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.

Retail shop owners look around you… learn from the IT industry or become extinct

 There have been three separate events this week that  triggered this article:

  1. An interview with Gerry Harvey in The Age explaining why online retail can’t be successful (in his mind)
  2. A message in the facebook group “Back2ITSM” from Charles Betz asking about the connection between IT and the business
  3. My shopping experience today at a sports store in Brisbane city

What do these three events have in common?

Off-line retail is in a lot of trouble at the moment and it is quite obvious when you look around you. Shops are almost empty and when they do attract clients, they do it through groupon deals or other in-store sales offers. This can’t last very long and I worry for many store owners. With their high expenses in store rental and employment, they need to make good margins on their products and the constant discounting doesn’t help.

And yes, technically I own online stores and provide ecommerce solutions to our clients so perhaps I am the reason why some physical product and service providers are having a tough time at the moment… but that’s not what I want to say. 

That’s why the facebook message is important. Charles asked if people know of examples where the business side has learned from IT (and more importantly IT Service Management). This is an important question! Many business managers think about IT as a ‘necessary evil’ or the big black hole where you pour your budget dollars in – never to be seen again. But you know what? In the background the IT professionals actually do a lot of amazing work! (I know – I shouldn’t sound so surprised.. right?!)

IT departments and IT professionals have to fight for their existence every day of the year. They must show value and justify their costs or they will be cut from the company. With cloud computing and subscription based ‘pay as you go’ offerings, many business owner and business manager is questioning the reason to have an internal IT department. And this is not a new phenomenon.. this started with outsourcing years ago. 

So in the background IT is working very hard to make sure they know exactly what it is that their clients want (through Service Portfolio Management and Demand Management) and to produce a catalog of products and services that they can guarantee to deliver as per the described service levels so that the clients can choose which service offering suits them best.

IT departments and IT Professionals also have been very flexible when it comes to offering higher levels of service for less money. Automation and efficiencies have been the daily mantra of IT departments since the 1980’s. They have to create a unique experience that can’t be offered by anybody or anything else, because if somebody else can do it.. they will, and probably cheaper. The only way IT departments can thrive is by offering true value to the customers; have the functionality the client needs and understand their specific needs in relation to availability, security, continuity etc.

What can retail stores learn from this?

When you don’t offer value and don’t offer that unique experience, people will only shop on price. And what better way to price-shop than on the internet? Most people have a smart phone that is connected to the internet, making it super easy to check pricing online while you’re in the store.

Give your clients a reason to come to your store! Offer an amazing experience through the product and service features as well as availability, security, capacity etc. 

Let me tell you about my experience today… and let this be a warning to every retail store owner:

We went to a sports store in Brisbane city, looking for something really specific: sparring protection gear for Tae Kwon Do. This was our first time in the store as usually we go to the Chermside shopping centre where the store is next to the cinema. The layout of the city store was such, that at the back there was a lot of protection gear but this was all for hockey and soccer. So we walk up to a shop “assistant” who was chatting to his female colleague (and I put the word assistant in inverted commas because he did anything BUT assist). We ask for the product we need and he doesn’t even move… doesn’t skip a beat.. doesn’t even give the impression that he wants to help. He said: “when you go back to the store entry, try to find a guy named Lee and he might know more about that stuff”

Err… really?!?! You are being paid to offer customer service and you’re clearly more interested in chatting to your colleague than actually assisting clients…. 

So rather than finding this guy named Lee, we get our phones and find our trusted online store and type in the exact product we need and place the order there and then. (one click buy)  Had a disappointed son as he really wanted the gear this week, but what do you do?! It now takes a bit longer to arrive at our house, but at least we get exactly what we want. Oh and guess what… we also bought that foam roller that I wanted for my stretching and pilates exercises as it was half the price online than the same product in the retail store. 

This retail store lost 2 sales today… total sales value probably only $200 (but that’s besides the point)… and the ONLY reason we didn’t buy in the store was because the shop assistant didn’t have the training or awareness or inclination to actually deliver a service to the client. All this guy had to do was walk with us to the front of the store to introduce us to the guy named Lee and explain the situation. Thirty seconds away from his female co-worker to actually do some real work and interacting with clients is all it would have taken to have $200 extra in the cash register by the end of the day.

Now his job is going to be outsourced to online stores and automation…. And who is he blaming? My guess he will blame the economy, or e-commerce or customers with smart phones.. but not himself.


