Posted By Richard Horton,
17 October 2016
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In the lead up to ITSM16, we'll be posting blogs from various people answering a simple Q&A about ITSM16 and why they'll be attending this year.
Richard Horton, itSMF UK Board Member and Service Delivery manager at the NIHR CRN (University of Leeds), is the first to respond.
What are you most looking forward to at ITSM16?
The presentation of and dialogue about PSMF.
What have you got out of attending previous ITSMF UK conferences?
Practical insights that I've been able to take back into the workplace, apply, and still find relevant.
Why are you attending the conference this year?
To be part of our showcase event. With all that's been happening this year and the 25 year factor, it feels like it should prove a memorable event.
What’s been one of the biggest changes in the ITSM industry in the past 25 years?
Not sure I can comment on 25 years — I wasn't aware of ITSM as a concept then, let alone as an industry. So maybe breadth of engagement would be one perspective.
What are you most looking forward to in the future of ITSM?
There's a recurring theme about same challenges/mistakes/weaknesses recurring and it would be good if through PSMF or otherwise we can see better generally adopted practices... especially if they can cater for emergent ways of working.
In ten words or fewer, what does being an ITSMF UK member mean to you?
Working with dedicated volunteers, seeking common good, ITSM challenges embraced.
Don't hesitate, book for ITSM16 NOW!
Posted By Robert Stroud,
06 September 2016
Updated: 05 September 2016
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With our growing dependency on IT, we need to start delivering services in the way that our customers really want them.
I was recently shopping in a store, something that I don’t enjoy doing. Whilst waiting in the long line the announcement echoed over the store intercom that sales were temporarily suspended due to a computer failure. Now, instead of abandoning my trolley and leaving the store, I thought that I would wait this one out and see how IT and the business interacted to resolve the problem. As I watched, the store manager worked on the phone with the ‘help desk’ to isolate and remediate the problem. The triage and resolution took for what seemed hours but actually was only a matter of minutes.
Especially interesting to me during this entire incident was the reinforcement that technology was a single point of failure in the company’s business process and the assumption that ‘IT’ will always be on and will work.
After the shop had reverted to business as usual, I asked the manager why his staff couldn’t simply use calculators to process the customers’ orders. He explained that it was company policy to suspend transactions in these circumstances due to the total interconnectivity of inventory systems, differing tax rates and so on for which the staff had not been appropriately trained.
For me this was a stark reminder of the growing dependency on technology that we all face in our lives, a situation reinforced by a number of changes:
- Mobility – no longer a fad but business as usual.
Smartphones and tablets are everywhere; just look around you at the moment. Today, enterprise applications are being delivered in ‘fit for purpose’ apps on mobile devices, threatening to make desktops and even laptops irrelevant. Think for a moment about the growing number of virtual stores where cameras on smartphones are used to scan barcodes, and then the associated app interfaces with the inventory system, processing orders and credit card transactions and emailing receipts. This represents only the beginning. Apps will proliferate and even be integrated into a constructed business process that can be developed within the organisation by a business analyst. Mobility is no longer a ‘fad’, it’s the norm.
- Complexity across the service value chain
IT services are becoming increasingly complex. This is partly due to the way that third parties are used for selected functions, while older technology retained at the heart of the organisation is required to do unnatural acts! This added complexity makes it more difficult and expensive to address issues with these services, which means that IT must become more proactive. This can be achieved with the integration of IT infrastructure tools that monitor all aspects of the service topography, including partner interfaces, and then aggregate the outputs of these tools – metrics, alerts, etc. – related to the services. The goal is to understand potential performance issues or failures and to deal with them before they recur or become a problem.
- Self-resolution – the norm
I, like many others, regularly network with my virtual peers and community to seek answers to questions. My daughter-in-law, for example, was recently trying to resolve a problem with some software she used for her work. Instead of calling the service desk, she posted a question on Facebook and the community pointed her to an update to the software application and she self-provisioned the solution, without any interaction with the IT organisation.
