Archive for the ‘interview’ 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.



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)

An interview with Kaimar Karu

December 3, 2013

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 ( 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” ( 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.

An interview with Lynda Cooper

October 18, 2013

Lynda taught me ISO 20000 and gave excellent advice a few years ago, showing incredible availability just when I needed it. She has the not so common knack for clarity, something I admire and aspire to.

Lynda Cooper

Here’s the interview:

1. What’s so special about Portugal?
The weather of course! I find everyone very friendly with good English which helps me as I only speak a very few words of Portuguese.

2. How do you see the Portuguese market willingness for topics like IT standards and service management?
Portugal is embracing standards and best practice frameworks. There is a realisation that to compete and to be seen to be good, it is necessary to use best practice and to prove that you are good by certification against standards.

3. Would a small organization really see return on investing in ISO 20000? Are there alternatives for this case?
ISO20000 is applicable to all organisations – large and small. Of course, it is always difficult for a small organisation to justify investing in standards. Each small organisation has to look at what the benefits will be. For example, if the small organisation cannot compete for contracts or will have a distinct advantage in competing for contracts with ISO20000, then just winning 1 or 2 extra contracts due to being certified to ISO20000 will provide the return.
An alternative to ISO20000 could be ISO 9001 which is more generic.

4. Standards like ISO 90006 and ISO 27013 focus on integration between standards. From your experience what approaches may work best for establishing an integrated management system (assuming no previous experience inside the organization)?
An integrated management system needs to recognise that there will be 3 elements:
– those processes that are common to all the standards in the IMS e.g. internal audit
– those processes that are unique to one standard e.g. budgeting and accounting for services in ISO20000
– those processes which have a partial overlap with another standard e.g. configuration management in ISO20000 partially overlaps with Clauses 7.5.3 and 7.5.5 in ISO 9001.
Once these are identified, it is easier to construct the IMS.

5. [Question from Antonio Valle Salas!] Hello Lynda,
given your strong relationship with ISO 20000, what is your opinion about the recent presentation of the spanish standard UNE 71020 that enables an incremental model for the service management system certification? Do you think that this standard will earn the respect of the international community and maybe we will see a fast-track for an incremental ISO 20.000 certification?
I must admit that I had to go away and look up UNE 71020 so that was interesting for me. An incremental model of certification had been proposed at ISO level for ISO20000 a few years ago. It was rejected on the basis that ISO20000 was designed with an integrated process approach and just a few processes does not represent a full management system and all its benefits.
It will be interesting to see if the certification bodies are willing to offer a certification scheme against UNE 71020 and the take up of this standard. I will watch with interest.

An interview with Jan van Bon

August 14, 2013

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.

An interview with Antonio Valle Salas

June 27, 2013

This is the English translated version of Antonio Valle Salas interview. for the original in Spanish please go here.


Antonio Valle Salas

1. Tell us about your experience with TFT13

Being part of TFT conferences is an incredible experience. When I participated at the first edition, in 2012, it was exciting because it was the first time something like that was organized. In this second edition everything was more mature and the competition to get selected among the 24 speakers was harder. It is not only about the conference’s media repercussion (it has generated more than 10 million social impact by twitter reach), also the organization, the sharing channels and the topics are profoundly innovative. Someone said TFT is the TED of ITSM and I think they are right.

2. This process mining stuff looks like a potent way for understanding Santard + Case patterns. But, when we still dont have records how can we prepare for latter process mining?

Ten or twelve years ago, that was the main problem faced by those starting with early process mining investigation. Nowadays, practically all information systems track process execution.

Anyway, the minimum attributes a log must contain in order to use it with process mining tools are:

    • Case ID
    • Activity
    • Timestamp
    • Operator

I believe there is no ITSM tool lacking this kind of information, since it is needed to ensure traceability for the executed actions.
The real problem comes when our process traverses multiple information systems hence log consolidation in one format must be achieved from different platforms with distinct formats must happen (the most popular case is trying to track a process “Order to cash”, where there may participate multiple information systems).

3. The CAPEX and OPEX dynamic duo. Is it always better to invest in processes allowing operational cost reduction?

🙂 I see you’ve searched well and have uncovered a document that has been written quite a long time ago! That paper has been written from a class I gave at university and my aim was to explain what today is known as a “technical doubt”.

The truth is the appropriate thing to do is to look for a balance between the different expenditure types, because one reflects a short-term thinking while the other (operational cost reduction) reflects a long term thinking.

Still, I think this topic has changed a bit as time goes by and now it is not so much about CAPEX versus OPEX, which is a relevant financial classification, more it has become “what is the money spent in IT for“, regardless of having or not cost recovery; for instance, all the new *aaS wave means that money is OPEX, even if in reality it is extending business.

4. Is Lean useful for Service Management? Is it not bet ter suites for industry?

This is another hot topic, even more when taking in account the value added by Rob England with his S+C approach.

Tradicionally, Lean was seen as a tool set meant mostly to cost reduction by standardizing and error elimination (waste). But this is a simplistic view of Lean.

Actually Lean is a management strategy that strives for maximising value delivered to the customer, and for that uses different paths. One path is cost reduction but problem identification, root cause search, introducing a continual improvement culture and putting in place best practices are some of many available tools.

This way, the relation between S+C and Lean is meaningful because within Lean we can find ideas, methods and tools that help us with the Standard part (where we can attack problems like standardization, variability reduction, flow leveraging and stock reduction) but also we can find great help for the Case part, where we have tools like Kaizen or the A3 thinking to apply the scientific method to case solving.

