Happy New Year for 2016  !! I wish you success and happiness

Its been a busy year in 2015 ITSMG Logo low res

The ITSM world continues to rock daily between inspiration and opportunity, to introspection and despair – at least in terms of visible hype. The reality for most organisations that actually deliver IT services is often simply confusion.

For me the key is in ensuring that we are constantly working to deliver value, based on our customers’ and supported businesses’ needs. The concept of ‘customer experience’ (CX) isn’t new, but is at long last taking hold and precedence over blind adherence to ‘best practice’ and death-by-process.

DevOps continues to hold sway as the big idea that won’t go away – again there’s nothing particularly new here except the context, as it talks to a younger workforce than those who might still see ITIL as their mantra. Of course there is no real clash between those two worlds and both can learn from and live with each other. In 2016 I’ll be pushing out more practical ideas about how to achieve success using both (and together) – particuarly in relation to Service Design and Service Catalogue – so look out for that.

What is interesting is the actual level of interest in DevOps and other new and formative ‘-oligies’, inclduing SIAM and IT4IT – this will continue to grow and we shoudl see more variety and creativity being exercised in delivering new approaches to IT services…

If you want to catch up on more detailed throuights, please see my recent webinar (reviewing 2015 and looking forward to 2016, sponsord by BMC).

From a personal work perspective this has been a busy year, being involved with a number of complex procurement and ITSM implementation projects, as well as my ususal regular dose of workshops, operational reviews and audits. I have worked with some great people and organisations and am pleased to say that the interest and take-up level around short practical consulting work has been good.

I’ve also been involved as an architect of the new ITIL Practitioner scheme, with Axelos. I’m really pleased and proud of what we achieved as a team on this, whch has brought finally a new set of ideas and practices to the forefront of Service Management training and best practice. These include communications and organisational change management, as well as CSI and metrics.

As ever I continue to work with my long term partners, SDI – as a consultant and auditor, as also recently to review and update the SDI Standards and Service Desk Certification scheme. To me this is still one of the best and most practical tools to use for assessment, benchmarking and to drive service improvement.

In the last few months I’ve taken on the challenge of interim-CEO for the ITSMF UK – this is a great honour, which I’m relishing. There’s plenty to do to develop the service offerings and value proposition for this organisation, as well as freshening the brand image and re-asserting its position as a key independent voice at the centre of our industry. We had a great annual conference and my and the team’s taskBRITSM15 is now to move on with this positive momentum to transform and re-invigorate the organisation. We have some xciting plans for new services and industry content, so watch this space…

Of course my own independent business still continues and I’m delighted to have worked with some very supportive partners over the last year to write and present ITSM content, including, Sunrise, Cherwell, BMC and Sysaid.


2016 is looking like a fascinating year already, particuarly with plans for ITSMF – so I’m looking forward to that. I hope that its a really great year for you too..!

Please contact me directly if you’d like to discuss any aspect of the world of ITSM



Fav pic from this years SITS show with Matt Hooper and Malcolm Fry.

How to Create a Culture of Effective Management Collaboration


Management Collaboration…like trying to spin too many plates?

Successful IT delivery requires requires the spinning of many plates. Collaboration, team building, mutual trust and personal confidence are essential to your management team in order to ensure its smooth running but these are all tested in times of change.

Without them, projects and initiatives fail to deliver value, and this in turn can have serious consequences for IT customers’ business, as well as for IT itself.

Many IT organisations struggle to balance the conflicting demands of efficiency, agility, control and perpetual change that are constantly heaped on them. How can an established IT organisation, built on structures and processes from the 1970-1990s, cope with these ever increasing challenges?

Effective management collaboration enables teams to have healthy debates, develop and maintain trust and encourage innovative thinking.

Here are my tips on creating a culture to encourage effective management collaboration:

1 – Why work together?

It has amazed me during my years as a consultant the numbers of groups of people I have met with a leader in common that think they are a team. Many of them have their own agendas and are only working towards their individual goals. Yet many still believe they are part of a functioning team.

As a management team it is vital that individuals understand the greater aims and goals that the team is striving for. There will of course be individual tasks to achieve the team goals but the bigger picture should never be forgotten.

Set team goals. Create simple clear plans that define current and future goals for the team. There can be a danger that individuals will be protective of their areas. It can be damaging if just one or two members of the management team concentrate on their individual area and not the team as a whole. Aim for clarity over complexity with simple team plans and goals.

Sharing the goals for the team rather than just concentrating on individual tasks means that all team members support and promote a single point of view.

