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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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The House That Change Built… Or Was It Release?

Posted By Matt Hoey, 31 January 2017

There are some pairs of things in this world where it is not always crystal clear what the actual difference between them is. Mist and fog for example, gammon and ham; and in Service Management, change and release.

How do you differentiate between change and release?

For the latter, you can of course look to the best practice text books, but given they’re written to be completely generic to the culture, ethos and inner workings of organisations, it’s not always easy to understand how the standard definition applies to your situation. So how do you differentiate?

A change is very much a single-minded beast. It should have granular detail about the single functional objective it has been given authorisation to set out to achieve. The surrounding change management process makes sure it does it as described, and with as little risk as possible. A change rolls up its sleeves, and does the ‘doing’.

A change is very much a single-minded beast.

A release on the other hand is a much more holistic looking animal. It helps bring together what needs to happen, and in what sequence, to achieve the final goal. It also considers things beyond the technical aspects as in the ‘non-functional’. At its most simple Release Management process follows a Build -> Accept -> Deploy approach.

So, when do I need a release? And where do the changes come in?

To answer that, let’s go with an abstract analogy of building a house. At first sight, this seems like it is just a change. There’s a plot of land with nothing on it and you want to change it so there is a house there.

But let’s think of what’s involved... You’re going to need multiple teams of different skilled people working on different areas such as brick layers, plumbers, roofers plasterers, carpet layers and landscapers, to name but a few, to construct the house. They all need to a design to work from, time and notification of when to work on their tasks in order to contribute to the completion of the house to be ready for someone to move into on a certain date.

If this was an IT service you wouldn’t dream of having one change for multiple teams to work from – they’ve all got disparate, specific skilled tasks to achieve, and each comes with its own set of risks and approach to back out.

If this was an IT service you wouldn’t dream of having one change for multiple teams to work from

A release would definitely be appropriate here to bring together the separate changes that build the house (eg the brickwork, the roof, laying of carpets, installation of the bathroom units). It’ll take care of the non-functional requirements that aren’t technically changes – marketing the house for instance, informing the post office so mail can be delivered once someone is living in it.

Next, it will verify that the house is ready to be lived in (accept), and then, provide the means for the new owners to move in: the keys, dates, information on how the build in appliances work, etc (deploy).

Change and release both worked together to make it happen. Change focusing on the authorisation and doing, and release focusing on the bigger picture and ensuring quality.

This is, of course, a very brief narrative around the difference between change and release. You can find out more on the itSMF UK Change and Release workshop happening on February 2 in London.

However, it probably won’t cover the explanation that mist and fog are both similar but mist becomes fog when the visibility drops below 1000m, nor that gammon and ham are actually the same cut, it’s just that gammon is sold raw and ham is cooked or cured before it is sold!

Further reading

Tags:  business change  Release Management 

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Digital (Service) Transformation – what does this mean? For ITSM? For ITSMF UK?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 26 January 2017

What and why ‘Digital Transformation’?

We all love a hype don’t we? — and Digital Transformation is our current amore…

What does this mean, beyond the obvious? Haven’t we in IT been working to digitise and transform for many years? — maybe that’s just a cynical view. The current term ‘digital transformation’ relates to the confluence of a number of technology, business and cultural factors and opportunities:

These include using Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things), automation, cloud, robotics, AI, mobile and other technologies in a coordinated way to improve efficiency, capability and customer experience.

This is also combined with business demands for greater speed and flexibility in delivering new solutions, so Agile, DevOps, Lean and other new techniques are employed to build and deliver technology solutions faster, better and with fewer obstructions.

In addition, other models and frameworks like BRM, ESM, SIAM are helping to expand the commercial and cultural use of existing models such as ITIL/ITSM COBIT and BRM — broadening the scope of service management beyond IT and across organisations. Social Media is also in there as a new culture and way of communicating and collaborating…

It’s a perfect storm of opportunity, demand and change, driven and supported by a profusion of models and frameworks, tools and techniques. The possibilities are endless, the demands are high and the potential for chaos and disruption huge. 

"The possibilities are endless, the demands are high and the potential for chaos and disruption huge. 

Digital Transformation is the term of convenience, although this in reality means so much more — organisational and cultural transformation, people and sociological transformation. We are in the grip of a revolution driven by the demands and potential from technology, which has created a new generation of people (millennials) who have a completely different new way of thinking and working — as well as different expectations from technology and work.

Children grow up using technology now and are much more tech savvy.

