Stephen Mann – ITSM Tool Verification: A Good Or Bad Thing?

ITSM Tool Certifications - Good or Bad Thing? What is your view?

This article has been contributed by Stephen Mann, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research.

I recently stumbled upon the fact that Pink Elephant had introduced a new PinkVERIFY “version,” PinkVERIFY 2011, I assume to move into line with ITIL 2011.

It reminded me that I still owed the IT Service Management (ITSM) Community a blog on such ITSM tool verification or certification schemes based on my own thinking and some quick-and-dirty analysis I did at the start of 2012.

I ran two polls – one I pushed out to 20 ITSM tool vendors and the other I made available to ITSM tool customers via a Forrester blog (“How Do You Value IT Service Management Tool Verification Or Certification Schemes?”).

A Summary of Vendor Responses: 

Firstly, please be advised that this was an unscientific, quick-and-dirty ITSM tool vendor survey and the results should be treated as such. I am just trying to “paint a picture” rather than be precise with a certain degree of accuracy. Of the 13 ITSM tool vendor respondents (2 could not help, 5 didn’t reply):

  1. 10/13 either have, or are planning to get, the latest PinkVERIFY endorsement (this was 3.1 back then). The other 3 all have a previous version of PinkVERIFY and consider it adequate (for now).
  2. Most have seen an increase in RFPs asking for PinkVERIFY (or similar) endorsement, particularly in Europe and North America – the larger the prospect, the more chance there is that they will ask for PinkVERIFY or similar.
  3. In terms of not having PinkVERIFY (or an alternative) being a barrier to shortlist, the consensus was that not having it definitely doesn’t help (Of all the questions answered this was the most vague).
  4. 7/13 of the respondents felt the version of PinkVERIFY certification held to be irrelevant – that RFPs just ask if the product is endorsed and then move on.
  5. All vendors still see PinkVERIFY as the de facto certification/endorsement scheme; with the OGC scheme having greatest traction in the UK and consequently appearing most in UK RFPs.

Customer poll feedback

It was a low response rate (77 responses versus 2000+ blog reads after a month):

As you can see, only 8% would not consider an ITSM tool that does not have an independent verification. In my opinion I think this is great – I expected it to be much higher. Although, from the vendor feedback, most prospective customers still ask for independent verification of some sort in RFP/RFIs. Hopefully customers are not using the lack of it as a barrier to entry.

At the other extreme, 35% place little value in a tool having the “stamp of approval.” Perhaps this is biased by the type of people that generally read my blog? I imagine that if this poll had been publicized via more traditional means this would have been considerably lower.

However, the main headline for me is that ¾ of respondents (thankfully) perceive ITSM tool verification to be a “lesser element” of the overall tool selection process; with just ¼ seeing it as a key part or its absence a deal breaker.

And thus my conclusions …

Whether it is for the right or the wrong reasons, ITSM vendors think that some form of product verification is needed to put a proverbial “tick-in-the-box” to the RFP question around certification. I can’t help think that certification is seen as a “necessary evil” by some and as a good marketing investment by others. The verification itself is not evil – one would like to think that it is purely intended to help organizations with ITSM tool selection – but does it really help? Does certification help find the perfect tool for a not-so-perfect organization? I personally think not, at least not in its current guise (or the popular perception of its current guise).

Such certifications are merely an MOT test (Wikipedia: an annual test of automobile safety, roadworthiness aspects and exhaust emissions required for most vehicles over three years old used on public roads in the United Kingdom) for ITSM tools rather than a robust mechanism for ITSM tool selection. And if the vendor feedback is indicative it is merely the waving of a piece of mandatory paper rather than showing that a tool is “fit-for-purpose” as of right now.

To me the “popularity” of such schemes (and the way that they are currently used) raises a number of thoughts/questions:

  • I have to question what is driving the demand for verification in RFPs: is it ill-informed purchasing functions or ill-informed ITSMers? This definitely needs further analysis. The customer poll response says otherwise (again please note the perceived bias assumed on my part) but maybe it is a little too much of “no one was ever sacked for buying Microsoft/IBM/etc.”
  • Does anyone ever fail verification/certification? I hope that some do at least to give some semblance of reliability and credibility to such schemes. In the case of PinkVERIFY shouldn’t failed certifications also be listed on the Pink Elephant website? At least the OGC shows a few failures have happened BUT without naming names http://www.itil-officialsite.com/SoftwareScheme/EndorsedSoftwareTools/EndorsedSoftwareTools.aspx
  • Maybe the real value is in focusing on the differentiators? Is the number of processes verified an indicator of the tool’s capabilities or of the vendor’s marketing budget? Should it focus more on the uncommon processes? Or newer processes? At least some form of process differentiation (at a glance) would allow prospective buyers to step back from the fact that it is 10 verified processes to see which they really need to be supported. Customers should also be educated in the fact that more verified processes doesn’t mean it is a better tool (as the listing by process numbers suggests).
  • Ultimately, the ITSM community needs better educating in the value and use of, and the differences between, certification schemes such as PinkVERIFY and OGC endorsement. BUT, before this, there is still that bigger education need – that of understanding that the current method of creating RFPs and selecting vendors based on a cut-and-paste, ask-for-everything-possible-mentality is so, so flawed. I eventually hope to address this is in a formal piece of work, Forrester willing.