Not all retail is doom and gloom… final experience of today sets an example of how positive retail experiences can be… Kikki-K is a stationary store in Australia that gives that true customer experience. Upselling where they can and helping you find the exact product you want. You spend $60 on a couple of pens, but you feel amazing! (btw – they also have an online store that complements the store experience… so I guess I can co-exist, contrary to what Mr. Harvey claims).

And we all know the Apple store… it’s not about the price… it’s often not even about the product… it’s all about the experience! Let it be a positive one for all parties involved. (and this is where IT can still improve a lot as well)



Originally posted 2012-03-04 18:10:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Downside of Cloud Computing…

It took a while, but I found a downside to cloud computing! Most people would use Google Docs, especially when they are traveling because it is easier to access documents outside the office (and you don’t need VPN connection or other difficult things to get access to your files).

But BEWARE: Google knows where you are and offers you the local version of their website… including the local language!


Portugese anyone?
Portugese anyone?

Err….. what do I do now???

Originally posted 2008-11-26 00:58:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Itil – the Big River

Oh – this is simply too funny! Today I read the itsmportal and it talked about the discovery of itil… Russian Archeologists have discovered the remains of the city of itil –  the former Capital of Khazaria (around the 8th century).

So of course I went to the Wikipedia to see what it has to say about itil and it says that itil literally means “Big River”… and this is so appropriate!

Having a Big river close to your village or town means trade and prosperity and this is exactly what ITIL- the IT Service Management Framework has been for a lot of organisations. The fact that they implemented the ITIL processes meant learning a new language that allowed them to communicate with the business to trade their goods and services. ITIL –  the IT Service Management Framework has been vital to the wealth and health of many IT organisations and internal IT groups, as well as the business that needs their support!

However, a Big River also means danger! You need to respect it and you need to know how to work with it. When you don’t understand the workings of the river, it can swallow you and potentially hurt or kill you. Again, the same is true for the ITIL framework. Many people and organisations have started the implementation of ITIL Service Management without really knowing what they were in for. By only focusing on the books and the processes they didn’t see the big picture and missed the opportunities for a safe crossing. A few months or years later they resurface: bruised, battered and egos broken.

People who understand how to work with the river are very important and these experts will be able to offer you advise and sound recommendations (“this is where you build a bridge. this is the type of boat you’ll need to travel on this river. Don’t try to cross the river when you haven’t passed the fitness test” ). Mind you – don’t get them to do the work for you as this will create a dependency that you probably can’t afford. Utilize the experts and learn from them. Practise what you’ve seen them do and create your own knowledge base on which you can build. Before you know it you will manage the river like a pro on your way to bigger and better things!

Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on external factors: the weather can change very quickly and will impact on how you deal with the big river.  You will need some wind to keep moving, but a massive storm will make it very difficult to navigate and manage the river.

Happy sailing!


Originally posted 2008-09-09 07:52:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Up close and Personal with Ivanka Menken

These blog posts have been fairly personal, and in the past couple of years you’ve probably learnt more about me than you ever imagined.. I have however made a decision to ‘up the ante’ and start a video blog around a subject that is very near to me: what it means to run a business and the fact that we need to read and continue to read books to learn.


This is not a hollow phrase, I truly believe in this statement and reading books plays an important role in achieving this. Verne Harnish once said that successful business professionals (“A-players”) read a minimum of 24 books each year.  Busy business buddies booksAnd these books would be a combination of business books, novels and periodicals like the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine.

If the video doesn’t load, you can always watch it here:  Up close and personal with Ivanka Menken



Let’s start a conversation – what are the books that made a big impact on you? I would love to hear from you.

Originally posted 2011-11-21 13:24:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cloud Computing educational resource

Every day is a school day and I can’t think of a reason to stop reading and stop learning. Career driven IT Professionals soak up information like oxygen, and it is important to keep reading so you understand what is going on in your industry. Reading is also important to keep your brain active and challenged because you’re “connecting the dots” between this new information and the knowledge that you already have. Successful business people apparently read 24 books or more each year.

Granted, reading and learning is not limited to reading books. Some people enjoy reading articles online and subscribe to blogs via RSS feeds, while other people prefer to read on their Kindle or paperback book.

My passion is to help people learn, and I love the fact that I can point people to content and educational materials that they may not have been able to find (due to lack of time). That is the reason why I created this book with a collection of articles -and my blog posts of course 😉 – around Cloud Computing.

You can start reading today as the book is available in a number of formats to cater for all reading needs and requirements:

When you are a person who prefers to read your book in a physical format – you can get it from Amazon.

