Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Management Experience more valuable than qualifications?

According to a survey by the BCS, management experience is more important than qualifications in the IT sector. So why is it that so many job descriptions still state certain levels of qualifications as mandatory instead of desirable? It strikes me that there is a slight disconnect between what is being said and the reality in practice. However, maybe this is peculiar to local government.

There's a nice summary over on PublicTechnology.net and the actual survey results are published on the BCS website.
Addendum: BCS Article

In other news, I've mentioned the number of new online Mind Mapping tools that seem to be springing up of late. Chuck Frey over on Innovation Tools has done the hard work and put together a feature comparison of some of them. Personally, I'm still a Mindjet Mindmanager fan - the web versions just don't have the breadth of functionality I use... yet ;)

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Overworked? Don't complain, do something about it!

This is a short post because I'm working an awful lot of hours right now. Rather than complaining about my workload, over the past few months I have been taking steps to improve things by providing my line management with potential alternatives and encouraging them to prioritise work rather than expecting me to deliver on everything. I have to keep reminding myself it is not physically possible if I want to actually have a life. Today I came across an article on CIO.com ('How to talk to your boss about being overworked') which reiterated the same approach I've been taking and thought I'd share it with some of you who may be in the same boat.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Service Catalogues - have you got yours?

Those who have already been down the ITIL path recognise the benefits that creating, publishing, maintaining, and promoting a service catalogue can bring. The most cited according to attendees of the 3rd world Service Catalogue conference is that it helps you to manage your user expectations. It's impossible to deliver a service if your user expectations are higher than your caapcity to deliver. The visibility that a catalogue brings to IT services becomes the first line of defense preventing some of those calls to the service desk where the operators have to deliver surprises to users such as 'Sorry, that is outside our remit' or 'that will cost X'.

Increasingly, there is help at hand when it comes to creating these.
New Scale
have been in the ITSM press a lot as they spotted the niche and become market leaders in Service Catalogue management software.

The nice thing about them is that they are willing to share their knowledge to further the cause, rather than holding on to it. Although it is still in early days, I think that the Open Source Community for Service Catalogues could become a really useful resource. Do check it out, and if you have experience of creating a service catalogue, share your story!

Another useful resource for those starting out is the SLA Catalog Toolkit by Musab Qureshi.

Finally I wanted to draw your attention to a book: Defining Success through the IT Service Catalog (read sample | Buy now).

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Crucial Conversations - buy it, read it, do it!

Given the publication date of 2002 I'm late to the fold on this one, but I found reference to 'Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high' whilst reading a report called 'Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution' and thought it would be worth a read. It was.

Fundamentally the book teaches you how to:
1. Recognise a crucial conversation - "A discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong." (Get Unstuck)
2. How to analyse what is happening (Start with the Heart, Learn to look)
3. What to do about it (Make it Safe, Master my Stories, STATE My Path, Explore Others' Paths, Move To Action)
This is then summarised as a visual 'dialogue model' at the end of the book (which makes much more sense if you've actually read the book first!).

The style of the authors is an easy going conversational one which makes for quick reading. However, it's one of those books that you absolutely have to absorb, practice, go back and re-read, practice, etc. There are also supplementary materials (videos, self-assessment questionnaires, group questions) available on the vitalsmarts website if you register.

Much of what they say resonates for me with that which Mark and Mike teaching over on the Manager Tools podcast series.

If, like me, sometimes you get in a mess in a crucial conversation - then get this book and practice what it preaches. I certainly will.

Friday, 9 March 2007

ITIL Refresh v3 - Pricing

[rant on]
I've been silently fuming about this to myself and figured I might as well share my views. I don't know what the justification is for the pricing scheme that the TSO have come up with is, but I sincerely believe it isn't geared to its entire customer base.

The price of each book is expensive enough, but why should we be paying more for an electronic copy? Surely any additional publishing and distribution costs involved with selling these doesn't justify the extra money you have to pay (i.e. VAT - so why not lower the cost of each unit?)

Furthermore, although I like the idea of an annual subscription; why on earth would I pay more than the cost of a hard copy to have access to it for only 1 year? I mean, really! At the end of the year am I seriously going to fork out another £300 pounds? I think not.

Of course, I'm writing this from the viewpoint of the individual person who is is interested in practicing ITIL within the workplace. For consultants who make their living this way, it's probably a reasonable sum to pay; likewise for organisations.
For the individual - it's simply just too expensive. I've tried explaining to my other half that it's a good investment for me, but when £300 can buy a rather nice new graphics card... you see my point?
[/rant over]

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Silence Fails and Crucial Conversations

I recently came across a fascinating report called 'Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution' . If you involved in projects at all, be it as a team member, a project sponsor, project manager or otherwise, I highly recommend that you register and download a copy of the report. To summarise those 5 crucial conversations:

Problem 1: AWOL Sponsors.
65% of project leaders work regularly with sponsors who fail to give the required support, leaving projects stranded and exposed.
Conversation: Project sponsors must communicate, providing leadership and political support.

Problem 2: Fact-free planning. 85% of project leaders are given parameters such as deliverables, budgets and timelines with no opportunity for input.
Conversation: Project leaders must be involved in the earliest stages of planning.

Problem 3: Skirting. 83% of project leaders say their effectiveness is undermined by powerful stakeholders and managers who attempt to skirt decision-making, planning and prioritization processes.
Conversation: Project managers have to stand up and maintain project discipline.

Problem 4: Concealing risk. 50% or more of project managers say team members regularly fail to honestly report project risks. As a result, the team loses opportunities to respond with revised goals, shifted resources or reorganized plans.
Conversation: Team members must be encouraged to speak up.

Problem 5: Team failures. 80% of project leaders are hobbled by direct reports who don't show up to meetings or fail to meet schedules or goals.
Conversation: Project leaders must insist on picking their teams, and they must confront inadequate performers.

I've ordered the book Crucial Conversations and will post my thoughts on it once I get around to reading it (doing a great job of adding to instead of reducing my reading pile right now!).