Archive for the ‘2014’ Category

An Interview with Carlos Casanova

June 3, 2014

Carlos Casanova is a well-known expert on CMDB/CMS, born in São Miguel, Açores, Portugal (the Azores islands is a paradise halfway between Europe and North America) and comes from the United States. I’ve enjoyed his thoughts and insights on the not so easy Configuration Management and CMDB/CMS topic. His book “The CMDB Imperative” (co-written with Glenn O’Donnell) is a reference for all who want to embark on CMDB/CMS.


1. I love your surname, it means “new house” in Portuguese. What is its origin?

My nationality is Portuguese. I was born in the Azores and moved to the United States as an infant with my family. Since then, some of my family members have worked on our family genealogy and have found ancestors outside of Portugal several generations back in Spain and Argentina. The name translates into “New House” in many languages including Italian. I am not sure if the basis comes from the stories of the famous lover or not but given the spread of the name across the world, it just might be the case. 🙂


2. Why writing “The CMDB imperative”?

Prior to writing the book, I was the Director of Configuration Management for a global Financial Services firm based in the United States. I had been asked by the CIO to take on the effort but it was apparent that early on, after the magnitude and potential risk of the effort was clear to leadership, that nobody really wanted to take on the task themselves. For the next 4 years, I kept pushing the initiative forward as best as I could with limited resources and even less senior leadership support. What kept me going however was my vast background across the IT Operational areas, which developed in me a deep-rooted belief that this was the right thing to do for the company. My years working in Enterprise Architecture, IT Security, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity helped me to develop a vision for a comprehensive entity that could support and deliver tremendous value to most operational area across any organization. Internally, I was losing the battle against Senior Management but externally, across the industry, I was getting a considerable amount of recognition for my accomplishments at the firm. At one point, I even had an industry expert come into my organization to assess our achievements and she was amazed at not only how much the team had achieved, but more so at the vision we had in mind for this enterprise wide entity. Unfortunately, my senior leadership decided to eliminate the remaining budget on the initiative shortly thereafter and I was faced with the decision to keep fighting to help a company who obviously was not ready to accept it or, write a book to help those companies that were ready to grow and build an incredibly valuable resource like the CMDB/CMS.


3. Is Configuration Management success at organizations hindered because IT people focus on the tech-centric CMDB? Why is there such a bad fame on its implementation feasibility and benefit?

I perform formal Configuration Management Assessments for companies and one of the questions in the assessment asks the interviewee to rank three items (People, Process, Technology) in terms of which is the biggest challenge to the success of a Configuration Management Solution. In every assessment so far, when the individual questionnaires are collected across the company from all the interviewees, “People” has always been ranked as the biggest challenge with “Process” in second place. “Technology” has never reached the second ranked position in an assessment at a company. In fact, very few interviewees ever rank “Technology” as the biggest challenge on their individual questionnaire. The issue however is that in the same questionnaire, I ask questions to determine the level of knowledge about Configuration Management and sadly, the answers reflect why there are so many failures. Glenn O’Donnell, my co-author, and I personally hate the term CMDB. Configuration Management System (CMS) was better but still didn’t convey the full view in our opinion. Our preferred term is Service Information System (SIS) which we think better describes the broad objective and capability of the system. In our book, we dedicated a subsection of Chapter 1 to explain “Why the term CMDB must go away”. A major issue is that CMDB implies a single monolithic repository where EVERYTHING is collected and stored and this is not reality. Logically and philosophically, it is a single entity but the CMDB is not really a database in the true sense of a database. The real solution is where the “CMDB” ( aka SIS ) is the portal through which you get your logical perspective even when the pieces are spread out across various departments or regions in the company. It should be the vehicle that helps you get a singular view but it does not need to be the singular keeper of date and information.

Because of the confusion of what a “CMDB” really is and frankly, the push by tool vendors selling a “CMDB” ( aka: relational DB that can store data you put in it ), most efforts fail at least once and typically twice before achieving any level of success. The third attempt comes after resetting expectations based on education and knowledge. Taking on the effort with a better understanding of what they are REALLY trying to accomplish and what problems they are trying to solve is far more likely to succeed. One of the first questions I ask every one of my clients is, Why do you want a “CMDB”? Strangely enough, most answer the questions with reasons for why you might implement an Inventory or Asset Management System. Few ever can fully articulate a reason that is truly in line with why you put in place a Configuration Management solution. Lastly, the fact that the term “CMDB” is used far more often than Configuration Management is a big reason why everyone at some point in time thinks if it as a pure technology effort. Once again, when they enter into it with this mindset, they will fail because they will not have addressed the biggest issues around data quality and people circumventing process. The CMDB will NOT fix these issues.