So that’s my 2 cents on ITSM tool verification. How about depositing yours with the Bank of ITSM Review?

This article has been contributed by Stephen Mann, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research.

Stepping Out of The Shadows to Contribute

"Where do I find the answers to my boss’ stupid questions?"

I’m a newbie when it comes to IT Service Management.

Haven’t been around long and don’t have a great deal of experience in this area.

As many of us inexperienced but eager people do, I read blogs, discussion forums, Twitter streams, LinkedIn groups and try to absorb as much valuable information as possible.

And it’s marvelous how people share a great deal of helpful knowledge (as well as a considerable amount of rubbish).

But it has struck me how specialized, narrow and over the top a lot of the discussions are. At least from my point of view.

At first, I thought it was just me not being smart enough. But after a while I kind of realized that most of the people that show up and contribute to the community at all these places really are the cutting edge developers of ITSM.

I like to see myself as the average Joe of ITSM, a practitioner that tries to contribute to my company’s prosperity. I work to change stuff that doesn’t work and I struggle with the day to day challenges that I presume we all deal with at work.

From that point of view, the part of the ITSM community that shows on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a lot of various blogs don’t offer that much help. I won’t even begin telling you how many debates on details in the ITIL Core books I’ve read the last couple of years, all at very little value to me.

Where’s the information for us who try to juggle things when the consultant leaves the “ITIL implementation project”? Where do I go to find support and encouragement for the stuff that isn’t cutting edge ITSM but every day struggle? Where do I find the answers to my boss’ stupid questions?

The answer is of course in all the channels used by people in the ITSM sphere. That’s where the support and encouragement is and that’s where all the knowledge lives. We just need to drag it out of the people who camp there, because they are all eager to share if given the chance.

It takes some guts to step out of the shadows where we (the common man, those who fear to stick out) lurk about to gain knowledge. But more people ought to. I think the community would gain by having more people in my position asking questions and by all means giving advice on a regular basis. The general opinion is that even we who are less experienced and are short of knowledge are welcome to use the channels for questions and thoughts of simpler sorts and I’ve never been ridiculed or mocked for asking stupid questions.

The bottom line is that I believe that we need to expand the number of people who contribute and that we should do that with the help of lurkers like me. Give it a try, it’s scary at first and you might feel a bit ignored but it will pay off in the long run.

If I can, so can you. And I’ve only just started!

TFT12: Tomorrow's IT Service Future

The first 24-hour global ITSM virtual conference will be held courtesy of the Service Desk Institute and calls for speakers have already gone out as of August 1 this year.

Topics covered will be pertinent to customer service, IT support, best practices, social IT, people management and ITSM processes — and online interactivity will govern much of how the content here will be presented.

This global IT Service conference will stream live to YouTube via Google Hangouts and feature a total of 24 ‘crowd-sourced’ speakers who will be specifically selected based upon their industry expertise and their ability to captivate the audience.

All around the ITSM world

TFT12 will start its virtual journey in New Zealand on 5 December 2012 and FOLLOW the SUN until it finishes in Hawaii. Each presentation will be 30 minutes long and will feature an additional 15 minutes for Q&A interaction.

The speakers will span three different time zones – 8 in Australasia, 8 in EMEA and 8 in The Americas. We will hear from futurologists, IT experts, service gurus, industry analysts, thought leaders in social IT along with ITSM practitioners with relevant and practical experience within the industry.

Notes from a related Service Desk Institute post detail the following, “A question that we are frequently asked at SDI is — “what processes should we be following?” Like many good questions, there is not one straightforward answer. Much will depend on the service that you are delivering, who your customers are, what you do/do not do as a service desk.  What is clear however is that processes drive everything that service desks do and their importance cannot be overstated. They are an essential component of any service desk and they perform an invaluable function that enables the service desk to deliver optimal levels of support.”

Rachel Botsman

Proposed speakers at the TFT12 event include Alex Hocking, a trainer & consultant at Marval, a leading IT Service Management software solution;

Ian Aitchison LANDesk who is involved with many initiatives where information and knowledge is already shared in the LANDESK customer community; and (to name just three of many) Rachel Botsman whose TED Talks At TEDxSydney are well known. Rachel Botsman says we’re “wired to share” — and shows how websites like Zipcar and Swaptree are changing the rules of human behaviour.

