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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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Forget ITSM Best Practice, Let’s Talk About People

Posted By Barclay Rae, 03 May 2017

Let's Talk About People

I’m fortunate enough to attend multiple IT service management (ITSM) and IT industry-related conferences each year –  in the capacity of speaker, organiser, exhibitor, and/or delegate. It’s therefore safe to say that I have a pretty good understanding of the value that attending an event can provide to both individuals and the businesses they work in.

Events provide excellent opportunities for learning new things, better understanding the industry, networking with peers, and of course making new contacts and connections. Whether you’re looking for new ideas, wanting to keep up with the industry, or looking to learn more about the latest challenges facing the world of IT, events will typically provide value across all three. After all, there really is no substitute for meeting and engaging with like-minded people face-to-face – it’s informative, beneficial, and good fun too.

Having said this, events can also be mentally draining, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I seek the solace of a dark room and “real work” once an event is over. But a big part of my fatigue is based around the fact that I attend so many events, covering the same topics, and addressing the same issues. Each event I attend – whether it be covering ITSM, DevOps, Agile, or the service desk –  typically always boils down to the same key takeaway:

“IT is about business. Business is about people. Therefore, IT is about people.”

Simple, right?

All the challenges and issues we face in IT can be solved and mitigated through dealing with people issues. So, whether we’re talking about DevOps ‘culture’, ITSM-related organisational change management (OCM), ‘professionalism’, skills and competencies, or management and governance – what we’re really talking about is people challenges and opportunities. Look at ‘solutions’ such as Kanban, Scrum, and Lean – they’re all ways to manage and improve not just what we do, but the way that we do things, usually involving some form of approach that deals with people.

Of course, this ‘takeaway’ is nothing new, which is probably why it’s continued to be prevalent at IT conferences for as long as I can remember. However, what is ‘new’ and changing, is that as an industry we’re beginning to accept this. We’re actively looking for new, people-centric solutions to augment or replace existing operational models. We’re effectively calling out the importance and value of the ‘people’ aspect in what we do. In reality, confirming that ‘soft’ skills are just as important as ‘hard’ or ‘technical’ ones.

Process, and tools are no longer enough to deliver success. Something we should already know, but are now finally beginning to build on and challenge into a number of new approaches. We’re finally coming to realise that we need to stop relying on frameworks and technology to solve what are ultimately people problems.

The New Challenge

But, this then presents us with a new challenge. That now the industry has recognised the issue, there are suddenly several different models to help you ‘solve’ the problem. So, in addition to the traditional models of the likes of ITSM, COBIT, and ITIL, we now have DevOps, Agile, Lean, Cynefin, service integration and management (SIAM), IT4IT, and more. And vendors and consultants automatically start to begin to create new content, celebrating new ideas, and providing tips for success. But from an IT practitioner standpoint, is this too overwhelming? Are we clogging up ‘best practice’ headspace with a varied and seemingly conflicting plethora of new ‘things’ to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I know and appreciate that many of the new models deliver value. What I’m questioning is whether these multiple models are confusing and challenging for practitioners? I mean, which should they follow? Where should they start? How do they make certain models work together? In my view, we need some central guidance on service management that reflects both proven success as well current and future capabilities. This doesn’t need to be a patchwork of the frameworks, but more an aligned way of using different ideas together under a practical banner of value-based guidance.

So What Now?

This kind of guidance isn’t going to be easy to create, and will require input from a variety of places within the service management industry. From itSMF UK’s perspective we’d like to help bring people together to discuss this idea further and drive a consensus around these questions. As such, we plan to use our portfolio of events and workshops over the next year as a place to start these discussions. We’ll also be creating content aligned with these questions and ideas via our blog channel, as well as in whitepapers and co-sponsored research outputs. 

So, if you think you have ideas and/or thoughts to contribute on the future of the service management industry, and how best to help practitioners in these complex times, please let us know. You can get involved by attending any of our events, or submitting content to put your opinions and suggestions out to the industry by emailing us at membership@itsmf.co.uk.