Today we trawl the internet for great travel deals and book our travel online. Only a decade ago we used a travel agent. Now, if there are problems with our reservations, we can resolve them quickly on our own, instead of having to queue or contact a service desk. Today, if my plane is cancelled, I am notified almost instantly of my new arrangements on my wireless device and I only need to call if I am not satisfied. The airline is acting proactively, not waiting to react when the phone rings.
Self-resolution is clearly becoming the norm and will become more pervasive.
IT organisations must focus on the automation of service creation, delivery, resolution and escalation. This is not just to provide better customer service; forward-thinking organisations are automating in order to make resources available for value-added activities such as building new services or proactive problem management.
It is not enough, though, just to automate the IT process. We must ensure that relevant audit checkpoints are maintained and automated restoration is available in case of failure. Automation is critical!
- Deliver services, not resolve incidents
The accelerated business cadence is all about delivering service to the organisation’s customers with speed, quality and differentiation; but to achieve this requires more than automation and slick technology.
The service desk team must also transition. The team must shed the image of waiting for the phone to ring, documenting and passing the issue to the next step in the chain. The team must focus on building and delivering in order to increase both their real and perceived value within the organisation; otherwise they will quickly become irrelevant.
Many people tell me that service management is dead. Not true! What is true is that the role of service management is evolving - from one of support to one of focus on delivery and proactivity. With our growing dependency on IT, we have a challenge and an opportunity to add even greater value to the business in the months ahead.
Are you up for the challenge?
If you'd like more help with this subject then why not attend one of our workshops? For more information visit our events page
Posted By Rebecca L. Beach,
12 July 2016
Updated: 12 July 2016
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In this new series of podcasts we'll be talking to self proclaimed ITSM "old fogies" Barclay Rae, James Finister, Stephen Mann and Pat Bolger and other guests about everything ITSM.
Episode 1 comes from the floor of SITS16 and features guest Ollie O'Donohue from SDI and a brief gatecrashing from Chris Matchett.
View all our podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.
Posted By Sandra Whittleston,
08 July 2016
Updated: 07 July 2016
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Very often when attending IT Service Management (ITSM) events and meetings, discussions focus on the newcomers to our industry. Popular questions include, “where is the new blood and where it is likely to come from?” and “how can we encourage new people into our industry?” Teaching ITSM to young people and older career changers whilst they study on university programmes sends hope for the future because of the way that students engage proactively with the concepts and easily join in debates. This is primarily because they understand the service culture and often have strong opinions, both of which can have a positive effect on how they approach their studies.
There is no doubt that young undergraduates learn best when using technology, respond to different assessment types, can socialise, take global stances and use problem solving activities as a way to explore and develop their understanding. These younger students leave university and go into the world of work armed with theoretical knowledge of ITSM and with an enthusiastic and creative view of how they can use this knowledge in their new employment. Indeed, students can often get interviews and sometimes a job offer directly on the strength of studying ITSM on their degree course.
Mature students (better described as those with working experience and/or who already have jobs in ITSM) relate stories about how they have become more confident in using the material; often pushing back pre-conceived ideas held by them or their colleagues.
Whether they are young undergraduates or part of the more mature group, ITSM lecturers often find students enjoy the ‘journey’ rather than concentrating too much on the destination.
Longitudinal study of ITSM (observation over a period of time) has some benefits here; teaching staff witness the growth of the individual over the timeframe that they study.
The diversity in the student demographic is both constructive and challenging. It is often found that mature students engage more proactively with the material from the initial weeks of study as they are keen to apply additional concepts not normally included within the ITSM material; for example organisational change. However, this is not always the case as prior knowledge of ITSM is not always a prime motivator, nor is lack of prior knowledge a de-motivator; much depends on the individual.
The prime focus of many business and management events these days is about the value of good service and how businesses can use technology more efficiently with good outcomes for the customer. Aimed at business and IT professionals, these events prove beneficial as talking shops where the old chestnuts of organisational change, effective project planning and understanding stakeholder needs can dominate conversations. The ideology of a ‘service culture’ is easy to understand, but creating it is can be another matter. It seems that whether a person is a young undergraduate or a mature business or IT professional, the issues around creating good service are well understood.
It is easy to see why, in today’s service-orientated world, the progression to advanced thinking and understanding is important. This is confirmed by listening to conversations at ITSMF UK conference and events, where there are often enquiries from those working in ITSM about what further opportunities are open to them. For example, some people wonder what they can do after they have achieved ITIL Expert, when they may also have a range of other business or IT standards qualifications under their belt. Some have achieved a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from a university. Still questions remain about further ‘inquiry’ and/or personal or work-based research on service issues.
These are pertinent questions. After all ITSM is a practically based discipline and lends itself to further personal or organisational research beyond training or undergraduate education. One route for working students with a quality undergraduate degree, underpinned by other professional qualifications or industry experience, is that they may be eligible for direct enrolment onto a PhD. The challenge for universities is to understand the market need, to develop academic programmes which will be conducive to this, and to have specialist academics or professionals who are equipped to supervise students whilst they research. It could be argued that the ITSM industry needs its own journal where quality papers including sponsored and unsponsored research are peer reviewed and published.
Going back to the question of trying to get to grips with where the next generation of ITSM professionals are likely to come from, it is important to understand how young undergraduates perceive service. As already noted, the concept is not alien to them. It is also important for the ITSM industry to understand the demographic of those already working in the industry, their motivations for further inquiry, and how they currently embrace the service culture.
Human resource research identifies the challenges to handling a multi-generational workforce by understanding the preferences, expectations, beliefs and behaviours of each generation*. So how can this apply to ITSM? It could be argued that those with work experience and/or qualifications in ITSM are more than likely to be aged from 34 to 45, a group which has distinctive attitudes to life, work and learning - tending to be salary driven and to see work as an anchor. Research shows that people in their mid to late thirties also place great value on work-life balance, and are less likely to succumb to work pressures than those over 45.
Conversely those in their late teens up to early thirties are the techno-savvy, confident and tenacious generation who rely heavily on technology for both work and pleasure and as such have different perspectives on jobs and lifestyle from their older counterparts. Having easily embraced technical inter-connectivity through social media, they are known for their collective action, flexibility and (generally) being street-wise. They naturally challenge long-held views and methods and are not afraid to say so. As such they expect old ways of thinking to be re-evaluated and for others to see that it is the end result that counts, not the perception of when, where or how things are done. In the university environment, they expect their lecturers to not only be cognisant of their view of the world but also to embrace differing views themselves.
Whilst these are generalisations, they are borne out by the author’s teaching experience. The prevalent attitudes of these two demographic groups can meld together quite happily, though, not only in the work place but in the way that they are trained or educated.
Embracing the Millennials
Understanding the mind-set of the newer generation (often referred to as Generation Y or Millennials) is a challenge for those teaching in universities. It is important for the service management industry to understand it too. Collectively, university staff and ITSM professionals may require a shift in thinking about how to encourage Millennials while holding onto existing values too. The shift must develop naturally from a blend of teaching and learning built on solid educational foundations. Importantly, it must come from positive knowledge sharing across generations, as noted by those developing multi-generational concepts in their workforce.
Enlightened ITSM departments will set up mentoring and coaching for these newcomers, passing on war stories and the benefits of practical experience. However, the shift should not just be one way. We should encourage the latest generation to influence and challenge old ways of thinking, readjusting long held perspectives and creating a new thrust in the development of the core material which reflects a ubiquitous service culture. As Gilbert K Chesterton stated, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it p
asses from one generation to another”. Therefore the soul of ITSM must persist and be passed onto the next generation.
Attitudes and values go beyond the generations. They are also affected by social, cultural and behavioural influences, so things are not always clear cut. The new generation, however, will not wait for changes to be introduced by their older counterparts; they will find their own way and they are here amongst us today!