You can follow the event on social media as it takes shape on Twitter @FutureITService #TFT12

 

Can ITSM Projects do the Kanban?

In these uncertain economic times the watch words of the moment seem to be:

“Do more with (continually) less”

The effects of outsourcing both to clients of service providers and within their own organisations too means that support groups need to be as efficient as they can with (quite frankly) what they have left.

Could the visual scheduling tool LeanKitKanban, a web-based virtual signboard and card system, help Service Management support groups manage their time more efficiently and perhaps help bring about a more proactive approach to certain disciplines?

Lean and IT

Lean has its roots in manufacturing and production.  It is a practice that views the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be waste, and therefore should be eliminated.

Value in this context an action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

Stretch this out to IT, and what Lean is trying to achieve is less wasted time by support resources and more efficiency in how they work. 

Kanban

Kanban is a Japanese words that quite literally means “signboard” and is a concept related to lean production, and looking at Just-In-Time production in particular.

In a production perspective, kanban is a scheduling system, used to determine what, when and how much to produce.

So, looking at it from an ITSM perspective, what are you working on, when are you scheduled to finish it, and how much more are you juggling.

At a glance, therefore, you can see where work is being bottlenecked and better utilise the team to reduce the overall workload.

LeanKitKanban

The key aims are:

  • Map out your organisation’s processes onto virtual whiteboards
  • On each board, processes are represented in vertical and horizontal lanes
  • Team members use Cards to represent work items which they can update and move across the board
  • The idea is that managers, customers, project managers can view this board for updates.

Pre-defined Board Templates

When you register, you get a number of pre-defined templates to select from, that best defines your business, so I looked at their IT Operations templates.

Of the two available, only Business Process Maintenance  seemed to come close to mapping processes across an organisation.

Using Cards

Within this template are categories of Cards:

  • Defect, Feature, Improvement, Task

Just looking around the template, you could have cards allocated to team members to look at:

  • Production Problems
  • Planned Business Need (with varying due dates and High/Low impacts)
  • Routine (Tasks)
  • Unplanned (Incidents)
  • Platform Improvements

How ITSM projects could use this

The idea sounds great but the practice needs a little thought.

The boards provided in the evaluation version are probably more geared towards Software Development or wider Business Process Re-engineering.

I like how team members show up against the cards so that you can see at any one time who is working on what, but what immediately struck me was duplication of effort.

Tool vs Kanban – Incident Ticket Lifecycle

I mapped out the key parts of the Incident management process, listing how an Incident Record would move through its lifecycle in a tool, versus how that same progression could be simply mapped in LeanKitKanban.

Process Steps

ITSM

KanBan

Incident Logging Incident Record Defect Card
Incident Categorisation Pre-Defined in Tool Free Text
Incident Prioritisation Pre-Defined in Tool 4 definitions in Template
Investigation and Diagnosis Assign to Team member Assign to tean member
Resolution and Recovery Update tcket as appropriate Update as appropriate but no auditing
Incident Closure Often auto-closure configured after resolution “Done” and archive functionality after a number of days

In order for someone outside the immediate support team or service management team to understand the progress of a ticket, they would normally be expected to have access to the ITSM tool, and to be able to see open Incidents and their progress as part of a steady state.

The idea behind LeanKitKanban is that it allows people maybe outside of that to have “visibility of progress”.

For Business As Usual, people outside the immediate support teams would normally receive Service Management reports with pertinent information.

Kanban and ITSM Solution Development

Moving away from Business As Usual, I thought I would consider its use when an ITSM solution is being developed and implemented.

Some tools do offer the capability to project manage development and testing work within the tool itself, but it does mean that people who may not ordinarily expect to use an ITSM tool would have to spend time working in it to work out progress.

Where software development is being managed using the Agile methodology, there is a useful board for that template.  If the ITSM tool itself does not provide Project/Development tracking modules, then this tool would be ideal for tracking tool development and customisation.

Putting it into practice?

LeanKitKanban have a good repertoire of reference clients on their website, although I think it lends itself more to the Software Development side than more traditional ITSM implementations.

In reality, however, time pressures on an implementation project are such that sometimes even visual summaries such as these may get discarded.

For every ticket that is being worked on, a corresponding ticket would have to be created in Kanban, so who would realistically do this, and maintain it?

It makes sense for it to be a Team Leader or Project Manager, in order to have a view of progressing work, and to keep the working team free from “management noise”.

