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16  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / iPhone Palmistry on: March 01, 2014, 07:40:52 am
So, as you may or may not know, Chris Dancy and Michael Coté have a new Podcast they’re calling ‘Connected Culture & Oblique Strategies’. During episode 2 ‘A Most Delightful Cyber Dystopia’ they did some ‘Mobile Palmistry’, in which they attempt to read people by looking at their cell phone home screens.
This idea intrigued me, to say the least, and I emailed Chris with a proposal…
I was always skeptical of palm reading, because I had the same misguided ideas that I think most do –new-agey people and frauds measuring love lines, life lines, money lines, etc. It was fun nonsense.
Then Liz (my wife) read my palms on our first date, and it blew my mind! It was not at all the mystical, superstitious mumbo-jumbo that most people make it out to be – it was SO much more a practice of reading people through subtle behavioral cues, with a bit of physical health & wellness indicators thrown in. It's a real scientific art of awareness and deduction, and it's beautiful, when done right.
I felt like I was on a first date with Sherlock Holmes, and that's pretty much when I knew I was done-in by her, and there was no turning back.
What Chris and Coté were doing on the show was very much reminiscent of what "real" palmistry is all about – and I LOVED it!
Chris knows me quite well. Coté, on the other hand, isn't even aware I exist, as far as I know...
I think it would be fascinating to compare my explanation of why I do what I do, to a stranger's perception of what the results say about me, to a friend's balanced perspective of both – and maybe find some truth in the middle of the three.
My suggestion to Chris was this:
Coté reads my screen first. Then Chris follows his reading – giving it the color and insight of someone who knows me. In the meantime, I will write a blog post about how and why I organize my phone the way I do. My intention is to just explain my rationale for my phone layout – not to try analyzing what these things say bout me. I'll finish the blog post before I watch the show, but not publish it until after I know they've posted the show online.
That’s what this is.
A bit of background for those who don’t know me very well, or at all: I hyper-analyze everything I do – and I DO mean everything. It’s pathological, really. I do nothing at all in my life, no matter how seemingly trivial, without having a very specific reason why I do it in that very specific way. Then, when I'm done, I look back, analyze the shit out of the experience, and use that analysis to inform my decision on how to better lace up my boots the next time.
I am the living wet dream of the love-child of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and W. Edwards Deming.
Because of this, I'm keenly aware of exactly why I put every icon where it is - and why I may have shifted one of them by one space three separate times last week.
I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my phone organization – without going too far off the deep-end into the details.
Here’s my screen:

I remember watching the movie 'Cheaper by the Dozen' when I was about 7 or 8 years old. In one scene, Frank has Lillian time how long it takes him to button his shirt from bottom-to-top and compare that to how long buttoning it from top-to-bottom took, to see which was more efficient. I felt like this was someone I could really relate to.  This was the first I ever heard of “Efficiency Expert” as a career, and I remember thinking, “People will actually PAY me to do this??” I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In my mind, organization is about being able to reach my hand out during the middle of performing any task, and grab the tool I need without even looking up from what I’m doing. I think that’s what drives my passion for user empowerment through Knowledge Delivery. It’s a kind of modern off-shoot of Time & Motion Studies. Your tool should always be right where you naturally want to reach for it, when and where you need it.
I organize my phone pretty much the same way I organize my person, my plethora of bags, my toolboxes and my life. It’s also how I always aim to organize my workspaces, but that tends to be much more difficult to maintain, because of the frenetic way I tend to mix work and play – but that’s a topic for another blog post.
When I want to organize something, I have a set of steps that I follow in a general linear progression, but realizations along the path may force skipping and back-tracking…
High Attention/Availability
Purposeful Categories
Additional Considerations
…each step get applied above the previous one, but these steps aren’t so much layers, as much as they are coatings. Each new coating will melt into the previous one – taking the general shape of the previous coating, but also changing the shape of the previous coating – and, by extension, changing the shape of the whole.
High Attention/Availability
First are the things I put on the “Shelf”. (I don’t know if that’s what it’s officially called, but it’s that place at the bottom of an iPhone that’s always the same, no matter what screen you’re in… The most present real estate on the iPhone.) These things cut across all task categories, and always need to be within immediate reach. I don’t necessarily use them the most often, but they are either things I shouldn’t ignore, or things that I always want in reach at a moment’s notice. The availability factor started largely a holdover from when I had 6-12 screens and organized those screens similar to the way I now use folders – but now that has changed, and I’ll get to that in a moment...
Then we have the top of the screen… The top row is simply the string tied to my finger.
In a way, I have 7 “to-do lists” on my phone (I used to have 8, but I found I preferred using Reminders to Dosecast for reminding me to take my medication) and these are the icons on the Shelf, plus the icons across the top (except for Contacts, which is why it’s in the top left, but we haven’t gotten to the ergonomics part yet). So these 7 icons are the ones I want to always know when there is a notification, without having to look into a folder to figure out what wants me to address something. I want these in my face, vying for my attention, every time I look at my phone.
No, Safari does not generate notifications, but I do use it as a to-do list. Well, more of a doing-now-and-need-to-get-back-to-one-of-these-days list. Eventually, I’ll take the time to figure out how to effectively use Read it Later and/or Evernote…
Purposeful Categories
The next step is to group the remaining tools into categories defined by purpose.
There are two sub-categories here: Specific Task Purpose and General Purpose. Finance is a good example of a Specific Task Purpose, and Look It Up is a General Purpose.
It was quite a while after folders were offered in the iPhone before I started using them. I had been trying to organize my phone with a different page for every task type… The Travel folder is a hold-over from that – and this is why my weather apps are there. Essentially, I wanted my phone to pretend to be a different phone in every situation to suit my needs in that moment. When I’m travelling, I would have my phone on the Travel screen, and everything I would need was there.
I never could get it quite right, however, largely because I had so many multi-purpose tools.
This was when I decided to take a different tack, and start looking at organizing folders in much the same way I build music playlists. My playlists are designed to reflect/influence my moods. For example, some songs have a way of making me swagger down the street as if I’m strutting through my 1973 ghetto, wearing platform fishbowl shoes, and listening to Parliament Funkadelic…
That playlist is named Funk & Swaggers.
So, combining mood-driven, task-driven and purpose-driven categories landed me with this set of folders on my home screen.
Once the core folders were determined, the next step was to figure out where each tool lives, and which ones don’t have any place to live.
I used to have more that didn’t have a place to live. It forced me to carefully consider why they didn’t fit and whether I really needed them. I ended up deleting a lot of apps as a result, and I looped back in the process one step to reconfigure the folder names and purposes.
In my tweets to Chris and Coté, I also mentioned that my second screen has QRReader and Scan (another QR Code app). These were stuck on page 2, because I wanted to learn more about how to generate and use QR Codes, but I really don’t have time for that right now. Page 2 serves as my future phone projects bucket.
Additional Considerations
After all this, I weigh other considerations regarding the thing I am trying to organize. In this particular situation, Tumbler is a perfect example.
Tumblr had to be on its own page, and that had to be the last page.
When Liz and I were first dating, I told her that my life was an open book. I would always be completely frank and honest with her, and had nothing to hide. She knew all my passwords and would check my emails and text messages for me, if we were driving.
I also told her, however, that my internal world was exactly that. Some of it I would choose to share with her, but much of it she would never know. It's absolutely essential for my health and happiness to have the universe inside my head completely free of fetters, judgments, and obligations to other people – and if she wasn't comfortable with that, she shouldn't be with me.
I see my Tumblr account as an extension of that world. She knows it exists, but doesn't know the name of the account – and she's OK with that.
On Tumblr I am me, but not all of me. I allow myself to shed many aspects of the person I am, and exist as a slice of myself. Because of that, it needs to live on its own, away from the rest of who I am.
Ergonomics doesn’t start coming into play until now. First I organize the icons and folders on the home screen so they reflect my comfort. I use my phone for social media more than anything else, so Socialist gets the prime ergonomic real estate address space #1. This is where my thumb is most comfortable landing. Music Movies is currently the second most common used, so it gets prime address #2.
Prime address #3 for me is where Finance is now, even though I use Look It Up FAR more often. This decision was based on the “Feel” and “Reality” coatings I’m getting to...
After I finish applying my ergonomic preferences to the home screen, I go into each folder and do the same there.
Note that my home screen has five folders showing 9 icons (or more). The reality is that only Socialist has exactly 9 (it had 10, but I finally got rid of Path). This is where ergonomic considerations get serious.
If I move you off the screen inside a folder, I really don’t give a damn about you ever reminding me you are there. Either I can’t delete you (because you came with iOS, and it won’t let me) or I have turned off any push notification functionality and I use you so seldom that it offends me to have you take up any real estate at all. Page 2 of a folder is, in effect, archiving the app away.
After ergonomic considerations, comes the fluffy, soft considerations. This level and above is the where I start to allow myself the freedom to break the rules. I allow myself to move beyond pure reason and logic into emotional responses and fun.
Going back to what I said earlier about entertaining myself, I put Planets (an Astronomy/sky-mapping app) in the Travel folder because it made me smile.
Amazon and eBay are in Finance because it just felt right.
By the way, the folders Pitchers and Socialist were renamed in this stage just to make me laugh. Along those same lines, when I did use Dosecast, I kept it in the Socialist folder, because if I forgot to take my meds, I wouldn't be very sociable, and probably shouldn’t be using the tools in that folder.
I entertain myself.
This is why Scrabble is in a folder named Words Words Words!
After all this excruciating planning, I put it to the test…
Even though I very rarely use Skype, it takes up prime address #3. G+ was in address #3, because that’s where all this planning said it was “supposed to be.” The reality, however, was that when I wanted to use G+ my eyes and thumb would automatically aim for the middle spot. I had no idea why this was, but rather than fight it, it seems far more sensible to follow my inclinations and just let it happen.
I struggled for weeks whether to put IMDB in Music Movies or Look It Up. (No, seriously… WEEKS!) All my reasoning told me that while it is a reference tool, I will be much more likely to use it in conjunction with the apps in the Music Movies folder, plus it just fits that theme, so that’s where it went.
It lived there for several months, and worked fine. When I was watching a movie, or looking something up on Netflix, I had IMDB right there to answer questions. When I watched TV shows or old movies and thought, “Don’t I know that person?” the answer was right there.
Then things started to change…
I realized that when I was absent-mindedly reaching for IMBD when I wasn’t actively consuming entertainment, I always reached for Look It Up. In fact, I would usually go as far as opening the folder and looking for it in there. When I switched it over to Look It Up, I was still reaching for the Music Movies folder when I was consuming entertainment! This led to several more weeks of struggling over what to do.

Finally, I realized that while I would reach for Music Movies when consuming – and I used the app more when consuming than not – I never actually opened the Music Movies folder to look for it.
It was just more sensible to get used to the one that wasted less of my effort.
Repeat Constantly…
Believe it or not, this was the short story. I could tell you the detailed history of every app and folder on my phone, but I think this gives a pretty good idea of what is happening in my head pretty much all the time.
I absolutely love analyzing efficiency and effectiveness of processes & organizational systems, but for me it’s more than just a pastime, it truly is a survival skill for My Particular Brand of Crazy.


So, Chris just posted the show to G+. They haven't put up the show notes yet, so I had to fast-forward through just to confirm whether they read my screen. Once I saw my screen was there, I stopped the show to come post this.
When the show notes are up, I'll post a link to them in the comments here (because I will not edit this once it's posted - I REALLY hope there are no stupid typos or errors that will itch and burn my OCD brain for not fixing them) and I will post a link to this in the comments of the show notes.

