3 days of ITSM training

Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th June was our ITSM training session. Amazingly, the lovely Sally Swaine of the IT & Digital Skills team managed to secure 3 whole days of our Director’s and Assistant Directors’ time to attend, which I thought was nothing short of a miracle to be honest! In addition we had a selection of managers and representatives from other teams to discover what ITSM and ITIL are and how we can benefit from them as an institution.

The days were structured as thus:

  • ITIL Awareness (Wednesday)
  • Operation Aftermath simulation game (Thursday)
  • Change Management and looking forward (Friday)

Overall, the days were really informative, bringing to light the core elements of ITIL and the purpose of IT Service Management. We spoke a lot about ITSM bringing VALUE to the business (which I have spoken about briefly in a previous post) and about how this is the most important thing an IT Services section can do to ensure they are aiding the University in the best way they can. Our trainer, Adam White-Bower from Quanta training, really emphasised the fact that great IT Service is about providing exactly what the University needs “and not one iota more”, not going above and beyond but finding out what the University really NEEDS (not what they want) and being able to quantify and offer that.

We went into quite a lot of detail on the ITIL Lifecycle on the first day, which I will be delving into in future posts to explain why each element is important and how it would impact us as an institution.

Operation Aftermath on the second day was hilarious and fast paced, I think several people may have left with slightly less hair and slightly more stress lines than when they arrived! Each person in the room was given a role in the simulation game, which was based around running a refugee camp after a natural disaster. Some of the role allocations included Richard Murphy playing the Camp Manager (Service Delivery Manager in ITIL terms) who ran the whole thing, Vince Swann playing the Systems Engineer (Applications Manager), Bret Giddings playing the part of Welfare Officer (Change Manager) and Lina Cullington playing the Liaison Officer (Service Desk Agent). See the pictures below for an idea of what we got up to:

There were shouts of “Cholera!” and “Fire, where’s the fire?!” I will leave this to your imagination (or you can ask one of the attendees) but, needless to say, it was a very entertaining but also informative day.

The third day we focused on Managing Change in an organisation and Stakeholder Engagement. It really struck home to me in this day how difficult this is but also how important – making sure you know who to talk to, at the right time in the right way, ensuring everyone is actually appropriately engaged and how it can be very easy to push forward with changes without doing the requisite work which means that at best everyone gets very confused and at worst it annoys loads of people and the change doesn’t even stick anyway. If you’re interested in Managing Change there’s a couple of great Lynda.com course on it here:

Leading Change (1h 42 minutes)
Embracing Change (12 minutes)

So what’s next? I will be talking to all training attendees to find out what they think the key benefits are for us as a section and for the University as a whole. From there we’ll be really defining what we want to get out of the changes and why, which I will share with you here. And then we’ll be looking in more depth about how we go about doing that, which is where each and every one of you, whether you’re in IT Services or not, comes in.

Do you have previous experience in ITSM or ITIL in a previous institution? Or a view on what would be the most beneficial thing for us? It would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments, as well as any ideas you may have for how we could achieve some quick wins for the section.

All fired up

I’ve got to admit, I’m quite excited about the ITSM Managers training course next week. I genuinely think it could be the start of some really interesting and significant discussions about how we manage IT at the University. It is a privilege to be involved in such a potentially influential programme and I hope those involved will take part wholeheartedly to engage with discussions around the future of IT Services.

My real personal passion is for great leadership, in any walk of life. My opinion is that great leadership makes great teams which in turn makes great work – this is palpable in some of the more public facing successful business leaders such as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.

One of the reasons I took my current job is because I see the potential for great leadership in IT Services – the understanding of need and passion for change and growth is there, even if the exact steps of how to get there are not yet. And this is where I see my role to be – digging out and finding the steps that might start us on the road to fantastic IT Service Management.

I’ll be sure to let you know where our next step might take us in another post after the training. Exciting times ahead!

5 reasons for slow IT support

I’m not an expert in this, so I’ve stolen this title from that of a post written by Noel Bruton, an IT Support expert and consultant. It’s an interesting article indeed and one I would recommend having a read of, whether you deal with IT support or not:


We might be working with Noel some time in the next few months to help technicians in our section make support manageable and super-efficient and improve the service we provide our customers in the rest of the University. I am keen to see the difference it would make in the service we provide others and in the happiness of our IT Services staff.

Dive into Lynda.com to learn ITIL

In another part of the forest of Customer Support Services, we’ve recently launched a very exciting project setting up and spreading the word about Lynda.com (if you want to know more about this take a look at our website). You can learn all sorts of fascinating things on there including all about ITIL! (Woo hoo, I can hear your shouts of excitement from here!)

My colleague spotted it and told me about it and I’ve taken a look – it’s not really my cup of tea to be honest in terms of the way it is delivered, however it will no doubt give you a good grounding in the ITIL Framework if you want or need it, and will also prepare you for the ITIL Foundation Certificate exam if you want to take it. Here it is:

View the ITIL Foundations course

A walk and talk with the Director of IT Services


I would highly recommend an outdoors walking meeting or brainstorm or even just thinking time on your own – gets the blood flowing and stimulates different thinking patterns (I’m pretty sure I’ve read research about that somewhere). Plus being outdoors in the sun with a coffee has got to be a better way of working than in a boxy office that you’ve been in all day.

I’ve just been for a walk and talk with Richard Murphy, Director of IT Services at Essex. And my big question for him today was… Why do we want to use IT Service Management? What does he think it can provide us, both as an IT Services section and as a University?

It’s a really interesting question, because everything I read about ITSM always talks about the technicalities – what it is, what methodologies you can use, what does it mean, what does value mean, what are services etc etc. I don’t think I’ve read anywhere yet a plain English summary of what can it do for you. What benefit it has. What impact it has on an organisation. What effect it has on each and every person’s work life. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. But this is the core of what Richard and I talked about – not the what and how, but the WHY.

Richard is going to write a guest post on this blog in the next couple of weeks about why he thinks ITSM is the way to go, so I will leave him to describe his thoughts in his own words. However, I feel like once we know why we do the things we do, the what and the how just fall into place a whole lot easier. I envision that using ITSM practices will enable us to understand why we do what we do in IT Services a whole lot more clearly.

How much do your meetings cost?

My friend has written a little piece of code that works out how much a meeting is costing in real time. I literally cannot think of anything more useful, I can’t even imagine how much money we spend on meetings in this institution and I’m sure we’re not alone! Some meetings will be totally worth their cost I would like to point out, but wouldn’t it be great if we could see in real time the actual cost and then decide whether the time was being well spent?

Well, I asked my friend and he is happy for me to share the code here with you folks. It’s fairly rudimentary and not very pretty, but it should work. You will need to run it in a Powershell environment – I know nothing about Powershell but there’s a ton of information out there about it. See instructions for running the code below:

  1. Enter the number of participants and guesstimated average salary at the top.
  2. If you run it as below, it will increment from the time that you ran the script. If you want to specify a start time, uncomment the second $start and add in values for date and time.
  3. Copy into powershell window.
$Participants =
$AvgSalary = 

$Start = Get-Date
#$Start = Get-Date -Year 2016 -Month 4 -Day 27 -Hour 14 -Minute 0 -Second 0

Start-Sleep -Seconds 1

$End = Get-Date
$Dif = New-Timespan -Start $Start -End $End
Write-Output ("You have been here {0}:{1}:{2}. There are {3} people here - Meeting cost: £{4:N2}." -f $Dif.Hours, $Dif.Minutes, $Dif.Seconds, $Participants, (([float]$Dif.TotalHours) * $Participants * ($AvgSalary / (48*5*7.2))))

He said:

I am going to see if I can add in a “time since something relevant last said” reading, as well as a “cost per relevant information” output at the end.

Further suggestions are always welcome (comment below and I will forward them on).

Have fun 🙂

Three mountains to climb

The Three Sisters in der Abendsonne

As of about now, I’ve got three potential ITSM-related projects on the go. They all seem like good ideas to me, but they’re all somewhat falling short at the moment… however I think this is due to the problems mentioned in this post. So, with openness and clear communication in mind, here’s a little summary of them all:

ITSM for Managers

What is it: A three day course  for managers in IT Services to get a real understanding of ITSM and what it will mean for us
Where are we with this:
All booked up and ready to go with a company called Quanta
When is it going on: 18th – 20th May
Feedback so far: Mixed – some uncertainty as to the point of it or whether we are the right people to be on the training

The three days of this training aims to cover:

  1. What is ITSM and ITIL, what does it mean to us (IT Services) and the rest of the University
  2. Operation Aftermath – I’m really looking forward to this one… it’s a simulation day based on the Apollo 13 space flight where we can try out the ITIL practices in a scenario situation. Space and stuff!
  3. Managing organisational change and what shall we do next

This likely won’t be the last you hear from Quanta – we’re aiming to engage with them over a number of months to help us decide on direction and embedding of various ITSM practices in the section.

Support software replacement

What is it: We’re looking at replacing our current software, Cherwell
Where are we with this:
In discussion with another provider (possibly two)
When is it going on: Will have to be completed and switched over by the end of July
Feedback so far: Mostly positive feedback about going for different software, uncertainty over whether it will be “just another Cherwell”

To be honest, Cherwell is a bit of a dirty word to some in the section. Some people seem to think it works, it does the job, let’s just get on with it. Many find it the worst part of their day – it’s slow, user experience is terrible, it’s not setup the way we need it to be (that’s on us though to be fair). Mostly, I find it an outdated piece of software with great intentions but my feeling is it ain’t the right one for us. And given we’re going to be getting hundreds of people using this tool for a number of years, I want it to be the right one.

The main worry I think people have with this project is that it will be executed in the same way as Cherwell – thrown into the mix with very little proper support and resource and no direction. Well, I’ve taken that on board and that will not happen this time folks.

Changing support practices

What is it: Noel Bruton comes in for a few days over the space of a couple of weeks to show us a tried and tested way to manage, measure and predict IT support
Where are we with this: Still in discussions with the provider, haven’t mentioned it to the Directors yet
When is it going on: Not sure yet, possibly after the Quanta training
Feedback so far: None as yet. I need to raise this with the Directors first to make sure they see the benefit and are on board

This is a new one which I haven’t really told anyone about yet – I’ve been in discussions with a guy called Noel Bruton who has years of experience with IT support. Amongst other things, he has spent a long time with many different IT teams refining a few techniques which make the IT support process efficient, transparent, predictable and easy-to-measure. I know, it sounds like that’s not even possible (well it felt like that to me), but I went on a training course run by him last December and got an insight into his techniques and suddenly was all like “Oh! That makes so much sense!”. Although I learnt a lot myself on the course, I realised how clearly he can articulate the IT support process and how efficiently he can embed it in our section, so I am investigating getting him in for a few days to work with various teams in the section. Get ready to manage your support queues like a boss!