In reality, most project management calls with teams revolve around a simple status Powerpoint with Tasks achieved, Tasks to do, Issues, so now it is the project managers that are faced with duplication of effort in maintaining reporting.

In order for this to work, this tool would need to be at the heart of project reporting and most likely a more comprehensive version than the initial trial.

To get the best from this tool, you would need:

  • Full buy-in from all levels of Project Management to have it as the tool of choice
  • It would need some customisation effort for anything outside of the templates provided – which are available in the Professional Edition pricing options
  • Some level of buy in from the teams having to provide input for the tool, as there is a danger for duplication of effort from the teams below.
  • It looks most suitable for development and implementation efforts rather than as part of ongoing steady state operations.

I would also recommend using the Personal Kanban board and template as part of the free offering, which offers users a chance to split tasks into 4 project lanes, and provides columns to help users track their to-dos.

For those spread across multiple projects, it provides a little more of a visual, virtual structure than scrawling To-Do lists on paper/sticky notes, and I am finding it helpful for working on distinct areas of work.

Further Information

Image Credit

Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (ITSSM) 2012

The extra 's' - a genuine new market definition or marketing fluff?

Gartner have recently published their Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management (ITSSM).

The research includes Axios Systems, BMC, CA Technologies, Cherwell Software, EasyVista, FrontRange Solutions, Hornbill, HP, IBM, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

In a nutshell:

  • BMC came out on top, closely followed by ServiceNow
  • Everybody else is sat uncomfortably close together in the ‘must try harder’ niche players quadrant
  • Nobody made it into the ‘leaders quadrant’ (The RFP-shortlist-holy-grail)

What is ‘ITSSM’ anyway?

My first question when beginning to read this new Gartner Magic Quadrant was – what is ITSSM? Where did that extra ‘S’ come from and what does it mean?

The introductory text reads:

“IT service support management (ITSSM) tools offer a tighter integration of functions that correlates with the activities of the broader IT support organization. ITSSM tools leverage a business view of IT services, enabling the IT support organization to quickly resolve or escalate issues and problems, improve root cause isolation, and provide higher levels of business user satisfaction.”

I’m still none the wiser. Still looks like good old ITSM to me.

Marketing Fluff?

In the book ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout we are introduced to the ‘Law of Focus’. The authors argue ‘the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in a prospects mind’. The most powerful evidence of this is when a product is so totally engrained in our vernacular that it becomes a verb. We ask for a Coke, we Skype, we Hoover the stairs etc (i.e. one product name dominates the entire sector). This begins to explain why technology companies dream up new and exciting ways to explain markets and cook up new acronyms, to try to own the whole concept for themselves.

Perhaps ‘ITSSM’ is a misguided attempt at this new sector definition.  I think it is marketing fluff and does little to help the market. Would it really be that dreadful to admit dropping the previous ITSM Quadrant was a mistake? If it is a genuine new market sector they’ve done an awful job of defining it and educating the market.

Only Behemoths May Apply

My other criticism of this report, and Gartner Magic Quadrants in general, is over emphasis on global reach.

Some of the global players have an international network of offices that span the globe, but how many of the people in these hundreds of offices know about your product? I would ague that is probably about the same amount of people as the total team of a smaller niche competitor. i.e. BigMegaCorp operates in 50 countries with 20,000 staff and 35 of these people worldwide know about ITSM, compared to the small niche competitor with 35 staff – all of whom know about ITSM.

Similarly, vendors in this report had to have revenues in excess of $10M. Isn’t this threshold cutting out the most exciting and innovative vendors in the sector? The target audience for this report is typically large enterprises – but are they really that risk adverse?

In Richard Stiennon’s recent article he stated that:

“Gartner’s 11,000 clients are the largest organizations in the world and Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution.”

Is that really the case these days? The old adage of ‘You won’t get fired for buying IBM’ is being replaced by users who can search what they are looking for on Google, buy it using a credit card and get the job done in the Cloud without a second thought.

Rudderless Industry?

Finally, I believe the fact that there are no vendors in the Leaders quadrant is a good reflection of the industry. Once upon a time ITIL aligned processes were the key market differentiator, and then came the ability to deliver in the Cloud – the market is now looking for new leadership and new differentiators.

The report is available here free from BMC.

ITSM Review Visitor Analytics

A glimpse into the viewing habits of ITSM Review readers from 3rd August 2011 to 31st July 2012 via Google Analytics.

Where do visitors live? – Top 10

  1. United States 32%
  2. United Kingdom 26%
  3. Australia 6%
  4. India 6%
  5. Canada 4%
  6. Netherlands 2%
  7. Germany 2%
  8. Spain 1%
  9. France 1%
  10. Long tail of other 132 Countries 18%
Visitor Countries

Views on a mobile device 9% (59% of which was via an iPad)

Where do Visitors comes from? – Top 10?