Now I can go watch to the show...
17  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / MY Call to Action – Are You Listening, itSMF USA? on: February 28, 2014, 12:01:37 pm
Just about three years and four months ago, I wrote a blog post I called Where is the "Forum" in IT Service Management Forum?
My intention was to express why I felt I was not getting value from my membership. For a professional organization (particularly one with the word “Forum” in its name) there was a distinct, palpable lack of the voice of the membership.
In my view, itSMF should be the forum where members are empowered to drive ITSM forward, impact the course of the discipline, and increase their influence over their own careers.
I did not see that happening.

The post got a bit of attention in our little group, mostly on LinkedIn.
Vague promises were made and vague plans were discussed to address the concerns of itSMF USA members.
Attention waned.
Interest faded.
Nothing changed.
I let my membership lapse.

Fast-forward to Pink 13… I ran into Charles Araujo, and we chatted for a good 45 minutes. I told him I was no longer a member. He told me he had big plans for his tenure as President of itSMF USA and I would be seeing some significant changes. When I got home I renewed my membership, waited, and watched…

I saw Charlie around a few times at Pink this year… We ran into one another in the halls. He was at the annual Monday night Piano Bar meet-up. I sat in on the Pink Think Tank review sessions (in one of which, he was on the panel).
I know he’s still President Elect, so I didn’t want to give him too much of a hard time, but I had to rib him a bit, in good nature, about not seeing any changes. If you know Charlie, you know he took it in stride. If you don’t know him, and you are an itSMF USA member, I recommend you keep an eye out for an opportunity to meet him. He’s a good man, a smart man, and a passionate man. I have sincerely high hopes for his term as President. As I said, he’s the reason I joined again.
I did, however, want to know more about what he’s planning. We didn’t have the time to get into much detail, but I do believe he sees the need for change, and I know he has the membership at heart.

Knowing and respecting Charlie as I do, I was knocked back in my seat by something he said in the Pink Think Tank session. Someone addressed the panel, asking what these ITSM leaders are going to do with the results of the Pink Think Tank. In his response, Charlie said that the practitioners need to take ownership of ITSM.

Frankly, my initial reaction was angry disbelief.

I fully cop to the fact that I can be hot-headed. I also know that Charlie would not intentionally imply "the floundering state of ITSM is YOUR fault, and YOU need to accept accountability for the problems and take the responsibility to fix them, rather than look to us” but that’s how it sounded in my head in the moment… So I decided not to say anything in that moment, and give it some space before responding.

About 20-30 minutes later, I tweeted this:
“I agree with @charlesaraujo: Practitioners DO need to take ownership of #ITSM - BUT I could never find a forum to do so. #EnableITSM #Pink14”


So… This is me taking ownership. I hope you’re listening, itSMF USA.

I DO NOT speak for the collective itSMF USA membership, NOR for ITSM practitioners at-large, NOR for anyone but myself. Attempting to speak for others, as opposed to attempting to offer them a forum to speak, is at the root of the problem, as I see it.
That really needs to end.

This is MY call to action for itSMF USA.
If itSMF USA wants my continued support and membership, this is how it will earn it:

I never liked this...

While learning is an important aspect of assuming ownership of one’s own career path, this slogan ignores the extraordinarily significant fact that many members have a lot to OFFER, as opposed to just CONSUME.
It’s not itSMF’s job to TEACH the members – it’s itSMF’s job to help the members SHARE knowledge, SHARE experiences, SHARE wisdom… It’s itSMF’s job to help members learn from one another.

The Local Interest Groups are simply not enough. Some meet once per month… Some meet once per quarter… Some are essentially ghost towns.
I’ve belonged to three different LIG’s so far. It’s not my intention to call out any specific LIG’s or individuals on anything, but suffice to say, they were three radically different experiences.
I think most LIG leadership teams attempt do the best with what they have, but even that tends to fall well short of what is needed.
•   There’s only so much that people have in common with others in their geographic area
•   People have busy lives with their own responsibilities and busy schedules, and sometimes those conflict
•   How many members believe what happens in their LIG actually gets any further than that?
     o      Does it?
•   LIG’s, at their best, tend to be social gatherings with occasional visits from the ITSM speaker elite

All that is well and good, but it’s just not enough.

Special Interest Groups are supposed to fill some of the cracks, but they do a mediocre job, at best.

I understand why there are some “celebrity” personalities in ITSM.
I understand, and even appreciate, that there is a relatively small, minimally fluid, group of “ITSM Leaders”. They know their shit. They dedicate themselves to the hard work of pushing the envelope, challenging assumptions, driving innovation, and owning their careers.
I understand, and even appreciate, that they draw crowds of people who want to listen to what they have to say. There are some people whom I simply will not pass on an opportunity to attend one of their presentations/workshops.
I hold every member of the Pink Think Tank in high esteem, and they have certainly earned that respect.
We mustn’t forget, however, that we have MANY people in ITSM with valuable things to say, and if they don’t get outside their LIG’s, and if they don’t (or can’t) attend conferences (or they do attend, but don’t have/want the opportunity to present) then we all lose out on that.

I believe complaining without offering solutions is almost always less than worthless, so here’s my suggestion: Take a cue from TFT, but take it a step further…
Do a presentation every week. (If you have enough proposals, why not do one every DAY?!?) Offer every member an opportunity to propose a session. Allow every member to vote on the proposals. Have the presenters do a live, interactive presentation. Record them all. Post them on the itSMF USA website, with clear descriptions. Allow the members to tag, rate and discuss the specific presentations. Make it ALL searchable.

Aside from sharing expertise by democratizing a continual spotlight, build (actually good) online forums for members to discuss ITSM topics – not just for learning, but to take ownership of evolving and shaping the future of ITSM. A million disjointed discussions, scattered across a thousand un-moderated channels is unwieldy, disorganized, difficult to derive value from, and impossible to manage – at best.

Again, here’s my suggestion on how that could be done: Build a set of discussion forums. Organize it by subject. Assign moderation of each sub-forum to a select group of members who are subject matter experts. Each sub-forum would have open areas where anyone can start a discussion, and comment on any open discussion. Have the moderators strategically select “official” discussions, based on the activities in the open discussion areas, and move them to “official” sub-forums where only moderators can start discussions, but anyone can comment, and there are more stringent rules of engagement. Have the moderators guide those “official” discussions, elicit feedback from the members, and capture value. Use the “official” discussions to drive “official” changes/whitepapers/documents – but more importantly, give the members the central place to find valuable information, exchange of ideas, and collaboration.

These are not my attempts to dictate changes. Hell, they’re not even well thought-out ideas – they are just two thoughts that popped into my head as I was writing this…

Regardless how it’s done, I am calling on itSMF USA to do SOMETHING to give the members a forum to not only learn from one another, but to play a role in sharing with one another, and ultimately grant us the power to influence the shape, texture and future of ITSM.

As a professional organization it’s not just your job, but your solemn duty to help members gain a greater measure of security and determination over their careers and lives.
For my continued support, I need to see you treating that considerable responsibility with the earnest, thoughtful respect it deserves.

Oh… And fiscal transparency!

18  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / My Particular Brand of Crazy on: February 21, 2014, 01:56:55 pm
You know that feeling… You are sitting at a desk or work surface and put your pen or screwdriver down. A few, short minutes later, you can’t find it. You didn’t leave the room. You didn’t even leave your seat. “It must be in arm’s reach. Where the hell could it be? I was sitting RIGHT HERE!” You shuffle papers, and move things around. You eventually start being ridiculous and checking in the refrigerator, even though you KNOW you didn’t leave the room. “It was RIGHT HERE!”

I live in that place pretty much all the time.

One year in grammar school (that’s primary for you weirdos who still live under a monarchy) my lowest test score was 90% and my test average was about 96%. I just barely passed that year by the skin of my teeth. Why? I didn’t do my homework. Pretty much ever. Though everyone – the teacher, my parents, my brother and sister – thought I was just using the same lame excuses over and over, I genuinely did forget to do my homework or forget my books at school ALL THE TIME.

Nothing has really changed, except I have developed tools over the many years of living in my predicament.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” is so much more than a quaint, old adage – it’s a survival skill. I am not such a control freak that I can’t handle change. In fact, I quite like change for the most part. I DO, however, need to know about the change beforehand. If my watch, wallet, keys, etc are not where I left them and expect to find them, I will leave without them. Furthermore, I will have a hell of a time finding the now hopelessly lost item. It could just be on the counter to the left of the sink instead of the counter to the right of the sink, and it may take me hours to find it.

I have developed almost ritualistic behaviors. I locked myself out of my house far too many times as a kid. Now the motions are so ingrained in me, if I do not perform them in habitual OCD form, I feel as uneasy as someone walking out the door naked. Open the door. Reach into my right, front pants pocket, grasp my keys, lock the door, step outside, drop the keys back to the bottom of my pocket, close the door behind me, check the knob to make sure it is locked. When we moved to Putnam Valley, New York and the front door had to be locked with a key it fucked with my state of mind for months, until I finally settled into the new ritual – though I was appreciative of it being impossible to lock myself out.

If I want a bowl of cereal in the morning and the bowls are in a new place and I didn’t know they were moved to, my whole day could be ruined. It’s not just me being bitchy because it takes me longer to find what I am looking for in my tired, rushed state of mind; it turns my world upside-down – if even for a little while. Not only have I spent many years learning to live with this problem, but I spent many more years building my home environment into a sanctuary.

I know everyone says, “I’ll never be like my father”. I’m not so foolish and see many similarities between us already. Some of them have always been there, some have made me quite uncomfortable to acknowledge and some of them I have been able to change. There are some things, however, I can say with full confidence that I am at no risk of repeating. One of the most important things a parent can offer a child is a safe, comfortable place to come home to – a place to escape the world, when escape is needed. Not only did I not feel safe in my home, there was no place I felt less safe. I would rather find myself in any of the worst neighborhoods in Northern New Jersey than be home when my father was around – and I often did just that. Eventually, home was the only place in the world I did not feel safe. As an adult, there is little more important to me than my home feeling like a sanctuary. Imagine being in the place that is supposed to be your sanctuary and having that feeling of not being able to find that screwdriver you just put down ALL THE TIME. That’s not sanctuary – that’s Hell.

Luckily I have finally found a woman who understands and respects that, because as other women will tell you, I can be a real bear to live with. Granted, it was more my fault than theirs, because until writing this now, VERY few people have known this about me.

(Originally posted to Facebook on March 4th, 2009)
19  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Do You Practice Knowledge Delivery, Or Do You Hire Morons? on: February 12, 2014, 11:10:07 am
What is Knowledge Management?

To judge by most vendor offerings, it seems they continue to define Knowledge Management the way they have for decades: Knowledge Base Management.
Knowledge Base Management is a valuable – perhaps even essential – capability for effective Service Management, and there are some really outstanding tools available to support it. This doesn’t change the fact that, at its core, a Knowledge Base Management solution is essentially a word processor coupled to a workflow engine.
Knowledge Bases truly shine when they’re used for their intended purpose: documenting and publishing “official” solutions to well-understood problems within a defined domain.

Sometimes the simplest tools really are the most effective, but doorstops suck at driving screws.

Knowledge Management, in the ITIL ideal, takes on much wider implications.
The Knowledge Management process is responsible for managing and ensuring access to a single “Golden Source” of information, across all processes. Some would argue that the scope extends beyond that to the organization’s entire information matrix.
Given the nature and scope of Enterprise Knowledge Management, the traditional platform of choice has overwhelmingly been some form of a federated data warehouse environment.
Knowledge Management, ITIL style, requires a deep understanding of, and iron-fisted control over, the excruciatingly complex data dependencies across the vast managed information matrix – without even considering the lofty Service Knowledge Management System ideal.
Maintaining even a moderate level of control over the intricate web of data & information relationships in a large, dynamic environment is a truly challenging proposition. It’s not difficult to understand why adding a new information source to such a data warehouse environment will often take months.

Regardless where an organization lands on the spectrum between simple Knowledge Base Management and the SKMS unicorn, there is one thing all definitions of Knowledge Management have in common: Management.
While it may seem like a silly tautology on the surface, I don’t think enough people truly consider the implications of the simplest, most accurate definition of Knowledge Management: The management of knowledge.
Managing knowledge is actively capturing, building, connecting, maintaining, updating, improving and auditing information in one or more curated repositories, in pursuit of a strategic objective to inform.

For a Knowledge Management strategy to be successful at informing, it must necessarily consider how the curated information is going to be exposed, presented and consumed. One approach to this exposure/presentation/consumption challenge is Knowledge Delivery.

Another tautological definition… Knowledge Delivery is the delivery of knowledge.
It really is that simple.
Knowledge Delivery is striving to understand how, where, why and when a human being uses different information sources and other tools to perform a specific task – then applying that understanding to integrate those information sources with the tool interfaces – in pursuit of facilitating automated, context-sensitive exposure & presentation of information relevant to the task at hand.
A Knowledge Delivery solution extracts information from the UI you are working in and combines it with other contextual information about you to drive background analysis of the available information source(s) and delivers the results of that analysis back into that same UI.

Knowledge Delivery is strictly a consumption-side strategy. In other words… while a Knowledge Management solution can be a key input to a Knowledge Delivery solution, Knowledge Delivery is agnostic toward how an organization manages its knowledge.
In fact, I think the greatest value of Knowledge Delivery begins where Knowledge Management’s reach ends.

Consider, for a moment, where your organization lands on the Knowledge Management spectrum I mentioned…
A well-designed Knowledge Delivery strategy can help bridge the gap between where you would place the “You Are Here” pushpin and the SKMS. The greatest challenge of building that bridge is not one of technological constraints, nor is it a challenge of information control. The greatest challenge is one of perception and trust.

A solid Unified Information Access platform can serve as an agile, flexible, affordable alternative to the traditional data warehouse model.
UIA greatly simplifies the work of combining a Knowledge Base Management solution with organic peripheral information, machine data, transient social indicators, external information sources, monitoring tools, ticketing tools, human-generated documentation…
Without requiring Stalinesque control over a rigid data model, new sources can be added on-the-fly.
Without the need for massive ETL jobs, updates can be available in near real-time.

There is so much more I can say about the benefits of building a Knowledge Delivery solution on a UIA platform.
I mean, seriously… I could go on for hours.
During a recent UIA discussion, I said, “I don't champion UIA because I work for Attivio – I work for Attivio because I believe in UIA.” However, this isn’t intended to be a commercial, masquerading as a flimsy whitepaper, so I’ll invite you to learn more about UIA, if you’re interested, and I’ll move on...

As I mentioned, the real challenge of bridging the chasm between practical Knowledge Management and truly comprehensive Knowledge Delivery is one of perception and trust – and I challenge all ITSM leadership to carefully consider these things, with an honest answer to a deceptively simple question:
Do you hire morons?

If not, please stop treating your employees like deranged idiots who would be dangerous if you let the leash out too far.
Why do so many organizations insist on spoon-feeding a strict diet of “approved” information, which has necessarily gone through a lengthy vetting process, to people whom they apparently perceive as support staff automatons? I’ve never understood the obsession over information control – especially when considering significantly time-critical processes, like Incident Management.
I have always preferred to provide the intelligent adults in my professional organizations with a wealth of timely information that empowers them to exercise the talent they were hired to provide – and trust them to practice the discernment that got them the job.

If you do hire morons, information control just isn’t going to cut it, anyway.
20  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Focus Group Dinner at Pink13 – Win 64G iPad mini on: January 25, 2013, 08:38:19 am
As many of you know, I have been praising Attivio for some time now, as being at the forefront of redefining limitations and pushing Knowledge Management into what it should be.
I honestly believe their IT Knowledge Expert solution has the potential to be a truly disruptive force in the ITSM space – in fact, that’s the main reason I had so vigorously pursued employment with them. The consulting contract I have accepted with Attivio is to help figure out the next steps for communicating the unique value ITKE offers the ITSM industry, and help them develop the best possible product roadmap. I’m asking for your help in gathering a broader perspective than my own.

I’m looking for 6-8 ITSM professionals to participate in a focus group dinner event at Pink13. I want to hear from Process Manager/Owner level practitioners working every day to improve process performance, service availability, information integration and customer satisfaction. I want to know what difficulties you face, and get your feedback on how my vision of IT Knowledge Expert addresses those difficulties – and where you may think it falls short.

I have received approval from Attivio to treat the participants to a delicious dinner – and pull a name out of a hat to pick one individual who will receive a scholarship ticket for a Platinum Pass for Pink14, including a stay at the Bellagio (whatever Pink offers as the “Super Faithful” package for next year).

I've been underwhelmed by the response to this so far...
My best guess is that most practitioners who are attending Pink13 are being sponsored by their employers, so the Pink14 Platinum Pass doesn't quite have the appeal I had hoped. I've received approval to make a change to the prize drawing... Rather than picking one name out of a hat for a Pink14 prize package, I'll be pulling five names from a hat for a 64G iPad mini (Wi-Fi + Cellular). With a maximum of eight participants, your odds are pretty good!

If you would like to join us on Monday, February 18th at 7:30 PM for great food and thought-provoking networking at Sensi restaurant in the Bellagio, please reach out to me at 'craig.wilkey at'. Tell me your current role and how long you have been there. Also a very brief overview of your ITSM experience would be greatly helpful.

Thank you,
21  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Scar Tissue on: May 08, 2012, 09:54:09 am
     When you really come down to it, we are – all of us – just scar tissue. We are conjured into existence through the never-ending process of scarification. Whether it’s our flesh, muscle, emotional responses, or – as some would say – souls, the things that score us most deeply are the things that define us. Not all scars, of course, come from suffering. Pleasurable memories – even simple, innocuous memories – and thought processes are learned through carving patterns and pathways through our brains – the deeper those cuts, the more prevalent the scars, the more indelible the memories.

     Suffering is simply the flip-side of pleasure. Regardless of whether I have a soul, given to me by a creator God, and this life is a precious gift from that God… or I have a soul, and I have elected to return to this plane, through the act of reincarnation, because I was not quite ready to let go of my attachment to it my last time around… or there is no such thing as a soul, and this is the one, glorious chance I have to live… I plan on making the most of it and experiencing all this corporeal, sensual, passionate, beautiful existence has to offer me. Part and parcel with experiencing life is fully experiencing and appreciating suffering, along with pleasure.

     I refuse to follow the example of so many before me who sought solace from pain and suffering – whether through religion, suicide, denial, or that reasonable facsimile of life so many bury themselves in.

     Give me pain. Give me suffering. I will take them along with pleasure and joy – but not just as a necessary evil of life, as another aspect of life to fully experience, and remind me that I’m alive in a physical existence that offers me such extremes to revel in.

     Suffering is inevitable. Suffering, however, is not negative. It’s not something to hide from – nor, however, is it something to dwell in. Just as with pleasure, suffering is to be experienced, learned from, released and remembered. Sensuality, regardless of the form it takes, is my teacher, guide and confidant. Sensuality is life. Our countless scars are ever-present reminders of that fact.

     I aim to live my life and die with as many scars as I can.
22  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Knowledge Management, Abe Vigoda & Smarmy Marketers on: March 26, 2012, 02:17:07 pm
     In my recent Social Knowledge Management Federator Open RFP, I recommended introducing a new ITSM process called “Knowledge Generation & Delivery”.

     Vendor offerings in Knowledge Management generally follow Knowledge Centered Support guidance. KCS is a very effective framework, but the scope is limited to Service Desk knowledge capture, publishing & delivery. I see great value in implementing KCS in a Service Desk environment – especially in organizations with large, complex infrastructures – and that captured knowledge has potential to be useful in other ITSM processes as well. Its limited scope does, however, limit its usefulness outside what it was designed for.

     ITIL guidance on Knowledge Management amounts to little more than “This is the process responsible for building and maintaining a Service Knowledge Management System.” Aside from the scant guidance ITIL offers for the practice of Knowledge Management, the SKMS falls well short of what we are capable of – well short of what it could or should offer. Even for those with both the resources to invest in building an SKMS and the level of control over their information matrix required to make it possible, they would still end up with what is essentially an Asset Management system on steroids.

     Managing information is just one aspect of Knowledge Management – the other, far more crucial aspect, is delivering it.

     The approach taken by the vast majority of so-called Knowledge Management solutions is one of a fairly simple enterprise search engine. Type in the terms you’re looking for, and it will return to you a list of information resources – much like using Google to search the internet. While Google’s search engine is a great tool for searching for hits in the vast sea of information sources that is the internet, the thirty-year-old approach to delivering the results simply does not qualify as Knowledge Management in my book.
     Knowledge Generation & Delivery is exactly what it says. We need to move away from delivering information sources for our knowledge workers to sift through for information. We need to start expanding that matrix to include much more dynamic, fuzzy & unstructured information, find innovative ways to generate knowledge through combining all those information sources and actively deliver that knowledge to discerning knowledge workers when & where they need it.

     Consider the internet…
     Keyword searching, with the purpose of returning individual sources, is a great tool for finding individual items or sets of items – such an organization’s public website, the nearest coffee shop or nude pictures of Abe Vigoda (I don’t know if there are any nude pictures of Abe Vigoda on the internet… I’d be shocked if there aren’t but I’m scared to find proof).
     What about, on the other hand, trying to decide what computer to buy? Fairly recently I ordered a Lenovo IdeaCentre Q180. I first searched for viable options that met my basic requirements, creating a short list. Then I combed through scores of user reviews on my short list, attempting to keep track of the salient points on each computer – while at the same time, taking differing views of the same products into consideration in weighting opinions. If opinions differed, I had to make a value judgment based on limited information about the review writers. I also needed to take note of those reviewers whose machines were configured differently to what I was planning. All of this juggling took me no less than four hours to make a decision I was comfortable with. While IT hopefully has more stringent guidelines regarding document structure and it will not take a knowledge worker quite as long, these are the types of hoops we are forcing them to jump through.
     Imagine, instead, I browsed to an information correlation portal. I start my search by checking boxes and dropping down nested list elements in a simple form to input my basic requirements and filter my information sources – for example, I’m feeling cynical that day so I don’t want to include any reviews from manufacturer’s websites. The portal then runs off to all the various information sources and returns to me a dynamic dashboard that has combined & correlated all that information for me. Through that dashboard interface, I can further filter and refine the results based on overall scores, average prices, specific complaints, available upgrades, etc. When I narrow that down to the model I want the portal presents me with options of where I can buy the model I want, configured exactly how I want it.
     I could have saved three hours and fifty minutes with such a knowledge delivery strategy.

     Stay with me… We’re halfway there…

     While George Orwell’s 1984 is perhaps my worst nightmare, I’m hardly a Lone Gunman. A government that can’t even figure out how to implement effective package tracking is certainly incapable of the vast conspiracies it is often accused of.

     Corporations, on the other hand…

     Owners of iPhones, iPads and Android devices may have noticed that the Gmail interface in the built-in email functionality is a bit different than other email providers. Gmail went out of their way to change the default “Delete” action to “Archive” the emails, instead. You can still delete your emails, if you wish, but they made it easier to not delete them. When you “Archive” an email, it doesn’t move it anywhere – it simply removes the “Inbox” flag on the email, so when you are in your inbox, you don’t see it. This may seem counterintuitive to some, especially those who are constantly juggling, deleting, moving and archiving emails at work because they have tiny mailboxes on servers that will lock them out if they go over their storage limits. It makes perfect sense for Google, however…
     The smaller the mailbox, the cheaper the overhead. We want to cut costs of running the business. Right?? Well, that’s true, but it’s a small price to pay for Google. Your ever expanding inbox is their business – it’s one of their greatest assets.
     Above all, Google is a marketing company. The more information Google can collect, store and understand – the better Google gets at correlation of information to generate knowledge – the more accurate their predictive analysis is… the better they will be at delivering you advertisements that you are actually interested in and will take advantage of. In turn, the more traffic and revenue their ads generate, the more they can charge for their ads.
     Google gives away unlimited email storage for free, because they WANT you to store more. You are one of over 190 million nodes of one of the largest wetware database clusters in the world. What emails you get, which ones sit unopened in your inbox as you open other (newer) ones, which ones you “Archive” without reading, which ones you reply to, forward, follow their embedded links, mark as important… Life altering events, banking statements, receipts, website registrations… the potential is limitless. Gmail knows a lot about you – probably more than most of your friends.
     I feel I should say here that Google has one of the most responsible privacy policies I know of, and an exemplary track record of keeping information anonymous – that is another of their greatest assets. You only tell secrets to your best friend if you trust her to keep them.

I tweeted something a few weeks back that I think sums up my view on Knowledge Generation & Delivery pretty succinctly:
Why doesn’t my Knowledge solution build a profile of me based on my apps, searches, inbox, job, etc & deliver TO me like Google ads? #ITSM

     An excellent February 16th article in The New York Times explored ways in which the retail giant Target employed “Guest Marketing Analytics”.
     In 2002, Target had a problem. People saw Target as a store to buy a limited number of products – such as cleaning supplies – but customers were not buying much of the myriad of other products they offered. Target wanted to be a one-stop shopping department store.
     Long-standing research showed that changing people’s ingrained buying habits was a difficult task, but there are major events in life – life altering events – that can blow that door of opportunity wide open. When someone graduates college, gets married, gets divorced or has a child, for example, they become free agents – prime targets for influencing a shift in their buying habits. This was not revolutionary news… When a woman gives birth, she is inundated with advertisements to buy baby-related products – not just because she is now a consumer of products she did not need before, but because if a department store can get her shopping there for her baby needs, she will be more likely to shop there for other things, and stay with that retailer for the long haul.
     Target wanted to take advantage of this gateway drug. The trick, however, was to beat the other retailers to the punch.
     Target focused predictive analytics on their vast amounts of data to look for cues that a woman may be pregnant. They looked at buying trends for women they knew were pregnant (because they had signed up for the baby registry at Target) in an attempt to pinpoint pregnancy cues as early as possible. They found, for example, that right about the beginning of the second trimester, many women started buying larger quantities of unscented lotion. Pregnant women also tended to buy calcium, magnesium and zinc supplements in their first 20 weeks of pregnancy. When they started buying larger quantities of unscented soap, cotton balls, hand sanitizers and washcloths it was in indicator that the due date was getting pretty close.
     The analytics team developed a system that allowed them to predict, by tracking purchase patterns of about 25 different products, not only whether a woman was pregnant, but her approximate due date.
     It worked like a charm.

