Transforming the IT service experience

Left to right: Lori Krikorian, Dana Swanstrom, and Sally Shane accepted the Project of the Year award in Las Vegas in February.
Left to right: Lori Krikorian, Dana Swanstrom, and Sally Shane accepted the Project of the Year award in Las Vegas in February.

EMC Corporation’s IT organization (EMC IT) has been on a multiyear transformational journey, transitioning to a virtual and private cloud infrastructure and modifying its operating model to be one of a competitive service provider. They have also been working to unlock the capabilities to deliver more agility to its business customer through optimized service delivery and modern application development aligned to IT trends of cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data. But, the company’s IT service management (ITSM) processes lacked agility to meet the evolving needs of its internal customers. Couple this obstacle with unstable, obsolete, and unintegrated technologies that lacked mobility, community, and self-help functionality.  EMC IT launched its UnITy program to address this significant challenge.

UnITy Program

The UnITy program began in July 2012 to optimize ITSM processes, replace its previous ITSM technology platforms, and transform IT into a customer-focused organization committed to consistently delivering collaborative support.

To start, the team conducted more than 100 interviews and numerous workshops to collectively understand the challenges IT faced and secure leadership support for the problem, business drivers, critical success factors, and solutions. From these sessions, the team defined the program’s vision as: “To delight EMC IT’s clients by transforming their IT service experience through optimized service management processes and technologies.”

The program then set out to address four key points in EMC IT.

  1. Enhance the customer experience for EMC’s 60,000 users by evolving IT’s to be service-focused and allow the customer experience to drive prioritization and responsiveness.
  2. Enable IT to operate as a business by optimizing processes and improving transparency through service metrics and better service quality.
  3. Align IT’s resources with customer expectations and improve capabilities such as self-service and the availability of better decision making data.
  4. Optimize IT support so the company will, in time, realize millions in annual savings by reducing the use of in-house production support and managed service providers, decommissioning redundant IT systems, and using self-service to reduce calls to the service desk.

Program Phases

In Phase I, the program released the new ITSM platform along with three processes – incident management, request fulfillment, and knowledge management. In Phase II, the program rolled out an improved configuration management database, a new service taxonomy, and three more processes – problem management, change management and service asset and configuration management.

At the core of UnITy was a mountain of change for EMC IT to adapt. To usher in the necessary cultural changes we created three workstreams – process optimization, technology, and transformation. While the workstreams focused on their respective topics, the entire team worked cohesively to evangelize the program by sharing a common understanding of the capabilities and benefits being delivered by UnITy. Perhaps most importantly, the transformation workstream led the organizational change in EMC IT, providing training, communication, and engagement at all levels in IT to drive the cultural evolution toward one of customer focus.

On the training side, the team built its own custom, instructor-led and computer-based training and enlisted 100 global users who went through week-long training on the new platform, processes, and way of thinking. In turn, these users held day-long training sessions with more than 1,000 users across our global EMC IT sites. As program champions, these individuals evangelized the program and provided support in the field before and after. Additionally, another 1,500+ users received computer-based training.

On the communications side, the UnITy program engaged a multi-channel campaign to provide information in a number of accessible and easily digestible ways. This included:

  • An intranet site that consistently ranked among the most-visited EMC IT sites
  • A regularly published email newsletter
  • Regularly scheduled global town hall meetings
  • A user engagement network that met weekly, championed the program, and provided feedback
  • A series of videos that featured IT leaders and program members delivering key messages

The UnITy team also used its leadership steering committee to validate decisions, in some cases make decisions, clear hurdles, and champion the program throughout IT. This was vital to pushing change through an organization and program sponsors helped communicate expectations to EMC IT through video messages, personal emails, and even shared goals for training and adoption.

So, what did EMC IT learn from this complex and culture-changing program?

  1. Engagement at all levels of the EMC IT organization was vital. Having leadership support made it easier to push changes through, but having employee understanding of why the changes were happening and how they would benefit the individual and organization accelerated adoption.
  2. No customizations! Sticking with the out-of-the-box ITSM functionality kept the program on course using best practices and ITIL processes, instead of bending the technology to match the way IT operated in the past.
  3. Listen to the pros. We brought in experts to guide us in process adoption and tool deployment. When in doubt, we turned to the experts on best practices and moved ahead with their guidance.

EMC IT are currently in Phase III of the UnITy program to expand the service management platform and processes to businesses outside of IT. They remain focused on the metrics and reporting analysis to identify areas for continuous improvement. While it was a tremendous initiative for the whole EMC IT organization, they now have the technology and processes in place to continue to evolve the organization and to continue to provide the highest quality services for the future.

In February this year, EMC IT won the Project of the Year Award at the Pink Elephant Annual Conference in Las Vegas. If you would like to learn more about the UnITy program’s journey, you can read this blog post by program lead Dana Swanstrom.


 

The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

Change and Release Management: What are they? What’s missing?

Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

I was recently challenged by Mike Orzen (co-founder of Lean in IT practises and my mentor) to answer a simple question: what do you think the purpose of change and release management is in ITIL or any other IT best practice framework?

I started by asking what aren’t they?

Change is not about doing the change, and release is not about managing the approval of a request to change. Change helps me make a decision; it answers the question WHY with a “yes” or “no”. But “yes” or “no” to what?

How many times has a request been approved, but what was delivered did not match what was approved? If IT has no value until it releases something that is usable to a customer, we better be sure that “yes” and “approved” are used for getting an organisation to be competitive, compliant, reliable, secure and cost-efficient as quickly as possible. Lean helps by creating a value stream from idea to solution, in a similar fashion to the ITIL lifecycle of service strategy to service operation. In both cases, the solution to the customer needs to be delivered as timely as possible.

