Inspiring Rare Birds Guest Blog: How do you do it all?

For all guest blogs on Inspiring Rare Birds go here. #ifshecanican

Yesterday I was stopped in the elevator on my way down from the Brisbane Book launch by a lady who asked me “Do you have a child, and if so… how do you do it all?”

Wow – can you believe that this is something I never really thought about?

To answer her questions:

1) Yes – I have a 14 year old son Frank whom I adore. I just love watching him grow up and being a part of his life every step along the way. Being an entrepreneur supports me in being a mum. I can go to school recitals, performances etc. as I simply plan around them when I can. (doesn’t always work out that way though, especially with interstate and overseas client obligations).

2) How do I do it all? The honest answer is: I don’t.

I don’t do it all.. I have an amazing husband who is my partner in many ways. We are a great team in running our companies together and we are a great team at home. His role in the business has been designed in such a way that he can work from home, so he can pick up the kids from the bus in the afternoon. He loves to cook so that’s what he does as well. Grocery shopping is either done online with home delivery or Gerard does it when he’s doing a school run. I look after the animals and I love to bake. A lot of the other stuff we do together.

Frank has been making his school lunches independently since he was 8 and he is responsible for his own school bag, laptop etc. We don’t have time to run after him all the time to do his jobs for him and he know that. His morning ritual happens without us having to manage his time which makes life so much easier!

We outsource or automate as much as possible: our iRobot Roomba is a fabulous little vaccuum cleaner for the daily top up floor clean for example. We also have fantastic gardeners who look after our property, making sure it doesn’t turn into a jungle.

Underpinning all this is the fact that both Gerard and I have a very clear understanding of our priorities. For example: Our windows don’t get cleaned every day or every week, probably more likely once a year, and we’re OK with that.

ITIL V3 Intermediate course – OSA

WOW – what a week it has been! I have been a busy little bee… teaching a new course in a country where I don’t speak the language is one of those experiences that you don’t get every day! As a person and as an IT Service Management Professional you can’t help but learn and grow through experiences like this.

It was amazing – a whole group of ITSM consultants, Tool implementers, Pre-sales support specialists and 2nd line support people. It was an amazing mix of database experts, infrastructure specialists, application managers and of course… ME!

What I really enjoy about this ITIL V3 Intermediate OSA program over the ITIL V2 Practitioner course IPSR is the fact that you get to talk about process interfaces between Service Operation lifecycle and the other lifecycles… we had some GREAT discussions about the link between Access Management, Information Security Management and Availability Management. I also very much enjoyed debating the benefits of recording CI information in the CMDB to support the Service Desk when most of your (hardware) infrastructure is outsourced… received some fantastic insights from the database expert in the group about how you could manage this without bogging down the IT group in storing too much detail, so that the IT organisation receives the correct amount and type of information to be able to make EDUCATED decisions on service outages, incidents etc. … all with the objective of supporting the business processes to the best of our abilities!

And the icing on the cake was the fact that all students passed their exam! 100% passrate… WOOHOO.  The Art of Service has always maintained a 100% passrate for the ITIL V2 Practitioner courses but it is great to see that we continue this into the ITIL V3 Intermediate programs!

Can’t wait for the next one….. After I spend the entire weekend sleeping, because I only realise today how tired I am after such an achievement.

:-)

Originally posted 2008-11-30 00:36:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cloud Computing killed the Capacity star

The last couple of months I have been thinking about a subject for a presentation and it is about the fact that Capacity Management is going to be the obsolete process for many IT organizations… in the future.

When businesses really embrace new concepts like Cloud Computing and Software as a Service do they still have a need for Capacity Management? These are some of the thoughts I have so far:

