An interview with Kaimar Karu


I met Kaimar Karu from Estonia at itSMF Finland TOP10 conference. I like what he’s being doing bringing DevOps attitude and awareness to ITSM feud. Just a few days from next itSMF Estonia conference (hum geeky date: 11.12.13, in  beautiful Tallinn) here goes his suurepärane interview.

Karu-as-a-Speaker, itSMF TOP10, Helsinki (4th October 2013)

KaaS = Kaimar-as-a-Speaker, itSMF TOP10, Helsinki (4th October 2013)

1. You were a runner-up in the 2013 Estonian Beer Sommelier competition. I am really curious on this: Do you find useful insights that may, let’s say, distilled to your work from such a pleasant and honorable activity?

I don’t really distinguish between work and fun – everything in my life I’ve decided to keep doing is, for me, a pleasant activity. I treat everything as a learning opportunity, and lean towards activities where I can make other people’s lives better in some way. Sometimes it is an ITIL or PRINCE2 training where we don’t stop with just the theory, but discuss the real life problems the delegates have, and possible solutions to these. And sometimes, it’s that carefully chosen bottle of beer I’ve recommended my friend to try with his dish. Once you see your customer or friend experiencing that moment of clarity and discovery – from “Aha, this is how I should approach this issue!” to “Aha, I would never have thought of matching beer with a dessert!” – you just want to keep doing it 🙂

There is no “best” beer. Some beers are rather universal and can go with anything, which in most cases unfortunately also makes them rather bland (with the exception of Saison, perhaps). Some beers are very unique, and might require an acquired taste – making them exceptional for some people, and downright disgusting for others. If your beer needs to stand up to bold flavors of the dish, you have to choose a bold beer – approach your slow-cooked wild boar with a light lager, and you will see it is not a fair match. Also, when the contrast you create is too strong, the tastes start fighting, rather than complimenting each other and your superb meal will be ruined by the dichotomy. You need to consider the occasion, the context and the objective. Not surprisingly, all of this applies to frameworks (e.g. ITIL) too.

2. I think there’s still little knowledge on DevOps around ITSM community (it could be just me!) and that makes it difficult to adopt or seek mutual benefits. Do you agree? What approach do you favor regarding DevOps and ITSM for organizations to make the most of it?

We are getting there 🙂 If in April this year, when I delivered my own ITSM-DevOps presentation (http://www.slideshare.net/kaimarkaru/devops-shattering-its-operational-barriers) at SITS13, almost noone had heard of DevOps and we had people almost fainting at the mention of hundreds of releases per day, the audience at ITSM13 in Birmingham was already much more knowledgeable. There has been a lot of discussions around DevOps in general, and also about how traditional ITSM and DevOps can fit together. In the early days of DevOps there were more than a few naysayers, who were absolutely certain that these two concepts can never co-exist and used any opportunity available to bash one or the other. Recently, there has been less of that and more of “OK, let’s see what we can learn from that then” attitude, which I think is great.

We also need to be cautious, because not all concepts in DevOps can work for all organisations. All IT systems do not require tens or hundreds of releases per day, and we do not have to take the Procrustean approach when introducing DevOps in the organisation. Some concepts, on the other hand, are universal – no silos, no blame, respect, etc. These might sound like obvious things, but when you look at how the teams in organisations actually work, the picture is not pretty. We might acknowledge, deep down, that blame is bad and respect is good, but for some reason, we often fail to apply that belief in the workplace. It takes a conscious effort.

DevOps is of course not just about these touchy-feely concepts – through practice, many organisations have found specific ways how to make things happen, and developed specific tools to support the change. Luckily, the DevOps-minded practitioners are extremely willing to share, so please make use of this.

One of the books I would definitely recommend to IT and ITSM specialists in traditional enterprises is “The Phoenix Project” (http://itrevolution.com/books/phoenix-project-devops-book/) which is perhaps the best introduction to this new world of actually listening to other teams and working together. It is not a technical book, nor does it give you a specific checklist to follow, but once you’ve read it, you kind of know what to do next 🙂

3. What is your view on ITIL training future, now that we have Axelos riding it?

Having attended ITIL trainings by several providers as a delegate, and used the materials from different providers later on when delivering courses, I’d like AXELOS to clean up the space a bit. I feel there are too many subpar offerings on the market, which benefit only the training providers, not the delegates nor the ITSM community in general.

I believe various teaching and learning methods have to used to maximise the value of trainings. E-learning, for instance, is a great opportunity – but if the main sales point for this is the price, the materials are crap and there is little to no support for the delegates during their learning period, then this is not a good training.

My view is that AXELOS should develop a core set of materials to cover the official syllabus for ITIL trainings. This introduces much more flexibility in the model – instead of tens and tens of ATOs working on their own materials and needing a considerable amount of time after each change to the framework to update the materials, the centrally managed set can already be updated during the framework update process. This saves time and money and guarantees, for the delegates, that the materials used have not just passed the formal syllabus check, but incorporate the feedback from thousands of trainers and hundreds of thousands of delegates from all around the world. AXELOS should, at the same time, allow the ATOs to develop additional offerings based on ITIL, PRINCE2 and other frameworks, enriching the customer experience.

4. Is there a missing link between Prince2 and ITIL?

There certainly is. How many project managers have you seen on ITIL courses, and vice versa? The somewhat siloed approach many organisations have taken doesn’t help the specialists in different areas to understand how they fit in the big picture. When the organisation starts thinking about introducing some ITIL concepts in their processes, this is rarely managed as a proper project. At the same time, when something is handled as a project, the operational part – where ITIL can help – is rarely considered. The emergence of DevOps will help to improve the situation.

I wouldn’t say we need another theory or framework to sit between ITIL and PRINCE2 (or Service Management and Project Management in general). We need to connect the dots and raise awareness in both camps about what the other party is doing. The concepts of DevOps are not applicable just for the cooperation between Development and Operations – they can be applied to various teams in the organisation, working towards the same goal. Although it might seem, that each team have their own – and sometimes incompatible – objectives, at the end of the day, everybody’s there to enable the Business.

5. Another itSMF Estonia conference is coming up soon – what are your expectations for this year?

Indeed, this year’s conference is on December 11 – last year we managed to snatch the date 12.12.12, so this year we went for a similar effect, 11.12.13 🙂 Aale Roos will be on stage at 14:15:16, introducing the concepts of Service Desk 2.0.

Over the past few years, our goal has been to make our conference more international by inviting more speakers from abroad to share their experience and ideas with the local ITSM specialists. This, in turn, has attracted more delegates from neighbouring countries, and this year we have delegates, in addition to Estonia, from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, UK, US, Russia, Finland and Sweden. So this year’s conference will be truly international, which is why we have built the program in a way that maximizes the engagement opportunities.

We are proud to be the first event in the region to have AXELOS’s CEO Peter Hepworth attending. After the conference close we will host an international forum, where the participants can ask about the future of ITIL, voice their concerns and provide input for Axelos. Our voice will be the voice of small, non English speaking practitioner communities.

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One Response to “An interview with Kaimar Karu”

  1. 2013 Wrap-up | ITIL Blues Says:

    […] ITIL rants and raves « An interview with Kaimar Karu […]

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