If you want to read it on your Kindle device – you can purchase it in the Kindle Store for instant download

Or if you prefer to have the book as a PDF file so you can read it and print it at your convenience – you can purchase it from The Art of Service’s online store

Happy reading and I look forward to start a conversation with some of you about the subject, the content of the book, or simply about the future of the IT industry and how IT Service Management helps the IT Service Providers to stay relevant with the uptake of Cloud Based Technology and services.


Originally posted 2011-08-12 23:56:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My top 4 mistakes of Self Publishing

The top 4 mistakes of self publishing

In the past 14 years I’ve personally been involved with the publishing of hundreds of books and publications. Some of these books I wrote and others were a team effort. Looking back I can see now that I’ve made the mistakes many self publishing authors have made – and will continue to make -:

Not recognising the work involved

As a consultant and trainer I write for a living. I write course materials, textbooks, exercises, white-papers, proposals etc. Turning this information in a book should be easy right? Oh, how wrong I was!

Writing a book may not be difficult, but to turn this into a published book that looks professional and  that people actually want to purchase is a complete different experience. I have since learnt that publishing involves proofing, editing, correcting and improving the text, as well as the creation of a cover page with back page and the marketing text that goes with it.

And what about all the technical specifications? Each distribution platform requires slightly different file types, technical specifications and file setup. It takes quite a bit of work to figure out the different settings for each channel.

2. Trying to do everything alone (and re-inventing the wheel)

Although I had many years of experience in IT consultancy and the delivery of training courses, I am no professional editor and proofreading your own work is next to impossible. You are too close to the text to see the issues with punctuation, grammar or general flow of the overall story.

Initially I also tried to create my own cover designs but luckily soon discovered that I really don’t have a good creative eye for book covers. I recognise a good one when I see it, but I find it extremely difficult to design one from scratch.

Rather than doing everything alone, I started looking for professionals who can help me in the process. This took a very long time and a lot of money, weeding through many mediocre employees and freelancers until I found somebody with a style that suited my books.

3. Using the wrong software and tools

My first “book” I wrote in MS word, and MS Publisher. This mistake took me days (if not weeks) to fix up. There is not ONE professional publishing platform that accepts documents created in MS Publisher.

Most professional books are created in Quark or Adobe inDesign. Eventually we chose to work with Adobe inDesign and although the constant updates to the software are frustrating and expensive, the end result is so much better than anything I could make with a simple wordprocessor like MS Word.

4. Only focusing on

Amazon has been ground breaking in the book industry. First as a book seller, and later as a publishing platform. Although expensive, amazon offers a fantastic publishing platform with their Createspace services.

However we all know that it is never a solid business decision to put all your eggs in one basket, so rather than just focusing on it is a good practice to have your book available at different sales channels.

I spent many hours researching online trying to find the other self publishing platforms, and setting up author pages everywhere to be able to upload my book(-s) in the various websites.

This process meant duplication of efforts and also a piecemeal approach to trying to find sales data.

How to avoid these mistakes?

If I had to do it again, I would use a service like Complete Publishing offers. It is called ‘Guided Self Publishing’ and it helps authors to self publish their books without making these costly mistakes.

As a professional and entrepreneur I don’t have time to re-invent the wheel and now I don’t have to. Complete Publishing helps busy professionals to create and publish their book.

(Full disclosure: I am invested in this company to help authors speed up their journey to a successful publishing experience)

Guided Self publishing means that the author retains control over their book but the process of self publishing is outsourced to Complete Publishing. The book is created professionally in inDesign and turned into an ePub after it has been checked and edited by professionals. The author can choose from multiple cover designs. The added bonus of this service is that the book is generated with an ISBN and marketing text and is distributed both as print publication and ebook to 38,000 retailers and 220,000 libraries. All sales data is collated in a central place and you will receive a single monthly overview of the sales of your book globally in all these different sales channels.

For more information:

Originally posted 2014-09-16 11:51:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2009

You probably noticed that I am not as active with my blogs these days… the reason for that is simple: after 51 weeks of IT Service Management, ITIL and Cloud Computing – I am now spending 2 weeks fully focused on my family… Long lazy days at the pool sipping cocktails and glasses of champagne!

Please join me in enjoying the final days of 2008 and I wish you all a fantastic, successful and amazing 2009! May all your dreams come true… in business and personal.