You can’t manually approve every request as this would block the flow in the IT value stream. So the creation of standard change types assist in identifying low-impact, repetitive, and easy to fix types of requests.  LeanIT likes standard work, as once you know if the request or change will not place the organisation at risk of losing a customer or wasting money, you can then automate the decision process to flow the request to the design phase, if required. If it will impose a risk or loss, then the request can be routed to a more formal approval process that can also be leaned over time.

Change should control every aspect of a release (the doing process of an approved change), so we have to look at all of the places change gets involved to help design a fast, flowing stream across IT, and ultimately one that works from the customer (pull) instead of IT pushing releases to the customer.

So where does or should change get involved?

An example:

The above could form the basis of a release process. I am sure more questions are needed, but if we allow the various teams to continuously improve the above, we can release valued services into the organisation. The teams might use lean methods such as kanban boards to control work, kaizen to improve work and agile or DevOPS to get services developed and agreed.  Another aspect of lean that the table demonstrates is waste removal. If the change gateposts help to reduce defects, re-work, wait time between tests via automation or script reuse, for instance, then the flow of the value stream is enhanced end to end. Removing or automating/facilitating the gates in a formal process will also help increase flow resulting in a better time to market, quality enhancement, productivity improvement and cost reduction.

Configuration management – the needed process for ITSM & lean success

To be effective (first) and efficient (second), we need data.  Where are requests, business cases, regulatory and architectural requirements for design, code, tests, or service acceptance criteria kept for example? We turn data into information to gain knowledge to deliver value. Configuration management is the data to knowledge management process. The information in a configuration management database (CMDB) can be used to enhance the way a process, team or tool performs. For instance, if we create a cycle of CCRCCR: (change to configuration to release to change to configuration to release…) to be as fast as possible; then the agility of creating solutions in a timely manner becomes our standard culture or way of working.

How do we start?

I suggest by mapping the value stream, as much as possible, from end to end.  At first you may only be able to do the parts internal to IT but keep adding until you have the entire value stream from requester to customer mapped.  Lean value stream mapping helps improve how an IT organisation, business enterprise and partners create and improve ways of work.  Get as many representatives as possible involved in a mapping exercise and use post-it notes to visualise the current way of working.   Try to get the people that do the work involved as this generates buy-in for future change improvements.  Your post-it notes could include time of steps, teams involved, tools used, etc.  Don’t trust what you create in a conference room.  Go out and see (lean calls this “gemba”) to validate your understanding.

Now return to the conference room armed with your knowledge and improve the flow of the stream (steps). Add a few measures to control the flow of the stream and most importantly BEGIN.  Don’t wait for the tool changes or other procrastination reasons: start using the new way. Check how changes are approved, the steps performed to create a release, the results of any improvement (agreed and tracked) and use the CMDB to maintain the information such as your review of other ITSM processes. You can continue to create a unified view of your IT practices, processes, tools, capabilities, etc. The lean trick is to make checks or improvement a daily part of work, not something owned by the program team, but by the people doing the activities all along the stream. Let them own and celebrate the success.

Set some stretch goals for how long it should take to agree a requestor, how fast to perform a release etc. Look at quality, productivity, stock reduction (number of tests or environments needed) as examples.  PLEASE note that cost is a benefit and if you see that as a target it may be viewed as a job-cutting exercise when it should be viewed as a job enhancement opportunity.

Please let me know what you think and try blending Lean into your ITSM world.  Have fun doing it!

This article was contributed by Daniel Breston, Consultant at Qriosity Limited.

Building the business case for configuration management

Carlos Casanova
Carlos Casanova

This article has been contributed by Carlos Casanova from K2 Solutions Group

At last year’s itSMF USA conference in Nashville I had the pleasure of meeting Dagfinn Krog from itSMF Norway. We had a great conversation regarding configuration management and The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, and during the conversation, there were some references to attending the conference in Norway, but nothing I took all that seriously. Much to my surprise, a few weeks later I received a formal invitation to not only attend the conference in Norway but to participate in three different sessions.

Having never traveled to the region before, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in what many describe as “one of the best service management conferences in the industry”. Shortly after accepting to participate, I received an invitation from Tobias Nyberg from the itSMF Sweden to meet the itSMF Sweden team in Stockholm after the conference in Norway. To say I was thrilled to be invited to the region and meet with their member and discuss configuration management would be an understatement.

This conference was, in some ways, very different to the many ones that I have attended in the US. The primary differentiator being that this one was much more personal. It could have been the size, which was at record number this year, but personally I think it was more than that. There seemed to be a more “family” feel to it which, for a foreign traveler was very welcoming. From first arrival in Norway to final departure from Stockholm, I could not have asked for a more personal and warm reception from everyone. It’s as if we had known each other for years.  A huge thank you to all involved for making a long trip away from home that much easier.  Ok… now on to why you actually read “ITSM Review”

Configuration management workshop

As I mentioned, I participated in three sessions, of which this was the first. This pre conference workshop focused on developing the business case for your configuration management efforts. We had a great group of individuals participating that were slammed with far more materials than they could ever have possibly absorbed in such a short time, but they all did a great job working through the five activities we had scheduled to start formulating the basis of the business case.

  1. Why is configuration management Important to my organization?
  2. What does “value” look like to my organization?
  3. How will each process area reap “value” from the configuration management initiative?
  4. What should I expect to encounter within my organization that will hinder value from being achieved?
  5. What will I do in the first 30 days once I get back to start generating value?

In a three hour session with a total of approximately one hour to work on the activities, it wasn’t expected that they would form cohesive thoughts and statements but, at a minimum, they would start formulating the foundations of their argument. In much the same manner, we can’t cover all the material from the workshop in this article but, below are some highlights for you to think about.

  • Without configuration management, your level of operational maturity will always be limited due to lack of insight into how devices and services mesh together to deliver business outcomes.
  • If you can’t define/demonstrate what “value” looks like in your organization and to the various domains that must participate, everyone will define it themselves. Leaving it up to each area to define without guidance will most assuredly result in a variety of expectations which you will likely never be able to meet.
  • Identify your biggest challenges immediately and address them or set a path around them. If it’s people, find out what their biggest desire is and see if you can satisfy it. If you can, they will be your biggest advocate and asset to success. If you can’t avoid, if possible, impacting their area for as long as possible until you have established some traction and a broader support base to take them on.
  • Get started. You can’t keep putting it off. The challenge of not knowing has always existed and has only gotten worse.  Waiting for a better time to do Configuration Management is silly. Do something, anything…. and do it now.

What Configuration Management, CMDB and CMS is and isn’t

This session was predominantly based upon materials from my book (The CMDB Imperative)  and framed the core concepts around executing a configuration management initiative. Unfortunately, whether it is clients in the US or individuals in Scandinavia, there are some common areas that everyone seems to struggle with implementing and/or understanding.

  1. CMDB versus CMS – They aren’t the same thing.  Understand the difference and which approach is most likely to work for you. Very briefly, they can be thought of as…
    • CMDB – A conceptual structure that provides perspective to the relationship between two objects controlled in a single data store.
    • CMS –  A conceptual structure that provides perspective to the relationship between two objects across more than one controlled data stores
  2. Relationships – Without them, you really don’t have configuration management, you have watered down asset or inventory management. You’re basically a manifest manager. Sorry!
  3. Transforming Data into Information – There is no shortage of data in every organization. We’re drowning in it.  Problem is, there is no context to it. Configuration Management adds context.
  4. Complexity – Yes, it can be complex if you let it be. Cut through it and look at it through a small network/neural network perspective. Focus on singular connections between items. Then repeat for the next and the next. Eventually you’ll identify them all.
  5. Perspective and Layers – You need to, if you haven’t already, adopt the perspective of the consumer rather than producer.  It is all about producer-consumer relationships and the view from the other side is not always attractive and you need to know that.
  6. Transitioning and Awareness – Your organization didn’t get to where it is overnight and it won’t sort itself out overnight. Set realistic expectations. Expect potholes and speed bumps. Plan for them and factor them in. Be aware of your surroundings at all times because they will sneak up on you.

Establishing a common vision of what “it is” and what “it is not” is instrumental to the likelihood of success. Set a sound strategy and vision and then start small and work at a tactical level to deliver value at regular intervals. You need the small “wins” early to stand a chance at bigger accomplishments later.

Anything about Configuration Management

The last configuration management related session I conducted for itSMF Sweden members, where we held an unstructured question and answer session whereby the individuals simply asked anything related to configuration management. We then had an open conversation about the question and/or statement.  From questions about specific challenges to advice for how to go about doing something, this session solidified my early sense that their challenges, questions and concerns were not very far from their peers in the US or UK.

They were challenged by essentially the same things:

  • Lack of and/or constantly changing “leadership”
  • Poor, nonexistent constantly changing directives
  • Cultural resistance to changing how it’s currently done (a topic discussed extensively in the round table session I also participated in about the Future of ITSM at the Norway conference)
  • Misunderstanding/confusion of the difference between ITAM and SACM

The first three of these challenges are interrelated and based on poor or frequently changing leadership.  Think of leadership as a compass.  It sets direction and vision for where you need to go. If the compass is broken or the owner of the compass continually picks a different location to sail towards, you will never reach your a destination. When this occurs, the masses lose general confidence in leadership and will no longer feel that they should exert energy towards moving in any direction set by them.

An individual I met a long time ago, who was at the time working for a global enterprise well known for their musical chair approach to “leadership” had been subjected to this type of environment for years. He told me without shame or hesitation, (paraphrased) “I just need to get my work done today.  I have outlasted the last three CEOs & CIOs. I will outlast the next three if I just ignore the latest leadership whim and just do the work as I know it needs to get done. I’d like to believe that the next guy will be different, but I have lost faith in that potential so I just focus on doing my job today.”  The bottom line; without strong, reliable and consistent leadership, even the best ideas are likely to fail and breed a bad working culture.

The last item listed has been a more recent awareness as I have worked with more mid-sized clients typically less mature in their operational processes. As these companies try to improve their operational maturity and IT cost accounting, they recognize the need to first capture and maintain lists of devices in their environment and what they cost; i.e. asset and inventory management. However, with all the talk of how configuration management enables you to see all the devices, they tend to make the connection, incorrectly as it may be, that configuration management is the mechanism by which this is done. So, these companies venture down the road labeled “configuration management” unknowingly in search of “asset and inventory management”.

In summary

All in all, the events in both Norway and Sweden were excellent and I strongly recommend that if you have the opportunity to attend next year, you do. The organization of them is top notch, the venues are as you would expect and most importantly, you will be welcomed as though you have been part of their family since birth. Go and enjoy, you won’t regret it professional or personally.

This article has been contributed by Carlos Casanova from K2 Solutions Group

Strategy, IT value & buzzwords – is there an elephant in the room?

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Meeting Sophie Danby from ITSM Review

This was my first time attending the Pink Elephant conference and I must say, I was very impressed. I had heard that Pink is the “must-attend” service management conference and I’m pleased to say that Pink did not disappoint. The Pink staff, the sessions, and the people all are top notch, even the food was great. To post every highlight would simply be impossible but here are the “standout” items (at least in my mind)

Keynotes

There were multiple keynotes across the conference, but there were two in particular that really stood out for me.

