident and problem teams, it doesn’t mean the people have to be. In fact, it might be worthwhile having some overlap. Someone who’s aware of the incidents, and how they’re dealt with, automatically has a lot of information that will help with problem detection. In small organizations this is inevitable (and probably a good thing); in larger ones separating the roles can lead to duplication of work (not very efficient, but sadly it’s true). Using the incident team as a communication channel to those affected and having them maintain and actively use that channel requires collaboration but it is effort well spent.

Knowing When to Stop

When problem management needs investigation, knowing when to stop can be a difficult judgement call. In IT terms labelling a cause as a ‘network error’ might look like a solution but actually doesn’t necessarily help with preventing the incident from happening again. Probing deeper might mean handing that investigation over to a more specialized team. Making sure that the processes and procedures encourage this can really help in finding the actual underlying cause of things. Not doing so makes it look like problems are solved quickly, but means they tend to recur more often. Going back to our kitchen example – let’s say we found the missing dish broken in pieces in the garbage bin. This could explain why it wasn’t available, but might not help prevent the replacement dish from breaking too. Further investigation to find that your children used the dish in play might keep the next one intact. You could tell them not to play with it anymore, or you might feel the need to move dish storage to a higher cupboard to prevent recurrence. So, along with knowing the difference between problem and incident management, do you now also see the benefits of having them together? Image credit
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Change Management Webinar – The Listeners Speak

Posted by on January 6, 2016 in ITIL
Change management poll In my recent webinar for SysAid, Never Underestimate the Importance of Change Management, I had the chance to ask three polling questions to those listening. Encouragingly, we got around 160 answers to each question – easily enough to justify us talking about the result. First though, a gentle warning. This wasn’t a professional survey with a balanced sample of people. It is what those who attended the webinar thought. So, we can assume this is the situation for interested people in the ITSM profession who are motivated enough to subscribe to a change management webinar.
My webinar (which by the way you can still listen to if you haven’t already) set out to make a few simple points:
  • Don’t have IT change management as something separate from an organization’s overall change management. Since IT is part of every aspect of the organization, it should be involved in changes from the beginning.
  • Focus your change management efforts on the changes where you need to make a decision, accepting high-level instructions that you cannot alter, and delegating as much authority as you can via standard changes.
  • Look at how a changed service, or a new one, performs – not just immediately after go-live but also a while later, seeing actual behaviour, adoption, and usefulness of the service.

Polling Questions

So, what I wanted to find out from the listeners was how some folks were doing with those ideas. Therefore, I asked the following poll questions. 1. “When is your CIO/IT team asked for input on business changes?” This question relates to my first bullet above, and here were the results:
  • Only 25% felt IT in their organization provided input to business change, and are able to improve and suggest aspects.
  • Nearly 33% never get asked at all – just hearing about the change when it is implemented!
  • 45% get a chance to comment after a decision to proceed is made, so, 70% do get a voice at some point before the actual work starts. I was actually pleasantly surprised at that level of involvement of IT in the business changes, I had feared it would be lower. But in an age where every change in an organization has IT involvement, with IT well placed to offer added value, then it is a shame how many organizations don’t actively seek that input.
2.“Do you find yourself listening to – or even contributing to – a change discussion when the real decision has already been made?” This second question relates to my second bullet about accepting what is inevitable – such as senior management instruction, compliance to legal and industry requirements etc. What we discovered is that a massive 88% answered either ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’. That’s over 140 skilled IT professionals wasting their expensive time talking about the merits of something that they have to accept anyway. How many person-years is that across our industry when you scale it up? Most likely, the reasoning behind it is more based on psychology and office politics than core ITSM practices – but we should be aware of the consequences. Surely it’s better to spend our time and effort in discussing those changes where we do need to make an informed decision! 3. “Do you look at what a change actually did to the working environment (or just if it does what you thought it would)?” Obviously, this question relates to my last bullet point and the last section of the webinar dealing with judging whether a change is actually beneficial after it has been in place for a while; seeing how it is used in the live situation. The answer to this one surprised and genuinely delighted me.
  • Nearly 40% said they always do
  • Over 80% do so sometimes or always.
That sounds like a ringing endorsement for some level of holistic vision of the change and all the consequences of that change after it has been installed.