We should value the mind-set of the newcomers for what they will bring to ITSM, giving them a status they can relate to: say, Young ITSM Professional. We should create the conditions where an inter-generational community of inquiry exists which is built on new ideas, is readily shared across social platforms, and fosters further debate.
Above all we should not be afraid to encourage profound feedback and comment from them as they challenge long-standing views and beliefs.
Quite rightly educational institutions should create mechanisms for all of this. Importantly, there has to be an endemic understanding of the challenges that these institutions face as they include ITSM in their academic portfolios. The ITSM community must also reflect and respond accordingly. Collectively education and training providers must work together to create mechanisms for lifelong learning and development in ITSM so that newcomers and those developing their existing careers are exposed to a blend of education, training and experiential learning via dedicated but flexible routes. The term ‘education’ in ITSM must be seen as a generic concept, not purely academic learning.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2014 issue of Service Talk.
Posted By Richard Horton and The Transition SIG,
30 June 2016
Updated: 30 June 2016
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If you want a one-line summary of the challenge faced by people delivering IT services, you could do worse than “How to deliver more and break less”.
Given that there isn't a limitless pile of money available to throw at this problem, and that there are constant pressures to reduce costs, clearly we need to improve our practice if we are going to reduce the breakages.
The good news is that there is room for improvement. Despite years when change and release management have been viewed as core ITIL processes, likely to get an organisation’s attention before many others, we still haven’t got these essential elements cracked. Much is spoken about agile and DevOps, but when push comes to shove, many people are still taking a more ‘traditional’ approach to release management, if they have got that far.
At a recent Service Transition SIG meeting, we took a look at the sort of challenges that face us in deciding how to do release management, and a range of approaches we can use in addressing them.
We started with our hosts Arqiva, who outlined to us the complexities that they face as they serve customers with competing demands. They have to balance their requirements on a shared infrastructure. And if they mess up, they are acutely aware that the nation will know, as their mistakes have the power to bring down television or radio transmission. Arqiva explained how they have delivered impressive increases in the reliability of change implementation, but still face some challenges in release management.
So what sort of models could be applied? There isn't a ‘one size fits all’ here. Some organisations, we discovered at the meeting, focus their release management more at the technical level, while others opt for an implementation scheduling approach. Others might want more of an enterprise overview, coordinating the dependencies which projects look after. We looked at the challenges faced in each case and the potential role conflicts inherent to each approach.
We then considered how to bundle releases, whether going for the ‘small and often’ or the ‘big and occasional’ approach (or a mixture). We considered the possible constraints in both cases and what kind of a release plan you might put in place to help alleviate these limitations.
Smaller and faster projects tend to be linked with agile, but this isn't necessarily the case. Those using the traditional ‘waterfall’ approach can learn from agile here. On the other hand, if attempts to be more agile are too eager, there is a danger of relaxing the waterfall controls without recognising that agile has controls too. Basically there isn't a shortcut. If you want to improve you have to work at it.
Planning is an important area. We considered the factors that can torpedo what might look like a good plan, complete with plenty of contingency, as projects still end up getting put back and put back, with huge overruns resulting.
So, now we have set ourselves up to deliver more. Great... but only if it works. How do we reduce the fallout? Approaches to testing are key. A measured approach comes in handy here. Things don't always work first time so why do we assume they will? We want a well thought through approach to testing, including awareness of the risk/opportunity equation, so that we are not just doing endless testing for the sake of being bullet proof, but delivering too late to be of any use.
If we understand the importance of good testing we will prepare our scenarios in advance, consider where automation can help (bearing in mind the pay-back period) and, where we are not automating, assign people to perform testing who have both the right skills and the will to do it. And it would be really helpful if we could ensure our environments match as well, so that we are testing like for like and can see the wood for the trees.
If you would like to find out more about the Service Transition SIG’s work on release management, why not attend one of their regular events which you can find on our event calendar.
ITSMF UK also run a series of workshops and masterclasses covering many topics including Release Management.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Service Talk