Monday, 18 December 2006

itSMF Conference 'Theory into Practice'

I've been meaning to post my thoughts on the itSMF conference and I still intend to do so. However, if you weren't able to attend and can't wait for my write-ups of the seminars that I attended, you can download the presentations from the itSMF website.

On another topic - I'm revisiting some time management techniques as I don't think I'm handling my current workload in the most effective manner. I'm quite keen on GTD (Getting Things Done) but haven't really given it a fair go as yet. I'm about to read 'The Now Habit' by Neil Fiore as I hear it's good for help with prioritisation. If you've got any tips that work for you I'd be interested to hear them.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

To charge or not to charge?

Today I had the pleasure of meeting Barry Corless who, if you hadn't heard, was recently appointed as the Chief Examiner for APMG's ITIL v2 examination board when they take over at the start of January (see here for more). I didn't actually click that it was him until later on so failed to congratulate him on the appointment, so here you go Barry: "Congratulations!".

Anyhow, today I attended the itSMF seminar day on 'Financial Management - The Chamber of Secrets'. I have an interest (partly from personal background but also from some financial related work I've had to do in the past 2 years) in how you go about recharging services as an internal within a non-profit making organisation and some of the presentations did clarify a few things for me.

In particular I found it interesting that one organisation introduced FMITS (Financial Management for IT Services) as part of an organisational wide change by creating what they called an 'internal market'. They went as far as devolving the financial accountants functions INTO the business units themselves. So ICT had a partially dedicated financial support resource to help them.

Another presentation reiterated how important it is that a qualified accountant be involved in the process from the start. What I'm wondering in my case is could we justify (in a year or two) the creation of a post of an IT Financial Manager. Given the nature of working in partnership with other councils I personally think it's a must to ensure accountability and transparency for audit. Time will tell...

There was quite a lot said about the 'why', the benefits, and some excellent case studies highlighting not just what works well, but what doesn't. The 'how' was really only covered thoroughly by a couple of the speakers and they provided some really useful techniques and templates.

It was also very clear that implementing FMITS is far easier if you already have service level management in place (service catalogue as a bare minimum), and reasonably mature incident, problem, change, and configuration management processes. This much I'd expected. What I hadn't really appreciated was just how much of an input Capacity Management has into FMITS, even if it's not very mature and just a few key metrics. If I'd been in any doubt Mr McMenemy certainly drove that point home!

At some point in the future I'll type up all my notes and share them with you all. Until then, keep an eye on the itSMF UK website as I'm sure they'll be uploading the presentation slides there shortly.

I had been hoping that it would also cover how to financially show the ROI of projects that deliver efficiency savings, but this wasn't to be. If anyone has done any work in this area I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, 23 November 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Newsletter

I've been somewhat busy since I returned from the itSMF conference so haven't yet shared what I learned and summarised the experience. I'm aiming to make a start on that this weekend.

In the interim, you may have heard that the TSO published an ITIL Refresh Newsletter which answers some of the questions posed here and from others in the service management community.

I'm happy to say that itSMF international are hosting a copy of the newsletter as a PDF on their site. It's well worth the read.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

BCS-ISEB and EXIN and IT Service Management

Well, I'm back from the itSMF conference 2006 'Theory into Practice' and over the coming weeks I will share the key learning points (and other things of interest) I have taken away from it.

Back in July I drew attention to an announcement from ISEB and EXIN regarding their commitment to ITIL.

On 1st November 2006 they signed an agreement to work together to further the continual improvement of IT Service Management and all that entails, rather than being restricted to ITIL (which is after all but one framework focusing on the operational amongst many spanning the strategic and governance as well). Personally I think this can only be a good thing for the future of IT service management and I look forward to seeing how things develop.

For a fuller editorial regarding the alliance, check out this post on ITSM Portal.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

itSMF and TSO - Good news?

I came across a statement on the itSMF news site stating:

TSO, the document and publishing services provider and itSMF International (itSMFI), the global authority for IT Service Management, have reached an agreement that paves the way for TSO and itSMFI to work in partnership to deliver the supporting material around the refreshed ITIL guidance, due to be published in Spring 2007.

The agreement, which it is planned to formally sign at the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition during the week of 13th November, recognises itSMFI’s extensive contribution over the last 15 years to the development and promotion of ITIL - a role it will continue to fulfil – and TSO’s position as OGC’s official publisher of the ITIL material.

My immediate question is "how do they define 'supporting material'?". I suspect they mean everything but the core books. Hopefully I'll get an answer to this question at the itSMF conference this week.

Incidentally, as I shall be attending the conference from Monday to Wednesday there shall be no blog entry until next Friday. I shall be covering off the seminars with an ITIL guru and hopefully between us we can feedback about the conference reasonably fully. See you when I return!

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

E-mails - distraction or effective tool?

I don't know about you, but I suffer from e-mail distraction. I find it hard to restrict myself to checking for new mail at one point in the morning, and another in the afternoon; especially if I'm expecting a response to something 'important' - so I leave the notification alert turned on (a time-management no-no).

Today's post is about the effective use of e-mail. All too often it is easy for us to send an e-mail which in some cases can be used to avoid potentially uncomfortable situations (so it becomes a safety blanket), to be more informal and say something that you perhaps might not say to some one's face, etc. These aren't good reasons and they are not as effective in terms of building and maintaining relationships with people as face-to-fact contact is. Over the past year I've made a conscious effort to send less (and more concise) e-mails and increase face-to-face/phone contact. Without question I have developed working relationships that are better for it.

For example, a colleague sent an e-mail asking who could attend a work social evening and received just a handful of replies. However, when they got up from their desk and spoke one-on-one with people, they were willing to say, 'Yes, I'll come along'.

With people copying all and sundry on e-mails, we suffer from e-mail overload and it is very easy to scan something and intend to deal with it later. If someone is face to face (or even on the telephone) it is frequently easier to get a result, i.e. more effective.

So next time you send an e-mail, stop, think, and get off your chair or pick up the phone. Try making e-mail the last thing instead of the first, the results may just surprise you.

If you have a few minutes, take a look at the following resources:

E-mail round up by Particle Tree

Manager Tools Podcast if you manage your own e-mail

Manager Tools Podcast if you have an admin managing your e-mail

Pick up a copy of 'Getting Things Done' by Dave Allen, if you can get the habit then it will make quite the difference. For reference, I've got a long way to go!

Thursday, 2 November 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

Things seem to be moving along on the ITIL Refresh v3 front according to a communication published on the OGC ITIL website.

All five core titles were delivered by the author teams by mid-October. Since then the Editorial Board has reviewed the books and carried out work to ensure integration and alignment across all titles. IAG members have been asked to nominate their preferred title to review. The review will start on 7 November and end on 27 November after which there will be a period for further integration work and editing, and for authors to make revisions. Public QA is scheduled for mid-January and a call for participants will be made imminently.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about the ITIL refresh at the itSMF 'Theory into Practice' conference from the 13th-15th November. Rest assured that I will be posting my thoughts on what I hear shortly after I return.

Friday, 27 October 2006

ITIL and the new qualification scheme

As regulars amongst you will know, I have some concerns regarding the future of the ITIL qualification scheme under APMG. The OGC have published a statement outlining the operation and ITSM portal have translated this into a diagram for easy comprehension. I'm still not sure what this means for itSMF, ISEB, or EXIN - but apparently patience is a virtue ;)

Monday, 23 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 4)

This is the final part (for now) in my mini-series on motivating a team to resolve help desk calls when they have lots of other (to them more interesting) work to be doing as well.

After the meeting back in the office, I set the jars up and got back to work. In the background I heard a lot of people on the telephone, and wait, someone taking a sweet already AND putting it in the Eat Me jar for everyone? Curious, I had a chat with my colleague and it turns out that they are concerned about their teeth. Yet, the scheme still works for them because as more sweets arrive in the Eat Me jar; it's a visible representation of how many calls they are resolving. An unexpected benefit because I was convinced that everyone would be selfish and eat their sweets unless there wasn't one they liked left in the jar!

