ITIL® and Me

In the trenches with ITIL and ITSM.

I’ve been hearing and reading so many “ITSM is dead” and “IT is dead” statements that I couldn’t simply ignore the propaganda and sit here without some kind of generic response, akin to something The IT Skeptic might state as these being “Attention-seeking declarations of death.”  I can’t exactly explain the reason for wanting to respond.  Since I work in IT, it may be I want to look for some rationalization for staying in the industry, or maybe I’m currently in a “down the revolution” type of mood…or it simply can be I have a level-head and fully subscribe to The Hitchhiker’s Guide mentality of “Don’t Panic.”  For whatever reason, I just want to put out my two cents (or .07 shekels, based on today’s exchange rate) and reiterate that IT isn’t dead; it’s simply evolving.  In fact, it’s been evolving for the past several decades and (unfortunately for the revolutionaries out there) it’s not going to go away anytime soon.  Change?  Yes.  Disappear?  Hell no.

First, we need to examine the credibility of this statements.  I did a wonderful search (thanks to Google) regarding statements of “IT is dead” and came across an excerpt that an author argued “the IT department is dead.”  While I’m sure the statement brought a lot of attention to the book, it’s 2014 and I am still happy to know for a fact that at least one organization has an IT department (ok, several still do).  Sure, the author makes a valid argument that cloud computing will essentially destroy the reason for maintaining an on-premise data center, but through the wonderful teaching method called experience, few organizations have been able to go “all cloud.”  Through the need to maintain secure data, be it government regulations or CEO paranoia, many companies still keep computing on some kind of infrastructure, being worked on by the technical skills required to provide the backbone that allows businesses to function at the speed of technology.

Second, some of us in IT like revolution.  A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine stated “ITSM is dead.  It’s the status quo.”  While I agree the popularity of ITSM has changed in the past few years, thanks to an economic downturn that forced organizations to improve internal processes, ITSM is far from dead.  In fact, it’s far from the status quo.  But I don’t want to ignore that ITSM is changing.  ITIL has now been privatized, ITSM tools are branching out more to the enterprise (at least ServiceNow is), and users are becoming better able to help themselves, bringing about “Shadow IT.”  In short, ITSM is in the middle of an identity transition (or an identity crisis), but futile revolutionary movements such as the SM Congress won’t help to speed things along.  I love revolution just as much as the next person, but trying to force IT through a transition when people aren’t ready will only slow down the evolution.

Third, and probably the most important reason to consider that IT isn’t dead, is the fact that many companies out there are huge.  In fact, massive, and with global infrastructures.  While a small start-up can go all cloud and have the ITSM singularity of IT existing with “the business,” not everyone can change that quickly.  Banks, pharmaceuticals, healthcare; all these industries take a while to change and it’s not going to happen overnight.  In fact, some of the companies in the more “traditional” industries are conservative, and they tend not to change unless there’s a published best practice.  Unfortunately, “best practice” doesn’t come around until it’s already been done, and proven, for a few years.

I’m happy to admit that I’d like to see the death of the IT department.  As people grow in familiarity with the technology, and as technology becomes easier to manage, it’s eventual that every person will have a basic set of IT knowledge to be their own support.  Does that mean IT will really die?  No.  Similar to the H. G. Wells novel The Time Machine, in which the infrastructure of a utopian world is hidden, the majority of IT will go “underground,” to create and provide the services used by the aboveboard business.  At the same time, let’s just hope the Morlocks don’t start eating the Elois.

I was recently playing with the Hebrew translation in ServiceNow and I came across something interesting while looking at the translation for “Service Catalog.”  Apparently, in Hebrew “Services” is the same translation as “toilets.”  Don’t believe me?  I couldn’t believe it either, so I had to confirm it in Google Translate…

services and toilets in hebrew

Services and Toilets in Hebrew

 

 

 

 

 

Since I know a little Hebrew, I was kind of puzzled with reading something that said “Toilets Catalog.”  Needless to say, I had to take this IT matter to my wife who is fluent in the language (the first, and probably the only, time I would take an IT issue to her for counsel).  With no fault to the Academy of the Hebrew Language, my wife confirmed that the translation is correct and she didn’t really see the same humor.

I couldn’t resist Tweeting out my discovery and the responses have been pretty funny.  All joking aside, I have come to realize that IT Toilet Management (ITTM) may be the next evolution for IT Service Management.  Here’s my top 10 list of reasons for making the change….

  1. In ITSM we really deal with a lot of crap.  From people to processes, and all the archaic technology in between, it’s far from a stress-free environment without problems.  Since we try to make IT a better place by dealing with crap, how is that any different from a toilet’s job?
  2. In the book, Introduction to Real ITSM by the IT Skeptic, there’s a great job description called “Dreck Manager.”  I see this as a viable role in ITTM.
  3. I’ve heard my colleagues state that “IT Service Management is dead.”  Since ITSM is dead, it’s time for ITTM to rise!
  4. At parties, there will be a lot less questions when you tell people you work in IT Toilet Management.
  5. Problem Management and Plunger Management both start with the letter “p.”  There won’t be as much work to rewrite the frameworks, and both processes essentially do the same thing.
  6. Certifications such as “Toilet Foundation,” “Toilet Expert,” and “Toilet Master” could double as certifications in both ITTM and the plumbing community (thanks to Daniel Breston for this one).
  7. A new library titled “Plumbing and Information Technology Library”, or PAITL, could be written that actually contains information for applying processes (such as how to plunge a toilet).  Not only that, the readership would probably be quadrupled since amateur plumbers will buy the books, helping Axelos to get their ROI sooner.
  8. PAITL would still be relevant when it’s published.  How often do processes in plumbing really change?
  9. Describing ITTM to the IT community would be much easier.  Everyone loves plumbing analogies.
  10. We could rename “Service Catalog” to “Toilets Catalog,” proving that once again, ServiceNow is leading the vendor community in innovation.

 

I could carry on with a few additional reasons, but I’d rather let others in the community add to the list.  Needless to say, I’m glad others have humor in our industry – it’s boring enough without it.

 

I can’t believe 2013 finally came to an end and here we are…2014.  Yes, I haven’t been very active in the past year and the reasons are many, but I think the most important one is simply that 2013 has been a “meh” year.  To recap on why “meh” is my theme of review for 2013, here are a few key (lackluster) milestones from the past year:

ITIL

In July, Capita announced that their new brand for ITIL is to be called AXELOS.  Great.  There’s a new venture called AXELOS and it’s pushing ITIL to be the “global best practice.”  Besides a few workshops, talk of changes to training and accreditation schemes for professionals, and an overly priced ITIL exam app (at $13.99 it’s one of the most expensive ITIL apps on iTunes), there honestly hasn’t been much going on in the ITIL world.  The biggest change has been a general uneasiness towards ITIL and a focus to look to other frameworks and methods as part of ITSM.

ITSM

The biggest thing in ITSM for 2013 has been the SM Congress…and even that was a flop.  When the whole SM Congress came about (beginning with the ‘Revolutionary Think Tank’ prior to the Fusion 13 conference), I’ll admit that my ego was hurt not to have been a part of the shenanigans.  I did get over my ego (it helps that it’s very small and easily healed with a Taco Bell bender) and I decided to sit back and watch all the events unfold.  Of course, after things unfolded it became obvious that this wasn’t a true revolution.  Despite my belief in the ideals and hope that the movement could help a stagnate community, the common revolutionary signs were missing such as 1) there being conflicts prior to a declared revolution 2) no specific call-outs for what should be changed and 3) a general feeling that many egos (besides mine) were hurt, and that only means members of the community would go against the revolution out of sheer spite.  Not only were the signs missing, but I think there’s a disregard for the fact that some participants of the movement receive paychecks from companies that may not quite have the same ideals.  I’m still waiting to see if anyone will quit their job out of a disagreement of philosophy, but so far there hasn’t been anything except a few blog posts and arguments over the execution, and even those ended pretty early.

 ITILandMe

I really couldn’t ignore my own blog for 2013 – it’s definitely hit the “meh” state.  Sure, there were a couple of blog posts on Israel from my trip, and it’s always nice to see a Tweet or link to an article I wrote some time ago (the Chuck Norris one still gets people laughing), but besides that I’ve been quiet and just working.  Honestly, ITSM hasn’t been too exciting lately and I haven’t felt the need to simply rehash the boring news.  I do have to give credit to The IT Skeptic and his Slow IT movement; in reality IT should only change at an acceptable rate to focus on what matters.  Unless you’re some cool start-up tech company that has five employees and is bringing out a new product that will automate everything in IT, and do it easily and cheaply, there’s credence to simply slowing down.  Should I plan on being a little more active in 2014?  Absolutely!  Will it happen?  I’ll tell you in 2015.

That’s it.  On to my usual pattern when it comes to “end of the year” blog posts…

…see ya 2013, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

“Dear journal,

It’s day five of my journey.  The temperature is over 100 degrees (I think it is anyway, since people here don’t believe in the universal measurement of Fahrenheit), I’ve already braved free wifi on trains, falafel and hummus for lunch almost every day, cab drivers that can put NASCAR to shame, and the waves from the Mediterranean are almost unbearable when I’m trying to sleep.  When Mark Twain mentions a ‘desolate country’ in Innocents Abroad, I finally understand what he means…

Of course, I now know he’s referring to the IT industry in Ohio, because nothing could be further from the truth when describing technology in the Holy Land.”

- Michael Slabodnick, 8/8/2013

 

And with that, I boarded the train into Tel Aviv to visit one of the native ITSM vendors in Israel, SysAid.  Two trains and a cab ride later, I arrived at the office.  I instantly recognized the steps they used to film their “SysAdmin day video” and I was greeted by my (now) friend and colleague, Dena Wieder-Freiden.  I got a chance to meet several people in the company, learn about how a native Israeli company works (and some of it involves an X-Box), talk about the future of ITSM tools, enjoy a happy-hour in a bomb shelter (it’s Israel after all) and, most importantly, was given my own personal tour of SysAid 9.1 from a very cool brit by the name of Josh Phillips (he prefers Firefox but I’m sure he’ll come around to Chrome eventually).

During the demo of SysAid I saw a lot features that were simply “OOC” (Out of Cloud) and, given my experience with technology in ITSM, I have to say I was quite impressed.  The only sad part of the demo was that it ended and I didn’t have a chance to get my “hands dirty” to take the technology for a test-drive of customization.  But needless to say, here’s a quick itemized summary of what I liked:

1.  A simple, clean interface

9.1 is the most recent version and I honestly was surprised when the program launched; not much was on the screen except an incident list.  It’s not to say that all the screens are hidden and difficult to find.  It’s just that the interface is clean and simple.  Navigation is done through main sections at the top of the screen, drilling into a record shows a “breadcrumb” that easily takes the user back to the main navigation screen, and each record has tabs that keeps fields logically separated so the screen isn’t too cluttered.  Searching/sorting was pretty easy to accomplish through the column headers.  I like clean and I like simple, so when it’s together I’m happy.

2.  Cloud

I was surprised to learn that SysAid was created in 2002 with the original intent of being delivered by SaaS.  Keep in mind, I’ve always thought of ServiceNow as the SaaS ITSM tool pioneer, but it was created in 2004…two years after SysAid.  Score one for Israeli innovation (nothing against Fred Luddy – you already know I only write Chuck Norris blogs for things that I love).

3.  Built around the core IT processes

One thing I will say is that SysAid is not a platform, but that’s not a bad thing.  It covers the core ITSM processes (Incident, Request Fulfillment, Change, Problem, Asset/CMDB), and as a technology, works quite well for automating IT processes.  Of course, it’s not a good idea for an organization to change to fit the tool, so I was also happy to see that customizations in SysAid were pretty easy to make.

4.  Lots of “extras” to help IT meet demand

During the demo I was taken through the menu and shown how SysAid also can manage mobile assets, focused around BYOD.  Keep in mind this is OOC; no add-ons required for management of phones and tablets.  At one point my demo host, Josh, even made a statement that matches my belief; “SysAid isn’t out to manage the device, but only wants to manage the data.”  Eureka!  I made the same claim in a previous blog post (check out my BYOD Manifesto), so I was excited to hear that someone designed their product around the same idea regarding mobile devices and BYOD.

Other “extras” I enjoyed seeing had to do with automatic screenshot capture during an application error, user chat and queues, type-ahead search on the knowledge base, and a very needed “Show Me How” tutorial system to guide me through the demo so I could adjust quickly to the tool.  Even though these are all features that can be found in other tools, SysAid is an epitome of the phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

 

There you have it, my impression and review of SysAid.  It’s not a platform like ServiceNow, and it’s not intended to be, but it hits well on all the core IT processes and, as a cloud application, is scalable for any size organization.  Also, as an Israeli company with a brilliant and eclectic group of individuals (I referred to them as the United Nations, given the mix of nationalities in the company), SysAid demonstrates how a relatively small IT vendor can build a solid and reliable product, with the key features required to “get the job done”….much like a Swiss Army Knife.