Commander Chris Hadfield – Commander Hadfield fulfilled my boyhood dream; become an astronaut. What stood out to me in his presentation was the human that he is. Simply the person that he is was what was inspiring about his session. His recollections of the moment he looked out of the windows of the International Space Station at the beautiful thin slice of world we inhabit. The recollection of struggling to understand a Russian-speaking colleague. His memory of helping lead thousands of school children in a song (he truly capitalized on the opportunity of the song lyric “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”.). There isn’t any doubt that Commander Hadfield is an incredible man.

My takeaway – Practice Failure. His stories of how he and the ISS team dealt with emergencies all lead back to the practice of situations that might. Success is an important trait for many of us, but are we successful because we practice success or because we practice failure?

Caroline Casey – There are those moments when you see some step onto a stage and you just know they are genuine. And then there is Caroline Casey. This woman’s story is incredible, moving, and tugs at your heart. Her outer beauty is truly diminished by her inner beauty.

My takeawayA disability is in the eye of the beholder. We all have our disabilities. How are you working to make yours an ability?

Takeaways from the conference

There were many, but here is my top seven:

  • Over the next year, IT will be squeezed like never before. IT teams will need to make tough decisions on the services they offer and how to collaborate with other/external providers. Demonstrating value to the business will be more critical. The ability to act with agility will become a greater differentiator.
  • Strategy still matters. In my discussions with many of the attendees, strategy seemed to be the sticking point in adoption plans. Many of those I interacted with are looking back at their strategic development of services to ensure the business is able to see the value their IT team provides.
  • Discussions around buzzwords seem to be diminishing. While CMDB and BYOD were topics on the session agenda, they were not mentioned as frequently as words like leadership, management and value.
  • The business will be looking to IT to prove value
  • Culture is the next great differentiator
  • IT generally does not understand how to work/use governance. The business is depending on IT to fit into existing governance models OR to advise on changes. Does IT have skills in this area?
  • There is and will continue to be a multitude of framework/methodology options. There is not a “cookbook” for service management. Be like an “Iron Chef” – make something dazzling with your secret ingredient – IT needs to become a “melting pot” – input/ideas from areas mixed into a delightful concoction that will please the palette of the business

Networking

I had the good fortune to meet many of the people I interact with on Twitter for the first time at Pink14. There are too many to mention here and I would most likely forget someone, but please allow me to say:

  1. It was an honour to meet you
  2. Thanks for the time you spent discussing service management with me and for those who were out with me at all hours
  3. The pictures aren’t getting posted anywhere!

It truly was a great gathering and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

Assessment Criteria: Outside IT Product Review

In March of this year, we will be kicking off our product review dedicated to “Outside IT”, which will take a look at the use of ITSM technology outside the IT department.

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Overview

The aim of this review is to showcase best of breed ITSM software in use outside the IT department, highlight key competitive differentiators and provide readers of The ITSM Review with impartial market intelligence to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Previously published product reviews include:

Also coming soon: Proactive Problem Management.

Assessment Criteria 

The aim of the review is to support prospective buyers with their selection process by providing features to consider when selecting ITSM systems and highlighting key competitive differentiators between suppliers.

Outside IT – How can service management software, traditionally used to underpin the IT service desk, be applied to other area of the business to streamline operations and deliver more efficient services?

Main topics areas

  • How can new systems be built outside IT?
  • What expertise is required, what templates or processes are required?
  • How do end users / customers interact with the system?
  • How can engagement / interaction with customers be customized?
  • How are systems maintained – especially for non-IT users?

Solutions that do not include all of the criteria above will not necessarily score badly – the criteria simply define the scope of areas will be covered. The goal is to highlight strengths and identify differences, whilst placing every vendor in the best light possible. 

Please note: The assessment criteria are just a starting point; they tend to flux and evolve as we delve into solutions and discover unique features and leading edge innovation. Identifying key competitive differentiators is a higher priority than the assessment criteria.

Confirmed participants

Vendors who wish to participate in this Outside IT product review should contact us directly. We also welcome feedback from readers on their experience with their use of ITSM tools outside IT (although this feedback will not directly impact this review).

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Why is configuration management so tough?

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IT Hoarders – do you really need all those old IT items that you no longer use?

Overheard at a recent conference:

“Oh, we are working on configuration management…Why? Because it’s an ITIL process”

I cringed.

The conversation continued with “…yeah, I don’t know why it’s not going well. We bought <well-known tool name here> which has a CMDB. We have been adding configuration items (CI) into the CMDB for the last two months. Nobody in the IT team is using the CIs for incidents or change…”

I walked away, no longer wanting to hear any more of the gory details. Unfortunately, I feel this is more the norm than the exception. Let us take a few moments to examine why.

IT is a version of “Hoarders

IT is notorious for buying lots of stuff (that is a technical term) and equally notorious for not decommissioning items. Working in Higher Education, I often see departments who have plenty of funds and those departments who have to do whatever necessary to survive. This culture propagates surviving on the “scraps” thrown off by the “rich” departments when they get new items. IT often helps “repurpose” equipment to defer costs. Unfortunately, we end up with rooms full of devices, some of which may be running important business operations, with limited knowledge of what/how they are connected, the service they help provide, or why. Sometimes it may even become difficult to know who supports the device.

These actions have positioned IT to have a “hoarder” mentality. Don’t think so? We all know the team mate who has a copy of Windows 3.1 on 3½” disk who is hanging on to them because “…you just never know when the might be needed…” The spare equipment room, items sitting on inventory shelves, unappropriated devices in communications closets, servers under desks, overhead desk cabinets full of various versions of software, all adding up to “a big ol’ mess”.

