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itSMF Ireland Conference Review

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The itSMF Ireland hosted its annual conference in Dublin last week. The theme of the conference was Continual Service Improvement something I for one was really excited about. Most of the time conferences will talk about Service Design, Transition or Operation but there’s usually little if anything on CSI. The other reason for the excitement was that for me, itSMF Ireland is my home conference so hands up, I may be slightly (read extremely) biased.

The conference itself was held at the Clyde Court Hotel in Dublin. There was a great atmosphere that day because the hotel is right next to the Aviva Stadium (or Landsdowne Road if you’re old school like me) the home ground for the Republic of Ireland football team. There was a World Cup qualifier that night against Germany and the whole nation was hyped up, hoping to create the glory days of Italia 90. Anyway, Ireland’s sporting excellence aside, the hotel was gorgeous, the food was fab and the people on reception were lovely. Parking was a very reasonable at 7 euros for the day *stares hard at the itSMF UK 2014 conference where it cost £45 for 10 hours parking – and no, the carpark didn’t have unicorns, rainbows or vodka fountains*.

The event was kicked off by Fran Davern aka the busiest man in Ireland. Fran heads up the itSMF Ireland management board as well as holding down a full time gig as principal consultant with Davern itSM. The conference was co run by the itSMF Ireland and the Irish Computing Society. The social media machine was well and truly ready for action with the organisers encouraging attendees to Facebook, Tweet and get involved!

Fran welcomed everyone to the annual bash and introduced the first speaker of the day, Ian MacDonald.


Unlocking your CSI potential – Ian MacDonald, Multiple itSMF Award Winner & chartered IT professional

Ian’s session was hotly anticipated as it was about empowering IT to make CSI truly part of everyone’s day job.

Ian talked about practical ways to not only get CSI off the ground but to make it meaningful. He went on to explain that not all benefits are tangible but it doesn’t mean that they’re not important saying “Cost is tangible, value is a feeling. Value should be promoted to support CSI”. The key take away from the presentation was keep making improvements however small “Keep it manageable, small CSI improvements are important because the aggregation can have a big impact”.


Agile ITSM – Dave van Herpen, Consultant, Sogeti

Next up was Dave’s session on using Agile. Dave started his presentation by talking about Agile and not getting hung up about definitions stating “if you’re combining customer involvement, incremental improvements and fast value, you’re already be doing Agile.”

Dave used a traffic example to explain how Agile works. He talked about a square in Holland that had the highest rate of accidents in the nation despite warning notices, traffic lights, signs and speed bumps. In the end, the local authorities were at a loss at what to do so removed all the traffic calming measures. That area now has one of the lowest rates of accidents because as Dave explained “if you have too many processes, people forget to think”. Dave went on to explain that we need to focus on customer satisfaction rather than just trying to hit SLAs or randomly chucking processes at everything.

Dave then talked about using Agile to make collaboration work saying “DevOps isn’t just about Development and Operations. It’s about having a multi talented team involving Development, Operations, Testing, Supplier Management and the business. It’s about everyone in the chain working together and helping each other out.” In other words if people actually talk to each other, we have a better chance of getting things right – yay for common sense 🙂

Dave wrapped his session up by talking about using Kanban for casework, referencing Rob England’s work on standard cases.


CSI: Bite Sized Nuggets – John Griffiths, Former itSMF Trainer of the Year

Following a quick coffee break, we were back to see John Griffiths present on doing CSI in small, manageable chunks. I’m personally a huge fan of this approach as it’s common sense. When you learn about the Deming cycle, you learn that small bite sized chunks is often the way to go rather than huge projects that will invariable fall apart once the day job gets in the way, we have a crisis or management get distracted by the next shiny new thing. Obviously that’s not the exact wording used in my ITIL foundation training but you get the gist 🙂

John started off the session by saying “it’s not called CSI for nothing, we must continue to drive improvements for our customers”. Should be common sense but how many of us forget about CSI when we’re at the sharp end of a Major Incident? Exactly.

John talked about the basic things that we need to have CSI in place. We need a CSI register, a strategy (so we know what we’re doing), a budget (so we can actually do stuff) and a comms plan (so we can tell the rest of the business about all our great work). The most important thing is to have CSI champions as people are everything. John talked about how Suppliers were key players at driving CSI at a strategic level. encouraging the audience to challenge them to get involved and suggesting the inclusion of a CSI clause in Underpinning Contracts.

John went on to explain the 7 step model using booking a holidays as an example sparking a huge response asking if we would all get holidays for doing CSI. Our Irish readers will know that there’s a tradition here in Ireland, there’s a talk show called The Late Late Show and one of the catch phrases is “there’s one for everyone in the audience!”. Sadly, it turned out that no, you don’t get a free holiday just for doing your day job but is was a brilliant way to explain how the model works.

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John’s session was dedicated to his colleague Mike Baker who sadly passed away this year. John, your session was excellent and you did Mike proud, a sentiment that was echoed by the audience and all the session posts on Twitter.

 

Onwards and upwards – Stuart Wright, Severn Valley ITSM

Stuart was next in the hot seat talking about his experience of what works best when doing CSI. This was also the session that got #stewiesteam trending briefly on Twitter (more on that shortly). Stuart advised us to look to the results of our customer satisfaction surveys when looking for improvement opportunities.

Stuart also talked about the importance of promoting CSI wins telling the audience “ we’re good at what we do but we don’t tell anyone, we must promote CSI wins, we need a flag to wave that shouts “we’re better than everyone else!”

Stuart advised us to “stop writing policies on the back of fag packets, it’s not professional”. Thanks Stuart, that’s me told 🙂 He went on to explain how sometimes the things that give us the most pain are the things that can give us the most solid base to build improvements from, talking about the importance of baselining (gives us a solid starting point) and SLAs (if we don’t have them, the customer perception is “we can have anything we want, whenever we want”).

It was at this point in the proceedings that Stuart mentioned that he needed to do a bit of rebranding on his team as it was known as Stewie’s Team and not the CSI Team. Of course being in Dublin, no one was going to miss out on a golden opportunity for acting the maggot* and within minutes #stewiesteam was trending on Twitter. If I were to list the funniest tweets tagged #stewiesteam we’d be here all day but suffice to say there were lots of references to the A-team and a message may have been sent to the team back at ITIL towers (AXELOS) if we could introduce the term “pulling a stewie” for delivering CSI projects successfully if we ever move to ITIL 4.

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Stuart talked about the need for keeping the show on the road and ensuring that CSI sponsors remained committed. He also talked about differing approaches and that sometimes we need to slow down the hares in our team and to get the tortoises to speed up.

Stuart’s final piece of advice was to use simple the simple things to keep momentum going – on one engagement the staff canteen had menu holders with space for additional pages. Stuart used the outside covers to hold leaflets promoting the CSI wins of his department – a move that publicised to the world and it’s mum all the fantastic work being achieved.

 

Practical CSI: Getting started with Continual Service Improvement – Stuart Rance, Service management & Security management consultant, Optimal Service Management

Mr Rance had the first post lunch slot and was quick to bring in some ground rules: “House rules, do not fall asleep, I will see you and I will point it out whilst laughing at you”. We wouldn’t dare Stuart 🙂

Stuart explained that in it’s simplest form, Kanban is “stop starting things and start finishing things”

and that CSI all about driving Attitudes, Behaviors & Culture, or ABC:

Stuart explained the ITIL approach to CSI using practical examples:

  • Vision – “a lovely big picture of what the future looks like
  • Where Are We Now – baselining
  • Where Do We Want To Be – measureable targets: “never believe something can’t be measured. If you care about something enough, it can be measured because you will find the extra resources and money.”
  • How Do We Get There – the plan
  • How Do We Measure The Milestones – in short:
    • Don’t focus on process maturity, focus on what your customers care about
    • Don’t confuse technical targets with business targets
    • Use Critical Success Factors (CSFs) instead of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate performance in customer service reviews and you can have a real conversation about value rather than arguing over numbers.
    • Don’t use numbers to tell your customers they’re happy, it will only lead to disaster

(I may have heard this last point delivered in the style of Craig Revel Horward from Strictly “that was a disaster darling”)

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  • How Do We Keep The Process Of Improvement Active – the CSI register is a place to write down things you ought to be doing; it’s also a great way to promote success.

On a personal level, my favourite part of Stuart’s session was around achieving culture change. Stuart chose a very zen approach : “If you want to make a culture change, change yourself because it’s the one thing you have under your control.”

On one particular engagement, Stuart change the culture from “lets have a witch hunt and fire people” following each failure to a no blame culture by, in his own words “ostentatiously crowing about my own failures.” It reminded me of when I was a baby techie, I worked for an organisation where in the Server team, you got handed the sword of grayskull from He-Man / She-Ra as a reward for bouncing the most live servers that week.

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Stuart finished on a strong note by reminding us all that: “the biggest enemy for CSI is complacency and doing too much. Just start with the little things and keep going”.

 

CSI: Taking a Different Perspective – Michael Brophy, CEO, Certification Europe

Michael had the penultimate session of the day and started by reminding us to “never try anything for the first time when you’re up on a podium in front of a room full of people.” Mile’s perspective focused on 3 areas:

  • Standards
  • Marginal Returns
  • Lean

Starting off with a discussion on standards, Mike used ISO 27001 (Information Security), ISO 22301 (Business Continuity) & ISO 31000 (Risk Management) to demonstrate that we don’t have to be afraid of using standards: “you don’t need to be an expert to read ISO 27001, but if make some improvements to your information security based on what you’ve read, you’ve made your organisation more secure and that’s CSI.”

Mike also advised us to look at some of the less well known standards for improvement ideas. A personal favourite of mine Mike, is ISO 3103 also known as “how to make the perfect cup of tea”.

The next section of Mike’s presentation dealt with the doctrine of marginal returns perspective. As the man himself explained it “ if you keep making small improvements, you will get there.”

Mike was fantastic at making his subject matter relatable using exam preparation as an example

The final part of Mike’s presentation looked at how using Lean could make big savings in efficiency, enabling you to do more with your existing resources without having to negate gains with additional overheads. Mike also encouraged the audience to ask for an independent perspective “we had got to the point where we couldn’t see the wood for the trees”

 

Measures That Matter – Andrew Vermes, UK Practice Leader, Kepner-Tregoe

Andrew was last up talking about making sure our measurements are appropriate telling us if we get it wrong “it’s possible to be the best by gaming the system”

Andrew got the audience energised with an interactive exercise designed to make us realise that focusing on quantity over quality isn’t necessarily the best thing and that we need to focus on people rather than just looking at the numbers and the KPIs

Andrew reminded us that we need to be prepared:

The final part of the presentation looked at how to use white space effectively:

Andrew made the point that every process has white space, it’s how you manage it that matters. Andrew suggested having rules to manage white space for example the technician has one chance to guess at root cause and then has to follow the full process.

 

Final Thoughts, preview of forthcoming attractions and award winning tweets

Before we knew it, it was 4 o’clock and it was time for Fran to wrap things up with a preview of forthcoming attractions:

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There was also an award for the best tweet that day with the prize going to the very deserving Niamh Armstrong:

https://twitter.com/NiamhieA/status/652121447142432769

Nice one Niamh!

All in all it was a great event with some fantastic content. There were attendees from all sorts of organisations from the financial services industry (AIB), utilities (ESB) and third level education (Institute of Technology, Tallaght – again – not that I’m biased but a big shout out to ITT and to Lorraine Carmody). For my money, the itSMF Ireland is one of the friendliest itSMF chapters, everyone had a good time and everyone went away with something be it new friends / work contacts, a new enthusiasm for CSI or new things to try back in the office. Thank you to the itSMF Ireland for inviting us along and we’ll be back next year. Oh and just in case you’re wondering, Ireland won the match (1-0 #thanksshanelong #COYBIG).

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That’s all folks, go raibh maith agat agus slán abhaile.

*Acting the maggot – messing around




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