  •  Businesses need to change faster and more often –  traditional ways of doing demand management as input into a capacity plan that is to be used for Capital expenditure budgeting (wow – long sentence!!) is no longer sufficient. The business needs the benefits of the systems and they need it NOW…
    Yes, I agree that there is still the need for a strategic approach to the delivery of IT Services but with the opportunity to rent capacity on a ‘pay as you go’ basis makes all this a lot easier.
  • In times of economic instability you need low fixed cost – well, currently we purchase servers and expensive infrastructure like we buy clothes for our kids: they are too big but “they’ll grow into it”. So we end up with expensive boxes that are only used for approx. 15 – 20% of their capacity. Not quite a low fixed cost option. How about we use virtualization opportunities for the infrastructure we currently own and utilize services in the cloud on a ‘pay as you go’ basis to minimize the fixed capital expenditure. This way we can manipulate the variable components of our budgets as needed and respond quicker to changes in the market.
  • IT Service as a utility – Many of our business clients talk about IT Service in the same way as they would about electricity and light. Why would you create a capacity plan for electricity? You simply flick a switch and it is there… that is exactly what they expect from IT. “I simply turn on the PC and all the applications I need are there and they work”. It’s quite simple really… no capacity management needed, and it is going to be quite difficult (I think) to be able to justify the expenditure on capacity management when this is the perception as the customer side…
  • Business Capacity Management is more important then ever – From a strategic point of view we need to stay in touch with the business, their pain points and business opportunities. This way we can help and support the business now and in the future. Based on our discussions with the business we can add ideas for new or changed services to our service pipeline to keep in mind for future service updates. Changes in business focus, vision and strategy need to be aligned with what we are doing in our IT department.
I know – my thoughts are not completely finished yet, so I am not ready to put it in a presentation to attack the conference / speaking circuit but I am sure I am on to something!!!!
Just like that song in the 1980’s “Video killed the radio Star” we will be thinking about Capacity Management quite differently a few years from now… there may still be a need for it but in a completely different way, and for different audiences..
After all: we still listen to the radio and not everybody watches MTV-music videos!

Originally posted 2008-09-28 01:11:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

6 weeks left to complete your ITIL V2 V3 Manager Bridge exam

In the last couple of weeks I start to notice that our clients and students are getting a bit more nervous about the ITIL V2 V3 Manager Bridge exam. APMG have set a hard finish date of June 30th, 2011 for the exam to expire. After this date there are no options or possibilities to sit your ITIL V2 V3 Manager Bridge exam. Not for the first time, not as a resit either.

So May and June 2011 are the last “now or never” months for the ITIL V2 V3 Manager Bridge exam.

you will need to set aside a minimum of 40 study hours, but when you include the reading materials I would probably recommend closer to 80 hours of study to be well prepared for your exam.

The Complete Examination Package for the ITIL V2 V3 manager Bridge course includes the following materials to help you prepare for your exam:

  • A study guide eBook (sent to your email address so you can start reading straight away)
  • Access to our online training program
  • Access to the online exam prep program
  • A prepaid exam voucher – for undertaking the Manager’s Bridge Exam (in a CSME testing centre, or under approved supervision at a location of your choice as an online exam).

Is there any good news for students who still haven’t started to prepare for this exam and had to leave it to the last minute to enrol in their Manager Bridge course?

YES, there is…. This year we have a 100% passrate (at time of writing) for the ITIL V2 V3 Manager Bridge exam. And although this is not a guarantee.. it should instil you with some confidence in the completeness and quality of the learning materials and level of preparedness for the certification exam.

Good luck with the preparation and your exam!

Originally posted 2011-05-07 02:47:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

1 July 2010 – RIP ITIL V2 Foundation exam

Today is the 8th of May 2010 which means that there is less than 2 months left for the ITIL V2 Foundation certification exam. From July 1st onwards students can only sit the ITIL V3 Foundation exam.

According to APMG figures, between October 2009 and January 2010 there are still 2500 students each month who take the ITIL V2 Foundation exam. Who are these people? Are they in geographical ‘hot spots’? I know that in Australia most students take the ITIL V3 Foundation exam, but I can understand that in Europe there might be more people interested in the V2 exams as this fits better within their corporate implementation projects and overall governance framework.

So who will be the last person to sit this exam? Who will be the person on June 30th to sit the very last exam? Will it be somebody in Alaska? Or maybe Hawaii?

Will APMG, EXIN or ISEB bring out a special commemorative certificate for this occasion? After all, the ITIL V2 Foundation certification exam has been the cash cow for these examination institutes for 10 years and from the 1st of July onwards it is no more…

What would YOU write on the obituary for this certification exam? Would you talk about your first encounter with the framework? The 40 convoluted (and at times perceived to be ambiguous) multiple choice exam questions that offered so much joy and beauty in your professional career?

Or would you write about the stepping stone that this exam was for you in the achievement of improved efficiencies in the IT department and as a result improved customer satisfaction?

I remember when I did my ITIL  Foundation exam at the EXIN head office in Utrecht (The Netherlands). Sitting in that waiting room that reminded me of a doctor’s office, watching Lex Hendriks walk past with his pipe dangling from the corner of his mouth which for some strange reason calmed my nerves.

Hovering over the ‘are you sure you want to submit your answers?’ buttons after only 15 minutes into the exam… and second guessing myself… and bravely hitting the YES button with my eyes closed, only so see a screen popping up that said: congratulations, you have passed this exam!

It was the start of a whole new career for me – and one that I cherish every day of the week.

How will you remember the ITIL V2 Foundation exam experience? Are you happy they cancelled it in favour of the V3 version? Or will you stop for a second on the 1st of July to remember what it used to be like?!…

Originally posted 2010-05-08 09:45:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The customer is king – but this doesn’t give you the right to be mean

Seriously – what is it with some people? I really don’t understand why suppliers and vendors have to be treated poorly, like some vermin or at the very least an unpleasant specimen that you don’t really want to interact with.  Is it really so horrible that a person tries to help you purchase a product or service that might be of benefit to you?

OK – I understand this is a bit of a harsh beginning, so let me explain. In the past couple of weeks I have been stepping in the shoes of our sales staff. Reason? I like the interaction with our clients and potential students (usually) and it keeps me grounded. I hear first hand what is on  people’s minds and how they experience my company, our services, team members and the overall learning experience. I don’t always use my CEO title / signature when I do this, just to see how people respond to my team.

What I never anticipated was the fact that people are not always nice. And I don’t mean that they are swearing or bullying, but some people don’t seem to treat you like a human being… and that is something I never expected.

The thing is: most of my communication with other people is via email – this is easy and convenient because we have students in 150 countries, and timezones don’t always help with phone conversations. And often I do these emails at hours in the day when most people are not at work anymore.

So when a person asked for pricing or more information in relation to one of our educational programs, I responded to this request by email. And then …. deadly silence… no reply, no acknowledgement, no thank you… nothing. So I reach out again – to ask what other questions might still be un-answered or where my reply missed the boat in any way… again: ZILCH, NADA… The email address didn’t bounce so I assume the person still works at that address.

Until 2 weeks later, when I receive a BCC / undisclosed email from an assistant telling that “the committee will make a decision next week”… what the?! what committee? I was under the impression that I was just having a chat with a person… And does that mean that the email I sent was sufficient? I am still waiting for a reply to continue what I thought was a one-on-one discussion. 

So I reach out to the initial person again to ask what I missed… that was a week ago – still no reply.

Yes – c’mon.. burn me down for doing everything wrong in the Sales 1-0-1 manual, but I wasn’t doing a massive sales pitch – it was a conversation between 2 people… well, at least it was until the person stopped communicating. Is it really that much to ask for a reply? Why leave the other person ‘hanging’?? 

I get it – you don’t want to be bombarded with multiple pitches and sales chats.. but just say so. It’s a small effort to be honest at the start of the conversation:

“hey – I am checking out 3 companies and really not serious at this stage, just checking what we can get for our budget as the end of the Financial year is coming closer”

OR

“I am only interested in companies who can supply ITIL AND Enterprise Architecture training, just checking if you’re the company to speak with”

OR

“I heard about The Art of Service from ‘such and such’ who did a course with you and gave a great reference – what can you do for me?”

OR

“Thanks for the email, but we are really looking for a local provider who can deliver in-house classroom courses”

See? it’s not difficult.. it’s a normal human conversation where all expectations are clearly managed.. and when a supplier asks for more details, or feedback on the initial communication – it probably means they want to know what is happening with the conversation! And how you would like to continue to communicate, phone / email / frequency. It’s about setting expectations and being part of a two-way conversation. Nothing sinister, just a person wanting to know where they stand, that’s all. 

Professional courtesy – is that too much to ask for?

 

(OK – now that I’ve got that off my chest… rant over!)

😉

 

Originally posted 2012-02-23 09:31:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The 6 best answers to ITIL Service Manager exam questions

As I am going through some mock exams today, I notice that most people make the same mistakes so I wanted to give an overview with hints and tips on how to create the BEST answers to the ITIL Service Management exam questions:

  1. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU
    This is my first hint… when you answer the questions, keep the reader in mind! The examiner has to be your friend – your answers have to be easy to read, easy to comprehend and easy to follow. Use formatting, use ITIL technology and use the case study but above all… use your common sense! 
  2. “JUST BECAUSE” is not an acceptable answer! (neither is ‘because it’s in the ITIL book’)
     Very often I see answers that are among the lines of… It is A. No explanation, no argument, no background to the reasons why it is A and not B. Especially when the question seems to ask for straight ITIL theory people step into this pitfall. ALWAYS support your answer with reasons that are specific for the company/case study
  3.  Get in – do your thing and get out!
     At the opposite side of the scale there are the people that continue to ‘waffle’… it just doesn’t stop! The answer doesn’t seem to have heads or tails.. it just goes on and on and on… 
    Don’t!
    When the question asks for 1 technique and 2 advantages of said technique – stick with simply answering this question! Don’t start a debate on the benefits of the process… sometimes the answers are simple and can be short.
  4. Do your sums…
    You know how many points are allocated to each question. So you can do your sums on how to achieve the 51 points or more to pass for your exam.
    Example – the question asks for 2 techniques and 2 benefits of each technique and the total number of points is 10 you can do your calculations:
    1 point for simply naming the techniques
    2 points for each benefit (WITH suitable explanation!!!)
    Total points 10
    Based on this calculation you can start answering your questions the best way possible.
  5. What was the question again?
    OK –  now this is a biggie… this is where most people lose points in their exam. BY NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION!! Read the question, re-read it again so you know for sure what it is that they are asking. 
    Example from mock exam:
    ” State two problem areas that ITC can expect to encounter in guaranteeing the availability of this new  service.  (4 points)”
    What is being asked? You need to come up with TWO problem areas specific to the ITC case study. But these problem areas only score you points when the problem areas are problems for guaranteeing availability of the new service! So stating problems with the current service desk or redundancy of systems between the current head offices is NOT an acceptable answer. It will be an issue for some of the current services – but it has nothing to do with the new service! 
    Simply regurgitating availability challenges won’t make you any points here. You need to specify why the problems relate to the new service…
  6. How low should you go??
    Remember – you are answering a MANAGER level exam question. The best way to answer these questions is to think like a Service Manager, a Process Manager or a Line Manager. You don’t necessarily physically have to do all the nitty gritty dirty work in the processes (so why would you study all that stuff?? After all – you pay people to do this work for you!). What you DO need to know is WHY these processes are important, WHAT is involved in selling and setting up these processes, WHO will be the best person/function to perform this role and WHAT type of plans, reports and documentation is required to set it up and manage the process…. Stick to your level, don’t go too deep into the details as you’ll run out of time. On the other hand, don’t stay too high level as you will need to show that you understand the framework and its positive impact on the organisation.

Practice these hints & tips and you will be able to answer the questions a lot better!

Good luck!

Originally posted 2008-10-20 11:30:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Today's question: What would you recommend- ITIL or PMP certification?

This question arrived in my inbox this morning and this is what I answered:

There is quite a big difference between ITIL and PMP and I suppose it really depends on your other skills and preferred job type to be able to answer your question.
PMP is a Project Management Methodology, which is mostly used in an IT environment, but is specifically created for the management of projects. PMP is a product of the Project Management Institute in the USA.

ITIL is a framework specifically created for the management of IT Services across the entire lifecyle. Most activities in the framework are combined in processes and because of this the framework has a focus on continual improvement of process, product, people and partner relations.

There are touchpoints between the project organisation (which may use PMP) and the strategic & operational side of an IT department (which may use ITIL ) and the two methodologies complement each other to enable the IT organisation to produce its IT Services to the best of its capabilities.

I hope this helps you to make the decision on what would be the better study path for you. Follow this link to read more about our eLearning pathway for the ITIL framework certification.

Originally posted 2009-10-17 10:30:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Lessons learnt from running Cloud Computing without ITIL Processes

Once upon a time, really not that long ago… approx. 3 years to be exact…. I wanted to improve our business processes to enable more streamlined customer interaction and more efficiency in account management. The CRM software we used didn’t work the way we wanted it and after some research (mainly because we used Microsoft Exhange with Outlook as an email client) we looked to start using MS Dynamic CRM as our contact and account management software.

Because of the nature of our business I didn’t want software on the server in the office so we opted to sign up for a SaaS / hosted solution. This seemed to be the best of both worlds:

  • No upfront large capital expenditure
  • Pay as you Go,  no long term contracts
  • Internet based, so we have access to customer data no matter where we are in the world

Well – not such a good story, I’m afraid … the company we signed up with didn’t realise or understand that when you provide hosted solutions, Software as a Service or ANY cloud based services…. you really need to be very mature in your IT Service Management Processes. Or at the very least your communication with the clients has to be exceptional.

This company didn’t seem to have any of these disciplines in place.. there was no upfront communication with clients on planned maintenance and on a regular basis we didn’t have access to our customer data on the weekend or came into the office on Monday morning to find out that the server upgrades or patches hadn’t worked on the weekend…. leaving us stranded as the offline version wasn’t configured properly with MS Vista. (for whatever reason this seemed to be extremely difficult to do…)

And with the type of business that we are (and we discussed this with this provider prior to signing up with them) we really needed 24×6 availability because our workweek runs until Saturday afternoon around 3pm due to the US timezones…  So a planned unavailability on Friday evening or Saturday morning was quite disruptive to our business…

Yes, I agree that I was probably a highly demanding client (those of you who know me personally are not surprised by this statement!) ; due to the business that I run I don’t accept mediocre service levels from anybody.. I know things can be better and I expect to see clear improvement processes. After the second issue, I told them that my company specialises in IT Service Management education and that I’d be more than happy to come over to their office to give their IT staff an overview of ITIL and ITSM and how it could help them in their service levels and customer satisfaction. They declined.

As the client their service delivery came across as being very ad hoc and not well managed at all… didn’t give me the confidence that my client data and contacts where in safe hands. As the ultimate control freak that I am, this didn’t sit very well with me. (and that is even without discussing the fact that we PAID for this service.. in the understanding and expectation that we would have access to our customer data when we needed it. ) I mean – isn’t that IT on demand?

It culminated in a disastrous Server upgrade (which we were NOT notified about) that went horribly wrong, with servers crumbling, dying… Raid arrays packing it in and corrupted data files. To top it all off, this company only did a full backup every 4 weeks and had to revert back to this backup to restore from…

Needless to say I terminated the contract and looked for another solution.. whereas before a local presence and specialisation in hosted service was important,  NOW we realised that reputation and proven ability to provide availability of service was on the top of my selection list!

(PS – while I typed this I checked the company’s website… and it only seems to be a placeholder with no content anymore.. maybe they no longer exist?)

This is only one example of a small company terminating its contract with a cloud computing service provider…. Just imagine the implications and political fallout when this would have happened to a government department moving towards Cloud Based Services (and you know… this sort of stuff ALWAYS happens in an election year)

Lessons learnt

  • An IT Service mis-managed is an IT Service mis managed.. whether the IT Service is delivered locally in house or via Cloud based technology.
  • ITSM will be the saving grace for many Cloud Based Service Delivery companies
  • NOT having ITIL or ITSM Processes will have a much bigger impact on business continuity because of the larger scale and exposure
  • As client you are very concerned about privacy and security of your data and content… as the IT provider it is double important to manage expectations and placate nerves at the client site.
  • When you have a hosted or cloud based solution, try to have the offline version available to you (to mitigate the risk of not having access at all when the internet connection is unavailable)
  • Be demanding as a client. ( I didn’t manage the project well enough… I did NOT ask to see the SLA before signing up to the contract and it turned out that the service availability was defined as 95% ping to the server … )
  • How does the company manage their continuity of services? What is their methodology, what is their proven track record?
  • Ask about the values and policies of the company; what is important to them? Even when you are a small client to this supplier – what service approach do they use?

Originally posted 2010-06-08 11:17:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter