Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No one wants a Service Oriented business, we want an Outcome oriented business

Why is it that IT experts are so focused on HOW something is achieved and not WHAT is achieved?

I was just reading this article by James Urquhart, VP of Product Strategy at enStratus, "Why it’s so hard to talk about cloud"

Some good points were made between James and Andi Mann, VP of Strategic Solutions at CA.  However, the real gem in this post, as with most posts, were in the comments.   IT at this critical point needs clarity in terms, not confusion.   Unfortunately product companies are perpetuating the confusion.   Why?  Because they are struggling to hang their hat on a differentiation that they can sell.

IT must not embrace these selling points into their value proposition.   It's a value trap.   I'm not saying that as a buyer you should not see value in CLOUD/SaaS/Private, whatever....  You should consider all the key elements of their services and support.   However, do not bring this as a value proposition to management....  THEY DON'T CARE

Services deliver an outcome.  Applications and infrastructure facilitate that outcome.  I think "Service Management" IT people work too hard to shy away from appropriate and fitting terms like applications, infrastructure and systems to use the term service in immature and confusing way.  I.E. Email as a Service.  Email is a system that is part of the employee communication services, like Phone systems, and mail systems, and IM systems, that facilitate the outcome of people sharing information with each other. If the employee communications team was in place instead of the email team, the intranet team, the phone team, the IM team, the portal team, etc..  someone would have realized "Oh our outcome is not very good".  (It also would have marketing and HR staff as part of the team)

STOP THE MADNESS,  this is not that hard.  In order for a Service to exist you must have a clear and present service consumer and a definitive service provider, that delivers an outcome to that consumer.  With out either of these it is a system, and that's is OK, systems are good.  They help us manage smaller components in a meaningful and easy to call out way.  You should also have a Service Owner (the person paying for it, not ITIL's IT self commissioned guardian.)  You also have Service Enablers. Key sourcing relationships (internal and external) that are required to help facilitate that outcome.

So like I've said many times on the ITSMWP podcast, unless you are an IT business, you really don't need IT Services.  You are making more work for yourself, frustrating your culture and breeding confusion.

But if we don't have Services, how can we manage ourselves? You have Services, business Services.  Manage yourself based on the outcomes of those Services.

If the Outcome is bad - your services stink.
If the Outcome is good - your services will do...  for now.
If the Outcome is great - some lied about the metrics...  J/K (sort of)

So if an application, or an infrastructure, or a system is in the cloud, does management really care?  Of course they don't.  They just want the systems in place to ensure speed, security and availability of the overall service they are receiving.  If a cloud provider can be a better Service enabler than internal IT, than an Outcome oriented culture will leverage it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oooh... shiny!

It is said that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What one finds as a crafted masterpiece, another sees as a big pile of junk.  Well this past month I've had a bit of a revelation.  Technology value is also in the eye of the beholder.  Having spent a majority of my career in IT and Tech Marketing trying to understand the science behind value  (Utility and Warranty to the ITIL geeks in the house), I go back to a presentation I did 2 years ago where I proposed a third value point, aesthetics.  Well a few recent events have confirmed my belief that the way something looks and engages the physical senses (sight and touch in particular) heavily influence the value perception.

Example 1: New phones for the family.
Recently we made a trip to Best Buy, where my wife, 2 older children and I picked out super cool Android Smartphones.

    Upon arriving home the family was all excited about the shiny new phones... until I had to go and put stop to the joy.  "Guys, the phones are going back!", you would have thought I had just shot the family dog (if we had one).   Stared down with looks of trying to figure out whether I was joking or brave enough to take on a revolt, my Ludite wife chimed in "Why, what's wrong?".
    No Bars!  That's right, not a single carrier signal in my house.  No one even noticed that their new new shiny phones actually work as phones.  As cool and feature rich these phones were, I had to introduce my family to the value point of Warranty, specifically availability.  Happily, Best Buy took the phones all back, no questions and we were able to get on a carrier with a great signal.  However, no simple phone for the former Ludite, she had to have the iPhone now that she got a taste of coolness.  :)

Example 2:  Recent release of SMAK
A week and a half ago, we released two major features our Alpha testers were screaming for:
A) A message counter on each of the life mode tabs, so you could see which aspect of your life needed attention.
B) A simpler easier way to assign your active relationships into your life mode categories (work, home, friends, etc...)

Right after we released these new features, we were all so excited about the new look and feel and the great new features that we didn't realize that the system was starting to crawl to its knees.  So time for another lesson on the value point of Warranty, this time on performance.  Yet, despite the performance issue, no one wanted to take out the new shiny alerting feature.  What? You can not go to market as the best productivity enhancement tool since the wheel, if your technology crawls, it's just that simple.  Yet, the crowd spoke clearly, we want Shiny and Fast, and Usable.

Needless to say, my revelation is this.  Regardless of all the science and market research on Value creation, excitement does not come from functionality (utility) and performance (warranty) alone.  Utility and Warranty maintain excitement and the emotional attachment to the technology which influences perceptions and prejudices people use to measure on-going value.  However, if you really want to get people excited enough that they want to become advocates for your success, you better make it a great user experience, simple, tasteful and crisp.

Expect some real upgrades on SMAK's User Interface over the next few weeks.  Also, check out our latest video:

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'll take Triangles over Circles anyday

I've been inundated over the past few weeks with emails, DM's and messsages.  "Hey, is Google+ like SMAK".  Yes, Google+ has some very similar features of SMAK, and we are pretty disappointed we were not out of private Alpha so that people could compare the two.  What can I say...   well, here is what I can say.  Here are just a few reasons why we didn't release:

Security and Privacy - Google+ launched and quickly realized that people didn't like it when you stuck 20 of your connections in the "Annoying" circle.  So, of course they shutdown log-ins and scrambled for a fix.
Usability - The most popular question on Google+ so far is "why am I here?" followed by "where is everybody?".
Intelligence -  So far Google+ makes a lot recommendations of people you should connect with.  Too bad you don't know any of them.  Really, do you need to be managing 500 new avatars?
CASH  & Klout -  Google has a lot of both.  They can afford to make mistakes.

So the long and short is, hang with us!  We are working hard to bring you a solution that will work not only with Google+, but all of your already invested relationship networks.  We don't you wasting time, being frustrated or feeling exposed by a new tool.   Your security, ssage and already established network is our biggest focus.  And unlike Google, we can't afford to make a mistake.

Well, if for nothing else Google+ validated that we like to drag and drop our friends avatars around.  It sort of makes us feel like puppet masters.

I really do like some of the features.  I just see it making my life even more complicated, and yet another channel to check.

How do you feel about it?  Would love to hear your comments.

PS: don't forget to register for SMAK www.mysmak.com

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

User failure - it can't just be me

I'm really not trying to be a complicated guy.  While I carry a lot on my plate (CEO of a startup, On the board of Co.'s, father of 4, co-host of wildly successful podcast, avid volunteer and church leader,..)  OK, I bit off more than I can chew...   I'm a soon to be 39yr old Generation X over-achiever, what can I say.    I really thought I could do more with technology.  I believed the hype that I could have it all, an engaged and endearing family, a loyal and supportive staff, an enriched and enlightened media following... yeah FAT CHANCE.  The reality is most of the time I just have a bunch of people waiting for me to show up... physically or mentaly.

While I'm partly to blame, technology has some accountability in this mess.  There is one hype I've encountered and I hope revealing it here will spare you from the same:

Apple Hype - Advanced mobile technology makes it easier to stay informed.
This is a joke...  Here is just one small example.  I used to listen to podcasts by downloading them on to my $50 Sansa MP3 player.  Taking 10 minutes at the beginning of the week I would judiciously read show notes and determine which are downloaded.  (list of the podcasts I listen to below)

So not wanting to spend this 10 minutes, I spent $800 on a fancy iPad since I had already configured iTunes to download my shows automatically.    My hope of setting up a scheduled set of podcast downloads on my mac that would sync to my iPad has turned out to be a big ha ha on me.
1) iTunes podcasts  on  your mac don't sync automatically with your iPad.  (yup, that's a period right there)
2) iPad does not give you a sort order a playlist schedule.  Like everone who listens to industry related podcasts you want to listen in date order from oldest to current.  No such capability on iPad.
3) Can not automatically remove pdocasts... so the list grows and fills your disk up. (I'm sure this was on puposed)

Now I end up spending at least an hour of my time a week downloading and clearing podcasts, switching and sorting them, creating temporary play lists... I listen and learn less and waste more time, total and utter FAILURE on Apples part..

How in the world did  Apple product managers not see this gaping whole in their product design and usability?  Oh wait!  They did... it was a major flaw on the iPod.   Yet, with all the user feedback and frustration, they release it to the iPad

So moral of the story:  listen to your customer and respond.  If the product fa
ils, the user expereince is bad, I don't care how cool the window looks when I can't do simple functions.

My podcast list:
(ITSM weekly podcasts (US, ROW and Antipodean), This week in Tech (TWIT, TNT, & The Social Hour) & The next web daily

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Startups vs.best practices... can't we all just get along?

Transitioning from CIO to CEO has been an interesting move for me.  This is not my first time as a CEO, but my role as CEO of Vigilant was short, and Vigilant was an IT services company, so it was still chief of IT services.  However, as much as I dog on ITIL, CObIT and other industry frameworks for being too esoteric and vague, I always have appreciated and applauded the principles and intents.  As SMAK has launched from thought to design to code to hardware, my experiences and training in lifecycly management has served me well.   Our Strategy phase quickly incorporated what our resources and capabilities could be, would be, and should be.  Since I have the unique opportunity to start this IT operations from scratch, I wanted to get our LifeCycle management clear and correct from the start.

Just because we are a lean startup doesn't mean we need to run in chaos.  I certainly am not going to cast all hard lessons learned in the trash.  I know that if a disparate development team is not given a solid and stable platform for code migration, our IT ops will be a mess.  My ITIL students and past clients have heard this expression a million times from me.  If you want to cleanse the pond, you must clean the streams that feed it.  In other words, if you want a clean IT operations platform, you must have solids standards and architectures in place for all involved to work from.  Breaking down the DEV/QA/UAT/Prod barriers is a challenge.  Typically it is based on rights and security.  Access control can be a nightmare and causes much of this angst.  By setting up boundaries and protocols up-front, the streams will stay clean and the pond will be a source of value.

So here is my strategy straight out of SMAKs operation guide on how I plan to allow autonomy and control co-exist.

User Setup and Configuration:

To secure the environment we will utilize a strategy of layered access to systems. Each environment will utilize the same set of layers with a name denoting their environment.

To gain physical access to systems (keyboard, SSH, Remote windows) there will be a user created.
Once physical access is gained you will need to change user or run-as a user with rights to access either system settings / application data (php, xml files / database settings / database information.
Access controls are organized in to functional groups based on assetts. Asset types fall into 5 categories:
Production – Production environment with real users and customers. Needs to exhibit high service warranty.
Demo – Production+ build version of our site with fake data that we will use for demonstration at events, webinars, and other marketing events. (Production+ means at least production vesion with potentially new features to demonstrate functionality)
UAT – User Acceptance Testing Environment– QA Build version signed off on by production release team for Security; Availability; Performance testing. Now awaiting user interaction; regression; usability and design; product marketing sign off.
QA – Quality Assurance Environment – Build version that has been signed off by development team and gone through integration testing. Testing in this environment will focus on Functionality; Security; Performance; Availability; Installation; Recovery. Training to production release team will happen at this build stage. Sign off by Product Management.
Dev – Development Environment – Dynamic build versions be created in this environment with 2 core focus areas

  1. InnoDev - New product development focused on publishing new feature sets and requirements from Product Marketing team.
  2. ProbDev – Problem Management environment focused on production snapshots for replicating issues found in production.

The following table lists the usernames:  {obviously cleansed and changed for security purposes}  Key here is to create naming conventions that make it ease for each lifcycle to be identified and controlled.  This will make it a lot easier with building RACI models in your CMS map.
User Type Production User Name Demo User Name UAT User Name QA User Name Dev User Name
Group Name

Enterprise Cloud Administration

Access User

System Admin

Application Administration

Database Administration

Data Access User
(can see datapoint for customer information)

Customer Service Access
(access to configuration and registration info)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Turning the page...

What is up with Hooper?
After almost 20 years of fixing technology and relentlessly studying ways to optimize it's usage and the people who administrate it, I have finally come to the realization that we are at the tipping point of communication technologies current usefulness, email in particularly.  Technology as we know it is changing, the methods we use to share, collaborate, engineer, design, problem solve, and innovate are creating huge opportunities but also huge human inefficiencies.

Socialized problem solving is enabling creative resolutions to be found at an accelerated pace in some communities.  However for most people the over indulgence in information sharing and connections is causing a social reaction:  Social Stress is the name I am giving it.  It's the constant desire to be in touch, in the know, in the group.  To have connections with the right people, to get the inside information, to be available to all, all the time.

For years I and many colleagues have been suffering from  "Information Overload".  Well, the problem now is "Connection Overload".  Too many connections, too many ways to be connected, too many relationship management tools...  it's too much. What's worse is all these social media tools are inter-connecting, repopulating and regurgitating the noise you didn't want to hear in the first place.

So this is what I am going to try and do:  To ease Social Stress and fix the "Connection Problem".  My business partners and I have teamed up to develop a technology that will allow you to centrally configure your relationships and connections.  Our hope is that with the reduction of noise, applications will become more meaningful, relationships more meaningful, and life more meaningful.  The company is called SMAK - Secure Messaging Alerting and Knowledge

Over the next few months you will see a new website launched called http://www.getsmaked.com where will make available access to a technology that will filter and stream your emails, status updates and group your connections in a super easy and effective way.
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dazed and Confused - Pink11 revelation

It's 6am Vegas time, and my head is spinning.  I am coming up on day 3 for me of one of my favorite conference venues Pink Elephant IT Service Management.  After years of studying, implementing, consulting and leading ITSM intitiatives and projects I woke feeling like someone had picked my pocket.

There I said it.  (actually' I've already tweeted it).

Why would I say this?  Me, after standing on soapboxes for so many years.
I don't know if it's the past year of doing the ITSM Weekly Podcast and listening to guests.  Having some gut wrenching discussion internally at Inforonics about our corporate strategy.  Maybe it has been reading the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (after reading this post Ian offered users a $50 discount. use Discount code "VigilantGuy" tx Ian) and meeting its author this week Ian Clayton.  I'm sure it's a  bit of all that, but's it's definitely 2 distinct events that have happened in sessions here at Pink.  Which is why this contiues to be one of my favorite venues.

Event #1) After a 45 minute panel discussion on Service Catalog (of which I had the pleasure of being on) the last question of the day was by a women who was frustrated by the inability to have services defined and asked "Besides Email, what are some other IT services".  I then hear each panelist rattle off System after system,  network, storage, etc..   It was clear this panel of Service Catalog (where you write down what the services are for the business) couldn't agree on what a Service is.

Event #2) In a panel discussion moderated by Rob England (aka The IT Skeptic) the topic was the elusive CMDB.  A source of consternation, frustration, and confusion throughout the ITSM industry.  The major point hit again and again: It has to be Service Aligned....  But wait, we can't define what a service is.
As I sat there and listened to the extremely passionate arguments, emotional lessons learned, and even one person honeslty begging for help.

We are trying to put Round Pegs in Square holes.  We are making up a layer that does not need to be there.  The IT Service layer is fabricated to fill a misconceived whole.  Well there is no whole.

Business Models are supported by Operational Models that are managed through systems and processes.  Business Services are the only services a business needs.  These can be supported through systems layer that correlates and integrates assets (technical or not).

Yet, that is not how ITSM community speaks and talks. In the ITSM community if my Business Model is about Hospitality, we still create this thing called Storage Area Network Services.  When did SAN Services become something people buy to get a hotel room.  They Don't!

So if I follow the current thinking on ITSM, I am supposed build and define the SAN Service, put it in a catalog, map it to a CMDB, and present its value to my CEO and ask him for a seat at the table.

If you were CEO, would ask me to sit down?

I can tell you what Captain Arbrashoff would say: "Beat it buddy"

Please tell me your comments or send me a tweet @vigilantguy  I would love to hear your response and thoughts on this.
On to day 3.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

ITSM Weekly the Podcast (Week36) - Guest Speaker: Ian Clayton

My dad was a mechanic, he is the farthest thing from a "Computer Guy" as you can get.  Seriously, I have to use Webex to support him because I just don't have the patience to walk him through screen clicks, but that's a whole other blog.  Yet, he was not unlike most of the IT professionals I have worked with.  Let me explain: He owned his on Garage, a Service Station, so it was naturally ingrained into me that when people had problems with their technology (uhm yes, Cars are technology) that they would take it to him to have it "serviced".  This idea of going to professionals to have your problems handled is by no means new.  Yet somewhere along the line service standards changed.  Let me illustrate.  I remember pumping gas as a kid for my dads customers (yeah for real, people didn't actually do it themselves), I would even check the oil, wash the windshields, and even clean the wiper blades.  Also, you could get any type of car repaired, and we did any type of repair. We were a "Full Service" station.  Times have changed we now have "Self Service" stations where you get Gas and typically food goods and other non-automotive related convenience items.  "Full Service" stations you get your gas pumped and that's usually it.  As for car repairs, you go to specialists, Brakes, Mufflers, Transmissions, etc...  The progression has been, as people became more comfortable with their technology, they have become more self sufficient, able to service themselves and look for value added services to their time and convenience.   
I see the IT industry heading down the same path.  IT staff used to be great to help setup network switches, desktops, install applications.  Now an office manager or receptionist won't get hired without knowing these skills.  Thus IT leaders need to look at the trends to help customers be serviced better, more conveniently, enable and empower them to help themselves.  In Episode 36 we have a great guest and legend in the IT Service Management space, Ian Clayton.  Ian is a very forward thinking expert on customer service management and speaks frequently on the concept of "Outside-In".  I hope you enjoy this podcast, as much as I did and I can not recommend his book enough, USMBOK for IT service Management.  Ian has offered a %50 when you enter the code "servicesphere" at check out.

Shownotes and details here: http://www.servicesphere.com/blog/2010/10/11/itsm-weekly-the-podcast-episode-36.html

ITSM Weekly The Podcast (Episode 36) from ServiceSphere on Vimeo.

Special Guest:  Ian Clayton, Ian's Blog Here, See Ian in January 2011Here!
Submit Questions:  Anonymously or Email or Call In: (765) 236-6383 or Twitter Questions/Comments #ITSMWP
Episode 36 Topics:
COOL DEAL:  50%  OFF USMBOK for ITSM Weekly Podcast Listners!  Enter Code "servicesphere" at checkout