Turning my attention to another colleague who had missed the meeting, I quickly explained that when they resolve a call they can take a sweet and eat it or put it in the jar. Their response: "I don't do gimmicks." I said that was fair enough. Later on they raised the point that if they didn't join in the numbers would be wrong; so I explained the sweetie stock take on Friday's in my own time after work which may or may not have had an effect. I figured it would take about a week for them to come around. I was wrong. After lunch, they got up and headed to the jars... there had been so much banter in the office about the sweets and who has done what and which sweet was taken, I think perhaps they didn't want to feel left out. I love it when a plan comes together!

A week on...the overall backlog has decreased by 40 calls (of course there are other factors that contribute to this such as less staff on holiday, less calls being logged during the week etc.)

Two weeks on...the overall backlog has increased again due in part to an unusually high number of calls being logged, staff out on training courses, and others on holiday.

Staff are using the jars, albeit in different ways. Some continue to use them as intended; others prefer to keep a note of how many calls they are resolving throughout the working day and take their sweets out of the jars at the end of the day. The key thing that this scheme has achieved is an interest in HOW we are performing which was previously low to lacking.

The next stage to enhance this will be some 'no cost to the council' way of rewarding staff for calls resolved within time on a monthly basis.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 3)

I agreed with the team leaders to present the idea at a team briefing. With the date set, the night before I ran the help desk report to show the number of outstanding calls on each work queue and spent part of my evening counting out and dividing hundreds of sweets into the various jars (each representing one work queue).

As I was doing this, I realised that although the jars are needed for operational purposes, it did detract somewhat from the shock factor of a huge pile of sweets. I've learned from Spendaholics (TV show) and John Kotter's 'The Heart of Change' that the tangible shock factor is all important to evoke the feeling which would hopefully lead to the change (I know he was talking about large organisational change, but I figure it could work for us too on a small scale).

So, I delved into the sweetie stockpile and started out counting sweets again equal to the number of outstanding calls. These I divided into plastic bags.

The next morning arrived, and I went in early to prepare the room. Jars laid out on a table and covered out of sight, the sweetie pile bags also hidden away, last months calls resolved within time stats and this month to date written on a white board, and another white board with numbers from 100-500 on it.

Once everyone had arrived I outlined the current situation regarding the increasing backlog with help desk calls and the people resources available. Next I turned to the whiteboard with the numbers 100-500 on it and asked everyone for their guess as to the number of outstanding calls. This led to a nice bit of banter whilst everyone submitted their thoughts which ranged from just over 300 to over 700! A nice indication that no one really knew. I circled those that came closest to the actual number and wrote it on the board for all to see (slight pause for it to sink in).

Next I said that at the end of the day it's just a number, and it's hard to grasp what that really means. At which point I delved into my shopping bag and pulled out first one plastic bag and handed it to a colleague to tip out into the middle of the table (I should say that we were all sat around a circular table which left a perfect circle in the middle for this exercise). The grins started to appear, and one person leaped ahead and said, "Oh, I bet we get a sweet for each call we close!" I grinned and handed out another bag. "I bet there's a hundred in each bag..." they said. Smiling, I handed out more bags to different people so about half of the team were hands-on.

When all the sweets were on the table, I stated the outstanding call number again and that each sweet didn't represent a call, but it represented someone waiting on us to complete their call (a slight mental shift as I was trying to encourage the customer-focused way of thinking).

As hands began to rummage through the sweets to see what was there I talked a bit about the process, then revealed the jars and went through each one showing the number of calls outstanding for that queue. This seemed to further reinforce the shock factor as in one case multiple people didn't realise there were any calls on one queue at all!

I fielded a number of questions, one of which was, "Is the council paying for this?" The answer was "No." In discussion with the team leaders we had agreed to split the initial and ongoing sweet cost 3 ways (I'm happy to pay for the jars as it was my idea, and if it fails then I get something out of it anyway). There was a split-second of silence as people took this in, then a number said "Thank you for doing this." I'm hoping that because we are willing to invest personal money and time, everyone will be that much more inclined to make the idea work.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that everyone present was smiling and up for the idea. I'd been prepared for the cynics. However, the real test would be when we were back in the office. Find out what happens in part 4 next Tuesday as that will mark 1 week of the new initiative.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 2)

Following on from yesterday and my revelation...

My colleagues needed to SEE the backlog. A long list or number on a report just doesn't cut it. I needed something tangible; something to shock; something that could inspire change... and ooh, something that might be motivating in and of itself.

Enter: sweets. Hundreds of them!

The 3-step process I came up with works like this:
1. Allocate a sweetie jar for each work queue with each sweet in the jar representing someone who is waiting on us to complete their incident/service request.
2. When someone resolves a call, they get to take a sweet from the correct queue jar and either eat it, or put it into the shared 'Eat Me! (available sweets) jar.
3. After work each Friday I take on the role of 'sweetie monitor' and top up each jar with the new calls for the week and check the count of each jar to ensure people are taking their sweets/not taking too many!

The following day I sounded out the IT team leaders and was pleasantly surprised to find that neither of them laughed at me. They actually leaned back and said, "That could work..." So, with the authorisation to go ahead I went shopping!

I made sure that I purchased a wide range of sweets with wrappers so they could withstand the rummaging, as well as checking best before dates because some of our calls have been outstanding for a rather long time.

Finding the right style of sweetie jar took a little effort but I found some and had to wait for a week whilst they ordered more to make up the numbers I needed.

With the jars and sweetie stock at the ready, I had to figure out how to present the idea to the team in such a way that they'd support it instead of dismissing it as 'one of her crazy schemes'. I'll save this part for Friday's entry. See you then.

Unresolved Help Desk Calls + Motivation = Change? (part 1)

No, I've not gone mad (always been that way)... Today I wanted to write about an idea I had that has today moved from theory into practice.

A little background. We don't have enough staff working in the IT department at my council. We're constantly wrestling with trying to balance project work, helpdesk calls, systems maintenance, and other corporate administrative duties that we may have. Since Gershon's Efficiency Review people (i.e. senior management) have looked to save money from all areas INCLUDING IT, instead of recognising that IT requires investment to help alleviate issues in other areas; but now I am digressing... back to prioritisation. It's tough. When the balance is tipped and you get to a stage where most of the help desk calls have breached the internally accepted SLA priority and the backlog is increasing instead of decreasing, it inevitably leads to a pretty demotivated team.

So... the big question that needed to be answered - what could I do in my non-management capacity to improve things for users, my colleagues, and myself? I should add a small proviso: 'given the restricted resources available'.

I don't know if any of you have seen Spendaholics or Supernanny on TV recently - but I watch them both with interest as I find them excellent lessons in the people side of change management (something I'm keen to develop). (Unlike, I might add, 'How Clean is your House' which I watch to reassure myself that I do some housework ;) ) One night, whilst drifting off to sleep, the solution hit me... slap bang in the forehead.

To find out what hit me in the forehead, see me tomorrow!

Friday, 6 October 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

Very quickly for those of you who may not have seen it yet, the OGC have published another statement about the Commercial Activities Recompetition (CAR) project, this time focusing on the potential impact on examinations which I've certainly expressed concerns about in a previous entry.

This new statement isn't particularly reassuring to me given that my employer is looking to implement ITIL in the new year (funding permitting). In which case, is it appropriate to go ahead and send people on training courses which will be accredited by a board who may be redundant by July 2007 (unless ISEB and EXIN become Examination Institutes (EIs) licenced by APMG)? Not to mention the refresh itself which I'm sure would mean an opportunity for training providers to run update courses to increase their income. Not good for our small government training budgets.

There's some interesting points raised by the editor over at ITSM Portal.

I do wonder whether APMG will bring ITIL examinations (and consequently those with the qualifications) more credibility or whether it will stifle the community that helps it grow. Only time will tell...

Thursday, 28 September 2006

ISEB upgrade their qualification framework

I´m on holiday at the moment, so apologies for the lack of posts. They´ll commence again from Tuesday 3rd October.

