Outcome and Experience Metrics (OXMs) – beyond the Watermelon

My recent blog on Watertight, not watermelon SLAs had a fantastic response, with nearly 5,000 reads via LinkedIn. It also drove a number of discussions and I established  some new contacts as a result. This subject clearly ‘hit a nerve’ so this is the follow up to that with more detail around what this means and what service experience management and metrics is all about. 

As a recap

There’s a real need to move away from IT focussed SLAs and associated reporting, as this often does not represent customer / user experience, or show how services meet business demands. Its not accurate or healthy to have too much focus on individual IT components and an IT-departmental view of what’s important. All stakeholders need to be involved in defining targets and metrics that help to identify if value is being delivered, or if not, where this is failing. 

Traditional SLAs don’t go far enough and often miss the mark on how or where to improve. Customer feedback on its own can also fail to show business value being achieved or understood. Whilst traditional IT metrics show performance in specific technical areas, the concept of ‘value metrics’ should reflect a number of results and outcomes as a wider set of business results and areas of customer experience. 

In the absence of real intelligence around how these ‘SLA’ metrics are compiled and presented, service providers often fall back on producing volume rather than quality – listings and reports and details that no one wants to see. They can also fail by producing ‘industry’ metrics when specific business related outputs are required. This all adds to the confusion and lack of trust between providers and their customers.  

Metrics must reflect the increasing complexity of interconnected systems and services. But they must also do so in a way that shows the ‘wood from the trees’ – i.e. a rounded view of ‘value’ and not just a vast forest of unintelligible data.


Before we go further, we should just also be clear on the following;

·       Operational metrics are useful – for internal quality monitoring and as building blocks for integrated reporting and OXMs.

·       SLA metrics can be useful – as long as these are seen to be related to specific requirements and agreements with customers.

·       Customer satisfaction feedback data is highly useful but should be seen in context – event based surveys reflect a moment in time, often, periodic surveys are also needed for context and perspective.

·       Internal employee satisfaction data is useful if seen in relation to other indicators and feedback – some surveys on their own can either show data that the organisation wants to hear, or only negative data. A lot here depends on how the data is captured – i.e. if this is genuinely confidential etc. Organisational trust and culture is important here.

 So how do we do this…? How do we measure ‘value’?

In simple terms, by using a number of different types, sources and formats of metrics and combining these together. This is done with weighting that reflects relative importance and therefore value. When discussing agreements and targets for these composite metrics, stakeholders can focus mostly on the outputs and relative value of different metrics, without needing to know each individual component in detail. The resultant combined and weighted metrics represent a broad spectrum of measurements of experiences, outcomes and results. 

Metrics should also be considered as fluid and in relation to changing contexts, so different metrics may measure the same things, in different situations, like e.g. service availability (of the same service) across different business periods. So, service availability at 9am may not require much priority, whereas at 3pm it may be business critical, if that is when a key business transaction take place.  

These ‘compound’ metrics then can be considered watertight and robust views of the value delivered through services.   

Analogy – aircraft biometrics

As a quick analogy, consider the number of measurements (biometrics) that are taken of an aircraft – these may involve the same measure at different parts of a flight, on the ground in the air etc. Tyre pressure is of little actual value during a flight, but really important on landing. When we measure we need to ensure that we are considering the context at any given time. The flight would also include a number of other metrics around customer service (cabin crew), employee job satisfaction, on-time arrival, cost efficiency etc – all of these are relevant and need to be considered and viewed in context. All of these then contribute to the overall value and quality delivered during the flight.

Building OXMs – Outcome and Experience based metrics

To build up a useful set of compound metrics, my suggestion is to use 4 key areas of measurement:

For experience data:

  • Customer feedback  
  • Employee feedback 

 For business outcome data:

  • Process and performance metrics 
  • Key business metrics 
  • Customer feedback  – these would involve various sources of customer feedback, from surveys, meetings, NPS, complaints etc.
  • Employee feedback – these would include employee feedback from internal surveys, regular meetings and updates, sense checks on morale etc.
  • Process and performance metrics – these would include a number of traditional metrics produced for SLAs, operational performance, incident response and turnaround times, MTTR, service availability etc 
  • Key business metrics – these would include the business outcomes derived from use of the services. This will vary across different organisations, sectors and levels of maturity although in all cases they require input from users and customers to identify their nature and importance. (This consultation process is described here)     

 All of these areas contain an number of individual metrics that can be weighted and measured against target thresholds. The overall outcomes can also then be prioritised and weighted in accordance with user/customer preference – so e.g. business outcome may have a higher weightings over individual processes or user satisfaction. These preferences and relative weightings could also change in different situations, e.g. Where user satisfaction may be more important than business outcome in some situations.

