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.

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

FIFA worldcup has opened way for ITIL Worldcup

The last couple of weeks you can not avoid the soccer worldcup; everybody is talking about it, most TV channels will have some sort of coverage around it and it makes me wonder..

A soccer game takes AT LEAST 90 minutes – unless there is overtime – with a break in the middle. Most people I speak with  would have watched at least 3 games so far:  that is an investment of  5 hours, even before the quarter finals are announced! (See the current schedule who will be playing in the quarter finals… I predict the finals to be between Brazil & Argentina/ Germany)

In total it will probably equate to 10 hours of watching TV, listening to commentary on radio and tv and checking the leaderboard on the internet (www.fifa.com). Not counting the time you spend on Facebook and twitter to discuss the performance of your favorite team…

Why not invest 10 hours every month to your own personal and professional development? You clearly DO have time for it because you also had the time to spend this amount of time last month on watching the soccer…

For example 10 hours of study equals:

  1. 50% of your ITIL Foundation certification program – in 2 months time you can sit your exam.
  2. 50% of your ISO/IEC 20000 Foundation certification program – in 2 months time you can be fully certified
  3. 25% of an ITIL V3 Intermediate program – in 4 months time you would have mastered the intimate details of one of ITIL’s Lifecycle Phases!

And don’t say that you don’t have the time… just pretend you are spending time watching the ISO or ITIL worldcup! Or even better… the [insert your name here] worldcup!

Originally posted 2010-06-28 06:21:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It’s all about the money

Whether you run a small corner store, or a multi million dollar international business.. when you are the founder and (one of the) shareholder of this business, you are an entrepreneur.

definition of entrepreneur
Definition of entrepreneur

Americans have used the word entrepreneur a lot longer than we have in Australia. We (and especially women) tend to say things like: “Oh, I run a business” or “yeah – I am self employed” or “I have a shop”.

In the past 15 years, I’ve learnt that being an entrepreneur is all about creating a business and employment for other people by using your own money. Every decision you make directly impacts your money. You can choose to use the money to employ a person, or to leverage equipment or software. You can choose to keep your money in the business, or take some of it out for your personal/private benefit.

You always have a choice what you want to do with your money: put it in a bank account or use it to make it work for you. As entrepreneurs we mostly choose the latter: using our money and set it to work for us. Not saying that this is always successful – hence the risk component of the definition.

It took me a long time to change my mindset from being an employee to running a business to being an entrepreneur. Now that I can proudly say “I’m an entrepreneur” I don’t want to go back…

No more excuses – proven tricks to keep writing

“Staring at the blank page before you

Open up the dirty window

Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find”

=Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield=

Every time I start writing an article or book, I think of this song. Nothing is harder than staring at a blank page… It’s difficult to make yourself start writing. Yet we must – it’s the most important part of being a writer.

Most of us write for a living, but not everybody sees themselves as an author. Perhaps you recognise yourself is some of these examples:

Teachers write – textbooks, exercises, case studies

Consultants write – white papers, blogs, proposals, reports

Business owners write – proposals, business plans, marketing plans, future direction statements

Content experts write – presentations, white papers, briefs

Are you a writer? Or is writing an important part of your job/career? If so, you must have had the experience of being totally lost for words. You stare at the paper and absolutely nothing comes out of your fingers. No words… no thoughts, no earth shattering ideas or insights…. just… nothing.

Your brain is ticking over, trying to come up with a million and one other things to do. Anything to move away of this mental pain of not being able to write your article or next chapter of your book.

How can you move from procrastination to inspiration?

Some of the tricks I use are:

  • Just start writing… Let the words flow out even when they don’t make sense at all. You can always fix it up later, it’s important to get some words written.
  • Bullet pointed list. Like a brainstorming session, you start making a list of subjects you want to write about and to try to find structure in the list.
  • Put headsets and listen to music. You’ll find a style of music that helps you to ‘get into the zone’, for me it is either classical music or Trance/dance music. It seems to help clear the mind and focus on the task at hand.
  • Turn off all notifications – they distract you from your process. Try to keep your screen focused on your writing task and nothing else
  • Walk away from the screen – get a coffee or a glass of water – but keep the page open on your screen. The next time you come back to your computer you continue typing
  • Set a goal for the day: “today I will type 2000 words” and you stop after that. Once you get into the habit of writing 2000 words each day, your brain will get used to the discipline and writing will become easier.

These tricks have helped me during my years as teacher and IT Consultant and now each time when I want to finish a book. It has definitely helped with self-publishing many of my books. (check out www.complete-publishing.com to see the process I used).

What is your trick to get the flow happening? How do you ensure that you finish your writing task so you don’t end up with un-finished books?

Ivanka Menken

 

This post was published originally at Linkedin

ITIL Experience Book – 2010 edition

This week our graphic designer started playing with the design of the book cover for the 2010 edition of the ITIL Experience Book – Remarkable ITIL stories…

Which one do you like best??  (or perhaps you have an even better idea that we can put forward to our design team!! )

Cover 1 - ITIL is not always what it appears on the outside
Cover 2 - Implementing ITIL as a game of snakes and ladders? 3 steps forward, 2 steps back...
Cover 3 - Our ITIL experiences are remarkable and we need to celebrate our successes

Originally posted 2010-08-20 21:40:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What will this day be like? I wonder… What will my future be? I wonder…

Yes, OK.. I’ll admit it.. I LOVE The Sound of Music! Probably saw that movie a million times and never get bored by watching it. But that’s not what this blog is about, not really…

Today is the first day back in the office after a long break and all day I’ve had this song going through my head… the lyrics are quite suitable for how I’m feeling today:

What will this day be like?
I wonder
What will my future be?
I wonder
It could be so exciting
To be out in the world
To be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh whats the matter with me?
I’ve always longed for adventure
To do the things I’ve never dared
Now here i’m facing adventure
Then why am I so scared?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not depressed or anything! Far from it! Every day I do something that I am scared off.. it has been part of my daily routine for quite some time now and it makes me stretch myself further and further. It’s an amazing way to grow as a business person, a professional as a human being.

The reason why the song resonates with me today is because I find myself pondering the future of ITIL as a framework. It is now 2010 and I’ve been involved with the ITIL Framework since 1997. I have seen it go through the versions from 1 till 3 and to me the ITIL Framework is similar to the air that I breathe. I don’t need to understand the exact chemical compound to experience the positive effects of breathing it every second of each day.

But I have also watched from a distance how other people get more and more confused about the ‘ circus’  that is created around the framework. The certification scheme that makes you collect 22 points is fair enough, but in the past 2 years the rules have been evolving around the certification. Some of the changes:

  1. Originally you were not allowed to mix-and-match V2 with V3 certifications.. but now you are! Doesn’t matter how you get your 22 points, as long as you get there.
  2. The ITIL advanced level is now called ITIL Master, which sounds very much like the ITIL V2 Masters level (marketing term, not the official qualification name) by which the ITIL V2 Service Management Certificate is known.. but it is NOT the same.
  3. The addition of extra courses that fall outside of the Foundation-Intermediate- Expert pathway but still count towards the Expert status. (and while we’re on the subject.. when you have ITIL Expert, does that mean that you get credits for EXIN’s ISO/IEC 20000 pathway as well as sort of cross-pollination?)
  4. Last year saw the introduction of a software certification, but what does that mean? Many vendors claim that their software is ITIL compliant, but is that now officially against the rules? Does every software vendor have to rewrite their marketing materials to stay in line with the official dogma?
  5. And best of all: the refresh of the refresh! I have been receiving many emails from clients and IT Professionals asking me if they now have to re-sit their exams because ITIL is changing again?!!

The most successful things in life seem to get to this status because of their simplicity. Think paperclip or iPod, it looks easy and it works…  And in its basic form, ITIL has (had?) the ability to fit within the same category. It was simple – never easy – and clear for every party involved what the features and benefits are of the framework. But what about the future? Will ITIL become too scary, too difficult, too intense, too convoluted for people who enter the amazing world of IT? Too difficult to even want to understand??

What will the future of ITIL be?  I wonder…

Originally posted 2010-01-04 14:24:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

US Election – the holograms at CNN

Remember how I was talking about the holograms that CNN used during the election coverage? 

I wrote about it in my blog on November 5th. 

Well – the story continues as yesterday I found an article on the CBC news website that these holograms weren’t even the real deal!

Have a look at the article.

So, why would CNN say it is a hologram when it isn’t? I don’t get it.. I mean: just say what it is. The viewers are going to find out anyway!.. it’s not like we live in the 1930’s anymore.

I feel sorry for CNN as this type of stuff impacts on their image and credibility and I am sure that this is NOT what they were trying to do.

 

There is a lesson in this for all of us business people. Your customers are smarter than you think!

Originally posted 2008-11-16 07:57:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

How ITSM and strict Processes and Procedures make the NAB glitch an amazing success story.

Last week it became very apparent what the impact can be of event management  and change control going wrong in an IT department. The National Australia Bank had a ‘glitch’ when a batch processing cycle went horribly wrong.

First of all I am intrigued by the way the media refers to it as a glitch – considering the fact that thousands of clients have been negatively affected. (and still are after more than a week) The bank’s PR department must be working overtime to streamline this process.

An article in The Australian states:

NAB conducts batch processing on behalf of other banks each day. When completed, a file, containing a detailed transaction history, is generated, which is then sent to the banks by NAB at the end of the day.

On early Thursday morning, IT departments at financial institutions such as Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ, HSBC, Citibank and Bank of Queensland went on high alert when they did not receive the files.

NAB told them that “technical issues” had hampered the delivery of the files. The widespread ramifications were immediately clear to all stakeholders: the inability to reconcile accounts would be a disaster.

Since the news broke, NAB has blamed a “corrupted file in the processing batch” as the cause of its nightmares.

However, it apparently was not a “file” itself that was the problem. Instead, it appears that someone from NAB’s IT department who had access to the system inadvertently uploaded a file that “corrupted” the system.

NAB spokesman George Wright described this as a “fair” statement as he tried to explain exactly what went wrong.

HOWEVER – you can also look at it from an opposite point of view. After reading the IBM mainframe discussion forum and debating this with my (very technically savvy – ex mainframe programmer ) husband, I am AMAZED and in awe with the fact that these types of glitches don’t happen more often.

How can you run a batch processing schedule every day /night of the week which requires multiple OPC/ESA or CA/7 jobs linked together with thousands and thousands of JCL statements based on 30 year old legacy code without daily glitches that end up in the mainstream media??

JCL statements literally manage, access and change thousands of files and databases. So with this mind boggling complexity I can only say that NAB must be running very strong event management, availability management, testing and change management processes. This has to be the secret to their success!

Originally posted 2010-12-03 23:12:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

ITIL V3 Certification Passrates close to 100%

Many people ask for passrates of our students, and to be quite honest there is no complete answer to this question. Reason being that most of our ITIL V3 Foundation students organise their exams independently via Prometric test centres. We don’t get the feedback on how they performed (apart from a select few who send us happy emails, flowers and boxes of chocolate to say thank you!)

But you ask, and we aim to please, so we provide the most up to date information we have in the form of a graph etc.
We are extremly happy and proud of the results (and feedback) with regards to all our programs – in particular the Intermediate programs which have been a resounding success, most course achieving close to 100% pass rates.

Managing Across the Lifecycle is quite a different exam from the rest of the Intermediate exams – there is a lot more practical work experience required to be successful in this exam! (don’t think lightly about this exam – even an 8 question exam can be very tricky and difficult!). Our trainers passed the exam in their first sitting, but that is only due to the fact that they have a lot of experience in this field, know the ITIL methodology inside out and listen to the examples from students every day of the week.

So when you’re getting ready for this exam: make sure you’re prepared!

Originally posted 2009-08-26 09:53:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter