Posts Tagged ‘itil’

Taking the ITIL Practitioner exam: Ins and outs

August 30, 2016

A post at AXELOS forums prompted me to write about my experience while taking the ITIL Practitioner exam. I am posting here based on my reply there.

I’ll write more generic stuff on taking the exam itself, then studying/preparing for it and finally some specifics. Disclaimer: It’s my personal view from my own experience. I tried hard not writing ambiguous stuff. My goal is to help you on getting the certification because you’re prepared for it šŸ™‚ So, adopt and adapt to YOUR way.

The exam is harder (in part because it is different in style and scope) than ITIL exams below ITIL Expert level. It combines relatively large topic coverage with template based questions and the specific scenarios (that you only get to read when you seat the exam) consume precious time. “It is what it is”, like it or not. So reserve the time to study (with more than one pass through all the content please) and have a good night rest the day before the exam.

The exam
– You need to know really well the ITIL Practitioner book and where topics are. I think it’s a good idea to use little post its to help find the chapters. Use theĀ Table of ContentsĀ and the word index at the end, it’s good and faster than your memory. It works. Some topics are touched in more than one place like stakeholder analysis or reporting (these are just examples; there’s naturally lots of cross-referencing between the main topics like OCM with communication for instance). So it’s more efficient wasting as little time as possible looking for context in the book.
– I find one or two questions really difficult to understand. So don’t dwell too much on those. Tough decision because of the way the exam is organized (specific scenarios give context and at least for me it was hard coming back to a different block without re-reading the scenario again). I establish a half-way goal (like half the questions at half time or a bit earlier for buffer). I tend to be faster and review as little as possible but this time I reviewed a lot! So, make the time for it.
– It takes time to read the specific scenario, the question, then think on the right answer and/or eliminate the wrong ones. So it’s not efficient jumping around the questions; it’s more effective doing them by specific scenario blocks of questions.

The study
– I recommend reading The whole ITIL Practitioner book inĀ one go first so you know what’s harder for you. Use different ways to review the content. For me it worked writing summaries, lists and – to a lesser extent than usual – mindmaps. Writing it down makes me notice patterns and think on it in a different way (good because my memory is bad šŸ˜‰ I’ve used as a rule of thumb the weight of the questions per main topic as a guidance on how long I’ve studied for each (I studied first the heavy ones – did not follow exactly the book sequence for deeper study.
– Study really well the Introduction of the book; most of the easier questions come from here (it’s really good and has new stuff there. I like the way the Service definition is deconstructed in value, outcome, cost and risk as a way of explaining what a service is), you can thank me after passing the exam for this one.
– Try the mock exams officially available, they do reflect the kind of questions in the real exam.
– Go beyond the questions available within the mock exams. Especially the ones using the templates at the end of the book (the Toolkit chapter). You will certainly have questions made on top of practical examplesĀ using thoseĀ templates.

Specific tips (please take them with salt; it’s my perception of my exam)
– For the measurement and metrics… The questions on this main topic used frequently templates from the appendix. So it’s good to review the specific templates and mock exam questions using templates.
– For CSI Approach you’ll have to be careful with outputs from each step (it really shows on the mock exam – I stress this again: study the mock exams),
– As for the Guiding principles, I suggest you take note whenever you find references of one or more of them on the other chapters; they do not show up always in a clear way in the book.
– Beware of the deceptive communication chapter. It’s quite easy to understand while reading it but I found the questions hard. That being said maybe it’s just the case this is the part I need to learn and practice the most šŸ˜‰ [I’ve been doing that by the way]

Hope this helps! In the end of the day, you’ll have to approach the ITIL Practitioner exam in a systematic way. Reserve the time, plan for it… and just do it.

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An Interview with Carlos Casanova

June 3, 2014

Carlos Casanova is a well-known expert on CMDB/CMS, born in SĆ£o Miguel,Ā AƧores, 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.

CarlosCasanova-interview_03-06-2014_RuiSoares-SomeRightsReserved

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. šŸ™‚

 

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 teamĀ 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 itSMFĀ 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 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?

Iā€™m glad you asked that! Iā€™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. Iā€™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. Iā€™ve heard people complain that we shouldnā€™t include service strategy concepts in ITIL foundation training because they arenā€™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 ā€œis a password reset an incident or a service requestā€, 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 canā€™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!] Ā If you were putting together a new service management program team, which celebritiesā€”living or pastā€”would you choose?

In general I think that celebrities would be a terrible idea for a service management team. We donā€™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 GoldrattĀ (if you havenā€™t heard of him then do some research)

Demand management and BRM:

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

Service operation processes:

Rob EnglandĀ (who else)

Change – Initial assessment checklist, anyone?

April 1, 2013

Cuff checklist, by nasa_appel @ Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Cuff checklist by nasa_appel @ Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Came up with this initial change assessment checklistĀ for early identification of potential issues that must be taken care of.

The sparkle was a detected tendency that somehow inflicts change analysts to disregard planning and risk analysis. I found this in a customer that relies heavily on aĀ subcontracted service provider for most of its service management activities.

As with all that has real value, it takes work and real thinking.Ā A checklist can be helpful as a kickstarter.

People

  • Does it need specific people in my organization?
  • Does it need specific expertise not available in my organization?
  • Is there a clear potential affected user list?
  • What training for end users will be needed?
  • What training for operational and administration level is required?
  • Does it need multiple teams effort?

Technology

  • Will it need specific resources (not people)?
  • Does it include technology never used within our organization?
  • Does it need additional testing, staging environments?
  • Does it need specific licensing?

Process

  • Is it dependent on other changes?
  • What is the scope of the change? Does it affect only one component or several?
  • Is it possible to fully test the change?
  • Is there a work-around available should things go wrong? If so does it need specific preparation and resources?

Business

  • Do we know what benefits it will bring?
  • Does it have a clear business deadline?
  • How critical are the affected services?
  • What is the duration and scope of possible service disruption?Ā Can the change be deployed within a scheduled maintenance window for services affected?
  • Are there any special circumstances regarding this change?

I am working on testing this set (or a smaller one) on a customer.

Interested in how much meaningful analysis can really be performed early on a change life cycle and what the payoff will be.

Business Service Orchestration

March 18, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonabuco/3150899866/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Maestrina, by Leo Nabuco @ Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

This paper shared by Jan is good read on service catalog and how one should look at it. For starters we should look from the point of view of the ones using it.

End users and business managers (customers) see and expect different – even if related – outcomes from IT services. As referenced in the paper, Joe Peppard distinguishes two types of value of IT services:

User utility – Which is defined as the benefit a user or community of users attaches to a particular service, based on the usefulness of the service to them in the performance of their jobs.

Organizational benefit – Which is based on the extent to which the service supports the organization in achieving its business objectives.

(more…)

Stakeholder – Advocate, blocker or Swiss?

February 27, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonz/4103667506/sizes/z/

Stake, by tonZ, Flickr, Some Rights Reserved

Stakeholder – A person with an interest or concern in something.

Stakeholder is someone with power and/or interest in what you are doing. Thus, a deliberate assessment of who’s who supports expectation management through careful communication.

I think you are a stakeholder on this, lets hammer this in three parts.

(more…)

What is the problem with problem management?

January 13, 2012

“Problems are only opportunities in work clothes”, Henri J. Kaiser

Problem solving is a very human specific capability that can be honed as time elapses. Most of us are great solvers yet have difficulties isolating what really is the problem. Lets look at the root cause for this and how organizations take it.

Roots by Eva the Weaver at Flickr - Some rights reserved

Roots by Eva the Weaver at Flickr - Some rights reserved

More context for problem management is in order. On Rob England’sĀ Review of recent ITIL studies paper, one of the studies analysed gives this quantitative information:

“problem management ā€“ a process that requiresĀ organizational maturity and commitment ā€“ is the ITIL process most firms are currently [2010] implementingĀ (24%) or planning to implement (24%). Furthermore, 43% currently follow ITIL problem management processes, reflecting a 91% adoption/soon-to-be-adopted rate among those surveyed.”

(more…)

On security for IT services

December 14, 2011

Security_by Loozilla_at_flickr

Security by Loopzilla at flickr - some rights reserved

[from:Ā http://www.flickr.com/photos/loopzilla/2073400408/]

How should one go about regarding security for IT services?

One can look at it taking in account the service lifecycle approach from ITIL and concentrate on the Design phase, when we can invest early in order to achieve that honorable goal of having the minimum (avoidable) surprises and rework when service finally goes live. In other words, reduce operational costs by designing services right.

Some ideas (in no particular order):

  1. Ensure external partners and suppliers that contribute to the services know and formally agree to their responsibilities (Underpinning Contracts)
  2. Also get internal groups/teams formally agree on their responsibilities (Operational Level Agreements)
  3. Changes to the services must include security impact assessment
  4. A procedure for receiving and acting on security vulnerabilities reported from vendors of components that support the service
  5. Include an explicit security section regarding security requisites in the initial analysis phase for new or changed services
  6. Link the security requisites to service level targets so the SLA covers them
  7. Check those requisites with customer when feasible (or at least with yourself if you’re a good candidate for using the service)
  8. Make sure security tests are covered in the test plan
  9. Then, while transitioning the service, perform the security tests
  10. Have experts trying to break your service from outside and inside
  11. Use the tools. There are technical tools and best practices you can apply thus avoiding reinventing the wheel or forgetting important checks
  12. If a security incident happens is it clear for everybody who must be involved and what to do?

Yes, some of these will happen in the Transition and Operation phases even though their planning occurs before.

Love to hear about more ideas!

ITIL v3 2011 edition: Official Glossary is out – a handy, free reference

September 9, 2011

InfiniteWisdom_by Ksionic_at_flickr

Infinite Wisdom by Ksioninc at Flickr – Some rights reserved

As before, this official Glossary is a quite useful and free reference on ITIL. You can get this on other languages hereĀ (on this post date the list included: Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, German, Korean, Romanian, Russian and Latin American Spanish).

ITIL v3 2011 edition Glossary Ā [English]

Brightalk’s ITIL “v4” (2011 edition) highlights

July 20, 2011

Took short notes on what Vernon Lloyd shared during Brightalk’s “ITIL v4? -What’s new? webinar

Service Strategy

  • Key concepts and diagram clarification
  • New two processes: Strategy Management and BRM (at last! Business Relationship Management existed on ISO/IEC 20000 and was missing on ITIL)

Service Design

  • New process: Design Coordination
  • Service Catalogue clarification

Service Transition/Operation

  • Little changes to Service Transition/Operation
  • Some workflows were corrected (e.g., incident management)
  • Proactive Problem management expanded

CSI

  • CSI Register: New concept, to register all CSI initiatives going on
  • 7-step improvement process changed
  • CSI/Deming cycle and Knowledge Mgmt links clarified
ITIL v3.1 - 2011 edition covers

ITIL v3.1 - 2011 edition covers

The ITIL v3, 2011 edition comes out next 29th of July.