Tough Talk – Why Crucial Conversations are the heart of ITSM adoption

conv

I started the day with great expectations.

We had a new process.

We had spent a lot of time designing and tweaking.

And so I went into my meeting excited to explain the new process. Alas, I was not ready for what was about to happen. Barely ten minutes into the explanation of the process, the first salvo was fired:

“This is not what we do. That will not work.”

The exchange over the process escalated from kind explanation, to defending work steps, to questioning professional ability, to name-calling, and it didn’t end there. Trust eroded and partnerships dissolved. After the meeting (and several antacids), I tried to regroup and figure out what went wrong.

I didn’t realise that I just had the opportunity for a “crucial conversation”.

What is a “crucial conversation”?

The entire meeting interaction bothered me so I did a little soul searching to determine why I felt so bad. In my search for answers, I came across the book “Crucial Conversations”. The liner notes quickly described my meeting. Intrigued, and somewhat skeptical, I bought a copy and started reading.

A crucial conversation (as defined by the book) is “a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong.

Any journey undertaken to adopt ITSM has many perils. One of the toughest perils is communication. No matter how well you communicate, there always remains an opportunity for somebody to misinterpret, misunderstand, or change the information provided. When I discuss tough challenges of ITSM adoption with other practitioners, communication issues always rank in the top three. The truly toughest conversations not only exist when talking with the C-level, but in the day-to-day conversations with the teams who convert the vision to reality.

Why are they crucial? Simple, they are the day-to-day conversations that affect your life. Crucial conversations are crucial because a) opinions vary; b) stakes are high; and c) emotions run strong. Crucial conversations can be a service desk agent assisting a customer, a CAB discussing a change request, a service owner discussing a process with operation teams, or DevOps teams planning a release.

The Power of Dialogue

Di•a•logue (dìʹ ð-lôǵʹ)n – the free flow of meaning between two or more people.

We each have opinions, feelings, theories and experiences that shape how we view a topic. As we discuss a given topic, we do not necessarily share the same views as others. We do not have a “shared pool of meaning”. People who have mastered the skill of dialogue make it safe for others to add their meaning to the shared pool and having a shared pool of meaning is a key deliverable for any ITSM project. A shared pool of meeting leads to better discussions, better debate, and better decisions. If we position people to purposefully withhold meaning from the shared pool, individually smart people can do very stupid things. Shared meaning helps teams build synergy.

Time to look in the mirror

The key to good dialogue is heart, specifically your heart. We’ve all grown up with various forms of poor communication during crucial moments in life and/or work – debate, silent treatment, manipulation. Not the best role models or behaviors for important conversations, which is why you must work on your changing your own communication first. While we may want, wish, and desire others to change, the only person you can consistently inspire, prod, and shape is the person looking back at you in the mirror.

What do you want?

When I ask other practitioners what they most want in an ITSM relationship with a teammate, the answer is usually “good partnerships”. Successful ITSM adoption only occurs when everyone believes others are working to help improve the state of their situation (a shared pool of meaning).

In all likelihood, you are going to have moments (both in life and in ITSM) where someone completely disagrees with you. You present a change, like a new process for example, and the person counters with:

“We’ve been doing well for the past x years…this change will just confuse things and make it more difficult to do our jobs.”

You know the change is the right thing for the organization, but how do you make those reluctant to change understand this? In the past, when confronted with this type of situation, I have been defensive, offended, and even arrogant. Of course, those qualities led to failure in getting the change adopted and damaged any future efforts for collaborations with the person.

After reading the book “Crucial Conversations”, I changed how I approach these situations. I now take a step back and ask myself the following questions:

  • What do I really want?
  • What are my motives and are my motives changing as the conversation moves forward?
  • What do I really want for others?
  • What do I really want for the relationship?
  • How do I behave if I really want my desired results?

By asking these questions, we affect our psychology and physiology. We can think differently, look teammates in the eyes, and become genuinely interested in what others have to say. We get away from the old (bad?) habits, which we have been exposed to over the years and instead ask ourselves questions that remind us of our goal(s). This helps our brains stay on a path to focus on achieving said goal(s).

Winning and Losing

We often talk ourselves into the idea that we must win or lose, choose between peace and honesty, or try to find a way to make “everyone happy.” The idea behind Crucial Conversations is that we all need to win. We need to help everyone on our team, in our company, in our family, and in our circle of influence reach the results that make us successful. Crucial conversations are necessary to help people find ways to hold emotional and risky conversations safely and with purpose.

Moving forward

  • Read “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler
  • Practice, practice, practice

Don’t expect to read the book and then be beautifully successful in all your conversations moving forward. You won’t be perfect on your first attempt, but don’t worry about it. Just like ITSM, your ability to hold crucial conversation is a continuous improvement process. Just be persistent. Doing so should help lead you to better relationships and collaborations.

Image Credit

Integrations Group Test line up announced

Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the race with Team Sky)
Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the Tour de France with Team Sky)

Absolute Software, BDNA, Bomgar, Cherwell, EasyVista, LANDesk, ManageEngine, Matrix42, Nexthink and ServiceNow are confirmed participants for our upcoming ‘Integrations’ review.

The review will delve into integration tools which compliment ITSM processes.

“Whether it be speeding up implementations by cleaning up the original data needed to set up the system in the first place, to incorporporating Systems Management data, we want to take a look at the supporting products that help us manage IT and business services end to end.”

The assessment criteria at a glance:

  • Pre-Deployment Set-up
  • Integrations to Asset and Configuration information
  • Event Management
  • Support Services
  • Resource Management
  • Any other useful data that supports ITSM

Full details of the assessment criteria can be found here.

Reviewer: Ros Satar

Confirmed Participants:

  1. Absolute
  2. BDNA
  3. Bomgar
  4. Cherwell
  5. EasyVista
  6. LANDesk
  7. ManageEngine
  8. Matrix42
  9. Nexthink
  10. ServiceNow

Publication

All results will be published free of charge without registration on the ITSM Review. You may wish to subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter (top right of this this page) or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when it is published.

Image Credit (Sky Wallpapers)

Simple steps towards Agility and Service Management improvement

Dead as a...

There have been many hundreds of words recently written on the subject of Agile Development and IT Operations practices. For the average ITSM practitioner, however, a life where both are interwoven into the organisations day-to-day work seems as unattainable as ever.

Sure, you might work for one of the few organisations that practices DevOps. If so congratulations… you’re one of the cool kids. Maybe you picked up a copy of “The Phoenix Project“** and the authors words resonated with you.

“I should start introducing Agile and Lean concepts into my IT organisation”

It’s not as if these words have fallen on deaf ears as such – it’s just that most ITSM practitioners are struggling to join the dots in their head, not even able to mentally apply Agile/Lean/DevOps to their own environments.

It’s hard to see how you get from your current position today to a position of continuous delivery and business agility, along with the bragging rights on Twitter about how great your aligned development and IT Operations organisations are.

You now want to improve… So what can you do to get started?

I have two quick tips for those IT Operations folk that want to start taking steps towards Agility and Service Management improvement. These tips won’t transform your IT department overnight but they are both cheap and easy to implement (in fact you could do it this week).

Tip number 1: Hold retrospectives

The most valuable skill of a good Agile team is the ability to self-learn. Self-learners have a habit of looking at their performance as a team and can identify positive and negative characteristics from their recent behaviour. By learning from past experiences they pledge to improve in the future.

The mechanism for Agile teams to drive improvements is to hold regular retrospectives.

A retrospective is a time boxed activity (a meeting) that is held at the end of a period of work, or in Agile-speak an “iteration”.

Development teams often work in regular short bursts of work called “sprints”, which in my company are always two weeks long, therefore we hold retrospectives on the last day of each sprint.

IT Operations work is not normally neatly defined in two week iterations – you tend to deal with KTLO work (Keep the lights on – Incidents and Problems) and perhaps projects. However, you should avoid the habit of only holding retrospectives to find improvements at the end of projects or when things are going wrong.

If you want to take a few Agile steps in your IT Organisation my advice is that you open your calendar application right now and setup a recurring meeting for your team that lasts for an hour every two weeks. Take this time to review work from that two week period and identify improvements.

Build self-learning and improvement sessions into your schedule. Don’t leave opportunities for improvements to project post-mortems or to when things have already gone wrong.

So what happens in a retrospective session?

Firstly, it should be a facilitated session so you’ll need someone to lead the team, but this isn’t a daunting task (OK – it is the first time you do it but it gets easier after that). Secondly, it’s a structured session rather than an hour to ‘bitch and moan’ about the Incidents that came in during the last two weeks.

Retrospectives are structured meetings with a clear objective – not a general conversation about performance

The objective of a retrospective is to get a documented commitment from the team to change one or two aspects of their behaviour. Documenting these commitments is covered below in tip number two.

Changing the behaviour of a team is absolutely not as challenging as it first seems, people only need a few things to happen to change their behaviour: to have their opinion heard; to be able to commit to the change; and to be held accountable. The format of a retrospective allows for all of this.

Also with retrospectives we don’t focus purely on examples where things went wrong. I’ve been in many retrospective sessions where teams have focused on unexpected success, have researched the factors that contributed to that and committed to spreading whatever practice caused the success to a wider organisation.

Identifying what worked well for a team in the previous two weeks and pledging to repeat that behaviour is just as powerful as pledging not to repeat negative behaviours.

I mentioned that retrospective sessions are structured. This really helps, especially when a team starts out on a path of self-learning and improvements. The structure holds the meeting together and guides the team to its objective for the meeting – validation of existing working agreements and proposals for new working agreements.

Esther Derby and Diana Larsen, who both inspired me to focus on retrospectives with their book, “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great“ describes the structure for retrospectives very well in the SlideShare presentation below. Take time to study and implement their meeting structures.

What should the meeting structure look like?

The recommended meeting structure is as follows:

  • Set the stage

  • Gather data

  • Generate insights

  • Decide what to do

  • Close the retrospective

Each element in the meeting agenda is an opportunity for the facilitator to engage the team and run exercises to uncover what worked well (to be repeated) and what did not work well (to be avoided).

By structuring the meeting and facilitating people through the process you avoid the temptation for people to use the time simply complaining and placing blame for things that didn’t go well.

The meeting structure drives the retrospective towards its objective – an actionable set of Working Agreements for the team to use.

Tip number 2: Use Working Agreements

In a previous role in IT Operations and support I often felt the sensation of “spinning plates”. As soon as we could put one fire out another would flare up. Our problems as a team were that different people worked in different ways which is a real problem in Infrastructure teams.

My solution at the time was to try and write an all-encompassing “rule book” which described how we as a team react to any given circumstance. We’d build this “rule book” up over time and end up with a comprehensive document to remove confusion on how to perform work.

I’m sure you can imagine the outcome – we started.. we didn’t get that far.. as soon as the rule book was of any decent size it became out of date and unwieldy.

What my team then really needed, and the way that my Agile development team now works, is to have a lightweight document explaining the rules of the road. We call this document our “Working Agreements”.

What should Working Agreements look like?

  • They should be small enough to fit on a single side of A3 paper

  • Agreed upon by the team

  • The output of retrospective sessions, worded to enforce good behaviour or to prevent negative behaviour

  • Should be reviewed during each retrospective – do we need this Working Agreement now or is it part of our standard behaviour.

  • Should be very visible in the area

Having a lightweight set of agreements that the team commit to and that are reviewed regularly are a great way to drive cultural and technical changes that actually stick! Rather than review meetings that mean nothing once the team leave the room.

In summary

Driving improvements to a team means you are trying to change peoples behaviour which is never an easy task. Teams will change if some basic needs are met. They need to be listened to, they need to commit to the change and they need to be held accountable for future behaviour.

This is possible in your IT Operations teams today – hold regular retrospectives to identify what works and what does not. Get the team to commit to working agreements which are agreed by the team, meaningful and visible.

Let the improvements commence!

** If you didn’t nod when I mentioned The Phoenix Project then you aren’t one of the cool kids and you better find out what it is… pronto!

Image Credit

Future of ITIL workshop – some shared feedback

Word Cloud of all feedback from attendees Not just feedback listed in this article
Word Cloud of all feedback from attendees
Not just feedback listed in this article

Following on from the two-day AXELOS workshop, ITSM Review reached out to the attendees with three simple questions:

  • How did the workshop go?
  • What were the key achievements?
  • What do you think are the key opportunities for the future?

We also asked the AXELOS team to summarize their thoughts from the two days.  The following article is an overview of everyone’s responses – common points made by attendees have been moved to the introductory paragraph of each section.

So, how was it?

The workshop was deemed a great first step from AXELOS (and hopefully the first of many). It was a dynamic, open and customer centric series of discussions and debates, which were received well by all those who provided feedback.

“Good to feel part of a team – level of consensus very encouraging”Ivor MacFarlane, IBM

“The workshop was wonderful, it was a great opportunity to participate with other thought leaders”Anthony Orr, BMC

“It was exciting. I’m now much more optimistic about the future of ITIL”Claire Agutter, ATO Council

“It was refreshingly forward thinking. I felt that my input was listened to and all divergent views were given respect”Sharon Taylor, Aspect Group Inc

“It was great to see AXELOS’ openness and receptiveness to suggestions and feedback from the workgroup for improving the highly successful ITIL framework” – Colin Rudd, itSMF UK

“I really enjoyed sharing thoughts, ideas, challenges and opportunities with other experts and I was amazed by how much consensus there was about most of the issues we faced”Stuart Rance, HP

What were the Key Achievements?

The consensus was that the future of ITIL looks very positive. The collaborative approach was praised and the group felt that there was a real focus on increasing the success and value of ITIL to both businesses and individuals. AXELOS are listening (and they do realize that more input is needed from a wider cross-section of stakeholders from different geographies) and are clearly focused on opportunities to deliver value to the market without radical disruption or alarm. They also realize that market research and communication are critical before making decisions and open dialogue with the community is therefore very important.

“The key achievement for me was the recognition by AXELOS that our community is diverse and complex and that there will need to be extensive consultation and care to avoid unnecessary disruption to the services. It was clear that this is not an exercise of ‘fixing’ ITIL but of actively planning its future evolution to meet needs” – Sharon Taylor, Aspect Group Inc

“The biggest achievement was in listening to the “voice of the customer”, listening to those who actually use ITIL”Andrea Kis, Tata Consultancy Services

“Lots of input provided from different perspectives, covering ITIL content, exams, training and ecosystem” – Stuart Rance, HP

“There was a welcome absence of politics and person agendas, it was all about the success of ITIL”Jayne Groll, ITSM Academy

“The ‘role-diversity’ of attendees allowed us to not only see the bigger ITIL ecosystem but also to offer different perspectives on legacy issues”Stephen Mann, ServiceNow

Where are the Key Opportunities moving forward?

Everybody agreed that AXELOS need to keep the momentum going and must continue to have open communication with ITIL users, stakeholders and the wider community. They need to remain committed to providing visibility of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind ITIL moving forward and must ensure that there are no surprises for the market by sharing with us their long term plans.

“There is a real opportunity to elevate value of ITIL to organizations, executives and community as a whole” – Anthony Orr, BMC

“For me, the key opportunity would be the “onion” layers of content that could be available to the community (some for free, some for a fee), including benchmarking and more practical application. Couple this with potential digital technology to deliver dynamic intellectual property and the industry becomes better able to adapt and supplement” – Jayne Groll, ITSM Academy

“The opportunity is to continue to collaborate with ITIL users, stakeholders and the community and use these discussions as a basis to improve and develop a business model that supports timely, well planned, inclusive, transparent and communicated information. The JV model releases former constraints of ITIL management and frees up the innovation opportunities to bring ITIL forward in step with need and not chasing them.” – Aspect Group Inc

“Global-best-practice looks like it could finally become global best practice” – Stephen Mann, ServiceNow

What did AXELOS have to say?

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group on day 2

“The workshops tackled a vast array of content regarding the future of ITIL and PPM, all in a relatively short time.  It was intense but we maintained a positive outlook, stayed focused on the future and left no elephants in the room.

It was good to move from listening to doing, in this case to work through the main priorities that need to be addressed.  We’ll now factor those into the planning process for this year and for 2014 when AXELOS is fully operational.

Key achievements included the development of ideas and concepts like the “Onion” or “Doughnut” (for PPMers) that provides a framework to enable community collaboration, development of modular materials and potentially tackle “two speed ITIL”.  It was also useful to discuss the needs of the wider global community and also what this all means to the end user or practitioner.

Where to next?  Well it’s great to have crossed the start line and now these workshops have provided us with a script for wider stakeholder engagement.  The skill is going to be in maintaining the momentum whilst focusing on the priorities and this is where AXELOS will need to demonstrate leadership.

Overall, great debates, great ideas and great opportunities.” – input provided by Chris Barrett, Director at AXELOS.

In Summary

It’s a great start. There was much consensus, risks and opportunities were agreed, and the two-day event ended on a very positive note.

AXELOS knows that it needs to elicit more, focused input, particularly from other regions, and that communication in general is critical.

So, there is still a lot to do, but on the evidence of this workshop it’s clear that AXELOS is doing all the right things ­– and AXELOS knows that the world is watching and waiting.

Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct. You can also follow what’s happening by looking for their communications on Twitter or Google+

Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight

AXELOS

The following comment piece is contributed by Stuart Rance of HP and Stephen Mann of ServiceNow.

Yesterday a number of ITSM professionals convened in London to talk about the future of ITIL. From the get-go, it was stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to provide input to AXELOS’ thinking and not to make decisions.

Who was involved?

It was a passionate group of people that represented: ITIL authors, examiners, consultants, service providers, vendors, penguins, and AXELOS. The attendees were:

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
AXELOS CEO, Peter Hepworth and ITSMPenguin

And of course ITSMPenguin. Everyone had opinions and ideas to share and it was a good mix of people.

Some attendees travelled a long way to attend: Anthony from Houston, Sharon from Canada, Jayne from Florida, and Rob Stroud would have attended from New York but for personal reasons. Even though most of the attendees reside in the UK, they work for global organizations and as such have global experience and global views. Not withstanding this, we all agreed on the need for more input across geography, culture, industry, and language.

If you wish to provide your input please respond to this blog (in the comments section) or email AXELOS direct.

Community input

You can already see much of the input from things people have already shared with the ITSM community:

Scope and content of ITIL

The discussions included the scope, content, and structure of both ITIL and the ITIL exam system. And started with people suggesting ideas for strategy and principles for ITIL going forward. It was surprising how long this took (shouldn’t we already know this?) and not unsurprisingly everyone agreed that ITIL should be driven by business and customer needs.

Other suggestion related to:

  • Having a visible set of values
  • Separating architecture and structure from narrative and examples
  • Collaboration with a wide community of practitioners, examiners, trainers, consultants, vendors, and industry bodies across geographic and industry boundaries
  • An emphasis on relevance to end-user organizations
  • Quality being more important than time to market.

From a content perspective, AXELOS introduced the concept of what it calls the “Onion Model”, shown below, that encompasses the previous feedback on how there is a need for different types of content and, importantly, community input to the ongoing development of ITIL.

photo

Where:

  • The centre has the very stable ITIL core
  • The next layer has modular content such as role or industry-specific information
  • And then further layers have more practical content such as templates, guides, and case studies
  • The very outside layer is community owned and community driven with AXELOS and the community curating and promoting this

Content is able to move inwards as it becomes accepted best practice.

                                       Training and exams

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group

We discussed the importance of people, culture, and organizational aspects. In particular the need for more practical guidance about how IT organizations can benefit from the experience of others, and how they can start to gain value from ITIL within their own organization.

There was a lot of passion around training and exams. An interesting point was the absence of guidance on the development of skills such as negotiation and management as part of effective IT service management. Everyone recognized the need to make the exam system more valuable to both individuals and employers. But there was a consensus that that any change requires more input, more time, and needs great care not to disrupt the status quo. Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL exams, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct.

Next steps

Following day two of this workshop (a second blog will follow), AXELOS will continue to seek out global community input.

If you want to follow what’s happening, please look for their communications on Twitter or Google+

As always, thoughts and comments are encouraged.

Met Office reduces (software) forecast errors

The Met Office has to implemented a new software release and deployment automation solution to reduce the number of software planning, delivery, deployment and execution errors it needs to handle on a day to day basis.

A weather
Image credit: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/

The UK national weather and climate services authority has worked with specialist partner in release and deployment management solutions Cachet Software to implement the XebiaLabs Deployit product.

This installation is intended to enable the Met Office to save time, with tests already showing a substantial reduction in deployment times compared to their in-house solution.