  1. Google Searches 26% (~2,500 Unique Search Terms)
  2. Social Channels 21%
  3. Direct or Unknown 21%
  4. The ITAM Review 15%
  5. Bing 3%
  6. The ITSM Review Newsletter 1%
  7. ITSM Portal 1%
  8. Service-Now.com 1%
  9. itskeptic.org 1%
  10. Long tail of 217 other sources 10%
Traffic Sources

Social Inbound

For visitors that come via a social referral (21% of all traffic) – which channel did they originate?

  • LinkedIn 37%
  • Twitter 34%
  • Facebook 21%
  • Hootsuite 4%
  • Google+ 2%
  • Pinterest 1%
  • paper.li 1%

Social Outbound

Which channels do visitors use to share content they have found on The ITSM Review:

  • Twitter 31%
  • LinkedIn 27%
  • via E-Mail 9%
  • Facebook 7%
  • Other 27%

Most Shared Content via Social Channels – Top 10

  1. Home Page
  2. Winners and Losers in the ITSM Premier League 
  3. 12 Helpdesks Under a Grand
  4. Rob England: Service Catalogue 
  5. RBS Glitch – A Wake Up Call? 
  6. Punditry 
  7. Vendors 
  8. Free ITIL Training 
  9. Chelsea Seminar Review
  10. Free Access to Ten Gartner Reports

Top 10 Most ‘Visited’ Articles by Total Page Views

  1. Ouch-O-Meter
  2. Winners and Losers in The ITAM Premier League
  3. 12 Helpdesks Under a Grand
  4. Tools Census
  5. Which Vendors Engage Online? 
  6. 7 Benefits of Using a KEDB 
  7. Free Access to 10 Gartner Reports 
  8. How to Segment and Prioritize Vendors 
  9. Planning for Major Incidents 
  10. Rob England – What is a Service Catalogue 

Top 25 ITSM Pundits by Klout [August 2012 Update]

ITSM Pundits Leading the Industry

The list below contains my view on the key influencers, practitioners and personalities from the ITSM industry ranked by Klout (a measure of online influence)

Top 25 ITSM Pundits by Klout

  1. Stephen Mann 64
  2. Chris Dancy 63
  3. Jarod Greene 62
  4. Aprill Allen 62
  5. Karren Ferris 61
  6. Patrick Bolger 61
  7. Tristan Boot 61
  8. Brian Hollandsworth 60
  9. Roy Atkinson 60
  10. Rob England 60
  11. William Goddard 59
  12. Kathryn Howard 58
  13. Simone Jo Moore 58
  14. Chris Matchett 58
  15. Aale Roos 56
  16. Adam Mason 56
  17. Arlen Vartazarian 56
  18. Bradley Busch 55
  19. Tobias Nyberg 54
  20. Stuart Rance 54
  21. Barclay Rae 54
  22. Peter Lijnse 53
  23. Simon Morris 52
  24. Dan Kane 52
  25. Matthew Burrows 51

To learn more and follow these pundits please refer to this list.

Observations:

  • Lots more competition, lots more new faces, great to see more end user organizations represented.
  • This update is much more representative of the activity of the ITSM market as a whole – on and offline.
  • New top dog Stephen Mann (‘everyones favourite ITSM Analyst’) displaces Chris Dancy, who should be credited for belligerently leading the way in our online education.
  • ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ – In only a few short months everyone seems to have improved. You need a Klout score of at least 50 to get on the top 25. The previous threshold for the Top 10 in January 2012 was 40.

Notes:

  • My Top 25 Pundits is built from this list based on the Klout score today (You can view the Klout score for lots of people at once by viewing your lists from within the free version of Hootsuite)
  • The previous update from January 2012 can be found here.
  • See also ‘Punditry and Getting Started in ITSM
  • If you think someone else should be on this list please contact me.

Rob England: The People in ITSM

Maori proverb: "He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata." What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

It’s all about the people.

A service exists to serve people.  It is built and delivered by people.

Even in the most technical domains like IT, the service is about managing information for people to use, and managing the way they use it.

When we change IT, a lot of the time we are ultimately changing the way people behave, the way they do things.

There is an old mantra “People, Process, Technology” to which I always add “…in that order”.  By which I mean prioritise in that order, and start in that order.

People, Practices, Things.

Actually I don’t like that mantra; I prefer “People, Practices, Things” as a broader, more inclusive set.  Either way, it all starts with people.

We’ve been using railways (railroads) as examples for this series of articles.  Ask a railway how important the people are.  Railways are complex and very dynamic: they need to adapt to constantly changing conditions, on a daily basis and across the decades.  We are slowly getting to the point where we can automate the running of railways, but only because the trains run in a tightly designed, constructed and operated environment that relies on people to make it work and keep it safe.  Much like IT.