With this much stuff, the task of building usable CIs becomes daunting. The sheer volume (thousands of items) becomes overwhelming and dooms the thinking of the configuration management team to “…we can’t do this…”.

It’s all about the CMDB

Ask this question “Are you doing any type of configuration management?” There is a good chance you will get a response of “Yes, we’ve got a CMDB”. This is just maddening.

I do not blame vendors for this. It is the vendor’s job to promote its products, but unfortunately, too many folks take the information provided by the vendor and translate it into “…to do configuration management we need a CMDB…”” to making your configuration management process work. Configuration management is about understanding the items that make your services work and their relationships. The CMDB should help the IT team mitigate risk during change decisions, help in trending during problem management, and allow the IT team to understand the impact of their operational decisions.

Education on Configuration Management

Where is the education? Now before all the ATO send me hate mail, I’m taking about where are the practitioners talking about configuration management? Formal training is not the issue. There seem to be very few good storytellers out there when it comes to configuration management.

In fairness, the reason there may be so few good storytellers may be due to how much context plays in configuration management. Let’s be honest, the context of my organization is different from the context of your organization. Incident management runs pretty much the same across all organizations. Simple premise of “get the issues resolved as quickly as possible” translates to everyone. The stories are transportable to each organization regardless of context. Because of this, ideas become quickly adaptable and usable.

With configuration management, we do not see the same ability to be transportable. Configuration management begins with the relationship of your services to the business. It becomes difficult to adopt an idea that does not match with your context.

Configuration management also seems to be the place most people really want a “recipe” for. “Just tell us how to do it”, the phrase uttered from many configuration management teams who realize the level of work they will need to do just to figure out where to start. Education on configuration management is most likely not a fair phrase. Configuration management does require a “deep dive” into the method and diligence to obtain desired outcomes. Make sure your team has the passion and the “intestinal fortitude” to make the tough decisions to build a configuration management process for your context.

“Ownership” of CIs

When you start discussing Configuration Management, you will undoubtedly run into folks in your organization who feel they “own” whatever CI you may be discussing. Sometimes their attitude may be perceived as “…this <device> is my responsibility…how dare you have an opinion on what I should do…” or “…I don’t report to you…you can’t tell me what to do…” They come by this honestly. For many years, IT perpetuated “silos” and one did not simply cross boarders without permission. Because of the way IT has worked in the past, many people see the items that they manage as “personal” pieces of their work and change for those items “require” a personal level of collaboration with the individual.

As we know, ITSM breaks down this paradigm and promotes a spirit of service across departments. Unfortunately, this does not always hold true when it comes to people managing devices. Depending on your organization culture, you may have teammates who do not buy in to the concept of configuration management. The configuration management team must do everything they can to break down these walls and ensure all teammates understand configuration management is not about taking away authority. Building a plan that helps IT deliver great services depends on team member participation at all levels. If your organization culture values individual performance over team achievement, you will have problems getting configuration management to stick.

Final Thoughts and Tips for Configuration Management

Configuration management is tough because:

  • Everyone in IT must commit to the process
  • It depends on organizational context
  • It may require big organizational change AND individual change

Tips:

  • Understand the services your organization offers. Have discussions regarding CIs around how they relate to services.
  • Find people who are willing to do the deep dive into Configuration Management and who are willing to change the organization. Having a few “cynics” who are willing to challenge ideas is a good thing as long as they are working for the betterment of the business and not disrupting progress.
  • Repeat with me, “IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CMDB!” The CMDB should be something that helps accelerate other processes.
  • At some point, someone is going to take the change personally. The Configuration Management team should practice dealing with this issue. Have a script on how to respond when challenged with why the change is necessary. Remind others, it’s about us looking good.
  • Take the time to move a CI through its lifecycle manually. Doing so will help the Configuration Management team understand how CIs are used with other processes, the relationships CIs have with services, and if your process meets your context. Once you have perfected the flow, use the CMDB to accelerate processes.

Configuration management is not impossible but it does require commitment, compassion, and compromise. Be sure to build a team that has the passion to build a configuration process and to help IT commit to using it.

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Coming Soon: The Battle of Change, Configuration and Release

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Let the battle begin!

We’re excited to be kicking off our research briefings next week for our competitive analysis on Change, Configuration and Release. Scheduled for publication in May, vendors confirmed to participate so far include:

The research will highlight competitive differentiators; feature key strengths (and weaknesses too of course); and showcase innovation within each product. Once reviewed, we will crown one Vendor “Best in Class” and the “leader” in Change, Configuration and Release.

Our research is based solely on responses to an in-depth questionnaire as well as a series of briefings, but we are always interested in hearing the end-user perspective.

Do you have experience with any of the participating Vendors? Do you have any views on their capabilities when it comes to Change, Configuration and Release? Are there any Vendors that you think are successful in this area who are not currently scheduled to participate in this review?

The review will be conducted by Rebecca Beach. For more information on the assessment view the Group Test criteria here. Vendors can still sign up to be involved up until Friday 31st January.

Subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when the research is published.

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Assessment Criteria – Change, Config and Release

Today we begin our competitive analysis of Change, Config and Release.  As with previous reviews our goal will be to highlight the key strengths, competitive differentiators and innovation in the industry.

Widely recognised as key to the successful preservation of production systems, the ITSM processes of Change, Config and Release are perceived as pivotal to maintaining the integrity and stability of the IT environment.

Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release.  These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.
Flow diagram showing the five areas of Change, Config and Release. These will not always be used in order and Auditing and Reporting should be ongoing.

In a nutshell:

Change Management is the process used to track and communicate any changes in service that may impact the customer such as when systems are taken offline for updates.

Configuration Management is the process used to track individual CI’s (Configuration Items) and the way in which they interact with one another.

Release Management is the process of managing software releases from development right through to release.

Each process can be used individually but more often than not you will find these processes intertwined.  When considering either a Change or Release you will need to know the CI’s that will be affected before you begin.

E.g: Your organisation needs to upgrade your in-house software package to all of its desktop pc’s, tablet devices and kiosks.

Release Management is used to track the in-house development of the software in question, Config management is used to scope the number of devices, number of people and types of people affected while Change Management is used to ensure the changes take place on a date that will cause the least disruption and that the why, how and when the changes will take place are communicated to the relevant people.

The criteria we will be using for our assessment is published below.


Identification

  • Ability to maintain a detailed record of each system’s configuration
  • Ability to interface with all internal Management Data Repositories (MDR) allowing the tool to compare reported configuration with actual configuration stored in the MDR
  • Ability to define dependency relationships between CIs
  • Ability to assign maintenance windows to CIs
  • Ability to auto discover CIs
  • Ability to interface with Inventory Control tools (to automate gathering of asset and inventory information) and barcode scanners
  • Ability to create automated alerts when a CI is found to be in an unauthorised state
  • Ability to link Release records to Change records
  • Ability to provide a Change/Release calendar with scheduled change viewing by group, and to customize the sorting and filtering of calendar views and link to existing calendar products

 Assessment/Approval

  • Calculate an objective risk assessment considering business impact and affected services
  • Show logical links between components included in a service in order to carry out business impact analysis
  • Ability to automatically create a Change Request when unauthorised changes are made to CI’s
  • Ability to schedule recurring events and maintenance
  • Ability to create and select pre-approved Change/Release from a pre-defined list
  • Pre-determined fields to auto-populate when Standard Change/Release from list used
  • Ability to capture the Change/Release date and time and who will be responsible for implementation
  • Ability to automatically send approval requests to the appropriate approvers
  • Ability to notify the assignee of the task and due date
  • Ability to link resources/approvers to Changes/Releases
  • Ability to assign tasks to individuals to be accomplished within specific time frames
  • Ability to alert Change/Release managers when approvals are past due
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release approvals
  • Ability to easily identify scheduling conflicts and reschedule appropriately

 Implementation

  • Ability to attach and store documentation with a Change/Release record
  • Ability to authorize and schedule Release deployments in conjunction with Change Management processes
  • Ability to change status of Release and linked Changes
  • Automatic notification for scheduled start/end and when the status of a Change associated with a Release changes
  • Ability to build, bundle and schedule different types of release packages for deployment
  • Ability to change status of Change/Release documentation
  • Ability to create sub activities or tasks for separate assignment to an individual, group or vendor
  • Ability to version release components and packages
  • Ability to assign tasks to teams/resolver groups

Accountability

  • Ability to track the physical location of contracts and agreements, and identify the individuals responsible for them
  • Ability to define Change and Release Windows (including freeze windows)
  • Ability to document back-out procedures
  • Ability to ensure that Release deployments are subject to scheduling and approval requirements managed by the Change management process
  • Ability to provide proactive notification to stakeholders and Change Advisory Board (CAB) members for Changes with critical business impact and provide fully configurable filtered views of scheduled changes to multiple stakeholders
  • Ability to designate back up approvers
  • Ability to set thresholds for automated approval process
  • History of approval requests logged

Auditing/Reporting

  • Ability to easily identify affected CIs whenever a change is made
  • Ability to maintain an audit trail of changes made to a CI
  • Ability to track Asset status and lifecycle management
  • Support of multiple software audit options
  • Ability to perform software license management including automated notification of license expiration and non-compliance
  • Ability to create and publish a Master Release Schedule
  • Ability to associate the Master Release Schedule with Service Level Agreement information
  • Ability to store approver comments with the approval, and store approval history for a Release
  • Ability to track and trace post deployment activities
  • Ability to trace implementation to the authorized version in the Document Management Library (DML)
  • Bulk import of licensing data
  • Ability to track costs of CI’s

General/Other Criteria

  • Alignment with industry frameworks
  • Ability to support a “virtual” CAB (i.e. approvals/issues stored electronically)
  • User-configurable forms, tables, workflows, dashboards
  • Role-based access for approvals, retracting or rescheduling RFC’s/Release
  • Open system for real-time integration with financial management and other monitoring tools
  • Provision of templates and pre-filled forms and structure to act as basic starting point
  • Vendors should provide expertise and guidance in the implementation of the tool and relevant processes

If you would like to comment on the above criteria or if you are a vendor and would like to be included in this review please comment below or contact me via email.

Review: Absolute Software for Integrations

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

Executive Summary

Elevator Pitch A restful and subtle interface with an inclusive service management solution that wraps around a comprehensive endpoint management solution.
Strengths
  •  They offer a comprehensive set of connectors out of the box to a number of sources
  • An element of true CMDB federation exists by way of their mapping in real time with wizard driven interfaces
Weaknesses Like many vendors they are beginning to explore new areas of innovation – take-up can be slow within the customer base. They are finding a similar dilemma for other vendors in that it takes one enterprising organisation to start embracing an element for it to fly.
Primary Market Focus Based on the information provided, Absolute Software typically sell to medium-large organizations.They are classified for this review as:Specialised Service Management Suite – Offering ITIL processes and proprietary discovery tooling and Data Integration Points

Commercial Summary

Vendor Absolute Software
Product Absolute Service
Version reviewed 8.0
Date of version release September 10, 2013
Year founded 1993
Customers ~1,200
Pricing Structure Pricing is based on the number of technicians
Competitive Differentiators
  1. They offer a number of integrated functions within the tool including Remote Control and Chat functions
  2. They have focussed a lot of attention on a comprehensive Mobile Device Management strategy across Android and iOS
  3. They recognise that everyone has tools and to avoid “swivel-chair management” – they provide connectors to any third party data source.

 Independent Review

Absolute SoftwareAbsolute come from a mature security endpoint management point of view and so for a company that made all its money through licencing, they have gained an ITSM partner, via acquisition and now have 10 ITIL 11 processes to their name and they use ITIL terminology on their Tabs.

The majority of their revenue is focussed on licencing, and the focus on the product is for ease of deployment and not as much reliance on selling the supporting services.

It is a refined looking interface with a subtle use of colours to make records standout and they provide a lot of integration out of the box – their ethos is very much focussed on getting the job done.

Their background is recovery, compliance and security and their coverage to manage endpoints covers all bases.

They partnered with and acquired the Livetime service management solution but in addition they developed their mobile device management.

As such they do offer the full package on a smaller scale than some of the big hitters and they offer everything you would expect.

Even though they have heavily integrated their own product suites into their service management solution, they recognise that they are competing in markets where a vast array of tools exist.

They offer the ability to connect to any third party data source, and focus on allowing that data to be manipulated, mapped and managed within Absolute. They offer possibly the truest federation of data in a CMDB and recommend using their wizard driven interface to manage the incoming data.

There is something to be said for the restful design of their service management interface. Somehow the subtle colour coding works effectively when compared to perhaps more vibrant displays.

Integration and specific recognised criteria

Absolute Service comes with the ability to integrate into many different systems using their proprietary Asset Management Integration Engine – this allows for real time transformation and mapping of the data.

They supply integration with all third party authentication and authorisation systems. LDAP/AD integration is built in to the product along with integration to single sing-on products.

They provide both inbound and outbound web-services including to their applications on the Android and iOS platforms.

Security Controls

Security controls are through role based authentication and privileges on the user record within the application.

Pre-Deployment Integration

Their administration system allows for out of the box connections for a great many systems to pull in the initial information – everything is controlled by switches and there is no coding required. It is all interface driven.

Their first step would be to connect to the LDAP directory, to map properties across. They do have the capability to take in CSV bulk-uploads but they recommend the wizard-driven mapping process.

Asset and Configuration Information

Their Asset Management Integration Engine connects to any third party source, extracts the information and maps it directly into the CMDB.

As they deal with multiple sources, the data builds in the CMDB to provide a true sense of data federation, and new mapping fields can be created on the fly.

Absolute also have their own discovery tools to find any device attached to an IP address across servers, workstations and mobile devices.

The information is visible in real time

Support Services Integration

  • Remote Control

Absolute Service has Remote Control capability embedded into the solution and is selectable from the endpoint record.

  • Major Incidents

They allow customers to have access to RSS feeds, which can be built into any view – whilst there might not be much take up for single instance customers, but is a useful feature where Managed Service Providers are working with multiple Absolute versions

  • Support Chats/Social Media

As with Remote Control, Chat is directly embedded into the application and users can authenticate against established social media applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Resource Management Integration

As part of their mobile device management, Absolute can link to a location to allocate work to a local technician.

Within the Change Management application, a scheduling system shows a holistic view, including where people are on leave, and more importantly the workload of targeted individuals.

Additional Areas of Integration

  • Escalation to third parties

Their use of web services is a good example of where incidents can be written to a third party system (for example, where a service has been outsourced to an MSP).

  • Mobile Device Management

Often BYOD is not managed in a unified way and now with a potential mix of iOS and Android devices, they provide management through homogeneous profiles, which is then implemented within their service management solution, so that pulls of profiles can be device initiated.

  • Event Management

Where Absolute have installed their own software, they can monitor and manage devices in real time, and can use web services to also connect.

Absolute Service Customers

From the Absolute Service Brochure

  • An IT Service Management solution that combines people, process, information and technology so that IT services can align with the needs of the business.
  • With a data-driven view of the overall business, IT can assess the potential business impact of each service request.
  • Easily integrates with existing enterprise infrastructure for Asset Management, Authentication and Single Sign-On, Calendaring and Messaging

In Their Own Words:

With a data-driven view of the overall business, IT can assess the potential business impact of each service request. This is important since a simple hardware failure can have serious productivity and profitability implications to other parts of the business. With Absolute Service, IT has the necessary insight to respond appropriately.

With Absolute Service, IT is able to:

  • Satisfy service level agreements (SLAs)
  • Intuitively group and resolve multiple requests with a single solution
  • Identify and avoid costly business interruptions
  • Migrate to the latest version with a single click

With Absolute Service, organizations are able to:

  • Save over 80% by configuring the solution
  • Pay once, not forever
  • Avoid costly long term consulting expenses
  • Save development time and better reallocate resources

The intelligence of Absolute Service relies on the underlying CMDB. The CMDB federates data from multiple data sources already in place within the organization, including:

  • Most IT asset management systems such as Absolute Manage
  • Directory servers such as Open LDAP, Active Directory, Open Directory, and others
  • Single sign on and identity management services

Analyze the potential impact of each service request to pre-empt interruptions to productivity and profitability by focusing on those service requests that could be impactful to other areas of the business. Absolute Service provides IT with the intelligence they need to analyze the potential impact of each service request.

 Screenshots

Further Information

This independent review is part of our Integrations 2013 Group Test.

The ITSM Diet

krispyI am undergoing a very personal transformational change right now. I am trying to learn how to eat in the real world and maintain a healthy weight. I had really let myself go.

No exercise, eating too much, eating the wrong things and not caring. The results: 360 lbs.; the inability to walk at least 50 feet without wheezing; acid reflux; and an impressive expanding waistline. I felt horrible. My body simply hurt all the time.

After much self-loathing, I made the decision to change. Now, I control my calories, carbs, fat and protein levels and I get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise in a minimum of 5 days per week. I made my health issues a “big rock” in my life (see Stephen Covey’s “Put your big rocks in first”).

The results: I currently weigh 320 lbs., I’ve lost 4 inches on my waist, and I feel a heck of a lot better.

The funny thing in all of this, people keep asking me what “diet” I’m using. Okay, here it is –  I eat less, make better food choices, and exercise as much as I can. Disappointed with my answer? I find that many folks are looking for me to give them some “magical” advice like “oh, I lost the weight by following the Krispy Kreme diet”. There are no silver bullets. You have to eat right and exercise.

So, what’s the point in relation to ITSM?

The point is this; you must build and follow a plan for an ITSM initiative to work. There are no simple solutions or silver bullets to make adoption easy. Be prepared to work hard, suffer some failures, learn from those failures and iterate, just like you do with a diet.

In order to be successful in ITSM adoption (or in your diet) I recommend following the key “exercise and eating” tips and advice listed below.

Don’t fall for hype

“Just follow our simple x step plan every day, and we’ll guarantee you will lose weight”

I’ve seen ITSM blog posts and consulting statements that indicate the same thing “…just follow our advice and you’ll be doing x process in no time” or “buy our product and we guarantee you will be ITIL compliant”. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any offering of a “quick fix” probably will not work. Think about the long term and what you want the program to achieve. Learn good habits.

Always evaluate

I don’t do “diets” but there are items within the multitude of diet plans out there that do make sense for for certain individuals. ITSM is no different.

If something works, adopt it. If it doesn’t, forget it. For example, Problem management as detailed in ITIL® doesn’t fit well with how my organization works. We therefore adopted LEAN 8-step method as the primary way to execute our problem management but use the information in ITIL® to ensure our process is as robust as needed.

Build a plan that works for you and helps you achieve your goals

There are many ITSM frameworks out there and no rules that say you have to use a specific one. My advice is that you read, learn, and research.

You may need to use ITIL®, LEAN, COBIT®, USMBOK®, and/or combinations of the aforementioned to build your plan. Don’t do something just because someone else says you should do it. Know what you are trying to achieve and select the appropriate framework to work toward it.

For example, my company uses many different frameworks along with ISO/IEC 20000, with ISO/IEC 20000 as an indicator of “world class” IT operations. Despite this, we have attempted on four different occasions to start the adoption process for Configuration Management. What we found is teams did not understand what to do with CIs or how to move them through a change process. We therefore took a step back and spent more time looking at our Change process, and are now starting to have tabletop discussions on moving a CI through a change.

In doing this exercise, we found our teams had different execution of change, different ideas on what a CI is, and different ideas on how to move a CI through a change cycle. These discussions gave us the opportunity to drop back and review all the frameworks for a “good fit” to help accelerate what we do.

If the plan is not working, change it

When exercising, eventually your body can become use to a specific exercise and become efficient in the activity. At that point, you can continue doing the same thing, but the results will not improve. An ITSM plan is the same. If your plan is not getting the results you desire, mix it up and try a different approach. Focus on a specific aspect and find the change that helps you get the results you need.

During the adoption of incident management at my company, we had team members onboard who had been doing incident work for many years and yet our design process kept missing key steps we needed to fulfill ISO/IEC 20000 requirements. Clearly we needed a different approach and so we went back to the beginning and built a checklist of items that the design team needed to complete prior to submitting deliverables. This helped us to identify the missing steps and fix the design process.

Measure

When it comes to exercising and being healthy, my FitBit gives me all types of data to help me determine if my behaviors match my plan. Data helps us measure where we are against our goals, which is important in any ITSM initiative.

What you measure is up to you, you cannot allow others to dictate what data you need to collect. Identify your goals, and collect and analyze data that helps you reach those goals.

At my company, we ask our service owners to identify “pain points”, the place where their team or their customers indicate something in the process doesn’t deliver the promised goods and/or causes them problems. We have found that focusing on a few key measures and “pain points” leads the service owner and their teams to think more holistically about the service and why they are doing what they do. This organically leads to continuous improvement, brainstorming and discussion about user experience.

Keep the goal in mind

It is easy to get discouraged when you go a couple of weeks without losing any weight, and the same is true in ITSM. Don’t lose sight of what you have done and where you are now.

Sometimes it may seem easier to follow the same path as you always have and get the same (bad) results to achieve quick “outcomes”, but how does this help overall? Remember, incremental improvements over time lead to reaching goals.

Relax

One of the toughest issues I have with weight loss is overthinking the situation – I can become my own worst enemy. The same is true with your ITSM plan. Work the plan you built, and if something doesn’t work so what? Try something new! Be mindful of your situation and don’t be afraid to change. It will all work out in the end so just remember to breath and relax.

And a bonus tip!

Be as transparent as possible in any ITSM initiative or project, routinely discussing your success, failure, trails, and tribulations. This will help you to stay grounded and on top of where you really are in your process/project. Use your measurements to remind yourself and others of the progress you have made and make sure you understand the deliverables and timeframes.

Final Though

ITSM adoption, just like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can be tough. It takes planning and execution, measurement and analyzing data, and it also takes support. Remember, don’t fall for the hype; always evaluate; build a plan that works for your situation and change it as required; measure your progress; relax; and always keep your end goal in mind.

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