It will also help reduce errors and increase efficiency of preparation and deployment.

Overall, the solution is hoped to increase accuracy, speed and scale for the Met Office’s deployments of new applications and services — the organisation had previously confirmed that it needed a flexible solution that could better scale and support continuous delivery of primarily web-facing services to millions of customers.

NOTE: The team at the Met Office manage hundreds of projects and services across dozens of servers — until recently, release preparations were manual, meaning each step would be subject to time-consuming checks to ensure it was planned and executed properly.

By applying deployment automation best practices with Deployit, the Met Office will be able to reduce the risk of deployment errors whilst enabling an increase in the number of deployments. Deployit will also ensure more efficient performance and deliver the ability to keep track of deployments and report on deployment results, leading to a substantial improvement in efficiency of the service delivery process.

Alan Morbey, Configuration Management Team Leader at Met Office, commented: “At the Met Office our deployments were both increasing in volume and complexity whilst staff resources were limited.   Deployment automation using Deployit has allowed us to cope with both of these issues, minimise deployment errors and helped us to further safeguard our production environment, key to delivering services to our customers. Deployit is  already showing some very encouraging results, with deployment times being substantially reduced .”

NOTE: The Met Office uses more than 10 million weather observations and a supercomputer to create 3,000 tailored forecasts daily. These briefings are delivered to the general public, Government, businesses, the armed forces and other organisations.

Stuart Kenley, MD at Cachet Software Solutions, added: “Customers today expect up-to-date services at all times, which means IT departments need to deploy more, faster and accurately. Continuous delivery is becoming a must-have for all companies. We are delighted to be working with the Met Office, having been able to help them through the process of selection by conducting a due diligence to choose the best fit for their specific requirements.”

So you want to be an ITSM consultant?

Financial-Trader

So you want to be an ITSM consultant? 

Why not pit your wits against Peter and analyse this financial services case study. Do you agree with Peter’s analysis? How would your diagnosis differ?

Case Study Introduction – The scenario

By  Peter Brooks.

There’s an interesting article on Financial Trading systems here. It raises many questions, and I thought it would be interesting to see how a consultant would tackle it if asked by an organisation to give service management consulting on the future of its trading systems.

It’s often easier to tease out the important matters by looking at a specific example.

So, here’s your mission: You’re new to the world of consultancy though you’re fairly familiar with service management and you have a background in IT. A friend of yours in the financial world has recommended you. He has convinced the trading manager that you can help him improve his bottom line with consultancy exercise. What would you do?

Scope – terrifying!

You’re completely new to this world. You’ve seen both the ‘Wall Street’ films, and you’ve got a picture. People in this world are seen as brilliantly clever, hugely impatient, highly aggressive and not the sort who lose many night’s sleep worrying about the ethics of their actions. So that’s the stereotype.

So the first question, as an inexperienced consultant is; ‘Should I take this job at all?’. A good question. You should ask this about every consultancy job you ever have, actually, and consider the answer seriously. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will help you think out your approach before the engagement and help you understand the big picture of what you’re going to be doing before you are too lost in the fast moving detail to have time to spare for big picture thinking.

A list of pros and cons helps – particularly if some allow you to rule it out or rule it in depending on what you hear when you first meet your client.

Pros

  • If it works out it’ll be great for the CV, give you a useful insight into the financial world and might even make a difference to the world as a whole, in a positive sense.
  • They know that you’re young and inexperienced, so they’ll probably ignore what you say anyway – it’s more being done as a favour, so, if you get it wrong, you may not do too much damage.
  • It’ll impress everybody to know that you’re working in such a high-pressure environment, particularly if they don’t know all the details.

Cons

  • If somebody does take you seriously, and you get it all wrong, then you might contribute to yet another crash and huge misery for millions, if only in a small way.
  • Some people may be impressed, but some of your more environmentally friendly friends may never talk to you again.
  • If your scope is limited to advising on one particular financial system, financial service or IT system, you truly don’t have the knowledge or experience, so you must say “no”.
  • If you do discover major risks, serious ethical problems or other dangers, you must make sure that you are not made complicit. So you can ask your client, at the first meeting, what you should do if you do discover these. If you are told that you’d have to cover them up, then walk away. If your answer is that you should produce a private report for the board if that happens, or similar, then things look set fair.
  • Will you have enough time to find out what you need to know? Make sure, at the first meeting, that you’ll be able to meet and interview all the major stakeholders to get a proper understanding of the situation. If you’re expected to only talk to one or two people, then you might accept the job, but make sure that your result must be accepted as tentative and a first-pass effort.

The last three are the important ‘cons’. At least now you have something to talk about at the first meeting.

Your approach

Expect to be asked how you will approach the assignment at the first meeting. This is easier than you think because you’re not going to ‘wing it’ on your own, you’re going to be using industry standard advice on service management to guide you.

First you’ll need to understand what the business is actually doing and why and what your role is going to be in helping them. This is known as ‘enterprise analysis’ and, in this case study, we’ll be using the article from The Register.

Next you’ll need to identify the stakeholders and understand their various requirements, at least at a high level.

Then you’ll use this to build a preliminary picture of the services and service strategy that the company is following and gaining idea of the strategy it should be following to achieve good governance.

Finally, based on this understanding, you’ll be recommending a road map, with a picture of the first steps to be taken, and that will be the basis of your final report.

So, let’s pretend we’ve had that first meeting and go through the steps, based just on our knowledge and on the brief outline in the article. Remember that this is just an exercise and that you’d have to do a lot more proper work in any real situation!

Enterprise Analysis

Some firms trade on their own account and that is their main business. This requires a considerable amount of money and is, consequently, not so common. More usually, the trading entity is part of a larger financial organisation, a bank, a hedge fund, an insurance company or similar.

The particular trading that this article about, ‘high-frequency trading’ or ‘algorithmic trading’ is usually used for a small portion of the companies overall wealth with the aim of reducing risk and increasing return.

The reason that you’ve probably been asked to come in is that this form of trading, though fairly new and, in some ways, very dangerous, is surprisingly unprofitable. It costs a lot of money and doesn’t produce much return despite the high risk it involves. So little is lost getting your advice because they can try it without losing much and, if it works, they can gain enormously. This should help with some of your fears about the ethics of being involved – if you can reduce the risk, at least, you’ll be doing good for most of the stakeholders.

Stakeholders

Let’s look at the stakeholders, and their main requirements, from the most remote to the closest to your direct client:

  • The general public: less volatility, market growth based on genuine value of the underlying stock.
  • The financial world: less volatility, market growth, reduced risk of short-term losses (avoiding another ‘flash crash’)
  • The bank who’ll be paying you: reduced risk, increased profit, fewer missed opportunities, better governance of trading services
  • The trading team: increased profit, reduced risk, beating the market, medium term stability
  • The technical team: faster trades, better intelligence, better forecasting (short & long term), lower risk from software bugs, use of latest hardware technology, better algorithms, ability to change algorithms more quickly, more confidence that algorithms are accurately implemented.

Requirements

As is often the case, the solutions (the software and hardware) change often, but the requirements are long term. You’ll need to understand what this company and trading team have as their particular requirements, and recommend setting up a requirements register, but the stakeholder analysis provides these:

  • Improved governance
  • Reduced market volatility
  • Market growth
  • Recognition of underlying stock value (should the trading team trade in their own Bank’s stock, possibly to its disadvantage, for example?)
  • Reduced trading risk
  • Increased trading speed
  • Increased profit
  • Improved forecasting
  • Fewer bugs

Some of these appear contradictory, some are inter-related. From the point of view of ethical consultancy and the concern of most stakeholders, the key ones are – governance, reduced risk (which includes volatility, bugs & poor forecasting) and increased profit.

Services, risks issues, strategy and governance

It’s likely that, as the article describes it, the trading team is not thinking in terms of business services, but, rather, in terms of technology. It’s important to separate the various services to understand the investment cost and return of value per service, rather than just lumping them together. The actual services as perceived by the business would emerge in discussion, but a few obvious ones are:

  • Fast buying service
  • Fast selling service
  • Forecasting service
  • Risk analysis and management service (micro-risk)
  • Algorithm design & deployment service
  • Algorithm Service X – each algorithm has a cost/value profile based on risk, cost, stability, average & max/min of profit/loss in short, medium term

The issues are:

  1. Poor Governance: It’s pretty clear that the risks are very high because only the technical team understand the algorithms, the forecasts and the technology – so there is no way that effective governance can be in place at a board level because even the trading team can’t quantify the cost/value ratio for their services.
  2. Poor stock recognition: The emphasis on speed means that only a limited reference can be made to the medium and long-term underlying value of the stock. So software can easily be led into a bubble caused simply by instability, like the flash crash.
  3. No Control: The development and deployment, of algorithms, forced by the technology leads to poor control, high risk of error and poor forecasting
  4. Instability: The use of technology such as FPGAs means slow development times, high error rates and poor understanding of how the algorithms are actually working – reinforcing the lack of stability, high market volatility and poor governance. The banks don’t know what their machines are doing, and don’t know if they’re even delivering value for the bank, they may even be destroying value.

Recommendations

There are major short-term risks – of the worst sort, governance risks. No short-term solution is going to address them. It is, though, urgent to put in place some longer-term structures that can reduce the risk in the medium to long term.

  1. A service portfolio should be constructed for all business carried out by the trading teams, so that particular deployments of hardware and software can be understood in terms of the value/cost ratio, based on a genuine understanding of risk, volatility, forecasting accuracy and measured profit/loss ratios in particular markets
  2. Metrics need to be designed to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of these services
  3. A requirements register should be produced so that algorithm design and deployment can be tied to compliance, corporate strategy and policy as well as trading team objectives. This must be tied to the corporate risk register
  4. A plan must be produced to replace the high-risk development techniques being used. Firmware design and development of ASICs, GPUs and FPGAs is slow and error prone if carried out in low level logic design, assembler/microcode or unreliable languages such as C++. This should all be replaced by a corporate policy to use only Ada as this is reliable, documents properly, is designed for embedded systems of this nature, and is quicker to develop and faster (this is proven empirically) than assembler or microcode.
  5. Forecasting must be designed to incorporate board policy, longer-term views of the value of stock and to use the power of Ada to reduce volatility by enabling decisions to incorporate longer views.
  6. Staff need to be trained in service management to understand the service metaphor and to start to understand the contribution of services in terms of their contribution to business value, not simply to technical short-term gain (even if the algorithms themselves actually exploit this)

Do you agree with Peter’s recommendations? 

Further Reading

For more advice on ITSM consulting check out Peter’s publications:

Image Credit

The Chips Are Down at Know 13, Vegas

AriaThere is something so unique about visiting Las Vegas – Home to ServiceNow’s Knowledge13 this year

Quite apart from the breath-taking scenery as you fly in (we’ll forget about the nerve racking sprint through Chicago and making the connecting flight literally with minutes to spare for now), it is like a whole other world.

And that also goes for the resort complex – held in the Aria complex, it really was a location that had it all – shops, there was even a pub for us Brits!

The main themes for this year focussed on Transformation and Innovation, and certainly in the first Opening Keynote by ServiceNow’s CEO Frank Slootman, The End of No, The Beginning Of Now.

There have been a few memorable events since ServiceNow’s last conference – namely ServiceNow going public on the NYSE.

The popularity of the event has grown too, with more than double the attendees- almost 3900 attendees this year.

Frank Slootman’s keynote included representatives from large companies, all with a key story to tell about IT-Led Enterprise Transformations.

Now obviously as it is an event sponsored by a vendor, you would expect Servicenow to be at the forefront of the good-news stories, but at the tail end of the panel session that Alison Collop, Global Director of Coca Cola shared the key message behind the success of IT-Led Transformation:

Organisational Change Mangement- Empowered the team to make decisions and recognising it takes everyone to help change the way they work

It was the first time that any of the panel really addressed the mindset required, not just the technology – a bold move and the golden nugget at the end of this opening keynote.

The Fred Luddy Keynote

ServiceNow Founder and CPO Fred Luddy is a hugely charismatic character and this was the keynote that everyone wanted to see.

He treated us to a (literal) face off between Google Glass and Siri, but more importantly a look and how far the industry has come, but what we need to do to continue to move forward.

There are repeatable patterns, since the 1800s – Technology is used to streamline processes (get something to work a bit faster), and create a business differentiator.

And just as in the first keynote, we were shown the finalists for ServiceNow’s Innovation of the Year award – where businesses have seen something that IT have done (streamlining) and thought of a way to help drive the business forward by creating applications within the ServiceNow platform.

The winners were Target – their employees had demanded a more personal approach to IT, and had to look to manage up to 60 appointments a day.

Target used ServiceNow to develop a booking application, as well as a custom iPad application, allowing visitors to create an appointment in person, and to be able to track and assign work and on-site support.

The application has a customer satisfaction of 94% and has moved support out of call centres.

Conduct Unbecoming The Opposition? How To Professionally Demonstrate Your Product

What stood out for me was the demonstration of the ServiceNow functionality on tablets – perhaps for a different reason than intended:

As part of Fred Luddy’s keynote, he took the audience through some of the new innovations, particularly in the area of mobile devices.

He walked us through the specific optimisation they had done for tablet devices, and it had been important for them to ensure that the full product functionality existed for staff using a tablet, perhaps supporting services remotely.

They have also developed a specific iPhone application allowing resources to be accessed, and customised to suit the individual – all with the purpose of being able to use the product to either access catalogue items (via Service Request), log incidents or work on records, assignments – all through improvements to the mobile user interface.

As an analyst, I get emails from vendors and from consultancies every day about recent press releases and new happenings – it’s nothing new, it’s part of the job.

So when I headed off to Vegas, I was not surprised to get an email from someone representing another vendor, plugging their own mobile solution, having gathered that I would be entertained by ServiceNow.

But during the first day, the #Know13 hashtag was hijacked (for want of a better word) by people connected to this vendor (I hesitate to use the word employees, partners – we just do not know) plugging their solution.

No real problem, I guess – it is, after all, a free market economy, but if it was a mischievous, puckish prank, it soon backfired in the eyes of the attendees (remember, we are talking around 3900 people… count them!).

People chattered in the breaks and at the expo wondering “why?” – after all as far as I understood, the capabilities were very different.

In all, it was a bit unprofessional (in my humble analyst opinion), and being bombarded for the week afterwards by the same partner to talk to them instead did nothing to make me reconsider that view.

ITopia

Allan Leinwand took us through the Now State of IT respectively, along with the ITopia demo in full.

This keynote really helped reinforce one of the key messages of the conference – A Single System of Record.

The demo showed how ServiceNow could be used across the enterprise, using a single database to help automate and improve efficiency, involving a cast of people playing a roles across an organisation:

  • Data Centre Manager – using dashboards to manage on premise and cloud environments, linkage to Change, and automated provisioning via the Service catalogue
  • Network Operations Centre – moving away from reactive alerts to filtered events and more proactive practices, using collaborative tools to drive Change Management
  • Procurement – More accurate inventory information and dashboards to show contract expiration and licence information
  • Field Services Technician – working remotely with mobile devices with the same amount of functionality as he would expect if located centrally
  • Human Resources – Using automation to help drive the onboarding process for new employees
  • Help Desk – Knowledge Management and collaborative tools (LiveFeed and Chat tools) to help people contacting them in a more structured way
  • Development Manager – Seeing where software defects are being logged and who are having the issues
  • Development Operations – Using the new App Creator where all the information to create a new application on the ServiceNow platform is focussed in one place
  • Crisis Response Manager – how they could retire a best-of-breed external application by developing their own within ServiceNow to do the same thing and putting all the information in one place
  • Facilities Management – recognising that their request forms, with a little modification, and by adding items to the CMDB, could also use the same system
  • Business Line Manager – Dashboard focussed on projects and associated costs, as well as automation of repetitive tasks
  • Project Management – keeping track of resources and their assigned tasks, and making that information available to stakeholders in the organisation
  • Governance – Real time collation of evidence for audits and dashboards to help identify immediate risks
  • Finally, the CIO – to demonstrate the underlying theme of the conference  – how IT can help transform the enterprise from within a single platform.

Instead of having a number of applications, they showed how applications could be built in the platform, how dashboards be used across the enterprise to show pertinent information, how new applications can be developed, all using a single course for information – the single source of record.

And none of this is amazingly new fangled gadgetary that has materialised at the hands of aliens with super-powers (even allowing for the fact we were in Vegas for a week)!

This conference gave attendees an insight as to what was possible, using existing technologies, teamwork, collaboration, and dare I say it, a bit of common sense.

Something Fun & New – The Hackathon

A new addition to the ServiceNow conference was the introduction of the Hackathon, inviting administrators and developers to show off their innovative flare to create transformational applications using the ServiceNow Service Automation Platform.

There were no limits as to what could be built, but it had to be built on ServiceNow.

The winners developed a Project Incubator application allowing users to gather required resources for new projects, across an organisation.

What others had to say

Ken Gonzalez, Know13 Session Panellist and Senior Advisory Consultant (now Capita):

I think that the diversity and topics that are associated with that, and the sessions that I went to, they talked about the technology and they talked about how to leverage it but it had a nice blend of “hey you want to do real interesting stuff, here’s some things you want to think about”

I think it struck the right blend between being too prescriptive and too salesy

Mark Kawasaki, Know 13 Speaker and ITSM Specialist at Emory University

To me it was a lot of meeting some great, some new people too, especially some practitioners that I met that were really struggling with some things.

It’s funny, one guy came up to me and said he had just spoken on CMDB and gave the exact opposite points that I gave on CMDB.

It was good discussion I had with him on different ways you can look at it.

Adam Mason, Know13 Hackathon Winner and featured customer as part of Frank Slootman’s Presentation.

I really enjoyed the quality of presenters that I saw was very high calibre and I thought the expo hall was fantastic

It was nice to see what others are doing with the product besides just customers that were trying to push the envelope a little bit so I thought that was impressive.

The Hackathon was just a ton of fun, it was a good communal experience too and I would hope they do it again

Stephen Mann Former Forrester Analyst, now Senior Manager – Product Marketing, ServiceNow

The things that really stuck out for me:

Firstly the size and the enormity of it – to get that many people who use a single product rather than parts of a portfolio of products is absolutely crazy.

Second thing would be the organisation and then within that the quality of the content, particularly yesterday – Everything consistently seemed great throughout the day.

What resonated with me

There were a lot of phrases bandied about throughout the week.

From the beginning of the week, ERP for IT and the excessive use of the word ecosystem perhaps made me roll my cynical analyst eyes, but in the panel session as part of Frank Slootman’s keynote, and in a Q&A with customers, the real drive for transformation innovation came from within the teams, with a passion and drive to innovate using the technology that exists today.

For me – the concept of Single System of Record and ITopia continue to promote applying common sense, technology and teamwork to solve business problems.

I conclude with my own thanks to Dawn Giusti and her team – their organisation on the ground was superb.

With so many attendees, it was flattering to feel that you were under their watchful eye, known by name, and that they would take care of things for you.

A great week, all round.

Knowledge 14 will take place – April 27th to May 1st 2014, at The Moscone Centre, San Francisco.

See you all same time next year?

Teleopti Shines With 4 Star SDI Certification

Swedish WorkForce Management (WFM) and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) company Teleopti has been awarded a “coveted” 4 star Service Desk Certification maturity rating from the Service Desk Institute (SDI).

The company had held a 3 star certification since 2010. Teleopti’s service desk joins a select group of worldwide teams who have achieved a 4 star certification including those from Telefónica, Sodexo, tickets.com and Vocalink.

Performance spanning all concept criteria

Providing support to customers in over 70 countries, Teleopti’s multi-lingual service desk, situated in Sweden and China, was praised by SDI for “raising its performance across all concept criteria” during a period of rapid expansion in to new global markets.

Düring: 4-star performer
Düring: 4-star performer

The most notable areas of improvement were:

  • certification concepts of processes,
  • partnerships and resources,
  • customer satisfaction and,
  • social responsibility.

NOTE: The SDI’s SDC audit evaluates service desk operations against an internationally accepted global standard for best practice, providing companies with a benchmark to form a baseline for service improvements.

Based around ITIL and ITSM frameworks, this certification evaluates companies in the following areas: incident and problem resolution; change and release management; service level management; availability and capacity management; configuration management; business continuity and financial management; knowledge management and customer relationship management.

 “We are delighted to receive this recognition from SDI for the continuous investments in providing an exceptional level of support to our customers and partners. Closeness is an important company value and Service Desk is the corner stone in fulfilling this. In the annual customer survey, year after year, more than 9 out of 10 customers state they would recommend Teleopti as a vendor to other companies” says Olle Düring, CEO of Teleopti.

Service Desk Manager at Teleopti Maureen Lundgren expands upon Düring’s comments saying that increasing the firm’s Service Desk Certification maturity rating is the result of a company culture where the customer always comes first.

It is also down to a dedication to defining, refining and documenting roles, responsibilities and processes,” she said.

Howard Kendall, Master Auditor at SDI summarised by saying: “The 4 star Service Desk Certification rating is an excellent achievement and testament to the well-structured programme of continuous improvement that Teleopti has in place. Coupled with this, we have evidenced exceptional leadership and excellent communication to staff who in turn are consistently motivated and developed.”

Service Catalogue 2013 Group Test – The Results

This is a review of software products and vendors in the ‘Service Catalogue’ market area.

This is a complex and varied market place and consideration should be given to the Market Overview section.


Download Review

(Free PDF, No Registration Required – 405kb, 8 Pages)


Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems
Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class: Axios Systems

Service Catalogue 2013 Best in Class

  • Axios – scalable to big customized projects as well as nice UI for OOTB implementations. Strategic ITSM focus.

Of the other products reviewed, these areas were of particular note:

Best for MSPs and Small/Medium Organizations: 

Best for Enterprise Organizations:

  • ServiceNow – particularly for large implementations where customization is expected. Good product and corporate fit

Service Catalogue Market Overview

By Barclay Rae

Service Catalogue Approach

large ‘Service Catalogue’ market is a niche sub-set of the IT Service Management (ITSM) Software market, which has seen considerable interest and growth in recent years.

Whilst ‘Service Catalogue” can be given a clear definition, the term can be and often is used to cover a number of functional and strategic approaches that stretch from fairly low-level request fulfilment to strategic Service Design and Strategy.

This approach varies because there are several different components that can be described as ‘Service Catalogue” – from ‘front-end’ portal to ‘back-end’ workflow and high-level business views of services. There are also potentially a number of different inputs and outputs – and types of document – that can be described as part of the ‘Service Catalogue’.

This reflects the developing nature of how the industry has defined and understood what a ‘Service Catalogue’ is, which has led to some fundamental differences and interpretations of how to make this work and what the expectations are from implementation.

In a nutshell the 2 main different approaches are:

Strategic/Top Down

This is where the organisation takes a strategic view of all IT services – including the business services (applications/departmental services, external customer services). Usually this will lead to a definition of an overall service structure of Core IT Services (PCs, Phones, email etc.) and Business Services (departments, business processes, applications).

This can then drive service reporting and service differentiation and is a long-term strategic approach to ‘service’ management and value demonstration. Request fulfilment follows out of this process, once the overall structure has been defined.

Technical/Bottom Up

This tends to be started by technical teams to ‘discover’ services, solve specific configuration management and integration problems and provide a practical user interface for consumption of core services and request fulfilment.

Both approaches are viable and necessary at some point to lead to a successful implementation:

Top Down is useful to ensure that the whole IT organisation is on board and that the wider goals and expectations are defined as part of a customer engagement process. Visualisation is useful for all parties to have a tangible view of the overall goals for IT.

Bottom Up can be a good tactical approach to get moving quickly. Request Management automation usually provides efficiency benefits and can significantly improve service quality to customers. The strategic view will need to be defined at some point so should be considered whenever (and as soon as) possible.

For the purposes of this review both of the above approaches have been considered and the overall key elements for tools defined as follows:

  • General – user friendly and with proven integrations to other tools
  • Service Design – the ability to create a database of service records, containing a number of business and technical attributes, processes and workflows
  • Service Structure – the ability to organise and structure these services into a hierarchy of services and service offerings – ideally in a graphical format
  • User Request Portal – a user friendly portal with an intuitive interface to request and track services
  • Request Fulfilment – request management workflow and functionality that can be easily used and configured by system users
  • SLA and Event Management – the ability to define SLAs that can be linked via Event Management to other ITSM processes
  • Demand Management – the ability to provide real-time allocation and monitoring of service consumption, with e.g. financial calculations
  • Dashboard – real-time user-friendly graphical monitoring and analysis of usage, trends and metrics across services and to various stakeholders
  • Service Reporting – the ability to present output that summarises individual and ‘bundled’ service performance, consumption, SLA and event performance – in user-friendly, portable and graphical format

See the full list of criteria here

Approach to Implementation

Organisations and their practitioners who are considering buying and implementing Service Catalogue technology should consider the following:

  • As there are a number of potential applications and objectives for Service Catalogue, these must be clearly defined and agreed in advance. This shouldn’t be embarked upon because it is the ‘flavour of the month’ or it ‘looks like a good thing to do’.

Key benefits that can be derived:

    • Improved professionalism and quality of service experience to customers
    • Value demonstration of IT through business and service based reporting
    • Clarity around service differentiation and value – e.g. commodity versus quality, value-add, time to market
    • Improved cost efficiency of request management and administration
    • Improved quality and speed of service for request management and administration
    • Greater visibility of IT costs and service level performance
    • Improvement in Service Desk performance via better central access to information
  • It is vital that all participants not only understand the expected benefits and objectives, but are also clear on the taxonomy of Service Level Management. This saves considerable time during projects, due to the fact that there are often many misconceptions and variances in understanding around basic concepts like SLAs, Service Catalogue etc. Time spent on some explanations and clarification of definitions is time well spent.
  • The big mistake that orgnaisations still make is to try to do Service Level Management (Portfolio Management, Request Management, SLAs and Service Catalogue…) all without engaging with their customers and supported businesses. The process requires engagement (service definition, performance discussion, objective setting, feedback on the customer experience etc.) as a major input to this process. This provides business validation as well as improving the relationship and demonstration of understanding between parties. It also vitally provides clear goals in terms of service provision and performance reporting. Without this the process can completely miss out on customer requirements and expectation, and so is wasteful, arrogant and bad PR.
  • Organisations should define their services in a simple structure – ideally that can be visualised and shown on 1 page or 1 slide for clarity. This can be done in a workshop, where key people are brought together to work through the concepts and definitions (this can begin with some education) and then use this to define the service structure for that organisation. There are always ‘learning curves’ to be overcome (e.g. the distinction between ‘systems’ and ’services’) – however if this is done in a workshop then this build momentum and consensus.
  • The Service Structure is a vital element as it provides the visual key to this process and also then the framework for a repository of information on each service. From this the project can start to create other outputs, documentation and service views as required from the project goals.
  •  Getting started and moving is a vital element to avoid long term prevarication and too much theorising. A lot can be achieved relatively quickly with some workshops and brief customer meetings. It’s essential to produce a simple representation of the service structure that helps to visualise the process for all involved and give them a consistent view of what is being delivered and defined. All this can be done within a few days and weeks based around workshops and a clear set of objectives.
  • Ultimately this is a business-focussed process so it’s important to have people with business and communications skills to work on the project. Technical details and understanding will be needed but should not be the starting point, which tends to be what happens if this is given to technically-focussed people.

Market Products

Products in this area fall into 2 main categories:

  • Existing ITSM Toolsets with Service Catalogue functionality
  • Specific Tools with Service Catalogue and Request Management functionality

Existing ITSM Toolsets

These often will have either modular or intrinsic functionality based around the ‘ITIL’ framework – Incident, Request, Problem and Change Management, plus Asset and Configuration Management and Service Level Management.

The Service Catalogue should be a valuable addition to this with a ‘service layer’ that can be added to the existing task and event management functions, as well as providing customer/user-friendly portals and ‘front-ends’ for requesting and tracking services.

Generally these products will be used by organisations to develop and to implement a ‘service strategy’ – as well as implementing request management – so these will generally follow a more ‘top down’ approach.

Ideally these will be able to leverage work already down defining existing ITSM processes and the Service Catalogue can then easily integrate with these. This is not always the case, as previous configuration structures may need to be revised to meet new Service Structure requirements.

Specific Service Catalogue Tools

These are newer, standalone systems that have come into the market in the last few years – initially as there was little functionality in this area in the existing ITSM tool market.

They will generally follow a more technical ‘bottom up’ approach that provides faster and more agile implementations. So they can deliver high quality user interfaces, discovery and request management workflow in short timeframes and deliver fast Return on Investment (ROI)/Time to Value (TTV) around the automation of a number of manual processes that speed up the customer experience.

Challenges can include how to reverse-engineer these systems for a strategic service structure once in operation, plus the need to integrate with a variety of other tools, including the existing ITSM solution.

These tools all have some level of basic Help-desk/Incident Management and support processes – the level to which these can either be used or integrated depends on the requirements and maturity of the existing systems (and organisations)

Market Observations

  • ‘Service Catalogue’ is a term that can encompass a number of areas – request management, user portal, service strategy and design, SLAs, portfolio management, service reporting, customer, business and technical views. There is no single product or view that is definitive and products that focus on one area only will require some technical and process integration.
  • In key areas of request management, portals and workflow, reporting and SLAs, most products offer very similar functionality. Variations exist in the development of Demand Management, strategic Service Design and Service Visualisation.
  • In particular vendors can be differentiated by their approach – strategic and technical, but also the level to which they can offer support and value added services to help with implementation. This is still a relatively new area and few practitioners and/or organisations have broad experience or even clear requirements for how to make this work – vendor support and guidance is a key asset and differentiator.
  • Implementation support should also be in the form of template and standard configurable data – i.e. to provide sample service ‘bundles’, workflows, reports, dashboards and in general as much practical guidance as possible.
  • Whilst implementation approach and product focus are the key differentiators – i.e. strategic vs technical Bottom Up / Top Down – a key strength is also the ability to show a clear path that encompasses both approaches.
  • Integration experience and proven capability is a key capability (more than just a differentiator) – this will always be required to some extent:
  • For ‘Service Catalogue Specific’ vendors this is essential to get their product working with a variety of monitoring, asset and event management tools, as well as interfacing with other ITSM systems. Usually they will offer a number of existing APIs and proven links as part of their approach. These tools are useful for standalone Service Catalogue implementation at mid-market level and can also be found sold into enterprise organisations at the technical and integration level.
  • For ‘Existing ITSM Vendors’ they will lead on the seamless integration with their own tools. This is a good pitch for their existing customers but a dilemma for the wider market, i.e. whether to buy a standalone Service Catalogue product (from one ITSM Vendor) separately from a new or existing ITSM product from another ITSM vendor. Many of these vendors will have already created links to other systems via their multi-source and managed services clients.
  • In all aspects of this area, consideration should be given to the customer experience in using these systems and the interaction with IT organisations, particularly in terms of how SLAs and service delivery expectations are set.
  • These toolsets can help to improve service quality and experience, as well as improving the value demonstration of IT. However this will not simply be delivered by tool implementation alone and care is required where systems and vendors promise this without some significant process and organisational change.
  • Overall the market has developed significantly in the last 2/3 years although most vendors are still developing their approach to financial and demand management. Some of this functionality is available across the market but generally only as reports and with some development rather than as an integral feature for dynamic business use.  

Market Positioning and Approach

Vendor

Mid-Market

Enterprise

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

question

Matrix42

question

Biomni

question

ServiceNow

question

    – Definitely

question    – Possibly

Top Down / Bottom up?

Vendor

 

Top Down

 

Bottom Up

Axios

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good UI with visualisation of services and structure

question

  • Vendor and product can start from discovery approach
  • Unlikely to be sold as SC only bottom up product

Matrix42

  • Little product or vendor focus Business or Top Down approach
  • May not be relevant for some clients – e.g. MSPs

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

Biomni

  • Little product or vendor focus on Business or Top Down approach
  • Commercial approach helps for quick start and visualisation

  • Product and vendor geared to discovery approach
  • Excellent tool for fast implementation of Request and self service for IT products

ServiceNow

  • Approach geared to Business and Tech services
  • Good strategic focus in dashboards and Demand Management functions

  • Can start from discovery approach
  • Sales focus on enterprise with Business and Tech capability

    – Definitely

question   – Possibly

Competitive Overview

Vendor

Overview

Strengths

Weaknesses

Axios

  • High-end option for Medium – Enterprise
  • Simple intuitive UI/OOTB
  • Seamless integration with assyst ITSM processes
  • UI
  • Strategic approach
  • Vendor capability
  • Not geared up for standalone SC implementation
  • May be overkill for technical or small implementations

Matrix42

  • Strong request and Catalogue functionality – technical focus
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good Request and Catalogue functionality
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Service Now integration
  • Lack of US/UK coverage
  • Approach – little strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Biomni

  • Good functionality
  • Nice commercial approach
  • Good option for Tech-only implementations (e.g. MSPs)
  • Good intuitive functionality, commercial approach
  • Speed of implementation – doesn’t need other ITSM processes
  • Little Strategic implementation focus
  • Functionality gaps

Service Now

  • High end functionality, enterprise focus
  • Strong corporate backing and growth
  • Extensive functionality
  • Best Demand dashboard functions
  • Flexibility of product
  • UI busy and complicated
  • Flexibility of product
  • Organisation geared towards enterprise clients
  • Needs usability configuration/customisation

Product Deep Dive

Follow the links for a deep dive review of Service Catalogue features:

Further Reading


DISCLAIMER, SCOPE & LIMITATIONS

The information contained in this review is based on sources and information believed to be accurate as of the time it was created. Therefore, the completeness and current accuracy of the information provided cannot be guaranteed. Readers should therefore use the contents of this review as a general guideline and not as the ultimate source of truth.

Similarly, this review is not based on rigorous and exhaustive technical study. The ITSM Review recommends that readers complete a thorough live evaluation before investing in technology.

This is a paid review. That is, the vendors included in this review paid to participate in exchange for all results and analysis being published free of charge without registration. For further information please read the ‘Group Tests’ section on our Disclosure page.