So What Does This All Mean?

Overall, I felt this was both interesting and encouraging feedback. I think this maybe offers an insight into a broad truth around change management – that we aren’t getting asked enough beforehand but are getting better at seeing the wider implications of our efforts after the change is implemented. I hope that this is true and the trend towards holistic change across an organization is one we see grow. The benefits are there for all of us if practiced properly. Does your organization match these answers? Or do you feel ahead of the game? Why not let us know what your answers are to the three questions, and help build an understanding of holistic change management? Image credit
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Looking Both ITSM Ways When Crossing the Service Street

Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Service Desk
Looking Both ITSM Ways When Crossing the Service Street IT services – actually all services – look different to those supplying them and those receiving them. This separation of perspective is not at all trivial: on the one hand, there’s the customer who judges a service received based on how well it supports their work or life, and on the other hand, those working on the service delivery focus wholly on its means of production, delivery, and maintenance. I believe that having awareness and empathy towards each others’ perspectives leads to real improvements to the service. In businesses today, with the ongoing move towards outsourcing, multi-sourcing, offshoring, and the like, the logical and physical separation of customer and supplier seems to be growing. So perhaps that makes this a good time to look at how much extended knowledge of the ‘other side’ is useful, and how much is just a source of distraction. While we’re at it, I’ll give my recommendations on how I think organizations can get that balance right.

On the One Hand …

From the customer perspective, the service is all about the use that can be gained from it. Success is about good answers to questions like:
  • Does it help me do my job?
  • Is it there when I need it?
  • Is it easy to use?
Effective use of a service is absolutely possible with minimal understanding of how it works. Think about the car you drive. How well you understand the engine, transmission, etc. makes very little difference to how useful it is to you. You judge it by where it can take you, its comfort, ease-of-use, and of course – its cost. Getting too excited about the mechanical aspects of the car can get distracting. Too much focus by the customer on how something works can prevent objective decisions relating to whether it does something you are willing to pay for.

… While on the Other Hand

From inside the supplier organization, of course, that same service has a very different look and feel. There needs to be detailed knowledge of the component parts: hardware, software, dependent contracts, costs, priorities, operational skills, and more. In the IT service management (ITSM) industry, this heads-down focus means you’re working solely on how a service works, making sure to keep it going consistently without interruptions. This approach inevitably means taking for granted that the service does what it should and therefore you’d be striving only to make it do what it does faster, cheaper, safer, and/or greener – depending on what management’s communicated priorities might be.

Overlap Can Help the Service Consumer

One thing that thousands of years of engineering has taught us is that sympathetic use of technology prolongs the life and increases the usefulness of services. If we think again about the car analogy, knowledge of how a clutch works applied to driving techniques can make the journey smoother and significantly improve the average life of the clutch. This logic carries over to the ITSM world where using things sympathetically extends the mean time between failures (MTBF) metric – for example, some awareness of how data is structured helps to phrase queries and make searches run faster.

Overlap Can Help the Engineer Too

Looking the other way is probably even more important. Those who are building and maintaining a service (like software, hardware, and network engineers, among others) are much more likely to build a service that delights the customers if they have insight into what the customer needs to do, and therefore insight into how they will use the service. Of course this is accepted and essential in service design – how could you build a product without knowing what it is for? But most of a service’s life is during the ‘live use and improvement’ phase, and often this is where the service provider staff is less aware of the end use of the service, which is what drives satisfaction with that particular service.

Seeing Both Sides of the Street

Squaring this particular circle shouldn’t be that difficult, although it is getting harder, for the reasons mentioned before – increasing separation between customer and service provider. For years, ITSM has used the term ‘end to end’ to mean the whole stretch of a service from the processor to the user. Modern innovations – like cloud and multi-sourcing – effectively lengthen that end-to-end spread for a service, while making it more complicated too. What might have been delivered 20 years ago by taking the IT support team on a tour around the factory or office, today might need to be replaced by targeted awareness of how end users located 10,000 kilometers away actually spend their working time. But without that awareness, there is the ever-present danger that IT staff will be striving hard to improve aspects of a service that aren’t the ones that matter to the customer. It isn’t that hard to find out if the levels of awareness – in both directions – are there. A good service manager will be asking some key questions:
  • To the users – do you know how to get the best from what the service does, matching your needs to the way it delivers?
  • To the supplier teams – do you know what this is actually for, what the guys out there actually do with it?
Do your service managers see the need for both perspectives, and the importance of their role in seeing, appreciating, and documenting both views?  Image credit
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5 New Year’s Resolutions for ITSM Practitioners

Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Service Desk
New Year's Resolutions for ITSM Practitioners New Year’s resolutions are traditional at this time of year. So I’ve been thinking about what would be great resolutions for people who work in IT service management (ITSM). Here are my top five suggestions for you to consider.

