30 December 2011

Keynote 'IT Spring'

This is one of the keynotes I'll be doing at conferences in 2012, please get in touch if you're interested in engaging me.

Prague Spring in 1968, Arab Spring in 2011, IT Spring in 2012. Mark shares some provocative thoughts about the democratization of the user community and innovative use of social media. "So this application is your friend?" He also take a light-hearted look at the often troubled relationship between Business and IT, comparing it to the difficulties that some men and women have in communicating with each other. Creative visuals and video clips enhance this animated and thought-provoking presentation.
Insight into the power shift that's occurring
Innovative ideas about how to benefit from social media in IT Governance
Better understanding of people on the other side of the Great Business IT Divide
Guidance on how to interact more effectively
A smile on your face

"You made my day", said a conference attendee to Mark Smalley after a recent presentation. You couldn't give Mark a better compliment because his goal is to help IT people get a better grip on their current challenges and inspire and guide them on their way forward.

"I really enjoy hearing Mark speak. He brings humor and creativity to the traditionally dry topic of IT management. His content is incisive and insightful and he makes it palatable - what a combination!" - Rob England, The IT Skeptic, New Zealand

"Mark hits the nail on the head with sharp insights into relevant IT paradigms and tongue in cheek humor that delivers a serious message." - Paul Wilkinson, Director ABC@Work & Gaming Works, Netherlands

"Mark is probably the most competent public speaker in the ITSM realm, in terms of both content and form: knowledgeable, interesting and as a bonus usually funny." - Alexander Kist, Vice Chair itSMF International, Netherlands

"A truly inspirational speaker: guaranteed to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat." - Dr Robina Chatham, Author, speaker and founder of Robina Chatham Ltd, UK

"Mark is a dynamic speaker, but his knowledge and experience are even more impressive. I consider Mark to be a leader in the space of understanding and integrating development and operational IT frameworks." - David Cannon, Chairman of the International Executive Board at itSMF

"What an insightful and enjoyable speaker Mark is. His accurate metaphors and sharp observations on the IT culture form a very refreshing approach. He has it all: knowledge, creativity and vision!" - Riitta Raesma, Entrepreneur and Founding Partner at Sopima

Mark works as an IT Management Consultant and expert at the CTO Office at Capgemini in the Netherlands and is director of global promotion at the not-for-profit, vendor-independent ASL BiSL Foundation. He is specialized in Application Lifecycle Management and IT Governance. Mark lectures in Brussels, Hangzhou and Rotterdam. He has reached out to thousands of IT professionals and in 2010-2011 Mark spoke at 42 events in 14 countries on 4 continents.
Further details and publications at www.linkedin.com/in/marksmalley. Follow and engage with Mark on Twitter @marksmalley. Email: mark.smalley@aslbislfoundation.org.

29 December 2011

Information management and my demand-supply fetish

For quite a while I've been looking for a decent definition of Information Management. One that positions it on the demand side of the Great Business IT Divide and addresses the relationship with the more technical, supply-based responsibilities, which I like to view as a separate and to a strong degree subservient domain. I've finally come across a number of components that can be combined to address my points.

"Information management is the means by which an organization efficiently plans, collects, organizes, uses, controls, disseminates and disposes of its information, and through which it ensures that the value of that information is identified and exploited to the fullest extent." Is the definition that the Queensland Government (2009) uses. This positions IM on the demand side because it refers to "an organization" and "its information". From "its information" you could infer information ownership but I believe it also refers to use of another party's information.

Part of the AIIM definition reinforces the demand-side responsibility: "Information management is a corporate responsibility that needs to be addressed and followed from the most senior levels of management to the front line worker. Organizations must be held and must hold their employees accountable to capture, manage, store, share, preserve and deliver information appropriately and responsibly."

"Capture, manage, store, share, preserve and deliver" differ from the first definition's "plans, collects, organizes, uses, controls, disseminates and disposes" and I prefer the latter. "Disposes" is nice and green but it's the "uses" part that I think is crucial. Will return to that later on.

