Friday, 24 February 2012

The ITIL glossary needs a defibrillator

In an earlier post I highlighted the fact that ITIL-speak is not aligned with customer terminology.  Now I want to take this a bit further and say that ITIL-speak isn’t even aligned with common IT speak.

IT has a natural language of its own that varies slightly from organization to organization.  To a certain extent, ITIL has tried to go against this in the name of standardization.  Adoption of a global terminology standard benefits the industry as a whole, but does it benefit an individual organization which has already settled on terminology that is understood clearly within the organization?  Naturally, it is very difficult to get people to adopt new terminology in place of a lexicon that has become established over many years, so there are major cultural change issues involved in throwing out something that works for the sake of standardizing with the outside world.  People will not get behind such an initiative because they will not see any value in it – only disruption – which is a fair point.  Standards that don’t bring real benefits to the individual organization fail to take hold.
  • IT Manager: "We're calling it X instead of Y now"
  • Techie: “Why is that word better than this one?”
  • IT Manager: “Because it’s the standard”
  • Techie: “Not in this organization it isn’t!”
Indeed, the ITIL glossary is far too cumbersome, with the ITIL V3 Glossary running up a total of 58 pages, there will be few people on the planet who have digested and assumed the entire ITIL dictionary.  Thus, we can never expect mainstream adoption whilst the effort required is so great.  Perhaps terminology should be chopped up into chunks and associated with different processes or maturity levels so that it can be adopted in a focused manner.  After all, there would be little benefit in force-feeding your IT department terminology that applies to processes which are outside the ITSM roadmap.  Once again we find ourselves back in the position of looking things in terms of what is of practical value to us, right now.

 "Mr ITIL, tear down this wall."

To simplify ITIL terminology, each process should have a surrounding cluster of terminology, indicating the standard terminology that is commonly used in the strategic and day-to-day management of that process, including the ITIL, IT and business/customer terminology – and how one maps to another so that it actually helps develop understanding and communication in real life.  This would allow organizations to select a standard set of terminology, but one that fits the context of their own business.
  • Customer: “I’ve got a problem with my printer”
  • Service Desk Analyst: “Actually, Sir - I think you mean you’re having an Incident.  It will be a Problem when we create a Problem record in our ITSM tool.”
  • Customer: “@&#? #$*!”
Organizations that think a change in dialect is going to fix IT won’t make much progress.  It’s about adopting the ideas behind the words, not just the words themselves.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Why anybody who attends a meeting with no agenda should be shot

As promised in my You might be an email junkie if... post, I've finally got round to an attack on corporate inconvenience #2 - meetings!

Many of you will be familiar with the problem.  If you don't think there is a problem, then maybe you ARE the problem.  Everybody sits somewhere on the 'love-meetings-hate-meetings' spectrum.  I personally dislike meetings.  Some people justify their existence with meetings, turning a 2 minute face-to-face into an expensive, hour long pow-wow with a dozen slightly confused people.

Why I don't like meetings
  • Decision by committee is rarely productive.  People have roles and responsibilities for a reason.
  • No agenda means no direction, too many tangents and a lot of yawning.
  • Granularity.  Obsession with working out all of the minutiae in the meeting.  A 30 minute meeting become a 3 hour meeting.
  • Value for money.  Multiply the number of attendees by a ballpark hourly rate by the number of hours spent in the meeting to calculate cost.  Would you show the figure to your boss?
  • Failure to set action points makes the whole thing worthless.
  • Opportunity cost.  What could you be doing if you weren't in that meeting?
  • Mobile devices.  Ban them.  If you need to have a meeting, the spirit should be present, not just the body.
Someone once emailed Chuck Norris about a mandatory CMMI meeting. Chuck Norris emailed a blank reply with no subject and one attachment… a roundhouse kick to the face.

  • Ask if a meeting is really the answer to the problem?  Many problems can be solved by individual face-to-face interactions.
  • Refuse to attend meetings with no agenda (emergency CAB meetings and a few others excepted as these have an implied agenda). Commit to using the 'decline' button more.
  • The staff or systems which manage room bookings should reject bookings without an accompanying agenda. No agenda = no meeting.
  • Use a money clock to easily identify cost and maintain focus.
  • Assign actions - clearly.
  • Take minutes, distribute and use them.
  • Ask if the meeting was worth it.
  • Management should run spot checks - examining the agenda, attendee list, minutes, action points, costs and results.  5 minutes every month can keep meetings from regularly spiralling out of control.
Of course, because life is never simple, there are always exceptions.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

More ITIL-Bashing - Institutionalised IT-speak

ITIL-bashing seems to be reaching fever-pitch, so I’m going to throw in a personal gripe – ITIL-speak.  Terminology is one of the few prescriptive elements of ITIL, and although it is useful to have a common lexicon to aid communication, this only helps communication within IT - not between IT and the business users.  IT bods have real problems translating IT-speak, which is riddled with TLAs and long-winded geekery, into language that the business understands.

"Quit your ITIL jibber-jabber!"

I'll give you an example:

Service Request
  • Service Request (ITILv3):    [Service Operation] A request from a User for information, or advice, or for a Standard Change or for Access to an IT Service. For example to reset a password, or to provide standard IT Services for a new User. Service Requests are usually handled by a Service Desk, and do not require an RFC to be submitted.
  • I need something new from you

  • Incident: [Service Operation] An unplanned interruption to an IT Service or a reduction in the Quality of an IT Service. Failure of a Configuration Item that has not yet impacted Service is also an Incident. For example Failure of one disk from a mirror set.
  • There's something wrong with the thing I have.

Despite the trend for ITIL-bashing, I find myself stepping in to defend it.  Yes, there are problems, but it is the best we have got at the moment.  It doesn't need to die, only to evolve.  I still believe that an expert-moderated ITIL wiki would provide the best platform for ITIL to realise its potential.  When will that be?  That will be the day the ITIL consulting industry dies.