Thursday, 31 December 2009

Futures 1: Women In IT

We're on the cusp of a new decade. I've been allowing myself to think creatively about the ways in which people aspects of ITSM may change in the coming years. This is important, because as alluded to in some of my earlier blog entries below, the direction in which we are heading (values, principles etc.) is equally as important as the everyday tools, processes and technology that we use to do our jobs. I hope this stimulates thought and discussion. Oh and Happy New Decade!


University of Sussex campusI often sing the praises of the multi-disciplinary education that I received at the University of Sussex in the early 1990s. I 'majored' in Social Psychology but was required to take extra courses based on the focus of the faculty that ran the major. I was located in the School of Social Sciences, therefore I was offered and took 'minor' units in politics, history and sociology amongst others. All of these courses were interesting, but the work that I was most proud of was an essay examining eating disorders. As this issue affected (and still affects) mainly women it opened up a whole new literature for me: feminism. I read Susie Orbach's Fat is a Feminist Issue (which I didn't really take to) and countless other feminist critiques of male society which I found myself fascinated by.

A particular sentence that I read for this essay left a lasting impression upon me. Frustratingly, the author and title of the book eludes me. I've even retrieved the old essay and can't find the reference, I can only guess that it was a quote contained within Chernin (1986), Orbach (1979;1984) or perhaps Fallon, Katzman & Wooley (1994). This sentiments initially irritated me but I subsequently came to realise that it was in fact brave, hopeful and futuristic. The female writer said something like: 'why should we aim for mere equality with men, we can be so much better than that'.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Beginning Of Great Things

It's been a tiring week. Firstly I had to brush up on my PHP and Javasript knowledge in order to create an online dashboard for a client. I finished the task and I'm quite pleased - it captures important information about all of their KPIs on one screen. Then it was time to do the company accounts and chase payments (shudder) - no intrinsic motivation to be found there! I then had to present to a gathering of IT folk about the (neglected) people aspects of this industry. Then it was my birthday: cue late nights, imbibing, weekend breaks etc. So while the wife sleeps off the excess, I'm using the wonderful computing facilities provided by the hotel to blog. A bit cheeky really seeing as the sleeping Mrs is the one paying for the break, so if this entry ends abruptly it means that she's woken up and ordered me off the computer.

On the way up to Leeds I was musing on what it would take to make IT leaders seriously consider different approaches to the people side of their organisations. Such musings were triggered by the response to my midweek presentation. There is no doubt that people were interested; the discussion after my speech was longer than that prompted by the previous two speakers combined. However despite the interest, I'm not sure that people get what a couple of academically trained psychologists can do to help.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Plus Ca Change...?


Obama liked it, and the IT service management community like it too. It seems that change really was the hot topic of 2009. Of course we're not talking political change or RFC-type technology change - it's organisational change that is the new revelation in our industry. Of course it may have something to do with the V3 Service Transition volume introducing models such as Kotter's eight-stage process for change into the ITIL framework. However, irrespective of the forces that have construed to make this such an important area all of a sudden, the ITSM community may need to stop and think about this for a bit.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Tyranny Of Freedom?

The long months of sitting in a dusty library for twelve hours a day reading for my dissertation (topic: autonomous motivation in an IT service management organisation) had taken their toll. Actually I’m doing a huge disservice to Sheffield University’s library (or to use its correct title Information Commons): it’s not dusty in the slightest, it’s a sparkling new, modern construction designed for the 21st century. The building is environmentally friendly, spacious and light and is packed with nifty little Sun Ray kiosk workstations alongside normal PCs. It has even won awards for being such a cool construction.

Anyway, the point is that I had spent a great deal of time inactive and sedentary - sitting on my gluteus maximus if you like. The pounds were piling up and I was feeling decidedly unhealthy so I joined a gym. This too is a nice 21st century affair – I love the way all the cardio-vascular machines have LCD monitors on the top so that while I’m cross-training I can flick between the cricket and football (sorry, that’s soccer for you guys across the Atlantic). I also rather ashamedly spend a lot of time watching pop videos and am amazed by the awfulness of many (Calvin Harris and a few others excepted).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

How To Motivate (#1 in a series of 4)

Make things fun:

The technical term is intrinsic motivation. This is motivation that is based on the sheer enjoyment of performing the task. A large body of interesting research exists which suggests factors that diminish and sustain this type of motivation (e.g. Deci, Koestner & Ryan, 1999).

Clearly this type of motivation is relatively easy to generate. Someone loves coding? They're gonna be motivated to do it (see open source projects). Of course is isn't always that simple. What if there's an activity that people find boring? For example some convoluted, tedious process activity. Well (to paraphrase Apple), there's a technique for that.

However you'll have to wait for number 2 in the series...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Culture, (Vultures), Values & Ethics

If I had a pound for every time I’ve read the word “culture” in relation to ITSM I’d probably have no need to set up Fairday Research Limited; I’d have bought myself a villa somewhere tropical and picturesque and would be having a very nice time thank you very much. OK, clearly I’m exaggerating. Organisational culture is talked about a great deal but I certainly haven’t read a million articles on the subject; probably not even ten thousand - and there are very few (i.e. zero) luxury villas on available in the ten-thousand pound price range. Right; I’ll try to keep my tangential meanderings to a minimum this time out; the point is that ITSM ‘thought leaders’ and others do bang on about ‘culture’ and ‘culture change’ quite a bit.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Power To The People?

OK, I'll admit it. I'm only just now getting up to speed on ITIL V3. Yes, of course I've had a good awareness of it, and understood the 5 elements of the lifecycle and the superior integration with business outcomes that this version describes. However right now I'm starting to dig deeper into the detail. This laggardness is mainly because I now have some free time; last year my head was firmly stuck in academic papers contrasting the various approaches to topics including allocation of function, workplace well-being and power and politics in organisations.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Automate, Automate!

Last week I was having a conversation with a colleague about SaaS, mobile computing, and monopolies. As is usual with conversations in which I am involved we got to musing about people aspects of working in this industry. Now my colleague is a young rising star and is a proper tech-head. He's heavily into home automation and sees the future of computing as being mobile and XaaS-driven - which looks about right at this moment in time. However his response to my people angle was a pretty blunt "good idea and it's probably relevant now but soon it won't be 'cause companies won't need so many people to do this sort of thing" (he drew an arc to indicate the workers in the large operations centre that we were sat in). I wondered what he meant. Did he see the future of ITSM as being an automated one? That SaaS scaling would reduce the size of our industry and introduce much more self-service? Technology that repaired and configured itself? He also suggested that much of the manual work will be outsourced.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I take my hat off to process

Recently there has been an increasing number of commentators who are giving mucho lip service to the people aspects of IT service management. Yet some of these bloggers do nothing short of flaming those who won't follow what they consider to be the correct processes. Right intention - wrong method!
There's theory and empirical evidence behind this, but its like the old childrens' story about the North Wind and the Sun. They both have a contest to see who can get an old man to take his hat off. The North Wind huffs and puffs and blows up a gale, but the old man just pulls his hat harder down on his head. The sun gives him some warmth and loveliness and the old man does a "phew it's hot today" and off comes the titfer.
In business it's all about achieving the ends (or ensuring that the critical processes are followed), and sometimes salving a manager's (or consultant's) ego can make it more difficult for these ends to be met.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Taylorism and ITSM's Obsession With Process

Many recent theories and studies within occupational psychology have been positive about the role that autonomy plays in achieving beneficial workplace outcomes. By ‘beneficial outcomes’ I’m referring to stuff like motivation, performance, innovation, job satisfaction, well-being, receptivity to change, and proactivity to name a few. There are some however, who argue that the field’s preoccupation with autonomy is a reaction to Fredrick W. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management. It’s a pretty famous book which influenced millions of working lives (probably including yours). It was published in 1911 and contained the then new technique of time-and-motion studies, and an approach that argued for a reducition in worker decision latitude, and work variety. In total this constituted a major restriction on the freedoms that workers enjoyed at the time. Taylor argued that his approach resulted in increased efficiency from the enterprise point of view, and greater pay (due to greater output) for the employee. The philosophy was based upon the idea that the role of managers is to understand the most efficient method (best practice – sounds familiar?) of achieving a task, and to then to exercise control over the workers to ensure that the task is subsequently performed in this manner. His ideas caught on spectacularly and remained popular throughout the twentieth century. Scientific management is epitomised in the production line that the Ford Motor Company introduced and which we are all familiar with today.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

First post

In the last two years I have been seriously considering the synergies between the science of occupational psychology and the practice of IT service management. I think the germ of the idea was nourished by a number of different 'nutrients' during my IT career:
  • experiences at companies who were struggling to develop a service mindset
  • experiences at organisations where the management practices were poor
  • my excellent undergraduate education (B.A. Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, 1993 - 1996)
  • reading Rob England, the IT Skeptic's blogs in 2007
  • talking to colleagues and customers
On that last point, during 2007 I asked a contractor colleague who had many years experience at organisations large and small (including Microsoft) about his view of ITIL and implementations thereof. He talked about a large public sector body which he had recently left who had spent vast amounts implementing ITIL to the letter but where service was still poor. I quizzed him incessantly to get to what he thought was the root cause; "the culture" he eventually said. "ITIL offers a process framework, but it can't change the culture".