Saturday, September 29, 2007

Management Commitment - Mandatory or Myth?

It appears in just about every slide, every summary, and every “critical success factor” list. Management commitment is a must to ensure a successful rollout, adoption, program, etc. etc. This is especially prevalent when it comes to the adoption of a best practice framework; such as ITIL ®.

However, could this be just be the excuse that the project leader, team leader or IT leaders are keeping in reserve in case they mess it up?

What is it that IT professionals are expecting when they ask for commitment? If it’s budget, then why not call it ‘Budget’ or ‘Finance’. If it is moral support and a pat on the back on the odd occasion why not call it that.

The problem is that ‘management commitment’ is just way to vague and way to easy to be used as the scapegoat for any failure by an IT professional that is delivering or trying to delivery something of value to the business. At the heart of this issue is that no one ever defines metrics for ‘management commitment’. If they did, then there would be a lot more thought put into what specifically was required by IT of the business AND a real commitment from the business to deliver the kind of support that IT envisage.

So, how can we establish a set of metrics that is meaningful to both parties?

Perhaps the easiest way to look at the challenge is by considering groups of indicators. The easiest one is related to personnel. For example, attendance at key scheduled stakeholder meetings and attendance at planned briefing sessions can be measured.

Finance is another group that can be counted. Not metrics like the approval of budget; but metrics such as ‘days taken to approve minor expenditure variances’ allow business owners to appreciate the fact that delays over such issues can cause blow outs in project deliverables.

Public Relations could be another group. Depending on the organization we can count the number of appearances and press releases that the management deliver to the marketplace or even to internal users.

In short, there are a variety of ways to define management commitment and if some effort is given to truly quantifying what is typically a vague subject, then the chances of actually getting it are greatly enhanced.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Quite a Latin mouthful, but the concept is surprisingly simple to explain and understand. It is also a valuable concept for IT professionals to keep in mind.

When translated Post hoc ergo propter hoc equates to "after the fact" or "because of this, that happened".

Perhaps an example is the best way to describe the concept. Imagine you are the IT Service Manager and two months ago you introduced the Problem Management process.

In the following two months, the number of incidents logged has decreased and user satisfaction has hit an all time high. You take the credit for this good news and submit your claim to the CIO for a pay increase!!

However, the CIO sends you a reply "post hoc ergo propter hoc". Unfortunately (for you) at the very same time that you introduced Problem Management into the organization a geographically remote branch of the business was experiencing some industrial unrest over working conditions and overtime allowances.

Now this is something that worries you and in fact you were not even aware of the fact as it is a Human Resources issue.

The ensuing strike has meant that the 200 workers - all of who use computers and services managed by you have spent very little time in the office over the last two months.

So your claim that incidents are down and satisfaction is up, because of your changes can be easily challenged. It is not to say that you are wrong - but it is to say that further investigation is required.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - a useful concept to keep in mind and one that could save you an embarassing claim to fame and fortune that is easily dismissed.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Activities of Strategy Generation

There are four defined activities for Strategy Generation, defined in the Service Strategy volume in ITIL version 3.

The concepts and ideas raised are fairly heavy - so a brief synopsis is provided here.


Understanding the opportunities available to the Service Provider is at the heart of defining the market.

The service provider gets to understand the opportunities by first understanding the customer required outcomes and then providing a service to enable that outcome.

A service will increase performance and improve outcomes; but real value comes from reduction in customer asset performance variation.

The visible element of market definition is the service catalog. A service catalog entry is a combination of customer assets and service archetypes (a combination can be one or more from either side). The term given to these combinations are Lines of Service (LOS) and they are the actual services about which agreements are made.


The market space is the main concept raised under develop the offerings. The market space is a set of opportunities for service providers to provide VALUE to a customer through the provision of one of more services.

Service providers focus on outcomes to ensure they deliver value, through utility and backed by warranty. (Summary: LOS delivers value that support outcomes and remove constraints). BUT a service can be developed without a customer – a speculative investment.


Service Management is a catalyst for higher achievements, because it coordinates customer assets and service assets. This coordination in practice is the adjustment of resources and capabilities that will enable a goal to be reached.

Reaching goals is inherently valuable and is a reflection of increased service and potential performance. The value creation creates profits and surplus that can be used to justify further investments/enhancements. The confidence and trust that comes from increasing value is what will ensure that customers continue to buy.


Success is not guaranteed even though a service strategy model exists. There is a requirement to think and formulate - it is not a mechanical process.

Understanding our current strategy and what works and doesn't work is the first step. Following this analysis we are able to determine the strategy objectives. Objectives are presented as solutions, specifications, needs or benefits; these benefits will also include one or more of the following information elements:
Customer tasks: What job or activity will the service actually do?
Customer outcomes: What is the desired customer outcome?
Customer constraints: What will prevent the outcome being reached and what actions can the service provider take to overcome these constraints?

Service assets must be aligned with the customer outcomes to be of any value and there is a requirement to define the CSF's (Critical Success Factors) for each service.

Understanding the CSFs is often a chance to analyze the competitive situation and even realize their own distinct competitive advantage (distinct value proposition).

Of course, there are always limited funds for developing services, which is why there must be an ability to prioritize investments. Of course, the basic rule of business applies here which is to address the needs of a good customer that are being poorly addressed.

Another basic rule of business is to continually survey the market for opportunities to expand into other market spaces. This requires a traditional SWOT analysis and can lead to significant expansion and growth.

The risks associated with expansion and growth are substantially reduced when they are dealt with as part of a service strategy associated with a market space. The least risky strategy for expansion is within existing customer portfolios and utilizing exist service assets (essentially through the provision of complementary services).

Finally, the ability to stand out from competitors when it comes to controlling existing market spaces or looking for new growth areas is a vital element. The ability to be competitive is what helps you to retain customers. Failure to meet or exceed the expected industry standard for a service will create a loss of satisfaction in customers and they will seek alternatives. Look to exceed the expected industry levels across the multiple attributes (reliability, multi-platform support, on site support, etc) of a service and you have competitive differentiation.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ITIL v2 - extended life

Word on the street is that the ITIL v2 exams will be available until beyond the end of 2008.

This news - direct from the horses mouth - gives organizations that opportunity to plan their migration without any uncertainty about availability of qualifications.

However, let's look at this from an organizational perspective. If I have made a decision to adopt ITIL, then I'll look to version 3 and the version 3 certification.

If I am going to improve my ITIL initiative, then I will integrate version 3 and look to the new certification.

If I am not going to take any specific actions about ITIL - i.e. just let the work I have done run its natural course - then I am not interested in any ITIL version.

Finally, if I have had enough of ITIL then I will look to Service Quality Management and the ISO 20000 standard and look at the the Exin SQMF/SQMA certification track.

What do you see as the safest option?

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

ISO 20000 - not for the software application

A recent article from a newly crowned ISO 20000 certificate holder claimed that their software "met best practice guidelines for IT Serivce Providers".

It is perhaps timely to remind you that ISO 20000 CANNOT be claimed for any software system or application. Simply put the standard is NOT for a product or a service.

ISO 20000 is a management system standard and therefore relates to management
processes only.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ITIL v2 Managers to v3 Diploma

Well the official syllabus is out for all your ITIL v2 red badge certified gurus.

The target audience for the course is restricted to ONLY those people that have passed the ITIL v2 Managers certificate. It matters not if you have passed every single and clustered practitioner program under the sun and have 50 years of IT Service Management experience; if you don't have the ITIL v2 Managers certificate - then you don't get a start.

For those that do... here is a summary of what to expect.

Firstly, make sure you've read the entire 5 volumes of ITIL v3 BEFORE the course.
Yes, it's true, this is an expected pre-requisite. Good luck with that one to start with... but you have been told.

The course, is based on the ITIL v3 Foundation course - perhaps no surprise there as it cuts down on the amount of work that the examination panel have to do in preparing the syllabus. Because of this, if you are eligible to attend the v3 diploma bridging course -you DO NOT have to attend any ITIL v3 Foundation level study before hand.

Number 3 on the must know list... anything that is not defined in the syllabus will NOT be examined. hmmm take this with a grain of salt, as the ITIL v3 Foundation syllabus may cover a topic, but those who have taken the exam have complained that there were questions like "what is the fourth word on page 175 of Service Strategy" :-)

The training providers are told.. 28 hours is the required contact time and that it is anticipated that most will run a 4 day course (using innovative techniques to get the message across). Well I don't think that the people who wrote this understand that a typical training day DOES NOT equate to 8 hours contact time!!... more like 6 hours... BUT as is the case in a lot of new certification material it will be left to the vendors to setup programs that work, while having to work within "foggy" guidelines.

I will spare you the detail of the actual syllabus.. suffice to say.. you had better spend some time reading the books BEFORE the course starts.. BUT it is wise to point out that the course is ONLY available through accredited vendors, using trainers that has taken and passed the Managers bridging exam themselves and can present a valid ITIL Service Management Diploma.

oh... the public launch is 5th NOVEMBER 2007...

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 7, 2007

It's official - ITIL v3 Managers Bridge Course syllabus

The ITIL v2 Managers to ITIL v3 Diploma syllabus has been published.

Exams will be available early November 2007 - but the course and exam is only open to those that already hold a Managers (v1/v2) certificate.

The contact time for the program means that most vendors are likely to offer a 4 day course.

The exam is to be a new format. 90 minutes to complete 20 complex, multiple choice questions. The pass mark is also new - 80%!! or 16 correct from 20.

The course will look at differences to earlier versions of ITIL across all 5 volumes of ITIL v3 (and even the new ITIL Official Summary - Introduction to the Service Lifecycle gets a mention).

Trainers MUST pass the exam themselves before they can teach it. Word on the street is that trainers will get early access to the exam so that they can be at least a month ahead of students who can start taking the course.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Reduce Carbon Emissions - use ITIL

I had a chuckle when I read that in 2005 1.5% of Australias national carbon emissions were a result of computers used in business.

The very official sounding report claimed the levels of CO2 output were in the same league as civil aviation and cement production.

Made me think that if more businesses used ITIL and improved the ability to resolve issues and increase efficiency of service delivery, then perhaps staff could go home 10 minutes earlier each day.

Green ITIL !! - there is an angle that I am sure someone can tap into.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shape up or Ship out !

The life of a C level or senior IT Executive is not one to be envied: unless you've got the support and love of those around you. Unfortunately, this support and love is not the traditional kind that comes from your partner, children, extended family and close friends.

Without the backing of business managers the C level IT exec is looking at a less than relatively short life span at any organization.

The average tenure for senior executives in IT is measured by results. Given the increasing demands on business to perform, this pressure finds its way to the newly appointed CIO or IT director. They will have anywhere from 6 months to a year to prove their worth - after that it's back to the wanted ads.

Unfortunately, most of these relationships do not end well and the reason is quite simply that one parties expectations did not align with the others. The reason this happens is that after the initial interview most IT executives are caught up in the trap of operational activities rather than strategic analysis and looking at ways to make the business more profitable.

Perhaps the starting point will be to take the new appointee and give them a position that direct reports to the CEO (if that isn't already happening). The next and most important step is not to pay lip service to that relationship and ensure that the CIO is there at every senior management level meeting and allowed to voice their views on strategic decisions that are being made.

Most talk in the IT Service Management field requires that IT people get to know the business and understand their requirements. However, there is a flip side to this coin and it requires business people to be mindful and respect the role of the CIO. We are talking about senior roles here and at this level there is a mandatory need for business decision makers to take the time to review IT expansion plans, as it is this that has the potential to fuel the greatest growth.

IT professionals have heard it for years; "There is no budget!". All the while core business spending seems to roll along unabated. If business leaders don't start to see the potential Return on Investment (ROI) that IT holds for them, then the CIO is perhaps better served by moving somewhere that will.

Labels: , , ,

It's a brand new world....

The release of ITIL v3 and the new ITIL certification program brings opportunity and issues.

The issues stem from inexperienced training companies, course developers and trainers pretending that they know what they are doing when it comes to ITIL education. They are most likely the same companies that took their ITIL v2 material and changed a few slides and put in a few more. As the results from these classes start coming in and people are failing these vendors are paying the price and damaging what reputation they had.

ITIL Education has always been about taking the guidelines and interpreting them for delivery. It's just that some are better at it than others! Whether it is the convenience of a downloadable self-study program that has been fully accredited or reading the books you can find quality material out there.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Was Gartner right or wrong?

An article published in November 2006 quoted Simon Mingay, research vice president for IT management strategies at Gartner "...appointment of APM Group has created a division in the IT service management community..." and "will effectively create a parallel qualification scheme in competition with the official ITIL-branded APM Group scheme and marks the end of effective negotiations between APMG and EXIN/BCS-ISEB".

Of course, at the time Simon could not have foreseen that in January 2007 the three organizations would resolve their differences; seeing Exin and BCS/ISEB offering the APMG ITIL v3 exams to the training partners.

So in that regard Simon was incorrect; but he did go on to say "...important for IT organisations to be aware that they will be faced with two competing training schemes..".

What is being referred to here is the genuine ITIL certification program (owned and operated by APM Group) and a spin off certification scheme loosely term IT Service Management (owned and operated by Exin and BCS/ISEB).

As mentioned Exin and BCS/ISEB now do offer the genuine APMG ITIL exams, but they also have their own IT Service Management programs. What the long term future is for certification programs that don't use the term ITIL remains to be seen. However, as the global community starts to come to understand who and what is involved I predict that ITIL certification will dominate.

To think otherwise is to assume that the market has a loyalty to the past, rather than a desire for the future.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pulling a Strategic Asset out of your... hat

Some of the concepts raised in ITIL v3 are just puzzles waiting to be solved. I got an email asking me a simple question.. how do you transform service assets into strategic assets?

Good question I thought, so I embarked upon my journey into the deepest, darkest realms of Service Strategy. Well, I didn't travel far...

Page 4 and all I needed to answer the question was there.

To paraphrase. Strategic assets are to the IT department as they are to any business unit. Ask a business person what they see as a strategic asset of the organization and they will most likely provide an answer along the lines of "it's the way our people are able to utilize the facilities we give them and deliver x" or "it is the ability of our staff no matter what the circumstance to deal with client issues within minutes of being notified".

They won't be saying it's "our state of the art manufacturing plant" or "the new fleet of trucks we took delivery of last week".

Understanding what a strategic asset is NOT; is fundamental in understanding what a strategic asset is!

Well as it would happen, the same concept applies to IT. Assets are people, process, knowledge and infrastructure. Strategic assets are the combination of these into elements that create competitive advantage, distinctiveness and the ability to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Labels: , ,