An interview with Jan van Bon

Jan was one of the first ITSM persons I met in real life. I like the pragmatic way he addresses every topic. I learnt a lot and somehow I find it inspiring Jan is never a follower.

image_2013-08-12_222203Here, the full interview:

1 . What you do when you’re not sharing, arguing, discussing and confronting in ITSM arena? What other interests do you pursue during your “spare” time?

Belgian beer and Scotch whiskey is a great hobby. But to be serious, I do have other interests 😉  I am a graduated biomathematician, and when I quit my position as an academic researcher and stepped into IT in the late eighties, I dedicated my training to game management. It keeps me off the street and in the field, close to Mother Earth.

2. You’ve edited more than 80 books, Gutenberg would be proud. Is there a future for printed books?

There is a future, but only in combination with electronic versions. The books I’m involved in are always knowledge carriers, and the demand for knowledge will persist, though the format may change. I’m sure I’ll produce more electronic knowledge carriers than printed work, but the latter will be in demand as long as the current leading generation isn’t extinguished. Electronic carriers offer much more training options than printed material, and the appreciation of these formats is growing. The acquisition of a game provider by Capita is just a symptom of that trend.

3. Can Amsterdam model help understand why it is apparently so hard having top management and IT aligned?

Yes, although I prefer not to refer to the “Amsterdam Model” but to SAME, the Strategic Alignment Model Enhanced: it’s more pure, easier to understand, and it serves the same goal more effectively. You can download it here. By the way – it’s not really hard to align business and IT, once you accept the 3×3 model of SAME and its consequences. The SAME model tells you exactly how responsibilities can be distributed according to the main control paradigm: separation of duties. The Dutch have developed and used this since the mid nineties, but you can’t find it anywhere else in the world in the same position. I’ve published a historical analysis of the development of ‘plane thinking’, as we call it, in 2010 (in Dutch), showing how these ideas have developed over time since the late eighties.

In the Netherlands we now have fully standardized methods for both information domains: the FSM Method for ‘business information management’, covering the guidance of the BiSL framework, and the ISM Method for ‘IT service management’, covering the guidance of ITIL and ASL. Both are fully integrated and prepared to deliver an integrated end-to-end management system for the entire information support domain, using all guidance of the referred frameworks (and much more).

4. ISM is not mainstream yet. What’s missing?

I’d say: ‘awareness’. The ISM Method is only available in the Netherlands. It takes various players in a market to deliver a nationwide support structure for the method: we need providers of standardized BPM tools, providers of standardized ITSM tools, trained consultants, trained trainers, and exam organizations, to create a market, and they need to be able and willing to work together in delivering an effective and efficient, but very simplified system for ITSM. The hype nature of ITIL is a much easier alternative in terms of making money: nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM, so it’s a safe proposition to align your services and products to ITIL. The customer won’t know the difference, because the alternative isn’t familiar enough for them – yet. But these times are changing now, at least in the Netherlands: more and more companies have heard of the astonishing success of companies adopting the ISM method, they want the same, and they adopt the ISM method.

There’s another reason: most consultants are controlled by just two drivers: their hourly rate and the number of hours they sell. This simple calculation shows that most consultants are not interested in a method that will cut their income to the bare essential hours, leaving the customer in the winning position: highest value at lowest cost. Luckily, there are more and more consultants who really want to make a difference by delivering more value at less cost. And they are rewarded for their changed proposition, because the now highly satisfied customer will of course hire them again for the next challenge they can’t face without the help of a real ITSM expert. But as you will understand, such a change of attitude in the consultancy market takes considerable time, and the biggest providers will be the last ones to follow. That’s the face of evolution.

And a third reason is really mean: the ISM Method exposes the manager and his management system as the biggest fail factor, and not the tool, the consultant, the technology, or the customer. The method focuses at improving the quality of management, by following standardized structures for standardized goals of standardized ITSM organizations. This is a real bottleneck: managers tend to ignore or deny that they often are the problem. Of course you can understand that it’s hard for a manager to go to his board and tell them that it wasn’t the consultant, it wasn’t the tool, it wasn’t the technology, but it was due to his own lack of management skills, it was due to the fact that he always had to migrate to new technology and never took the time to get his organization straightened, it was due to all these projects he had to run, it was due to the fact that he actually was a techy and not a manager, and that he would love to get the opportunity to learn how to solve this problem. What do you think he would expect from that kind of exposure? A bonus, a promotion, or the sack? Note: a good board would appreciate it if he stepped forward and confessed this, but that’s exactly what the manager wouldn’t understand….

5. Do you see a fit between Standard+Case and ISM? Could we have a way simpler service management approach than ITIL?

Both S&C and ISM simplify ITSM, compared to the way ITIL describes it, and other approaches do so too (think of FITS). But ISM is a method and has a process architecture, and all others actually miss that. And it’s in the process where all management starts. ITIL has been and still is a great guide to ITSM, but it describes ‘best practices’, and that immediately is its Achilles heel. Best practices are results of a management approach, and you can’t implement the results of someone else – although you can use it for inspiration. It’s like this: ITIL describes the symptoms, and we need a method to cure the patient. ISM is that an example of such a method. It has reformatted the ITIL guidance with a 180 degrees U-turn, and works inside-out, with a true architecture for the ITSM management system. As a consequence, ISM can generate all ‘symptoms’ described in ITIL, and more (if you prefer COBIT, ASL, or any other flavor).

6. TFT brings a new model to conferences. Do you think live conferences need to evolve?

I think we need to keep exchanging knowledge, ideas, inspiration, experiences, instruments, in any way we can. TFT is one of these ways, based on modern community technology. If this works for you, it’s great. Others may want to meet face-to-face, use text-based forums, or any other type of environment. I guess these will all persist and find their place with those who can profit from them.

7. [quite current question from Lynda Cooper] Given the new ownership of ITIL by Axelos, what do you think is the future for ITIL?

Axelos had a bad start by shouting out loud how much money will be made. They then started meeting about the future of ITIL with same parties that created the ITIL market. I don’t know what you think about that, but it seems a guarantee for not aligning to a dissatisfied market. More meetings are planned, as I hear, but in the mean time the market is shifting fast: I hear more and more providers who are completely fed up with the way ITIL is exploited and the money they must pay to join the bandwagon. These parties are eagerly looking for alternatives that deliver more value at less cost. Despite of this trend, I think the ITIL hype cycle will roll on for quite some time. But in the spirit of my original education and profession: I believe in evolution and I plan to give this evolution a helping hand. We shouldn’t forget that ITIL has been and still is of great value to the ITSM market, but I expect to see a forward leap in that market – and as usual with evolution: it will generate a new species.


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One Response to “An interview with Jan van Bon”

  1. 2013 Wrap-up | ITIL Blues Says:

    […] has been a great ride! I recommend reading them here: Rob England, Antonio Valle Salas (Spanish), Jan van Bon, Lynda Cooper and Kaimar […]

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