     I despise manipulation. I have never signed up for any kind of “Customer Reward Card” program at any retailer. I value transparency in business dealings more than I can genuinely express.
     I do, however, think IT has a LOT to learn from the smarmy tactics of marketers when it comes to Knowledge Generation & Delivery – we just don’t need to hide what we’re doing.
23  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / You give it a name... on: December 13, 2011, 08:02:03 am
" give it a name, and you think you have understood it. Is not the very naming of the thing a hindrance to the understanding of it?" ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
     Many people (my bet is most people) will question their faith at one point or another. What path one takes after that moment is both telling and defining.
     My older sister decided she was no longer Catholic at age 16.
     That was the only time my mother ever laid a hand on her. In a knee-jerk reaction, she slapped her across the face.
     She instantly regretted it.
     I believe that was when my mother’s moment came to question her faith – or at least her conviction to her faith.
     My moment came when I was about 9-years-old.
     As a child, being a Catholic was no different to me than being an Italian/Scotch-Irish/German by descent.
     I was Catholic by descent.
     I knew other religions existed – I even knew a bit about what some of them believed.
     I was fortunate enough to have been raised in Northern New Jersey in the 1970’s and ’80’s – it was an extraordinarily diverse area even before multiculturalism was invented (no, really, the term wasn’t coined until 1965).  There weren’t many religions or nationalities that went unrepresented in my immediate surroundings – my class pictures looked like a U.N. convention in miniature.
     Still, the Jewish kid was Jewish because his parents were Jewish and he was born Jewish.
     One day, in my third grade class, the teacher mentioned Deist beliefs. She told us that some people believe there is a god who started it all, but then pulled away to let things happen as they will. Their god did not intervene at all.
     My first thought was that this made sense to me.
     Then something clicked. I’m not sure exactly how or why it happened, but it did.
     I instantly realized that my religion isn’t something that’s part of who I am. It’s something I choose to be a part of – or choose to not be a part of.
     It made me think of all the questions I was reprimanded for asking in CCD. (If you are not familiar, CCD stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine”. It is the Catholic Church’s method of indoctrinating school-aged kids into the faith.)
     “Teacher… We have been to the moon. We know that if we get out of the atmosphere our heads will explode if we don’t suffocate first. How come God didn’t know that, and he felt he had to change everyone’s language when they were building the Tower of Babel?”
     “Teacher… Who lived in the Land of Nod?”
     “Teacher… If Adam and Eve were the first two people, and incest is a sin…”
     I immediately decided I was no longer Catholic.
     This began a twenty-five year search for what I did believe.
     I spent countless hours reading various sacred texts and philosophers. I spoke with scores of preachers, devout followers and atheists. I attended dozens of religious gatherings & meetings.
     I was collecting.
     Much of what I learned made sense to me. None of them seemed to have it all right. I was unwilling (perhaps unable) to identify myself with any religion, unless I was in complete agreement with it.
     I was gathering bits and pieces of wisdom from around the world and across the ages in an attempt to cobble together my own matching set of beliefs and practices.
     If you would have asked me at 16 what my religious beliefs were, I would have answered, “I’m an Anarcho-Taoist Agnostic with Buddhist leanings” or some such ridiculous pretention.
     I never did find a religion to identify myself with, because after all those years of searching, I was unable to find a religion I had no quarrels with. To call myself an adherent to any religion that I did not completely agree with felt dishonest to me. I’ve always despised dishonesty, but to be dishonest about my religion, of all things?? Religion, as I saw it, should be the cornerstone of not only your faith, but your very being – to lie about that was simply inconceivable.
     My wife once told me that it’s a good thing I never found a religion, because if I ever did, I would be one Hell of a fundamentalist.
     My thought process through much of that time was: if I can’t find one, I’ll just build one. Why not? What made Abraham, Siddhartha, Confucius, Martin Luther, Calvin and all the others so special?
     It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I realized that it wasn’t any of the specific religions that I had a problem with – it was religion in general.
     I know there are almost as many definitions of religion as there are religions, but to avoid the pedantic, semantic arguments, I will share the viewpoint I am working from…
     Religion is a system of beliefs, practices and/or philosophy that purports knowledge of that which man does not (or does not yet) have the ability to discern through his own physical senses. In other words, a religion claims to answer the unanswerable questions.
     Had I made my own religion, it would have been no different than any of the others.
Buddha’s Pragmatic Strategy
     It is a common belief in the pop-culture understanding of Buddhism that Siddhartha claimed there is no soul – even some sects of Buddhism teach this misconception.
     This is simply not supported by Siddhartha’s words.
     Siddhartha taught that there are twelve unanswerable questions (or fourteen, depending on which text you read – or four, depending on how you view the questions). Boiled down and very roughly translated, these questions are:
     Is the universe eternal?
     Is the universe infinite?
     Do we have a soul, distinct from our bodies?
     What happens to us after we die?
     Siddhartha had a pragmatic approach to these questions. He said it was folly to try and search for the answers to these questions, and dishonest to claim knowledge of the answers. Instead, we should work to determine which answers would be most “skillful” (most beneficial to ourselves on our paths to virtue and least harmful to others on theirs) and live our lives holding the presumption of that truth. In other words, we should act as if that were the truth, while not claiming knowledge of that truth.
     Siddhartha used to teach that if something does not make reasonable sense to you and it does not benefit you, discard it – otherwise, hold it as a personal truth and live that truth.
     That is my approach to philosophy.
     Satya is a Sanskrit word which means roughly, “the fundamental, underlying, metaphysical truth which brings us closer to the divine”.
     There needs to be a distinction between “satya” and “truth” in the Indian culture because they believe that what most of us refer to as “reality” is simply an illusory façade we create, which overlays sayta. Something may be true in “reality” while not being part of satya. While I may not agree with everything the Hindu faith teaches about what is or is not part of satya, this distinction between Truth and reality is quite significant.
     In my view, the distinction between Philosophy and Religion mirrors the distinction between reality and satya. Philosophy concerns itself with reality, while Religion claims knowledge of satya.
     One thought I have walked away from all theist religions with is that if I am to believe what this group of people is claiming to be the Truth, that does not seem to me to be faith in any god, rather faith in men – the men who came up with this view of Truth.
     As I see it, it’s a question of this man’s unsupportable view against that man’s unsupportable view.
     I can’t, and wouldn’t, say this or that god does not exist, but I have seen no evidence and, as such, have no faith that any god does exist as a matter of satya.
     All religions are beautiful, but, I agree with Marx – without evidence, I can’t see how they can be anything more than opiates. While it may be comforting if I were to believe in a benevolent father and a paradisiacal afterlife, I cannot simply choose what I believe – it has to make reasonable sense to me.
     I am certainly no materialist. The strict materialist perspective is a fool’s approach. To believe that one must be able to touch something to have faith it exists, is simple self-delusion.
     I know racism exists, though I cannot touch it.
     I have clear evidence of the existence of racism. It is not a matter of faith, rather a matter of fact – a matter of reality.
     Racism only exists because we have willed it into existence.
     Reality is faith and will incarnate.
     Satya cares nothing for faith or will – it exists separate from us and our beliefs.
     While there may well be Fundamental Metaphysical Truths over which we have no control – reality is certainly manifest through belief and actions.
     Placing religious dogma and other cultural baggage aside, the Sanskrit word “karma” (or kamma in Pali) means simply “action” and implies the consequences of that action. If Bill kicks a stone with his bare feet and injures his toe, that is karma in its simplest, most straight-forward form.
     There is no system of checks and balances – no old man in the sky doling out justice – no mysterious, masked avenger.
     Every action has an impact of consequences, and each of those consequences has a further impact of consequences.
     It is an endless collection of ripples interacting in an infinite pool of time.
     Even inanimate objects have a significant role to play. If a tree falls and blocks your path, you must find a way over, through or around it.
     Every action you take, every word you speak, every thought you have becomes a part of this collection of ripples, influences it and can be greatly magnified by it.
     It is Chaos Theory.
     It is The Butterfly Effect.
     It is Karma, Manifest.
     I have clear evidence of the existence of karma. It is not a matter of faith, rather a matter of fact – a matter of satya.
     Although its existence cannot be seen, heard, measured or quantified, it certainly has very real effects.
     It swept through the Deep South many years ago and convinced people that they were justified in lynching human beings based on the color of their skin.
     It pulled people together at home to gather their efforts and cooperate while their sons and husbands were off fighting World War II.
     It made Michael Jackson a star.
     It made Michael Jackson a pitiful laughing stock.
     Any decision you make, regardless of how insignificant it may seem on the surface, could ultimately end up affecting the lives of millions of people that you don’t even know, and many you do know.
     What is most important is being mindful of the contributions you make to it by virtue of simply existing and interacting with other life.
     It is crucially important to acknowledge the fact that we and our lives are so intrinsically intertwined and powerfully influenced by this, and that we would do well to keep that in mind when we make the decisions we do.
     We certainly are self-determined animals, but we are constantly inundated with influences in our lives. While that is no excuse to absolve yourself of your responsibility and accountability for your actions, not being mindful of such influences will cause you to fall prey to it. The immense power of this is something that should be revered, not blamed, because the source of the blame is placed squarely on individuals and their actions.
     Everything is interconnected, and those interconnections, are a beautiful example of synergy. The sum really is greater than the whole of its parts.
     We all exist within Karma, Manifest – it is the reality we experience.
     That synergy is what I worship.
The Interstitial Intersection
     Through my train of thought jumping from one track to the next and next one morning, I found my mind hovering over Elijah Muhammad, which caused it to wander to a thought that brought up a significant question for me – a question that made me reconsider a long-held belief of mine – and not just a belief that I stumbled upon or was indoctrinated into to, but a belief that I had formed over years of careful exploration and stringent challenging.
     I love those questions!
     The thought my mind wandered to was, “If being the victim of racism has made you a racist, you are no better – you’re still just a racist.” It made perfect sense to me: While the source and cause of your prejudices may be understandable, that doesn’t make them excusable. They are only truly significant for understanding and self-exploration to learn how to undo the damage that has been done – not to serve as a ready excuse for your appalling behavior.
     This long-held belief I referred to has always been a point of internal contention for me and this is why I explored it so much and kept coming back to challenge it over and over again. “I am the result of my experiences.” In other words, I am product the countless influences on me throughout my life. While the line between nature and nurture (if there is a discrete line) may never be quantified, nurture certainly plays a significant role in shaping the people we become. Karma is real, undeniable and wholly unavoidable.
     The difficulty of this for me had always been the reconciliation of external influences and personal responsibility. How much blame can be placed on the abused abuser – especially if the line between nature and nurture cannot be objectively defined? If we are who we have been influenced to be, how much responsibility can we truly have in our actions? At the same time, if free will does exist, how can we not be held responsible for our actions?
     On the morning of May 19, 2010, I felt quite at ease sitting within this contentious space, for the first time ever. My perception shifted in that moment.
     I love those moments!
     I never doubted – and still do not doubt – that karma is a real and powerful force. I never doubted – and still do not doubt – that I greatly value acknowledging personal responsibility and accepting accountability. The perception shift that was required to take place within me was not so much one of finding balance – which I am always searching for – rather it was more a shift of perspective. I began viewing my “self” as an intersection of what has come and what is to come – the intersection of past and future forming the present at “I Am.” – the intersection of influence and intention forming the self – the intersection of instinct and free will.
     Am I defined by the results of the influences upon me leading up until now or am I defined by the results of my actions going forward?
     The person I have become up until now is wholly defined by my past experiences (which includes, part and parcel, the decisions I have made by my own self-determination). In other words, who I was up until a moment ago, is defined by karma’s influence on me.
     The decisions I make in this moment are shaping who I am to become a moment from now, as well as shaping the influence I have on the world around me. In other words, the influence I have on karma is wholly defined by the decisions I make in this moment.
     The self is only existent in this fleeting moment between influence & potential and is wholly defined by action. The answer is not, as I had always assumed, striking a balance between the influence karma has on me and the influence I have on karma – the answer is to exist in that space between karma’s influence on me and my influence on karma.
     I have said a thousand times, “[This] is not life” and “[That] is not life” but I have never been able to say what I think life IS. Now I believe I can.
     Life is being mindfully present and actively engaged in the practice of turning influence into potential with your actions
     As such, nothing in life is more important than acting with integrity and compassion.
Lawyers, Judges & Fools
     A good idea is a wonderful thing – sublime, really. Intelligence is one of our greatest gifts and assets as human beings and a good idea is a manifestation of that gift.
     Once that idea is written as a system, however… when it is codified as a religion… then it comes with laws. Therein lies the problem.
     It’s not that I dislike rules in and of themselves – not at all. In fact, I love them. I have a fairly stringent rule system I live by, actually. As I told a friend once, at a silent meditation retreat, I have always wanted to be a monk – it’s just that I don’t believe in God, and I do very much like sex.
     The problem with laws is the three types of people who tend to come, part and parcel with them.
     Any written system of laws creates people who will read those laws, look for the loopholes and apply the letter of the law to justify their actions and beliefs regardless of whether they fit the spirit of the law. These people don’t turn to religion for guidance. These people are not looking for truth. These people already have their minds made up and are looking to the authoritative text for vindication of that. The Lawyers.
     Some of those Lawyers will take that a step further and wield those skewed beliefs as weapons to condemn, denigrate and oppress others and their views. The Judges.
     Still others will adhere to the letter of the laws, in the best faith, with no thought given to the outcome of their actions. They have the best of intentions toward piety, and rather than think for themselves, opt to defer to authority. They believe they are honoring the object of their divine worship by refusing to utilize the greatest gift their creator gave to them – their ability to reason and discern the virtuous path. These people are driven and controlled by fear, insecurity, shame and regret. The Fools.
     This is not to say that all religious people are one of the above. Those religious people who I do respect and admire, however, are good people regardless of their religion – perhaps in spite of it. The adherents who do not fit into one of the above categories would still be good people if they were not religious – this is where my respect springs from. They are virtuous because it is right – not because they fear punishment for lack of virtue.
     Laws are foisted upon us all under the guise of medicine and protection. Laws, they tell us, are necessary to protect all of us from the dregs.
     Laws are written by the Judges to oppress the Fools and allow the Lawyers to cheat the Fools. All of us suffer as a result.
     Anarchy, regardless of what pop-culture and teen-aged punks might reflect, is not a state of reckless, wild abandon and “every man for himself”. Anarchy is a state of intelligent people who do not require laws to be compassionate and act with integrity.
     Talk of free will and social justice to your heart’s content – laws imprison.
     Laws restrict the actions of those who would act with integrity and compassion, regardless of whether there were laws governing it.
     Laws allow – even encourage – others to act without presence of mind or genuine consideration over their actions and the possible consequences of those actions.
     Laws serve to allow others to take advantage of virtuous people and get away with despicable actions because they maneuver around and through the laws.
     I prefer religious anarchy.
Staking a Claim on Satya
     To state and explore a belief on a matter of reality is a worthwhile philosophical endeavor.
     To claim Truth over the unknown, one transcends the realm of personal belief and passes into dictate.
     Does the Christian God exist? If people believe in him, he does.
     All gods exist.
     All notions exist.
     All thoughts exist.
     Racism exists.
     Whether or not any god’s existence is a Metaphysical Truth, it is a reality. If people believe in anything and their lives are affected by this belief as much as they would be if the thing did exist then it does. Reality is wholly pragmatic.
     The power inherent in Gods is the power inherent in collective belief and action.
     If a million people believe in the God Ralph, and these million people act in accordance with how they believe Ralph wants them to act, does it really matter if Ralph’s existence is a matter of Metaphysical Truth? The results are the same. All gods exist within Karma, Manifest.
     God and The Devil are indistinguishable.
     Both reside in the collective intentions, actions and knowledge of man, and they are in a constant struggle with each other.
     While I do not hold any belief that any cognizant Gods exist as a matter of Metaphysical Truth, they do, in fact, exist in reality.
     Acknowledging the existence of a greater power is one thing – defining a god with traits, intentions and systems of thought is quite another. To then take that god and claim its existence as satya… To claim divine knowledge of the Truth of the unanswerable questions… In my view that’s misguided at best and damnable at worst.
     Regardless of whether or not the religion is “tolerant”… Regardless of whether or not the religion seeks to condemn non-believers… Regardless of how vociferously the adherents wield their Truth… To claim Truth (as opposed to simple belief) of the answers to these questions is to claim dominion over reality – thus attempting to manipulate the beliefs of others, and therefore control their actions.
     There is no greater transgression than to remove agency; to restrict personal liberty; to foist your own values upon others and force them to comply. While not every religious person attempts to force their own beliefs upon others, every religion does so by virtue of attempting to stake such a claim on Truth.
     What alternative do we have?
     Simple: Honesty.
     What is so scary about the phrase, “I don’t know”?
     People seem to be so terribly afraid of admitting there is something they can't answer. People are afraid of the unknown. People are afraid of so very much, and it cripples them to the point that they are no longer living their lives. Without fearlessness, self-determination cannot exist. Without self-determination, life does not exist.
     The sad irony is that people who are afraid of death are already dead.
     I don't know what will happen after I die. That doesn't scare me.
Why Religion?
     Why not just take a good idea, hold it as a personal truth and live a virtuous life? Why create a religious system of laws?
     Religions, intentionally or not, prey and feed upon the greatest weaknesses of man: Insecurity, Shame, Regret and Fear. People, being a social animal, want to be accepted – they want to belong. Most strive for those open arms by attempting to steer within the confines of what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. They want a strict, clear set of laws dividing right from wrong – without question – to come down from an unwavering (usually undeserving) authority they place above them.
     A religious code is, at best, immovable and inflexible by nature and, at worst, a potent weapon.
     People fear the unknown – and their insecurity does not allow them to provide their own guidance through darkness. They don’t know what the Truth is, so search for an authority to tell them (and dole out punishment for those who do not follow).
     People crave justification for those actions that prick their conscience. They are desperate for forgiveness for that which shames them. They want someone to tell them it is OK to let go of that regret.
     From the last paragraph of the last chapter of A. E. Haydon's "The Biography of the Gods": "For too long, we have put off unto the gods those things that we should be doing for ourselves."
     If we acknowledge our own culpability, accept our own shortcomings, reflect upon & learn from our actions (as opposed to regretting our mistakes), accept that there are things we do not understand and strive to live with integrity & compassion, gods become redundant and Religion becomes a fetter.
     No, I do not have faith that any cognizant gods exist as a matter of Metaphysical Truth.
     They do exist as a matter of reality – however I do not worship these Gods. I worship Karma, Manifest as a divine power in much the same way that people worship these Gods of theirs.
     Thus, I am not a theist or an atheist.
     I am a non-theist.
24  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Hostage as a Service - What's after SaaS? on: April 29, 2011, 06:16:09 am
     In the recent ITSMWP – The Lost Episode, Chris Dancy asked two questions that I think are quite closely related – and that I would like to respond to:
          “At what point does Software as a Service become Hostage as a Service?”
          “What comes after Software as a Service?”
               (these are both paraphrased, as I don’t have time to listen to the entire podcast again at the moment)

     Software as a Service becomes Hostage as a Service the moment you turn the key – though perhaps in a somewhat different context than Chris intended. Chris was discussing the aspects of a provider holding your business data or denying access to your SaaS solution when, for example, the bill has not been paid. This is most certainly something which must be considered very closely. Beyond having access to your data (through regular backups, hosting it on premise, using a separate provider or what-have-you) careful consideration must also be given to accessibility of that data through a different platform (as was also mentioned on the show). If you decide to switch vendors (or if your vendor is unavailable for whatever reason) what good is having your data, if you can’t use it to run your operations? If you research well, perform a solid risk analysis and plan for such contingencies, these really become moot issues. Awareness disarms the threat. There is another threat, however…

     The greatest concern I have about implementing a SaaS solution is version control.
     How many times has Facebook implemented an “upgrade” that you thought made it worse? Tough shit!

