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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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Wrap up warm... it's time for the festive change freeze

Posted By Matt Hoey, 16 December 2015

As we approach the festive season many organisations look to put a change freeze in place over the Christmas and New Year period. But for when should it start and when should it finish and can there be danger in the melt waters when the freeze thaws?  The Service Transition SIG investigates...

 

The main reason we implement changes at Christmas is of course the drop in resource both within organisations and their suppliers.  Pat Bolger indicated that at Hornbill they see a slow down in support requirements and surprisingly no customers are keen to implement their ITSM tool projects as Christmas advances!  So as well as enjoying the festive period, many people simply find the offer of a week and a bit off for the price of three days holidays too good to turn down.  If left unchecked in this situation changes could be the source of many own goals and un-needed pain during this time.


Additionally, as the end of the calendar year rolls round, some organisations are gearing up for their financial year end.  This in turn adds even more risk to any changes to services.  Rolls Royce is one of those companies and Tony Oxley explained how they deal with this period.


"Our restricted period starts on the 22 November with a restricted change window.  At this stage we attach enhanced rigour to any changes for key services, for example financial systems, ERP, network, etc.  This period runs through to 6 December when we implement a full freeze.  This means no changes except break-fix until 23 January.  After which time we revert to a restricted change window until 6 February.  Only then do we revert to a normal schedule of change.  Whilst a long window it ensures we protect the organisation."


"Any changes which must take place during the window, in other words not doing so would have a material impact on the organisation, are labelled as 'non-compliant' as in non-compliant with the freeze.  This allows those changes to be flagged and reviewed both before and after appropriately."


Peter Mills described a similar lock down at Arqiva. With the organisation's main customers including the BBC and ITV, change is locked down from  mid December through to early January - like retail organisations, there is simply too much risk in this period of high activity. Surely no one wants to be responsible for that Christmas episode of Doctor Who being interrupted!


At the opposite end of the spectrum, academic institutions find themselves with a dramatically reduced customer base as students and teachers head home for the Christmas holidays.  One might assume this would be a time to pile in the changes and be as disruptive as possible, but as Jon Morley explained at the University of Nottingham there tends to be an informal freeze as the IT resource also enjoy some well earned time off.


But what happens when that freeze ends?  As I found out after the first year of deploying a change freeze over the festive period and ending it on the first Monday back, this can be risky business.  This first 'normal' day back at work has the potential to be a service desk's busiest day of the year.  Password resets are one of the most frequent types of calls even with self service software, and in recent years as more and more customers receive technology Christmas gifts, this week sees the amount of BYOD queries rise too.  As a backlog of changes start flowing through a failed change here could further increase the pressure on the service desk.  Instead of releasing the freeze on the first main day back, considering extending it to allow time for customers to return and bed back into work and the support teams to get back to normal levels. A day or two later may be sufficient.  If changes need to start flowing again as soon as possible, you may want to allow them but with enhanced rigour around the scheduling and allow low risk changes like Tony's change restriction period outlined at Rolls Royce.


The Service Transition SIG meets monthly over teleconference and physically on days throughout the year.  They're a group of ITSM practitioners working in all walks of business and run seminar days and conference sessions, produce blogs like this, whitepapers and other material on Service Transition topics.  If you'd like to get involved, please head over to the Contact Us area of the web site to get in touch.


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Change at the top for AXELOS

Posted By Barclay Rae, 09 December 2015

AXELOS have announced that their CEO Peter Hepworth is moving up from his current position to head a new group within parent company Capita (which includes AXELOS itself). Taking over Peter’s CEO role from 1st January will be the current AXELOS Chief Finance Officer, Abid Ismail.

