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Q&A with an alumni speaker!

Q&A with an alumni speaker!

In this first installment of a series of chats with those that have previously taken the stage at the Service Management Conference – Paul Edwards kindly shares his speaking experience and tips.

Hi Paul! Please tell us a little about yourself – what is your area of expertise and what kind of Conference speaking experience do you have (if any)?

I’ve got a 25 year background in IT, ranging from duty programmer (the parent of help desk and the grandparent of service desk), managing Unix and VMS boxes, lecturing, running high performance computing and visualisation systems, IT Service Management consulting, strategic consulting, being an in-house consultant/troubleshooter in the financial services sector, mentor to various amazing people working in technology, being mentored by equally amazing people who work in technology, and most recently running projects and governance functions for cyber security in a big bank. Overall, I would say I am a people person rather than a technology person.

In terms of conference speaking experience, I’ve presented several times for the itSMFA, spoken at a number of other conferences (generally in the secondary and tertiary educations spaces), and spent many hours watching conference speakers and learning from all of them.

What would you say are the top benefits you gain from sharing your expertise and insights at a Conference as a speaker?

There are three big benefits:

  • First, it really helps me refine my ideas (and in one memorable case, changing my idea 180 degrees!) Writing a white paper or Conference paper cannot be beaten as far as stress testing the topic you are talking about.
  • Second, there’s a kind of intellectual endorphin rush I get from knowing that for the last 50-odd minutes, a group of people have walked away with some more knowledge, probably some interesting questions to explore if they are inclined to do so, and hopefully ideas on how to change the status quo.
  • Finally, I’ve made some lifelong professional connections and friendships thorough people who have come up to me to talk / ask me / grill me about my session.

In the past, you joined the speaker line-up for the Service Management Conference via the anonymous submission system. Can you describe your experience with this process?

This was excellent. I found that the process meant that the reviewers were providing feedback, which in turn challenged me to make the presentation clearer and (I suspect) more successful. My paper went through four iterations once I had submitted it; almost every suggestion from the reviewers was valid, they challenged me to think more deeply about both the topic and how best to communicate the ideas, and ultimately ended up having me present a paper that was far better than the one I originally submitted.

How was your experience at the Conference overall as both a speaker and an attendee?

As a speaker: the full gamut of emotions. Will anyone come to see me speak? Oh good, there’s a few people. Oh dear, I must have made the abstract too persuasive, because the room is now full. And now there are people standing at the back because there are no seats left! I hope I will not be wasting their time! Uh oh, I’m getting introduced now. Up on stage. Hand grabbing my stomach from the inside. Got through the introduction OK. Getting into a rhythm now. This is great. What, there’s only five minutes left? Questions, answers, the session is over, but now more people want to talk to me. Let’s do it over a cuppa. Relief. Relax.

As an attendee: great fun. A range of interesting and challenging speakers. A range of interesting attendees. A chance to catch up with people I’ve not seen in years, and a chance to make new friends.

What was your favourite part of it the Conference experience? Can you share some standout moments?

I’m going to cheat and have two:

First, (and this is fairly generic): walking out of a talk, thinking, I can’t *wait* to try and do that. Or thinking: wow, I did not know that, and X is now really interesting and I should look into it more deeply.

Second, the people you meet.

Standout moments? Generally anything involving Peter Doherty in a bar.

What were the most important learnings you took away from the Conference experience?

For 2016: the Cynefin framework; Vinh Giang and breaking things down; Karen Ferris’ approach to picking the top three competencies in ITSM; learning that it is possible to become accredited as a Lego® Play facilitator (now on my bucket list).

What advice would you give someone looking to submit a proposal to the Service Management Conference this year?

Give it a go. The anonymous peer review system means that even if ultimately you do not get selected, you will mature your ideas. If you do get selected, it is a fabulous opportunity to develop your speaking skills, and add to your professional network.

Submissions to speak at Service Management 2017 close on Friday 12 May 2017 – find out more and submit a proposal here.

By |2018-03-19T16:23:17+10:00May 4th, 2017|blog, QandA, Service Management 2016, Service Management 2017|

Dear aspiring speaker

Aprill-Allen-smconference-2016-280

Submitting a proposal to speak at Service Management Conference is a chance to open a sustained dialogue with your peers and expand your network. In this post, itSMF Australia’s National Events Director Aprill Allen shares her tips for those thinking of submitting a proposal.