I’ve never bought into this feel-good stuff about successful companies being dependent on a caring people culture.  Some of the most successful railroads in the ultra-competitive US environment have pretty rough people cultures – they treat their staff like cattle.   And other railroads are good to their people – though most of them are off to what we would consider the tough end of the spectrum.  I don’t think it correlates.  I could say the same about software companies I have worked for:  from second family to sweatshop.

However it is probably true that all successful companies have a strong culture.  Staff know how it works.  They may or may not like the culture but if it is strong they identify with it and align to it, to some extent.  So culture is important.

And cultural change is hard – in fact it is a black art.  The bad news is that changing the way people behave – remember our first paragraph? – is cultural change.  Behaviours only change permanently if the underlying attitudes change.  And people’s attitudes only change if their beliefs move at least a little bit.  Culture change.  Fifty years ago railroads were places where men – all men – died regularly, learned on the job, and fought as hard as they worked.  Now the people are trained professionals and the first priority of most railroads is safety.  Twenty years ago the New Zealand Railways had 56,000 employees, couldn’t move anything without losing it, lost millions, and wouldn’t know what to do with a container.  Now 11,000 move record volumes of freight and do it profitably.

“Just because you can change software in seconds doesn’t mean organisational change happens like that”

You can’t make those transformations in short timeframes.  Just because you can change software in seconds doesn’t mean organisational change happens like that.  You would think railroads take longer to change hardware technology than we do in IT because it is all big chunky stuff, but really our hardware and software platforms change at about the same pace; years and even decades.   Plenty of Windows XP still around.

Technology is the fast changer compared to people and process.  Just because you rolled a flash new technology out doesn’t mean people are going to start using it any differently unless you ensure they change and their processes change.  That human rate of change is slow.  People  will change quickly in response to external pressures like war or threatening managers, but that change won’t stick until their attitudes and beliefs shift.  I bet the safety culture on US railroads took at least one generational cycle to really embed.

In response to a few high-profile crashes, governments in the US, UK and other places have mandated the introduction of higher levels of automation in train control over recent decades (despite the much higher carnage on the roads but that’s another discussion).  Much of this push for automation stems from frustration over driving change in behaviours.  Does any of this remind you of IT initiatives like DevOps?

Culture can change, and sometimes it can change quite quickly, by human standards.  It takes strong and motivational leadership, a concerted programme, and some good cultural change science.  The leading set of ideas are those of John Kotter and his Eight Steps to change, but there are many ideas and models now in this area.  In IT, everyone should read Balanced Diversity by Karen Ferris.  And you will find a multitude of suggestions on my free site He Tangata.

Whatever methods you use for change, pay attention to three aspects:  motivation, communication and development.

Motivate them in these ways:

  1. by getting them involved and consulted;
  2. by showing how they benefit from the change;
  3. by making them accountable and measuring that accountability;
  4. and by incenting them.

Communicate early, communicate often, and be as transparent about decision-making as you can.  Tough decisions are more palatable if people understand why.  Communication is two-way: consult, solicit feedback (including anonymous), run workshops and town-halls.

Development is not just one training course.   Training should be followed up, refreshed, and repeated for new entrants. Training is not enough: practical workshops, on-the-job monitoring, coaching support, local super-users and many other mechanisms all help people learn what they need to make change successful.

One final thought: examine your current and planned IT projects, and work out how much effort and money is being spent on the people aspects of the changes the project wants to achieve.  I’d love to see some comparative research on the proportions of money spent on people aspects of projects in different industries like railroading, because we in IT still seem to suffer the delusion that we work with information and technology.

Review: itSMF Continual Service Improvement SIG

Like many who work in ITSM, I am of course aware of the need for, and the importance of Continual Service Improvement throughout the Service Management Lifecycle.

But what does it entail in real terms, and not just what I read on the ITIL course/in the books?

I came along to the itSMF CSI SIG, held in London to find out.

CSI in a nutshell

The purpose of CSI is to constantly look at ways of improving service, process and cost effectiveness.

It is simply not enough to drop in an ITSM tool to “fix” business issues, (of course backed up with reasonable processes) and then walk away thinking: “Job well done.”

Business needs and IT services constantly evolve and change and CSI supports the lifecycle and is iterative – the review and analysis process should be a continual focus.

Reality

CSI is often aspired to, and has been talked about in initial workshops, but all too often gets swallowed up in the push to configure and push out a tool, tweak and force in processes and all too often gets relegated to almost “nice to have” status.

A common question one sees in Linked in Groups is:

“Why do ITIL Implementations fail?”

