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.

Is this the end of an era? Will Cloud Computing separate the "boys from the men"?

Had an interesting discussion today at lunch with the owner of an IT support company in Brisbane and the owner of a niche specialist IT provider for the retail industry about the effect Cloud Computing has and will have on this part of the IT industry.

The discussion really started when somebody asked about our experience with migrating from Exchange based email services to Google apps based services. And Scott made a valid point: the small IT support shop around the corner that services the Small Business segment will really feel the change in the market.

Ask yourself the question… seriously… if you had to start all over again, and set up IT systems for your business, would you purchase proprietary software or would you start off with Google Apps for your email, word processing, basic spreadsheets, intranet pages, etc?

I know what I would do.. we did it a few months ago: we no longer use Microsoft Exchange Server. We no longer need the IT support that goes with managing email ID’s etc. That could amount up to a massive cost saving for the small business owner, but what will it mean for the small IT shop?!?!

The only way to succeed in this industry (imho) is to be amazing with your services. Your clients will want to stay with you – not for the money, but for the unparalleled service which they can NOT get anywhere else!

Technology is replaceable for something with the exact same features and benefits – service is not.

Originally posted 2009-09-19 04:10:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What is the the foolproof one and only secret to success in business?

After 20 years of being ‘out of touch’,  an old friend connected with me again via skype (don’t you love the power of google searches??) and this morning we started chatting about the secrets of success. This seemed very appropriate as I just returned from a trip to the US where I spent 3 days with 700 very successful CEO’s, so the discussion was a great follow up from that experience.

In the past 10 years, my friend has grown his business both in revenue and profitability in an industry and geographical area that is quite challenging; he owns and manages dairy farms in Europe. His answer to my question “what makes you so successful” was:

A great family, sense of humor and the iron will to turn your dream into a reality. And of course good old fashioned hard work!

Isn’t that fantastic? Yes, it takes an iron will and the ability to work really hard and keep doing this even when everything seems to be stacked against you. Which is probably where that sense of humor comes in handy 😉 But before even that he mentioned  ‘a great family’.

He didn’t think long about that answer, and it took me by surprise as I expected something like : genetically manipulated dairy cows or a tricky & complicated breeding program!

His first response was “a great family” – and how guilty are we entrepreneurs and business owners of taking our spouses and family for granted. We sometimes feel that we create everything ourself and our egos keep getting bigger and bigger. (yup – confession time, my ego is up there with the rest of the boys! doesn’t matter if you’re male or female… we all suffer from it).

And to link it back to something I heard in Houston last week – Gene Kranz mentioned that the secret to mission control success was teamwork and ‘the ability to check your ego at the door’. Never let ego get into the way; if you want to be successful you need to focus on your goals and be humble in serving the rest of your team in achieving the absolute best.

He actually said…

There is no achievement without risk and to be successful we need to have the following:

  • Discipline and focus
  • Understand the value of high morale
  • Leave your ego at the door

Who best to help you to step away from your ego, but your spouse and family?! They keep you grounded, they keep you real. So ultimately they help you become the successful business  person that you want to be.

Maybe it’s time to spend a bit more time with your family, and a bit less time with your spreadsheets and cheque book?!…. what do you think?

Originally posted 2011-04-15 00:47:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

ITIL Capacity Management and Financial Management working together to block business processes

I just checked into my hotel in Rio de Janeiro – great location: close to the beach and not too close to the busy streets. As I have to deliver a presentation tonight I wanted to do some work in preparation, so I asked the girl at reception about the internet connection. (normally I have to ask for a cable as I don’t carry one with me)

No problem with the cable as it is wireless internet so she gives me the userid and password for the connection. I am happy as my business processes can continue from my mobile/virtual office. But that happiness quickly vanished when she shouted at me – just before I stepped into the lift on my way to my room – “oh, and internet is charged at $0.20 per minute” 


Wow – that’s a bit steep!! In most hotels it is either free, or you pay anywhere between $18 and $25 per day for connectivity. But  20 cents per minute? Most of my business processes rely in some shape or form on internet connectivity! So that will cost me $12 per hour?! I had to swallow really hard to accept that. But there was no option – it’s this or no internet at all…

So while I walked on the beach it got me thinking: we talk within the ITIL processes of Capacity Management, Demand Management and Financial Management about financial constraints to channel business usage of IT services. But never should it lead to our business people taking walks on the beach because they get really nervous everytime another minute passes and they know they have to pay for it.

Remember – charging models have to be simple, realistic and FAIR. I fail to see how these principles are applied in this particular hotel.

Over and out – I’m turning off the internet now.. this blog has cost me $2.00 already!

Originally posted 2008-12-05 02:32:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Why do training organisations pay mega $$ for ITIL accreditation?