     When you have an on-premise solution, you face related risks – but not nearly to the same extent. You can elect to not upgrade to the latest version. While you run the risk of not having the latest features, fixing known bugs, or losing interoperability with other systems – you have the ability to weigh those risks and make that decision for yourself. You can wait for others to test the waters of a new version before diving in. You can decide to stay on an out-dated version while building a remediation plan and rolling out a new solution. Hell, you can decide to stay on an old version years after it is End of Life, if it is still working for you.

     The simple fact of the matter is that one size does NOT fit all. If 80% of a user base wants feature X implemented (or retired) it will happen, regardless whether or not it works for your individual purposes. If you have an on-premise solution (or better yet – and in-house solution) you have a much greater level of control over what does & does not get implemented. With a SaaS solution, you are at their mercy.

     We need complete ownership of and control over our data – we also want to still have the freedom of off-premise solution hosting, the agility of rapid deployment, the scalability of elastic computing and the flexibility of utilizing alternative vendors to manipulate our data.
     In addition, we need to follow ITIL’s prime guidance of “no tools before the rules.” We need to design our processes, THEN find or develop tools to fit, not vice versa. Buying a huge tool suite that “does it all” stands in direct opposition to this ideal. You simply will not find a full suite that perfectly aligns with your ITSM strategy and supports all your processes, as designed. In order to ensure that the tools we use align with our processes (without sacrificing our process designs to align them with the closest fit we can find) we must implement multiple point solutions that each align with the respective processes. But do they talk to each other? Not only do you need to be concerned with data format & accessibility, what workflows can pass through? Will your Event Management tool automatically open a record in your Incident Management tool? If so, what happens when one or the other is upgraded? Will that customization still hold?
     So, what comes after SaaS? PaaS. No, Platform as a Service is not new, but the model can answer all these concerns if those offering it can develop innovative new modes of delivery and dramatically simplified development.
     What is any ITSM tool really, beyond a user interface overlaying a simple data manipulation engine? A few bells and whistles here and there, but the majority of the difference between a Problem Management tool and a Change Management tool is simply the data structure and the workflow logic. If this is tagged as that, then kick off procedure X to generate this and request data input into those fields. All we need to do is to standardize and compartmentalize functions into interlocking, plug-in middleware components and select a pretty GUI.
     SalesForce and Hornbill are paving the road to the future – the next step is Open Source.

     We need:

          Point & click menu options (do you want this to be a drop-down, or a grid?)
          Drag & drop data relationships
          Visually diagram workflows and processes
          Development projects seeded with roughed-in, standardized templates that can easily be customized and expanded upon

     Take a hint from the website builder tools out there. Your mother could build a fully-functional, customized, e-commerce site without ever looking at a single character of code. If she does know code, however, she could do that much more.

     The days of multi-million dollar tool suites are dwindling and we need to rush that demise along with Open Source PaaS solutions.
     We need communities generating and sharing their own point-solution templates.
     We need solution design platforms that make developing on Visual Basic look like rocket science.
     We need the ability to host applications and data in the cloud (with backup strategies ranging from weekly archival to real-time transaction shipping) that can be built with little-to-no code by UI designers.

     Tool suite vendors have us hostage. SaaS providers have us hostage. The cost of on premise infrastructure has us hostage... The road to freedom is Open Source PaaS.
25  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / The Farce of "Cultural Change Management" on: March 29, 2011, 06:33:03 am
     I keep hearing, over and over again, that people are inherently resistant to change and we must combat that resistance.
     Pretty much everything I read about exactly how one should combat that resistance reads like an eight-step guide for producing effective propaganda.

     I don’t buy in.
     Maybe the vision just hasn’t been communicated consistently and often enough to sway me.

     If you tell someone you’re going to make a change to make her job easier (and she believes you – a level of trust that only develops from consistent performance on the part of the management structure) very few will actively resist that change.

     If you’re not making her job easier with this change, by the way, you need to take a serious look at your processes and what you’re aiming to accomplish.
     As I recently mentioned when I was on the soon-to-be-released itSMF Connect, Learn, Grow FM Podcast – Episode 11… When I was an SA, I would routinely circumvent the Change Management process, because it was a bear to deal with. It took a minimum of 20 – 30 minutes to build a change record. Then I had to fill out online forms in anywhere from three to six different systems. Then I had to call up to a dozen people to ensure they would approve my change request in time. All this for something I could change in less than five minutes and I knew was little-to-no risk. I also knew I wouldn’t get caught making the change without a record – if I went about it the right way and covered my tracks. If someone told me they were going to make the Change Management process simpler, I would have eagerly embraced that change and bought the person a beer.
     If your people are willing to exert extra effort and face disciplinary action just to avoid your processes, don’t blame the people.
     Simplifying your Change Management process and automating it as much as possible will not only make your employees happier & more productive, but it will ensure a greater degree of accuracy in information for audit, configuration management, incident management, financial management… the list goes on.
     But I digress…

     On March 14 at 7:30 AM I tweeted:
How to address fear of change: Transparency.
Most are not resistant to change, rather stupidity. They tend to embrace change for the better.

     I also said fairly recently (but I don’t know exactly when, because Twitter has crap search functionality):
Challenge all axioms. The most important things to question are the things we aren't supposed to question.

     What people fight is policy over-correction in the wake of failures – as opposed to genuine desire to refine processes.
     What people push against is summarily overwriting procedures with each new organizational shift.
     What people begrudge is being blind-sided by punitive actions resulting from failing to comply with poorly communicated, or entirely un-communicated, procedural changes.
     What people resist is change that is detrimental to them.
     What people embrace is change that is beneficial to them.

     Far too often, the people who are actually following (or, more accurately, avoiding) your processes not only have little faith that a change will make their jobs easier – but they don’t even know a change is coming until it’s there. This gives the workers the impression that senior management has no clue what their job entails and furthermore, has no faith in their capability or intellect. Unfortunately this impression is far too often correct.
     How often are line workers involved in the decision-making process?

     In a recent blog post (The Promise of the Social Enterprise) I talked about what I missed from my days of working at a start-up… What people want is to have a voice that is not only heard, but listened to. People want to make a difference. People want to matter. People want to be valued for their contribution. People want to be treated like intelligent adults.

     When a decision is made, don’t just tell people what has changed, but WHY.
     It’s pretty simple, actually… Treat your people like people.

     In another blog post (The OTHER Other 4 P's of ITIL (Don't be an ITIL Thumper)) I shared one of my favorite stories from American History…
George Washington was having a HELL of a time at Valley Forge. Supplies were low. Food was low. Disease was running through the troops. It was an inordinately harsh winter… Washington decided to hire a sharp-shooter. He recruited a legendary Prussian General (Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben) to teach the bedraggled farmers and merchants how to be soldiers. General von Steuben noted that he had never before commanded army troops who would question his every order the way these Americans did. He couldn’t simply issue a command and expect it to be followed – they would have to know why. Once the reasoning was explained to them, however, they would respond with admirable dedication.

When this story is told it is often accompanied by fife & snare, playing behind a rugged, masculine, confident, Sam Elliott-esque voice pushing one “Story of America” patriotic hegemonic domination agenda or another.
I don’t think the story says anything in particular about Americans at all.
Revolutionary war troops weren’t “soldiers” – they were people fighting for their families, land, prosperity and lives. They were facing down a direct and palpable personal risk. I love the story because it demonstrates how people who have a real stake in what they are struggling for and genuinely care about what they’re doing (as opposed to those hired to fight someone else’s battles for them) will work with a driving passion to get the job done well – not just look like they have.

     The only valid “Cultural Change Management” is Management Changing their own Culture to one of transparency and employee engagement.
     Management needs to a foster a culture of:
        • Encouraging employees to utilize the capabilities and talents that got them hired
        • Empowering employees to innovate and contribute to organizational direction setting
        • Instituting a forum for employees to voice their points of view
        • Instituting a two-way open communication policy
        • Rewarding and recognizing employees for their contributions

     Another discussion that tends to be much more complicated than it should be is how to reward people for those contributions.
     When I listen to people discuss what can be done to reward people and “shape the corporate culture,” I often can’t help but think of Pavlov’s Dog. Give the little puppies treats for following your directives and they will follow your directives (or more likely, find ways to fake it) but is that what you’re looking for? Do you want little, robotic extensions of you or do you want bright, dynamic people who will bring value to your organization by scrutinizing the way things are done and find better ways to do them? Do you want a bunch of nodding, bobble-headed yes-men or do you want to be challenged by alternative perspectives that will drive progress by disrupting status quo?
     A manager demands compliance – a leader encourages innovation.
     Trinkets, tricks, badges, wall plaques… Please stop insulting your employees with cheap platitudes.

     If Pavlov is at one end of the ineffective rewards spectrum, we will find Peter & Hull at the opposite end.
     As I see it, The Peter Principle is appallingly rampant in IT for one primary reason – the only way people can see you in most hierarchies is to climb to a greater height. If you want both the power to exercise influence and the satisfaction of being recognized for your contributions, what other option do you have?

     How do you reward people?
     It’s pretty simple, actually… Treat your people like people.
     A “Good job, Bob” goes a Hell of a long way when it comes with a genuine handshake from senior management and is witnessed across the organization. Contribution-based bonuses don’t hurt either.

     I’ll leave you with another recent tweet:
It’s impossible to dictate culture. The best you can expect is to dictate feigned compliance. Foster positive behavior & trust your people.
26  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / The Promise of the Social Enterprise on: March 14, 2011, 09:51:55 am
     The most rewarding job I’ve ever had was when I worked at the North Carolina Department of Insurance. I was the sole technical support (desktop, LAN, Server, Firewall, etc.) for a group of about forty insurance regulators whose job it was to put corrupt insurance companies & agencies into receivership and absorb their assets. I was shutting down crooked insurance companies – it was a beautiful thing.

     The best job I’ve ever had, however, was with a dot com startup. When I was at the startup it had about three dozen employees.
     I was on a first name basis with the CIO and the CEO.
     I’d sit and talk relationship woes with the CFO.
     The Chairman of the Board saw it as a personal challenge to try and make me flinch, so he would throw punches at me in the hallway.
     Every other Friday quitting time was noon. We worked our asses off the rest of the time – this was our chance to let loose. You could go home early if you wanted to or, you could decide to stay. If you stayed, weapons came out – water pistols, suction-cup dart guns, you name it. The CEO would take out the key to the liquor cabinet and they would order food. One night of particularly exuberant reverie, the CIO decided he wanted to start a band. Somehow (I still have no idea how, I think I was the only sober one that night, so I know it wasn’t me) everyone got it into their heads that I offered to play bass in our company band. I found this out on Monday morning. I never played bass before in my life, but I figured, what the Hell – I bought a bass on the way home that night. The IT Director was going to teach me how to play.
     It was a great group of people I worked with, but all that was just the icing on the cake. It wasn’t how well I got along with everyone… it wasn’t the fun we had in the office… it wasn’t even that I shot the CIO with a Nerf gun…

     The reason this was the greatest job I’ve ever had is that it was my company.
     When we had staff meetings, the whole staff was there – and the whole staff had a voice. They understood why they hired the people they did. We were intelligent, creative people with value to add to the company. Regardless what your daily responsibilities were, you were expected to offer your input on every subject and that input was taken seriously. What I said was not only heard, it was listened to – I helped to guide the company.

     It would be impossible to overstate the culture shock that struck me when I went from this environment to a company that had over three hundred thousand employees in over one hundred countries and an IT budget that would make dozens of national leaders blush. I went from being a critical engineer of a beautiful machine we were building together to feeling like a cog on a wheel in an insignificant mechanism of an impossibly large, complex locomotive – driven by an equally large man I would never meet.

     The potential – the promise – of the Social Enterprise is to nimbly slip through that antiquated, bureaucratic structure and replace it with a beautiful machine, engineered by the intelligent, creative employees.

     I see two fatal errors as I watch the Social Enterprise movement develop and slowly build steam…
     The first error can be pinned on the vendors. My research is not quite complete yet (and may never be with the rapid proliferation of tools) but the vast majority of what I’ve seen so far, amounts to little more than collaborative micro-blogging suites. As I’ve said enough times to be annoying now; without comprehensive integration with critical Business Information & Knowledge Management – it’s just chat.
     The second destructive force I see… Of those organizations who are actually considering implementation of Social Information Management, senior management perspective tends to be one of either simply enabling more efficient collaboration or some form of internal crowd-sourcing. They are continuing to follow the far-too-typical-by-now narrow-minded, short-sighted bottom lining.

     What the right Social Information Management tool can offer is exponentially greater than that.

     Why do people love working for startups?
     People want to use their talents they’ve worked so hard to develop. People want to grow, through challenging their limitations. People want to take pride in ownership of an organization they help build and steer. People want to contribute and be recognized for their contributions. People want to matter.
     Some people’s talents lie in managing people – most managers have little talent for managing people. The reason people clamor for promotion is because that’s the only way they can see to achieve the level of ownership and engagement that’s generally only possible in senior management roles, or in startups. Of course the money doesn’t hurt, but it’s not nearly as important as people make it out to be.
     The proper Social Information Management tool, implemented with an open, transparent, constructive policy, can unlock the vast potential lying dormant in every larger organization and forge a path toward an Egalitarian Meritocracy – Peter Principle be damned!

     The great beauty of an Egalitarian Meritocracy is not that it benefits the organization by discovering apt leadership or that it benefits the members through offering otherwise unattainable opportunity – it strikes a symbiotic synchronicity between the two and benefits the whole in a much more profound way than the parts ever could alone.
     The great potential of the Social Enterprise is not simply efficiency – it’s energy – it’s engagement – it’s a voice – it’s empowerment.
     The great promise of the Social Information Management is not chat – it’s personhood.
27  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Re: Coming Out of the Closet... The CMS Can Too on: March 09, 2011, 08:37:34 am
How do you detect change subversion?  By regular autodiscovery then building comparator tools
How do you detect change subversion of stuff that can't be autodetected?  Um...
Introduction of a CMS does not introduce these problems.
Change subversion is a process & culture issue.
I know you’re saying that these things will force the information to be out of date, but regardless what method you use (even “wetware”) the same issue applies, so these are moot points at best.

In fact, I would argue that integration of the Change Management tool with the data repository would be a significant step toward streamlining the process by allowing for auto-population of required fields, making it less painful to follow – thereby making compliance MORE likely.

Techs don’t like dealing with documentation. That’s not news – it’s a challenge in every organization, at every level. The easier you make it and the more value you demonstrate to those providing the documentation, the easier it becomes to overcome that challenge.

Change Management compliance is absolutely critical for security, governance, cost control, and on and on…
Compliance with Change Management should, in my view, be adamantly enforced with a zero tolerance policy.
Given that, if the Change Management tool were designed to effectively capture the change data (which it seems rather silly to NOT do) then the CMS is an organic outcome.

how do you load the initial data that's already there? By discovering, cleaning up, and manually linking it up
That is certainly one option (and almost certainly the most common).

How many organizations do you think already have some level of an Asset Management database system already available? I’d wager a Hell of a lot more than 5%, wouldn’t you? Seems like an ideal seeding ground to me.
From there, the initial relationships can be built by the teams responsible for maintenance of those systems. Those same support personnel that you would be calling at 3AM to answer the question in the event of an outage will be responsible for configuring the logical links within the tool.
Priority would be based on a simple risk assessment – which should really be done anyway.

Another option would be to just let it get populated as changes are introduced.
Depending on the rate of change in your organization, this may take a while – but given the industry standard for change failure rate, it just may be suitable for your business needs to only populate the data as it changes.
If 75% of your incidents are caused by change (which is certainly not unheard of) then this works out to be an automated “just in time” approach and just may be the ideal approach.
Install the tool and your work is done.

How do you deal with data being automatically created by ops tools? By building federation connector software then maintaining or testing it every time one end or the other  changes
How do you deal with entities being identified by multiple sources?  By building reconciliation software and manual processes
How do you detect all the info on new devices?  By building yet more integration software to procurement system (even if CMDBf ever means something real, procurement systems aren't going to talk CMDBf)
That was kind of the whole point of this post. If the Change Management tool were designed appropriately, none of this would be an issue at all.

The size of the up-front investment is not solely based on the size & complexity of the environment – but the purpose of the tool, the state of the environment and the state/maturity/effectiveness of your processes.
The worse off your infrastructure & process compliance are, the greater investment it is likely going to require – but then, the worse off your infrastructure & process compliance are, the greater the justification of that investment.
28  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / ITIL on Fire - A Parable on: March 04, 2011, 10:04:27 am
     Our story, like many stories, begins with an Event. In this case, the Event is a few trace particles of smoke attaching themselves to ionized oxygen and nitrogen particles in the air between two opposingly charged plates in a household smoke detector.

     The Event Correlation Engine at the Event Monitoring Operations Bridge of the home security monitoring company recognizes that this Event signifies an ongoing Incident, so it triggers an Alert for the operators to see and respond to. The Incident Management Process is automatically initiated by the Event Management tool, opening an Incident Record. This Incident Record is picked up by an Incident Manager from First Level Support in the Operations Bridge, whose job it is to manage the Incident on the customer’s behalf.

     The Incident Manager tries to contact the customer in an attempt to verify the potential Impact and Urgency of this Incident, so it can be determined how high of a Priority it should be assigned. They don’t want emergency services swarming upon the house for a burnt dinner. If the customer either confirms that this is a High Priority Incident, or the customer can’t be reached within a three minute threshold, the Major Incident Process will automatically be initiated.
     The emergency services Service Desk and the home security monitoring company have cooperated to design a Major Incident Response Process that works effectively and efficiently across the two organizations. They have a clear understanding of one another’s responsibilities and roles in the Process. When the Incident Manager at the home security company initiates the Major Incident Process, it bypasses the standard Incident Management Process used by the emergency services Service Desk in the event of someone calling 911. The home security monitoring company’s Incident Management tool opens a connection to the Incident Management tool at emergency services, automatically generates & populates a High Priority Incident and establishes an audio/visual communication line between the Incident Managers at both sites.

     The home security Incident Manager does reach the customer, who confirms that his house is on fire, he is trapped in the second floor bedroom and he is unaware whether his two children have escaped. She stays on the telephone with the customer to gather as much information as possible, which she populates into the Incident Record and initiates the Major Incident Process. She is also providing First Level Support to the customer by giving him survival advice until help can arrive. The third, and perhaps most significant, aspect of her job at this point is to keep the customer informed & assured – she tells him what is being done to rescue him and his family.

     Following the Major Incident Response Process, our emergency services operator escalates to the Fire & Rescue Department. He also involves the emergency services Operations Bridge, so they can plan the ideal route to the fire and control the traffic lights.

     The Fire & Rescue Department is largely a volunteer force. It has a few employees whose sole responsibility is fighting fires, but most of the fire fighters work other full-time jobs and must be called away from those responsibilities in emergency situations such as these.
     All the individuals in Fire & Rescue team are well aware of their own responsibilities. The Fire & Rescue Chief is the Process Owner and, as such, has ultimate accountability for the outcome of the Process. The Associate Fire & Rescue Chief is the Process Manager. She arrives on site with the team members and manages all ongoing Activities.

     The emergency services Incident Manager shares all the acquired information with the Associate Chief, who will then disseminate that information to the team members and utilize it to coordinate efforts. The Associate Chief also performs a Hierarchal Escalation to inform the Chief of the Incident.

     The home security Incident Manager, still on the telephone with the customer, informs him that help is on the way and is expected to arrive in four minutes.

     The first responders cordon the area and act as traffic & crowd control. The fire fighters assess the situation first-hand and work to find the best way to rescue the people trapped inside. Once the people have been removed to a safe distance, a health assessment is performed, first aid is administered and, if necessary, they will perform a Functional Escalation to the on-call hospital paramedics. The top priority of the rest of the Fire & Rescue team now shifts to fighting the fire and ensuring the building and surroundings are safe and stabilized.

     It’s right about this time that the fire investigator shows up on the scene to try and solve the Problem of what caused the fire. The fire investigator will review the Incident Record, look around for evidence from outside the scene and interview witnesses during his search for evidence, but the Associate Fire Chief will not allow the investigator’s work impede the work of Fire & Rescue team. The fire fighters will do what they can to preserve evidence during the Incident, but not if it impedes the Process.

     Once the Fire & Rescue Associate Chief allows the investigator access to the scene he can really begin his Root Cause Analysis. The investigator’s team determines that the cause of the fire was an electrical outlet in the living room, but the wiring was up to code. They could see no apparent cause. They decide to open a Problem Record for further investigation.

     Back at the office, the investigators run some statistical trend analyses to find other Incidents & Problems similar to this one. The knowledge management system they use is a report generator front end placed upon data warehouse middleware, which federates data from all past Incidents & Problems, as well as home construction configuration databases, building permits, population data, federal crime & accident records, and every other data source they could connect with logical relationships within this data warehouse. They find that in over 90% of Incidents with similar conditions nationwide, the homeowners had the same brand of circuit breaker installed, but there are over forty thousand homes with these circuit breakers in the city that have never caught on fire – many of them had been using this brand for well over a decade. Further analysis of available information uncovers that the houses that did burn all had these circuit breakers with BX cable wiring, while none of the houses with more modern Romex cabling had burned. While there is an evident risk to all houses equipped with a combination of BX cabling and these, specific circuit breakers, it is not conclusive whether the houses with Romex cabling are at risk. Since managing a project to change the circuit breakers in the more than forty thousand homes would be unwieldy and cost prohibitive if there is no valid risk to the homeowners or their property, the remediation path is unclear and needs to be assessed by a body with greater authority.

     Upon reviewing the investigation findings, the City Council decides the best Strategy would be to hire a consultant that specializes in testing home wiring to perform a Risk Analysis. The result of the Risk Analysis indicates that the homes with Romex cabling are at no risk, but the homes with BX cabling face a 65% chance of fire.

     The City Council decides that the best Strategy is to Change the wiring code to prohibit the dangerous combination, assess current property configurations and put together a risk remediation project to address the homes that currently fit the risk profile.

     A Request For Change is generated and submitted to the Mayor for approval. The Mayor takes issue with the timeframes for required homeowner compliance and negotiates with the City Council until an agreement is reached and the RFC is approved. A remediation committee is convened.
     The team generates a Change Record under the umbrella of the RFC, and assigns it to the city building code department, requesting they make the changes to the wiring code. Meanwhile, the committee builds a remediation & public awareness plan under a separate Change Record, under the same RFC.

     Once the code changes and the remediation & public awareness campaign are drafted they are submitted for Release and reviewed by the City Council and every other department that would have a stake in the outcome of the plan. Upon approval by the Release Process, they are put on the Schedule of Change as High Priority Change Records. At the weekly Change Approval Board meeting, the Change Records are approved and sent off to be Deployed.

     The Change Records, RFC, Problem Record & Incident Record can now be closed and will all be closely scrutinized, looking for ways to improve the Process executions and integration.

Never The End
29  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / My Billion Dollar Idea! on: March 03, 2011, 04:14:09 am
     What do you do when you get a billion dollar idea?

     When I get mine – and I’ve had a few – my course of action tends to be fairly predictable. I have a five-step strategy:

Step 1:     First, I lose sleep for a few weeks (or a few months, depending on how complex the idea is). I lay awake nights, mapping out which cogs of which gears turn which axles… When I’m not in bed, I do the same thing at work, during meals, when I’m driving… I research on the web, work out process details, buy new books, draw, write…
     Of course I tell few, if any, people. I will tell my wife and, once in a while, a trusted confidant or two. Otherwise I try to work and hammer out all the details myself.

Step 2:     Once I start to get a clear picture of what is possible and a vague idea of how it could be done, I start to daydream about the possibility of it. By the end of this week, I already have a core staff of employees who will grow with the company and get rich off my brilliant idea. I imagine what the TV commercials would be like. I’m refusing to ever take my company public, because I want to offer my employees unparalleled profit sharing. My administrative assistant bought herself that classic Porsche she has always wanted, with her holiday bonus.

Step 3:     Eventually, when my work begins to slip behind schedule and the suffering in my personal life becomes unbearable, I take stock of all I have accomplished. I try and pull back a bit from my dreams of wealthy janitors and try to face reality a bit. What skills are needed? How many people? Supplies? Office space? Marketing funds? The marketing funds is always the biggest hit – especially with web-based businesses. Yes, they are practically free to start and grass-roots efforts are all well and good, but the minute your site is found by someone who likes the idea and DOES have the money to spend on proper marketing, you’re gone. I try and guesstimate, as well as I could, how much cash I would need for five years funding. After all, I can’t afford to quit my job without the guarantee of at least five years of paychecks coming in.

Step 4:     Inevitably I come to the conclusion that I haven’t the time (nor often the skill) to do it ALL myself. Fortunately, I have a full-time job and a full-time life. I also can’t afford to pay anyone a salary, so I start to consider what options I may have of finding partners. If people are as excited about the idea as I am (which, of course they would be, because who wouldn’t want a handsome share of a billion dollar idea?) I will be bound to find people to partner with!
     People with ideas, but no resources, also have jobs keeping them busy. People with resources tend to have their own ideas – they don’t need mine. Yes, there are career venture capitalists, but they seem few and far-between these days. Besides, I used to know a bona fide career venture capitalist, many years ago... I would sooner sign a contract with Johnny No Knuckles than with her.

Step 5:     The final step is to file the idea in the back of my head and let it scratch and dig incessantly, but at least unobtrusively enough to sleep again, until the point that when I see someone else getting wealthy off a strikingly similar idea it’s actually a relief to let it go.

     All-in-all, my five-step business strategy hasn’t worked out too well for me so far.
     I say this every time, but maybe this time it will be different.
     I’m hoping those who read this can help me make it different this time. I have a lot of smart people reading my Blog.
     How does this work, damnit?

     Every since I read Great Expectations as a kid I’ve always wanted to find an unbearably wealthy benefactor. I would come up with the brilliant ideas (I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I have watched my ideas go successfully to market over and over again – they really ARE good ideas) my benefactor would bankroll them and I would make him richer so he could then fund my next idea.

     Where’s my Abel Magwitch?

     The idea that kept me up last night – and has me here at work an hour and a half early, writing this – started out several months back as an inkling about a Social Media search engine. I came up with an idea for a search interface that would actually be effective and usable for Social Media – but something just didn’t click. There was something there, but try as I might, I just couldn’t see it. It came to me in a flash, last night before bed, and I haven’t slept yet. Once I realized what I was looking at, the rest of it came to me in waves and floods all night.
     What I have been batting back and forth for the past few months wasn’t the interface for a new Social Media search engine – it was a new Social Media site – though I have found myself wanting to drop the “Social Media” moniker and call it a “Social Information” site.
     Of course I’m not going to go into too much detail, because someone reading this – someone with the resources they would need to run with the idea – may like the it, but I will say it addresses what I see as all the shortcomings of both Twitter and Facebook. It has integrated, comprehensive search capabilities – with an innovative, intuitive interface. The interface performs several different, highly customizable functions, but the customization is quite simple. It would work equally well: as a light, personal, social tool for casual users; a feature-packed professional networking & marketing tool; a brand research tool; and, given the data structure, search functionality & user interaction methodology, it could even function as a form of knowledge base. As the idea was taking shape in my mind, I kept getting excited over the possibilities it could present for the ITSM Practitioner Collaboration Tool & Knowledge Base I’ve been going on about.

     So… What now? I’ve done some web development in the past. I’ve done some database design. I’ve done some of most things – but I certainly can’t do this on my own. So, how do I do it? I’m no entrepreneur – I’m an idea man and a people leader, but not a money man. I’ve never been to business school. I don’t know how to ask for money (and actually get it). I don’t know how to do a business plan or even what to do with it once I have it. Even if I did have a stellar business plan to present to potential investors, the fact that I don’t have an MBA and all I know about forming an LLC I read in “The Portable MBA” years ago, will convince them they should not give me a dime – they might even want to call security to have me escorted out.

     So tell me... What’s an idea man to do? Aside from giving bread to an escaped convict I come across in a cemetery and waiting ten years, how do I find an Abel Magwitch of my own?
30  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Coming Out of the Closet... The CMS Can Too on: March 01, 2011, 05:50:36 pm
     I get up for work at 3 AM. In an effort to disturb my wife as little as possible when getting ready, she uses the big closet in the bedroom and I have the two smaller closets in the office (spare bedroom). One of these closets is dedicated for work clothes (dress shirts, plain t-shirts and jackets). The other closet is the rest of my shirts. Regardless how hectic my work, my life or my house may be, my work closet is always very well organized. At a glance, I can see not only which shirts are clean, but which shirts I haven’t worn in a while and are prime candidates for charity during the next great purge event.

     Best of all, I never have to organize it.

     As I see it, organization has three essential aspects to consider:

Functionality – Is what you need where and when you need it?
     We keep most of our books up in the office, but we always ended up with a big mess of books in the living room, because that’s where we read most often. Not only is it inconvenient to have to trudge upstairs to get the book I was just reading yesterday, but they never found themselves back upstairs, anyway. Rather than fighting our laziness and forgetfulness, we used it. We bought an attractive bookshelf for downstairs. Most of our books are still upstairs, but the ones we’re currently reading have a place to live downstairs.

Usability – Is it easy to find?
     My wife and I have a bit of a disconnection when it comes to this. If I know where it is, it’s organized – even if it looks like a mad professor’s laboratory. In her view, if it looks tidy, it’s organized – even if I may never see that screwdriver again. I suppose the ideal house set-up is somewhere in the middle, but the fact remains, if I put my hand down where I expect something to be and it’s not there… it’s simply not organized.

Maintainability – Is it easy to keep organized?
     This is where my closet really shines. It’s not a big walk-in closet with a thousand custom-made drawers, nooks and hooks to keep all my sundry haberdashery (one of these days I will do a blog post about my dismay and despair over all the haberdasheries disappearing – it’s a damned shame, I tell you). It’s just a pole – a pole with a support in the center. Fact is, if it had those thousand drawers, it would likely be difficult to maintain (though I still aspire to that one day). The beauty of my closet is that I don’t maintain it at all.

     When I put my clean clothes away, the support bracket in the middle is the divider. I put my hands in the middle and spread. Now I have a big, empty hole to hang all my shirts in… dress shirts on the left, t-shirts on the right and jackets on the far right (out of the way, because I don’t wear them very often).

     When I get dressed, still bleary-eyed after my morning shower, I look in the middle first – not only is it where my eyes are naturally drawn to, but I am going to take one from the left and one from the right for the day, so that’s the most reasonable place to reach toward. In addition, all my favorite shirts will be found in the middle (as they are the most recent to come back from the laundry). Given that the more toward the center the shirt can be found, the more often I wear it… when clean-out day comes along, I know that I should be looking at the shirts on the far left only. It takes me about one minute to figure out which shirts are going to charity this time.

     The organization is functional, it’s usable and (most significantly for a lazy bastard like me) it’s maintainable. It maintains itself, in fact. The organization of my closet is an organic byproduct of the processes of getting dressed and hanging clothes in the simplest, most convenient way.
     It’s ideal.

     Whenever I have an organization project, I start thinking about the organization of my closet.

     I was doing laundry the other day and had a thought about the elusive Configuration Management System.

     In IT, data is has never been our problem. We could never hope to find a use for most of the data we produce – and if there is anything we don’t produce, that’s rarely a significant challenge to overcome. The real difficulty is organizing that data into usable information. It’s a country full of cities full of warehouses full of closets full of tiny drawers.
     The thought…
     “What if there was a way for that data to organize itself, the way my closet organizes itself? What if the organization were an organic byproduct of the process of introducing change into the infrastructure in the simplest, most convenient way?”

     Why not? Don’t scoff!

     Organized, service-oriented information could be an organic byproduct of your Change Management process and an automatic output of your Change Management tool. Furthermore, when your organization is ready to institute Adroit Infrastructure, you’re halfway there, already!

     Allow me, if you will, to paint you a picture…

     You’re a Service Manager. Your service has been running hot, and you want to add more CPU cycles. You get the approval to procure a new server and the process begins. As part of the RFC, your SA has to specify what the server name will be in a change record (built off a simple “New Server” template, of course – with all the criteria that were agreed upon as part of the Release Process being required fields). Once the template makes it past the QA check in the Release Management process, it automatically gets submitted as a Standard Change and the new CI is automatically introduced into the CMDB as a stand-alone server. Once the stand alone server is populated in the CMDB, you go to the Change Management tool, select your service from the list (required) select the server name from the list (required) click the button to add the server to your farm. Once deployment is complete, the information gets automatically associated in the CMDB and is available via your CMS. The next time a change record has to be opened against that server, it can simply be selected from the list (automatically populated from the CMDB, of course) and the SA can select the “Security Patch” template or the “Decommission” template or the “Install Software Package” template…

     I’ll grant you that this is an oversimplification, but the idea could certainly be applicable across many different types of changes – as long as you have your Change Management process nailed down, you have the proper template pre-populated and your Change Management tool is built & configured properly, that is.

     The CMS doesn’t have to be the nightmare that everyone makes it out to be… it doesn’t have to be months of reconciling auto-discovery data – just to end up incomplete & incorrect, anyway… it doesn’t have to be the ongoing manual maintenance melee that nobody will participate in… It can be the organic byproduct of your Change Management tool – while at the same time simplifying your Change Management process, making it more user-friendly.

     Your CMS can build itself.

     Your thoughts?
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