The overall dashboard view can then reflect user preference on relative weighting and thresholds, showing RAG (Red/Amber/green traffic lights) status as required.

In the above case the business and performance metrics have been met, not the customer satisfaction targets. 

In this example the experience and performance metrics have been met, but not the key business outcome. 

In both of the above cases the overall result may or not be acceptable to the customer – the discussions with customer will determine this. From experience, building up the bundles of metrics in each areas is a useful task which also requires some customer input – this also helps both parties to fully understand and work through needs and expectation of service delivery and reporting. In turn this also helps to build a rich and trusting relationship across teams. 

In all of the examples above, metrics, thresholds and weightings are examples – these will be different in each organisation. There is no ‘standard’ for this – understanding the requirement is part of the relationship building and stakeholder value building process.

OXMs not SLAs?

The approach suggested here refers in particular to metrics – Outcome and experienced based ‘metrics’ – not SLAs or XLAs. ‘Agreements’ can be difficult to achieve without first developing this type of approach. My experience has been that it is helpful to develop these metrics as a means to building agreements in future. In many cases ‘formal’ agreements may not be needed, if there is a good working relationship built on the metrics and what they can deliver. It’s vital to understand that the process of building these metrics (i.e. through collaboration) is equally if not more valuable than the outcomes of the work. Formal agreements may not be needed – however it is always sensible to use Goodharts law – i.e. to always measure, sometimes formalize, avoiding SLAs and targets on their own becoming de facto goals. 

A further stage of maturity that can also be developed is to use this type of model to drive forecasting and demand management – i.e. where changes to performance or capability are also modelled in relation to the impact on Customer or employee experience, and vice versa. I am currently looking at developing models and possibly tools in this area – If you are interested in this please contact me to discuss.

Moving forward

All of this can be achieved without the need necessity to train and certify your entire department in one methodology or framework or another, although that is of course useful and I would recommend building awareness and briefing sessions in ITIL and other approaches as part of transformations. 

However, why not try it out..? I’ve used this technique in various forms for some time – it works and delivers some great results.  

I’ll also be discussing and presenting more on this topic in my forthcoming Brighttalk Webinar – Thursday 24 September, 16:00 (UK).

I will explore further aspects of this subject in subsequent blog and webinars, in particular the approach to napping and building views of services, internal value-streams and also customer ‘journeys’.

I also offer direct services – workshops and consultancy support – for organisations who wish to move towards achieving value through good service management and service experience metrics – SLAs, XLAs and OXM. Contact me at [email protected].

Keep calm and co-create (end-to-end) value!

I am regenerating my blog (its been a while) and am delighted to do this just as we are about launch the new ITIL4 Managing Professional Publication – Create, Deliver and Support.

I have been privileged and honoured to be the Lead Editor on this book, working with some brilliant people – John Custy, Jon Hall, Aprill Allen, Rosemary Gurney, Mauricio Corona, Claire Drake and Peter Bodman, as well as the team at Axelos, Margot Leach, Roman Jouralev and Akshay Anand. My thanks are due to all of them for their input and for creating a great product.

The book provides a portfolio of ways of working – some that that we have known and used in service management for some time, but not ‘called out’, plus some that are new and exciting. These cover people, culture, teams, organisation structure, employee satisfaction, customer mindset, tools and techniques for teambuilding and collaboration. In addition there is a specific guidance about how to build and use value streams for various scenarios. The concept of end-to-end is becoming more pervasive – using value streams, journey mapping and ‘joined up’ working. I am delighted by this movement, particularly since my original consulting company (E2E) was based around this.

It was great to visit the US for the Service Management World conference this week and to meet up with many old and new friends – also to discuss much of the current development in the industry – around ITSM, Agile, Devops and ITIl4. I participated in a great panel discussion which basically was great questions from the audience and open and transparent feedback from the panel.


I’m looking forward to continuing that experience at the itSMF conference in London next week – presenting on Monday at 4 pm on ‘Where to start with ITIL4’. On my stand I’ll also be giving away ‘Journey mapping; templates and other useful tools for those that are interested…

I’m also pleased to say that itSMF Uk are launching their ‘little ITIL’ book at the conference next week too – see you there!!


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.

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


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

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 [email protected]

Consultancy guidelines REVISED v 0.2

ITSMG Logo low res


Do you have an SLA with your spouse..?