Our upcoming events include:

·      Service Catalogue [workshop]

·      Professional Service Management Awards [PSMA17]

You can also find out more about our regional and other member events here

More from itSMF UK

One additional place where we hope to explore this topic further is in our reinventedService Management Podcast”. Thats right, back together are: Stephen Mann, James Finister, Patrick Bolger, and myself. Back to discussing ITSM, with a little grumbling and a few poodles thrown in of course. itSMF UK are the new, proud sponsors of the podcast and we hope we can use it to help drive conversations on topics, such as the one in this blog, forward

You can listen to the first episode here (Apple) or here (Android). Equally I look forward to hopefully seeing you at one of our many events this year

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A year is a long time in politics, and in ITSM

Posted By Richard Horton, 21 April 2017


It's been quite a year in the world of politics, hasn't it? We're leaving the EU, David Cameron isn't even an MP any longer, and now we have a General Election. Busy times for Laura Kuenssberg, and times of consequence both within the UK and beyond.

If the world of politics in this country has had its volatility, the world of IT keeps on being disruptive. We rely on it ever more, but it keeps changing. Both opportunities and risks abound. How do we respond? What are the implications for the world of managing services (with or without the IT!)?

itSMF UK engages with these subjects. Let's say you want to understand more about what DevOps and Agile could or should mean for you as a service delivery manager. There are a variety of channels available. For example, you could try sessions at Conference, or masterclasses if you want something more in-depth; and the Service Transition SIG's award winning Two-Speed Transition paper offers a practical perspective to refer to in your own time. If you need the bigger picture of where you should be focusing at the moment, read Barclay's January blog on Digital (Service) Transformation for The ITSM View.

Is that the end of the story? We think not. Such a fluid landscape demands attention and engagement, even if your full attention is on a subject that doesn't necessarily mean you have all the angles covered. Think back to July when political leaders on both sides of the referendum debate didn't seem to know how to react to a result that they had neither expected nor planned for.

Something that the itSMF UK board have been thinking about for a while is how we could encourage a wider contribution in this area, one that helps to define a distinctive service management perspective on leadership. This was crystalised at the last Member Forum meeting. Duncan Watkins asked a pertinent question and lively discussion ensued. The upshot was general interest in a potential new Special Interest Group that focuses on questions like "what's the next big thing ?"

What might such a Leadership (or Strategy) SIG look like? There are a number of areas that could be addressed:

  • PSMF makes explicit the need for leadership at a personal level as one of a service management professional's competencies. What does this mean?
  • What leadership are we providing to young people in providing educational stepping stones that allow them to choose service management as a career?
  • What are the areas where a distinctive service management contribution to thinking is needed and how can the questions involved be framed (the horizon scanning that the Member Forum focused on)?

Do you think this is the right scope? Are you interested in being involved? Please do get in touch with your thoughts.

Meanwhile I'll be registering for a postal vote for the General Election as I'll be down in London for SITS and the PSMF Awards Dinner. Don't forget to register as well if the same applies to you! Hopefully I'll see you there.

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SIAM: Practical Guidance On What It's All About

Posted By Barclay Rae, 21 February 2017

There’s a lot of discussion and industry activity around SIAM (Service Integration and Management) right now. Whilst we might wonder if this is another passing phase, the concept has been around for a while and there is growing consensus and interest in using it.

At ITSMF UK, we have a very active SIG (Special Interest Group) which has been discussing best practice and building up a large body of content and knowledge around the subject.

SIAM workshopStart at ground zero and work your way up the SIAM ladder
in this workshop on March 8.

We have just published a paper (sponsored by Axios Systems) on SIAM – Managing Complexity from a single source of truth.

This looks at the requirements for practitioners and organisations when tackling SIAM. The paper covers:

  1. What is SIAM and why do it?
  2. What are the challenges with SIAM?
  3. Key tips and takeaways

There is a new training programme coming from BCS, EXIN and Scopism. This has used the knowledge and experience of a number of practitioner to put together a body of knowledge and generic training programme.

We recently interviewed EXIN about this – see detail here for more information. The group included members of our SIG and we hope to be able to support development of this programme in the future.

And finally

We also are developing a load of new practical workshops, including SIAM — our first of these will be run by Steve Morgan. Steve was the chair of our SIG, co-authored our report and was part of the training project. In other words: he really knows this stuff.

So if you want to find out more about SIAM, and how to make it work — please join our workshop on March 8.

Download the whitepaper

Tags:  SIAM 

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The SIAM training and certification programme from EXIN, BCS and SCOPISM – what does this mean for the wider industry?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 16 February 2017
Updated: 16 February 2017

As interest in SIAM continues to grow, it was no surprise that a training and certification programme would be developed sooner or later. This has recently happened, and a new programme was launched at ITSM16 by a collaboration between BCS, EXIN and SCOPISM.