Peter Hepworth has done a sterling job getting AXELOS off the ground from a standing start two and a half years ago. This includes getting to grips with the notoriously fickle ITSM industry and its various vested interests, whilst setting up a new organisation from scratch to create and manage global educational content, exams etc. With the resources of Capita behind them, AXELOS have been able to create a new level of engagement with the industry, including for example advertising in mainstream national publications, and a business-based focus and value proposition for ITIL and PRINCE2. During Peter’s stewardship they have launched new products – such as Agile PRINCE2 and RESILIA for Cyber Security – with the forthcoming ITIL Practitioner programme due in February 2016. From the industry perspective the level of open engagement coming from AXELOS has been a positive breath of fresh air. We wish Peter success in his new role.

Looking forward, the new CEO will face a number of challenges. These centre on balancing demand from the ITSM industry for more new and upgraded products with corporate demands for AXELOS to monetise their output and growth and meet the original requirements and expectations from inception. There are some high profit and growth targets which might be difficult to reconcile with the need for ongoing investment. A lot will depend on the success of the new ITIL Practitioner product, and how well this can be scaled and made into a global commercial success (initial feedback is positive on this). Other products to freshen the ITIL and PRINCE2 portfolios will no doubt need to be implemented in due course. For AXELOS – now a fast growing enterprise – there will also be a need to consolidate its people and approach to ensure synergy and focus.  

From the ITSMF UK perspective, we want to work with AXELOS – and with other bodies and vendors in our industry. These relationships will help us to develop and deliver guidance that assists practitioners do their job and organisations to succeed with ITSM. It’s a crowded market right now and we recognise the need to focus on our own areas of value and expertise. Our focus is on community and collaboration, which encompasses all areas of ITSM (including but also well beyond ITIL). We are also working to develop more useable content around the value proposition for ITSM and how this is sold and marketed.

We wish the new AXELOS CEO well and look forward to working together in the near and longer-term future.  

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Thoughts from a committee chair

Posted By Martin Neville, 01 December 2015
Updated: 30 November 2015

As we all catch up and take a breath after a busy couple of days out of the office at ITSM15, I take this time to reflect on this weeks events.

ITSM15 opened on Monday with all the glitz and glamour you have come to expect. It is the showpiece for itSMF UK and one of the main events in the global ITSM calendar, something that we should all be proud of. As with all such events, what appears on the surface to be a seamless flow of activity is the result of a lot of effort from a great many people, many of them volunteers. However the buck stops with me, the Chair of the Conference Committee.

It’s funny how you end up doing things like this. I have served on the committee for a number of years and last year I got the fatal call from the Chair at the time: “Martin, I’m going to have to take a back seat.  Can you take over?”  What can you say, other than “yes”?

The process started way back in February when the call for papers went out.  Some years we are inundated, others it is more of a struggle.  This year was pretty good and we had many to choose from.  The committee reviews all submissions blind.  We don’t know who they are from or what organisation they work for, we simply look at the content and make a decision from that – yes, no or maybe.  We got together in April to compare notes – it was a long day, and as usual there were some pretty lively debates, but the programme was pretty much set by the end of the day.

Over the coming months, the Committee worked with the presenters to pull their slides into shape.  Meanwhile the itSMF Office and the events management company we work with started to organise the rest of the conference.  Who knew what goes into an event like this? There are all the logistics of the venue – rooms for presentations, how and when the food will be served, how the trade stands will be set up and what access they will need, etc.  Then there is the admin – booking delegates, agreeing sponsors, sourcing the keynote speakers, etc.  But there were also the odd debate and decisions to be made – what colour should the printed programme be?  Who should be the after dinner speaker? What should the awards look like?  Should we give the session speakers gifts?  All of this needs to be authorised by someone, and that someone was me. It becomes all-consuming at times.  I have a full time job, but there were times when I was reviewing menus or speaker synopses late into the evening, just to keep this juggernaut moving. You end up only seeing the problems and missing the fact that, actually, it’s all going rather well.

The finished article though makes it all worth it.  The disparate pieces magically came together.  That speaker who was consistently late with deadlines and vague with their slides turns out to be the star of the show.   The new venue turned out to be well organised and just right for our needs.  Most importantly, the feedback from the delegates is good. After all, this is what the conference is all about – bringing the members together and showcasing the best in Service Management, not just in the UK, but from around the world.

An old boss of mine once said that the role of the leader is to take the blame when things go wrong and to pass the credit onto the team when it all goes well.  The team – conference committee, events company and the itSMF UK office team have my eternal gratitude, and hopefully yours too.

And now my thoughts turn to ITSM16…

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New challenges and solutions - new faces, new energy and enthusiasm

Posted By Barclay Rae, 27 November 2015

I was delighted and proud of our achievement this week in delivering a new and invigorated ITSMF UK conference. The team worked tirelessly – including our contractors and the hotel. So far at an anecdotal level our  delegates, exhibitors and sponsors have delivered positive and energised feedback on the experience of the event and the overall quality of content.

 

If you were not able to attend, there are 20+ short discussion interviews recorded and posted on the AllThingsITSM website and YouTube – these are worth a look and cover a variety of topics. Our presentation sessions also provided a mix of familiar and contemporary topics for the delegates.  These ranged from practitioner stories of change processes to topical themes around SIAM, IT4IT, DevOps and of course new ITIL content.  

 

This has been a positive event for the continued development of what ITSMF is, what we do and how well we do it.    

 

Collaboration and community stood out for me as key issues from the event – we need to share and work together, using a variety of tools, techniques and frameworks to achieve success. There is no single one-size-fits-all approach or set of tools that can deliver everything for our whole industry. There are many different options – tools, frameworks, standards, practical guidance – that are available and our community is there to help provide the glue to direct and point our people in the right direction.

 

My task going forward is to pick up on the great momentum from the conference and to get out and work together with as many complementary and supportive organisations as I can, in order to develop positive and constructive collaboration.

 

I look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible – particularly if you have ideas about ways to work more closely and effectively together…!

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SFIA’s worldwide domination!

Posted By Matthew Burrows2, 20 November 2015
Updated: 19 November 2015

I have just returned from Edinburgh, which marked the last event on a month long promotional tour of SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age). From IEEE in California, ISACA’s Cyber Security conference in Washington, the itSMF USA Fusion Conference in New Orleans, ISACA’s EuroCACS Cyber Security and Risk Management Conference, and finally the IT in the Park conference in Edinburgh, I was pleased to see so such a renewed interest (across the globe) in SFIA and its benefits.   I also had the pleasure of being part of the SFIA Version 6 launch events in both the UK and in Australia back in July and August.  The Australian conference in particular provided a number of real life case studies of how SFIA is being used in practice – you can view these presentations by visiting www.sfia.events and selecting the Australian conference. By the way, if you’re not sure what SFIA is, you can visit the SFIA website and download the SFIA version 6 manual at www.sfia-online.org.

In the last week, I have taken some time to take a breath - giving me the opportunity to reflect on the last few months and note just how far we have come in not only understanding the benefits of SFIA but actually implementing them and realising the benefits.  Organisations with as few ICT professionals as 6, right up to organisations of staff in the thousands (and tens of thousands), SFIA is being used and implemented in around 200 countries.

Now that Version 6 has been released, the area that has seen most interest has been the Cyber Security world.  Version 6 brought the framework up to date with the massive advances in Cyber Security, and not only added two new skills, but also a number of skills were updated, for example, adding a level 7 description for Information Security, and level 1 and 2 descriptions for Security Administration. There’s heaps more I could tell you about Version 6 and the updates, but I’ll leave you to visit us at the ITSMF UK conference next week!

Speaking of the ITSMF UK conference, I will be delivering a session on Monday at 3pm entitled “SFIA V6: Using Skills to Leverage your Biggest Asset – People”.   This presentation will take attendees through some of the changes in V6, but more importantly, shows HOW having an understanding of the skills in your organisation can ensure cost savings in recruitment, better decision making on the “right” training, more productive performance review discussions…. I could go on!

I look forward to seeing you at my session – or if you can’t make it, you can also catch me on the BSMimpact stand in the exhibition hall.

Matthew Burrows

 

 

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