A lack of commitment to CSI is often the reason, and this session looked to try and identify why that might be.

Interactive

I have never been to a SIG before, and it was very clear from the outset that we were not going to be talked at, nor would we quite be doing the speed-dating networking element from my last regional venture.

SIG chair Jane Humphries started us off by introducing the concept of a wall with inhibitors.  The idea was that we would each write down two or three things on post-it notes for use in the “Speakers Corner” segment later in the day.

What I liked about this, though, was that Jane has used this approach before, showing us a wall-graphic with inhibitors captured and written on little bricks, to be tackled and knocked down in projects.

Simple but powerful, and worth remembering for workshops, and it is always worth seeing what people in the community do in practice.

Advocates, Assassins, Cynics and Supporters

The majority of the sessions focussed on the characteristics of these types of potential stakeholders – how to recognise them, how to work with them, and how to prioritise project elements accordingly.

The first two breakout sessions split the room into four groups, to discuss these roles and the types of people we probably all have had to deal with in projects.

There was, of course, the predictable amusement around the characteristics of Cynics – they have been there and seen it all before, as indeed a lot of us had, around the room.

But what surprised me was a common factor in terms of managing these characteristics: What’s in it for me? (WIIFM)

Even for Supporters and Advocates, who are typically your champions, there is a delicate balancing act to stop them from going over to the “dark side” and seeing become cynics, or worse assassins to your initiative.

The exercises which looked at the characteristics, and how to work with them proved to be the easiest.

Areas to improve

What didn’t work so well was a prioritisation and point-scoring exercise which just seemed to confuse everyone.

For our group we struggled to understand if the aim was to deliver quick wins for lower gains, or go for more complex outcomes with more complex stakeholder management.

Things made a little more sense when we were guided along in the resulting wash-up session.

The final element to the day was a take on the concept of “Speakers’ Corner” – the idea being that two or three of the Post-It inhibitors would be discussed.  The room was re-arranged with a single chair in the middle and whoever had written the chosen topic would start the debate.

To add to the debate, a new speaker would have to take the chair in the centre.

While starting the debate topics were not an issue, the hopping in and out of the chairs proved to be hard to maintain, but the facilitators were happy to be flexible and let people add to the debate from where they sat.

Does Interactive work?

Yes and no.

I imagined that most people would come along and attend a Special Interest Group because they are just that – Interested!

But participating in group sessions and possibly presenting to the room at large may not be to everyone’s liking.

I have to admit, I find presenting daunting enough in projects where I am established.  So to have to act as scribe, and then bite the bullet and present to a huge room of people is not a comfortable experience for me, even after twenty years in the industry.

But you get out of these sessions what you put in, so I took my turn to scribe and present.  And given the difficulties we had, as a group, understanding the objectives of the third breakout session, I was pleased I had my turn.

The irony is Continual Service Improvement needs people to challenge and constantly manage expectations and characters in order to be successful.  It is not a discipline that lends itself to shy retiring wallflowers.

If people are going to spend a day away from work to attend a SIG, then I think it makes sense for them to try and get as much out of it as they can.

Perhaps my message to the more shy members in the room who hardly contributed at all is to remember that everyone is there to help each other learn from collective experience.  No-one is there to judge or to act as an Assassin/Cynic so make the most of the event and participate.

For example, in Speakers’ Corner, the debate flowed and people engaged with each other, even if the chair hopping didn’t quite work, but acknowledgement also needs to go to the SIG team, who facilitated the day’s activities very well.

I have attended three events now, a UK event, a Regional Seminar and a SIG and this was by far the most enjoyable and informative so far.

A side note: Am I the only one that hears CSI and thinks of crime labs doing imaginative things to solve murders in Las Vegas, Miami, and New York?  No?  Just me then.

Gazing deep into the prISM

prISM: 'Dark side of ITSM?' or genuine professional recognition?

At first glance, the new prISM credential scheme seems to be a qualification too far, as I consider improving my ITSM skills by going for the first of my ITIL Intermediate levels.

The take up so far seems to belong to an select group, much like those who piloted the new ITIL Master scheme, and perhaps it is too early for that all important critical mass to make it the “must-have” credential to have.

What is prISM and why is it different?

The aim of prISM is to provide recognition and a skills development structure in the ITSM industry.

It has defined a measurable framework which takes into account an individual’s qualifications, experience and contributions back to the ITSM industry.

So, if you have the ITIL foundation certificate, and a few years in front line roles under your belt, you can get up and running in prISM as an Associate, and use their structured approach to plan your next steps up the ITSM ladder.

But, you pay for the privilege, so why is this worth investing time in?