I heard something at a conference a few months ago about the need to upgrade the BCS ISEB IT qualifications framework to support the acceptance of IT as a profession in the truest sense of the word.

On page 21 of this month´s IT Now magazine there is a short explanation of the changes. It aligns other qualifications along the Foundation / Practitionar / Manager´s theme for certifications that we are already familiar with for ITIL. You can download the new ISEB Framework from their website.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

The 7 Sources Of Problems

I imagine that many of the ITIL readers out there are familiar with Dr ITIL. Some of you may even recall a series he wrote regarding the 7 sources of problems. I found it so useful that I diligently saved the articles to my hard disc for future reference; so when I found out about his first e-book 'The S7ven Sources of Problems: How to eliminate problems before they impact your business' I found myself wondering why I should pay for content that was already out there on the internet. That was until I read it!

The e-book goes far beyond the previous articles; a total of 66 pages. Diagrams are kept to a minimum, the majority of the book is content, content, content. It neatly distills not just what the 7 sources of problems are; but importantly HOW to mitigate and in some cases completely eliminate them. I find the writing style no-nonsense and conversational which makes for an easy read. Admittedly much of what he writes may be common sense to some people; but sometimes you need someone to remind you of what you already know; let alone point out the things you don't know.

In my view this should be mandatory reading for not just problem process owners everywhere, but anyone involved in project or change management, in fact include anyone supporting the IT environment and frustrated with the constant fire-fighting.

Start your journey of problem elimination by opening the door with the golden key (nudge, nudge, wink, wink!).

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Need help to pass the foundation exam?

I recently came across a podcast 'Top Tips for Taking the ITIL Foundation Exam' from ILX Training and finally made time to listen to it today. It wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be and the bulk of the helpful tips were in the final 10 minutes of the cast.

The advice is primarily directed towards those who are taking the exam following a classroom based training course, and is not hugely useful for those who are going the self-study route.

So... to summarise for those of you who don't have 30 minutes to listen to the cast:

Before the exam:
  1. There is no need to read up on ITIL prior to going on a formal training course. Everything you need should be provided on the course.
  2. Classroom based training courses will have official mock papers for you to practice.
  3. The ITIL Foundation Exam consists of 40 multiple choice questions to be answered in 1 hour.
  4. Need a minimum of 26 correct answers, the pass rate is perhaps 95% in this trainer's experience.
  5. The majority of questions are regarding the process itself.
  6. Only a few questions will ask about people (mainly on service desk) and technology.
  7. Ask your trainer questions, do not be embarrased. Chances are other people want to know the answer as well.
  8. Leave your preconceptions at home. The exam is on ITIL and not how you do things at work.
  9. Remember that even if you do something differently and think it is wrong, forget the 'I think...'. Answers must be 'ITIL'.
  10. Don't think you know everything about a process because it is similar to what you do at work. There may be new terminology, or the same terminology with different definitions.
  11. Learn the abbrieviations and acronyms and where they are used in each process. Think of it as learning a new language.
If taking the exam in a class based environment there will be an invigilator from EXIN or ISEB. They user generic exam forms.
  1. Scribble answers on the actual exam question paper.
  2. Only when you are finished should you mark answers on the generic exam form.
  3. Mark answers in pencil.
  4. Be very careful if you erase an incorrect answer as the computer may read it as a separate mark and void the entire line.
  5. ITIL papers normally only have 4 possible answers: A, B, C, D. The generic form includes a fifth option, E. Be careful not to mark column E.
The exam itself:
  1. Ignore everyone else in the room.
  2. Read the question, read the answers, re-read the question again.
  3. Go through the paper and answer all those you are sure of first.
  4. Eliminate the answers you know are incorrect (like 50/50 on who wants to be a millionaire).
  5. Allow approximately a minute and a half per question.
  6. If you aren't sure of an answer within 1 minute move on. There may be another question that may assist you.
  7. Once you have committed to an answer, do not go back and check as invariably you will change a correct answer to an incorrect answer.
  8. Do not over-analyse or second-guess yourself.
  9. If you can't answer all the questions don't worry about it.
  10. Remember to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer form!
You may also want to refer to my previous Foundation tips post.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

First time interviewer?

We're finally going to appoint some permanent Help Desk Operators and the recently appointed Team Leader was feeling a little apprehensive about conducting the actual interview itself. So, I stepped in with a few tips that I thought I'd share with the rest of you over the next two blog entries. Most organisations will have some recruitment procedures so I'm not going to focus on the entire process, just the interview itself.

Preparation is Key
When you are the interviewee, you prepare for the interview without giving a second thought to the interviewer who may be as nervous as you. The key to eliminating apprehension is adequate preparation. This applies to the interviewer as well as interviewee.
  1. Gather together the Job Description and the Person Specification (if there isn't one then make creating one your first task!).
  2. For each responsibility, jot down a short phrase that encapsulates the behaviours, skills, and knowledges required to deliver it, e.g.
  3. Once the list has been compiled, give yourself 100 points to allocate amongst each. The idea is that those which are more important are awarded more points, and those that are less important receive fewer points. The outcome should be a prioritised list of what you are looking for in the candidate.
  4. If there were more than 10 items on the wish list, cut off those that did not make the top 10. If you find yourself wishing one of the items were in the list, then go back to step 3 and repeat until happy.
  5. Use the information above to design a Candidate Assessment Sheet that you can use during the actual interview for each candidate.
More in part 2 coming Friday!

Friday, 1 September 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

There's a new status update up today regarding the ITIL Refresh.

Also, Sharon Taylor and the ITIL v3 Refresh team published a FAQ a few weeks ago to answer some of the many questions we all have regarding the changes.

It explains the new life cycle approach (using the analogy of building a house) and details the new 'core' titles of the 'service management practice suite' which are more role-oriented:
  • Service Strategies
  • Service Design
  • Service Transition
  • Service Operation
  • Continual Service Improvement
These core books will be released simultaneously hopefully towards late Spring 2007.

There will also be complementary titles available, focusing on specific issues although the FAQ does not indicate what these may be.

Mention is specifically made of the new focus on knowledge management, although it is not clear to me from the document whether this takes into account the practice of Knowledge Centred Support (KCS) (I'll be very surprised if it doesn't and build on it).

A key difference we finally have an answer to is that service requests will no longer be treated under incident management. They have their own 'Request Management' process which relates to Change Management.

For the full lowdown, download the itSMF PDF version of the ITIL Refresh v3 FAQ.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

The future's bright, the future's Pink!

Those who have read up on ITIL will no doubt be familiar with Pink Elephant as their consultants have been involved with writing both the v2 and v3 refresh; in fact, their claim as the world leader in IT Service Management probably isn't far wrong!

But did you know that this month they launched a free member's area which features archives full of quality articles, web casts and their new pinkcasts (podcasts)?

I didn't! I've only watched one web cast, but I've listened to all the pinkcasts, and dipped in to some of the articles (some of which I have seen previously) so far; yet I must say it's good introductory stuff!

If you're into ITIL and you haven't already signed up for a free account, then do so. That's right, leave this page and do it now! You won't regret it :)

Saturday, 26 August 2006

And the answer is...

In our case we don't have the resources to go for a big bang (and nor would we want to). ITIL is very much about culture change, so it isn't going to happen overnight (more like years, especially in the public sector). Harnessing the support of everyone in IT will be fundamental to the success of the implementation.

To answer my question posed on Tuesday, the service support processes identified to help eliminate our pain areas are:
  1. Service Level Management
  2. Review maturity of current Service Desk Function and Incident Management
  3. Change Management
  4. Problem Management
  5. Configuration Management
It may be that we can run change and configuration concurrently, I always think they are like the chicken and the egg. You don't want to implement Configuration management with change management otherwise you have no controls over the Configuration items; but if you implement Change with the configuration then you don't have the links to what are you changing... 'A person could go mad thinking about this... (10 points to the person who knows where that is from).

There are of course a lot of things involved from the people side with awareness training and workshops, to benchmarking existing processes, to consideration of the right tools to support those processes.

My intention is to manage the implementation as a 'Programme' of distinct projects, using Prince 2 Lite as the methodology. The high level plan has been drafted, let's see what the coming week holds...

For those of you in the UK - have a good bank holiday weekend!

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Drafting the plan.. where to begin?

As an ITIL programme is being included in our proposed IT strategy I've started drafting a plan. Just where does one start when introducing ITIL? Assuming that you are familiar with what ITIL is and the benefits of each process then I think identifying points of pain is a good start. Then you can identify which processes will help you eliminate those. They may not be 'quick wins', but as long as they make a REAL difference then they will help secure the CONTINUED buy-in needed for the other processes.

In our case, with three authorities coming together for IT service provision we have 3 major pain areas:
- High number of incidents and not enough staff to resolve them all within SLAs
- No clear delineation of service support roles and responsibilities across the 3 councils so calls are frequently assigned to the incorrect team which contributes towards breached SLAs
- Seemingly innocent 'It's a 5-minute job' changes made to shared council network infrastructure can create unexpected issues

Before I reveal which processes I'm including in the initial programme; given the information above, which do YOU think would help us and why? Answers on the back of a postcard... (not really, just use the comments!)

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

ITIL on the horizon, or is it?

Apologies for the infrequency of posts, I've been on holiday :)

There are some exciting developments in my workplace at the moment. Our IT head of operations has recognised the contribution that ITIL could make to improving the way we work. So much so that he organised for an external company to come and present an introduction to ITIL to key IT personnel.

Initially I was a little miffed because I had put together a business case and presentation on my own time that the board had agreed for me to put forward. However, in hindsight it seems that management pay more attention when it is an external company telling them the same thing that you, as an internal person, has been saying for ages! I'm sure I'm not alone on this one; is it a peculiarity of the public sector?

Anyhow, the external introduction seemed to do the trick as I've been asked to write a high level ITIL implementation plan. Perhaps finally I can start putting some of my knowledge to practical use, hooray!

Friday, 28 July 2006

ISEB and EXIN reinforce ITIL commitment

Well, it looks like we can still continue booking, studying for, aspiring to the ITSM qualifications already on offer from ISEB and EXIN. I spotted this statement published yesterday...

Statement BCS-ISEB and EXIN

Following recent announcements by OGC on ITIL®. BCS-ISEB and EXIN, 26 July 2006
BCS-ISEB and EXIN, the two independent worldwide IT examination providers, would like to update you on our position with regard to the continuation of our work in the IT Service management area, following recent announcements by OGC on ITIL®.

The recent announcement of OGC may cause concern among students, course providers, experts and companies and raise questions about the continuity of the ITIL® based IT Service Management Certification program.

This program is currently managed by the ITIL® Certification Management Board (ICMB). Through the ICMB the influence of the IT Service Management community on the Certification program is guaranteed.

In this statement we explain why the examination institutes BCS-ISEB and EXIN are able to safeguard and continue their IT Service Management Certification services in the future.

BCS-ISEB and EXIN own the current ITIL® certification program consisting of ITIL® examinations on various levels in over ten languages. Together with itSMF, both parties are involved in preparing the alignment of the ITIL® certification program with the upcoming refresh of the core ITIL® books.

As the initiators of the ITIL® certification program, we have made many contributions to the ongoing development of ITIL®, through papers, presentations, memberships of a number of committees, and editorial boards.

As global players in the area of certification for IT Service Management, we will continue to closely cooperate with the parties involved in the current ITIL® based certification services to safeguard and support the quality of the worldwide qualification & certification program in the IT Service Management field.

We will continue to guarantee the quality of training institutes providing ITIL® courses for the ITIL® Foundation, Practitioner and Service Manager Certification.

Current applications for accreditation are valid, and we encourage new training provider prospects to become accredited. BCS-ISEB and EXIN and other stakeholders, will aim at a continued cooperation with accredited training providers in order to maintain the high quality of the ITIL® certification standard.

BCS-ISEB and EXIN have indicated that it is our intention to continue to work with all of the existing members of the IT Service Management community, and are committed and ready to continue the development of ITIL® and by doing so work with the current IT Service Management community and also maintain, improve and safeguard the standards of IT Service Management around the world.

We look forward to the continuation of our cooperation and the further development of ITIL® and IT Service Management.

Pete Bayley
Director of Qualification Products
British Computer Society

EXIN International
Joep van Nieuwstadt

For more information please contact:
EXIN International on telephone number +31 (0) 30 234 4820 or
BCS-ISEB on number +44(0) 1793 417494

Saturday, 22 July 2006

It's official - APMG has the rights to ITIL

Well, we knew it was coming but it's now official. At 4pm GMT on July 20th 2006, APMG signed a contract with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to become the new accreditation body for ITIL.

The questions for many (including myself) are:
'Where does this leave the itSMF?',
'Where does this leave the ITIL v3 Refresh?'

I don't have the answers - but I'll be watching this space with many over the coming months.

Sunday, 9 July 2006

Where's the profIT?

I really should have written about the ProfIT conference immediately so this may be old news to some of you.

On Monday 8th May 2006 I attended the Prof IT conference in London. The tagline: 'Building a World Leading IT Capability'. Not world-class, but world-leading.

My interest in the event stemmed from a desire to see IT become a recognised profession in the same way that say, accountancy is. I've heard people talk about IT staff as a 'protected species' but without perhaps the understanding of why we may be protected and what it is we actually deliver to the business. I don't want to be a member of a protected species; I want to be recognised and valued as a professional (but that's another blog entry).

The seminars throughout the day explored the issues around what constitutes a profession as well as a professional, and having defined this, how to go about making it happen.

There was an impressive array of people on the guest list ranging from MDs and CEX across both private and public sectors which inspires some confidence that there is a commitment to seeing this vision become a reality. Curiously, some comments from people in the private sector suggested that they believe real change can only happen if government embraces it. They seemed particularly pleased to hear Katie Davies, Director of IT Professionalism for e-government introduce the Government's take on the SFIA framework, etc.

The highlight of the day for me personally was the motivating presentation from David Taylor, author of The Naked Leader. He hates us calling recipients of IT services 'users' which he pointed out was akin to calling them druggies and suggested we come up with something else (but such is the dependence on IT these terms that the term is rather apt in my opinion) !

The culmination of the day was the signing of the ProfIT Programme Alliance by representatives of E-Skills UK, Intellect, the National Computing Centre and British Computer Society.

Anyhow, presentations from the conference are available for download. So if you want to know how IT professionalism is progressing be sure to take a look.

Monday, 26 June 2006

If I had this a month ago!

As I was going through some papers that I got from the ProfIT conference I came across a leaflet promoting the Intellect Women in IT Forum.

If only I had looked at it before I gave the presentation at the 'Women into ICT' day! It summarises very nicely some of the key issues affecting the recruitment and retention of women in working IT today and also mentions the deliverables from their research programme, in particular:

Women in the IT industry: Phase 2 Research How to Retain Women in the IT Industry
(July 2005)
Women in the IT industry: Phase 1 Research Towards a Business Case for Diversity (January 2005)

That wasn't what got me all excited though. The Intellect link led me to the hitherto unplummed depths of the E-skills UK website (and I used to think I'd had a really good browse of it too!). In a tiny corner of the careers section there is a link to a video entitled 'You can do IT too!' which, lo and behold, seeks to destroy those stereotypical perceptions of IT workers in an effort to encourage young women into the field!

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Who wants an IT Diploma?

If you're not quite sure what I am talking about let me fill you in quickly.

The UK government has recognised that the current education system is somewhat lacking in a number of industry sectors of which IT is but one (no doubt thanks to certain major employers and organisations such as the BCS saying that IT educuation is not fit for purpose and that there are too many university courses for IT churning out students who still need training to become effective in a real world job).

The hope is that developing an IT diploma (aimed at 14-19 year olds) with significant input from businesses (how much consultation is being done with current teachers of IT & computing I have no idea!) will lead to more interesting courses, and students are actually ready to take on an apprenticeship or progress to universities.

So, back to what I was saying... I've read the development specifications and so far I like what I see. Focusing on the level 3 diploma there are skills that students would be required to achive a basic standard in that many people in today's workplace today either don't have or don't care about. I mean, how many of you learnt how to write a business case for IT investment at school? Or best practice and the basics of project management frameworks?

If this qualification leads to more interesting education which attracts more women (not that I'm biased or anything!) and students who know more than standard network topologies then it has to be a step in the right direction.

Of course, there are all the issues regarding re-educating IT teachers to teach the syllabus as well as businesses stepping up to offer work placements but I think the future is brighter than it has been.

If you're interested in learning more about the IT Diploma take a look at:

" and the "14-19 Diploma Development (IT), EMPLOYER NEEDS DEFINITION:
input from the UK EMPLOYER SURVEY

Further information is available from the E-Skills UK Website.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

ITIL Refresh v3 - Update

There are a lot of rumours flying around at the moment centred around the OGC's Commercial Activities Recompetition (CAR) project which many fear will have a negative impact on the ITIL Refresh and indeed, the future of ITIL, training and its' qualification scheme currently adminsitered by the ISEB and EXIN. The OGC released an official statement on 15th June 2006 to try and mitigate these concerns, although I have to say that I am still concerned and will continue to watch this space.

The other major news in ITIL at the moment is the publication of the ITIL v3 Refresh Scope and Development Plan and the revised Glossary of Terms, Definitions and Acronyms.

I haven't quite read through both documents yet, but I'll post some of my observations once I have. At the moment I'm cringing at the idea of having to purchase an entire library in order to follow a process through the entire lifecycle. Mind you, if they were to publish each process as an entire lifecycle in addition to the lifecycle books themselves then that might help. At this stage I'm really not sure!

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Women and ICT - where are they all?

Hi again, sorry for the lack of entries - it has been a particularly busy time for me. I have attended a number of events that I want to talk about on this blog so I'll try and catch up over the coming month!

First of all I want to tell you about a new personal development challenge that I gave myself this past week. An opportunity arose through the BCS Women Group to present to a group of year 10 girls (aged 14) from local schools at a 'Women into ICT' day at a local college. I've done a fair bit of presenting but this was the first time to a young audience. With 45 minutes to fill, I didn't want to just talk about my role as a support officer as I figured that would put them to sleep. I needed another angle so started digging around a little.

I was surprised to find that in 2001 just 22% of the IT workforce was made up of women which apparently was a 10% reduction over the previous 7 years! The more I read the more I wanted to convince these young women that they are needed in the future UK IT industry. Women were leaving IT in droves...why was that? Could it be the way it is taught in schools? Or is it still all about perception?

My research turned up the belief (which I happen to agree with) that IT in schools needs to be split between the basic IT skills that everyone needs (much in the same way then require English and Maths) and the IT / computing required for a career in IT. There is a new IT diploma being developed for 2008 so that when kids leave school they actually have skills relevant to the workplace.

There's even a Computer Club for Girls (CC4G) scheme which schools can be involved with to show girls other aspects of technology and its applications.

So, people are already trying to do something about IT education. That left me wondering what I could do to combat the perception. Another little stat for you from a survey in 2005.
  • 35% of respondents aged 13-17 associate a career in IT as some form of administrative or secretarial office work.
  • 27% of respondents would consider a career in ICT or Computing.
For me this was a shocking revelation and it helped me form the theme for my presentation. I knew I wanted to break the presentation up into parts to make it more interactive and after talking my ideas through with a few people came up with what I hoped would be a winning formula.
  1. Introduce myself and outline the agenda for them (90 seconds)
  2. Split them into groups for a group exercise: "Who am I?" This was designed to get them thinking about difference aspects of an IT support worker through personality, environment, skills, and education (20 minutes). I also hoped it would reinforce the stereotype to go neatly into:
  3. Showing a TV clips of Nick Burns The Computer Guy with Jennifer Aniston to sum up the stereotype and demonstrate how IT support shouldn't be done (5 minutes).
  4. 'A day in the life...' A quick talk about the different aspects of my work as well as those I work with to show that we aren't the stereotype (well, not all of us anyway!).
  5. A quick explanation of how I got from school to where I am now.
  6. An explanation of why I was there on a 'women into ICT' day including some stats to reinforce a few points.
  7. Finishing with a quick fire quiz with sweets for correct answers.
I'm pleased to say that the girls got stuck into the exercise and in some cases surprised me with their appreciation for IT requiring a more varied skillset than I expected them to recognise. In particular they stressed communication. Yet another great example for me of why we need more women in IT service delivery roles - they get it and they haven't been taught (no offence to any men reading this)!

The clip made them laugh, and they managed to stay awake for what I considered the boring part of the presentation, then sprung back into life for the quiz.

I stayed to listen to another presentation, curious as to the approach they took, which was quite different to mine but in some senses perhaps more useful as it gave them a lot to think about in terms of different job roles available in IT where as I focused primarily on support and destroying stereotypes.

I also assisted with the practical HTML workshop which was fun. They seemed to really enjoy seeing the results of their coding and playing around with colours etc.

All in all I found the experience very worth while and would certainly do it again if the opportunity arose. It was a challenge for me to find ways to maintain the interest of a room of 25 young girls as well as deliver it. I can only hope that if they only took one thing away from the presentation its that 'A career in IT is for women too'!

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

What is SFIA anyway?

I've mentioned SFIA in a previous entry and thought it would be helpful if I gave a quick overview of what it is, and why we should care about it.

In July 2003, the BCS, the IEE, and IMIS formed the SFIA (Skills for the Information Age) foundation. The primary goal of this was to create a high level skills competency framework for IT professionals, much like those that already existed in other industries, as well as a standard language for talking about IT skills. Indeed, it grew in part from the BCS's ISM (Industry Standard Model) which was subsequently modified in accordance with SFIA and rebranded as SFIA+. It is SFIA+ that forms the basis of the BCS professional development product offerings. But I digress, back to the framework itself.

SFIA version 3 is at first sight a relatively simple two-dimensional matrix. There are 7 responsibility levels across the top (1 being the lowest) and 6 main categories of work down the left as follows:

Strategy and Planning
Business Change
Service Provision
Procurement and management support
Ancillary Skills

Each main category incorporates sub-categories and skills. It should be noted that the placement of skills within categories can be argued (and has been). When using the matrix to assess your skills as an IT professional it is important to indicate where you have a competency regardless of which category it falls under; the categories are really a convenient matrix navigation aid and not intended to be limiting. For example, if your main role at work is that of network support this falls within the Service Provision category. However, you also have project management experience which falls under Business Change. Therefore you have skills in both areas, and that is okay. In today's environment I'd go so far as to say cultivating skills in the business change arena is to be encouraged!

Okay, so far it seems sensible enough, but how do you know if you are selecting the 'right' skill and how do you decide which level to record against it? That's where the skills definitions reference document comes in. Let's look at the example of Network support within User support on page 29.
Network support (NTAS)
The provision of network maintenance and support services. Support may be provided both to users of the systems and to service delivery functions. Support typically takes the form of investigating and resolving problems and providing information about the systems. It may also include monitoring their performance. Problems may be resolved by providing advice or training to users about the network’s functionality, correct operation or constraints, by devising work-arounds, correcting faults, or making general or site-specific modifications.

Level 2 Assists in investigation and resolution of network problems. Assists with specified maintenance procedures.

Level 3 Identifies and resolves network problems following agreed procedures. Uses network management software and tools to collect agreed performance statistics. Carries out agreed network maintenance tasks.

Level 4 Maintains the network support process and checks that all requests for support are dealt with according to agreed procedures. Uses network management software and tools to investigate problems, collect performance statistics and create reports.

Level 5 Drafts and maintains procedures and documentation for network support. Ensures that all requests for support are dealt with according to set standards and procedures.

From this we can decide whether it is the most appropriate skill and furthermore, the appropriate level with which to assess ourselves against.

For IT professionals, this framework is an excellent tool to help identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, i.e. peform a gap analysis. However, I'd go a step further and say that IT professionals should join the British Computer Society and make use of the Career Developer facility using SFIA+ which has much more depth. More on that in another blog entry.

For employers, once your staff have completed an assessment you then have an accurate skills database which is a plus point for auditors and Investors in People assessments! However, far more use is the fact that should someone leave the organisation, you now have the information at your fingertips to decide which of their skills you wish to hire back in, or make the decision that actually you need someone with another skill set.

Long-term I see the terminology used in SFIA forming the basis of job adverts. As it becomes the recognised standard for the industry by the IT professionals themselves; recruitment can be streamlined as candidates will have a clearer idea of what the job entails before making an application, and employers will have a clearer idea of what they are actually looking for. A definite improvement over the current situation.

Friday, 5 May 2006

Chugg chugg!

Hello again. I'm in the new house but unfortunately I'm waiting on my broadband installation so I've fallen back onto, dare I say it, dial-up. It just shows what an internet addict I ashould reduce myself to such drastic measures !

I've got quite a lot on at the moment and also going on holiday so I'll try and get one decent post in per week until I'm back on broadband.

One thing to highlight quickly for and ITIL people out there is the opportunity to attend a teleseminar with Robin Yearsley and Randy Steinberg on 10th May. If you're interested do sign-up now as places are limited.

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Into the frying pan - My first 'major' project - part 3

A couple of weeks into the project I was told by the board that I was to use PrInCE2 Lite methodology to manage the project - and they wanted a PID. PrInCE2? A PID? What's are they when they're at home? I made haste to the office of our resident qualified practitioner who thankfully took pity on my ignorance and walked me towards the light.

A few hours later I emerged with a seriously high-level overview of Prince 2 (which I now knew was yet another wonderful acronym - PRojects IN Controlled Environments) and some standard templates all prepared to write the PID (i.e. Project Initiation Document a.k.a. PDS - Project Definition Statement).

When I say seriously high level I mean that I came out knowing what SU, IP, DP, CS, MP, SB, CP, and PL stood for and a rough idea of what was needed in each - and I mean rough! For those of you not familiar with Prince 2 it is pretty hefty and not something that can be learnt just like that. I am not qualified and rather keen to attend a course so I can get my head around it all!

Anyhow, once I delved into the template for the Project Initiation Document I cringed. There were yet more terms I didn't know, and sections that needed answers that I didn't yet have.

Thankfully you need not scour the web for such definitions as I have 2 links to recommend that will make quite the difference. The first is the Glossary of Terms (9 page PDF for download). The second is not exclusively Prince 2 but a truly excellent resource - Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms v3.1.

In the next part of this saga, I will talk about the stakeholders and how I got their input (and in some cases how I failed to do so!).

The ITIL Imp goes into hiding?

Well not really, but it's unlikely that I will be posting for a week or so as I'm in the process of moving house and I'm sure most of you know how time consuming that can be. I suddenly realise not just how many books I own, but worse, how many of those I still haven't made the time to read! So, until next time, this is the ITIL Imp signing off!

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Into the frying pan - My first 'major' project - part 2

In part 1 I talked about how I got involved in the rather interesting world of Project Management. In part 2 (and those that follow) I'm going to talk about some of the highs and lows along the way, my learning points, etc. So, onward!

The first thing we did was assemble a project team. This was quite a strange affair as, looking back, I think I had very little to do with the make up of it; rather, it landed in my lap. The first thing that happened was the board appointed one of their group to be the project executive (sponsor). As it happened he was from one of the other council's in the partnership. We met one afternoon and had a really good chat about ourselves and backgrounds, what we were expected to do, the kind of deliverables we wanted from it, etc. We seemed to see eye-to-eye on things and were keen that it needed to be a managed as short sharp project.

Then came the rest of the team. As one would expect we involved a Help Desk operator from each council - except the one I was from. Having started at this council in the role and continuing to oversee it, it was considered I had the required knowledge. We did include a member of technical support from one of the other councils to represent that viewpoint but that is where the team stopped growing. Although we had opportunities to invite a representative from a separate partnership technical sub-group; in hindsight it would have been better if they were included as part of the project team itself. So, we've got 2 project team members from each council except the one I work for who had, well - me.

Our first project meeting felt quite exciting and there was a very positive vibe. None of us knew one another and there was a lot of work to do to become a team, but still, we were all curious about how this partnership would work and here we were, starting to actually work together. Once we got the introductions out of the way and some understanding of one another's viewpoints we delved straight into figuring out just what we were expected to deliver.

We figured that a good place to start would be defining our ideal help desk operation and an appraisal of the existing call logging tools in use at each council (Heat, Sunrise, and Touchpaper). This is where I found questionnaires quite helpful to both elicit the information and to compile and compare the results afterwards.

And with that I leave you this cartoon that I believe is rather appropriate to the position we found ourselves in... and something you want to avoid at all costs (Found on ) !

Friday, 14 April 2006

ITIL Foundation Certificate - Tips to pass the exam

One of the frequent questions I come across is 'how do I pass the Foundation exam?' The ITIL Foundation Certificate is the only ITIL examination that can be taken through self-study and public examination. I personally recommend a course with an accredited training provider as you get the benefit of networking with others and can glean some useful insights into how ITIL works in the real world - which you can't get from the books. Also, decent trainers have prior experience with the examinations and can test you in mock examination conditions using official sample papers. Furthermore, they can advise you of the key things that really must be memorised, and the things that you need to understand (though not necessarily know by rote). I took my ISEB Foundation Certificate through Fox IT in the UK and was trained by Gerry McLaughlin and would highly recommend them.

There are two examining boards for ITIL certifications, the ISEB and EXIN. Whichever board you choose, ensure you learn the content of their syllabus.
Download EXIN Syllabus (PDF)
Download the ISEB Syllabus (PDF)

My advice would be to ensure you know:
- which processes belong to service delivery and which to service support
- the key activities that make up each process
- who is responsible for various activities (in terms of process ownership)
- the acronyms and terminology used in each process as well as key phrases that may indicate which process the question is about (Glossary of terms link)
- the inter-relations between processes
- the benefits that can be realised from each process

Ensure you remember that they are testing you on ITIL as it is in the books, NOT on what you do (or don't do!) in your current organisation.

In terms of the examination itself which is 40 multiple choice questions (ISEB), read the question - ensure you understand it then look at all the answers. If you don't know the answer straight away, work with a process of elimination. Quite often with these there is one really wrong answer, and with the other three there is one that is 'more correct' than the others. So be careful not to be caught out. Read EVERY word of an answer. Overlooking the word 'NOT' can be the difference between a correct or wrong answer!

If you know the material, you'll find the exam is less exerting than a walk in the park. If you don't, you may struggle - so make sure you do ;)

A couple of sample questions from ISEB sample paper 3 2003

10. Which of the following is NOT a technique usually associated with Availabilty Management?
A. Auto error detection
B. Duplexing
C. Analysing Data
D. Queuing theory

16. Which of the following best describes why an SLA should contain definitions of terms?
A. To ensure that anywhere there is a measurement required within the SLA then it is realistically measurable
B. To ensure that both the customer and IT can unambiguously understand the terms in the SLA
C. To make sure that all clauses in the SLA make sense
D. To ensure that the customer's understanding of a particular term is the one meant in the SLA.

Finally, some links that may be of use:

Dr Itil used to have a foundation success blog with tips up but it seems to have died. There is a little entry on his old blog.

You can try some ITIL exam practice.

ITIL essentials study guide (not used myself so unable to confirm accuracy but Dr ITIL linked it awhile back so I'd expect it to be okay).

ITIL reference guide on Robert Perrine's site. Well worth browsing the rest of his site under the ITIL section as he includes slides from his study lessons.

Good luck, see you on the other side!

P.S. Answer to No. 10 = D and No. 16 = B

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

What does it mean to be a Service Delivery Manager?

Over the past 2 years I've been thinking that we could really use a Service Delivery Manager where I work. Curiously enough, it turns out that the new Technical Operations Manager thinks so as well and sees the role as fundamental to contributing to the overall strategy for service provision. So he asked me to write a paper outlining my strategy for service provision over the coming years. Great, except that as the reporting lines have not yet been resolved my line managers are reluctant to let me spend any time researching and writing the report as it will take away from the day job. A fair point, but should I really be doing this in my own time and not being paid for it? Part of me says 'no' - it is for work to benefit therefore I should continue to maintain my work/life balance. Another part says that it is a missed opportunity for me personally if I do not.

Anyhow... all of this has me wondering 'What does it mean to be a Service Delivery Manager?' I believe it is more than service level management as defined by ITIL, and it should include service introduction management. I'd like to write a job description and person specification, so, as a starting point, started trawling job adverts only to find there is a wide range of views. Over the next week or so I'm throwing the question open to the rest of you. I'll write up my answer in a couple of weeks incorporating your views, and although it may not be definitive - hopefully it will be a reasonable answer to an important question.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

Mind Mapping and Me

If you learn one new technique this month, make it mind-mapping. I believe that using this technique has had a great impact on my life since I discovered it 2-3 years ago.

It was created by Tony Buzan who was researching how the brain works, particularly as it relates to memory. I won't write a history or a review as there are lots of websites that provide this (see below). Instead, I will tell you how I use the technique to aid my memory, problem solving, and project planning.

Note-making - When I am trying to get a handle on a subject (e.g. revising for the ITIL exam), or just thrashing ideas out with myself, I use a mind map to capture my brainstorming. It's very easy to make sense of things by moving them around once my thoughts have been captured. Frequently moving them around also leads to 'aha' moments which don't readily happen when working in a more linear fashion.

Book Summaries - I'm reading a book and I want to take notes. Instead of the old fashioned way, I sit in front of my PC and create a mind map as I read. At the end I have a summary of the book's key points which serve as reminders of the content.

Project Planning - I create a map as though it were a work break down structure. Starting in the centre with the deliverable, I then work out what is needed to make it happen. Afterwards I then go through and add in the estimated times each action will take and who it may be allocated to. When finished I use Mind Manager to export it into Microsoft Project and voila - one work breakdown schedule in half the time it takes to create in Project. (Of course you then have to go through other parts like the finance, resource levelling, etc. But getting that initial work in saves a lot of time and is easier in mind to work from due to the visual nature of mind maps).

This applies from projects at work to projects at home like moving house!

Creating Presentations
- I haven't yet graduated to presenting with mind manager. However, I have used it to get down the key points for a presentation, add in notes for myself, then exported to power point. Works very well as it enables you to see how everything contributes to the main topic leading to a sharp, cohesive presentation.

Writing Reports - I put down everything I want to say, get all the key points down with extra text where needed. Then afterwards I move things around to get a structure that works. Only then do I export into MS Word to format as required for the respective occasion.

Meeting Management - I've used mind maps to create meeting agendas, then projecting the mind map onto a wall during a meeting, type up decisions and actions as it progresses. By the end of which you have a complete (hopefully accurate) record of the meeting as everyone can see what is being written. This can be e-mailed to everyone as a mind map, exported to MS word format, or published on an intranet.

Collating Research - When I find an interesting topic that I look into, I tend to create a mind map to draw together the useful links, quotations, book references, etc. Then it is easy to find things later on.

I also have lots of odd maps that don't quite fit in the above categories. Some for example are master maps that link various maps together, like a miniature desktop. Particularly useful when you don't want to go digging in your file directory.

Useful Links:
Introduction to Mind Mapping @ Mind Tools (my favourite personal development web-site)
MindJet - software developer of Mind Manager (my favourite)
Freemind - if you can't afford the above
Yahoo Mind Manager Group - great community to help you get the most out of Mind Manager

If you do take the plunge and look into mind mapping, please let me know how you get on with it. I personally find it makes some boring jobs rather fun, I hope you do too!

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Into the frying pan - My first 'major' project - part 1

A couple of years ago I was asked to look into consolidating the help desk operations of 3 councils that were looking to work in partnership to deliver ICT services. My role at the time was that of a system support officer with a primary responsibility for help desk and customer service. The local face of IT if you will. Initially I was quite excited at the opportunity and could envision a more professional help desk providing better services. Seeing as they had asked me, they saw this too, right? Perhaps I was naive, and if I am honest I do have a tendency to be when I am excited about something.

I started off by forming a working group formed from the help desk operators / supervisors at the other councils and having a relatively informal chat about what I had been asked to do, followed by a fact-finding mission to discover what I considered to be key things. These meetings went very well and those involved were very open (contrast this with how closed the management themselves were on certain issues, especially when it came to finance). I've compiled a mind map (requires Mind Manager viewer) to show the areas that my questions covered. I hope it will act as a useful kickstart for someone out there faced with the same task.

Once this initial task was complete, I sought to gain further guidance from those that had given me the task before writing my report as I wanted to be sure it would answer their questions. Ironically, they couldn't tell me what their questions were. If I were me back then, the alarm bells would have been going off and I would have said that they needed to all sit down and figure out exactly what they were hoping for. As I didn't know then what I know now... I didn't.

I wrote the report which raised far more questions than it answered, of that I have no doubt. However, it did give management enough information to make the decision to formally go ahead and consolidate the help desks of the 3 councils. Result!

I shouldn't have been surprised when I was asked to be project manager - but I was. With no formal project management training behind me or substantive project mangement experience I felt that it was too high profile for a first 'major' project. I actually recommended that they appoint someone else and that I act as Project Lead. Looking back I'm glad they ignored my recommendation! They agreed that they would support and train me to use the Prince 2 Lite project management methodology to deliver the project, so I agreed to do it. After all, it's not often these opportunities come my way. (Incidentally, the training never came; at least not until after we had finished the project! I got by through primarily by reading project management books and websites on my own time - I'll document which I would recommend in another post for you.)

So there we have it... how I got into the frying pan that is project management, and subsequently ITIL. Stay tuned for part 2!

Monday, 3 April 2006

What's in a mood?

The other day was one of those days. You know when you wake up and you're not in a great mood, but you aren't particularly angry about anything you can put your finger on either? Well I was having one of those and ended up being somewhat short and snappy with some of my work colleagues (I did explain to them it wasn't personal, I was just in a wierd mood).

When I got home something from the depths of my mind came to the fore - biorhythms. I hadn't looked at mine for about 4 years, so decided to see where I was in the various cycles. For those who are unfamiliar with biorhythms, they were identified in the 1890s, and today there are three primary cycles which start from birth.
  • Physical - (23 day cycle) When it is high you tend to feel strong and alert; when it is low you feel tired and are more likely to pick up an injury or illness.
  • Emotional - (28 day cycle) When it is high you will feel content and at peace; when it is low you may have a gloomy outlook on life and feel that the world is against you.
  • Intellectual - (33 day cycle) Pick up new skills easily and apply existing skills in innovative ways when it is high; when it is low may feel unable to concentrate and more likely to make mistakes performing simple tasks.
For an excellent summary on the theory of biorhythms take a look at the White Stranger site.
Anyhow, using the Easy Biorhythm Calculator I found that I was heading into a low phase in more than once cycle. I then checked out some key dates in the past and it was very interesting to see how accurate they appeared to be.

I intend to use biorhythms in my tool armoury to help understand why I am the way I am sometimes, and to help me better deal with it. Hopefully there will be less snapping at work colleagues!

Friday, 31 March 2006

The emerald city that is the BCS London Office

I arrived at the London office of the British Computer Society (BCS) in Southampton street a little early so plucked up the courage to mingle a little.

First I spoke with a guy who was not actually there for the forum, but an oral exam for one of his programme management certifications. Over the past year he's certified in Prince 2, MSP, and APM - busy busy! He said that the Prince 2 exam wasn't that hard as it was open book and that as long as you understand the concepts and overall process it's fine - food for thought (but then it sounds like he has a LOT of experience unlike me!). I was curious as to the sudden need for accreditations and he explained the he works for a large telecommunications company and it is the customers to whom they are increasingly providing ICT services that are the real driver. In today's private sector marketplace there is a real need to demonstrate the professionalism of their staff through accreditations. This interested me because it is one of the very themes that the government is beginning to accept. Perhaps we aren't that far behind the private sector after all...

I also bumped into a lady I met at the Government IT roadshow 2 weeks ago. It turns out she works for a county council, so it will be interesting to see how they progress as I suspect we will face many similar issues with implementation/culture change.

Anyhow, the forum itself focused on the differences between SFIA v2 and v3 and how these changes have been implemented in the BCS products. I was particularly pleased that they spent some time talking about the Government IT profession model based upon SFIA v3 and how SFIA+ has also pulled from this and will continue to do so. I was certainly reassured that we haven't wasted our investment. If anything it has only motivated me to try and realise further benefits from it.

There was also a case study from Deloitte regarding the BCS Group Membership scheme. Fundamentally it's a fast-track way to get their staff accredited and be able to say to customers 'we are professional' and have the BCS seal of approval to show it. They've done well, but I can't see it working for us - not yet anyway.

The afternoon finished with a Professional Development Quiz. The first part was to check if we were listening, but the second half prompted some interesting discussion in our small groups based around the following areas:

3 key principles of professional development
Development against a recognised external standard
Creating a personal development plan as the start of a cycle
Monitoring and recording against the plan
Review sign-off at the end of the cycle

3 most important factors to achieve successful implementation of a professional development programme
Senior management buy-in
Treat as a project using a suitable methodology, e.g. Prince 2.
Appoint a co-ordinator / project manager who is responsible for making it happen

3 most important factors to sustain a successful professional development programme
Continued and visible backing from senior management
Perceived standing of scheme in organisation
Ability to motivate all participants

3 aspects where Quality Assurance can make a major contribution to effectiveness
Correct and consistent use of the SFIA+ framework
Training and monitoring of supervisors
Advice and guidance to supervisors and participants
Regular reviews of scheme operation

3 way SFIA+ should be used in planning personal development
Explore potential career paths and long term development options
Identify main skill and level to develop
Add components from other skill levels if required
Identify specific work activities, knowledge, and skills to develop over the next cycle
Review other components such as training activities, professional development activities, and qualifications

I have some notes I will type up and publish regarding the content of the presentations themselves which may be interesting to someone out there - I certainly found it useful. Until then, there's no place like home! *clicks heels*

P.S. Did I mention our team won? ;)

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

We're off to see the wizard...

Okay, so maybe not - but it was a nice idea.

I'm actually off to the British Computer Society Professional National Forum in London tomorrow. We use their BCS Skill Builder tool at work to identify our skill base and also to help build job descriptions. It's a little clunky but it gets the job done. To be honest we need to make more use of it than we are currently, but that's a topic for another time.

The point is that BCS Skills Manager is based on the Skills For the Information Age competency framework (known as SFIA) which has just been updated to version 3. I'm hoping that tomorrow I will find out how the BCS intend to reconcile SFIA+ v3 with the Government IT Profession Competency Framework (which is also based on SFIA v3). I'm guessing that we aren't their only customer from the public sector and I wouldn't want to see our investment wasted now that the government have finally caught up!

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Wait... we're professionals?

Well it seems that the UK Government has realised that we IT folks aren't people who keep things ticking away in the basement with a set of skills that is so specialised that we are considered geeks who are unable to communicate with people (and yes - I do believe that is how the TV show IT Crowd makes us appear!).

I've been keeping an eye on the Chief Information Officer Council website for awhile now and when the opportunity arose to attend the first of their roadshows about the all new Government IT Profession I was (as always) keen to be be part of it (despite having to get up early in the morning!).

The main aim appears to be getting IT as individuals to recognise themselves as professionals with a career (in the same way that accountants do), and getting the rest of the business to realise that those who work in IT are highly skilled people who have something to offer other areas as well. Furthermore, there is the desire to get IT professionals communicating with their peers in other organisations both within the same sector and cross-sector. There are a number of strategies in place (or in development) which address how they intend to achieve this (see themes).

The roadshow format was well thought out. The main presentation clearly showed the themes they had identified, work completed so far, and where they are going. The workshop later on gave everyone an opportunity to answer various questions ranging from how we feel about the profession as it stands and the obstacles we face, to what we would like to see for the IT profession.

One of the most interesting learning points that came out of this was for me that local government appears to be worse off than central government and certain other sectors in terms of process and project management, and lack of support from upper management. Some members of our group were fortunate to have CIOs sitting on the highest board and key in making strategic decisions. For those of us from local authorities it was a very different story. We agreed that there are opportunities missed by the business due to the lack of IT representation at strategic board level. This gave rise to the question - just HOW are the team that are driving the Government IT Profession going to communicate with upper management of public sector organisations and garner their support? It was a question without a real answer. I am however confident that it will be addressed. After all, if it isn't then this will become just one more flash-in-the-pan initiative; the team and those of us at the roadshow want this to be long-lasting.

There were lots of suggestions on how to move things forward and the website was at the heart of a lot of them, i.e. we need forums. If they want us to communicate then a simple forum will get the ball rolling. Nothing yet - but I'm monitoring it!

On the personal development side I found the roadshow very useful. I was a little apprehensive when I walked in to find about 200+ people all dressed in well-pressed suits from the upper echelons of government, the home office, NHS, etc. However, in the group workshop I reassured myself that everything I had to say was valid and subsequently volunteered to present our group findings to every one else.
  • Mistake 1: When I walked up to the front to I kept my coat on - not the most professional impact!
  • Mistake 2: Although I had the open body language, used my hands, face, etc. I did notice that the longer I went on that my pace sped up a little too much and I found myself needing to breathe. Not something I usually experience - I did catch my breath and slow down.
All in all another useful learning experience and I'm proud that I put myself in the position and lived to tell the tale!

Monday, 27 March 2006

Finding a way out of the maze

I initially started this blog with the intention of focusing solely on ITIL. However, over the past two months I've realised (mainly through posts on the ITIL Community forum) that I can't really say much on this until I have real world experience of it. Currently this is limited to implementation of a consolidated service desk function and incident management.

So... instead this blog will steer towards self-development in various areas with references to things I am reading and finding useful/thought provoking at the moment. My aim is to make a new (hopefully interesting) entry twice a week.

In terms of future training, I am keen to work towards the ITIL Manager's Certificate at the end of this year and to sit the Prince 2 Practitionar the following year. However, courses for both are so expensive that I seriously doubt that work will fund either of them which means I may have to do some serious saving if I want to develop the skills. Suffice to say I find it somewhat frustrating to see some colleagues who view training as a waste of time when I am keen to take every opportunity that comes my way (and try to create it when it doesn't yet exist)!

Anyhow, work DID finally fund the all important red book - ITIL Service Delivery. I haven't read right through it yet, I'm dipping into areas that interest me first - like service level management and IT financial mangement. If only I had had this book before I was project manager of my first 'major' project... (more on that in another post).

Still no go on the purchase of the ISO20000 standard. It has to wait for the new financial year. As does my request to join the itSMF *sigh*. Patience is not one of my natural virtues - but it is earmarked for improvement!

Monday, 30 January 2006

Surf's up!

I had the day off work today and spent a fair portion of it surfing ITIL related sites and adding my thoughts to questions over at the ITIL Community. If you're interested this is what I've been posting.

I also had a quick look at the COBIT 4.0 framework as I am curious as to how ITIL can support it and whether they really are complimentary.

I've placed a request at work for a copy of the new the ISO 20000 standard so I can read up and identify how different the processes are to ITIL, but so far it has not been approved :(

Friday, 27 January 2006

An ITIL project in the real world

I just came across an excellent blog following one ITIL project manager's journey through from inception to completion. Check it out!

An ITIL project in the real world

Thursday, 26 January 2006


A little pixie dust...
A splash of dried bats wings...
A drop of common sense...
And the ITIL imp is born!

(Image by Bobbin John Michael Eirth)