The content and Intellectual Property behind this has been created by bringing together a number (18) of industry experts with experience of SIAM — the output is an initial training and certification module at Foundation Level, with the expectation of a further more in-depth ‘professional‘ level to come, planned for later in 2017.

From the initial announcements and associated media, this looks to be a useful development, particularly since this has been developed based on experienced expert collaboration — this is needed since there has been no structured or agreed ‘standard’ model for SIAM to date.

"there has been no structured or agreed ‘standard’ model for SIAM to date"

The programme will launch in the spring of 2017 and will no doubt be of interest to a variety of stakeholders in the IT/ITSM industry. The work is certainly a positive achievement, to have brought together a diverse group of experts and built a working consensus model.

Some concerns were however raised in the ITSM social wires when it was discovered that EXIN had trademarked the SIAM name in January 2016. From discussions with EXIN (see below) it is clear that there is no intention of using the trademark in any restrictive and prohibitive manner. The trademarking was done purely to protect the brand based around the certification programme that has been developed, not to control any other use of the SIAM name.

"it is clear that there is no intention of using the trademark in any restrictive and prohibitive manner"

The EXIN/BCS/SCOPISM project welcomes a broad industry adoption of SIAM and SIAM concepts, which are seen to help to drive interest in the training — and to date the approach taken certainly looks positive and exemplary. 

We will see how the programme develops and also how the wider industry accepts the use of SIAM and SIAM practices — these are still in their relative infancy and this programme is a useful stake in the ground to establish some common approaches and best practice.

In order to find out more about the programme and to understand the approach, I interviewed Suzanne Galletly, Head of Portfolio & Program Management from EXIN.

Suzanne — thanks for talking to us at ITSMF UK on this subject — so, please tell us initially about the new scheme?

It is a global certification scheme specifically related to SIAM, to align with the growing importance of SIAM as a new discipline within IT Service Management.

When will this be available?

The SIAM Foundation level exam will be available at the beginning of March 2017. Organizations can already apply for accreditation as the exam requirements and other materials are already available.

How did this get defined and built?

EXIN and BCS recognized the need for training and certification in this area, based upon market feedback from accredited partners and professionals. At the same time, Scopism had identified the same need and created an Architect team to create a body of knowledge for SIAM. We were all very keen to combine our strengths in partnership, to create one accepted standard in the market as opposed to fragmentation.

What is the value to the industry — practitioners, organisations, MSPs?

For practitioners, it provides them with the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. There are many certified ITSM professionals these days, but few of them have specific skills in the area of service integration.

For organizations it helps to reduce costs but perhaps more importantly, it makes the services better and as such improves customer satisfaction and loyalty. It allows them to present one business-facing IT organization, consisting of integrated services — even if these are provided by a complex network of multiple suppliers behind the scenes.

Why have you trademarked the SIAM brand?

We have trademarked the SIAM brand to protect and to ensure that SIAM can be offered in an open, community-based model.

What does this mean for the wider industry using SIAM concepts and products?

Our focus is on ensuring we can create a standard in the market for training and certification. We will provide a free-of-charge license for any organizations wishing to make use of the trademark, such as training organizations, publishers and trade associations.

To clarify - this is to protect your programme not to restrict use or capitalise on use of the SIAM name?

Actually it is exactly the opposite! We want to protect the brand but not commercially exploit it. By protecting the brand, we want to prevent the very possibility of it being exploited, from a purely commercial perspective that doesn’t benefit the community.

OK, so how do people get involved?

Professionals can become involved in a number of ways — for example contributing to the development of the body of knowledge as part of the Architect team, helping to develop exam questions, auditing SIAM courseware. They should contact EXIN, BCS or Scopism. Training organizations, exam centres and courseware providers can become accredited for the scheme.

What’s next on the road map?

The body of knowledge needs to be extended to support the Professional level and after that the exams will be developed and launched for that level. This is expected later this year. Also we will plan localizations (translations) where there is a market need in a specific region which relies on local language exams. Watch this space!

Suzanne — thanks very much for the clarifications here.

My pleasure.