4. How can we sell Configuration Management to top management in a compelling way?

When I have the opportunity to speak with Senior Management that is knowledgeable about security and risk management, I explain to them that a Configuration Management solution can enable and/or directly support 11 of SANS Top 20 Critical Security Controls. The case studies around reduced call time, reduced MTTR and increased MTBF are great however, they address what I refer to as “soft money”. This is money that if saved, does not actually end up on the bottom line and hence, the senior executive cannot claim it as a real savings. For Senior Management that does not fully understand and appreciate Returned Value on Investment versus just Return On Investment, they won’t see the “soft money” savings as tangible and hence will not provide lots of support.

Now, with more and more pressure on IT Hardening, and bigger budgets in that sector versus the Service Management sector, Senior Managers might be better suited to understand the value that something like a Configuration Management solution brings to IT Hardening. The key is to relate the investment being made to value being delivered to the end users and business customers. You must put it in terms of the positive impact that it will have on the company’s customers and how it will drive better business outcomes.


5. Right now what is the role and impact you see for the Service Management Congress?

I am very disappointed that more did not come of the effort at the 2013 itSMF Fusion Conference in the United States. I am still in full support of the basic ideas that our industry is not functioning at the level of quality and efficiency that I feel it needs to and secondly that far too many so-called certified professionals are promoting utopian approaches to solutions that never deliver value to the business. Many of our peers and many organizations have lost focus on what the intention is and instead focus far too much on the letters and words in the books and try to emulate it word for word in their companies. This DOES NOT WORK! I was hopeful that our effort with SM Congress would be the catalyst to get more people in the industry coming to this awareness. Unfortunately, some individuals across the world, who based on their public stances prior to SM Congress were proponents of similar ideas and concepts, decided to personally attack some individuals in the SM Congress and this drove a major wedge into the effort. We are now more than 6 months removed from the conference and it appears to have been wasted. I still believe in the concepts and have incorporated them into my client work but as an entity, I don’t know if the SM Congress will be intact much by the time the next conference arrives.



Once a upon a time in the East (Notes from itSMF Singapore 2014)

March 28, 2014

It was a pleasure being at itSMF Singapore 2014 for speaking on Storytelling.

Presenting Storytelling -itSMF Singapore

Presenting Storytelling at itSMF Singapore 2014

First of all, I thank the organization for great experience and smooth experience there. Rama and Vinay from the board, Joanne and Marco and all good people from itSMF Singapore made this event a joy for me.

I finally met Suresh GP who curated and pushed it all.

My notes on the event follow without further delay!

Ferocious twetting

Even with such timezone difference for other geographies we had sometimes little ITSM haiku, other times a vivid perception on what was happening during the conference. I think this trend for extending the conference reach is excellent.

The Twitter pack for itSMF Singapore 2014

The Twitter pack for itSMF Singapore 2014

The People

Couldn’t attend to all sessions – I did take worthy insights from them all. I’ll share notes on three:

Peter Brooks (excellent meeting THE Peter Brooks – wonderfully accessible and stimulating talks off the sessions)

  • Service Governance is key (Hello top management accountability?)
  • ITIL has tons of excellent material scarcely used
  • We need an ontology, precise meaning for ITSM concepts (Adaptive Service Model initiative)

Peter Hepworth (met for the first time the man leading Axelos)

  • Portrayed Axelos as a startup – coming to Singapore is part of strategy to talk with local stakeholders and he got feedback from them the day before the conference (and from us too)
  • Regarding trainer certifications, there are more than 1000 ATOS, training orgs and affiliates combined. Huge task. So Axelos will be grandfathering the trainers.
  • On cybersecurity, is asked on next step but it’s still soon to reveal what’s under the hood for this hot topic

Matt Fourie (pleasant surprise!)

