I was recently intrigued to read a blog by Paul Wilkinson about IT service management (ITSM) training: “Has ITSM Training’s Focus on Guaranteed Pass Rates Gone Too Far?” And when Paul invited me to respond, I couldn’t resist. This is my perspective on his blog, and we’re mostly in agreement (hopefully this isn’t a spoiler).

Before I respond though, I need to say that Paul stands out in the ITSM community for his passion and his integrity. Paul consistently challenges organizations – whether they create, advise companies on, train people on, or simply use industry best practice – to change how they behave, and feels the disappointment when they don’t.

Enter the straw man

The title of the original blog is guaranteed to get people reading – “Has ITSM training’s focus on guaranteed pass rates gone too far?” is almost intellectual clickbait.

I know that on my website, and in my team, we focus on training content, outcomes, and audience as part of our sales process. Occasionally a customer will ask about pass rates, but it’s typically in the context of eLearning success vs. classroom success, rather than looking for a guarantee.

However, expanding my research and looking at other training companies, I did find some examples of training organizations offering a “guaranteed pass,” but I wouldn’t describe it as a major focus area.

So, do I agree with the blog title? Not really. But reading on into Paul’s blog, there’s a lot for me to agree with.

A quick summary of Paul’s training “wants”

Paul would like to see:

  • A focus on knowledge transfer and behavior change, not tick boxes and passing an exam.
  • A focus on experience and practice, not education and theory.
  • More rigorous analysis of job candidates, not just accepting a training certificate as evidence of capability.

And who could argue with any of this?

A trainer’s perspective on this

Paul mentions accredited training organizations, or ATOs, in his blog. Here are some of the things you might not know about being an ATO:

  • ATOs in the ITIL, PRINCE2, and RESILIA schemes purchase an intellectual property (IP) license which allows them to develop training courses. And ATOs are only allowed to develop the training courses that are part of the formal certification scheme under this license. If they want to develop any value add or specialist courses, they must go through a separate licensing process with its associated fees. The syllabus documents themselves restrict what ATOs can do and the level of innovation they can offer in their training.
  • ATOs are (most commonly) commercial organizations, responding to their customers’ expectations. If customers value certificates more highly than knowledge transfer, the ATO market will adapt to provide what their customers want. So, who drives ITSM training’s focus areas? The market – the IT and ITSM practitioners.

 

In the IT and ITSM forums I regularly visit, one of the most-common questions I see is “What’s the fastest/cheapest/easiest way to get ITIL Foundation?” As an ATO, we pride ourselves on the quality of our materials, but does this mean we are losing the $10 customer?  Or, to put it another way – if the market is looking for the cheapest, easiest option, is there any ROI for my business to invest in quality, tutor support, mentoring, etc.?

Where do we go from here?

  1. If the market (the customers) wants ATOs to focus on knowledge transfer and changing behavior, it needs to ask for it. ITSM teams need to work with purchasing and procurement teams to select their training partner based on business value, not just price. Remember when McDonald’s starting selling salads and healthy options? It was a direct response to market demand.
  2. Employers and recruiters need to focus on the outcomes of training by measuring things that are more complex than “Did you pass the exam?” Training doesn’t have to include an exam – why not just buy the course?
  3. Exam administration companies can do more to keep exams secure. Online exams taken away from the training venue can decrease trainer exposure to questions and their ability to use these past papers to buoy up pass rates.
  4. Individuals can invest in their own development by joining continual professional development schemes, e.g. the AXELOS membership scheme, and using guidance like itSMF UK’s Professional Service Management Framework to identify target areas for building their skills and capabilities. An ITIL Foundation certificate on its own might not mean very much; but supplemented by ongoing learning, blogging, sharing, presenting, and networking it can mean a lot.

 

So, Paul is right to flag up the ITSM training issue, but we need everyone involved to play their part in the solution.

Service integration and management (SIAM) is a management approach that has evolved over the last decade and is now rapidly growing in popularity. But what is it? How can you benefit from it? And most importantly, why should you care? In this blog, I’ll tell you the SIAM basics and why 2017 is set to be the year that SIAM gets serious.

OK, so what’s SIAM?

If you’d asked this question a year ago, you’d have received ten different answers from ten different people. It’s one of the interesting things about SIAM – it’s evolved in response to business problems, so each organization has its own take on what SIAM is and the best way to apply it.

In the last year, a number of organizations with SIAM experience have collaborated to develop the SIAM Foundation Body of Knowledge, so we now have this definition:

“Service integration and management (SIAM) is a management methodology that can be applied in an environment that includes services sourced from a number of service providers.

SIAM has a different level of focus to traditional multi-sourced ecosystems with one customer and multiple suppliers. It provides governance, management, integration, assurance, and coordination to ensure that the customer organization gets maximum value from its service providers.”

You can learn more about the SIAM Foundation Architect Group here.

How can I and my company benefit from it?

Put simply, SIAM helps companies who are struggling to manage their suppliers. Introducing the concept of a “service integrator” gives the company, and the customer, a single point of contact, as shown below.

SIAM Foundation Body of Knowledge
Source: SIAM Foundation Body of Knowledge, copyright Scopism 2016

The service integrator is a specialist function that coordinates the service providers, providing an end-to-end view of provision and encouraging the service providers to collaborate, innovate, and improve.

As more and more organizations source services from different service providers, SIAM gives them a structure that allows them to add and remove service providers quickly and efficiently, with contracts, agreements, and a culture that drive the right behaviors from all parties.

If you’re a service management professional, you’ve probably been in the situation where your network supplier is blaming your database supplier who is blaming the applications team for an incident. In a SIAM model, the service integrator coordinates the response and drives a culture of “fix first, argue later.” An incident is just a small example of course; imagine a group of service providers working in an integrated way to support strategic goals.

It’s a win for the customer who gets the service they want, but it’s also a win for the service providers. A SIAM model should give them a structure to work in that encourages quality and innovation, not finger-pointing, blame, and worries about their future.

Sounds a bit idealistic? Maybe it is, but we already have many industry examples of SIAM models working well (as well as some working not so well!). External sourcing of services isn’t going to go away, and SIAM provides a reasonable approach.

Why should I care?

Good question!

SIAM has been building momentum for years, and 2017 marks the point where it becomes a defined set of management practices that you can read, learn from, use, comment on, and help evolve.

If you’re an IT management professional of any flavor, SIAM is definitely an area you need to be aware of, even if it’s just reading a blog or two. SIAM will complement and build on many other management practices like IT service management (ITSM), and show you how to adapt and augment processes in a multi-supplier environment.

SIAM’s not just for IT services either; as we start to talk about enterprise service management, watch out for SIAM principles being applied to all types of service.

Want to learn more? In 2017, the year of SIAM, we have:

Service management and IT management is evolving rapidly to better meet business needs, and I’m excited to see SIAM grow as part of that evolution.

When I started my service management career, ITIL version 2 was king and we didn’t really question ‘how’ we did service management. The companies I was working with were busy trying to get change management in place, improve their service desk, and decide how much configuration management they really needed.

The arrival of ITIL version 3 felt at the time like a huge disruption. Service management people started to look outside of operations, and to understand how true service management operates across the entire service lifecycle.

Fast-forward a few years, and ITIL version 3 looks like a minor event compared to the current state of IT service management (ITSM). DevOps, Agile, Lean, SIAM, IT4IT – there’s so many new things bursting onto the scene. So amongst all this, as service management professionals, what do we need to know?

Don’t stand still – IT doesn’t

Start by recognizing that our industry is always evolving. The first step for any ITSM professional who wants to stay relevant is to keep learning. There are whole communities out there blogging and meeting up to look at how IT needs to change – get involved!

Find meetups close to you – ITSM, DevOps, Agile… Anything. Get inspired by speakers, new ideas, a sense of community and passion. Then, as with any IT method, framework, or standard, pick the bits that work for you and your customers. Think about management practice as a toolbox, and pick the right mix of tools.

Some companies are repeating past mistakes by trying to go ‘full DevOps’ with new job titles all round and a complete reorganization. Think instead about how you can add some value to your existing structure and where you can make rapid improvements.

Break down some walls

One of the key ideas behind DevOps is getting dev and ops to work more closely together – the clue is in the name. In many traditional IT organizations, there’s a clearly defined ‘build’ phase where developers create the service, and then a ‘run’ phase where operations take over. The quality of the handover and the time constraints applied to the dev team will dictate the quality of the live service.

Adopting a more agile mindset, we can move beyond build and run. Applications go live, but then they’re worked on and improved incrementally. Dev are more involved with supporting what they’ve built, and ops play a key role in providing feedback to the dev teams about what can be improved.

Hack your processes

Developers run hackathons, getting groups of people together to build working products that can be used to get feedback and prove a concept. ITSM can apply the same thinking to processes. Got a change management process that isn’t really working anymore? Get all the stakeholders together in a room, and start to hack. Look for small improvements, test concepts, and build relationships – you’ll be amazed at the results.

The future is now

This is one of the most exciting times to be working in service management and as practitioners we have a chance to try new things and deliver value. Let’s go!

If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on the future of ITSM then you can see me present at the Service Managers Day (SMD 2017) on Thursday 23rd March. At SMD 2017, I’ll be talking about the evolution of service management and how SM professionals need to adapt to meet changing business requirements. The presentation will introduce emerging practices like DevOps and Agile Service Management, and look at how organizations can adapt their existing SM practices to benefit from them.

You can visit the event website for more information.