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.

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”


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


“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?”


“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:

    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… 
    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

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 ( 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 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