ITIL Through the Eyes of a Scotsman

Well, here we are; our first interview for the new blog. Our first subject is Bill Irvine, Scotsman, industry expert and friend who also provides Service Management Consulting services on a global basis centered in Denver. When he wasn’t busy raising his daughters, lowering his handicap or strumming the bass guitar, Bill’s been engaged in the ITSM industry for virtually his entire career. He’s seen it from many different vantage points which gives him a unique perspective on the industry that we thought we’d do well to take advantage of that!
We met for lunch to talk about ITIL…fun, huh? Of course we had some catching up to do and spent some time looking at pics, covering everything from the empty nest syndrome (Bill) to cooking and dancing and, of course, who can have a good conversation right now without politics coming into the mix? Then we got down to business…

ITSM Girls: OK, Bill, let’s tell our readers why you’re such an expert on ITIL and Best Practices.
Bill Irvine: Ha, there are many experts out there but my particular interest in Service Management started with ITIL in the early 1990’s when I took my first training class on Problem Management in the UK taught by Malcolm Fry and David Ratcliffe before Pink Elephant even started. And, I’ve been involved in the customer service aspect of IT ever since. My first large ITIL project was a chance to implement ITIL in a big way at a large “start-up” called Galileo providing global travel reservation services across a massively distributed customer base. We were trying to automate all aspects of the provisioning and customer service experience and spent years developing service management tools for Galileo before there were mature products out there …… we were looking to manage relationships with customers in an more streamlined way using ITIL as the underlying process framework . From there, I came to the US to implement ITIL and Service Management concepts for Galileo USA to mirror the work done in the UK. All my experiences since have been while working with services companies that needed expertise on formalizing customer service from a process perspective including all these years later a period with Pink Elephant as one of their Executive Consultants.
I guess this has always been in my blood – take ITIL, ISO20000, COBIT, TOGAF, ETOM, whatever – none of these are perfect frameworks for and there’s not one that works for everybody, but there’s a lot of REALLY good stuff that’s been documented that saves a lot of time and money so “already strapped” IT people don’t have to invent it.
ITSM Girls: With all that experience under your belt, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing organizations considering implementing ITIL now?
Bill Irvine: Probably where to start. A lot of people talk about wanting to be ‘ITIListic,’ but what in the heck does that mean?!?! Organizations need to understand WHY they want to do ITIL…do ITIL…that’s a problematic term in itself, isn’t it? ITIL for the sake of ITIL is a non-starter; everything should be couched in terms of business benefits . People say “Let’s do ITIL,” when what they really mean is “Let’s establish a service improvement program” or “Let’s get more structured in the way we do business” or “Let’s reduce our operational costs……improve service quality”. Know what you want to achieve with Service Management before you start and make sure you have quantified it so that we can measure the success.
ITSM Girls: You mentioned in our earlier conversation that there are bits & pieces of ITIL that are must-haves…what are those bits & pieces?
Bill Irvine: The bits & pieces that many people ignore, unfortunately. Everybody wants to rush to Configuration Management because that seems like the Holy Grail, but in actual fact, you’ve probably got a lot of work to do around Inventory and Asset Management before you even get close to Configuration Management as a concept. Most organizations need to start by gathering service related data typically around Incident Management.
The trifecta for me is Incident/Problem/Knowledge Management. Starting with Incident Management which is your raw input or symptom data, your picture of what’s going on within the services environment. You can then start to identify underlying trends that might be causing those incidents, therefore, Problem Management. Proactively finding solutions to those incidents and problems, which are actually documented and quantified from a Knowledge perspective. This immediately makes you more effective when addressing the issues that are affecting your customer base, your service provision, your operation and organization.
ITSM Girls: OK, that makes complete sense…why does even this approach not work for some organizations?
Bill Irvine: Unfortunately, people see Problem Management as investing resources into something that “ain’t broken”. If you’re doing proactive Problem Management, where you’re looking for problems to fix by doing trend analysis of all your incidents, you’re actively looking to fix something that’s not perceived to be broken. But, the deeper you dig and the more trend data you have, the better you can identify “problems that are waiting to happen” and reduce the service impact on the organization.
ITSM Girls: It interests us to hear that your trifecta is Incident/Problem/Knowledge Management because invariably the people we talk to ALWAYS default to Incident/Problem/Change.
Bill Irvine: I tend to group the processes differently. I see Incident/Problem/Knowledge dealing with the front-end customer facing aspect of what you’re trying to do from a service standpoint. Change Management will do a lot to reduce the failures that will impact service to the customer, but I put it in a different section of the ITIL program. I see Incident, Problem and Knowledge Management as being the customer facing processes focused on Service Improvement and the Customer experience.
I think Change, Configuration and Release Management as the other group that is focused more in improving the quality of your systems, your applications and your ability to deliver services.
ITSM Girls: We hear all the time from up to low-enterprise organizations that they’re so small they don’t need to adopt best practices; they’re just logging tickets and trying to maintain that. What do you say to organizations like this?
Bill Irvine: Well, the smaller you are, the easier it can be. If I’m running a small IT shop, I would adopt good practice, as early as possible because it’s a great opportunity to start with service based practices without it taking a huge momentous program to get it implemented. If you wait until you’re a 1000 person IT shop before you try to start implementing best practices, it’s a huge cultural shift from the tribal norms. If implemented early, good practices will grow with the organization.
There’s a whole book on ITIL in small organizations and how to structure it differently from ITIL in large organizations and it revolves around the allocation of roles. In very large organizations’ ITIL programs, you may have full Service Management groups that include Incident Managers, Problem Managers, Change Managers, etc. Small organizations don’t have the bandwidth to support that, but what you can do is squish those roles together so that one person is doing Change AND Configuration.
Certain roles are contentions, though; for instance, you wouldn’t want to have a Change Manager and a Release Manager be the same person. Part of the check and balance is that the organization wants to implement changes, but the Release Manager is the gatekeeper to ensure quality and service stability.
ITSM Girls: What’s the worst idea you’ve ever heard from an organization that wants to implement ITIL?
Bill Irvine: Probably implementing too much. Somebody’s got some harebrained scheme, “ I KNOW! We’ll implement ITIL! There are only 26 processes so we’ll do one a week until they’re done.” That person has little concept of the impact that can have on the organization. Those are typically situations when I’m consulting with a company that the first order of business is to do a complete reset on the expectations. It goes a little something like this: ‘We want to do ITIL,’ ‘Ok, what were you thinking of doing?’ ‘Well, we thought Incident, Problem, Change, Configuration & SLM would be a good place to start.’ ‘Yeah, maybe one or two of those might be a good place to start, but, realistically, how many people have you got to do this? What kind of impact is that going to have on IT ? What’s your tolerance for process-based change across the organization?’ You can guarantee the ITIL program will fail if you start ramming too much down people’s throats (Internal IT and Customers/Users) all at one time. Be realistic about what you can implement and make sure you can business justify what you’re going to do.
ITSM Girls: How important is the tool to match up with the processes?
Bill Irvine: One of the reasons I’ve always been so keen on the tool side of things is because I started working with ITIL before any of the tools existed and it was 5X the heavy lifting to do things on spreadsheets or word documents. We ended up creating tools (in Net/Master) because you couldn’t go out and buy them. You can “officially” implement ITIL w/out a tool, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try it. The concept is that you shouldn’t let the tool drive your process, but at the same time, thinking that you’re going to be able to manage the complexity of the process without a tool is frankly stupid. There are probably a lot of really good capabilities in the toolset that you can immediately adopt, adding value and gain buy in from people who were a bit reluctant; if you show them a productive way to use the toolset, they’ll buy in far more to the underlying processes and the program as a whole. The awareness in the organization that a tool brings is dramatic because they can see the incidents, they can see the changes, assets, customer information etc. ……everyone needs 360 visibility.
One big thing organizations often fail to do is to spend some time doing a strategic assessment of who they want to be when they grow up and make sure of the Service Management needs required to scale to support the vision.
ITSM Girls: Which areas of ITIL / Service Management are most popular at the moment?
There is a huge interest in Service Catalog and Service Request Fulfillment as IT becomes more “Service Provider” focused but my personal favorite is Supplier Management. It’s been around ITIL and ISO20000 for quite some time but it is getting a lot more attention as more organizations rely more on external SaaS providers and support partners to “mash-up” the service they offer their users……..a lot more to keep track of these days in the new world of “hosted” IT.

ITSM Girls: And, finally, the question that EVERYONE wants answered…what do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?!?!?!



Bill Irvine:  Ah, that’s an easy one…SHOES & SOCKS, OF COURSE!!!

You can contact Bill Irvine at (303) 741-0025 for a chat or bill.irvine@irvineassociatesllc if you want to go for more of a prose approach to your question.



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