Further reading

 

Tags:  BCS  EXIN  Scopism  SIAM  Training 

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Soft Skills Are The Hard Part

Posted By Barclay Rae, 02 February 2017

We are now seeing a real renaissance in the ITSM industry. The days of the single approach to service and project management, based purely on ITIL or Prince2 as the only tools and models to use, are numbered. There is a clear and tangible move to use a broader portfolio of methods and approaches, including CoBIT, DevOps, BRM, Lean, Cynefin, IT4IT, SIAM and other ideas, as well as ITIL of course. This development is healthy and underlines the need to use a variety of techniques in order to be flexible.

'People skills' appreciation is on the rise

But as with every renaissance, we now need to find the renaissance men and women with the diverse skillset and knowledge to support our Brave New World, people who understand people. Indeed, the other big development in the last couple of years (and on-going) is the growing appreciation of ‘people skills’. We’re all familiar with the long-trumpeted ‘people, process, technology’ mantra which is used in our industry. However the focus has too often been on process and technology, at the expense of the people part. 

"We now need to find the renaissance men and women with the diverse skillset and knowledge to support our Brave New World, people who understand people."

It’s long been known and understood by many people across the industry that ‘soft skills’ are the real differentiators, the skills and attributes that lead to success.

If you simply compare two practitioners with the same levels of qualifications - technical and process - the one with the good people skills is more likely to succeed, to be the one that you would hire and want to work with. Similarly, you might prefer someone with fewer technical skills and qualifications to work on a project if they have the ‘soft skills’ needed - good personal communications, diplomacy, organisational change experience, negotiation, management, commercial skills etc.

Thankfully we are now calling this out and there is a real demand for knowledge, guidance and expertise in this area. The ITIL Practitioner included a number of these elements, our own (ITSMF UK) PSMF is based around these ideas, and many of the plethora of new models include or are focussed on people and cultural elements, such as DevOps, BRM, and Cynefin.

At last!

So why has this been such an issue? Why have so many projects missed the point about people and human interaction skills? Why have we not taken this seriously at the industry level so that it’s clear to all involved that process and technology are not enough? 

One simple answer might be that it has often been beyond the capability and experience of those tasked with delivering these projects, and whose management assume that by sending them on a few training courses, they will then be able to transform the whole organisation. Given that the industry hasn’t really pushed the value of people enough, this is perhaps understandable. 

A wider interpretation of the problem could also be that soft skills are actually the hard part.
The demands of changing culture, and particularly standing up to long established dynasties and embedded ways of working, is often just too much of a challenge, particularly if you don’t have the necessary soft and hard skills. To be honest, it’s a real misnomer to call these skills ‘soft’ which implies easy, fluffy and lightweight. In actual fact these skills require mental toughness, initiative, bravery and confidence and are anything but ‘soft’.

"To be honest, it’s a real misnomer to call these skills ‘soft’ which implies easy, fluffy and lightweight."

What we need to do as part of the reinvention and renaissance of people at the centre of ITSM is to clarify that their people skills are not just essential but that, whilst they may not be IT/technical skills, they are very much in demand as part of what IT does and the value it delivers. 

So, what do practitioners need to do to develop these ‘soft hard’ skills? 

  • As mentioned above there is a growing set of standards, methods and models available, many of which embrace these competence areas explicitly. It’s a good idea to be aware of these and to explore them, and to use relevant parts for your organisation.
  • Using experience gained in other areas is also useful, and should be called out and referenced as widely as possible. 
  • Recruitment specialists should reference the key skills and attributes required - not just certificates but also real-life experience and evidence of competence in areas beyond technology. 
  • Our management of people should reflect the wider set of skills needed - so job descriptions, appraisals, reviews and rewards schemes should all include the ‘soft hard’ skills as key elements. 
  • Self-awareness is important: we should all be clear of our areas of strength and weakness, in order to improve. It is true that not everyone is a great communicator or leader - however being clear of where you can add value and where you need to improve your skills is an essential starting point. 

So whilst we can build awareness of the types of skills needed, and we can’t all be exceptional at ‘soft hard’ skills, it’s useful for the organisation to set out the importance of these skills and how they complement the more traditional technical and process oriented capabilities. Recognition and awareness are the first steps: we can improve our organisation’s performance and perception by emphasising the value of the tough side of work - soft skills!

This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of ServiceTALK.

Tags:  Career  PSMF 

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