Whilst reflecting (see below) on my time in the ITSM industry in particular, it’s clear that there are still many of the same fundamental issues and questions coming up that have been around for 20+ years.



In my experience the same old questions keep coming up – questions like ‘where do we start? how do we make ITSM work? what practical steps do we take? what tools and processes do we need? etc.


It’s good to see several different ‘back to basics’ initiatives happening (e.g. itSMF UK) to focus on core activities – (including ITSMGoodness of course…).


One area that really has changed however, in answering these basic questions is simply this:



This was a key topic at the recent SDI and UCISA conferences that I attended, and is also on the lips and key pads of industry leaders, analysts, bloggers globally.

At last! – and this is not just some mad post-modern hype dreamed up by idealists or marketeers. This is about real human interaction and how that is the way to build and maintain successful service relationships. It’s really refreshing to see this and hear people talk about this as the way forward.

The simple idea is this:  in the scheme of things – customers, service providers,  ‘portfolio’ of services and how these are managed etc – the relationship is the glue that holds everything together, regardless of issues, problems and mishaps.

The relationship is more important then SLAs or KPIs etc and will survive issues if they are managed properly and satisfactorily, based on the fact that the relationship works towards some common strategic goals. For too long organisations have focused simply on hitting SLAs and thinking that this means – job done…!?

And as an example, try this question…


Do you have SLAs with your partner/spouse/lover?

Does your family work to KPIs and do these form the basis of your familial happiness and success?


I really hope that the answer is no to this..!

The serious point is this – successful relationships do not work on the basis of contracts or SLAs or other formal metrics and targets, they work because both parties are engaged and work closely together to make it work. Minor issues are tacked as part of the ‘bigger picture’ and should not cause the relationship to break down.

There are 3 key points to consider as fundamental here:

Common/Shared goals – both parties need to have a shared view of what the relationship is trying to do and achieve – and they have to care about it – that way they can make it work regardless of minor issues

Intimacy – relationships need both parties to share secrets and confidential information and ideas in order to work successfully and for mutual benefit

Proximity – it is vital to be physically close as this cuts down the needs for explanation and formality – if you are in proximity you know whats going on…

Relationships that do break down are dysfunctional in one of more of these areas – e.g. either not working to a shared goal or not honest or not close enough. No-one breaks up really because of the toilet seat or the lack of shared washing up duties – these are ultimately symptoms of a lack of understanding, or a lack of honesty or just not enough synergy..

So, what does this mean for IT Service Management?

Well we are definitely too obsessed with SLAs and target metrics and thinking that these are the success criteria for our service delivery. Our relationships with internal and external customers and partners should be based on solid human relationships – where purpose, goals, communications and regular (face-to-face ideally) interactions are clearly defined, managed and maintained – much like we need to do with our our family and relationships.

Our definitions of things like Business Relationship Management (BRM) are useful and key elements, however the relationships must extend across all participants in the relationship and service ‘supply chain’ – i.e. so including front line and back office internal and external staff too.

Sure we need guidelines with SLAs but these should always be second to the needs of the customer and their service experience – the relationship is the framework to let this happen, not the straight-jacket that stops it…!

Ultimately we keep going in relationships because we choose to do so, for whatever reason – ideally that should be the goal for Service Delivery too… 

Keep talking…


It’s nearly holiday time and I’m in reflective mode – as a number of ’round numbers’ are showing up for me…

  • 30 years since I first left my hometown Glasgow  – I’ve moved around a lot in UK, Europe and beyond since then
  • 20 years since I started Consulting – running 2 companies (e2e customer services and current BRC) plus time at, HDI/SDI/Axios,  500 projects,
  • 10 years married – now have 2 fantastic kids!
  • 5 years since I started on Twitter – 15,000 Tweets and c 3,000 followers

Right now it’s all go and lots of exciting things developing behind the scenes, particularly around ITSMGoodness – watch this space…

Have a great Summer..!





Have you forgotten something – the Service Desk?

I recently worked in an office where there was a large area of empty desks – there was an air of loss and abandonment in the room.

All around there was building work going on and a sense of activity, although hidden away and forgotten in one corner sat a few stoic people, manning a serivce desk – it reminded me of a current issue I have…


As ever there is a lot of talk on Social Networks about the direction for ITSM industry, including whether there is even such a thing as an ‘ITSM industry…

Gartner are now saying that its called ‘ITSSM’ and there is no Help/Service desk software industry. There  is the discussion around what happens with ITIL/Devops/Agile etc. Should organisations go for COBIT and or ITIL as well as other standards and frameworks? Do we need meta-models and ontologies for ITSM and ITIL? We need more community involvement – where is the ITSM community? Also we need practical advice on how to do the basics – at a pragmatic and practitioner level.

At the same time we are in the hype curve of the ‘customer experience’ movement in IT and ITSM, which (finally) recognises the value and relevance of looking at IT delivery from the customers point of view – not the IT perspective. This has been very much business and consumer driven, due to the changes in technology and commercial models over the last few years. The focus of this has of course moved discussion away from process and tools and SLAs/KPIs to human interaction (H2H not B2C!) – which of course is a hugely valid and laudable development that we should all welcome and support.


However, whilst I support, understand and contribute to all of the above discussions and developments (e.g. I’ve recently done ITSMF UK BIG4 chat, I’ve just written the White Paper for SITS 2014 on Customer Experience, plus created some value proposition content for ITSM/ITIL for AXELOS) – there is one aspect of all of this that stands out as a major omission – and it really quite bugs me…


[warning]WHERE IS THE SERVICE DESK??[/warning]


Why is the Service Desk not included and seen to be at the centre of these discussions? Are we not guilty of recreating the old IT problem of overlooking/bypassing/patronising this operation and the associated industry around it, when it is to me fundamental and central to all of these discussions? Consider:


  • Service desks are part of the IT ‘supply chain’ which includes engagement, development, design and transition, but we all constantly complain about how new services don’t get properly handed over and given early life support – yet we don’t see much discussion around the importance of involving service desks in these debates. Service desk is almost seen like a separate industry, compared to ITSM, when in fact it’s at the centre of what we do.  We spend a lot of time talking about agility and efficiency of development – yet the handover and release/introduction part of our lifecycle is rarely mentioned.
  • Service desks are at the forefront of delivery and customer experience – effectively that’s what they do manage the perception of the whole IT organisation. Of course nowadays we are talking more around touch-points where people interact with portals and logging and knowledge systems as well as their actual interaction with tools, but this is now in the domain of the service desk. Certainly the human communications factor has been the central core of service desk for many years – maybe just not noticed or fully appreciated by the rest of the industry.
  • Service desk already has a strong community – or communities – based mostly around the SDI / HDI organisations, (plus some other local country-based groups), which also have robust and proven standards, accreditation and practical training and research frameworks. I don’t know why these organisations don’t get invited more to the table when discussing the way forward and big issues – like the service desk in the IT department, it seems to be an afterthought…

[notice]OK I might have an interest here, as SDI are a long term partner of mine, and I’ve got good connections with HDI folks too. However as I also move and work in other ‘ITSM’ circles I can plainly see that the Service Desk perspective and input is often not taken into account – at all levels.[/notice]

Maybe this is a marketing and message issue – both SDI and HDI are very good at marketing to their own captive and well-defined target audiences – maybe their messages just doesn’t get out to the wider IT and ITSM community. I do regularly find myself explaining the history, status and capability (standards etc.) of these organisations to experienced, capable and knowledgeable people in the wider ITSM ‘community’  who just weren’t aware…

Of course I completely get the whole point that ‘service’ is a wider concept and that technology design and development are huge parts of the delivery process. We need to improve our customer engagement and how we turn that into useable technology that our customers want. All of that requires a significant set of disciplines and skills that are beyond the reach of most service desk teams and people.

The point here is however that the role and early engagement of service desk/front line support is absolutely critical to the customer experience and perception of the wider service provider, not just the individual service or piece of technology, so it must be seen as critical to success.

Certainly the traditional ‘break/fix’ role of the service desk is changing and declining – however there are many new areas of human interaction and support that are needed and  service desks that will survive need to keep up with those.

Moving beyond the deserted rooms I mentioned earlier, I have recently also visited and worked with some really excellent service desk operations and guess what? – in these places the service desk is valued and supported by its management, yes, but also this is seen as a vital part of the business as a whole.

So, the other ‘loftier’ aspects of service management actually work and work well in these places where the service desk is far from deserted and abandoned – rather where it is celebrated, respected and admired. 

So actually to get ITSM or ITSSM working, we need to put the service desk at the centre of our thoughts and make it an aspirational and highly professional centrepiece for our frameworks, meta-models and customer experience ideals.


Let’s also keep a focus on what is already out there and useful and valuable and worth engaging with – if we are serious about ‘customer experience’ then we need to get involved with the people who know how to manage it…


service desk triangle


Do you agree?