Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Psychology of Service Data...

For the next six months or so there will be a reduction in my activity in the blogosphere as I'm diving deep into the world of service management data for a large international organisation. Of course ITSM data, service improvement and organisational factors all should exist cheek by jowl in the the IT service space.

Data gives you the understanding (or knowledge and "wisdom" as ITIL would have it) of your situation, and if staff are any good with regression lines and multivariate modelling you may even be able to predict likely future outcomes. Thankfully I spent a few years getting to know Excel in some considerable depth and I'm also pretty handy with the Microsoft SQL Server suite (the recent Integration, Reporting and Analysis Services packages are excellent). I'm also adept with the reporting application that is used with many service management packages such as Remedy - Business Objects.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

ITIL: Sweet F.A.?

Here's a hypothesis: many in IT are lazy about areas of work that do not involve their principal area of interest. In other words, technologists' core interest in their work is proportional to how technological that work is. Amongst the real tech-heads that I know, point and click IT is anathema. For many of these individuals, command-line operation, configuration and installation is enjoyable and demonstrates true expertise. Yes it requires thinking through at every step, but this is considered an intellectual challenge and therefore fun. Yet for other activities such as service support processes and governance, the same individuals simply do what is necessary to acheive the standard required of them.

Here's a second related hypothesis: As these techies grow older and are promoted, perhaps these instincts remain. The individuals will still be deeply concerned about the technology that the organisation delivers but will experience a temptation to take shortcuts when it comes to delivering the other stuff required by the organisation. To paraphrase George Orwell: 'Technology good - other stuff important but boring'. In such a mindset, shortcutting may become rife. By shortcutting, I mean the equivalent of point and click for aspects of the working environment. Need to create a support structure? Point and click on ITIL. Need to improve processes? Point and click at 6 Sigma. I'm not making judgments here - human information processing has natural limits and we all use cognitive shortcuts of one type or another to help us navigate the world in an efficient manner.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Slow Death Of ITIL?

Nothing lasts for ever. In the heady fin-de-siecle period that we've recently passed through when dotcoms were a-booming and bugs of the millenium were being predicted, I became an ardent fan of a genre of music that came to be known as chillout. It was electronica with overt nods to hip-hop, dub and orchestral forms. It was slow and very, very lush. With each new album released by the likes of Zero 7, Sven Van Hees and Nitin Sawnhey (or the Cafe Del Mar, Om Lounge, or Luftkastellet compilations) I grew ever more enchanted. However even then I sensed somehow that this form would at some point become unfashionable and I would have to move on with the times. I'd invested a great deal of time and money into learning about (and purchasing) music within this genre. I was entrenched - Kuhnian-style - within this paradigm (see earlier blog entry). However I was determinded to avoid the fate of those aging rock 'n' rollers that I remembered seeing around in the nineteen seventies. They were still decked out in their drainpipes and crepe shoes, refusing to let go of a brilliant but outmoded form from twenty years earlier.

Needless to say chillout, after a desperate but ultimately futile rebranding as downtempo died out somewhere around 2005.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A little bit of self-congratulation

I was watching the movie The Hudsucker Proxy last weekend and found it a fascinating recreation of how business operated in the nineteen fifties; i.e. before the information technology revolution. Messages were sent using rolled up paper inserted into vacuum tubes, or on the memo trolley. There were huge typist pools whose job it was to create letters. The stock price was relayed to a few senior individuals via a ticker tape machine in the boardroom.

It made me think of all those people who suggest that IT is an expensive cost centre and seek to denigrate its achievements. In that I include the many knockers of the government's NHS Connecting For Health project. Yes information technology is costly, is often not delivered on time, and doesn't always meet requirements, but it changes things for the better in a huge way. In 20 years time perhaps paper patient records will seem as quaint as the vacuum memo system in the movie.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Social Network Analysis

Have you read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions? It's appeared on lists of the most influential books of the last century; it would certainly sit near - if not on - the summit of my top ten. Here comes the 'in a nutshell bit'. Pay attention. 

Kuhn said that science isn't this objective, rational pursuit that many like to think it is. He argues that scientists are subject to the same social forces that affect the rest of us and this colours their practice. Thus they work within an accepted framework (or 'paradigm') and ignore anomalous information that's occurring outside the paradigm. For example when scientists working in the framework of Newtonian physics found anomalous results (curvature of spacetime) they put it down to measurement error. He suggests that it takes a great deal of social pressure to get scientists to adopt a new paradigm (after all they've invested so much in the old one). He termed this framework transition a 'paradigm shift'.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

My Dream IT Workplace

File this one under 'Something to aspire to'.

This is what my dream (evidence-based) ITSM workplace would be like. Cue the sound of harp strings...

Fisrtly (and continuing where I left off in my last post) when hiring or promoting permanent or even contract staff, the recruiter would perform job analyses and create person specs so that they increase their chances of bringing in someone who identifies with their work, and for whom the work has significance. This would mean that we'd be able to give the staff greater autonomy and we'd reap the myriad benefits that this brings (e.g. receptivity to change, motivation, innovation, job satisfaction, well being etc..). We'd also be recruiting individuals who have the values that can shape the organisational culture towards what we wish it to be.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

It starts with selection

I'm a bit of a fan of the nineteen-sixties. For starters there was the music; in the popular context this period saw the arrival of the Beatles, Hendrix and the whole Californian hippy thing. It's easy to forget that the dance music of the time was also awesome, with Motown, Atlantic and even groovy jazz purveyed by the likes of Jimmy Smith still moving feet today. Politically the young were challenging the accepted wisdoms of the day. The French university sit-ins, uprising in the communist bloc and the civil rights and womens liberation movements all demonstrated the mood of change.

Bottom up change you might say.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


An associate of mine is planning his wedding. He's of Indian heritage, and his frequent worries over the complexity and the cost of the arrangements leads me to the conclusion that it may be a large, lavish affair. I wish I were invited.

It was a slightly inopportune time then for him to be told that his contract was being terminated. Not through any fault of his own mind, company restructuring and cutbacks. Needless to say he was a bit concerned about  how he would continue to fund his big summer cermony.

He needn't have worried really, he's a very able and hard working chap and I knew that he would be snapped up; happily it transpired that even before his notice period had expired he had secured himself another position.

Like me he works in the ITSM industry and I observed with particular interest his optimism about this new contract. I'm getting kinda long in the tooth and I must say, I've seen it many times. It goes something like this:

Monday, 18 January 2010

Principles of IT leadership

Another wow! moment. This time courtesy of a certain Dr Sebastian Hallensleben, who has elegantly articulated much of what I've been trying to do and say in my career in 10 succinct principles.

These are principles that all IT managers should understand and act upon. It chimes with a lot of the research and theory that I have encountered.

Read Dr Hallensleben's article now. It'll be time well spent.