The first time I used a computer of any sort I was 28 years old. That technology was very basic and practically useless outside of one particular business function. My seven year old son has already given me some good advice on which browser I should be using…!  The technology he uses is boundless in its global business and personal potential.  We live in a transformed — and continuously transforming — digital world. We all need to transform accordingly…

So, we have a lot of questions:

  • What does this mean for those of use working in IT and particularly ITSM?
  • How does the Service Management industry respond and react to the new world and new challenges, particularly since in IT we have created a straightjacket for ourselves in terms of frameworks, processes and operational siloes?
  • How do we move from managing services in a controlled internal environment, to utilising external public systems that we have no control over?
  • How can we use service performance data more intelligently to deliver better customer experiences? How can we manage security for corporate networks and data when our ‘users’ may be interacting with these via their toaster?  
  • How do we expand our capabilities and skills to meet the new demands of the technology industry?
  • How can we move from a rigid process-based (ITSM) organisation to a more agile and flexible (DevOps) one?
  • What does it mean to be a ‘Professional’ in the world of IT/IT Service Management?

What is ITSMF UK doing for Digital Transformation?

At ITSMF UK we are transforming too — we are part of this evolving world.

We already have a great network of people, experience, ideas and knowledge, which is regularly shared at events, meetings and conferences, and through our various media. Our focus going forward is to provide the industry with direction, clarity and insight around Service Management, and to answer the questions above.

We strive to provide practical and relevant guidance, to make sense of the hype and the plethora of new ideas that constantly bombard us. In particular we aim to help the industry to see the ‘wood from the trees’ in terms of new things and how to apply them sensibly and pragmatically.

We are here to make sense and to guide ITSM professionals through the transformational jungle… For 2017, we are fixing on a few key themes, under the over-arching banner of Digital Transformation.

"For 2017, we are fixing on a few key themes, under the over-arching banner of Digital Transformation.

People and Professionalism will be championed through our PSMF programme, for which we will shortly launch new membership opportunities and a simple career-supporting scorecard system.

Our media output, conference and events schedule will focus on:

  • DevOps: its relationship with ITSM and practical considerations
  • Cloud: how ITSM is relevant to manage the complexity and new challenges
  • ESM (Enterprise Service Management): the reality of extending Service Management across organisations, including use of models such as SIAM  
  • Customer Experience: developing practical guidance and including areas such as BRM

Our Workshop and Masterclass programme is being re-developed with new content to include these themes and more. Our annual conference will be held in the North of England and will focus on these themes. Other events will reflect specific topics such as SIAM, BRM and of course PSMF.  

Our Awards programme will be re-launched as the Professional Service Management Awards, a new signature event. These will also include new awards that reflect new themes and areas of excellence, to be announced shortly.

We are also working to develop partnerships and practical collaboration with other parts of the industry, to ensure that messages are optimised and co-ordinated as much as possible. We will continue to provide consumable output via papers, blogs and media such as video and audio webcasts.

We are here to support you, the industry professionals that keep the world ticking over — if you’d like to get more involved, please get in touch.

Tags:  Digital Transformation 

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LANDESK and HEAT merger: what does it mean?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 23 January 2017

ITSM vendors LANDESK and HEAT Software recently announced their intention to merge. More specifically, LANDESK have joined forces with investment company Clearlake, who have owned HEAT since their acquisition of FrontRange in early 2015. The new combined business is to be called Ivanti – read the press release here.

The details are still being finalised but this is a big move in the ITSM world – both companies and their products have been mainstays in the ITSM world for over 20 years. HEAT is known for its eponymous helpdesk product, then the development of the ITSM suite under FrontRange, and the more recent rebrand as HEAT Software. LANDESK as ITSM vendors have come through several iterations – from Royal Blue and TouchPaper in the ‘90s and ‘00s, via Avocent to Salt Lake City based LANDESK.

Both vendors have operated at the high end of the IT Service Management market, with function-rich products and integration, also maintaining an extensive professional services capability for delivery. So there is much to ponder around what this will mean for their existing customers, new customers and of course the wider ITSM market. The stated approach initially, as revealed in the conversation below, will be to lead on new sales with the HEAT ITSM suite, possibly augmented by some LANDESK products. This should be a good deal for buyers, getting what is traditionally a high spec product at potentially a reduced price point. For existing customers of both vendors and products the short term outlook will involve little change – the stated approach is not to force migration on to either product but to move to a hybrid cloud solution over time. Obviously this will have some implications from the industry perspective in terms of jobs, as both vendors are major employers and have extensive sales, marketing and delivery operations, as well as development and administration.

We will need to see how this develops; however it may also be the first of several (probably long overdue) M&A activities in this market, which still remains overcrowded.     

In order to find out more about the implications of the merger for ITSMF members, I spoke with the new CEO of the consolidated company, Steve Daly.

BR       Steve – I guess you are busy at the moment but thanks for taking time to talk to us at ITSMF UK. Firstly what was the thinking and motivation behind this major announcement?

SD       Our goal with this move is to create a product set and approach that moves the delivery of IT more in line with the end-user experience – as opposed to a siloed technically-oriented focus. We and Clearlake/HEAT recognised the need to focus on endpoint management, reflecting the ever-changing technology experience of end users. To do that we needed a broad portfolio of products and a way to deliver the ‘best of the best’ ITSM technology. HEAT and LANDESK have complementary and innovative technologies, as well as great combined experience in delivering and integrating complex and top quality solutions to the enterprise market. So this is a great opportunity, with the two organisations coming together to provide some unique solutions for the market. For us ITSM is the underpinning and central element in the new integrated digital landscape – so we are offering choice and scale to our existing/customer bases, as well as new clients.

BR       What is the target market that you are now aiming to capture?

SD       We are definitely focussing on the IT and ITSM enterprise marketplaces, with a full portfolio of products that work well for operations, security, endpoint management and other areas of digital transformation. The merger allows us to compete in the larger enterprise market as a major player.

BR       What is the short-term position for current LANDESK and HEAT customers – will they need to migrate to one or other of these toolsets?

SD       No, for the next year or so we will keep customer implementations as they are. The longer term goal is not to combine products together, rather to move customers gently to a common Cloud platform, where we will build a combined product toolset using the best bits from both systems and existing platforms. So in the short term there is no change.

BR       So it’s not a big bang move, more of a transition to a shared new hybrid offering?

SD       Yes that is the approach. We recognise the value and investment of our current customers on both sides and don’t wish to disturb these.

BR       What will you offer to potential new customers?

SD       In due course we will start to offer the HEAT Cloud solution to new prospects, potentially using some of the innovative LANDESK Service Desk products as well.

BR       Both companies have large professional services operations – will these be retained?

SD       We see the need to meet expectations on delivery so professional services is key for us and we expect this to continue and even grow.

BR       LANDESK and HEAT both have significant ITSM development and operations in the UK – will these be maintained?

SD       In the UK our teams actually are sited very close together in Bracknell – this is a major hub for us and we plan to consolidate the offices into one in due course and maintain our UK ITSM presence.

BR       One final thing – HEAT is a high spec product, although pricing has been traditionally high in comparison to some competitors. Will the new joint approach mean some reduction in pricing?

SD       We recognise that there is a difference as well as a differentiator and will need to review the market price points; but yes, we will also need to be competitive in what is already a crowded market place.

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The Service Catalogue: a waste of time?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 17 January 2017

Service Catalogue is a single term that is interpreted and used in a number of different ways. It is a key area of ITSM that has grown in importance and relevance in recent years – both to define and manage IT Services and value, plus also as a means to automate and speed up service fulfilment.

Many organisations have embarked on projects and initiatives to build service Catalogues or one sort on another – in particular this has been supported (and in some ways driven) by the vendor market who have improved their capability and offerings in this area  

There are a number of different terms and varied taxonomy in use in this area, particularly around different areas of Service Catalogue – e.g. technical service Catalogue, business Catalogue, user Catalogue. In fact these are different outputs and ‘views’ – basically of the same data.

‘Service Catalogue’ is quite a specious term that can be applied to a number of different entities. This can be a source of confusion and also of misplaced criticism of the actual Catalogue concept.

Essentially the Service Catalogue can be defined as follows:

  • An automated portal for self-service and request fulfilment by users – this help  to reduce lead times for e.g. IT ordering and can help to open up access to the IT organisation (and increasingly other departments)
  • A strategic business level view of IT Services – that can help to clarify IT priorities and used as the basis for prioritisation, service reporting and service level management
  • A technical repository of ‘supply chain’ information for the IT Service provider to use as the basis for management and delivery of services. This includes knowledge management, supplier and contract information, internal support and departmental responsibilities etc.

Detractors of the Service Catalogue fall into 2 main areas:

  1.  ‘Old IT’ cynics who have been running IT for many years and can’t see what value the Service Catalogue can add, particularly if they’ve tried and failed to implement SLAs with their customers.
  2. Futurists who see no need to try to define services when technology and business has already moved on from the concept of IT Services.

