Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Building your ITSM home

There have been a lot of rumblings in the IT Service Management world about the so called "demise" of ITIL. There are some fairly persistent and loud voices telling us that ITIL is wrong and we need to move right away from it and do things differently.

That is not at all what this is about. ITIL is a very valuable part of the toolkit we have to put best practice into our IT Services, it is not the only tool in the box, but it is one of the most effective, it represents tried and true ways of working from multiple "experts" in our industry. Walking away from it would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

What is wrong is treating ITIL as a step by step manual that you must follow to the letter. It is a framework, you construct it the way that suits your own business environment. ITIL is not wrong, the way it is utilised can be. Throwing the framework at the business and then saying your job is done is what gives ITSM a bad name and contributes to the huge percentage of ITSM initiatives that go belly-up after a very short timespan, often poisoning the business management against future ITSM improvement programmes.

We can give ITIL back its good name by using it as it was designed, as a framework that you adopt and adapt to suit the business environment you are working in. That is the only way you will reap the benefits that the framework promises to deliver.

We built a house a few years ago, before we put one spade in the ground we spent months planning, researching making sure we would get the result at the end that we were after. We visited multiple building companies, spent hours in showhomes, picking the features that we liked from each one and adding them our notebook of ideas, we spoke to people who had already built homes with each of the prospective construction companies to find out how everything had worked for them. This is what you need to do with the various best practice frameworks that are available, read the literature, talk to people who have used them, pick the parts of each one that work and form them into a cohesive plan that will work for your business...there is no one size fits all!

Don't plan to build the Palace of Versailles if all you need is a basic two-up, two-down! The massive ballroom with gold and crystal chandeliers that is your fully featured CMDB just might not be doable on your budget, nor may it be totally necessary...if you have some budget available you could lay the basic foundations, perhaps by ensuring that whatever tool you buy is capable of holding it in the future. We opted to spend extra money on the kitchen in our home because we love cooking and we have to eat, so we knew that we would be spending a lot of time there. Your kitchen is often the centre of the home,  I know that we both cook and entertain here - I see this as relating to the service catalogue area of ITSM as this forms a critical hub to hang your initiative on, without it the business does not know what you are providing and the IT team does not know what services it is supporting, to what level and when or where that support is available. Make sure that you get that right, there is nothing worse than a kitchen you cannot work in because you don't know where anything is!

Another area we spent a lot of time designing were the bathrooms, plumbing and hardware for bathrooms are costly, and not something you want to have to do again in a hurry. They are essential for the health of the household...if you can't get hot water through, or if the toilets don't flush, you are in real trouble. Getting your incident and/or request fulfilment management working efficiently could be seen the same way, if they are not effective then the health of the business is at risk. Time and money need to be invested in these critical basic processes.

Once we knew what we wanted to build we needed to get the budget. It would have been totally pointless to embark on the project at all if we did not have the funds to completely finish it. A house that was 75% complete would still not have been liveable, and would gradually have decayed, essentially wasting all the money and time that had gone into the project from the beginning. So go out and get the budget for your initiative and don't waste time half starting things until you have that commitment, without it you are doomed to failure in the long term.

One of the longest parts of the building process was setting the foundations. As a result of those good strong foundations, this house is not going anywhere, dozens of cement trucks rolled up our driveway along with tons of reinforcing steel. There is more cement underground and invisible than there is in parts you see above ground. The foundations of your ITSM improvement programme are much the same, you don't get to see any evidence of their presence, but if they are not there your initiative will fail at the first tremor.

Getting your foundations right includes such things as getting your management firmly behind the initiative, making sure that you are all speaking the same language - my personal favourite for making sure everyone understands what you are doing and what you are hoping to achieve is to undertake a simulation game, something like the Apollo 13 game from GamingWorks. Make sure that there is nothing that is undermining your foundations, you need to build a team that is dedicated to making this work and one bad apple can spread through the whole barrel. Use some organisational change principles, such as the Balanced Diversity approach described by Karen Ferris, to make certain that your changes will stick in the organisation.

So you are ready to start building your structure, this is exciting - every day I looked out at our building site and saw the evidence that things were progressing, the walls went up, the roof went on, but the house was still not liveable even though we had expended around half our budget. The exterior cladding and brickwork went on and the windows were placed...now it could provide some shelter from the elements, but without power, lighting, interior walls and the rest, it would not have been very comfortable or inviting. We were starting to see positive results from our investment, but there was still a very long way to go.

It took us a full year from start to finish before we had a home that we could move into, and I would expect that your ITSM initiative will take at least that amount of time before it shows any of the results that the business is expecting, you will see improvements along the way that you can use to demonstrate that you are succeeding and that real business benefits are being achieved. Make sure you grab at the low hanging fruit so that you can prove the value of the improvements, the business can be impatient and you need to keep them engaged by offering them constant proof that you are providing value and a good return on their investment.

We moved into our house 4 years ago come Christmas, that didn't mean that our project was complete, it will never be finished! Each year I replant the annuals in the garden, maybe change the colour scheme of the plantings as I go. I am always on the lookout for bits and pieces to enhance the decor. When we built, we included the basics of a room that would house our home cinema and that remained empty for a couple of years...once we had the rest of the house up and running the way we wanted, we invested in media equipment to provide a fantastic theatre experience. We still have another basic structure there waiting to be fitted out as a home gym, and that will come with time. In a few years we will need to repaint, the drive will need resealing. There is a constant cycle of improvements going on, which I never expect to stop.

When you pick the rooms that you need in your ITSM house, concentrate on those that you need to live, get those working the way the business needs them to and ensure that they are delivering the value that you promised the business they would. Then start finishing off the other rooms, decorate them, add new features, all the while ensuring that you keep the basics up and running and constantly improving. Sometimes it feels like you are spinning plates, just make sure you only keep adding new ones to the level that you can keep them all spinning.


  1. I’m a new reader and have been very impressed with your recent post and thought to drop a friendly note. It is really great information related to it services management. Waiting for more posts, is there a way to subscribe to your blog via email?

  2. Thanks for your kind comments Jammy, pretty new to this myself and I actually haven't looked at the subscription options on blogger, but I believe you can subscribe using the RSS feeds on the right-hand side of the screen. I am loving writing the blog and there is definitely more to come! 19 completed entries right now and three unpublished drafts :o) If you have problems subscribing using the RSS option, let me know...I always publish to twitter and Google+so if you follow me on either of those forums you will see when new entries are published.