The Skeptical Informer, August 2010, Volume 4, No. 3
The newsletter of the IT Skeptic. All the IT skeptical news that is fit to print... and then some!
Working in ITILIn my working life too it's all about ITIL. ITSM actually, but "ITSM" draws blank looks where "ITIL" doesn't. I'd love to get on to governance and assurance, but when the service basics aren't there it's hard to move on. My recent comment on the blog:
"mapping Business communities to interfaces to application tiers, to infrastructure" "QA has them for testing priority and DR has them for priority restore" Oooh I wanna work where you work. Actually no I don't: there is a much much bigger constituency who regard what you just said in the same way i do - as a medieval peasant would have regarded descriptions of London: a wondrous place that I'd love to see one day. I'd be happy if all my clients had DR plans and QA in any form, let alone ones that mention services. As another analogy, I feel like a social worker dealing with kids in a slum tenement who reads about a Manhattan counselor straightening out rich kids suffering from Excess Toys Syndrome. Sorry but my work is here with my clients.We get a very distorted view of the world from what we consume. Websites, blogs, forums, twitter, vendor and analyst crap... they are all talking about sites that already have some interest and activity around ITSM. We lose sight of the fact that many don't. I've complained for a long time that the "boffins" of ITSM only get to talk to the Fortune 1000 who can afford to talk to them, and a few others passionate enough about ITSM to seek them out. It is a biased sample. But even the chatter of the broader ITSM community is biased too: if a site knows nothing and cares not at all and does absolutely nothing about ITSM, they are unlikely to be represented in the ITSM community in any way. But they are out there in their hundreds of thousands. Ian Clayton said recently "Why are we still demystifying ITIL 22 years on...?" Because most of the IT world still hasn't got past being vaguely aware of ITIL... let alone the business management world. Client after client I deal with has ITSM that can only be described as primitive. Those I chatter with are talking about water-conserving shower-heads and desalination plants and I'm working on getting clean running water. I like to think this doesn't reflect badly on New Zealand. We may not be in the top 10 richest countries any more but we aren't Third World (except our broadband access). Kiwis embrace change and innovation. I'm confident this is a worldwide state of affairs. There are huge numbers of organisations crying out for better ITSM. They have a helpdesk they've renamed the Service Desk though they still just "bag and tag" anything that the simplest script won't fix and they don't own tickets from open to close. They have formal incident process that nobody remembers or follows, there are no OLAs. The service catalogue either doesn't exist or lies forgotten. When it exists it is a software list. Even projects aren't managed as a portfolio, let alone services. There are basic config spreadsheets, and change approvals that get steamrolled by senior management. The wrong people attend the CAB and the right ones are "too busy". Testing is not done at a service level and production readiness (service design) is poor. Capacity and Continuity are primitive. Servers are monitored, services aren't. There are no Problem, Availability or SLM processes. Service level reports are a chart of happy- and sad-faces done manually by the Service Desk Manager, usually late but customers don't believe them anyway. SLAs are defunct, irrelevant or non-existent. Sound like anyone you know? If not, you need to get out more. Before we get too much in a tizzy about oily beaches or runoff in rivers or whether to fluoridate we should remember that a child dies somewhere in the world every few minutes from preventable diarrhea and half of Pakistan is under four feet of murky brown gunk. And so it is with ITSM. We have a long way to go simply to get the basics to everyone who needs them.
ITIL FundamentalsWe also have a ways to go to get a common understanding of some fundamentals of ITSM. Take the debate over whether a service catalogue can catalogue anything more than the services provided to the customer. It bowls me over that anyone can think otherwise but a majority of my readers seemingly do. They're wrong - I'm sure of it. And if I read one more time that CMDB is the heart of ITIL or ITSM I'm gonna scream. Or the HUGE debate on the blog over whether applications are services and whether the Applications group leads the customer relationship. In the changing world of IT there are two groups who are sinking from the limelight and becoming increasingly more tactical and less strategic: applications developers and infrastructure technicians. And they don't like it. Something else that staggered me is that there seems to be no framework for IT policy. I know I mentione dit in the last newsletter, but on the subject of fundamentals I want to revisit it. ITIL bangs on about it with 44 separate strategies and policies that it scatters through the books like punctuation (thank-you Aale Roos for compiling a list of them). But I can find nothing that gives us a comprehensive list of necessary policies, let alone describes what a policy structure looks like and what the priorities are. There seems to be no systematic authoritative way to answer the following questions:
- What policy applies to this situation? What policy applies to my role?
- Are our IT policies complete? sufficient?
- What is the maturity of our organisation's set of policies?
- Does each audience (users, operators, customers, managers...) have a complete set of policies? Which audiences are not covered?
- What is the hierarchy/structure of policies? how do they inter-relate?
- If we have gaps, how do I prioritise addressing those gaps? What is most important?
Basic Service ManagementIn that light, it seems ironic that my latest book is focused on promoting service management as a generic business discipline when we still haven't got our IT act together, but at least it is focused on the basics. Basic Service Management is a 50-page introduction to SM for business people everywhere. It is in early review now, to be published before Christmas (this Christmas). It is what Service Management for Dummies should have been: they tried to take the authors out of IT but they couldn't take the IT out of the authors. And it is what USMBOK needs to complement it. That 450-page doorstop is a definitive masterwork but it is hardly accessible to beginners. So I think I'm hitting a sweet spot just as awareness of the value of SM begins to grow outside of IT. For all my gloomy remarks, there are successful ITSM operations within IT departments and they are being noticed by the rest of their organisation, who look to them as centres of excellence. ITSM has proven value whatever Stevie Chambers may say. Calling the book "BSM" may annoy a few people who need annoying too :)
Goings on up at Castle ITILNow, to scuttlebutt. OGC took a drubbing from the Office of Public Sector Information in the UK, after Van Haren Publishing complained about anti-competitive practices between OGC and TSO. The resulting report confirmed that ITIL is a commercial product. ComputerWorld went further than that and interpreted it as saying that OGC have no remit to work on ITIL. That's not quite true: OGC have a remit alright to contribute to better practices. in order to wriggle out of their obligations to contribute to the public good and hence to protect their commercial arrangements around ITIL, they played weasel word games with the literal definition of what they do to suggest that it doesn't cover service management. This was so patently a cop-out that the OPSI's frustration and irritation is evident in the wording of the report. Personally I'm shocked that public servants can get away with this - servants who are amongst the highest paid in the British government. There is a veiled threat in the report that they won't continue to get away with it when an audit comes at the end of the year. In addition OGC have a new boss and new masters so we shall see what that brings. I wonder if the weird sudden republishing of the Official Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle merely to remove the word "offical" from the title was actually a panicked response by OGC to the OPSI report. I say panicked because it was misplaced: that book is the only book NOT a valid target of the OPSI's criticsm of the mis-use of the word "official", whilst TSO continue to plaster "official" all over books like ITIL Lite to pump sales of their own copyright commercial products. On another note, common sense has finally won out within APMG and the criteria for the OGC ITIL Product Compliance Scheme [Oh for something snappy like say "ITILVerify"] are finally published. The very idea that the criteria could have been secret was the most pompous bit of British nonsense since ...[insert myriad examples here]... It is unsurprising that there was an attempt to keep them secret since my brief perusal suggests they are pretty basic. Something that isn't secret but sure isn't talked about is that vendors only have to meet 70% of the criteria (unlike PinkVerify which has more criteria and requires 100%). In fact I reckon a blind three-legged dog with a spreadsheet could pass the OGC test: something I plan to try out when I get the time but my dog got wind of it and went into hiding. The Scheme is an even more debased worthless certification than the ITIL Foundation exam, which is saying something. Speaking of which, the industry dragged the standards even lower by upping the teacher:trainee ratio to 1:18. I got disagreement from folk whose opinion I respect, but I'm holding my line on this: one person can't teach 18 adults under pressure in a few days. You can pedagogically lecture, you can preach, but you can't ensure they learned, and that's what I call teaching. Adult training has nothing to do with university lecturing so please don't give me that comparison. Universities have tutors running supplementary tutorials, students do extensive assignments and form study groups, and lecturers spend years getting the principles across. This move is just further commoditisation of the product for higher profit at the expense of the customer. Meanwhile the itSMF ructions continue, with the sudden exit of the itSMF UK CEO, Keith Aldis. Keith and one of the International Board had a small falling out, but I think this is also representative of the broader power struggle between the old school UK faction and the interests of the broader International itSMF. I had a hilarious email exchange when it was suggested to me that the itSMFUK's Service Talk was all the magazine itSMF needs internationally and the new newsletter is redundant. Allow me to share my response:
Gosh, sorry to be parochial. And thanks for the link - first time I've seen it. [That edition. I have been sent links to other editions occasionally by friends] But I can't help noticing that it has a column by someone called Barry Corless who apparently is the Chair of itSMF. Funny i thought that was David Cannon. there's a lovely two-page spread about a conference in London. How about the conferences in Melbourne, Helsinki, Nashville and Bangkok? there's two pages on IOSM too, but no mention of ICSM or PRISM? Surely the rollout and progress of PRISM is big news worldwide? perhaps the most exciting news was Nottinghamshire County Council's adoption of Hornbill. The international ramifications are immense. I wasn't so excited by the discussion of the UK's Energy Efficiency legislation. perhaps you'd be interested in an article on the impact of NZ's new labour laws on call centres? I tried to call a few of the phone numbers in the ads but just got error tones. I guess they need the UK country code first eh? Yup, sorry to be parochial.
FinallyI blogged about the bulls**t that goes on selling "digital abstractions" and how glad I am to be out of that and doing something - I think - of value. I've turned down several lucrative offers to go back to sales, and with a new mortgage and a son in private school the pressure has been pretty intense. But I'm not doing it. The photos in this edition are of night-fishing with my son at Mana (if you haven't tried Google Earth you need to). If you are in the digital sales world, read the post and get a life. And before I get abusive emails, I know there are good people in software or consulting sales who only want the best for their clients and who tell it like it is. I've met some of them. I like to think I sometimes was one. I also think many of you need to step back with a pure heart and consider the culture you have absorbed from your employer and peers. There's a bumper edition for you to make up for so long away. Thanks for reading this far. It was hard choosing the articles to feature after four months' gap. I think there is plenty here for everyone. Enjoy. P.S. I have to resist the habit of spelling ITIL as "#ITIL": I've been doing much too much twittering, with the 5000th tweet coming up any day now. I'm @theitskeptic if you'd like to follow. P.P.S. Four years and going strong! If you use Facebook please show the support by Liking the blog: P.P.P.S As it says in the footer at the bottom, please forward this newsletter to all who you think might enjoy it and encourage them to subscribe. I'm happy to share these exclusive insights into the ITSM world. Dear reader, I am resending this newsletter because a number of them arrived with missing text. The paranoid interpretation is that the dark agents of Castle ITIL Black Ops hacked my server. The less paranoid interpretation is that technology is out to get me. No wait... that's not less paranoid. Nevertheless,
I didn't read The CMDB Imperative (that's the second time I started a review with that idea). I didn't read it because (a) you've got to be pretty keen on CMDBs to stick with the dry content (although the authors do as good as anyone could to make it palatable) and (b) because I fundamentally disagree with it, which dragged me down after a while. I got to about page 180 and then...
The IT Skeptic was pretty scathing of Malcolm Fry's first ITIL V3 Complementary Publication, Building an ITIL-Based Service Management Department. Personally I wouldn't buy it (again). Malcolm's second "official" V3 book ITIL Lite is different. It is worth buying just for Chapter 2: "a simple but effective approach to ITIL process engineering". I got several great ideas from it and the overall methodology is a good one. But ITIL Lite has several fundamental assumptions that many will disagree with. These assumptions will mislead an already confused user community, and I think they spoil the rest of the book.
According to figures from the ACM a 10% reduction in both server power and cooling in all datacentres in the USA would amount to a 0.04% change in total US energy consumption. Wow! So reduce power to save money, or to make yourself feel better, but don't tell me it's about reducing footprint. Especially not if you drive a SUV, live in air-conditioned and/or heated comfort, eat meat, fly, or use anything plastic or electronic. Green IT is marketing, pure and simple. Cynical branding such as KyotoCooling just makes me ill. It is in the same league as people who think they do their bit for a better world for their children by sorting the recyclables in their garbage. Or who bang on about reducing paper usage at work while they wear cotton clothing.
Some time ago I purchased the official OGC ITIL book Building an ITIL-Based Service Management Department but I have not got around to reviewing it until now. Part of my slowness stems from my disappointment with the book, and partly I was holding off to see what others thought. I hold Malcolm Fry in high regard: I expected much better and I wondered if maybe I had missed something. Apparently not.
Peter Kretzman is an active member of my Twitterati circle who I follow. Recently he blogged about a Gartner interview that I had already read. Peter got considerably more upset by it than I did ("an abandonment of common long-standing lessons in IT"), so I re-read it. I'm no more disturbed by it on second reading. The CIO is a business-facing role. Delivery doesn't matter... to the CIO.
Having finally had time to read the June itSMF International Board Talk [corrected URL], I must say it is good to see the International Executive Board (IEB) continue to pursue transparency and governance. Perhaps itSMF can climb out of the hole it finds itself in. It remains to be seen whether the results will match the rhetoric, but so far so good. There is one area where I take a differing view: the IEB's attitude to providing services to emerging chapters.
A funny thing happened on the way to the conference... Those interested in emerging trends and themes of ITSM should check out my posts over at the Pink Elephant Conference Blog, regarding why the conference name was changed from IT Service Management to IT Management, and what I think are the four strong emergent themes of IT Management for 2010/2011. Let's get some discussion going over them...
This is a little something for all those who have registered for the IT Skeptic website. If you are not logged in you can't read it. Sorry.
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When a train rolls by, the guys on shovels and brooms, track gangs, crews on the ground, crews on other trains, clerks, station-masters, everyone stops and watches the train and waves to the crew on board. Lazy? Hell no.
Long ago we used to follow the one true Codd, and data normalisation mattered. Now middleware, messaging, MapReduce and Twitter seem to have blown that idea away. Charles Betz may not agree but it seems to me data modelling is in retreat. Certainly it amazes me that a framework like ITIL can gain such ascendancy without even a token effort at a data model. (Personally i think that is just pandering to the vendors with existing products who would all end up with a non-complaint model). As a result I think some obvious entities are missed out, and one of those is the Interruption.
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