I would also recommend focussung on means and methods of communication. Establishing a distinct set of priorities can help all management team members to feel included. Keeping everyone on the same page will enable the management team to focus and flourish.

2 – Develop a Personal Understanding

Managing a team of people that don’t trust one another is challenging and draining. In fact a team without trust isn’t a team. Individuals may battle over information and responsibilities. Progress can be slow. Before long you may feel yourself climbing into the fetal position and reciting the “Cooperation song” from Sesame Street.

It doesn’t matter how capable the individuals within your team are, they wont be working to their full potential if there’s no trust. Team members who trust one another are far more likely to share knowledge, and communicate openly. Pre-requisites of an effective team.

In order to start to gain trust within your team the individuals need to understand each other. Knowing what excites and inspires your team mates will help to understand their motives.

Gather intelligence. Learn what defines the strengths and capabilities of your colleagues. What are the real skills that each member brings to the table? What skills are they missing? Can these be filled by another member of the team?

Make it clear that it’s time to be honest. No game playing or posturing. You want them to be themselves.

Remember, not all team members have the same drive to succeed or willingness to sacrifice. Everyone is different. Be mindful to embrace the differences.

3 – Overall Performance is an Individual Responsibility

A team’s success depends on all the team members. Individuals often accept mediocrity in other team members because they believe there is nothing they can do. It’s seen to be the team leader’s responsibility to deal with this – often noone wants to step on anyone’s toes.

In fact, an over reliance on the management team leader can prevent the team from reaching its potential.

It is important to create a culture where individuals recognise that the team’s performance depends on each of them. To do this there needs to be a common understanding of the team’s purpose. Each team shares responsibility for success and this includes the need to raise issues and help out thier colleagues in order to get things done.

Avoiding dealing with individual issues of performance can create a sense of dissatisfaction and resentment. The key is to create an open and honest forum for communication in a non-judgmental way.

Successfully resolving conflict helps to develop trust, appreciation and understanding of one another.


Moving Forward with Management Collaboration

There are many new thoughts and approaches on how to deliver seamless technology solutions in a constantly changing market. As opinions may be divided on strategy and tactics, it’s vital to have a solid sense of teamwork, shared goals and trust across the leadership team.

Success depends on your ability to work together…


Barclay Rae Consulting runs a short programme of individual mentoring and group workshops for management teams.

If you would like to know more about how your management team can develop trust and confidence in order to achieve synergy of approach and improved co-operation and collaboration then get in touch or for more information visit our workshops page.


ITSM Implementation – Vendors, Be Brave!

Group of Business People Meeting About TeamworkA few years ago a colleague of mine took a job heading up the professional services team of an ITSM vendor. During the recruitment process, he was quizzed on his ability to develop a consulting practice around the toolset and to achieve quality implementations of the solution. The goal was service improvement for clients.

On the morning of his first day in the job he received a shock. The CEO told him that the company were not interested in process implementation or organisational change. ‘We are a software company’ he said, and went on to define professional services as an interference, a nuisance.

My colleague was gob smacked and angry. How could anyone be so short sighted? So blind to the opportunities and responsibilities given to vendors around implementing ITSM solutions? He wanted to bring a consulting approach to product implementation. To improve the success and sustainability of clients. This, it seemed, was not the function of a software company…

Process Implementation – Whose Job is it Anyway?

I can relate closely to this experience. I don’t want to single out individual vendors. The point of this blog is to highlight that unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience. I interact with numerous ITSM vendors on a regular basis and many still exhibit a version of this approach to a greater or lesser extent. There are exceptions of course, but they are still the minority.

It’s true of course that process and organisational change is not the responsibility of every software company. Certainly in the case of standard applications such as Microsoft.

It is however, in niche operational and functional areas (like ITSM). This is a huge opportunity for vendors to develop their client relationships. To pass on their skills and knowledge and translate this into successful product implementation. As well as creating a useful and sustainable revenue stream.

I also believe that vendors have a responsibility to help their clients to get the best out of their tools. That’s got to be a win/win.

Underselling on ITSM Implementation Support?

The reality is that the competitive nature of the market has left many vendors fearful of losing sales on cost by proposing too much ITSM implementation support.

Many successful tenders are undersold on implementation support. This results in focus on the utilisation of consultancy/training days way too early. Often before anyone has had a chance to think about approach and strategy. Once the buyer starts to think of intelligent questions on how to achieve value from the product, it’s too late. The vendor has left.

Here’s what I believe.

