Thursday, 30 October 2014

Freedom Now - Or how to stifle business innovation via corporate IT

For around fifteen years I worked on the other side of that veil of separation that is known in corporate environments as the IT service desk. On the employee side of the service desk you have the ordinary 'business users'. Here be folk who are simply trying to do their jobs: customer service agents, pricing analysts, underwriters, engineers. Their drivers are the usual human things; to get the job done with the minimum of fuss, achieve business goals in order to help with their career ambitions, or keep their jobs, or to go home with the sense of a job well done.

All of this activity above involves (or at least should involve) contributing to the overall business objectives of profit and growth. The customer service agents do this by helping retain customers and to please them such that they recommend the firm to others, pricing analysts help to keep the organisation focused on selling profitable products, underwriters make risk decisions favourable to the bottom line and engineers build the infrastructure that the company's services run upon.

These various workers use tools to help in their travails, and these are myriad. However in the information age they will largely be IT based. This, then brings us to the other side of the curtain;  that shadowy authoritarian world behind the impenetrable boundary of the IT service desk.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Deep Thought: Existentialism, Lumiere and IT service

Jean-Paul Sartre addressing students at La Sorbonne, May 1968 Claude Dityvon

Today I'll be mainly blogging about philosophy. It’s a viscous subject, especially for those who don’t roll that way naturally, but it’s the method by which we get to the deepest understanding of things and I guess it is for that reason that it will always be there, behind the scenes; at the back of things . Anyway, in this piece I hope to use philosophy to arrive at insights about my work approach Lumiere, and a little bit about work in the IT service industry. We love a bit of diversity here!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

It's The People, Stupid

The Cumberland Hotel on Day 1 of #aapcon14 (Peter Johnson)
I should be sleeping. Or at least dozing. I'm on my way back to the post-industrial north having spent two utterly fantastic days at the All About People conference in sunny (and it actually was) Bournemouth.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Voice of Occupational Serfdom?

Artwork by Ursula Von Rydingsvard. Photographed by Peter Johnson at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2014
I recently attended an event organised for the benefit of those who work within, or who have an interest in the provision of healthcare. I'll say no more about it as I really want to protect the innocent – they seemed like nice people with their collective hearts in exactly place where the specialist, looking at the x-ray would expect to find it.

They were seeking to initiate new conversations about the way in which healthcare services are provided and run, and I, with my book to promote thought that it could be a useful opportunity to generate some interest in Making Light Work.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Tomorrow's People: A Sketch of a Post-Mechanistic IT Service Department

'Blue Sky Thinking'. Edale, Peak District. Peter Johnson, 2013
Regular readers of this blog and my followers on social media will be aware that in recent years I've taken to relentlessly critiquing the thinking which dictates the interactions between corporate IT and workers. It's fast becoming my online raison d’etre. That said, I have always, and will continue to acknowledge that much of what is designed and implemented by IT departments is useful, stable and appreciated by employees.

There is a however, however, and it is that IT is ever-evolving. Those of us who work in this area can never rest content on our laurels, safe in the knowledge that 30 years of the Tayloristic-cybernetic paradigm known as ITSM has delivered everything that our audience wants and could ever desire.

It doesn't.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Yes it's broke. The question is, how do we fix it?

Stones in my Garden. Peter Johnson, 2009

With my advancing years I suspect that I must have arrived at the state of mind often described as ‘grumpy old man’. In addition to regular gripes about the state of the roads and the priorities of the local authority in the city where I live, I've also noticed my becoming a tad dismayed with the never-ending stream of commentary about things that don't work as they should in ITSM and the ways in which we should fix them.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

New Wave IT

'The Great Wave off Kanagawa'  Katsushika Hokusai, 1833

It’s 2014, over 30 years since the IBM PC hit the streets. The corporate IT community remains as afraid as ever to move on from the ITSM approach that has been its bedrock in most of that time. In many ways I understand why, but on the other hand such conservatism also bemuses me. To start with the latter; the underlying sector – IT – is one which thrives on change, indeed it refuses to stand still. Even in the midst of great achievement (for example the PC) it was looking beyond to the next thing, that which promised even greater delights (the internet, mobile computing, cloud). It is strange therefore that in corporate IT, we choose to be satisfied with a rather ancient (in IT years) method of facing off to the parent corporation in order to help them leverage these amazing technologies.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The not-so-slow death of ITSM (or, Be a mammal)


It's easy to say it with hindsight, but I was only a real ITIL/ITSM fanboi for a short while. This was in the years between 1999 and 2007. Eight years was long enough to feel the pain of the major flaws. By the middle of the first decade of this century, I'd gone slightly cold on it, hence the focus on work psychology, data, and the softer side of IT service. I'll admit that I was hoping that ITSM could be fixed, but I wouldn't have bet my house on it.

As I say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but thankfully traces of my scepticism remain thanks to the wonders of the interweb. See that in 2010 I was ruminating about the death of ITIL, and in my 2013 presentation at the Service Desk and IT Show in London I was looking forward to the post-ITSM service desk.

Naturally, I wasn't taken very seriously by the powers that be, although it became obvious that others were detecting the same signals as I was. Now that cloud, BYOD and other shifts appear to be in the process of removing our clammy hands from the technological levers of power, it must be said that across the landscape of corporate IT, ITSM practitioners are beginning to look over their shoulders a little. We probably look a little bit like the dinosaurs did when that extinction event meteorite was on its way earthbound.

"What the fuck's that?"

Sunday, 9 March 2014

I Dream Of Kant

In the last 6 months, when I've found myself with a little free time away from the various technology jobs, the household duties, and writing and promoting my book, I've been studying the ideas of the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. I had been picking up little snippets of his conclusions over the last 4 or 5 years and I'm really pleased that I'm getting properly stuck into his theorising now. I think the man was genius of the highest order.

A few weeks back I had a really weird dream. It was some kind of futuristic scenario, where I was being made to commit hi-tech hari-kari for some unspecified misdemeanour. Everyone in the dream was rather cheerful and chipper about the whole affair including myself which in itself was highly odd. However the best part of the dream was that as I was waking up, I had a bit of a Kantian epiphany about the process of dreaming.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Customer Service - How We Will Be Working In The Future

In the years when 'youthful' was an adjective that could reasonably be applied to my personage, I used to occasionally (and pretentiously) declare myself a "Zeitgeist surfer". By this I meant that I always seemed to be up there with the trends and current thinking. While I'm certainly no longer a tastemaker, or hip-to-the-now in the worlds of music and fashion, I still seemingly retain the ability to spot the next interesting thing in other fields.

I rather fortunately moved into data and business intelligence (BI) around 2006/2007 just at the time when it was getting ready to boom. Because of this I have enjoyed some rewarding contracts over the last six years. As is always the way in IT, the sands are shifting and the market for building data warehouses and reporting suites seems to be on the wane (saturation?), while anyone with a bit of SQL knowledge is selling themselves as a BI specialist. It's only those who understand predictive analytics (i.e. real multivariate statistical modelling) who can command the big bucks these days.

However, since 2009 I've also been deeply concerned with all things people-related in organisations and especially in service related IT functions - that is, the sub-sector known by the term  IT service management (or ITSM). I spent a large chunk of 2011 writing a thesis about organisations, staff and good service provision. This was never published but provided the inspiration and basis for a book that I have recently completed. Its themes are similar to the earlier thesis, but the conclusions are clearer and I believe it contains an interesting and radical proposal for customer service thinking in the 21st century.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Old School Psych Dude

Rock and roll.

I'm doing the January not drinking very much thing.

So, it's Friday night, and instead of bonhomie in a pub somewhere, I'm in my office at home watching videos of old psychology dudes; in this instance, none other than Carl Gustav Jung.

This video is amazing. They don't make psychs like this any more. His utterances are dripping in open-mindedness, humanity and courage. It makes today's reductionist and materialistic theorising look pretty limited in comparison.

I also love the way these old television interviews provide a fuller discussion of the issues than we're used today. Not a great deal in the way of soundbiting or dumbing down here.

Clear 40 minutes out of your day to watch this!