I’m glad you’re interested in sharing your story with our delegates for the 20th annual national itSMF Conference. I want you to have the best possible chance at joining us in Melbourne this year, so here are some tips to help your submission be successful.

Our members love case studies. Case studies consistently rate highly with our members and it’s easy to understand why. They’re in ready-made story-telling format, which makes them easy to relate to, easy to understand, and easy to remember. Whether a case study demonstrates your success or ultimate failure, it should start with a background setting of who and where, follow up with what your big hairy challenge was, how you approached solving it, what the outcome was, and why it went the way it did — your lessons learned. This is the valuable part that helps each of us grow from your experience.

Make sure your topic title is interesting and consistent with your session description. This tip almost speaks for itself, but it’s not uncommon to be too clever with a topic title and have your audience not make the connection. They may not understand the session’s relevance to them and not attend, or worse still, they may rate you poorly because they expected something different.

Pitch to the right level. We have delegates covering the spectrum from beginner to advanced. Make sure your content is pitched consistently with the audience level you’ve selected.

Consider the theme when you develop your submission. This year, our theme is Service Management 2.0. Our workplaces and consumer expectations are already changing in a multitude of ways. What do we need to do differently to be a step ahead? How will our service management toolbelt evolve? If your expertise is outside the ITSM domain, what are the skills you know our service management practitioners and leaders need to be successful? What are the stories they need to hear, or learn to tell?

The Conference is the place to push boundaries with new material. The selection process tends to reward experienced presenters, which is why we try to give new speakers exposure at our state seminars and ask for a referral. For our experienced presenters, already popular at our state seminars, the national Conference is an opportunity to share a new angle or a new story.

Reviewer feedback will be your first test of the clarity and impact of your submission. I’m no stranger to how it feels when something so clear in my head isn’t coming through easily to whomever I’m sharing it with. It’s beyond frustrating. Work through those awkward misunderstandings, if they come up, because when the light bulb goes on, it’s rewarding for all involved.  

Reviewers will be looking for all these points during the selection process, and how well you address them will influence your chance of selection. Good luck, and I hope to see your presentation on stage!

Find out more and submit a speaker proposal here.

By |2018-03-19T16:23:17+10:00March 3rd, 2017|ITSM, protips, Service Management 2017|

SM 2.0!

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Service Management 2017 is themed SM 2.0. In this post, itSMF Australia’s National Events Director Aprill Allen shares her take on how the way we work is changing and how that might be reflected at Conference.

It’s exciting to open 2017 with some insight into our plans for this year’s itSMF national conference. Of course, we  rolled right out of Brisbane’s conference straight into planning for what has turned out to be Melbourne, 2017. We immediately began discussing sessions and event feedback, but planning for the next one doesn’t feel truly underway until we’ve locked down the dates, venue and theme.

For 2016, the theme was easy to determine. I knew what shape I wanted our conference to take and the theme provided the frame for our speakers and reviewers to build and deliver what was in my opinion, our most outstanding program so far. I’ve got to admit, I sure did feel like a one-trick pony. With no 2017 theme already in mind, I was nervous. Enter my truly helpful committee and a collaborative Google doc, which helped us to test some ideas, scrap some and start over, and ultimately arrive at SM 2.0.

We wanted to give a nod to our twentieth year, somehow, but we particularly wanted to capture what might be coming next after we asked you to Shake I.T. Up last year.

ITSM, as an industry, is taking a long, hard look at itself. The thought leaders you’re familiar with are scouring the edges of our profession to look at the areas where what we do in Service Management overlaps with what other service providers are offering and achieving. Sometimes it’s about technology, often it’s about new approaches to working with others to achieve common goals. The most successful IT leaders are doing the same thing. We got a sense of that last year when our speakers and reviewers put forward topics about project leadership in general, and DevOps in particular, topics that traditionally haven’t been a big feature of the ITSM toolbelt.

There’s no doubt our workplaces and workforces are changing, inspiring the appetite for broader conference programming. Not just in the way the generational mix at work is transforming, but also in the way we work and where we work. What will your toolbelt look like for the next iteration of Service Management? How are your skills and stories evolving? Share your story.

By |2018-03-19T16:23:17+10:00February 15th, 2017|ITSM, Service Management 2017|

What happened down under at Shake I.T. Up – Service Management 2016

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In this guest blog, Sunit Prakash wraps up Service Management 2016 and highlights the new standards for IT service delivery.

 

 

“It’s one thing to want to innovate, but how can you influence or implement those changes, and do you know where to start?” – Service Management 2016

The 19th annual Service Management conference in Australia showed us a glimpse of how service management is evolving beyond the traditional ITSM. This year’s itSMFA literally shook I.T. up by extending conversation to Agile, DevOps, and Lean – the latter finally making its entrance to the mainstream service management vocabulary.

Proliferation of cloud-based tools

At this years conference, it was clear to see that there were now a number of cloud-based IT service management tool providers offering rich functionality with very low barriers to entry. Which essentially meant no upfront costs, expensive licenses, implementation costs, or support costs – just following an elastic pricing model. Tools that were previously only available to top-end enterprise customers, were now available at a fraction of the cost to small and medium businesses – and to their suppliers and partners who look after them. The implication is that a whole new market could potentially move up from managing their IT and operations by email and spreadsheets to much more sophisticated tools that they previously did not have access to; and perhaps many others at the enterprise end of the market, could potentially move away from on-premise or more expensive tools.

What really happened down under

IT Service Management often does not get the same attention as say, security or architecture or project management; but to have Andrew Mills, the CIO of Queensland Government talk about aligning IT with business strategy was a rare treat.

Talking about the importance of driving self-service adoption in the workplace, Narain Muralidharan emphasized on the necessity for IT to think like growth hackers, and effectively market IT self service to the larger organization. He went on to give a number of simple, yet practical ideas taken from real-world success stories with the self service IT portal, and how to apply them in the service desk scenario – backing it with a case study.

Lean and mean IT

Introducing us to Lean, Em Campbell-Pretty stressed upon how the heart of Lean is its values and leadership – stressing on the need for leaders to create time for innovation with a case study of a telecommunication service provider. The conference peppered with Lean related sessions, and it demonstrated that Lean in IT was beginning to enter the lexicon for many.

Adam Seeber’s keynote about Lean and Agile was insightful – how it’s not a choice of one over the other but that it’s taking the best of both worlds to suit your business needs. He emphasized on the significance of it being adaptable, be it Lean, Agile or ITIL, and went on to describe how customers define value for the business more than anything else.

An eye-opener for the audience was Charles T. Betz’ session introducing the IT4IT standard with Lean language of value chain, value streams, digital supply chain, handoffs, capacity, and value. He explored the current state of IT and offered practical advice on holistically managing IT for business. With the key takeaway around product management being customer intimacy and cross-functional collaboration.

40 Agile methods in 40 minutes by Craig Smith covered various process improvement methodologies – Lean, Agile, Theory of Constraints and everything in between no matter how esoteric. He openly shared the concept, its history, the pros and cons, how widely it was used, and where to find more information.

Bringing in fresh air to the string of topics, Michi Tyson spoke of taking Agile beyond IT and combining it with Lean management and design thinking. Her Lean Canvas and startup background showing clearly in a conference dominated by mature IT departments and businesses. This one was of particular interest because one could see the Enterprise Architecture approach coming through, and the same discipline being applied to the business of IT holistically – once again, using Lean principles.

itSMF 2016 was another insightful, rewarding, and successful conference. It left the audience questioning the conventional way of ITSM – and leaning towards better IT service delivery.

This blog is edited, and first appeared on the Freshservice blog – you can view the original here

By |2018-03-19T16:23:17+10:00October 12th, 2016|guest blogger, ITSM, Service Management 2016, wrap up|

Shaking up communication and collaboration at Service Management 2016

Aprill Allen, National Events Director of itSMF Australia, shares her thoughts on Service Management 2016. 

We certainly shook things up this year. I was confident at the start of the week that we’d brought together a compelling and varied program, but by the time we’d finished our closing drinks on the Thursday afternoon, I knew our conference had exceeded all expectations. Before the week was done, we had members telling us just how much they enjoyed the program and how they’d been inspired to put in place new ideas and behaviours they’d learned from our speakers. Of course, my highlight is always the social side of things—the welcome drinks, where I’m reunited with colleagues I may not have seen since the year before; the gala dinner, where I get to see serious professionals cutting loose on the dancefloor; and the more spontaneous things, like what happened this year, where Charles Betz and Matt Hooper busted out guitars for an impromptu jam in the itSMF lounge.