Register your place on the upcoming Service Catalogue workshop.

So, let’s look at three key issues around the Service Catalogue that detractors like to make.

1 – We already know what to deliver

IT departments can argue that they already know what to deliver, so what’s the point?

Often they can’t say what they do or what value they deliver – so it’s helpful and vital from a strategic / business perspective. And the automation of request fulfilment speeds up customer response and reduced lead times, plus usually cuts support costs. Business level reporting cannot realistically be achieved without some service-based definition of what IT does.

At a simple level the Service Catalogue helps IT to be clear on its priorities and what it is there to deliver.

2 – It’s already been surpassed

The futurist view is that Service Catalogue is already out of date and unnecessary, given that everyone buys IT and we don’t need to try and shoehorn everything into an IT Service…

Service Catalogue as currently defined will probably be transitional — it probably won’t exist in 5–10 years’ time. The process of defining and developing a service focus is still useful for IT departments as part of a learning / development process. And self-service and automated fulfilment are essential and will continue to be areas for development.

3 – It’s often misunderstood

Certainly, the practical steps to implementation are not well defined. This is an area where ITIL training doesn’t provide much direct help. Also the multi-level nature of the subject can make it prone to misinterpretation.

As a general rule it’s good to be clear on taxonomy and local definitions/variations from the start. The simplest definition is where Service Catalogue is seen as the ‘live’ services actually running as part of the wider IT Service Portfolio.

9 top Service Catalogue tips

  1. It is not one single document or tool – the Service Catalogue has a number of stakeholders and outputs, so can be manifest in many forms. SLM is a process and approach rather than a single document or tool.  ‘Service Catalogue’ is definitely not just ONE thing or ONE type of document or system. This is because organisations and individuals have different needs, different focus and also different entry points.
  2. The value is achieved from engaging with IT customers and IT departments – to work towards demonstrably common goals. Customers should be engaged to discuss service improvement, not SLAs or Service Catalogues.
  3. Successful implementation requires a collaborative approach – a service is in affect a supply chain that may cross several reporting lines. Customers/users need to be consulted and involved, as well as stakeholders across the IT ‘supply chain'.
  4. Workshops are a good way to get people involved with consensus and momentum – they are also a good way to achieve common understanding and e.g. agreed definitions/taxonomy around SLM and Service Catalogue concepts.
  5. Start simple and strategic – complexity will come. It is a good idea to aim for a single page view of services initially, in order to focus on overall end-to-end services and outcomes delivered, rather than starting at the technology level.
  6. The corollary to (5) is that some vendors and organisations do start at the unit technology level – this will work in order to develop a fulfilment catalogue but will not deliver strategic end-to-end service value.
  7. Most vendors provide not just tools but also useful data and content for Service Catalogue. This can save a lot of time in creating service records and data.
  8. A visual representation of the service (catalogue) structure is useful to build understanding – a picture can be vastly more descriptive than a 20 page document.
  9. Get started – too many organisations dither and prevaricate on this topic. The result will change and will probably never be perfect so it is useful to just get started and learn how to develop this by doing it…

Tags:  Service Catalogue 

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The Indian Rope Trick

Posted By Richard Horton, 11 January 2017

How would you explain service management to a quantum physicist?

Recently I thought I was going to have to do this, and mused on whether this would be easier or harder than responding to the usual "what do you do?" icebreaker. I know little about quantum physics and had a little look at the area where this physicist works, in search of clues. Doing this I read about the Indian Rope Trick, and thought that actually, this might be a useful analogy.

In the Indian Rope Trick, you start with something which, if left to its own devices, would prove unstable and collapse. However, as the rope loses its stability and starts to collapse, countering forces are triggered. These result in a correction which takes the rope back to its initial, apparently unstable, state.

This reminded me of what happens in Service Management. What we do varies a lot, and what we focus on is determined by what is necessary to maintain the stability of our services.

To those outside, we are like that invisible force, pushing the rope back to its intended state. The direction the rope starts to fall can vary, and so the countering force required varies in accord with this. The lack of visibility of what is being done is not a problem — in fact, it's what we're aiming for. We want it to seem that our service, like the Indian Rope, is standing unassisted.

It turned out that I'd got the wrong person and my quantum physicist was actually involved in public affairs (Google doesn't give all the answers)! But I found the analogy I'd stumbled across of interest, and one I thought worth sharing.

What do you think of the analogy? Leave a comment below or tweet @ITSMFUK.

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