Seeing as I couldn't find a definition that explicitly addresses the relationship with the supply-based responsibilities, I've added my own two cents: "From an IT services demand-supply perspective – in which 'demand' represents the owner or primary user of the information and 'supply' represents the party that provides IT services that fulfill (part of) the information requirements – information management is the major stakeholder's or stakeholders' demand responsibility, where the responsibility for supply of IT services has been delegated by the stakeholder to an IT department and/or externally contracted to a service provider."

The reason why I'm keen on this demand supply demarcation (some people accuse me of having a demand supply fetish) lies in my conviction that organizations can get substantially more return out of their information (technology) investment by developing business (demand-based) capabilities. What are typical problems? Grumpy clients and therefore damaged reputation due to poor client data quality. Inefficient operations due to functionality not supporting business processes effectively. Lower cash flow due to product launch being delayed by having to correct wrong initial specifications. High IT costs due to unnecessarily high service levels. Let alone missed opportunities to develop new business models that use IT innovatively.

The why question interests me the most. Why is this happening? Is the business reticent to take on the responsibility because they don't feel equipped to do manage information and manage IT services from a demand perspective? Do they prefer to blame the IT department? Are the IT guys happy to wallow in the victim role? "Stupid users. Never know what they want." Is information management and the demand side off the CIO's radar? Afraid so. More often than you'd think.

Let's zoom in on the CIO role. As I mentioned before, I'm convinced that organizations can get more out of their investments in IT by improving their IT service consumption capabilities as well as IT service provision (the traditional IT Department). So I'm an advocate for CIO's with bifocal spectacles: IT Supply and Information Consumption. And commensurate KPI's ;-)

But how to approach this? It's up to the business to invest in information management. It's their money. It's the CIO's responsibility to explain how this investment solves short term problems. Forget the longer term, the business manager's probably not going to be in the same position for that long. But can the CIO address their business and personal agendas of the decision makers? Great little story I heard at a conference. About a racing division of a large car manufacturer where a new CIO has been appointed. After a couple of months he presents his ideas to the management team. Stuff like virtualization, SaaS and SOA. They listen patiently to him and then the director of the racing division says the immortal words "So how does this make the car go faster?" Says it all. Business relevance.

Assuming that the CIO doesn't suffer from chronic business irrelevance, I conclude my rant with some practical advice to CIO's and others who are concerned with helping the business discover the key to unlocking more business value out of IT. Start off with generating awareness for the demand-side responsibilities. Depending on their role, people in business departments should be able to answer these questions affirmatively:

• How much do our information systems cost and is that normal?

• What do the users want?

• What do the users think about the information systems

• Can I answer most of the users questions?

• What does the business want, today, tomorrow and next year?

• How much budget is available?

• Am I paying a competitive price?

• Do I act as (or on behalf of) the system owner?

• Do we have clear agreements with the IT department and other parties?

These people could be formally appointed key users or business analysts but as often as not, they're just regular employees who have taken on an explicit or implicit responsibility to ensure that the production factor 'information' is planned, collected, organized, used, controlled, disseminated and disposed of efficiently and effectively. Like the colleague on the next table who know how your department uses an application. And the administrator who's made a nice little cheat sheet for that system that only gets used a couple of times a year. Or the nit-picker who's good at testing whether the new release works as it's supposed to. good And the manager who negotiates a service level agreement with the IT department.

If answering these questions brings on a cold sweat, they might like to take a look at the BiSL framework that addresses information management responsibilities and decide who's responsible for what.

29 July 2011

Cost of Application Management Attrition

Application Management and Application Maintenance in particular is knowledge intensive business. On average it takes about 100 man-days to get the successor of AM professional up to 80% of his predecessor's productivity.
In my Application Management workshops I regularly ask people the following question. Say you have to replace somebody who's worked as a maintenance programmer on an application for several years. Assume that his/her successor has the same technical knowledge and experience but isn't familiar with the particular application. How long is it going to take to get the new guy up to 80% of the productivity of  the current guy? 
Most of the answers vary between 3 and 18 months, depending on the complexity of the application. Obviously the new guy will be able to do useful things with a couple of weeks, but the work is going to take much longer to do. People are generally happy to assume 6 months as an average duration. If you estimate the time the old guy needs to coach and transfer knowledge plus the extra time the new guy needs to do the work, you end up with about 100 man-days.
This is a substantial figure and certainly a trigger to think about how you could speed up this process and more importantly, how you can attract and retain staff in this knowledge-intensive domain.

10 July 2011

Demand and Supply in IT Service Chains

Here's my perspective on Demand and Supply in IT Service Chains, starting with:
1. Information Demand - Somebody who needs information to support their (business) activities and who is inherently responsible for specifying their needs.
2. IT Services Demand - Somebody who is tasked from a demand perspective with getting these needs fulfilled, either by manual means or by procuring IT services, to which purpose they specify the required IT services and ensure that appropriate IT services are procured.

Although 2 provides value to 1 (you could say he/she performs a service) I'm not inclined to call this a demand supply relationship. This does however apply to the relationship between 2 and 3:  
3. Custom IT Services Provision - Somebody who takes on the  responsibility of providing IT services that fulfil the specific demand requirements; this usually entails utilizing basic IT components (hardware, software, data and facilities) and/or integrating IT services that are either provided to fulfil specific requirements (provided by other Custom IT Services Providers) or are standard IT services that are also offered to other parties.
The 'custom' bit is essential. I'm delivering to your specs, not mine. I often call these the Intelligent Integrators. That's not the case with the next role, which takes another perspective:
4. Standard IT Services Provision - Somebody who is responsible for providing IT services according to specifications that the provider determines. It's up to the procurer to decide whether it's an good fit with what they want. I often call these parties Anonymous Artists because they make clever stuff that fulfils a market demand but they aren't particularly engaged with individual customers (think about apps providers via an apps store).
If 3 engages 4 to provide services, is this a demand supply relationship? I suppose it is but in order not to confuse with the 'principal' demand supply relationship I'd call it something like sub-supply. Don't know whether this term will catch on but you get the drift.

Now we've dealt with IT services there are two roles that supply IT components:
5. Custom IT Component Supply - Somebody who is responsible for providing IT components (usually applications) including support and according to demand specifications 
6. Standard IT Component Supply - Somebody is responsible for providing IT components (HW, OS etc) including support and according to specifications that the supplier determines.
We could continue the chain all the way back to mining the raw materials but let's stop here. 

Finally we revert back to the starting point with an obvious role and and an often underestimated role.
7. IT Service Use - Somebody who actually uses and therefore realizes the value that the first two roles defined.
8. IT Services Utilization - Somebody who ensures that the IT services are consumed in an effective and efficient way and the value is maximized.  

So I make a distinction between
a) Demand (I want something that provides value)
b) Custom Supply (I'll give you what you need)
c) Standard Supply (I provide stuff that may (or not) fulfil your need)
d) Consumption (I realize the intended value)

It's only taken me a third of a century in IT to come up with this so it may still be immature. I'll revisit it when I reach my half century.

28 June 2011

So this application is your friend?

Another human trait is to give things human attributes. So let's anthropomorphize a bit. Can applications be happy, grumpy, authoritative, lazy, reliable, fickly, cruel, stupid, intuitive, responsive, sexy? Sure they can. Think about it. Now we've elevated applications to a near human level, lets develop a relationship with them. Your relationship with an application will probably go through a lifecycle something like this.


·         Anticipation – you're looking forward to getting the app or being authorized to use it

·         Disappointment – Too high expectations

·         Resignation – Guess you'd better get used to it

·         Acclimatization – It's not that bad after all

·         Frustration – It's habits are annoying me more and more

·         Alienation – The thrill has gone


Seeing as all relationships seem to come with a 'best before date', it'll probably end up ugly.


So now we've established that users have a relationship with apps, why not formalize it by liking and friending  the app? Or disliking or unfriending? And why not tweet your app? Post cool pics on your app's wall.

05 May 2011

Give me an experience

Not only do I want to enjoy using applications, I also want to enjoy interacting with the IT organization. So don't bore me with your tedious inside-out service level metrics, communicate with me. Well, at least try to communicate. Think about what kind of experience you think I should be having when we engage. Use every 'moment of truth' to reinforce that experience. And get some meaningful feedback from me (not yet another badly though out survey) and do something with what I tell you. 

Social information management

Managing information from a business perspective has always been a challenge. How do you motivate people to use information systems as they're supposed to be used? How do you ensure data quality? How do you discover what improvements will make a difference? How do you manage change and transition? How can information help your business strategy?


Engage your users

-          Get raw feedback (be prepared for a shock)

-          Inform users when there are incidents or outages

-          Generate ideas for improvement

-          Improve relationship with clients who use your apps


Stockholm System Syndrome

Ever felt happy with an application when you've completed a longish transaction without it having crashed and losing your data? Yep, that's the Stockholm syndrome: "a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, essentially mistaking a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness."

I think of some applications as benevolent dictators. You're obliged to use them and they direct your actions in a polite but firm way: "Please re-enter your data".

Emotional application lifecycle

Your relationship with an app will probably go through a lifecycle something like this.


·         Anticipation – you're looking forward to getting the app or being authorized to use it

·         Disappointment – Too high expectations

·         Resignation – Guess you'd better get used to it

·         Acclimatization – It's not that bad after all

·         Frustration – It's habits are annoying me more and more

·         Alienation – The thrill has gone


Seeing as all relationships seem to come with a 'best before date', it'll probably end up ugly.


Let's anthropomorphize a bit. Can applications be happy, grumpy, authoritative, lazy, reliable, fickle, cruel, stupid, intuitive, responsive, sexy? Sure they can. Think about it. 

08 January 2011

So what about the poor IT services consumer?

The IT community tends to focus on improving their own processes and organizations for the supply of IT services and it’s right that they do so. But on the other side of the demand-supply chain there’s another realm of responsibility that doesn't get as much attention. Often this is the weakest link in the chain, resulting in a disappointing return on investment in IT. What kind of responsibilities do user organizations have regarding demand and consumption of information and IT services?


· Effective usage of information and information systems

· Ensuring the quality of data

· Interacting with the IT department regarding service calls, service requests etc


· Translating needs into requirements and specifications

· Interacting with the IT department regarding changes and projects

· Designing the manual and procedural side of information systems

· Preparing for transition in the user organization

· Reviewing and testing of the information systems and the organizational readiness

· Implementing change in the user organization

Management & Improvement

· Monitoring the quality of information and its use, including security aspects

· Identifying opportunities to achieve business goals using information (technology)

· Determining new and changed requirements

· Business cases and funding

· Procurement and contracting of IT services

· Interacting with the IT department at a tactical level (services, service levels etc)

· Deciding on and managing changes and projects


· Determining strategic goals, direction and architecture for information as an asset for the organization


· Determining strategic relationships and governance of use of information (technology)

The Business Information Services Library (BiSL) offers guidance for user organizations with respect to how to achieve and maintain an effective and efficient information provisioning, including the relationship with the IT department. It is targeted at both at roles that are directly related to information management, such key-users, information managers, information analysts, business analysts, enterprise architects, but also at roles such as line managers and directors who have the responsibility for ensuring that information is used appropriately within their departments and divisions.

BiSL is free guidance for user organizations, provided by the not-for-profit ASL BiSL Foundation. If you're interested in learning more I'd recommend downloading the free Management Guide.