  • Buyers should consider bids that include realistic (and higher) capital costs for ITSM implementation.
  • Vendors should be braver. They should include larger bids that include sufficient levels of consultancy.
  • Or be truly courageous. One or two innovative companies forgo the ‘time and materials’ approach in favour of a fixed fee. The aim to get the job done regardless (within some boundaries of course).

It might seem easy to take the moral high ground here. I have not forgotten that vendors are businesses employing people. We are talking about people’s jobs and mortgages after all. Still, why are there so many failed ITSM implementations and under-utilised tools? Worse still why do many organisations ‘rip and replace’ their toolset many times? – it’s not unusual for some organisations to be on their 4th or 5th ITSM product – I know plenty with many more.

To me it seems that there is a chronic degree of short-term gain/long term pain in the market. Oddly it seems to suit everyone and never gets challenged. Many sales pitches and procurement exercises focus on the negative elements of the market. How refreshing would it be if the focused on how to achieve customer value?

Isn’t it obvious that vendors should take more interest? More care and active involvement in ensuring that their products are implemented properly? Not only is this for the clients benefit but it’s also in their interest too.

So what challenges and issues could surface if projects don’t have appropriate levels of vendor support? What would be a positive and more productive approach?

How Can Vendors Help Customers Deliver Successful Projects?

ITSM vendors need to use some basic consultancy approaches for customer engagement and stakeholder management. To a large extent this would help improve the chances of delivering successful projects.

I often find projects where vendors have dived in too quickly. Often with technical people and a technical approach to implementation. Business objectives are rarely considered.

Above all the approach to engagement and stakeholder management can be very limited. It’s not uncommon for vendors to send out data workbooks and technical spec documents for completion and approval, without actually engaging with the customer who is paying the bill.

Technical implementation consultants can also be too keen to please. They are onsite with clients, building scripts and configurations of their product, often without the clarity and ‘bigger picture’ objectives of the customer and business goals.

I am not suggesting vendors set up separate consultancy practices to deliver ‘process’ consulting. The key point is that there are tried and tested consultancy and engagement approaches. These will far improve quality and also reduce the risk for both parties.

ITSM Implementation Needs to be Risk-Assessed and Project Managed

This might sound obvious but the level of risk assessment delivered by many vendors is poor if done at all. If they are going to be able to deliver a great project and meet their clients’ expectations, they need to have a clear view of the following in relation to their clients:

  • The size, nature and culture of the organisation. From large process driven to entrepreneurial,  personality-led
  • ITSM maturity – level or experience and awareness of ITSM methods and implementation
  • Skilled (business and technical) resources available. Will the client be able to meet their expected commitments?
  • Level of executive support. Who are the key players and sponsors, how will they be involved?
  • Potential issues and blockers for the project – politics, challenging personalities
  • Organisational and operational constraints – other projects, business priorities

Without some early view of these issues, the expectation of success can be pot luck or unlikely to be achieved. If these issues are understood by the vendor, then they can take appropriate action to mitigate them, e.g. by assigning more experienced consultants, more resources or engaging more at a C-Level. Just by watching the project if it is deemed to be high risk you can be ready to react if there are issues.

Similarly, project management generally means ‘project accounting’. There is little attention paid to governance and issue/risk management, proactive people management and practical logistics. There can be too much focus on the commercial delivery of consultancy days, compared to actually dealing with issues and business needs.

Of course buying organisations need to prepare and give time and thought to their own project management and data preparation. There is a responsibility for these organisations to manage their projects and vendors accordingly.

Vendors, Be Brave!

Overall there is still a need for vendors to do more. Offer more, analyse more, collaborate more and project-manage more. To really take responsibility and provide more value to their clients.

This might involve taking some risks from their perspective – although the results and benefits for those that really take the initiative here will be potentially considerable and lucrative.

So, be brave! Offer more, propose more, win more and deliver more successful long term projects…!

If you would like to know more about how Barclay Rae Consulting can help you to make the most of your ITSM implementation or if you need help redefining your existing solution then get in touch!

SITS Goodness and DevOps Slides

A busy and productive time was had this week at the sits15 Show – Many congrats to Diversified UK and particularly Toby Moore and his team who have taken this again to another level. To me if felt that the show presented the (ITSM) industry at a new level of professionalism.

I had a great time talking to many friends and colleagues as well as new contacts – as well as doing some work – and of course the round of interviews etc.

I received great feedback on the day and since on my DevOps for Dummies presentation – which basically I used to try and lay out some of the good messages on DevOps and also to burst some of the hype bubbles.


If you would like the slides – you can find them here.

DevOps for Dummies SITS15



Recording for AllthingsITSM with SureshGP Kirstie MacGowan and Simone Moore





All the ITSMGoodness cakes and caps were snapped up – if you did pick up a hat please do tweet pictures from around the world or whenever you are wearing it…!

TB SFJOhn Ncakes




Tristan Boot, Sofie Fahlberg, Cakes, John Noctor



The best thing about SITS for me  however is simply that great pleasure of catching up with friends, luminaries and colleagues – that’s what ITSM Goodness started out …


Malcolm Fry and Matt Hooper

Finally many congratulations to my successor in the SITS15 tiara – this years contributor of the year (m’lud) Stuart Rance…!


Check out these CHECKLISTs for SITS


If you are going to SITS15 – I hope to see you there… I’ll be on my (ITSMGoodness) stand, as well as presenting and facilitating on ITSM/ITIL/DevOps. Mostly I’ll be talking shop with practitioners and other industry bods about how to improve and achieve success with ITSM.

I’ll also be on hand to discuss the new ITIL practitioner programme, of which I’m delighted to be one of the architects. The (globally dispersed) team working on this will be meeting around SITs for planning and discussion – plenty to do.

As ever I expect this to be a busy bustling and practical event where ‘the industry comes together to do business’ – as the blurb goes. Its a practical and productive event for most, as well as being a great convergence of people across the industry.

Last year I was honoured to be voted ‘SITS contributor of the year’ and I look forward to seeing who is taking that mantle this time. SITS14

I’ve recently been very busy working on a number of client projects – particularly looking at tool selection and implementation – so if you are looking for practical guidance on any aspect of ITSM approach, tools, processes, etc, please come for a chat to my stand.



We’ll also be dishing out ITSM Goodness cakes (yes) and some fetching caps..

Guidance and Checklists

I am often asked either before or during SITs to provide advice and guidance on selecting ITSM tools as well as running ITSM projects – as a support for that I’ve created a couple of checklists that you can download here to help to guide your thinking and planning. These are not detailed or definitive, but give you a simple aide memoir for:

ITSM Project Implementation – Service Improvement Service Improvement Checklist

ITSM Tool – Specification and Selection ITSM Tool Checklist

Please download these and use them as you need – they might just help you to focus your thoughts on what you are looking for at the show. Please of course feel free to come to discuss any aspect of this at my stand.

I look forward to seeing you there!


ITSMG Logo low res


Great managers make the difference…

Last week I went to an informal drinks party to celebrate the retirement of one of my business mentors – David Smith.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I worked for David initially in the 80s, when he was an IT OPS manager and I was coming through the ranks as a rookie Helpdesk manager. David was the driving force behind most of my practical views on management, operations, organisational change and service management – and still is 30 years on. (that’s him above in the centre with me and Victoria Marr (Stuart) his PA from back in the day)…

David is an expert at Lean, Agile, Project Management, OCM, ITSM, H2H, DevOps, Customer Experience, SIAM and many other familiar concepts, although he might not recognise all of these headings, or be conversant in the current marketing lingo on these topics. Yet he has been practicing all of these things one way or another since I’ve known him.

Over the years I’ve worked with David in other situations and he joined my original consulting company (e2e) as a director for some years in the 90s. He has always been someone who love’s their work and I’m frankly amazed that he is hanging up his working boots – although I’m sure he’ll keep busy. I wish him and his wife Diane a long and happy retirement. At the party there were a few of us from the early days but also many from his most recent working project – all with the same sense of appreciation for him and his efforts.

So why am I telling you this and what has made David such an inspirational manager for me?

In short he ‘get’s it’ – he understands that success is about creating the right environment for people and building an organisation that supports them to deliver great service. From an early point I was impressed at the way he took an active interest in developing people that worked for him. He used the classic 6 motivational words of management (please, I’m sorry, thank you) regularly and constantly where due – and for that won the respect of those that worked for him.


He also understood from day one that successful IT is about people and business. He has always pitched a clear focus on working to the needs of the organisation that pays your salary. He would do a daily walk around the office and his 250 staff and randomly ask people ‘what do they do?’ – usually getting a bemused ‘eh, systems programmer..’ response. To this he’d reply ‘you sell insurance’ (we worked in a mutual Life assurance organisation).

The message was clear – we don’t ‘work in IT’, we deliver financial security to people – who pay our salary. This has always stuck with me as a real challenge in IT and I’ve never needed standards or frameworks to appreciate it – David brought it out in clear relief in the 80s. His focus was on getting the right result for the customer, and that was his starting point, not how ‘IT’ works.

As a manager David was also no pushover (putting it mildly…) – he was tough but fair, would make decisions and mostly just got on with doing the job rather than being swayed with new shiny concepts and ideas. He had scant time for sales pitches and smooth sales people, although he would always give them time and a chance to speak (‘you’ve got 30 seconds…’), before he demolished them. His negotiation skills – and eye for detail in commercial discussions – are legendary and saved many employers large sums of unnecessary spend.

So in short we have the perfect model for management – a people person, developing skills and succession, a business focus for IT and service management, plus commercial skills for contractual and supplier management. I feel very priviledged to have worked with David at an impressionable age and to have had these qualities imbibed into what I do – all that has stayed with me since. It’s no surprise that I call myself a ‘management consultant’ not simply an ITSM or service management bod.

For me the secret to success in IT and service management is all about management skills and capability – processes, tools and standards help to build knowledge and provide frameworks, but none of these are effective or successful without the right people driving, leading and enabling – defining and living the ‘culture’.

We need to think more about how to develop people and improve the quality of our managers, their focus, skills and performance. Good management requires a completely different skill set from just ‘doing’ and often this is missed. In many cases I still see companies promoting the wrong people into management positions, simply because they have been successful at an operational role and without enough attention to their development needs.

OF course it’s great when there is a good manager in place although things can change when they retire or move on. Ideally much of the things we cherish and strive for in IT and ITSM should become embedded as process and via good governance, although often this just doesn’t happen when the strong character leaves.

A really good manager/leader will develop the right culture and to build this into a sustainable and repeatable model – that’s my experience where I see excellent organisations that don’t just rely on one or two individuals. The culture can be defined and ‘lived’ by the current leadership and simultaneously imbued into those coming through as potential new managers – it’s a clear trait of excellent managers to cultivate and mentor staff to continue their legacy.

I have to say however that I really can’t think of too many organisations who have an enlightened culture without one or two very notable individual people. I think sometimes we try to avoid recognising the contribution of some great people and try to attribute success to process, structure and policy. These are important, but we should also celebrate our people and culture – we are humans not automatons. Management is about how we motivate and get the best out of our people and we should be open and positive about that.

The value of good managers is most easily seen when a poor manager is in post (this is still the main reason people leave organisations). This leads to low morale, poor performance, staff absence/sickness, demotivation, factionalism, silos, bullying, high staff turnover – all of which of course is toxic for staff and customers and none of which is the result of poor processes or using the wrong tools…

We need more David Smiths – we need to do more to develop and support people who have the right kind of skills and potential to improve our management skills – rather than expecting things to happen through standards and ‘best practice’. I also think that the new nirvana of collaborative flat structured organisations, where everyone is their own boss, needs to be further defined. We might be doing less work in future but people still need to be motivated, supported and managed – and this will always be the case.

There’s not enough appreciation that individuals do make a difference – sure we need to have consistency and processes for how to do things, but actually its people that deliver these and we need more practical people management to make this happen.

It’s all about people… and people need good managers.

Happy Retirement Dave – you will be missed..!

Awesome Service Management

‘Everything is Awesome’

This was the signature song from the ‘Lego Movie’, which was released in 2014. This movie – filmed entirely with animated Lego – is a brilliant multi-level piece for kids and adults alike, providing great excitement and action for children and also delivering wonderful spoofs of many movies and cultural icons.

The ‘Everything is Awesome’ song features in the first section for the film, which spoofs dystopian moves like e.g. Total Recall, Running Man, The Time Machine and Zardoz.  In these films, cowed populations – living in authoritarian states – are controlled and spoon-fed what to do, how to live, what TV to watch and which song (yes, just one song..!) to sing. The song is another variation on the ‘hopeless fancy’ computer-produced song from George Orwell’s classic novel ‘1984’ – i.e. designed to dumb down and placate…

If you’ve seen the Lego Movie you’ll know that the song is maddeningly catchy…you find yourself signing ‘Everything is Awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team’ for days afterwards. So it’s a good brainwashing tool.

Overall the key message from the film is simply this:

We don’t succeed or thrive as humans, when we are stuffed into boxes with our creativity and freedom stifled. The film’s ‘baddies’ seek to have everything packaged and boxed into doing exactly what they want – including all of its people. The workers sweat away daily at building Lego from pre-defined templates, but really this is not a sustainable and fulfilling world and it is eventually defeated such that people are able to live free and e.g. create their own Lego structures.

Overall the human spirit prevails, based around individuality, independent thought, love and creativity, which are all ultimately the pillars of a fulfilled life.  We can’t impose conformity on people and work needs to be rewarding beyond simply following instructions.

 So, how does this relate to the ITSM industry?

The story and the message are remarkably close to the way that we think about ITSM and ITIL, particularly with reference to more recent agreement around the need to focus on people, culture and relationships.

In simple terms, to me the pre-defined Lego in a box-set is analogous to our thirst for silver bullet solutions and how we have tried to approach implementing Service Management. In other words it’s dangerous and difficult to pre-can your processes and solutions and also then expect them to be accepted and followed by people.

The way that the ITIL industry has evolved has resulted in a misguided expectation that ITIL will deliver a kind of ‘boxed set’ of change, success, value, improvement etc. – although of course the reality is that this doesn’t happen – not at least without significant work and organisational change management.

The Lego pre-designed box sets provide a specific result and outcome for the buyer, however this doesn’t actually teach them how to create other type of model, compared to using standard Lego pieces where creativity is needed. Similarly if organisations expect ‘ITIL out of the box’ to work for them they will be disappointed as this will also need context and organisational-based application.

So the message here is that just sending people and ITIL training and buying tools which deliver ITIL ‘out of the box’ will not guarantee success, as this requires flexibility and creativity to make change happen across the organisation. This in turn needs people to be ready and willing to change, and this doesn’t happen by forcing standard delivery models and work practices on them. Remember – We can’t impose conformity on people and work needs to be rewarding beyond simply following instructions.


Where are organisations going wrong?

Whilst we might be saying that the ‘ITSM Industry’ has created a bit of a monster that sets the wrong expectations for business and enterprises of all shapes and sizes, the reality is also that many organisations themselves haven’t grasped the essential elements and requirements that are required.

For many IT/Technology people and departments, ITIL looks like an easy ‘packaged’ option that they consume ravenously as a means of solving problems without the need to consult or sort out difficult organisational or political issues.  ITIL looks like a ‘system’ and development model for technology, has its own language and acronyms, its own internal processes that relate to IT, so it’s an attractive and preferable option for many technology focussed people. It’s become another ‘IT thing’, rather than a means to improve service to the businesses and customers that are supported.

So whilst the ITSM industry has created the IT opiate (or Kool Aid), the practitioner industry has lapped it up and got high on it – all meanwhile whilst the customers have looked on in disgust. Nowadays of course they can – and do – go elsewhere, now that they have understood that buying and using technology is not a black art and they can probably do it better…

How can we succeed?

ITIL and ITSM are too often seen as silver bullet / panacea solutions to problems that will never frankly be solved by processes or technology alone. If we really want to deliver Awesome Service Management then we need first and foremost to have awesome people working together as an awesome team.

In the Lego movie the characters on the ‘good’ side went through the usual ‘journey’ of fighting amongst themselves before uniting as a team to beat the enemy. Its just the same in ITSM – we need to challenge our colleagues on how things are done and how can we improve – often this doesn’t go down too well with staff that have done things a certain way for many years and this can cause internal problems.

However the only way to improve is to meet these challenges head-on with professionalism, transparency, great communications and positivism, to find unifying goals that meet the needs of the customer and supported business first.

Again this is difficult to do in an entrenched organisation but one thing is certain – it won’t work with a ‘one size fits all’, ‘box set’ approach. You can’t simply run a project that will ‘change people’ – you have to change the environment so that they will see the need for change and want to act differently.

Teamwork and shared goals are essential, as you need the skills and knowledge as well as co-operation of people across your service organisation and ‘supply chain’. In order to get this level of shared commitment, its vital to get people on-board with the real issues that are being faced and the potential benefits of solving them. So the need here is to involve people and let them be creative and flexible in coming up with solutions, not simply creating a whole level of processes and practices that they don’t agree with or haven’t had any input to.

In the movie, the main accidental-hero character, Emmett, saw no need to change or challenge the status quo or his eternal signing of ‘everything is awesome’, until he realised that there was a dark side to his society, but also more importantly – not until he was emotionally affected by this (in love and wrongful accusation…).

So we need to find ways to make the issues clear so that people are motivated emotionally to change – e.g. a technical team may not see the need to make changes that speed up the resolution of some incidents, yet this might be adversely affecting business performance.

We have to find ways to shine a light on issues/impact and emotional response in order to motivate our people to change…So experiential sessions like simulations, role playing and of course customer exchanges all help here – probably much more than simply ‘sheep dipping’ staff through process training, which may not give them the same level of engagement.

Overall then if we want to do the right things to achieve success and deliver ‘Awesome Service Management’, we have to get our priorities right – much like we see in the film – around the human spirit, love, fulfilment and creativity. To get the best from people we need to make them want to deliver the best and use their own initiative to do the right thing, not simply blindly follow instructions (that may not be correct in the first place.

Culture and the demon SLAs

The final point here is also that we have become too closely obsessed with seeing the culture of SLAs as defining success, rather than focussing on the wider business and service relationship. SLAs are useful as a framework, but for really awesome service its important that staff/analysts are able to step beyond the stricture of the SLA and deliver the best possible Customer experience.

It’s impossible to create an SLA that will deliver an appropriate response to every possible situation, so let your staff have the freedom to use their initiative and to take responsibility to go the extra mile.

Kids will use a Lego set as a starting point but then develop the model from a sports car into a spaceship – let your staff use the SLA as the guide which is then modified and improved when needed to meet your customers’ needs.

Key points for Awesome Service Management

Leadership – This isn’t just about management, but everyone needs to show commitment and take responsibility for what they do. Leaders also need to show understanding and clear focus around customer experience

Principles – more important than process, principles allow an organisation to set a framework for its people to operate flexibly within. So e.g. the SLA may be the process, but people are mandated by an higher principle to deliver the best customer experience, which may simply by-pass the SLA

Culture – this must be positive, supportive, transparent, collaborative, self critical and engaged in constant self-improvement. Management set the tone and people will follow.

Communications –we need to get away from everything in emails and project documents. Real communication happens when people are engaged emotionally not just intellectually, so use storytelling, graphics and other simple devices to get the right message across

H2H not B2C –ultimately we are all humans (not Lego figures..!) and we need to remember and recognise that good work is best done when people interact as human beings and not as cogs in a machine. We should aim to use personal communication wherever possible in order to build trust and confidence across people and teams.

 So, finally…

Once you have the right culture in place, then ITSM processes and tools can be much better utilised to support doing the right thing and delivering awesome service.

This is opposed to expecting turnkey ITIL process and technology to deliver this for you. It’s an important distinction.

In similar fashion the Lego movie shows us that we can’t force people to be automatons and expect value or quality – ultimately in order to be awesome as a team, we need to be allowed to be individuals too…

That’s how you will deliver ASM – Awesome (not Average) Service Management. Of course we know that in IT as in other walks of life, ‘Everything most definitely isn’t awesome’.

The film highlighted our need to empower the human spirit to try and fix that – ITSM in your organisation can also benefit from that message…


This article was first published in Support World for HDI in 2014

From Kafka and ‘Whack-a-mole’ to real Customer Culture

A few thoughts on the last day of 2014 – hopefully avoiding the ‘5 trends to look for in 2015’ and ‘what we learned from 2014!’ shtick…

There’s so much negative and depressing world news and also mixed hype swirling around in IT/tech that I thought I’d just mention some real moments of positivity from the last year – hopefully there will be many more in 2015…

To begin however I wanted to mention my favourite quote from this year – this was during an interview at a client site with a customer of the IT department. This was someone who was quite senior and in some ways a bit scathing about the IT guys, but also quite positive and constructive – it was the language that got me however…

He described the IT department as ‘now starting to shake off their Kafka-esque image (in terms of being approachable), but they now seemed content to simply play ‘Whack-a-mole, rather than actually try to solve stuff…’.

So, have a think, does your IT department present a ‘Kafka-esque’ image (or does it need a ‘metamorphosis’) – ie is it process-driven, autocratic, faceless and unapproachable. Also is your support operation simply playing ‘Whack-a-mole’ and being good at spinning plates rather than getting on with improving service quality..? ‘Whack-a-mole’ to me is a great way to describe too much focus on Incident management rather than CSI and Problem management.

So, to some positives..

  • I’m pleased to say that I’ve once again visited/audited/consulted for several organisations where they have long shaken off any of these associations, and built truly enlightened cultures – with great leadership, management and governance, transparency, support and encouragement. empowerment and people focus, that all of course then delivers an excellent customer experience – a real customer culture.
  • I’ve been really delighted to see several people I’ve known over the last few years in various client and partner companies develop into good managers and other new roles – there’s frankly nothing so rewarding as a consultant and mentor to see people achieve things they previously hadn’t thought they could do and (without sounding too Californian here :-)) – grow
  • I’m also happy to say I’ve had some great feedback on projects and assignments from the year, where I’ve helped people and organisations to achieve their goals or move to new levels, buy the right tools etc. I was also delighted to receive the SITS show ‘contributor of the year’ award…
  • I’ve also worked with some great colleagues, partners and of course customers – we talk all the time about ‘collaboration’ right now as if it were something new, but actually real collaboration is what makes organisations and projects successful. In particular its been great to continue working with SDI, ITSM Review, plus also doing bits and pieces for Axelos, itSMF and others. Also many thanks to all the companies and vendors who have trusted in me to write content for them in 2014.

So for me its all about people and teams getting on and doing the right things – technology and the market will change and be disrupted, but at the centre of it all are people  working with people, so – at least until the robots take over – lets celebrate that and continue to move from the Kafka to Customer culture..!

Happy New Year and I wish you success in 2015..! 

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The expanding world of Service Management + collaboration

I was at the UK itSMF conference this week – presenting and also with an exhibitor booth. The show was smaller (less attendees and exhibitors) than previous years although the consensus was that there was a good mix of people and that it was a good networking event. There were still a large number of presentations in streams.

Debate in the plenary sessions focused on next years ‘big 4 ‘ agenda, which I’m pleased to say included Customer Experience..! Also Axelos made some noise both in terms of physical presence in the exhibitor area and also to announce a new Agile/Prince2 initiative, Cyber resilience program and also some words around what might happen with ITIL.

For this in the next period the word(s) seem to be ‘ITIL and…’ – IE so rather than try to rebuild the somewhat creaking edifice that is ITIL at present, the current focus will be on how it relates and interacts with other areas.  I hope there will be more on this in a variety of forums around one key area – collaboration, particularly with the development and increased visibility of DevOps and agile/fast methods – which were mentioned at the show but not enough to be honest.

My session looked a the dichotomy between talk of such new areas (as well as social/cloud/mobile etc) and also the need to focus on basics. I asked the attendees who considered their ITSM to cover the basic functions (which I define below as Service Desk, Service Catalog/design, ITSM Engine (Incident.Problem/Change) and CSI)


Amazingly only about 5% of the room admitted to being able to do this..! So we clearly have a problem around basic functions, that makes us even more stretched when thinking about new areas to focus on.

However my point is that we really need to do both.

We need to do the basics, yet we also need to move forward, faster… and collaborate for success..!


You can view the presentation slides here



Moving forward it would be good to see more real positive discussion in ITSM circles about how to collaborate – both across IT organisations (Dev and OPS) and of course the wider picture of how Enterprises beyond IT are using ITSM and ITIL concepts to achieve success,automation and real ‘supply chain’ service delivery. Until recently only one or 2 of the ITSM vendors had really picked this up, but no there are many more who are changing their marketing and sales approaches to meet this new exciting demand. See my recent report for ITSM review on Outside IT.

DevOps still remains a hugely mis-understood term (certainly for marketeers) as we see adverts for ‘DevOps teams’ and articles about ‘DevOps systems’ – its an approach and culture, not another system or standard…

Another term that gets mis-interpreted is SIAM (Service Integration and Management). This in theory is a single approach to supplier and IT supply chain management – usually the need to co-ordinate a number of suppliers to deliver co-ordinated services.

This is an area I’ll be exploring more in future and also it will be the key topic a the next itSMF SLM SIG (special interest group) event on 13th January 2015 – in Central London (details TBA).

I’m delighted to be taking over as chair of this group and will be driving involvement and engagement around SLM topics, as well as hopefully publicising and sharing these with the wider itSMF community in due course.

To follow that I was delighted that my colleague and predecessor Karen Brusch won the itSMF contributor of the year award at the conference – this is much deserved as Karen’s drive and leadership has made the SIG a success over the years – Thanks Karen…!

Delighted also to see Rob Spencer win an award for his submission of the year – Rob also presented the ITIL Manifesto project at the conference and hopefully this will continue to gain traction and more…………. COLLABORATION.

How will you be working to collaborate more and achieve ‘joined up’ success…?


Consultancy Guidelines – updated


Many thanks to all of those who contributed to the initial draft of the Consultancy Guidelines – I’ve now updated the document with your comments and suggestions – some great additions there so please download a copy below and use this as you need it.

There is more content on clarification between consultants and contractors, more details on Proposals and Statements of Work, plus a short reference section which includes some suggestions for further reading… Thanks!

Any further comments please add here or email me at bjr@barclayrae.com

Consultancy guidelines REVISED v 0.2

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