As you can see this is a pretty old post but the idea is still the same: 51 weeks of the year we serve our customers, clients and students, but the week between Christmas and New Year is the middle of summer here in Australia so we take a well deserved break.

Personally I think it’s good business practice to balance the amount of time you spend with the business and your team with the amount of time you spend with your family.

Spending time with family is so important – you must not forget to pay attention to the people who really matter… not saying that our clients don’t matter but, well you know what I mean. 😉

Of course I’ll still be monitoring the training portal to make sure everything is going OK. I don’t want any of our students to feel uncomfortable or fear that they are left on their own devices.. it’s just that I’m not 100% focussed on the business in these 2 weeks.

Update: in 2016 our office will be closed for the Christmas break from Friday the 23rd of December until Monday the 2nd of January 2017


PS – how are you managing your career or your business? Are you able to take time off to really disconnect and relax? Do you have a mechanism to unwind and recharge? If you don’t … think about the reason why and what you need to do to improve this part of your career and life

Originally posted 2008-12-29 11:07:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What happened to Service Validation and testing in ITIL V3 Foundation Syllabus?

Today was a very exciting but also very sad day for me… Our development team showed us the alpha version of the new ITIL V3 Foundation course material which is developed based on the new APMG/EXIN syllabus. This new course and the new exam is going to be launched on the first of May 2009 – so that is less than 15 days away!!

The material looks amazing! Very clear and easy to follow, with new diagrams and new illustrations. It is not just a ‘tweaked’ program, but basically an entire new course. We used the updated syllabus, but also input from our accredited trainers, partners and students to create this new material. So that was the exciting part of it. I think it will be a lot better for our students as a lot of the controversial material has been scrapped to make more room for discussion, debate and exercises.

But the sad part is that I will no longer experience the joy of discussing Service Validation and Testing during the Foundation program! I think I am going to be rebellious and discuss the V-model for service testing anyway.. HA!
To me the process of Service Validation and Testing together with the V-model is one of the most valuable additions to ITIL V3 in comparison to ITIL V2. Should there ever be an ITIL V4 I would really like to see even more of a stronger emphasis on testing and general Quality assurance and Quality control mechanisms in the framework.

I really enjoyed discussing the reasons for testing and validating your Service Design packages as part of this process… to give people at a Foundation level a sneak preview of the amazing value that this process gives to the overall framework. But I guess that cutting it from the syllabus will make the follow up training (like the intermediate program for ‘Release Control and Validation’ ) more  desirable. 

Why would APMG have made the choice to delete the process of ‘Service Validation and Testing’ from the syllabus? I really don’t know, but would love to find out!

Originally posted 2009-04-15 18:28:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Want to feel depressed? Go see your doctor!

As I wasn’t going to the office today, I thought that this might be a good opportunity to go to see my doctor for a generic checkup. After all – I’m not 21 anymore…!

Well – that was an interesting experience! The reason why I went in was because I had some niggly things happening and I wanted to check if it was physical or a simple case of “too-much-to-do-and-the-body-tells-you-to-slow-down-a-bit” Pretty simple service request: is it A or B?

Well, I must have opened a can or worms because for the next 20 minutes my GP gave me a complete lesson on why the economy is going down, that when I put $100 in my bank account the bank uses it to loan approx. $1000 against it and that I should feel depressed when the interest rates go up with another 2% as the bank won’t be able to pay me back the $100 I put in in the first place!


All I want to know is: is it A or B? I definitely didn’t want to be told that I am not to blame for the bad economy (of course not! I keep supporting it… bought shoes yesterday and spent $500 at Bunnings today.. but that is a different story altogether).

The weird thing is –  at first I got angry at the doctor. I felt as if he was talking me into feeling depressed (I’m not BTW) but than later on I realised that he probably prepared this entire speech for everybody who comes into his practice with symptoms that might slightly resemble stress type symptoms.
And I realised that I sometimes do the same – when I talk to clients about the services we offer I try to listen a lot and ask a lot of questions. But I can’t help myself – sometimes I just hear myself give the same ‘spiel’ to different people in different scenarios. Is this a prepared speech? Is this answer even valid for this specific situation or client?

So I have made a few decisions today:

  1. Be an even better listener and ask more questions to get to the source of what the client is saying
  2. Verify if my understanding is line with what the client is saying
  3. Verify if my answer is going to be in line with their expectations
  4. Adjust my answer based on 1,2 and 3
  5. And lastly… when I want to feel depressed I will make another appointment to see my Doctor!


Originally posted 2008-08-22 02:35:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter