Everybody talks about Service Management ! The word of the day is Ownership ! The sentence is ‘We need to talk End to end responsability’ !

Yet, everyday operations speaks about first line and second line, about us and them (usually a vendor). They all have a product catalog (instead of a Service catalog). And the major driver in IT is still (as it has been for the last 3 decades) cost.

So why is that ? Is being (or becoming) a service oriented organization that hard ? What are the main reasons why a lot of organization fail their attempts ?

1  Complexity of IT

In most organizations IT has become way too complex. Systems have evolved and have grown to a level that they are not manageable anymore. The integration efforts done to get everything in one major systems have made these systems very expensive (to buy and maintain), very demanding (in means and resources), lacking performance and above all very restrictive to adapt to changing business needs.
You could argue that the ‘Peter principle’ holds up for IT systems… A good tool/system is expanded to take on new responsibilities over and over again until it becomes a poorly functioning tool.

An example of this is the famous ‘CMDB’ where lots of organisations are trying to force every catalog item (real and logical items) into one monster database, which becomes slow, inaccurate, and never exactly meets the requirements you want (and is also not what was intended by ITIL standards).
Say you have an external service provider who handles your entire mobile communications for you. The supplier makes sure the device are delivered, configured and operational. He also provides the subscriptions and has a support organisation for resolving incidents.
Why would my organization keep a database of all mobile phones ? or of the link between phones and SIM cards ? or even who has which phone ?
Of course I am involved in the decision process of which phones are on the standard list, but do I care whether employee X has the newest or the older model? No, I don’t… and if an occasion comes where I am interested in that info, I will just ask the supplier to list me that…because he needs to know that to be able to service the users.

2 focus on technology

Too many IT organization are technology driven (instead of solution or even better service driven). And in fact, the T in ‘IT’ has long become a commodity…if you need T, talk to one of your suppliers… It is the I (information) in ‘IT’ that makes all the difference. In literature they would now start talking about Value, ROI, utility and warranty and more terms which in my book fall under my previous point.
It is about common sense. A Rolls Royce is one of the most comfortable ways to drive from point A to B; however, if you live in the center of a major capital in Europe, it is a very poor solution to commute (unless if you can afford a driver so you don’t need a parking spot).

So how do we solve this? Where do we start ?Again, I advise to use common sense and start small… Think big, but act one step at a time.

Think what would be the easiest thing to turn into a true service to my end users? Standard examples are communication, workplace provisioning, print services. Don’t be tempted in using products as a Service (MSproject or SAP are not a service). Remember the definition of a service: ‘an organized system of labour and material aids used to supply the needs of the public’ (source: the World English Dictionary).
I also advise to take one that you have fully or partially outsourced to a vendor. That way you make sure your underlying contract reflects your service needs. You cannot guarantee availability if your vendor can’t…

Once established, build the service. What do we need to deliver this service. keep the life cycle in mind… We need to build and launch the service, then we need to make sure people can buy it and get it, we need to maintain it, we need to foresee changes, and at the end of the life cycle we will need to decommission the service. Each of these aspects should also be addressed in the SLA (service level agreement), representing how we will deliver the service, at what price, under what conditions, for whom, etc.
Don’t figure this out within the IT department, talk to the business, they are the buyers… Make some scenario’s, different levels of service at different prices. Explain them in terms they can understand and help them decide.

Say you are talking about availability for a system that processes digital images in a doctor’s office. 95%, 98 %, 99% or 99,5% availability is not going to make a lot of impression on the good doctor. Ask him what is acceptable, in terms of patients waiting, needing to reschedule, time lost, etc. This he will be able to answer and possibly also express it in monetary terms (which can than be used to weigh the different availability scenario’s and their costs).

Cross charge the service back to the business unit. Even if cross charging is not done in your organization, the only way you will make the business aware of what you are doing for them, is by reporting the costs incurred. It is also a very easily accepted way to put part of the ‘cost responsability’ with the business units itself (and hence out of your hands). So report on costs and advise on actions for efficiency improvement where possible.

Set up service improvement mechanism. Look at the incidents, look at the problems, look at the processes, review with the customers and use this as input for possible service improvements.

Et voila, your service organization is born. Now apply gradually to all services and you are done ! And don’t forget to keep the focus on the customer!
Sounds easy, doesn’t it ? So, what are you waiting for ?

Those historic words were the beginning of a thriller that lasted a couple of days and where process (and service) management beat the mathematical odds of life and death.

For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, see the classic movie (Apollo 13 featuring Tom Hanks and on VT4 this Friday).

And although ITIL, Service Management and the likes still had to be invented/discovered (this story happened in 1970 were ITIL came into play after the Falkland war in 1982), it is exactly the ITIL Foundations that saved those men (probably helped by a good guardian angel).

A dutch company (Gaming Works) has used this theme in a great simulation game for companies.

– The game is fun to play and experience learned me that even the most reluctant participant gets caught up in the action and is very soon deeply involved in making sure the astronauts are saved.

– The game is all about teamwork, communication learning and (process) improvement. This makes it the ideal combination between a team event (HR) and a training.

– Because it is a simulation, the people involved are drawn away from the day-to-day organization, hierarchical structures and sometimes even their own inhibitions. This often leads to open and profound discussions about processes and the way they are being followed/used. Of course this reflects the issues, frustrations, pitfalls and opportunities of the real world situation, making the game an excellent learning experience for the people involved and their management.

– The game introduces process and service thinking (ITIL V2 or V3, ISO 20000) without any need for prior knowledge or understanding of these frameworks. Hence it is an ideal ‘get everyone on the same page’ exercise to help overcome resistance when introducing Service Management in your organization.

– Oh and did I already mention that it is great fun !

If you are interested or want more info, do not hesitate to contact me.

ITIL is owned and registered by the British OGC
Apollo 13 an IT Service Management simulation game is owned and registered by Gaming works bv, The Netherlands.

Someone recently asked me : “What do you think the 3 most important and urgent challenges are for a CEO”

I replied: Service, Service and Service …

1 Service : Most Companies (not all, I will admit) no longer deliver products to the market, but they deliver a service, or at least the customer expects them to deliver a service. We are not buying a SIM card, we are buying the service of being able to communicate with our cell phones. I am not buying electricity, but I am buying ‘a continuous access to the energy (electricity) I need, when I need it,with availability and support guarantees included… I am not buying broadband, I am buying the ability to connect to the world (when, how and whatever I like).

2. This means the company providing the underlying product needs to build and maintain that service, set up customer helpdesk, make sure complaint handling is in place, take into account availability, capacity, performance of the service. Everyone in the organisation has to be thinking ‘How do I contribute to helping deliver the Service to our customers’, whether it is a janitor or a blue-collar, a financial operator, hr officer, to management staff, everyone.

3. To realize this the entire organization also needs modelling around Service Management. And since IT plays a part in most (all) of these business processes, IT itself will need to be organised to deliver that Service. Not only deliver IT services to the users (employees), but actually contribute to delivering the Service to the Customers.  And that is where IT Service Management comes in. But the first step (and the one most companies fail, in my opinion) is defining the services. Too often they are still focussed around technical services and not delivering/supporting/integrating with business processes.

rectangular table – continued

Posted: September 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Spent another 2 hours yesterday on the table, and it’s coming along fine.

Over the last week I had glued the legs together (each leg consists of 3 boards). Yesterday I finished the legs.

First I hauled them through the machine (I don’t know how this machine is called in English, but it is the one that you use to plane the boards to a specific thickness), leaving me nicely squared legs of (68mm x 68mm).

Next I trimmed one end of the legs with the saw to have a straight edge and drew the mortice’s on them. I then drilled the mortices (10mm x 70mm). the sides of the table (2 x 64cmx10cmx2,4cm and 2 x 204cmx10cmx2,4cm) received pen’s at each end to fit the mortices in the legs (the pen is 3cm long and leaves 10mm of wood in the middle of the board).

And lastly the sides received a ‘gutter’ (of 6mm width and 6mm depth at 1cm of the top all along the inside to hold the tabletop fixing block (leaving the possibility for the wood to work) (pictures will follow)

During the week, I will glue the tabletop (8 boards) so that next visit to the shop, i can finish the top and make the fixtures. I might also already glue the sides to the legs. If all goes well, the table should be finished next week.

I’ve started a new project, the creation of a rectangular table for the toy store.

It’s a pretty straightforward table :

Dimensions: 80 x 220 x 75cm for the top on 4 solid legs (7×7) and with sides (for firmness). I looked at different pieces of wood, but finally decided for (old) french Oak. I think this will be around 10h of work.

The Oak came in pieces of 275 x 22 and an inch thick, so I calculated I needed :

4 for the top, 2 for the legs, and 2 for the sideboards. Making sure I had some spare, I bought 9, putting the cost of this table at 177 euro (ex VAT).

Since the design is so pretty straightforward I didn’t even make a plan. First shift (2,5 hours) I worked on it, I straightened (leaving them at 24mm thickness) and sawed the boards to (rough) measure:

I now have my wood laid out:

8 boards for the top 275×10

12 boards for the legs 80 x 7,2

4 boards for the sides 275 x 10

You can see that I cut the top boards into 2 smaller ones. This is to insure a straight surface; when glueing them together I’ll make sure the natural bend of the wood is mixed (up,down,up, etc…). (photo to be added)

now during the next days, I will be glueing the legs, taking 3 boards and glueing them together. This way by next monday, I will have 4 legs of 7 x 7 (actually a bit more, but that way I can haul them through the machine once more to make sure the fit is perfect).

To be continued next week…

A lot of confusion exists, when people talk about CMDB.

Firstly, and the previous ITIL versions caused this, too often people think the CMDB is one database. Although this was never meant nor literary expressed like this in the ITIL framework, it was often translated like this (even by consultants). This reflex almost immediately turned the CMDB into an assets database.
The V3 ITIL framework has resolved this and it is now becoming clear that the CMDB is a collection of data sources (and not just one database).

But and this is more important, in the everyday operations, you still run into some issues, when you look at the definitions of a Configuration Item.

Let me explain by using an example (pure fiction, but so real in many cases), starting with a question:

Is a USB stick a CI ?

A lot of people will answer: NO
Their reasoning will be that they aren’t unique (no serial number and not enough place to tag it with an identifier) and the cost doesn’t weigh up to the cost of maintaining it as a CI.

There is not a lot I can argue with, because their reasoning is correct.

The requests to get a USB stick are handled by the Helpdesk
I don’t want to give out 5 sticks to every employee, so I would like to know who has one
When they leave, I’d like them to return it (optional in the case of a USB stick, but sometimes important)
I’d like to do stock management on these USB sticks, so that I always have them available
I need a way to allocate the cost (maybe not in the case of a USB stick)
The tool that I’m using as my IT support tool gives me the opportunity to do all of the above (if I have the USB stick in there as a CI)

So do we make it a CI anyways ? and if you were only looking at the cost, how about something a little more expensive, say an external hard drive or a secondary power supply or a docking station (which, I know, often does have both a unique serial number and the space to tag it).

How do I solve this? And this is how I advise it to the clients I work for:

Create a generic CI : USB Stick 2GB
You can, as you would with other CI’s, fill in details about brand, supplier and any other attribute that makes sense. Also, if your tool will allow it, put in the number you have purchased (my tool calls this max. number of installations)
Now register any demand for a USB stick as a service request (remember a service request is actually a pre-approved change with minimal impact and where every step to be taken is known and documented). Every time the request is fulfilled you add (link) the user to the CI.

With this we achieve a lot of different things that we want, without turning the USB device itself into a CI:
– The USB stick offering can be placed under a (sub)service (e.g. provide consumables for a standard work platform)
– The demand can be easily processed (and registered) by the Helpdesk
– Usage (who has one, how many requests, even charging if that is applicable) can easily be tracked and reported on
– Stock can be managed (e.g. create alert if available quantity falls under 10)
– When it is decided to switch to 8gb sticks, a new CI will be created, and hence a more formal change will need to be processed, making room for supplier management (purchasing: still the correct supplier at the correct price), release (testing and documenting) and config mgt (updating CMDB, update catalog: possible making old stick unavailable, adding new stick, updating service request, adjusting reporting, etc…)

The number of things you can add in this way and track and manage through the Helpdesk and helpdesk tool extends even further than IT. I’ve seen this system used in smaller companies to track and manage books on loan, confidential documents, keys, credit cards, etc… Of course if you HR is tracking this, there is no need to duplicate…

And than again, the question so often asked in configuration management/cmdb discussion is, where is the cut-off point? where do I stop registering them as a generic, and start identifying as a CI?
And again the answer is : IT depends! Where does the need start to have a formal change process when it changes, that is where you would identify them as individual CI’s.

Let’s take laptop as another example. I know that in most companies they are registered as a CI (sometimes/often bundled with consumables).

But look at this example: a large company which has outsourced its entire HW to an external company. Next to that the helpdesk too is outsourced.
This company approached a laptop from their point of view in the change management process and concluded that they would not perform change management on individual laptops (that was the outsourcer’s problem). However they do want to control what that standard laptop is and who has one.

It could make perfect sense to them, to register a generic workstation setup (e.g. standard laptop), with as it’s attributes what they understand under that (e.g. dell latitude E6400, 160GB, 2MB RAM, etc…) and only track who has one. The service request (at the outsourcer) holds one approval (direct manager, known to the system and the approval process is automated).
Now, of course the outsourcer will have a CMDB where the laptops are obviously treated as CI’s. The only thing remaining is set up a reporting, so that if needed, decision makers in the company can get info on laptops from the outsourcer, end of story.

I know… and mea culpa…    

I said here earlier that I would tell you about the progress on my table that I was making and I haven’t…    

But the good news is that I finally finished it!
Last Sunday I spent the last 6 hours or so, sanding the entire table and creating the table top decoration with the plunge router.
Also since Afzelia splinters easily, all edges needed to be smoothed (sanding, sanding and more sanding) to protect both the table and skin of its users.    

Now all that remains to do is put it outside and put it to the real first test on saturday (BBQ with some friends). We have secretly already used it this summer (june) but it missed the foot and finishing at that time.    

So here is some step by step information:    

Originally I tought of making the top about 40mm thick with an inlay of 20mm, but sometimes you have to take into account your wood measurements, so that you don’t waste too much material…    

The Afzelia came in beams of 670 mm thick, so I had those cut in 3; this, taking into account the saw thickness, left me with boards of just over 20mm each. Once they were planed (chafed?) and straightened that left me with a whole pile of 17mm boards. So 17mm became the standard measurement, making the top 34mm (2 glued together)    

The most difficult part of the entire table was creating the round borders for the tabletop.    

12th of a circle border piece


This is a 12th of a circle piece, which has a very narrow margin of error: once twelve are fitted together, the circle needs to be closed and it has to look like circle (no waves in the outline).    

Step 1: Draw one at full size
This immediately posed me with a problem since the radius is 900 mm and i don’t have a compass that size. A cord solved that and was accurate enough to give me the desired result. Since there are 12 pieces in a circle the ‘pie’ is 30°.  I didn’t trust my cord (and, I admit, I’m a perfectionist), so I didn’t want to read the length of the straight edge from the drawing, but wanted to calculate it. After some higher mathematics were applied, I got that figured out.    

Then I took a mdf board to create a first mould. After about half an hour of sanding I obtained a useable mould. Now since i needed to make 24 pieces using the miller (not sure that is the correct word) the mdf was not good enough as a guide (too soft). So I used the MDF mould to create the real mould from a piece of oak that was left from a previous venture.    

Tip: don’t make the same mistake I did, with making the mould too small. Leave extra wood where possible (of course not at the circle shape rim) so that you can easily fetch the board to the mould. The same of course applies for the boards. Make sure the 12th circle edge is roughly cut (so that you don’t need to take of too much material with the miller), but leave a reasonable portion to the sides or bottom to fix the mould (with screws).    

And if you did make the mistake, as I was glueing two pieces together, I made sure the screw holes were on the surfaces that were not going to be visible.    

Then problem number 2, cutting the edges at exactly 15°. Since my shop doesn’t have a computer driven saw, getting the angle correct is not easy. And again, since I was going to create a circle, the margin for error is very small. So set the saw to 15°, saw a piece of wood (trial) and measure it with an adjustable bevel. Again, I wasn’t convinced, so I actually sawed 12 pieces (of around 100mm length) and tried to create a circle. I’m sure I corrected it again with a least a 10th of a degree (I know, I know) and then finally cut the border pieces.    

Remark: Of course I glued them together first and sawed them after (avoiding a non perfect side edge)    

Tip: Since the edge is at a 15° angle, creating a tenon is very difficult. instead, I decided to make a mortise on each side and use a loose tenon.    

To be continued….