Caveat and pre-warning. This might turn into a little bit of a rant…

Today I was notified that we didn’t win a large training opportunity. This doesn’t happen often, but still.. not happy with the results. And as always I try to figure out where I could have assisted the client better in their purchasing process.  Good thing is that this time I know who I lost the opportunity to, so I decided to check out what the differences are in our approach.

Now here’s the deal: The Art of Service is accredited with EXIN for all ITIL V2 and ITIL V3 certification courses, both for our classroom delivery and our eLearning delivery methods.  And yes, the full list is:

  1. ITIL V2 Foundation
  2. ITIL V2 Practitioner IPAD, IPPI, IPSR, IPRC
  3. ITIL V2 Service Manager
  4. ITIL V2-V3 Foundation Bridge
  5. ITIL V2-V3 Manager Bridge
  6. ITIL V3 Foundation
  7. ITIL V3 Intermediate Capability SOA, PPO, OSA, RCV
  8. ITIL V3 Interemediate Lifecycle SS, SD, ST, SO, CSI
  9. ITIL V3 Managing Across the Lifecycle

This is important to us, as we want to do the right thing AND have that independent validation of our course materials.

(and I must admit – I am very critical of the fact that we have to be accredited for ITIL Foundation programs, when people can do self study or no study and sit the exam anyway… but we want to cover all bases hence the full suite of programs.)

This is what the friendly lady on customer service told me when I quizzed ‘the other company’ on their accreditation status:

you: hi there XXXX
you: Who is your ITIL Foundation course accredited with?
XXX: we don’t offer credits
you: ?
you: You offer ITIL V3 Foundation
XXX: yes
you: I only want to know if your ITIL course is ACCREDITED
you: who are you accredited with
you: ?
XXX: the training is a self study course
you: yes – I understand that
you: but who is the accrediting body who approved the courseware
you: or are you using somebody else’s materials?
XXX: We use the book from OCG which is the Official Guide to ITIL v3
you: that is great – but that’s only a book
you: who authorized the coursematerials?
XXX: and the training is instructor lead training delivered thru streaming video
XXX: the training is guaranteed
XXX: its not authorized by anyone
you: yes – who is the course approved / accredited / authorized by?
XXX:and noone has ever failed the exam after doing the training withus
XXX: with us
you: are you sure? (as this is compulsory for all providers due to copyright restrictions)
XXX: yes I am sure
you: ok – thank you
you: hi there XXXX

you: Who is your ITIL Foundation course accredited with?

XXX: we don’t offer credits

you: ?

you: You offer ITIL V3 Foundation

XXX: yes

you: I only want to know if your ITIL course is ACCREDITED

you: who are you accredited with

you: ?

XXX: the training is a self study course

you: yes – I understand that

you: but who is the accrediting body who approved the courseware

you: or are you using somebody else’s materials?

XXX: We use the book from OCG which is the Official Guide to ITIL v3

you: that is great – but that’s only a book

you: who authorized the coursematerials?

XXX: and the training is instructor lead training delivered thru streaming video

XXX: the training is guaranteed

XXX: its not authorized by anyone

you: yes – who is the course approved / accredited / authorized by?

XXX:and noone has ever failed the exam after doing the training withus

XXX: with us

you: are you sure? (as this is compulsory for all providers due to copyright restrictions)

XXX: yes I am sure

you: ok – thank you

Isn’t that interesting? I mean – it will be a HUGE cost saving not to have to worry about the accreditation, audits, paperwork, renewals etc.

I might need to rethink our business model … what do you think?

Originally posted 2009-10-21 03:51:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Why do IT professionals attend conferences?

IT Professionals are an interesting breed – and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to study the ‘species’ last week at the FUSION11 conference in Washington.

Of the 2000 attendees there was a group of people who clearly enjoyed the personal interaction and social aspects of attending a conference, but there was another group (probably even larger!) who appeared to be very single focused: attend the sessions, take notes and go back to the hotelroom to work a bit more. You didn’t see them at the social events, they didn’t attend the networking sessions. You didn’t even see them at the motivational keynote events… they showed up at the breakout sessions which were specific to their current job role.

It made me wonder… if attending a conference is only to gain more knowledge aren’t there better options for you? There are some really great webinars around, many of which are free to attend. And most vendors that have a booth at the conference have all the information available at their websites or corporate information portals. Or you can enrol in online learning classes to quickly increase your knowledge and skill level for a specific subject. You can even do this outside of work hours so your peers don’t know how you got to this new level of knowledge and understanding.

Direct learning is not the main reason for attending a conference, that is not where the value add lies…

So what is the value add of attending a conference? And where is the Return on Investment?

