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This blog, written by itSMF UK leaders and guest contributors, offers service management thought leadership and discussion of industry trends. Please feel free to comment on these posts (you will need to be logged into the website as a member). We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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It's all about integration

Posted By Steve Morgan, 07 July 2015

At the recent ITSMF SIAM event, it was great to see so much interest in SIAM.  I was humbled to be amongst such esteemed company, as my co-presenters were each well-respected in the SIAM field - James Finister, Steve Tuppen, Barclay Rae.  Whilst us consultants did a great job of giving our views and opinions, the guys from BG Group, Dave Armes and Kevin Baxter, really stole the show.

 

Their presentation centred on a combination of SIAM and an aggressive approach to CSI as a means of bringing about big changes in ways of working very quickly.  The itSMF would welcome more presentations such as this, which were grounded in real world experience, and presented with passion and deep knowledge by those who had lived and breathed introducing the changes across the complex BG Group business.

 

Clearly, as we all come to grips with SIAM as a discipline, views are beginning to converge on what SIAM is, and more importantly what it isn’t!  However, there is still much to do in defining some common terminology, as we once did with ITIL.

 

I feel so passionately about this, that I’ve agreed to chair the itSMF SIAM Special Interest Group, to help bring about consensus, and hopefully to repeat the effort of producing a publication on SIAM, as the SLM SIG once did when I chaired that.  There was a huge amount of interest in the SIG expressed at the SIAM event, so they’ll be no shortage of willing volunteers.  It is sure to be less about gaining interest, but more about harnessing the effort and getting everyone pushing in the right direction.  We’ve decided to hold a launch event in September, and the itSMF are currently working on finalising a date, and a London-based location for this event, so look out for more information on this.

 

I think the SIG would do well to collate the presentations from the SIAM event, and others that have been delivered, to try and extract the common language and definitions contained within them.

 

I’ll keep looking out for interesting SIAM studies and articles in the meantime, as I develop my own thinking around this subject.

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Is DevOps accelerating the demise of ITIL?

Posted By Robert Stroud, 08 June 2015

Speaking recently at an event in Europe, I was approached by a developer who explained that ITIL was ‘killing’ innovation in their company. I asked him how they were continuing to deliver innovation and he said they “implemented a methodology called “NoOps!” I immediately felt my governance senses tingling, but rather than rush to judge, I waited for further details. I asked him what the difference was between DevOps and his NoOps, and he replied “not much, but we feel better believing there is no operations involved.”

But there is a difference. Let me explain.

The rush to increase the pace of change and release automation, especially with the rise of mobile computing, is accentuating the popularity of continuous release or DevOps. Agile development methodologies that help better align IT with business expectations have been further accelerated by the acceptance of mobility and apps for business.

Think about it for a moment. The app that you are using on your smartphone or tablet is rapidly developed, tested and released to production (and in many cases today, immediately updated) with no human interaction. It stands to reason that, as releases become more frequent and the changes within them smaller, we should automate the processes across development, test and production. And should we need to back out a change, we can even automate a backup before the change is applied.

Now in the old-school ITIL world, the change process encumbers the developer moving code to production. Why wait for the next Change Advisory Board meeting (CAB) when the risk and impact of the change to the business is low? 

Enter DevOps.

DevOps is not a standard or a framework; it is a philosophy of merging development and operations, something that we have been attempting for years. DevOps extends agile from methodologies long practised in development to achieve continuous operations. 

When implemented effectively, DevOps completes the continuous integration and release process across the testing and pre-production environments into the operational realm. This has the advantage of giving the whole cycle of development and transition to production complete transparency, from the approval of the work request to delivery and use. Unlike in the traditional ITIL world where a completed change is thrown over the fence to the operations function, a key DevOps advantage is that code is promoted as soon as it’s developed, verified and tested. And since deployments don’t pile up, complexity and risk of failure are minimized. The smaller the change, should it fail, the more likely the area of impact is known and can be resolved or backed out and service restored.

An all-to-frequent implementation error with IT Service Management is the assumption that all change is created equal. But all change is NOT created equal.

For example, a major ERP system upgrade that will impact the very core of your business is a change that would be deemed an extreme risk to the organization. It requires more diligence and a meeting of all concerned, including impacted stakeholders, prior to production (the Change Advisory Board) might be a great idea!

Compare that scenario to changes for new and innovative services such as updates to mobile apps that happen on a regular basis, or the implementation of innovative solutions or experiments.

The difference between those two scenarios illustrates that there are multiple channels to production, with different levels of risk and varying degrees of impact from the changes involved. In some cases DevOps is the best approach (continuous change), in others a traditional Waterfall approach makes sense.

Within the service management world, many strive to implement all changes with 100% success, but the reality is that some change will fail for a variety of reasons. A key tenant of service management has been continual improvement, and this is where we have an opportunity – based on our experience we can learn from these failures that occur from time to time. A small number of steps in any process are easier to deliver with quality and within a DevOps cadence; start small and you should be able to deliver a higher rate of throughput and, more importantly, success.

Many development organizations are leveraging a DevOps philosophy, yet operations have been slow to do so. In my opinion, DevOps offers operations a significant opportunity to rapidly remove work and activities that they should not be focusing on, and instead allow them to focus on what really matter.

More importantly, the removal of the age-old boundaries between operations and development is essential to help the business thrive in the application economy - a core objective for most businesses today. That said, it’s not about removing rigour or returning to times of IT being consistently unavailable. DevOps executed effectively should increase rigour and structure, typically around process automation, while enhancing compliance at the same time. For instance a given change can be automatically populated, its risk determined, and the automated audit checkpoints written to the automated backup of the production environment before the change is actually pushed to production.  

So as you think about your current investment in good service management practices, DevOps doesn’t necessarily mean the death of ITIL, but it does signal a change in how operations operates. Implementation of a DevOps philosophy will require organizations to review their ITIL change and release management processes at a minimum, leveraging automation to streamline process while at the same time delivering the compliance required in many industries today, such as healthcare, finance and insurance.

A common complaint I hear about is resistance from some in the current Service Management organization. In working with those who are resistant, you should communicate the value of their roles to the business as they transition to focus on value - adding process such as proactive problem management or paying more attention to traditional organizational change where the risk and impact to the business are high.

DevOps adoption is not signaling the end of ITIL, nor is it about abandoning current investment in process. Rather, it is more akin to upgrading your approach in a way that drives enhanced value to your organization.

Remember – as I say to myself everyday – IT serves the business, and those are the people who pay our salaries. In short, if IT can’t deliver, the business will go elsewhere!

  

Rob Stroud is VP, Strategy and Innovation at CA Technologies and President of ISACA. His ITSMF UK masterclass, DevOps in an ITIL World, takes place on 2nd July.

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Are you part of the ITSM industry?

Posted By John Windebank, 16 March 2015

 

 

Someone that I really respect as a voice of common sense and no-nonsense opinion challenged me recently when I referred to the IT service management ‘industry’. His view was, and I suspect still is, that IT service management isn’t something that can simply be associated with a specific set of people or organisations, it is part of the plumbing of any organisation – everyone is involved in it in some way.

I absolutely take the point. IT service management isn’t an optional extra. The successful running of an organisation that delivers IT services requires that there is some order, some consistency in how things are done, a common understanding of what needs to be done and why, and what the output needs to be. 

As long as there is a general understanding that an IT service is something that a business utilises in some way to enable that business to generate value, then there must be some form of IT service management going on.  That’s how the provider is able to provide the service to that business. 

So – is IT service management just ‘done’ by a niche set of individuals? No. But even if ITSM permeates the business and instils a ‘service culture’, we still need the individuals and organisations that are specialists in IT service management. In the same way, health and safety isn’t just done by those working in the health and safety department; it’s part of the personal responsibility of all individuals in the organisation to understand and comply with health and safety policy and process. However, some individuals are health and safety strategy owners, planners, managers and auditors. These individuals procure and use specific health and safety tools and equipment from specific health and safety tools and equipment providers. These individuals also procure the assistance of specialist trainers and consultants, and hire from specialist recruitment organisations. They are reliant upon academia to produce appropriately skilled new blood into their organisations.  They utilise the output from standards and best practice bodies to provide reference points that their organisations can use to assess and develop their current capability and maturity.

IT service management is no different. We have specialist providers of IT service management tools. We have consultancy organisations providing specialist IT service management advice; academics who specialise in IT service management; and specific ITSM standards. We have ITSM best practice providers, we have recruitment and resource provider organisations specialising in ITSM skills provision and we have individuals within internal and external IT service-providing organisations that are specialists in some field of ITSM. This collectively is the ‘industry’ that I was referring to. 

I absolutely believe that there is an ITSM industry, and I absolutely believe that I am part of it.

I continue to be concerned by the low profile of our industry and those that work within it. It was recently announced that the global annual spend on IT will rise to over $3.8 trillion in 2015. That $3.8 trillion dollar investment in IT by the organisations we work for and serve as customers is simply dead money up to the point at which it comes together in the form of IT services that assist those organisations to generate business value. The collective business value must presumably be worth far more than the $3.8 trillion dollar investment.  Our IT service management industry is responsible for the successful management and delivery of the services that help generate the business value. So isn’t it a little odd that IT service management is largely invisible?

I am convinced that the ITSM industry’s lack of profile is a major constraint to the industry as a whole and to its constituent organisations and individuals. It is imperative that, as a collective industry, we apply significant focus on how we better articulate the value, purpose and criticality of ITSM to those outside of our niche. If we don’t solve this we will always struggle to attract and retain the best resources, we will continue to be at the wrong end of the queue when it comes to acquiring investment funding, we will regrettably continue to have insufficient recognition and influence on the architecture and design of the very services that we have to sustain in delivery. Our industry and those within it continue to be misunderstood and marginalised. We have the responsibility but insufficient authority and recognition to adequately influence how the $3.8 trillion dollars should be invested to deliver the maximum return.

How many ITSM roles are really regarded as destination careers? How often are the opinions of ITSM senior practitioners consulted and quoted in the media? And how often do you come across revered enterprise architects in lofty positions who are still thinking that business issues are solved by bolting together chunks of technology? [side note... this isn’t a swipe at all enterprise architects. I know many who are brilliant and massively valuable assets to the organisations they work for. They also tend to be the ones who openly recognise the essential need for active involvement and input from those specialising in IT service management.]

You are seeing a change in the way ITSMF UK operates for its members.  We will, of course, continue to drive initiatives within our industry to share, evolve and innovate in the field of IT service management, but we are also pushing ahead with the Forum’s role of championing the ITSM industry. This means raising our industry’s voice and profile in the UK, extending the reach and understanding of the value of ITSM and the organisations and individuals that make up that industry. It also means attracting attention, achieving greater recognition for the industry that our members represent, striving for a higher profile for ITSM and a position of greater influence. 

Come on, join in... help us make some noise and kick up some dust. Let’s have some fun raising our collective industry profile and influence, and strive to capture the increased opportunities that this will bring.

Now’s the time to raise our voices.

 

Chairman
ITSMF UK Limited
john.windebank@itsmf.co.uk

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Focusing on the right problems

Posted By Richard Horton, 09 January 2015

In the 2007 Spanish film 'Fermat's Room', some top mathematicians, working under the pseudonyms of famous mathematicians from ages past, find themselves stuck in a room. They are posed a series of logic problems. If they answer them correctly within the time limit nothing changes. If they don't then the walls move in a bit. Being professional problem solvers they throw themselves into the challenges posed. Some they succeed on, some they don't. As the walls contract they realise that carrying on like this has one inevitable result. So they split resources. They can't ignore the logic problems, but they also reassemble the room's furnishings to try to prevent the contracting of the room. However the forces of compression exceed any forces of resistance that they can muster, and being crushed becomes increasingly inevitable.

With a few prompts, the mathematicians realise that they are tackling the wrong problems. Until they understand what it is that connects them they won't get anywhere. Once they know that they can work out the reason they are in this mess and who might have set this up devilish trap. When they have worked this out (and of course, the room keeps contracting all the while), they can, finally, tackle what is their most pressing question : how to get out of the room.

At New Year a lot of people set resolutions. One resolution sceptic in the press has mused that instead of resolving what additional things we will take on in an already crowded schedule, perhaps we should resolve what we will stop doing. In a world where we all have more to do than time to do it how can we take on new things without doing this ? Our mathematicians needed to create thinking space and to use it to think laterally in an environment that was screaming for completely different behaviours. They needed to change their focus. Doing less fire fighting, though being in the middle of a fire, was the first step towards this.

Our situations may not to be as radical as the mathematicians' room, and escaping our constraints by bypassing them completely may not be the sort of outcome we are seeking. However there are still things we can learn from here. The mathematicians could address their real problem when they worked out what connected them and why they were in this mess. How we work together with others is often critical, and the challenges here go beyond surface level interactions. Multi-person problem solving is about more than just the techniques we use. The cultural context, the attitudes we bring, how the individuals involved behave all have a significant part to play.

So, maybe  what we need to do less of is being consumed by the immediate problems presented to us (which is not the same as ignoring them !). Instead maybe we could spend more time working out how to identify the more fundamental problems. Solving them would have a greater impact.

And did the mathematicians get out of the room ? There are plenty of twists in this story, and I can recommend watching the film to follow them and find out what happens. An interest in maths adds to the enjoyment but is not essential.

Tags:  problem management 

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Are we the wrong people to work in IT?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 24 October 2014

 

We now hear regularly that we are now in the ‘retail’ phase of IT evolution (see The Quantum Age of IT ‘Charles Araujo). Essentially the idea is that IT has moved on from early entrepreneur and engineering-dominated stages, to what is now the commercial norm of supply chain and services.

Using e.g. railways as an example – most railway companies now run using a relatively small minority of engineers or technical experts (of course they do have them), but most jobs in that industry are now related to customer service, sales and marketing, contract management, finance, ticketing etc. Clearly there can be parallels drawn with IT which is now becoming more concerned with customer experience, business services and commercial management.

Many bloggers now identify this new phase and have suggested the face of IT to come – sample role/skills required:

·          Specialist technical skills

·          Consultancy and project management

·          Organisational change and people development

·          Key business knowledge/skills

·          Supplier management

·          Contract negotiation

·          Supply and demand management

·          Marketing and communications

·          Relationship management

·          Customer support

For many the need for IT departments is diminishing – as more technology is delivered as a commodity by outsourced companies and via cloud models – so also bought directly by business people rather than by internal IT people. For some this is a crisis and wake up calls for IT people to be more aware of market development and also to embrace the need to be more customer-focussed and open to new ways of working and new commercial models.

This argument has raged for a couple of years now and was heightened when Gartner announced recently that Marketing departments would spend more and be in control of more IT budget than IT departments by 2015 – although the veracity of this and some of the assumptions and criteria used have been challenged.

Another angle and shift in focus is the need for IT people to move away from thinking about how we ‘work in IT’ – i.e. rather than work for the business/organisation that pays our salaries.

Certainly there is an increased need for non-IT skills such as commercial management, contract negotiation, procurement, customer management and marketing – all of which are already key elements in IT management, although with little consistency or maturity in delivery as many people who work in the IT industry still don’t appreciate or value these skills – they are tech people…

Overall these arguments and hypes have created a bit of an identity crisis in the industry around the future of IT work and IT organisations, although to many people working at the front line nothing much has visibly changed.

What is certainly true is that the IT industry constantly continues to change not just in technology, but also in terms of commercial focus, business models and practices. Disruption is the norm and an expected feature of the market and this applies to a much wider set of criteria than just technology.

There is more focus on the customer experience and a need for more collaborative working and ‘supply chain’ thinking around the delivery of services. People working in IT need to be ready to embrace change and to look forward to how their current roles and capabilities might need to be developed in order to stay employable in future – and certainly the future will involve more non-IT skills as a requirement.

Overall we seem to live in an industry that is running at variable speeds – 2-speed, bi-modal, whatever you want to call it. The challenge is for CIOs and IT leaders to bring these variable speeds together and ensure that IT keeps up with the times and also ensures that basic functions and capabilities are delivered. CIOs must waken up to this and meet the challenge and enthuse and drive their people to work towards meeting it.

The real challenge is finding and getting people who have the combination of technical and new business skills to deliver the ‘supply chain’ of IT services that organisations need.

What do you think? Is there too much scaremongering or are we really in danger of missing out and losing many IT organisations..?

Tags:  Are we the wrong people in IT 

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