Aprill Allen

Aprill Allen with Michi Tyson, winner of “Best New Speaker” at Service Management 2016

It’s equal parts social and professional development, though, and the challenge for my service management cohort is that we have to try and cover such a broad range of skills and capabilities. Our role at the itSMF is to expose our members to better ways of working with the tools and processes we’re more familiar with, but also to reach out into adjacent professions to find out what they can teach us. And, what seemed like an odd mix of keynote topics and sessions that raised a few eyebrows along the way, clearly had the right ingredients.

Our community review process for speaker submissions provides the platform for our state committees and members to give voice to the most challenging problems of the day. This year, our reviewers wanted help with project and team leadership, how to be more Agile in their service delivery approaches, and how to be more strategic—thereby elevating IT leadership to a seat at the executive table. Our invited speakers were purposefully selected to break your regular pattern of thought. We launched head-first into our Shake I.T. Up theme with an opening keynote from Dave Snowden, who challenged our very way of best practice thinking. Charles Betz’s keynote went deeper into IT management and asked us to consider the risks we introduce with over-enthusiastic governance and controls.

The strong undercurrent running through the conference, however, was about communication and collaboration. When we put more thought and time into these behaviours, we have a greater chance of success and growth from failure. On that note, I’d love to hear what new ideas you’ve taken back to your place and how you’re working towards shaking your I.T. up. Please share your stories in our itSMF Bulletin or in our LinkedIn group. I look forward to seeing you in 2017.

By |2018-03-19T16:23:17+10:00August 29th, 2016|Service Management 2016|

‘All shook up’

Last week over 400 attendees came together to ‘shake IT up’ at Service Management 2016!

In addition to enjoying two busy days of networking, sharing and learning, the highlight for many was itSMF’s Industry Awards Gala Awards Dinner.

parrot lady auspost winners with lei

Themed ‘a touch of tropical’, this year’s awards – hosted by the hilarious Jean Kittson – saw many guests don a Hawaiian shirt, a lei, or even a parrot!

photobooth singer

Amidst the music of Hot Sauce, pink flamingo centrepieces, and a popular tropical-themed photo booth, the winners of this year’s itSMF Industry Awards were announced.

le8is Rachel Seaniger

Congratulations to the winners – and finalists!

TEAM AWARD WINNERS

ITSM Project of the Year – Australia Post

Finalists: ANZ; Kinetic IT / Qantas

Innovation of the Year – Australia Post

Finalists: Clean Energy Regulator; SkillsTx

ITSM Capability of the Year – NAB

Finalist: Clean Energy Regulator

INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS

Thought Leaders of the Year – Rachel Seaniger and Chris Morrison

Service Management Champion of the Year – Justin Gasparre

Lifetime Achievement Award – Aileen Cater-Steel

 

By |2018-03-19T16:23:18+10:00August 24th, 2016|Awards, Service Management 2016|

ITSM: don’t stop with Ops!

Rachel SeanigerIn this guest blog, Rachel Seaniger urges continuation of the IT Service Management (ITSM) journey to achieve lasting value.

 

My colleagues and I find that a large percentage of organisations implementing ITIL® only go as far as service operations (and often change management) but rarely get as far as formalised service strategy or service design.

©iStock.com/rappensuncle

The ITIL lifecycle provides rich guidance on service strategy, service design, service transition and continuous service improvement. So why do so few go beyond the basic quick fixes of service operations? Every organisation is unique and there are more reasons than stars in the sky, but I see them falling into roughly five categories:

Reason #1: Obviously, the place to start is where the user is most directly involved with the IT organisation. The highest priorities are the areas of highest visibility – for example, processes for requesting a new laptop or incident management. That gets done then… nothing!

Reason #2: Having tackled the immediate, customer-facing issues to achieve early wins, the team simply runs out of puff. But there’s so much scope to go further with ITSM… Remember, the tortoises are the winners.

Reason #3: Sometimes the IT team tries to extend beyond service operations but simply fails. Feeling they’ve got their fingers burnt, they have little appetite for pressing on.

Reason #4: ‘Business as usual’ always prevails within IT, chewing up available resources and time – so even the best-meant ITSM implementations grind to a halt prematurely (the road to Hell is paved with good intentions!).

Reason #5: The business simply doesn’t understand the value of the more strategic ITSM processes, so is unwilling to invest further. Many senior IT managers also fail to see value in extending beyond ops. This is the big one and the hardest to overcome; without management commitment and sponsorship, the efforts of underlings are doomed to failure – however logical and passionately advocated.

For all these reasons, we often get just so far – when there’s still a way to go.

Why NOT stop here?

Users are happier, the organisation has paid lip service to ITSM and IT management feels that it’s fulfilling its charter. But how much more could be achieved?

There is tremendous value in following up with the service strategy and service design phases. This takes ITSM beyond merely what the user is interested in and what they need; potentially transforming the entire IT service delivery function to make it more efficient, less costly and infinitely more stable in the long run.

Without formalising these phases, you will always be playing catch-up. The ideal place to be is on your front foot: optimising emerging technologies and positioning IT to meet users’ future needs. Yes, I’m afraid that it’s all about the ‘I’ word that we all aspire (and struggle) to achieve: innovation.

Look at the symptoms; do any of them sound familiar?

Lack of service strategy results in:

  • Your business users googling ‘big data’ and ‘Internet of Things’ to find solutions to their IT issues
  • You’re no longer getting invited to strategic planning meetings, and everyone stops talking when you walk into senior management meetings
  • You’re spying an IT outsourcer brochure on the CEO’s desk
  • IT solutions rolled out that the IT organisation had nothing to do with
  • IT being perceived as an abyss, into which money mysteriously disappears with nothing coming back out

Lack of service design results in:

  • The business still using the old system despite the new solution being a raging success, according to IT’s objectives
  • User satisfaction dipping to new lows, although service levels are almost always met
  • Users not getting what they want while vendors are meeting all their service targets
  • Porsche promised, VW delivered – which does the job adequately, but just isn’t a Porsche
  • Service Level Managers needing trauma therapy after monthly service review meetings

This article was first published by UXC Consulting – view the original article here.

Service Management 2016 is now less than a week away! Find out more about the Conference program, Gala Awards Dinner, and workshops!

 

 

 

By |2018-03-19T16:23:18+10:00August 12th, 2016|guest blogger, Service Management 2016|

Transformation goes beyond adoption and adapting

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Matt Hooper is speaking at Service Management 2016. He is an industry advocate for Service Management strategies and best practices around Enterprise Service Management. For over 20 years Matt has instituted methodologies for business intelligence and optimisation. Leveraging technology to drive business outcomes, he has built an industry reputation for his highly effective approach to creating value through Service Management. Matt is active on social media known as VigilantGuy, and co-hosts the weekly podcast: Hacking Business Technology (HackBizTech.com).

The latest content from Axelos, the makers of ITIL®, “ITIL® Practitioner Guidance”, heavily re-states an already existing mantra of ITIL®, Adapt and Adopt.  The reality is, this guidance is much too little and way too late. The premise and principal behind this mantra is that we have to evaluate our current state of operational delivery capabilities, then apply the pieces of ITIL® that will help us make improvements.

This was solid guidance 10 years ago, when IT had a fighting chance to demonstrate that they were the responsible functional area to capitalise on digital strategies to lead business innovation. However, few organisations’ IT departments stepped into that role. An overtly and polarised focus on technology and process left most IT departments less cohesive, with larger walls of bureaucracy between IT operations, development, enterprise architecture and the PMO (Project Management Office – seriously, they have their own office).

Hooper-Speaker-ITSMf

Digital transformation is not merely improving what’s not working today.  Transformation is the complete re-conditioning, re-structuring, and re-thinking of how digitisation is enabling organisations to act differently. ITSM professionals must truly transform if they are going to survive the new business dynamic, where “IT” is no longer a department but a pervasive business competency.

While the ITIL Practitioner Guidance has been updated with new terms and references and new more Agile concepts, there are 5 areas where “Adapt & Adopt” will just not cut it:

  • Language
  • Knowledge
  • Asset/Configuration
  • Change/Release
  • Requirements

To be a leader in Digital Transformation, ITSM professionals need to do their own personal transformation. Like a caterpillar to a butterfly, they need to re-condition, re-structure and re-think their role in business enablement.

To learn how to be truly transformative, join me at itSMF Australia’s annual Service Management conference on Wednesday 17 – Thursday 18 August in Brisbane, Australia. I’ll be speaking at 12pm on Wednesday 17 August on: Creating enterprise agility through Lean service management and DevOps.

 

By |2018-03-19T16:23:18+10:00July 28th, 2016|Service Management 2016, transformation|

ITSMF Awards Q&A with 2015 winner Dave O’Reardon

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In this week’s special edition of the blog, itSMF Awards winner Dave O’Reardon shares his insights into the Awards process, and gives you some invaluable tips for your application for the 2016 itSMF Industry Awards for Excellence in IT Service Management!

 

Can you tell us about your award?

We were lucky enough to win last year’s Service Management Innovation of the Year Award for a new software product we’d developed called cio-pulse.com.

CIOPulse gathers customer feedback as support teams resolve customer tickets and then helps organisations use that feedback to drive continual service improvement.

Every man and his dog uses the survey capability of their ITSM tool, but we won the award because CIOPulse helps support teams to improve customer satisfaction, not just measure it.

What inspired you to nominate for the itSMF Industry Awards?

Because we genuinely felt we were onto something truly innovative within IT service management and we had the metrics to prove it.

Our company, Silversix, used to be a traditional ITSM consultancy, although it was always one that specialised in improving internal customer satisfaction.  About five years ago, we came across this set of practices – the Net Promoter System – used by organisations around the world (think Apple, Rackspace, Harley Davidson) to measure and improve customer loyalty. One of our consulting clients allowed us to experiment on them by letting us help them adopt some Net Promoter practices. Six months later, they’d increased internal customer satisfaction by significantly more than we’d achieved with them via ITSM consulting in the preceding 3 years.

We built CIOPulse to help organisations adopt these same practices and enjoy the same benefits. Our metrics showed that 90% of our clients have been successful with CIOPulse and this gave us the confidence to nominate ourselves.

winner

What advice would you give aspiring nominees?

I have only one piece of advice and I don’t want to dilute it by mixing it up with any other advice. My advice is this. Enter. Just do it, as Nike would say. There are probably not as many entrants for each award category as you think and so, just by entering, you have a very good chance of winning.

Can you share any tips for the application process?

Yes. I’ve got a couple of tips.

Read the award criteria and make sure your submission explains how your innovation meets those criteria.  We were going to nominate CIOPulse for the award a year earlier but realised that we weren’t going to meet one of the criteria. So we held off for another year. And that turned out to be the right thing to do.

Make your supporting video funny and/or interesting. Everyone at the awards night wants to have fun and being made to watch a video about how your company makes flare joints for gas pipes is not fun.  All finalists get their video played and so, even if you’re not a winner, your video might get airtime. If it’s fun or interesting or both, you’re going to get the attention of hundreds of people in the room and they’ll remember it/you. If it’s boring I’m afraid they’re going to talk over it.

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What are the benefits of winning an itSMF Award?

The short term benefit was how much more fun it made the awards night. The gala dinner is always great, but the added suspense of being a finalist, not to mention the feeling of actually winning, made it a super special evening. Strangely, my head was much sorer than usual the next morning…

And for those of us involved in developing the product, it gave us an immense feeling of satisfaction to be recognised by the industry that we’ve worked in for so long. These kinds of awards are great to put on your CV and LinkedIn profile too!

Of course we’ve also made full use of the award in all our marketing material – email footers, websites, brochures, presentations, sales pitches. It’s difficult to quantify that benefit, but it has certainly given us a welcome boost to our credibility, as well as increased brand awareness.

To nominate yourself, your company or a colleague for the 2016 itSMF Awards, visit the website!

 

By |2018-03-19T16:23:19+10:00July 7th, 2016|Awards, ITSM, Service Management 2016|

Delivering Problem Management with Kanban

ian jones

 

 

We are pleased to welcome previous Service Management speaker and member of the ITSMF Awards Alumni Ian Jones to the blog today! 

 

I previously led an IT Service Management team providing Incident, Problem, Change and Configuration Management services in line with ITIL. Our work was highly variable and ranged in complexity since we primarily supported other IT professionals in their IT operations. The whole team used Agile Scrum to manage our work and the problem analysts used Lean Kanban for (ITIL) Problem Management. This blog post will outline how Kanban was applied to effectively deliver our Problem Management service.

Our organisation used Agile as the main delivery method for projects, and Lean (based on the Toyota Production System) for operations. Bell and Ozen (2011, p8) suggest Lean aims to empower teams to simplify, then when appropriate, automate routine tasks. Process improvement frees up capacity, providing individuals with more time and better information to exercise problem solving, creativity and innovation in situations that are not routine.

What is Kanban?

Kanban means sign, signboard, billboard, card or signal of some kind (Liker, 2004, p. 106). It is a scheduling system for Lean, just-in-time production and a system to control the logistical chain from a production point of view. Kanban was developed by Taiichi Ohno, at Toyota, to find a system to improve and maintain a high level of production. The Kanban Method was later added to as an approach to incremental, evolutionary process improvement for organisations (De Haaff, 2013). For readers who are familiar with Scrum, you would be aware of this concept of the signboard or visual management in the form of a story wall. There are differences between Kanban and Scrum and these differences shouldn’t be seen as strengths or weaknesses. Some of these differences include:

Kanban Scrum
Work scheduling  Customer driven pull  Fixed timeboxed push
Task estimation  N/A  Yes
Tracking work  Focus on flow  Focus on velocity
Work in progress limits   Yes   N/A
Process ownership  Team  Scrum Master
Continual Service Improvement  On demand, as defects are seen  At the end of the sprint in the retrospective

 

Application to Problem Management

Initially my team employed Scrum for managing their problem investigations, however we found the concept of timeboxing the work into sprints added no value. Investigations could vary greatly in complexity and therefore finding the root cause and completing corrective actions could be difficult. Task estimation was also challenging and the actual results varied widely due to the above reasons. The team then applied Kanban as an alternative and their wall contained the following columns:

  • Backlog;
  • Post Incident Review (PIR) booked;
  • PIR held;
  • Publish and Task Followup; and
  • Complete.

kanban_wall

 

Kanban suggests that staff ‘pull’ work from left (first column) to right (last column). If staff have capacity  (actual work in column X < work in progress limit in column X) then they pull work from the previous work step (column on the immediate left). This video provides a visual explanation.
The problem analysts employed a series of important variations to their Kanban wall. These variations included:
  • They pulled work from the ‘Publish and Task followup’ and not ‘Complete’ as this step is entirely dependent on other IT staff (tasks like corrective actions are mostly performed by other IT staff) and the duration of task followup is variable;
  • Unlike typical value streams, the problem analysts do not hand over their investigations to other staff and tended to progress the investigation from start to finish (except for extended absences from work). This was because the effort and cost of task switching between problem investigations exceeded any proposed benefits from handovers between investigation steps;
  • Work in Progress limits were informally used and not strictly enforced. If an analyst had too many investigations in a particular column, we used it as a flag for assistance and potentially management escalation rather than a reason to block the incoming work. Upon these events, we preferred to negotiate with stakeholders (service owners, management) on work priorities rather than block the work.
So as you can see, the team took the concept of Kanban and tailored it in a way that supported them, which should not be surprising since problem investigations, by their nature, are not generally standard or repeatable forms of work.

One significant benefit we saw in adopting Kanban was that it supports Principle 5 of the Toyota way: ‘Building a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time’ (Liker, 2004, p.38). The visual management of our work and conducting daily stand-ups allowed the analysts to easily identify defects or weaknesses in their investigations, pause work and jointly derive immediate improvements to their service. This has led to significant quality improvements in their work which was acknowledged by our customers and management.

References
Bell, S., and Orzen, M. (2011). Lean IT, New York: CRC Press.

De Haaff, B. (2013) Kanban the secret engineer killer. Retrieved July 30, 2013 from http://blog.aha.io/index.php/kanban-the-secret-engineer-killer/.

Liker, J. (2004). The Toyota Way, New York: McGraw-Hill.

This blog was originally published on Ian Jones’ blog.

 

By |2018-03-19T16:23:20+10:00June 2nd, 2016|Kanban, Service Management 2016|
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