Archive for February, 2014

The TFT14 Winter experience

February 21, 2014

Preparation

Preparation, just before speaking

Felt great. Felt odd. Being part of TFT14 Winter was really great. All the voting process, getting to know the other speakers, working with Brightalk and SDI (Zoe James rocks) – it is an unique experience.

It felt odd because there is not immediate feedback while one’s talking. I went too fast (made me think “Why did I remove those other 30 slides?”). Not being able to feel the audience has its disadvantages. Got really interesting questions at the end, though mostly from other TFT speakers.

Go check the presentations slide decks here. They are worth it. Mine is here (also on the previous link).

I want to do it again, next year, with a new topic (probably evolving to gamification and people, too soon to tell). What I missed was people looking at me and listening and giving feedback… but that happens on traditional conferences. And this way I’ve reached way more people – and that’s good.

I am ready for the next one, next 21st of March at itSMF Singapore!

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An interview with Aprill Allen

February 13, 2014

From the other side of the world, Aprill Allen – the Knowledge Bird brings us knowledge management to IT. Now I know, or should I say I grok, what is a bird (in Australia, that is). Terrific and generous chirps follow. A bonus at the end: three KM starter questions from Stuart Rance!

AprillAllen-KnowledgeBird

1. Knowledge Bird is a beautiful and evoking name. Tell me the story, how did you come up with that?

Well, thanks for your feedback. I like that you like it! It started when I was searching for a domain name for a blog on knowledge management that I wanted to start writing. All the standard ones were taken, so I realised I’d have to mash two unrelated words together. Of course, the first step was to combine “knowledge” with random animals. I turned to crowdsourcing from Facebook friends. There were some crazy suggestions—unicorn being one of them—but I had a flash of inspiration. Knowledge Bird worked on a couple of levels. Bird is Australian slang for woman/girl, and to me it was symbolic of knowledge management—the way we gather bits and pieces of information from different places and put them together to reach understanding.

2. Why is it so hard to have a tool supporting human knowledge?

Knowledge is about connecting the dots. In an organisation, it’s a serious of serendipitous events—it’s something you hear in a meeting, a conversation you have in the hallway, a customer comment—exchanges like this might map together in some way to switch on a lightbulb. Enterprise social networks can facilitate that to some degree, especially for remote workers, but it won’t work as well as it could without the right cultural reinforcement. Knowledge sharing is very much about culture and attitudes, and no tool can act in place of those, though federated search can certainly help with discoverability of the explicit things we know that we know. It’s the times when we don’t know what we know, or indeed when we don’t know what we don’t know, that it gets hard.

3. How do we tackle the human factor for knowledge acquisition and sharing?

Well, the human factor is that we all have different motivations. To draw knowledge out you have to figure out what those motivations are, so you can weave them into a story about why sharing knowledge can benefit them and the whole organisation. In terms of everyday operational tactics, though, I’ve noticed something from my own recent experience that you might find valuable. Large organisations tend towards a siloed way of working; even the more modern ones. When I’m inside one of these organisations as a freelancer with a vague job title, it’s easier to take…a bird’s eye view, I guess. When I see gaps in the knowledge flow, regardless of the department/s involved, I don’t have a problem with making some noise to the right people. As a leader, you can foster that in your own staff by making that expectation explicit. Otherwise, staff may feel it’s not their place to say something.

4. How important is the use of stories for capturing knowledge?

You know, this is a great question, and timely! I’m reading a book right now, by Stephen Denning, called The Leaders Guide to Storytelling. It covers how workplace leaders can use narrative in the workplace to inspire action as well as a number of other scenarios. About half way through the book, Denning describes the situation of a technician on a service call to fix a printer. The technician knows second-hand information won’t be enough, so he goes directly to the users and asks them to tell their story of the broken printer. From the exchange, the technician has captured the context that’s so important to understanding the issues. So, stories provide context. They’re also a lot more memorable than a string of bullet points or numbers.

5. Regarding the book that changed your mind. Will KM follow an Amazon approach instead of relying on fixed categorisation and Google-like search? A mix?

I would love for knowledge management tools to act more like Amazon—semantic clustering based on keywords, recommendations based on your own previous actions and those of the people you’re associated with. The relationships with us and our data at work are just as valuable to knowledge management efforts as our purchasing and browsing data is to retail. I guess that’s why it hasn’t happened for organisational knowledge—the commercial motivation isn’t big enough.

… and 3 great questions from Stuart Rance answered here:

1. How do you see the relationship between knowledge management and ITSM developing in the future?

I don’t think ITSM has a choice but to embrace knowledge management. At the moment, it’s seen as a time sink—it’s an add-on, rather than being woven into our everyday workflows and meetings. This is where Knowledge Centred Support (KCS) can have a significant impact on the daily fire-fighting that comes from incident management. It behooves the best practice leadership to bring KCS into the Continual Service Improvement fold.

2. Do you think ITSM people understand the potential value of good knowledge management?

No, I don’t think they do. Generally speaking. It’s perceived as a fuzzy capability that can be difficult to justify throwing extra resources at, because there aren’t many quantified case studies out there. And you know how decisions are often made with data than with instinct.

3. What is the one piece of advice you would offer someone who asked how to get started with knowledge management?

There are many practices in knowledge management that don’t require new tools or changes to existing tools—start small using one, or a combination, of those practices for one issue. Take some sort of measurement before and after you’ve embedded that new practice so you have a reference point for further changes, and so you can justify expanding your knowledge management program.

An interview with Stuart Rance

February 12, 2014

Starting 2014 interviews with Stuart Rance, author of the ITIL 2011 edition Service Transition book and a true dynamo on pushing practices and having people discuss what really matters.

Stuart Rance

1. Do share your very best practices on chocolate degustation. Dark? With almonds? Swiss? Belgium?

I’m glad you asked that! I’m very fond of dark chocolate coated brazil nuts, but dark chocolate with hazelnuts or almonds is nearly as good.

2. Lately I’ve observed lots of discussion on incident versus problem. Could it mean ITSM still has lots of concepts not well understood by the community?

I think most people understand the concepts, but very few people seem to be doing a good job of problem management. Part of the reason for this may be because of the way activities are assigned to incident or problem management, which I think could be improved. I’ve written about this in a blog article at http://www.sysaid.com/blog/entry/why-you-should-stop-doing-problem-management – I intentionally made this blog a bit controversial to try and get people to discuss the underlying issues.

There is one area where I think that ITSM concepts are poorly understood, and that is in the area of service strategy. I’ve heard people complain that we shouldn’t include service strategy concepts in ITIL foundation training because they aren’t relevant to most people in ITSM and I find that really scary. Key concepts in service strategy include value creation and how customers perceive value. Sadly many people in IT still think in terms of technology solving problems, rather than in terms of creating value for people. I would love to see improvements to ITIL training so that everyone with a foundation certificate really understood that services are about creating value for customers, not about ITSM processes.

3. Social media is here to stay – as once you remarked, for instance we’ve never met in real life but we share and discuss. How do you think it as influenced Service Management progress?

I think discussions in social media have opened out the creation of best practice to a much wider community. Not very long ago there were only a few people contributing to the creation of best practice for ITSM but I have been involved in debates with lots of really creative people, and some of these have led to us having face-to-face meetings where we continue the discussions. There are some very frustrating forums where people seem to endlessly debate the same sterile ITSM questions, such as “is a password reset an incident or a service request”, but I just ignore those and focus on the places where I see useful things happening.

There is a danger that those of us who participate in social media can forget that we are only a very tiny subset of the people with ideas and opinions. It would be great if we could get more people involved, and to do that we have to create truly welcoming communities where people feel that they can join in and get benefits.

4. Regarding Taking Service Forward initiative with the service meta model Adaptive Service Model… what’s your expectation on how these efforts will benefit the ITSM world?

I know what I would like to see, which is the creation of an open, shared, common architecture and ontology for services that is in the public domain and available for many people to use. Even better would be if the owners of all the different best practices and standards adopted (and adapted) this architecture, so that we could all do a better job of adapting and integrating multiple different frameworks. I can’t really say that this is an expectation, but it is an aspiration. I would like to encourage your readers to get involved, join in the discussions and help us to create this architecture.

5. From your experience can ideas and practices like Tipu, Standard+Case, process mining applied to service management and others from “alien” fields outside ITSM really flourish and gain momentum without Axelos support?

Both Tipu and Standard+Case come from the fertile mind of Rob England, and maybe you should be asking him this question. I really do like many of his contributions to ITSM best practice, but it is hard for ideas like this to compete when hundreds of thousands of people every year are taking ITIL training. It would be really good if we could find ways to communicate developing best practice to a wider audience, and maybe that is something we should put more effort into over the next year.

6. [Mistery question from Aprill Allen!]  If you were putting together a new service management program team, which celebrities—living or past—would you choose?

In general I think that celebrities would be a terrible idea for a service management team. We don’t need heroes and people whose main talent is marketing themselves, but in the spirit of the question I will offer some names.

Overall charge of the program and Continual Improvement:

Eli Goldratt (if you haven’t heard of him then do some research)

Demand management and BRM:

Steve Jobs (tell me what customers will want next year)

Service operation processes:

Rob England (who else)