 It has been born within industry and can not be directly applied to service delivery practices, it has to be understood and adapted, but I firmly believe it is a good path to pursuit.

5. How do you see the future of ITIL® Training now with the Joint Venture?

Independently of the JV, I think ITIL® has right now it’s future somehow at stake. Slowly (at least in Spain), what before was a distinctive factor now has turned into an utility: using Nicholas Carr words, ITIL® does not matter, it is something everyone has…. if you dont have it, you loose reputation or contracts. but having it does not make you win more contracts.

So, I think JV has hard work ahead. On one hand it must incite the existing communities in ITIL market so they get back that feeling back from ITIL® V2, on the other hand it has to win back those communities and finally it has to come up with an innovative and attractive product (possibly combining the multiple reference frameworks it has, like ISACA has done with COBIT5).

And the training? If they keep dealing with it like a consumer market without ensuring certifications are credible, then ITIL® training is dead.

6. What new trends in Service Management are most promising for you?

Right now I think some trends are just being born and we will see they will become important in the next three to five years:

  • Process Mining
  • IT Governance and Corporate Governance of IT
  • Risk based Service Management
  • DevOps (but that wont be its name… it will be called Agile Service Management or something similar)

7. We finally realise ITSM is about people. So does regional culture affect the way we do ITSM? Eg is there Mediterranean ITSM? [a question from Rob England to Antonio]

Oh! Great question!

Yes, of course… there is a Mediterranean way of life, and living includes executing processes. During my professional life, that’s the most important problem I’ve found while helping companies to promote a service management initiative; every time I’m told that “we are not in Germany, we are not used to follow strict procedures”, and may be this is why it is so difficult to make the wheel move.

It’s fun that this question comes from Mr. Rob England. When I was reading Plus! Standard+Case, it surprised me that sometimes it proposes the idea that “we must accept that there exist another part of the reality that corresponds to the Case side of the coin”. In these Mediterranean countries, what we must accept is that there exists another part of the reality that corresponds to Standard (!). Moving this to the Cynefin framework, that locates us somewhere between Chaotic and Complex.

An interview with Rob England

June 11, 2013

This is a first and I loved it. Rob England, the IT Skeptic kindly answered my questions around his latest and truly remarkable Plus! Standard + Case book.

[This post did not quite see the light in a DevOps fashion… Now I know that WordPress app publishes posts on the fly. Tomorrow I’ll release the drawing too.]

Rob England, A.K.A. The IT Skeptic

Rob England, A.K.A. The IT Skeptic

1. Tell me how you ended up with that cover photo of your new book Plus! Standard + Case.

It’s in the Appendix: splitting a rock neatly into two halves

I would like to present a case for you: the spine has no title or author, how on Earth will I find your book in my bookshelf?

fair question.  Printing-on-demand offers less control over the print quality. In particular it’s hard to accurately position the spine, especially on such thin books.   I’ll try to get it on there.
Locating it is easy: (a) you’ll have it always lying around to refer to or (b) it’s the only one in your bookshelf with a pale blue spine with nothing on it 🙂

2. What is Standard + Case and why do we need this approach?

S+C sees the world of response (responding to anything from IT incidents to car accidents) as two parts: the standard stuff we can train people to do in a repeatable manner, and the uncontrolled part which we have to handle each time uniquely.  Lots of our ITSM thinking pretends that the whole world is or should be standardised.  Especially there is a school of thought that IT can be treated like a manufacturing factory, with CMM, SixSigma, Lean and DevOps leading such thinking. I think that is only half the story.

3. Can you tell me a bit more on how continual improvement works within C+S?

“C+S” or “S+C”? because C+S is a special case of S+C – see page 27.
CSI for the Standard part of our world is well discussed and documented.  Not so much for the Case part.
By formalising Case response, we now have policy, methods, and resources which can all be systematically improved.   And we have measurement mechanisms to drive and assess that improvement.
We review individual Cases to capture learnings.  We use those learnings to make improvements.  We also use statistics, but less so than in the Standard world, because they are less meaningful when each case is unique.

4. What kind of metrics are relevant when dealing with cases? How should service levels really be agreed?

the most meaningful metrics are external ones: the measurement of inputs and outcomes:

  • costs and resource usage
  • customer sat
  • successful resolutions

5. What about certifying Case workers and using gamification?

There are no(?) certifications applicable to IT right now. Internal accreditation of case workers is very important however; we shouldn’t hand the badge to just anyone.   So we must devise our own schemes to recognise who deserves it.   And we always should.  An external certification will always only be part of the picture.
Gamification seems a good fit to such accreditation.  As responders acquire skills, experience and certifications, they “level up” until the top level: case worker.

6. You’ve been defending the Slow IT way to deal with ever faster pace of business. Looks great but how do we actually put it in practice?

That’s my next book 🙂 

7. Now that the word is out, what developments do you foresee for Standard + Case?

I’m hoping S+C gets absorbed into the mainstream thinking.  e.g I’d like to see the thinking become part of “ITIL 4”, whenever that happens.
I’d like to see DevOps, Lean etc make more acknowledgement that much of the world can’t be standardised or automated.
I hope the Case Management movement grows, and brings us bodies of knowledge and certifications.

You can buy the book here: Plus! Standard + Case book