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Digital Transformation - What Is It?

Customers are empowered and connected. To stay relevant many organizations are asking “how can we evolve with the digital era?” To lead the change, we must understand it. 
It is likely that in the next one to five years your organization will focus on digital transformation in three or more of these areas:
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
Defined as the study of "intelligent agents" on any device that perceives or learns its environment and takes actions toward success at a specified goal.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT refers to the connection of devices (other than typical computers and smartphones) to the Internet. Today things like cars, kitchen appliances, and even heart monitors can all be connected through the IoT. Who would have known that we might need to add items such as drones to an asset registery and learn how to manage them? And as the IoT grows in the next few years, more devices are and will continue to join that list. (Editor's Note - Int…

Why I Love Teaching ITIL Foundation

I have been instructing ITIL classes now for almost ten years and wow have things changed in our industry over those ten years.  Many new tools, concepts and practices have been introduced along the way.  Yet somehow, I still get excited about teaching ITIL Foundation even after presenting it a few hundred times.  The material has changed somewhat, my presentation techniques have gotten better and my jokes and stories still seem to be timeless, kind of like me (Lol).
I guess part of what is amazing to me, is the fact that there are still many people out there in the world of ITSM that have not been formally introduced to ITIL best practices but yet participate in them.  So I take very seriously the responsibility to not only educate the learners, but hopefully to inspire and excite them to really want to utilize these practices in their everyday activities;  to see the value in these practices and not view them as just something else they must do. Given the number of times that I hav…

ITIL – Back to Basics for Agile and DevOps

ITIL advocates that IT services are aligned to the needs of the business and support its core processes. It provides guidance to organizations and individuals on how to use IT Service Management (ITSM) ­­­as a tool to facilitate business change, transformation and growth. Some are believing that ITIL has run its course.  In truth I believe the opposite is true.   In the past, and still today, many organizations believe that Best Practice and ITSM processes are focused on the Service Operation Lifecycle.   Implementation, process design, and ITSM tools have had a very heavy focus on processes like Incident, Problem, Change and Configuration Management. Few have yet to recognize or have not seen the value in the guidance for Service Strategy and Service Design processes and roles.   How did these get overlooked? In the last three or so years I have seen a bit more buzz about “Business Relationship Management”.   Less so for “Demand” and “Strategy Management” for IT Services. Few are inte…

ITIL Practitioner - Components of a Service

At the core of ITSM is the idea of delivering services to customers, how these services will be engaged to deliver some form of value to the customer and the customer’s organization, and the value captured by the service provider.  For this to be accomplished we must first understand the key elements of an IT service and how, as a service provider, we deliver the correct set of services effectively and efficiently. 
 “A service is a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks”.  This allows the customer to create the desired business outcome without having to invest in specialized tools or skills.  By linking activities performed by the service provider to the desired business outcomes the provider can be seen as contributing value, not just as a cost to the business.
The value of a service is derived from what it enables someone to accomplish or what outcomes it enables them to realize.  Th…

Continual Service Improvement (CSI) and Survival

The systems, the processes, and the culture that worked for IT service providers 20 years ago will not work in today’s environment.  No big news here!  Most IT support staff will agree. The truth is that the same could be said for systems or methods that service providers used five years ago or even last year.  The dynamic and rapid change of business requirements demands that a service provider be dynamic and continuously adapt to evolving business needs and outcomes.
When you get into your car and turn the key or push the start button, most would expect that the car is going to start.  You might also expect that it has wheels, an engine, and all the elements necessary to drive this car, right?   This is the same expectation that a business operation expects.  When a service is provided the business expects that service is going to have all the working elements to ensure that it does what they need. The customer expects that the service is available and secure for day to day operati…

Measuring Goals for DevOps Test Succcess

Each organization will have to define what their quality goals are for integrated testing based on the business and customer requirements for speed and outcomes.  The fact is that these goals must be quantified or in other words measurable. If you are not measuring your testing activities in alignment with the strategic goals then success becomes subjective and it will be very difficult to show value for your effort.
Some examples of measurements might be in the form of Run-To-Plan and Pass-To-Plan. Run-To-Plan (RTP) is the number of the total planned tests that have completed and typical goals are to have 95% RTPPass-TopPlan is the number of tests that have passed and a typical goal for this metric is to have a 90% PTP The criteria for determining when testing is complete is agreed by all stakeholders.   It will be impossible to have all stakeholders on the sprint team, but certainly input and validation from key stakeholders will have to be included before acceptance of the test res…

Changing Culture to Become Agile Based

Success in modern technical endeavors absolutely requires multiple perspectives and expertise to collaborate. (1)  When I ask managers attending my classes if their organizations practice ‘agile’ they hesitate and say something like we kind of do but not in all areas of the organization. Further questioning usually uncovers that most of this agility starts and ends with the software development teams. When asked if these practices have been introduced to the business units there is a long uncomfortable pause, and then I hear 'we don’t usually talk to those groups'.

Over the last couple of decades, a new set of major management philosophies have been developed and are now being adopted to ITSM. These new ways of thinking enabled manufacturing, software development and others to analytically realize both disciplined execution and continuous innovation, something that was thought to be mutually exclusive and impossible to accomplish with traditional management methods. Over the …

Agile Change Management

I always hear people say ‘Don’t like the weather, wait an hour it will change’.  The one constant in our lives is change. In business today, customers, users and stakeholders all have the expectation that as IT service providers we can and should be able to handle change requests at an ever-increasing pace.  Yet they still have the expectation that an appropriate response to all requests for change entails a considered approach to assessment of risk and business continuity, change impact, resource requirements, change authorization and especially to the realizable business benefit. For us to be able to do change management in an Agile environment, does that mean we must give up those requirements for speed and agility?
The purpose of Change Management is to control the life cycle of all changes enabling beneficial changes to be made.  I was once told by a very wise thought leader ‘Being agile is a state of mind.  It’s more perspective than prescription.’  Why can’t we have a change man…

Service Offerings and Agreements

When we think about what services we are going to offer we immediately think of the Service Catalog.  We must also consider what agreements go along with the delivery of those services.  What levels of utility and warranty are going to be expected over the life of our services?   What about services that will be supplied by external service providers; who is going to manage those?  Let’s take a look at which ITSM processes we will need to engage to ensure that we are able to strategize, design, deliver and maintain services that will meet our customers’ needs over the lifetime of the services.
In Service Offerings and Agreements (SOA), we look at Service Portfolio Management (SPM), Financial Management (FM), Demand Management (DM) and Business Relationship Management (BRM).  These are all processes within the Strategy stage of the Lifecycle.  We also explore Service Catalog Management (SCM), Service Level Management (SLM) and Supplier Management (SM) processes within the Design stage o…

CSI and the Communication Plan

Timely and effective communication forms a critical part of any service improvement project. To transform an organization and move people and process from just thinking about Continual Service Improvement (CSI) activities to actually allotting time to be able to performing CSI activities, it is critical that all stakeholders are informed of all changes to the processes, activities, roles and responsibilities. The goal of the communications plan is to build and maintain awareness, understanding, enthusiasm and support among all stakeholders for the CSI initiative. A communication plan is much more than just sending out one notification on what is about to happen and should be a series of notifications and meetings to keep people engaged, informed and passionate while incorporating the ability to deal with responses and feedback from the targeted audience.
First, we must design how we will communicate and then we must define what and to whom we will communicate.
The plan must contain: What…

The State of ITSM: One Company’s Assessment!

Here is an article I thought you might find interesting.  It was first published in itSMF USA's Source EJournal, April 2017.  
The State of ITSM: One Company’s Assessment! By Keith D. Sutherland and Lawrence J. “Butch” Sheets
Educators and consultants operating in the formal practice of IT service management (ITSM) have largely been doing so since the mid-90s. Even though the best, codified practices of the IT service management framework, ITIL®, is now just over 30 years old, there remains a large number of organizations still in initial adoption of ITIL. 
And of those service providers with longer histories of using ITIL, many still have a significant need to increase maturity, or more fully implement their ITIL practice. The need in these companies for structured education, assessments, and roadmaps still abounds, even while multiple approaches for these practices are available for each. Beyond ITIL (and in many cases, alongside), are the many other evolving and emerging options of…

Agile Best Practices in the Incident/Problem/Change Cycle of ITIL

ITIL is not in conflict with DevOps, ITIL supports DevOps with a solid foundation by providing an up to date an accurate configuration of our IT infrastructure. This, in turn, supports the ability to accurately carry out the detection of issues and underlying problems and deliver collaborative, permanent solutions to operational deviations. Further, it engages the Second Way by “shortening and amplifying the feedback loop” to development.  Historically mostIT organizations structure their incident, problem and change processes within a very confined view, typically utilizing these processes from an operational perspective and only marginally engaging them at the design stage of the lifecycle.   ITIL should and can be adapted to DevOps practices to proactively define when incidents and problems arise while still in the design phase of the lifecycle.  This means engaging both software development and infrastructure design in a way that allows us to capture these deviations proactively a…

Process Practitioner Examples – Roles and Responsibilities Revisited

Assigning clearly defined roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of every process. These roles need to be defined early and reviewed periodically to ensure proper training, communication and education.  A process without clearly defined roles will fail at some level.  
There is a very clear distinction in the activities or the roles that are played out by individuals in your organization.  You should determine and communicate who is accountable and who is responsible for the process activities.  A role is like a hat.  One individual could wear two or more hats.  Watch out for titles.  You might have a title such as Service Transition Manager.  What role(s) would this individual fulfill? It all depends on WHO is best suited for the role or task that needs to be performed when it comes to assigning roles. The Service Transition Manager could be accountable or OWN the “Release and Deployment” process but might also be a practitioner and be responsible to perform tasks in o…

Agile Service Manager

What is an Agile Service Manager? The following is a definition from the University of California Santa Cruz for an IT Service Manager. “The Service Manager has overall accountability for defining the service, ensuring services meet the business need and are delivered in accordance with agreed business requirements and managing the service lifecycle – often in conjunction with a Service Team”. I also looked up some jobs offerings from around the globe that were described as Agile Service Management and took some pieces from them.  Here are a couple of examples: Has responsibility for defining and creating the global service, developing the reliability and performance of the services in line with the business requirements, and managing the overall service lifecycle within an agile environment. This includes stability, performance, capability, risk acceptance and analysis of the services.Developing a deep understanding of what is important to the service, you will be prioritizing and dri…

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) – An extension of Test-Driven Development (TDD)

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is a process or best practice for the development (and testing) of code. Behavior-driven development is a design and testing practice that is utilized to ensure that the outcomes and the behaviors of products and services are articulated in terms of business value.  It means that we should step aside from the technical aspects of coding, development and testing and consider, in real everyday terms, what the behavior and usage aspects are of the application or product.   We will still require technical skills, insights, automation and more, but when thinking about the defining and development of a product, business and service providers can articulate in PLAIN ENGLISH exactly what they are attempting to achieve. BDD helps design and development practitioners scope appropriate testing for a variety of test types including: Unit tests: A single piece of code (usually an object or a function) is tested, isolated from other piecesIntegration tests: Multiple …

Network Neutrality – Heads Up!

Network Neutrality preserves your right to communicate freely online. The term Network Neutrality was coined in 2003 by a Columbia University media law professor named Tim Wu.  Back in the day it was referred to as “Open”.  Network Neutrality is a principle where internet service providers and government regulators must treat all data on the Internet the same.  This means that you cannot discriminate or have differential charging and costs based on user, based on content, website, platform, application, equipment type, or mode of communication.
It’s because of Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive online.  Our fair and level playing field is at risk.  Big phone and cable companies and their lobbyists filed suit against the FCC guiding principles for Network Neutrality.  Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) have much to gain financially if they can discriminately charge for varied services that are currently free.  Free Press jumped in and helped …

Service Offerings - Activities for Service Portfolio Management

Service Portfolio Management (SPM) is a process that is defined by ITIL best practices in the Service Strategy Lifecycle Stage.  The initiation of activities for Service Portfolio Management is often a result of changes to strategic plans or the identification of a service improvement plan and are triggered by a proposal that must have executive approval to proceed. For existing services, Service Portfolio Management considers investments that have already been made along with new investments required.  The combined may result in the service being too expensive for what the business will achieve.  Investment decisions will need to be made.  There are many possible procedures and workflows to fulfill all the details of this process but overall the activities can be clearly understood with four high level process activities.
Define – In this stage of the process SPM must document and understand existing and new services.  Every proposal for a new or changed service must be accompanied by…

Work Holistically

ITSM best practice frequently suggests working holistically.   This is particularly true when defining a strategy and architecting a design solution but when you think about it, this holistic viewpoint should permeate every investment, improvement, and action in the entire value stream from thought to end of life for every service or product deployed.
At a high-level thinking holistically involves looking at things from a people process technology perspective but cannot leave out our partners and suppliers.  No service, process, or functional team stands alone.   Changing one element of a complex system will impact others.  This is a real challenge because no one team can know everything about all aspects of the system.  Therefore, working holistically requires a balance between specialization (functions and departments) and the coordination of complex integrated process activities.  It is only then do we get a clear picture of the lifecycle of a service and any hope of managing it eff…