  • Is it the schedule of industry specific learning interlaced with motivational keynote speakers?
  • Is it the fact that you can distance yourself from the daily ‘grind’ in the office?
  • Is the value more at a personal level to build trust between people, a relationship that can’t easily be forged through email, blogs and tweets?

Or is it simply that you don’t have to think about who to approach for new information and knowledge around your subject matter of choice? To get close to the thought leaders of your industry even when you are too shy to contact people directly or speak with them face to face.

Personally, I think the main value for attending conference is the connections you make. Not just the personal connections (although they are very important), but the links between various items discussed that are specific to your industry. You attend three to four breakout sessions during a day and each speaker has a slightly different point of view to the same or similar topic. You ask questions to speaker nr. 2 based on the information you received from speaker nr. 1. This way you are able to assemble your own viewpoints and approaches to various issues and topics you run into in your role at the company.

The magic of a conference is that after you attend these breakout sessions you can test your theories and hypotheses by discussing it with other attendees! Do they feel the same way? Do they support your theories, and if not – why not? That is the value you get from attending conferences. Instant feedback from other people in your industry in a non-threatening way. Yes, it does mean you’ll have to attend the networking sessions and get social during the week… but you get so much back in return: a guilt free and consequence free way to solidify your thoughts and ideas. (let’s cal this INDIRECT learning, as apposed to the direct learning mentioned before) You’ll get back to your place of work a lot stronger and wiser and people will notice!

And if all else fails, at least you’ve had a nice break from work… and you get to see Doug Tedder do a Hoola Hoop demonstration at 9 o’clock in the morning 😉

Originally posted 2011-10-03 14:26:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mixed emotions… be careful what you wish for!

For months and months we have been asking for a lower US$ … The reason is because we sell a lot of our products online and most of those sales are in US$. When we started this online sales the US Dollar was approx. 60 cent so this made us really happy! However in the last few months (years really) it has steadily increased to 99 cents! This means that the same product now yields 30% less in revenue!! Mind you – this is with the exact same cost base and activities on our side so it really cuts into the profits. You can understand how this didn’t really made us very happy.

So for the last few months we kept saying to each other: wouldn’t it be great when the US$ dropped again? Even if it is to 75 cents.. what would be a major gain!

Do you know that saying ” Be careful what you wish for?”… Well…. maybe there is some truth in the saying after all. I mean: by no means am I saying or even inferring that we had anything to do with the credit crunch or the stock market crash in the US of today… but the dollar DID drop!! Today the dollar was 79 cents.

And this is where the mixed emotions come into play – the dollar has dropped but NOBODY IS BUYING!! How ironic… 

I need a new wish: keep the dollar at a low level but make corporations in the United States and elsewhere in the world realise that they need a more systematic approach to their IT organisations and that by purchasing our eLearning, toolkits and publications they can improve productivity at a relative low cost! 

Can I go wrong with this wish?? I don’t think so… let’s go for this one… In the mean time we’ll keep building products and services that can help companies to manage their finances and IT investments even in times of crisis.. as this is what we’ve been offering in the past 8 years and I’m sure that somebody will understand the value of these products in the midst of this all…

75 cents….. 

happy clients….

75 cents…..

happy clients…


Yep – I like this! It will make everybody happy… 


Originally posted 2008-09-16 10:42:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What my dad taught me about strategy, tactics and other business skills

My father spent his entire career in the army which has had (and still has)  a major impact on every aspect of his life. With tomorrow being Father’s day, I am sitting here thinking how my dad’s career choice has had an impact on my business, entrepreneurship and leadership style. Initially I brushed away that motion, but the more I think about it the more I am convinced that there is indeed a correlation.

1. The leader should be a rock that people can trust and rely upon

When you lead your troops to battle you need to have a plan. You need to know what your end goal is and you need to have some understanding of the way to get there. From then on you delegate the operations to the people in your team and move to a role where you provide encouragement, metrics and insurance that we’re still on the right track. You are the solid rock amongst all the turmoil and changes that happen around you. People look at you and your response to the environment so see if they should panic or simply keep going on with the plan.
This is true in battle but also in our business lives. I can’t imagine a general in the army driving his own tank into battle and going full into an artillery direct combat situation. Everybody in the team has their own role to play and it is very clear who does what and when. That’s what you train for and what your drill exercises were meant to instil into you so you don’t have to second guess your decisions when the going gets tough.

As a business leader I have learnt from looking at my dad and how the leadership works within the military. The most obvious lesson would be: do not try to do everything as that is not your role and delegate as much as possible. I may not be as fearless, and am sometimes a bit fuzzy on the distinction between strategy and tactics but I know that my role is that of a general in the army. My role is to plot out the path to take and to make sure my team have the right skills and empowerment to be able to do what is necessary to achieve our shared goal.

2. Pick your battles

Make a choice – do you want to win the battle right in front of you, or are you rather looking at the big picture? What is the war that is going on at the moment? (and are you part of this war at all?) Where do your action yield the most result? Sometimes you just need to cut your losses and retreat. My dad taught me that it’s better to retreat and regroup before heading back out again with a new strategy instead of just plowing on and on and on and exhaust your troops. In business I know that I get personally involved with the results of the business and the experience our customers have and sometimes I tend to get too much bogged down on the battles that are close in my line of sight. I need to think about it more strategically and look at the bigger picture and the overall goal. What is it that we’re trying to achieve? Is this battle worth exhausting my team on, or are we better off to retreat and use a different strategy to move forward?

An example of this approach is when in 2006 we were struggling with our long term contracting projects. Our team wasn’t tuned into each other enough to make this a success and there was a lot of frustration and some losses (both financially and the loss of team members). Looking at the situation from a distance it became clear that this battle was not worth the frustration and aggravation and we decided to move out of that space into an area of business that our team is world class in and that is in line with our overall goals and targets. It made our customers happier and the team has been on fire ever since!

3. Be on time and show respect

If there is one thing my dad insisted on was to be punctual and on time. If possible even a few minutes early. In our family being late is seen as being tardy and disrespectful. And in line with that – follow through on your promises. Surely this has to be a good thing when you are in business. Arriving for meetings on time and finishing them on time and when you promise to do something you actually do it!

I remember when we just arrived in Australia (early 2000) how surprised people were when we actually delivered the proposal within the 2 days, as promised. And I try to be on time for meetings, irrespective of who the meeting is with. When I can’t make the meeting on time – I call to let the person know so they can make a decision on how to spend their time. It’s a matter of courtesy and shows respect for the other person. (at least that’s how I look at it… maybe I am my father’s daughter after all!!)

4. There is an order for things, and a discipline to follow order

Maybe this is the reason why I connected with IT Service Management, and made that into my career. The army is all about system, hierarchy and discipline. I like systems and structures, and I like frameworks and disciplines. I love learning new and better ways to create systems into my business and implement these frameworks and systems into my business. In my opinion discipline gives you the freedom in your head to think about the important stuff. Follow the process and the results will be the same (or similar) every time. Doesn’t work that way? Look at the process, look at the structure and look at the unforeseen circumstances. Most of the time you can figure out how to respond and how to improve.

5. Celebrate the things that really matter

Looking back on the time my dad was in active duty it is clear that his priorities changed. The more he experienced the full gamma of his career (including active duty in war zones), the more he turned his focus on the things that really matter to him: his family. I remember as a little girl my dad coming home after a 6 month overseas deployment and what a party it was to have him back! I still remember the anticipation and excitement as we went to the airport, and how amazing it was to have the entire family together again as a safe and reliable unit. Family was important and to share some time together he started ‘the breakfast show’ – every morning at 6:50am al of us would meet for breakfast. No exceptions!

As a business owner it is so important to forget about the people who are close to you. You spend so much time on running the business, going over the financial numbers and spending time with your team and customers you (run the risk to) take for granted your spouse, children and other close family members. Ultimately your business doesn’t define who you are, it is merely a vehicle to achieve what is really important to you. It not only gives you money to help other people, it also gives you some precious time you can spend with your spouse and children.

So on Sunday we will celebrate Father’s day – it’s important for business.

Originally posted 2011-06-17 20:46:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Set your service Free!! or: Free Willy – the ITIL way…

Yesterday was day 2 of the Service Transition course and we were discussing the following processes:

  • Transition Planning & Support
  • Service Asset & Configuration Management
  • Change Management
  • Release & Deployment Management

We had some fantastic discussions, shared valuable experiences and had an overall good time! Then… somebody asked what the difference was between ‘releasing’ something into the operational environment and ‘deploying’ something into operations.

As none of us have English as their first language (this course is running in Mexico City) – we were in for an interesting discussion!
One of the students went back to Spanish for an explanation: Release Management in Spanish is: gestión de la liberación. 

Oh, that got my creative juices flowing!! HA – liberación… set the software free! set the service free! Free willy!! Unshackle the bounds of the development and test environment! Set it freeeeeeeee!!!

But when you think about it… that is exactly what the ITIL Service Management process of Release Management is all about! Setting the new or changed service free in the Operational environment. Without scratches and without anybody (or anything) getting hurt! At the end of the Free Willy movie the little boy really felt that he had made a difference; releasing Willy was an accomplishment!

And isn’t that what we are trying to create? A better world for us and our Business clients, by setting our services free in the operational world.
How we do that… well, that’s a question of deployment options…


Originally posted 2008-12-10 23:43:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter