Change Management – Surviving Implementation

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The super power of a change manager is an “invisible shield”, just like Violet from The Incredibles

One of the things I’m getting asked about most this year is about getting the basics right – how to actually do change management in the real world. We all know that having good processes in place protect us all, ensures we meet regulatory guidelines and are generally just common sense, but what about using them so that we can build a better, stronger IT organisation? In this article, I’m going to talk about getting started and surviving the implementation phase. I’ll then follow it up with another article on how to actually run your change management process.

Let’s start from the beginning. change management sits in the transition stage of the service lifecycle. ITIL states that the objective of change management is “to ensure that changes are recorded, evaluated, authorised, prioritised, planned, tested, implemented, documented and reviewed in a controlled manner. In a nutshell, change management is about putting things in, moving things round or taking them out, and doing it safely and without setting anything on fire.

When describing the change process, I call change managers the guardians or protectors of our network. They ensure all changes are sanity checked, tested, reviewed, approved and scheduled at a sensible time. Their super power is an invisible shield (like Violet in “The Incredibles”) that protects the rest of the organisation from the adverse impact of change.

Getting started: Common Excuses and Ways Around Them

Change management is an incredibly important process because it enables you to manage, control and protect your live environment. Since the credit crunch, I’ve had more and more people coming to me saying that their change departments would either have to endure massive cut backs or stop improvement works. Here are some of the most common excuses I’ve come across for this along with some possible ways around them.

Excuse number 1: “We don’t have the time”. Ok, what about all the time wasted dealing with the impact of failed or unmanaged changes, firefighting incidents and dealing with the big angry mob camped outside the IT department waiting to lynch us for yet another mistake? Let’s be sensible, having a strong change process in place will lead to massive efficiency savings and the use of standard changes, models and templates will make the work involved repeatable.

Excuse number 2: “We don’t have the resources”. What about all the time spent going cap in hand to the rest of the business explaining why a key service was unceremoniously taken out by a badly executed change? Spin doctoring a major incident report that has to go out to external customers? I’d argue that you’re wasting resources constantly firefighting and if you’re not careful it will lead to stressed out departments and key individuals burning out from the stress of trying to keep it all together. Instead of wasting resources and talent – why not put it to good use and start getting proactive?

Excuse number 3: “We don’t have the money”. What about all the money spent on service credits or fines to disgruntled customers? Then there’s the less tangible side of cost. Reputational damage, being front-page news, and being universally slated across social media – not nice and definitely not nice having to deal with the fall out. Finally, what about compliance and regulatory concerns? Failing an audit could be the difference between staying profitable or losing a key customer.

Excuse number 4: “We can’t afford expensive consultants”. Ok, hands up. I used to be a consultant. I used to work for Pink Elephant UK and for anyone out there looking for an amazing consulting / training company then go with Pink – they rock. That aside, if you can’t afford outside help in the form of consultancy, you still have lots of options. Firstly, you have the itSMF. Again, I’m biased here because I’ve been a member, as well as a speaker for, and chair of, various sub groups and committees, all in an attempt to champion the needs of the IT service management community. Here’s the thing though, it’s useful war stories, articles, white papers and templates written by the members for the members. There’s also ISACA which focus more on the governance and COBIT side of things. There’s the Back2ITSM movement – lots of fantastic help support and information here. There’s the ITSM Review and blog sites from the likes of The IT Skeptic – lots of free resources to help you sort out your change Management process.

Excuse number 5: “I’m probably going to be made redundant anyway so what’s the point?” Yes, I am serious, this is an excuse I’ve come across. There’s no way to sugar coat it, being made redundant or even being put at risk is (to put it mildly) a rubbish experience. In that situation (and believe me, I’ve been there) all you can do is keep doing your best until you are told to do otherwise. Having a strong change management process can be a differentiator on responses to bids. Tenders as SOX compliance, or ISO 20000 accreditation can set you apart from competitors. Bottom line, we have to at least try.

Planning for Change Management

So how do you get started? First things first: you need to get buy in. Most management guides will tell you to focus on the top layer of management as they hold the purse strings, and that’s very true, but you also need buy in from your guys on the front line – the guys who will actually be using your process. Get their buy in and you’re sorted, because without it you’re stuffed.

So, starting with the guys at the top, you need to speak to them in their language and that means one thing – a business case! This doesn’t have to take forever and there are lots of templates out there you can use. The key thing is to explain clearly, in their language, why change management is so important. Things to cover in your business case are introduction, scope, options, deliverables and benefits. Now get your techies on board. There’s no “right” way of doing this. As someone with a few war stories to tell, things that have worked in the past include:

  • sitting down with your techies
  • templating everything
  • using the umbrella argument (more on that later)
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Krispy Kremes can help

I’ve also found that bribing support teams with doughnuts can be very effective, as a former techie I can confirm that Krispy Kreme ones work particularly well.

Once you’ve got your buy in, gather and confirm your requirements.  At the risk of playing management bingo here, a good approach is to set up workshops. Engage with both IT and the rest of the business so that there are no surprises. If you have an internal risk or audit department now is the time to befriend them! Using the aforementioned donuts as bribery if necessary, get their input as they will have the most up to date regulatory requirements you need to adhere to such as SOX or Basel 3.

Define the scope otherwise it will creep! Plan what you want to cover carefully. Do you want to cover all production equipment? What about test and DR environments? Whatever scope you agree, make sure it is included in any SLAs, OLAs or underpinning contracts so that you have documented what you are working to.

Keep your end users in mind

When writing your policy, process and procedures, keep your end users in mind. Don’t try to cover everything in red tape or people will find ways to circumvent your process. Let’s start with your policy. This is your statement of intent, your list of “thou shall” and  “thou shall nots”. Make sure it’s clear, concise and is in alignment with existing company standards. I know this might sound counterintuitive but also, prepare for it to be broken. It might sound strange but there will be times where something will need to be fixed in the middle of the night or there will need to be an urgent update to your website. It’s important that changes are raised in enough time for them to be reviewed and authorised, but exceptions will pop up so plan for them now when you’re not under pressure. Examples of when an emergency process could be used are:

  • Something’s broken or on fire (fixing a major incident)
  • Something’s about to be broken (preventing a major incident)
  • Major commercial reasons (in response to a move by a competitor)
  • A major risk to compliance has been identified (e.g. base rate changes, virus patches)

When looking at your process, make sure you have all the bases covered. This will include:

  • Recording and processing the change
  • Change assessment
  • Change Advisory Board (CAB)
  • Build and test
  • Implement
  • Review and close

I’ll talk about these in lots of detail in part two of this article.

Training & Communications

You’re about to go live with your sparkly new change management process and you want it to be a success so tell people about it! First, attend every team meeting, management huddle and town hall that you can get away with! Get people onside so that they know how much help change management can be and to reassure them they won’t have to go through lots of red tape just for the sake of it. Another way of getting your message out is to use posters. They’re bright, cheerful and cheap – here is one that I’ve used often.

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Pelt front line teams with coloured balls if necessary! Not too hard though!

In terms of training you need to think about your change management team and your stakeholders, the people that will be raising changes using your process. For your change management team there are lots of practical courses out there that can help – a few examples could include:

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL – Service Transition
  • ITIL – Release Control and Validation (RCV)
  • COBIT
  • SDI Managers Certificate
  • ISO 20000

Other important considerations include:

  • On the job training
  • Shadowing

But what about your front line teams who will be raising the changes and carry out the work? Again put some training together – make it interactive so that it will be memorable – in the past I have been pelted by brightly coloured balls by a colleague in the name of explaining change management so there really is no excuse for death by PowerPoint!

Things to cover are:

  • The process, its scope and the definition of a change
  • Raising a change record to include things like implementation plans, back out plans, testing, risk categorisation (“no it is not ok to just put medium”) and DR considerations
  • Templates & models
  • Benefits

I’ve done a fair few of these in my time so if you would like some help or examples just ping me on my contact details below.

Go Live

So you’re good to go. You’ve gathered your requirements, confirmed your scope, got buy in and have written up your policy, process & procedures. You’ve socialised it with support teams, ensured everyone has been trained up and have communicated the go live date. So deep breath time, go for it! Trust yourself, this is a starting point, your process will improve over time.

Metrics

I’ve written lots about metrics recently and have spoken about the basics in a previous article on availability, incident and problem management but in short:

You need to have a mission statement. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it does need to be a statement of intent for your team and your process. An example of a change management statement could be “to deliver changes effectively, efficiently and safely so that we put the customer at the heart of everything we do”.

Next come the CSF’s or critical success factors. CSFs look at how you can achieve your mission and some examples for change management could include:

  • To ensure all changes are carried out effectively and safely.
  • To ensure all changes are carried out efficiently, on time and with no out of scope emergency work.
  • To work closely with our customers & stakeholders to ensure we keep improving while continuing to meet their needs

Finally, we have Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These give you the detail on how you are performing at the day to day level and act as an early warning system so that if things are going wrong, you can act on them quickly. Some example KPIs for change could include:

  • More than 98% changes are implemented successfully
  • Less than 5% of changes are emergency changes
  • Less than 10% of changes are rescheduled more than once
  • Less than 1% of changes are out of process

So you’ve survived your change process implementation – smile,  relax and take a deep breath because now the real work starts! Come back soon for part two of this article which will give you some practical advice on running your new change management process.

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Availability, Incident and Problem Management – The New Holy Trinity? (part 2)

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Following on from part one, here are my next seven tips on on how to use availability, incident and problem management to maximise service effectiveness.

Tip 4: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it

Ensure that your metrics map all the way back to your process goals via KPIs and CSFs so that when you measure service performance you get clear tangible results rather than a confused set of metrics that no one ever reads let alone takes into account when reviewing operational performance. In simple terms, your service measurements should have a defined flow like the following:

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Start with a mission statement so that you have a very clearly defined goal. An example could be something like “to monitor, manage and restore our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”.

Next come your critical success factors or CSFs. CSFs are the next level down in your reporting hierarchy. They take the information held in the goal statement and break them down into manageable chunks. Example CSFs could be:

  • “To monitor our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”
  • “To manage our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”
  • “To restore our production environment effectively, efficiently & safely”

KPIs or key performance indicators are the next step. KPIs provide the level of granularity needed so that you know you are hitting your CSFs. Some example KPIs could be:

  • Over 97% of our production environment is monitored
  • 98% of all alerts are responded to within 5 minutes
  • Over 95% of Calls to the Service Desk are answered within 10 seconds
  • Service A achieves an availability of 99.5% during 9 – 5, Monday – Friday

Ensure that your metrics, KPIs & CSFs map all the way back to your mission statement & process goals so that when you measure service performance you get clear tangible results. If your metrics are linked in a logical fashion, if your performance goes to amber during the month (eg threat of service level breach) you can look at your KPIs and come up with an improvement plan. This will also help you move towards a balanced scorecard model as your process matures.

Tip 5: Attend CAB!

Availability, incident and problem managers should be key and vocal members of the CAB. 70%-80% of incidents can be traced to poorly implemented changes.

Problem management should have a regular agenda item to report on problems encountered and especially where these are caused by changes. Incident management should also attend so that if a plan change does go wrong, they are aware and can respond quickly & effectively. In a very real sense being forewarned is forearmed so if a high risk change has been authorised, having that information can help the service desk manager to forward plan for example having extra analysts on shift the morning of a major release.

Start to show the effects of poorly planned and designed change with downtime information to alter mind-sets of implementation teams. If people see the consequences of poor planning or not following the agreed plan, there is a greater incentive to learn from them and by prompting teams to think about quality, change execution will improve, there will be a reduction in related incidents and problems and availability will improve.

Tip 6: Link your information

You must be able to link your information. Working in your own little bubble no longer works, you need to engage with other teams to add value. The best example of this is linking Incidents to problem records to identify trends but it doesn’t stop there. The next step is to look at the trends and look at how they can be fixed. This could be reactive e.g raising a change record to replace a piece of server hardware which has resulted in down time. It could also be proactive for example “ we launched service A and experienced X, Y and Z faults which caused a hit to our availability, we’re now launching service B, what can we do to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes? Different hardware? More resilience? Using the cloud?”

You need to have control over the quality of the information that can be entered. Out of date information is harmful so make sure that validation checks are built in to your process. One way to do this is to do a “deep dive” into your Incident information. Look at the details to ensure a common theme exists and that it is linked to the correct Problem record.

Your information needs to be accessible and easy to read. Your audience sees Google and their expectation is that all search engines work in the same way.

Talk to people! Ask relationship and service delivery managers what keeps them awake at night and if there is know problem record or SIP then raise one.  Ask technical teams what are their top ten tech concerns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Forewarned it forearmed. If you know there’s an issue or potential for risk you can do something about it, or escalate to the manager or team that can. Ask the customer if there is anything they are worried about. Is there a critical product launch due? Are the auditors coming? This is where you can be proactive and limit risk for example working with change management to implement a change freeze.

Tip 7: Getting the right balance of proactive and reactive activities

It’s important to look at both the proactive and reactive sides of the coin and get a balance between the two. If you focus on reactive activities only, you never fix the root cause or make it better; you’ll just keep putting out the same fires. If you focus on proactive activities only, you will lose focus on the BAU and your service quality could spiral out of control.

Proactive actions could include building new services with availability in mind, working with problem management to identify trends and ensuring that high availability systems have the appropriate maintenance (e.g regular patches, reboots, agreed release schedules) Other activities could include identifying VBFs (more on that later) and SPOFs (single points of failure).

Reactive activities could include working with incident management to analyse service uptime / downtime in more granularity with the expanded incident cycle and acting on lessons learned from previous failures.

Tip 8: Know your VBFs

No, not your very best friends, your vital business functions! Talk to your customers and ask them what they consider to be critical. Don’t assume. That sparkling new CRM system may be sat in the corner gathering dust. That spreadsheet on the other hand, built on an ancient version of excel with tens of nested tables and lots of macros could be a critical business tool for capturing customer information. Go out and talk to people. Use your service catalogue. Once you have a list of things you must protect at all costs you can work through the list and mitigate risk.

Tip 9: Know how to handle downtime

No more hiding under your desk or running screaming from the building! With the best will in the world, things will go wrong so plan accordingly. The ITIL service design book states that “recognising that when services fail, it is still possible to achieve business, customer & user satisfaction and recognition: the way a service provider acts in failure situation has a major influence on customer & user perception & expectation.”

Have a plan for when downtime strikes. Page 1 should have “Don’t Panic” written in bright, bold text – sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many people panic and freeze in the event of a crisis. Work with incident and problem management to come up with the criteria for a major incident that works for your organisation. Build the process and document everything even the blindingly obvious (because you can’t teach common sense). Agree in advance who will coordinate the fix effort (probably Incident management) and who will investigate the root cause (problem management). Link in to your IT service continuity management process. When does an incident become so bad that we need to invoke DR? Have we got the criteria documented? Who makes the call? Who is their back up in case they’re on holiday or off sick? Speak to capacity management – they look at performance – at what point could a performance issue become so bad that the system becomes unusable. Does that count as down time? Who investigates further?

Tip 10: Keep calms and carry on

Your availability, incident and problem management processes will improve and mature over time.  Use any initial “quick wins” to demonstrate the value add and get more buy in. As service levels improve, your processes will gather momentum as its human nature to want to jump on the bandwagon if something is a storming success.

As your process matures, you can look to other standards and framework. Agile and lean can be used to make efficiency savings. COBIT can be used to help you gauge process maturity as well as practical guidance on getting to the next level. PRINCE2 can help with project planning and timescales. You can also review your metrics to reflect greater process maturity for example you could add critical to quality (CTQ) and operational performance indicators (OPIs) to your existing deck of goals, CSFs and KPIs.

Keep talking to others in the service management industry. The itSMF, ISACA and Back2ITSM groups all have some fantastic ideas for implementing and improving ITIL processes so have a look!

Final thoughts

I’d like to conclude by saying that availability, incident and problem management processes are critical to service quality. They add value on their own, but aligning them and running them together will not only drive improvement but will also reduce repeat (boring) incidents, move knowledge closer to the front line and increases service uptime.

In conclusion, having availability, incident and problem management working together as a trio is one of the most important steps in moving an IT department from system management to service management as mind-sets start to change, quality improves and customer satisfaction increases.

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Is there such a thing as the "ITSM Community"?

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Does a happy, successful “ITSM Community” exist?

As you may know in February Rebecca and I attended the annual Pink Elephant conference in Las Vegas.  Post-event there is always (as you would expect) a lot to talk about, such as how well the event was run, the content, the amazing people and networking opportunities. But I’ve done that already, so now I want to focus on something a little different for this article. I want to talk about the “ITSM community”.

We are a ‘community’

By “we”, I mean members of the global ITSM industry and, by putting the word “community” in quotation marks I’m asking, well are we really?

This topic came up on several occasions at the PINK14 conference (granted it usually involved bar snacks and a cocktail, but then again all the best conversations usually do right?). Not least when the topic of the future of SMCongress came up. There were daily conversations about how to “help the community” (be it in the shape of SMCongress or any other initiative). There were debates, and many ‘aha moments’ too, but one unanswered question remained throughout: What is it that we (the people who refer to said “community”) are actually trying to achieve?

Who is the “community”?

At ITSM Review we consider ourselves to be a “community” where ITSM professionals (and ITAM professionals over at the ITAM Review) gather to consume helpful content, discuss best practice, occasionally meet-up in person, and share opinions.  Furthermore, my job title includes ‘community manager’, which means I manage the content, encourage discussions, arrange meet-ups, and try to get people to share their opinions.

Are we successful in delivering helpful content, encouraging discussions, organizing meet-ups etc.? Yes (our growth certainly doesn’t suggest otherwise). Are we a community? Yes, but we’re only a tiny proportion of the larger ITSM community.

When we (and by we, I now mean the ITSM industry) refer to discussions on social media, whether it be on Twitter, in back2itsm groups, LinkedIn or anywhere else, we refer to them as “discussions amongst the “ITSM Community””.

When we attend conferences such as PINK14 and ‘we’ meet up in sessions, at lunch or in the bar at the end of the day, we refer to ourselves as the “ITSM community”.  Or we have discussions about how to help the “ITSM community”.

I’m the worst offender by the way, I use the term “ITSM community” like it’s going out of fashion. But the question is this: does the “ITSM community” (as we refer to it) actually exist?

Opening a can of worms

So I’m the community manager at ITSM Review yet I’ve just questioned whether or not an ITSM community actually exists. I could quite easily be out of a job by the time I finish this article.

I do believe that the ITSM community exists, I just don’t think it exists in the way that we think it does.  We talk of the ITSM community as an intangible entity made up of people in different ITSM roles from around the world, who want to benefit from, and contribute to, the collective wisdom of other members.

You may disagree with my definition but bear with me while I look at a few issues: Is there really a need? Are we sharing? Are we global?

Then there is the issue with  ‘people in different ITSM roles’. That is where our current “global ITSM community” really falls down.  Consultants, check. Vendors, check. Analysts, check.  Practitioners? Not so much check.  At one point at PINK14 we were a group of 15 people discussing this topic, and only one of those was a practitioner. So that means 6.7% of the group represented practitioners, and what’s worse is that figure is quite high. Often there is no practitioner representation in these discussions at all.

Furthermore, we have to ask, what is the purpose of our community? To help others, right? But currently the vendors, consultants and analysts are trying to help without necessarily understanding demand. Whilst the people who we believe really need the help are usually nowhere to be seen? Do you think that is a fair statement? Probably not, but I think it isn’t far off.

When Stephen Mann kicked off the back2itsm initiative he said it was about “the reaping of the knowledge and experience held within the ITSM community (ITIL’s creators, publishers, trainers, consultants, software vendors, ITSM practitioners, and ancillary roles such as analysts) for the benefit of all.” 

When I asked Charles Araujo what was the reasoning behind launching SMCongress he said “we formed the ‘RevNet’, which ultimately become SMCongress, to bring together some of the brightest minds in the ITSM community to explore where the future of our industry was going and what it would mean to ITSM professionals everywhere.  Our aim was to provide valuable insights and ideas to the entire ITSM community.”

So many questions, so few answers

Thus far, I’ve highlighted several questions, none of which I have specifically answered. This is ironic, because none of us could answer them at PINK14 either.

This is the biggest flaw in any of our attempts to either build a community or serve/help an existing community. We don’t really know what it is that we are trying to achieve. We (i.e. those of us who actively take part in these kind of discussions) might think we know what we want to achieve, but then is what we’re trying to achieve actually of any value to anybody? For example the news announcements surrounding AXELOS was “big talk” in our group of 15 at PINK14, but one of those 15 people wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. Can you guess who? Yes, the practitioner.

You can see that I am going round in circles here with question after question. I’m dizzy, so you must be too. Apologies, but please bear with me.

The main phrase that kept reoccurring on this topic at PINK14 was “how do we help the community?” This was in relation to SMCongress, back2itsm, and the ITSM people active on Twitter. In my opinion, this question cannot be answered in our current position. Why? Because there are so many other questions that need to be asked (to our target audience) and answered first:

  • Do you think there is such a thing as an ITSM community?
  • Do you feel part of an ITSM community?
  • Would you like to be part of an ITSM community?
  • What would you expect to input to and receive from an ITSM community?
  • How would you expect to communicate with an ITSM community?

The only thing that everybody seems to be in agreement on is that we want to help practitioners and that they are our target audience, but even that leads to further questions such as “are we talking about the people on the front line of a service desk say, or IT managers, or both?”

Where on earth do we go from here?

Wow, yet another question that doesn’t have a clear answer. There was a lot of debate at PINK14 about what next steps any community initiative should take, and one thing that was clear is that it’s not a one-man-band job.  There were discussions about involving the likes of itSMF, AXELOS or other high-profile industry names. There was also talk of creating ways to encourage vendors to actively engage their customers on the topic.

I think all of the above are great ideas, and much needed, but I also believe that it is likely to be difficult to pull a united force together to drive any community initiative forward. I’m not saying that such an approach will fail, I do strongly believe said approach is needed and can succeed, but it will take a lot of time to bring it all together. In the meantime there are things that everyone can be doing to help.

Next time you meet with a practitioner (in my view, anybody working in IT who is not a consultant, analyst or vendor), ask them the five questions listed in the bullet points above. Take the answers and share them across any ITSM channel, with us, on social media, in forums etc, or ask them to complete our online form.

If you are a practitioner reading this, pretty please share your own answers with us.

Together we can start to crowd source the answers we need, because without answers from the people we are trying to help, how can we ever move forward and build the existing ITSM community into something more beneficial?

Where does ITSM Review fit in all of this?

A large amount of our readers and subscribers are practitioners and they keep coming to our site because they find it useful. We therefore already have an existing relationship in place with a small proportion of the ITSM industry. They might not all actively engage with us, but it is a huge starting point.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

We can ensure that we nurture the community that we already have. We can also utilize said community to gain the feedback required to help move any global initiative forward.  We’re going to continue with everything that we already do, as well as push for more continuous feedback. We’ll start by pushing for as many responses to our online survey as possible. We can then feed this back into any larger initiative.

Unfortunately as much as we hate to admit it, we’re a small fish in a very large pond. It’s going to take more than feedback from our readers alone to get enough feedback to start being able to answer the long list of questions. This is why having other institutions and companies involved will be the key to success.  Pink Elephant, HDI, SDI, itSMF’s… they all need to take the same approach.

It’s also worth mentioning here that ITSM Review isn’t looking to build something to go up against SMCongress, back2itsm or anything else. We don’t care what the initiative is called or who owns it – so long as it gets the job done.

In summary

Let me be clear here – I’m not trying to be harsh on the existing “ITSM community” (as we refer to it) and I am also meaning to sound negative. I realize that non-practitioners are always going to be more active in things, and maybe that’s fine? But then when “we” should stop saying that it’s practitioners that we are trying to help. I also want to stress that this post is not an “attack” on SMCongress and I fully support the official announcement (due out shortly) that will be issued about moving SMCongress forward.

Anyway, neither I, nor ITSM Review have all the answers or the power to drive any true global community forward alone. That said, we’re successful in what we’re currently doing in our own community and we plan to continue, because feedback leads us to believe that we are making a difference to multiple people around the globe. In addition to this we will do whatever we can to support any larger initiatives.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what all of this is about? Regardless of who has the answers, or who’s opinion differs to the next persons, don’t we all just want to help make the lives of ITSM professionals easier? You may not agree with all of my opinions in this article, but surely we can all agree on this?

It’s time to stop debating, and time to start gathering answers.