Industry maturity

Matthew Burrows, Lead for Global priSM Advisory Committee (GAC) explained:

“The real reason for prSIM is that the IT industry is starting to mature and become a bit more of a profession rather than a job.”

Just take a look sometime, in various ITIL and ITSM related Linked In groups, and you will see pleas from people who seem out of their depth.

Think of it in this way.  How many times do organisations send people onto an ITIL Foundation course, and then expect them to be able to implement major ITSM projects?

Matthew continued:

“Nothing ever works like that with a skill.  You have to practice it and apply it.  You have to learn from the mistakes from yourself and others. You have to learn from your successes as well and you refine it over time, and you get better at it by repetition.”

Part of the issue is the lack of a requirement to refresh ITIL qualifications, once gained.

In prISM, each year you submit a Continual Professional Development forms to demonstrate growth and development in order to re-earn your credential.

prISM Credential Levels

  1. Student in Service Management (SSM) – students with an interest in ITSM
  2. Associate (ASM) – entry level professionals
  3. Professional (PSM) – experienced Service Management professionals
  4. Distinguished Professional (DPSM) – senior, well experienced Service Management professionals and leaders
  5. Fellow (FSM) – reserved for those senior professionals who have been recognised for making a significant contribution to the profession and its body of knowledge

 Pros

I see the benefit of tiering the levels like this, and even though my “rock face” experience gives me a broader perspective than if I had only the ITIL Foundation course, this is where the CPD aspect comes in.

The whole point of the profession maturing means that I need to really focus on further certification, but given the cost of courses, I really need to think carefully as to what to pursue.

Cons

I have worked in the area of ITIL/ITSM for 8 years now – I know my stuff. Do I really need to pay for more certification AND a credential to prove it?

Matthew believes that prISM should be a nice to have, rather than a mandatory requirement:

“From an employer’s point-of-view it tells me that they’ve been through the experience and qualifications that they say they’ve got, they’re committed to CPD, they give something back, they take their profession seriously.”

In my opinion, this is hard to prove in the immediate short term, without understanding from recruiters if they put any store in the acronyms above.

The Application Process

1)     Calculator

  • Step One: Education and Experience

The spreadsheet gives you a broad brush stab at the permutations of education and experience.

I tested a couple of elements and opted years of experience, as my degree was a LONG time ago! Recommended Level: PSM

  • Step Two: Required Professional Certifications

Here’s where it started to get confusing.

With an ITIL V3 Foundation Certificate (useful) and a TOGAF Enterprise Architecture L1 and L2 certificate (not at all useful, apparently), recommended level: ASM!

  • Step three: Extra Points

I played about with this out of interest, in terms of ITSM implementation experience, and also in terms of ITSM Review writing – which confused matters even more, because now the summary shows me that I meet DPSM criteria as well!

With the combination of the experience and qualification  I could apply now for Associate Membership but with at least one ITIL Intermediate course, I go up to Professional credentials.

Irritatingly, the comment boxes for the Certification sections stays visible after you have marked an entry, which then obscures the entries below.

2)      Application Form & CV

You also have to fill in the application form and sign the statement to adhere to the profession’s code of ethics, and you will need to cross-reference the handbook as you go for Professional credentials which sounds like a bit of hassle.

There is a bit of repetition here, having to put in the details of your referee, as well as including your reference (with those same details) as part of the package.

You also have to write your own personal statement, demonstrating your interest in the ITSM profession.

If you are serious about going through this process, I think it is worth updating your CV during this process.  It won’t hurt you to pay some attention to your Linked In profile either.

After all, if recruiters are using Linked In more and more, the best way to promote the importance and credibility of this credential is to have it on your online profile.

3)      Reference Statement & Evidence

You will have to get someone to write a supporting statement for you, and also find your supporting evidence to match your calculator entries.

Some issues

  • You need to keep PDFs at 1MB per document, and the whole application cannot be more than 25MB.  Irritatingly my scanned ITIL certificate and itSMF UK invoice are just over 1MB, but everything else is smaller.
  • The pricing is misleading.  The handbook states itSMF membership is preferable (and gives a discount) but not mandatory.  The application form infers the opposite – so those need to be in sync.
  • The handbook encourages you to pay before gathering your references – I would actually get everything together first, then proceed to pay for your appropriate membership, as you then need the proof of payment to zip together to submit.

Ros’s Progress

Matthew very kindly agreed to be my reference, and we decided to let me go through the process (and provide feedback!). so I have sent him a form to fill in and return to me.

I’ll put my (eventual) credential on my LinkedIn Profile, and push out an updated CV to see if there is any immediate change in the type of roles I typically see.

Will it be the prISM credential, or the ITIL Intermediate certification that provides the trigger (if at all!).

Watch this space.

Further Information

http://www.theprisminstitute.org