Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blocking and tackling

The more I read, and the older I get, the more focused I become on results. At the end of the day, people care about outcomes, and are less picky about the path we take to achieve them.

Many of the success stories about ITIL are really success stories about the culture of CSI. You'll see a common thread among them.

Establish clarity around goals and objectives tools later (perhaps MUCH later)
Get quick wins to build momentum
Focus as much on the organizational change as on the tools
Be willing to win a little at a time to win a lot in the long run.
Get better every day...not every 6-month review

As I counsel my clients, resist the temptation for large-scale CMMI Level 1 - 3 moonshots and focus on establish real commitment to CSI.

Do you have established processes, including written policies, procedures, and process owners?
If not, what are the 2-3 most important things to get started?

- Clear goals and objectives
- Accountable, empowered owners
- Reliable Metrics

Don't try to implement all the processes at once. Focus on processes and services that will optimize the value and help you achieve quick wins...Incident, Change, and Request Fulfillment come to mind as great places to start.

BTW, RF is consistently underrated (maybe because it doesn't make any vendors rich)...spending time making "routine service requests" really routine, for you and your users, is enormously beneficial.

Start small to win big!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More on PM and ITIL

Ok, so I have been thinking about Carol's and IT Skeptic's comments about PM (and have read the thread he pointed me to, and an awful lot more) and I still think this comes down to a simpler notion. We have a yawning, enormous gap in most IT organizations between Design and Operations, in many cases cast in stone through outsourcing deals to different entities with no aligned targets or shared accountability. This creates the hot potato issue with which so many of us are familiar, and which really drives my interest in service transition, and particularly in placing Early Life Support (ELS) firmly in the hands of Release and Deployment Management. It is in fact the job of PM to manage the SUCCESSFUL transition of their project deliverables (which we'll assume to be a new or changed service) into the live environment, and to support it until

1) The service is accepted by the customer AND
2) The service is meeting its designated service levels (this implies successful event mgmt, operational monitoring and reporting, and other operational readiness capabilities that really should be flushed out more as part of testing and validation activities).

Project Management (and Software Development Lifecycle Mgmt, but that's another article) need to be able to coordinate service design and transition activities, and I would liken it to the approach ITIL takes with functions. PM necessarily coordinates across all the activities in service design and transition...based on the scope of their project. Process team leads perform activities across multiple projects in support of process goals and objectives (which should map to project goals around, for example, functional and non-functional (or warranty!) requirements).

The actual ITIL books don't in fact describe exactly how to run projects (and rightfully leave this for the complementary guidance), but like a similar discussion currently on one of the LinkedIn threads about how ITIL leaves appropriate space for governance models (can anyone say CObIT), it really does so for PM as well, leaving flexibility needed to encompass large programs and small projects alike, while still providing a core set of building blocks needed to build a good service.

I'd like to hear from all of you...where do you see the big gaps, and what are your recommendations for addressing them? If you were writing ITIL 4.0, what would you add/remove/change to improve the efficacy of the guidance?

Friday, May 28, 2010


If you look at the descriptions of Critical Success Factors associated with ITSM adoptions, the first one on almost any list is Management Commitment.

Sounds good...until you try to figure out exactly what that means...

Management Commitment is more than just the willingness to train people, or buy software, or even have big Communications strategies about how important ITIL's the willingness to BE committed. The best way to actually measure this is willingness to sign up for roles like process and service owners. In order to ask for accountability from IT teams and to employ meaningful governance and oversight of Service Management, the senior managers (with enough authority to enforce commitments) must be willing to commit themselves as well. IT staff notice when senior teams make real commitments, and will align their efforts accordingly.

I recently watched a short promotional video from one of the major ITSM vendors (I'll protect the guilty, but you can find it quickly if you look). It depicts a CIO describing the value of Business Service Management, and includes a roundtable with his senior IT staff. Ironically, the copy from the video is more typical than ever.

"I think we should tell the IT staff about the commitments I made on their behalf, so they know what I need them to do."

Can't get buy-in that way!

If you want IT organizations to commit to Service Management, IT leadership has to commit itself to processes like Service Level Management, which prevent "free lunch" behaviors and encourage the business to work cooperatively with its customers to evaluate evolving requirements against achievable targets. This involves listening to both clients and IT teams, and working to establish collaboration that focuses on the business value of the outcome, not only "do more with less."

CIOs need to focus on business outcomes, and then work closely with their teams to support the optimal level of service to meet those needs, balancing cost/value. Taking specific service ownership of a key business service (perhaps, say, an online marketplace critical to sales growth) and taking specific accountability for service outcomes related to that service will raise the game a great deal, and drive the interest in metrics, continual service improvement, and ultimately business results. Once a CIO signs up for the most mission-critical one him- or herself, it's a lot easier to get other senior managers to sign up for other services, and really establish cross-functional "service views" of the world.

Management Commitment is good talk, but, most of the time, talk is cheap. If you want to see results, demand real commitment, and real action. It will help you dramatically improve your results!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A mistake many people make trying to use ITIL guidance is expecting it to be explicitly prescriptive (in other words, a step by step procedural how-to). That's not what it's intended to do. ITIL at its most useful describes a way of thinking about the work we do (from the point of view of our customers and how, or whether, our services are delivering the optimal value). At each level of detail, legitimate people will raise questions. For example, given the notion of Service Portfolio Management, the strategic decision to build an organizational capability prefaces the arrival of actual customers with explicit Service Level Requirements. Seldom is the real world quite so neat. For that matter, processes we associate with managing transition activities are often supporting strategic planning and prioritization of effort, processes we associate with operation are often providing explicit design and architecture support, and so on. In short, even ideas like the Service Lifecycle are nice models, but that's what they are - models, and not even simple linear ones.

So what?

Service Management guidance provides a good jumping off point for thinking about implementing processes, services, and considering underpinning tools. In particular, it allows us to begin to define the key activities (and then it's on us to describe more explicit procedures and work instructions), roles and responsibilities (which then need to be mapped to actual people and governance), and metrics (which then need to be turned into actual measurements with actual feedback, reporting, and oversight). Most of the time the academic arguments that find their way into discussion boards (is a reboot a change?) can be answered for a particular organization based on usefulness (Are we tracking reboot events? Are we logging incidents for which the reboot is a workaround? Are we tracking reboots as part of a change/release implementation? Are we tracking reboots for standard MTBF maintenance activities?)

The answer of course is clear - it depends on organizational need. Remember, the tools (and processes, and guidance) are supposed to work for you, not the other way around!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ITIL Implementation and the Big Picture

I'm currently helping to support a large scale introduction of the ITIL processes (at least some of them) to a large military organization. While there is a lot of focus on the blocking and tacking around processes, supporting tools, and the like, it never seems to amaze me how every one of these adoptions are really exercises in managing organizational change. Perhaps the most important role on your ITSM team is the role of the Communications Manager, because they have to really drive both the client organization and the project team through Kotter's 8 steps to Organizational Change (for a quick read on what these are, see

The fundamental reality of life is that people resist change for survival reasons. I know how to survive today. If you change something, I might not know how to survive tomorrow. So I resist. If change is forced upon me, I will adapt, lessening the pain (by not complying) where possible.

In an organizational context, this is a recipe for disaster. If you wish to be successful in your project, you must be successful in creating buy-in and real commitment from the customer. This is very simply a game of WIIFM (What's In It for Me?). For every stakeholder, you MUST understand the WIIFM, and communicate (again, and again, and again) and get buy-in to that to gain the trust and commitment of that stakeholder. Many times, this isn't a process issue, or a tool issue, but a political one. What are they winning? What are they preceived to be losing? How do we maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of the change (sound familiar?)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cloud Computing and the real benefits for IT...and the business

I overheard someone at an ITSMF meeting yesterday suggest that some people believe that cloud computing could be "the death of ITIL." This underscores a claim I've made for some time...that most people STILL think of ITIL as "an operations thing." Certainly, cloud providers will continue to need to use mature, well-underpinned processes to manage the applications, storage, infrastructure, and facilities that the cloud service providers will deliver. Yet this creates a great new opportunity for enterprise IT; stop spending all your energy on reactive firefighting and start maturing your focus to look more in-depth at service strategy, cost/value, business alignment, and effective service brokerage that will deliver higher overall customer value.

In short, cloud computing may force us to do what we should be doing anyway...look at service lifecycles and outcomes and not just at processes and tools.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What you need to know about ITIL...

Was just reading a white paper that a co-worker of mine was using to help explain the basic objectives of ITIL, and it was reflective of its publishing time, mid-2007, when many of us were struggling to figure out exactly how the alignment of V2 processes and the V3 lifecycle would work. There are mnay good summaries (the ITIL Pocket Guide is great...if you already know it anyway), but you might use this approach to explain it.

While many people think ITIL is about processes, that is at best an incomplete point of view. ITIL is about changing people's perspectives about the tasks at hand we perform in IT. It's not about the technologies, or even the whole end-to-end IT services, but how (or whether) these services effectively underpin our customer's business processes and enable the business's outcomes; revenue, profit, market share, or simply meeting the organization's mission and vision.

IT Service Management then is about how we produce, maintain, and sustain services to deliver VALUE to our customers (in the form of services that enable them to perform better, faster, or more cost effectively than they might otherwise). The Service Lifecycle that underpins ITIL describes 5 key aspects or stages of this effort. While there are much more authoritative conversations about the following, if you get the following big ideas, you're on your way to really understanding ITIL.

1) Service Strategy - In life, we don't get everything we'd like. This is usually because of constraints; time, money, a jealous spouse, you get the idea. The goal, therefore, is to maximize the value we can create (and that we get!) given the limitations we have. IT Service Strategy works the same way. There may be many things we would like to do, but given our time, money, and other resources at our disposal, which ones will we commit to do, and how do we decide? The concepts of Service Portfolio Management, underpinned by Financial and Demand Management, populates good Business Cases for how we can choose wisely.

2) Service Design - Once we've decided that to provide a particular capability would be a good idea, we need to align our customer's requirements and desired outcomes with our service targets. This includes decisions about the service's utility (what it does) and its warranty (how well it does it, how well it's protected, how much of it there is, etc.). Service Design takes theoretical models of what a service MIGHT be and transforms it into actual working services, with transition, operational, management, and measurement supports.

3) Service Transition - Regardless of whether we're looking to add a new service, change an existing one, or retire (or transfer) one altogether, transitions create risk. In particular, risks of causing business impact and disruptions when we deploy changes. Transition is about managing those risks and delivering the intended value that drove the business objectives and goals in the first place, and ensuring that we effectively move services out of development and into production...without blowing stuff up.

4) Service Operation - Once services are live, customers have one basic wish...keep them up and running so they can work. Service Operation describes proactive and reactive ways to manage, maintain, and support live services to keep them available and keep the business processes flowing.

5) Continual Service Improvement - The magic word here is continual...not occasional (or never, except when the boss is really mad). All services and all processes can improve; we learn, and the magic trick is to be culturally agile enough to make many, many small iterative improvements to your services and processes as you learn them. This can be as easy as building a knowledge base of known incident resolutions and Known Errors, or can involve detailed trending analysis in the search for performance enhancements. If CSI becomes "normal" in your culture, you'll learn what many other types of organizations have learned over the last 60 years; that while managers the world over seek "quantum leaps" in improved IT performance, most of the time real organization maturity requires time and a consistent willingness to "hit singles", or make small improvements that consistently build up lots of small, incremental benefits.

I don't pretend that this is ALL you need to know about ITIL, but many people who hold ITIL certifications miss the bigger picture. Yes, there are processes, functions, roles, etc. They are a means to a bigger end; customer outcomes that help that customer meet its mission and compete and win in its market space.