Measure and Report What’s Important

Do you create lots of reports, full of numbers, charts and tables? When did you last talk to your stakeholders about what’s really important to them, so that you could make sure that your reports are relevant and focused? A short report that has the information your customers really need is much more valuable than a long report full of numbers that they don’t care about. The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on what you’re reporting and consider whether you could create more value by reporting less. So why not take the time to review what you’re doing, and make changes if they’re needed? Remember to talk to your customers before you make any changes, to ensure that you really are improving their experience.

Stop Doing Things that Don’t Create Value

Whenever I carry out ITSM process reviews, I always discover things that people do just because they’ve always worked that way. Eliminating activities that don’t create any value is a great way to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and speed up ITSM processes; and it’s surprisingly easy to do. Create a process diagram on a piece of paper and list all the activities you do. Even better, make the time to do this as a team and create the process diagram on a whiteboard so everyone can take part. Then review each process activity and ask yourself a series of simple questions:
  • Is this activity really necessary?
  • Does this activity add real value for our customers?
  • Could we make this activity more efficient?
  • Could we stop doing it altogether?
At the end of this review you will know how to streamline your process so that it works much better for you, and for your customers.

Make 2016 the Year of Continual Improvement

IT organizations that embed continual service improvement (CSI) into their culture have a huge advantage over those that simply carry on working the way they always have. CSI doesn’t need to be big and cumbersome.  All you need to make CSI work is a belief that you can improve, and a willingness to foster the attitudes and behaviors that go with this. So how do you get started with CSI?  It’s simple.  Write down all the ideas you already have for making improvements in a CSI register. A CSI register is just a list of improvement ideas with columns for things like what the improvement idea is, who suggested it, how you have prioritized it. Don’t make it too big and complex, just sufficient to make sure you manage and track your improvement ideas. Some of the improvement ideas you come up with will be outside your control, and you just have to pass those on to whoever can implement them. Some will be things that your team can do, and you should share these with the team, prioritize them, and start working on the ones with the highest priority. Some improvement ideas will be personal for you, and these you can prioritize and implement all by yourself. Once the top items on your list have owners, and dates for reviewing progress, you’re in business. You can find more suggestions for getting started with CSI here.

Think About How You Manage Availability

Do you have a process for doing availability management? Lots of organizations tell me that they don’t do availability management, but when I ask for details about how they manage services, I often discover that they have:
  • Countermeasures such as RAID, Clustering, and dual network connections to ensure that routine hardware failures don’t cause catastrophic service failures.
  • Data replication and backups, to ensure they can recover from loss of data, or data corruption.
  • Reporting of server and application availability, and sometimes even reporting of end-to-end service availability as experienced by the users.
These things form a great basis for a more formal availability management process, which can really help to ensure you meet your customers’ expectations. Often, the only things that are missing are some checklists and assignment of responsibilities to ensure that you have thought about all the likely risks, and taken appropriate measures. So how about implementing a formal availability management process this year? A small amount of effort may help you to avoid costly and embarrassing downtime.

Update Your Certifications

One thing you could do for your own personal improvement is to update your knowledge and certifications. I would recommend these:

ITIL Practitioner

If you have taken an ITIL® Foundation exam then you will already be familiar with many different ITSM terms and processes, but this isn’t really enough to help you make a difference to your organization or your customers. There is a new ITIL certification, called ITIL Practitioner, which will be available from February 2016 and which will help you to take that crucial next step. ITIL Practitioner is based on using continual improvement and includes a number of guiding principles and competencies that will help you to create real value. You can read more about it here.

RESILIA Best Practice for Cyber Resilience

Another new certification that may be relevant to ITSM practitioners is RESILIA™. This Cyber Resilience best practice is aligned with ITIL, and can help you to understand how the things you do in ITSM impact the cyber resilience of your organization.

Summary

So there you have my five suggestions for New Year’s resolutions. I’d love to hear what you’re going to change to make 2016 a great year. Please do post your resolutions below or let me know on Twitter. And I’d love it if you remembered to come back at the end of 2016 to share what you’ve achieved! Image credit
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10 IT Predictions for 2016

Posted by on December 22, 2015 in General IT
IT predictions Anyone can predict the future, although whether they are right or not is a different matter. Just look at the Y2K predictions, or those stating that online shopping would never take off. Or that the Apple iPhone would never sell – I bet Nokia was relieved to hear this back in 2007. There must be lots of cloud predictions too – in particular that large companies wouldn’t adopt cloud or even software-as-a-service (SaaS) due to security concerns. Finally, if you want to go old-school technology, that the Titanic was unsinkable. Despite these, the tech media will no doubt be full of 2016 predictions as the New Year approaches. And neither this prediction blitz nor my list of failed technology predictions is enough to stop me from using my crystal ball…

My 2016 IT Predictions in Summary

In my opinion, 2016 will be characterized by power shifts as corporate IT, and the technology it employs, transforms at an exponential rate. The impact of these power shifts will affect line of business attitudes to IT supply, and corporate IT budgets and priorities; which will in turn change technology vendor approaches. Importantly, it’s not just about the changing technology but also how corporate IT is viewed and how the supply and demand models required to meet growing business requirements for technology need to change. Many of my predictions have already started to appear during 2015, via early adopters, and will continue to become mainstream in 2016.

1.    The Balance of IT Power Leans Away from Technology Vendors

2.    Developers Move from the Basement to the Boardroom

3.    Developer Experience Is No Longer a Cute Vendor Marketing Play

4.    Vendors Increasingly Sell Technology Directly to Lines of Business

5.    SaaS Becomes the Main Cloud Battlefield

6.    Frameworks Avoid the Waste of “Samework”

7.    IoT Drives Exponential Growth of Data and Connectivity

8.    Malware Combat and Breach Reduction

9.    Service Management Breaks Free from IT

10.  Chat Overtakes Microblogging in Social

Here are these ten predictions in more detail…

1. The Balance of IT Power Leans Away from Technology Vendors

Some very large organizations such as Royal Phillips, GE, and JPMC have not only adopted cloud, they have also ripped up their IT supply approach to lean towards line-of-business IT procurement and consumption. What this means is that they have eliminated central IT-driven procurement contracts – which are often seen as out of touch, and wasteful and limiting – and moved vendors to consumption-based agreements with no upfront costs, no lock-in, no minimum use, and pay-as-you-go billing. Many vendors are already responding. For instance, Microsoft is modifying its popular Enterprise Agreement program to be consumption-focused, meaning that customer dollars are targeted at the consumption of Office 365 and cloud units instead of CPUs or other old-fashioned licensing constructs. Those vendors that resist, such as SAP did with Royal Phillips, will lose their direct relationship with the customer – as the customer inserts a service provider as a gateway, or middleman, between them.

2. Developers Move from the Basement to the Boardroom

During 2016, the perception that developers are basement-dwelling, socially-awkward techies with no grasp on business reality will continue to be shattered. As “software eats the world,” and as companies change their core competency from “shifting atoms” to using software to delight customers, developers will become distributed across lines of business and into the C-suite as they create business processes in software in real time. As a result, companies will need to publicly change their image, as well as change their internal thinking, to adopt approaches such as Open Source to attract the best developer talent. Developers are now touted by thought-leading industry analyst firms, such as RedMonk, as the new “kingmakers,” and businesses need to start to treat them as such.

3. Developer Experience Is No Longer a Cute Vendor Marketing Play

Developer experience (DX) will be a key strategic activity for vendors due to the emergence of developer-centric approaches such as “Developer-Driven Infrastructure” and “Developer is King,” all championed through cloud computing. In the past, if a vendor had a DX program it was commonly a marketing function that funded developer-friendly programs, such as free not-for-resale (NFR) licenses and other carrots, to tempt developer alliances to the vendor. In 2016, DX will become commonplace and freebies will be complemented with deeper relationship-building activities, such as “hackathons.” Especially in industry verticals such as healthcare and FinTech where the vendors and developers co-create value using APIs and open-source software. This has also spawned a new industry of “API evangelists,” and new vendors, who step in front of traditional vendors to help developers create innovative new platforms.

4. Vendors Increasingly Sell Technology Directly to Lines of Business

Shadow IT has been around for a number of years, and if you’ve ever worked on an IT service desk you know that it is at least 15 years old. Recent technology changes have upped the stakes for Shadow IT and lines of business are increasingly eschewing central IT functions and going straight to the technology vendors themselves, especially cloud vendors. Key to this is the line-of-business departments not needing deep, traditional IT skills; with modern Shadow IT purchases mostly of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) variety, such as CRM and customer support, IT service management (ITSM) and IT service desk, and marketing applications. Of the traditional IT vendors, Oracle in particular has seen and responded to this. Understanding that there is a gap between the huge enterprise IT market and the current cloud leaders, AWS and Azure, who are still mostly focused on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). But who knows where AWS and Azure will head in 2016?

5. SaaS Becomes the Main Cloud Battlefield

SaaS was always marked as the biggest cloud model, bigger than IaaS or platform-as-a-service (PaaS), but it has taken some time for this to be reality. And SaaS upsets traditional vendor revenue models because the vendors can’t recognize the revenue upfront and their age-old, sales-team compensation model is broken. Some of the software giants have kept pace though. Microsoft has been making this transition for a number of years, so it’s well placed to be at the front of the field with its Office 365, Business Intelligence, and Dynamics suites. And, as I mentioned in my previous point, Oracle has responded to the gap in the market, with CEO Larry Ellison feeling that he has “primed the pump” to be number one in the SaaS market, which he sees as unfulfilled, potentially-significant profit.

6. Frameworks Avoid the Waste of “Samework”

2015 saw the rise of PaaS after years of promise. CloudFoundry became a foundation consisting of customers and vendors; new alliances emerged with RedHat’s OpenShift now playing nice on Azure; and Pivotal continued to shout the loudest from the highest hilltop. Netflix open-sourced much of their operationally-minded PaaS components, with these now included in CloudFoundry, such that PaaS offerings are very complete. These “opinionated PaaS” frameworks can help organizations to “get there faster” by not needing to reinvent things such as log-in mechanisms, monitoring systems, or identity and access management systems. The more opinionated a platform is, the less needs to be built for the platform to be functional and operational. In my opinion, any corporate IT developers not using an opinionated PaaS in 2016 should be questioned thoroughly as to why they are reinventing the wheel.

7. IoT Drives Exponential Growth of Data and Connectivity

There are already a number of excellent business IoT use cases and these will explode, across a variety of industries, where significant investment has been earmarked. These industries include healthcare, aviation, home automation, and civil infrastructure among others. As IoT sensors become smaller and cheaper, and thus more ubiquitous, they will both require more wireless connectivity and will generate huge amounts of time-series data. Such data has unique properties such as large occurrences of small, unchanging sensor-data writes and variable-frequency big-data reads on the same data. Combined these will drive more cloud usage (the essential characteristics of broad network access and elastic capacity being essential for IoT) and new database systems such as Basho’s Riak TS.

8. Malware Combat and Breach Reduction

Sadly, more than 90 percent of corporate security breaches are caused by employees being hijacked by malware or suckered by phishing to reveal their credentials to criminals. In 2016, multiple factors of access security will become the norm to replace the username and passwords we are all so familiar with. For instance, using authentication code generators on mobile phones. New security software will interpret email attachments and applications embedded in browsers, such as PDF browsers, to decompose the content, check it against known safe formats (using whitelists), and recompose it correctly before passing it on to the end user.

9. Service Management Breaks Free from IT

ITSM people, process, and technology frameworks such as ITIL have come under significant criticism in the last few years due to their perceived inability to keep up with the changing IT landscape. In 2016, leading thinkers in this space will continue to push for ITSM to not be about IT but instead to be about high quality delivery and management of any kind of service, be it HR (to employees), sales (to customers), or IT (to developers). This doesn’t mean that IT isn’t important in the delivery of the service, as 2016 will see the continued dominance of easy-to-use, intuitive, and beautifully-designed service management tools. Instead, it means that in 2016 the focus will not be purely delivering IT services, but delivering any service.