  • Leadership is about telling the what and let people be responsible for the who (this is deeper and seldom found)
  • If you dont find the solution in a few hours you dont have the right people solving it
  • Manage stakeholders, pursue collaboration with all and carefully pursue requirement analysis

The Conference

I sensed a pattern on people being part of the service management equation. Yes, still ITIL core with one session on transitioning the service (this always reminds me of DevOps approach – which has lots of people in it too), more on empowering the end-users; a trend supported/pushed by vendors.

It was great meeting so many interesting people from Singapore and also from Australia. I had the opportunity to meet Kathryn Heaton from itSMF Australia who gave insight on how service management has an opportunity in an unexpected market due to Australia’s digital initiative at schools.

My session on Storytelling went really well – people were groking the stories on changing, got engaging questions at the end and I had the chance to give away some of my specially drawn for the occasion cartoons.

I was there! cartoon for itSMF Singapore 2014 - A torn cartoon

I was there! cartoon for itSMF Singapore 2014 – One of the cartoons I wanted to give way (torn paper… did a newer version 🙂 )

Hope I come back with more time. Well worth the trip!

DevOps after reading Phoenix

March 7, 2014

I’ve recently finished The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win — a rather good use for a long lonely train  trip.

I got lots of ideas and déjà-vu on the situations depicted, so I am posting thoughts on top of what I read.

The return on DevOps is subtle. That may be the harder thing to grasp on this discipline.

Bringing theory of constraints practices that started in the industry to the IT world changes the mindset and the way things get done. A few distinctive aspects of DevOps:

  • Work becomes visible throughout the whole chain
  • Constraints can be identified and dealt with
  • Everything moves faster – including detecting and working out anything wrong

It’s useful to start with proper context. This picture helps.

DevOps and related disciplines, from CollabNet

DevOps and related disciplines, from CollabNet

The Three Ways

The Three Ways are principles from where you can generate DevOps patterns. The first way is the way of the Flow. It means one knows (for you Heinlein fans the right word would be groks) the way value flows from the business to the customer.

The second way is the way of Feedback, adding communication between Ops and Dev.

The third way is the way of Continual Experimentation and Learning. One can improve because now we have feedback from  every small experiment to validate ideas fast.

Fishing The Three Ways

Fishing The Three Ways

You can read a well written description of The Three Ways by Tim Hunter here.

The Deployment pipeline

A core concept for DevOps is the Deployment pipeline, industrializing and removing all technical risks from the whole development to production cycle.

“A deployment pipeline is a single path to production for all changes to a given system., whether to code, infrastructure and environments, database schemas and reference data, or configuration. The deployment pipeline models your process for building, testing, and deploying your systems and is thus a manifestation of the part of your value stream from check-in to release. Using the deployment pipeline, each change to any system is validated to see if it is fit for release, passing through a comprehensive series of automated tests. If it is successful, it becomes available for push-button deployment (with approvals, if required) to testing, staging, and production environments.”

— Why Enterprises Must Adopt Devops to Enable Continuous Delivery by Jezz Humble and Joanne Molesky

Why Enterprises Must Adopt Devops to Enable Continuous Delivery by Jezz Humble and Joanne Molesky, Cutter IT Journal, August 2011

The Delivery Pipeline from Why Enterprises Must Adopt Devops to Enable Continuous Delivery by Jezz Humble and Joanne Molesky (Cutter IT Journal, August 2011)

Deployments become natural, regular and safe. It allows for inverting the wait. That is, IT waiting for the business. So business gets the chance to see working software sooner and within shorter decision windows.

The role of automation

Automation is key for DevOps because it allows for faster time to market. And this changes the way people work and collaborate. For instance, having the same environment from development right up to live production eliminates errors and rework due to disparate environments. This is so obvious that it hurts to think there are still organizations that don’t do it.

Of course there are no free lunches. For the example above one first need to have all configurations under control (not just code, also the environments themselves), otherwise it’s impossible to automate this.

Now think on the impact this approach has for testing. Maybe you don’t catch all errors but you certainly will significantly reduce errors from the Development to Production process itself which cause delays and unproductivity.

When the release cycle reduces to days or even hours you reap another benefit. Introducing new features is fast. Testing scenarios (even with part of your customer base, using A/B testing) is simple.

A neat side effect of automation for the deployment pipeline is that it makes non-authorized changes really hard to sneak in.

And it forces Ops and Dev guys talking each other frequently – probably the biggest benefit of all.

The TFT14 Winter experience

February 21, 2014


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!

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!


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 – 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)