10. Chat Overtakes Microblogging in Social

Email used to be a non-core service but today’s businesses most likely couldn’t operate without this ubiquitous messaging platform. However, we all know that it comes with problems, such as spam, reply-to-all storms, and malware. Companies then used wikis and blogging platforms like Microsoft SharePoint to reduce email. Then they introduced internal social media platforms such as Yammer. Companies like Atos even adopted a zero-email policy and bought their own social media platform. All of these will continue to have a place but 2016 will see the rise of “chat platforms,” such as Slack, which have taken the decades-old Internet Relay Chat (IRC) idea and transformed it into something new to disrupt collaboration. These new chat platforms also open their APIs to allow innovation on top of them, which in 2016 will be a classic platform play to make them ubiquitous in the workplace. So that’s ten technology predictions from me, what do you expect to see happening to or within corporate IT in 2016?
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Winter 16 Beta Bliss: Reporting…Redefined

Posted by on December 17, 2015 in SysAid
SysAid ITSM Reporting “The new reporting is SUCH an improvement! I love the new design too, but the functionality in the reporting though… Fantastic.” -lola412 “New reporting is a big improvement” -cdkarp “Thanks for updating the Reporting UI. It's definitely much improved.” -GopherTech Hey guys! It’s SysAid Beta time again and I feel like we’re in a winter wonderland – well, it is the season, right? SysAid Winter 16 (also known as v15.4) On-Premise Beta testing is progressing quite nicely – we’re receiving lots of positive reactions and constructive feedback from our Pathfinders, and have recently moved to Beta Phase 2. Part of the feedback resulted in our opening numerous bugs, which our R&D team is busy fixing literally as I’m typing this :)  

Winter 16 Highlights

In case you haven’t already heard, allow me to go over with you what the whole fuss is about:

New Reporting Module & BI Analytics!

We’re introducing a new, drag-and-droppable UI, with loads of improvements to make reporting smooooooooth and easy. Combined together with the upcoming BI Analytics module (which was announced in November and is due to be launched at the official Winter 16 On-Premise release), both will complement SysAid's existing set of analytics features, including IT Benchmark and our animated summary of metrics, in order to assist managers to:
  • Accurately track relevant KPIs according to organizational goals
  • Gain an overview of team performance and organizational processes
  • Present metrics to management in a professional and engaging manner, with customized branding
  • Make conclusions and implement continual service improvement (CSI) to improve productivity
Check out: New Reporting Webinar | Instant Demo to test out new Reporting

Brand-New Mac OS Agent

Many of our customers requested this new feature, so I’m very pleased that it was included in Winter 16. Here’s what you get:
  • New wizard for manual installations
  • No more dependence on Java
  • Auto-upgrade functionality
  • RDS support
  • Compatibility with standard inventory commands for more efficient bandwidth usage
  • Remote control capability

Brand-New REST API Platform

SysAid’s new REST API gives a more modern standard solution for accessing SysAid via an API. You can learn more about its functions in our REST API Guide.

Join the Beta Now and Grab Some Cozy Gifts

There are many other enhancements and bug fixes in Winter 16, so we still have more to check, test, and examine! Sound exciting? If you’re a SysAid customer, it’s not too late to join the ranks of SysAid Pathfinders and drive the improvements to perfection! The Beta has already been actively tested by over 55 passionate Pathfinders (both in test and production environments), and you can take your part as well. Join the Pathfinder Program now, actively participate in the testing process on the community or by sending your feedback to beta@sysaid.com, and receive your own cozy SysAid fleece jacket and neck warmer to keep you comfy and warm – just for sharing your feedback! Cozy SysAid fleece jacket and neck warmer See you in the Beta forum :)
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What’s the Future of Corporate IT and ITSM?

Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Service Desk
While we were at FUSION, the joint itSMF USA and HDI IT service management (ITSM) conference, we asked a number of the IT and ITSM professionals in the Expo Hall three quick questions about the future of IT:
  1. Where do you see the corporate IT department in five years’ time?
  2. With the consumerization of IT continuing to drive employee expectations of corporate IT, how will this potentially disrupt the way companies deliver IT?
  3. What IT process or activity is the most important in creating superior user experiences to boost user/customer satisfaction?
We also tweeted the survey a few times post-FUSION, which helped to take the number of survey responses to a healthy 331. I like to think of it as a quick pulse check for IT professionals and their IT organizations – we’d have liked to ask more questions, but have you seen how difficult it is to get people to engage with surveys these days? Nonetheless, the survey results, while limited in their scope for ease-of-completion purposes, show that corporate IT organizations need to change, and to change in a number of different ways.

The Corporate IT Department in 2020 – Smaller and with New Skills

Thankfully only 3.6% of respondents think that there will no longer be corporate IT departments – but given who answered the survey that would be like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The Future of ITSM Survey Nearly half of respondents (48%) expect IT departments to contain fewer people in five years’ time versus the 28.4% that expect growth in corporate IT team sizes. This expected drop in IT department employees could relate to a number of expected changes in IT operations, including:
  • Greater business unit responsibility for IT whether formalized or a gradual erosion of IT department relevancy
  • Increased use of cloud and other third-party service providers
  • Increased use of automation in the management of IT and IT service delivery.
Finally, 83.7% of respondents see a need for IT professionals to learn new skills versus the 12.6% that feel IT professionals will only need their current skills. This could relate to new technical skills but also the skills required to manage third-party suppliers and to better engage with the customers and consumers of IT services.

The Consumerization of IT Will Disrupt the Way Companies Deliver IT

Only 5.4% of respondents don’t think that consumerization will affect how corporate IT organizations operate (and an additional 2.4% don’t know what the consumerization of IT is). The future of ITSM A skeptical 24.2% think that organizations will invest in consumer-like capabilities such as service catalogs/IT portals but will still be driven by the technology. So they will potentially be driven by the sexy technology related to consumerization but either ignore, or lack the ability to understand, the true impact of consumerization on corporate IT and service delivery. The remaining 67.9% think that corporate IT organizations need to fundamentally change, with:
  • 35% thinking that IT departments and projects will be driven by user/customer needs and expectations rather than the technology.
  • 32.9% thinking that the corporate IT department will need to reinvent itself to match consumer services and service.
There is no doubt that, while the consumerization of IT has been putting pressure on corporate IT organizations for nearly a decade, consumerization is now about so much more than Shadow IT, BYOD, and personal cloud services. Consumerization is about the overall service experience, when consuming IT services, as well as the technology that employees and customers use.

IT Organizations Need New Ways in which to Deliver Superior User Experiences

Thankfully only one respondent doesn’t think that user experience is important. However, when it comes to the activities organizations will use to improve user/customer satisfaction, there is good news and bad news from the following results:
  • Change management – 10.0%
  • Service level management – 19.3%
  • Incident and problem management – 19.6%
  • Business relationship management – 42.9%
  • Other – 5.4%
SysAid Survey: IT organizations need new ways in which to deliver superior user experiences The good news is that business relationship and service level management scored highly. But sadly these processes/activities aren’t as commonly adopted by organizations as they could be. The choice of incident and problem management by 1 in 5 respondents, plus those that called out service desk as an “Other” choice, potentially shows the siloed thinking and operations within IT organizations – pointing to IT support activities as being key in creating superior user experiences. However, while the support experience is important, user experience is about so much more than support – and corporate IT organizations need to understand this if they are to truly meet employees’ consumer-driven expectations around user and service experience. Whether it be through business relationship management or via another means, IT organizations need to invest in processes or activities that allow them to better understand, manage, and meet the expectations of their internal consumers/customers. But even before this, they need to consider what they are delivering in terms of how employees and customers are consuming what they design and build/buy. In the same way that ITIL® (the ITSM best practice framework formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library), encouraged the move from technology-centric to service-centric thinking (that’s IT delivered as services), we need to make the next evolution in corporate IT. And it needs to be an evolution where we consider more than the technology, and more than the delivered IT service in terms of devices, software/apps, and connectivity to the cloud. Instead corporate IT organizations need to be thinking about the overall service experience associated with their services, and not just in support. So what do you think about our survey results? Did anything surprise you?

Like this article? You may also like: The Cloud Behind the Curtain - Why ITSM Matters.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.
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