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Service Design, sinister iPads, kettles and bremsstrahlung

Did you know that, for about 10% of the world’s population the iPad has a design flaw? If you have spotted it, you’re probably sinister – that is left-handed (‘sinister’ is from the Latin for ‘left hand’ – as, of course, ‘dextrous’ is from the Latin for right hand). If you use Apple’s cover and prop your iPad on the desk, the button is on the wrong side for left-handers. Shouldn’t Apple have catered for the needs of 700 million left-handers?

The answer, even for me, a left-hander, isn’t obviously ‘yes’. It would be an expensive variation and, because it is so much of a right-handed world, most left-handers are used to finding things awkward to use and just get on with it without even thinking about it. Getting it right mattered enough for me to buy a left-handed trumpet – the design of brass instruments also discriminates against us.

My thoughts turn to design again because I’m looking forward to teaching the ITIL V3 2011 service design course soon. Design is important in so many areas, and it’s easy to spot whether a design is good or bad – but a lot less easy to do design well. Particularly when the difference can be a subtle as which side the hinge goes!

At the itSMF conferences in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in 2010, I gave a presentation on service design, pointing out how painfully slow the evolution of the kettle has been. As usually happens, each stage didn’t involve a proper re-think of the requirements, but, rather, took the existing design and made a technology-driven adjustment – often leading to a poor solution. For example, metal is a good material to use for a kettle if you’re hanging it over a fire and want the heat to travel into the water – but a terrible material if you’ve got an electric element inside because the heat will travel, wastefully, out from the water to the metal. I have a glass electric kettle to avoid this – and that also allows me to see the water boiling, not something I’d have thought was that important, but I enjoy watching it, sometimes, particularly as the kettle also has functionally useless, but attractive blue LEDs that remind me of the exciting time when I looked into a nuclear reactor and saw the beautiful bremsstrahlung (‘breaking rays’) glowing as the neutrons were slowed down by the water.

One of the most useful observations of ITIL in, terms of understanding design requirements, is, I think, the observation that value is produced by the combination of utility and warranty and that utility is not just a matter of supplying a particular feature, but also of removing constraints from the user. My glass kettle, with it’s blue rays, prevents me from being bored whilst waiting for a it to boil as well as proving to me that watched kettles do, despite the contrary maxim, boil.


Facebook, IOS, availability and service design

I have been traveling – I’ve been away teaching an ITIL intermediate course (continual service improvement – CSI). So I’ve been using my iPhone to access Facebook, and very convenient it is too.

I made two embarrassing mistakes, though. I posted what were intended to be general, social comments to entertain friends to a group involved in discussing service management (the excellent Back2ITSM group) – most inappropriate of me. Of course, when I discovered this, when I got home, I deleted the post – but it made me think about why I made this faux par.

One excellent feature of IOS, the operating system (based on Unix, of course, which is one reason that it, like the Mac’s OS/X and, indeed, Android, work so well) of the iPhone and iPad, is that it keeps the state of its applications (‘apps’ to everybody now..) when you stop using them. This means that you don’t have to start at the beginning, logging in and then hunting for where you were before, making it much quicker to get back to whatever it was that you were up to previously.

The reason that this feature has been designed into IOS is based on the service management discipline of availability management. If you have an outage of any sort, your ability to use the service is, of course, compromised until you get back to where you were before – this is called the ‘down time’. Much of downtime is involved in fixing the problem and restarting it all, maybe the ‘phone, the operating system and your application. The final bit of that, though, is getting back to where you were before. By saving where your are, and what you are doing, IOS reduces that final stage of recovery to a minimum. It also makes it easy to switch between different apps with a minimum of fuss, knowing that what you’re doing in one will be kept there until you get back.

All excellent stuff, but there’s a snag. This was what led me to make my embarrassing mistake. I thought that I was just using Facebook and, as I’d expect if I was using the safari on my mac, I thought that I was at my main page, so my post would be for my friends. I had, though, previously, posted a comment to #Back2ITSM so I was there – and my picture and comment ended up, inappropriately, in that group.

What can be done about this? Well, from one perspective, it’s all my fault, really, I should have remembered what I was doing. I also should have looked at the screen more carefully, because it did have a label saying that I was in the group, not on my main page, or the newsfeed page. I know other people have made the mistake, though, so one solution would be for Facebook to make it clearer (maybe with different colours for the different screens, not just a label) where you are. This would resolve the basic problem.

From the point of view of design, however, the message is a little different. The real problem was that my experience on a browser (Safari – though they all work the same way) on my Mac was different from my experience on IOS. The solution, in the long term, must be for Mac’s operating system, OS/X, to move closer to giving the same experience as that in a mobile device. This is, indeed, what Apple is doing – I have only just downloaded it, but Snow Leopard (the latest version, after Lion, of OS/X) is, apparently, much more similar to IOS, so my Mac experience should become more like my iPad or iPhone one.

What a pity that the lovely new Macbooks don’t have touch screens….


The future of prISM for IT career development

There has been an interesting and important discussion on the future if prISM on LinkedIn  - many excellent points have been made. I think that prISM is one of the best achievements that the itSMF (initially the USA and International, but now with lots of contributors world wide). It is a valuable and useful programme for the industry, helped by its broad scope and international base - as well as the support from the vendor-neutrality of the ItSMF.

It does need to reach a critical mass of members. We need to help get it there.

Would it not make sense to treat it from an ITIL perspective and get the itSMF community to fund a CSI exercise to move it to the next stage?

It would be terrible to lose the excellent work and other investments made thus far!

One of the other great achievements is itSMF publishing - might it help (the first item for the CSI register?) to produce a publication explaining and supporting the programme aimed at HR, recruiters and practitioners?


itSMFsa Event in Cape Town - at Engen

The itSMFsa had an enjoyable and well-attended event in Cape Town in June. I would have written about it earlier, but we've been working to get the new itSMF site into shape so that this can be my first blog entry on the site.

Engen very kindly provided the venue (thank you Natalie for your support with the logistics!) and arranged for some very tasty snacks that we enjoyed as we caught up with fellow members of the itSMF - it was a reunion after quite some time for some of us and we all met new people. It was good to see the level of interest, which became even more apparent during the event with the enthusiasm that greeted the presentations as well as the detailed questions.

Dave Campbell-Watts gave an excellent presentation, titled 'Clash of the Titles'- with impressive graphics - of the work that Engen has been doing in Service Management over the past few years. It was impressive to see how much it has been embedded in Engen's culture and how much it has contributed to improving user and customer satisfaction in various areas. As always, though, there is room for improvement. Dave had an interesting description of how different professional could meet, apparently to achieve the same objective, but with startlingly different perspectives and expectation. He described, amusingly, but accurately, how a Project Manager, a Business Analyst and a Service Designer would arrive, well prepared, from their perspective, to examine requirements with a clear idea of their needs, but end up confused, frustrated or combative when their colleagues revealed quite different expectations and assumptions. Dave made some useful, concrete, suggestions on how this situation could be improved, enabling productive teamwork to be achieved - you can look at his slides in our member section on

I then was pleased to be able to introduce some of the ideas that I've been working on, with the itSMF International publishing team, on a similar theme, but exploring what would be required for an integrated requirements process to be designed and implemented.

The audience had plenty of relevant questions and very useful comments to make and there was a lively discussion of what would the implications of the two presentations would be in practice.

The evaluation sheets revealed that everybody had enjoyed the evening very much - one person who attended described it as 'mind blowing'!

I'm looking forward to the next event that I hope will be soon - we've got some very interesting real life experiences from two different organisations who have been working to implement a Service Catalogue. We'll post the invitation as soon as we've arranged a venue and time.


COBIT 5 - here at long last!

COBIT® 5 was officially launched today and it would be interesting to see what the markets acceptance will be of the much broader scope of COBIT 5. With a subtext like “BUSINESS GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT OF ENTERPRISE IT” the scope of COBIT 5 is quite ambitious!

Nothing wrong with the boarder scope – it is the right thing but essentially COBIT is now no longer an IT “thing” but a business “thing” and if business in general will embrace something written by IT people remains to be seen.

The new version was based on five key principles (no the 5 has nothing to do with the version – just a co-incidence), namely:

  1. 1.The framework needs to meet stakeholder needs
  2. 2.The frameworks needs to end-to-end and cover the whole enterprise
  3. 3.Its needs to be a single and integrated framework
  4. 4.Must be a holistic approach and
  5. 5.Must separate governance from management.

I think the framework has definitely meets the set principles for the development of COBIT 5and is the first attempt to develop a holistic governance framework. It will however take time for people to digest this ambitious scope of the new COBIT and whether it will be embraced by the whole enterprise remains to be seen.

I remain positive though about the success of COBIT 5 but as a member of the development workgroup – I suppose I’m not entirely unbiased.

To find out more about COBIT 5 go to

COBIT(r) is a regsitered trademark of the IT Governance Institute and ISACA.


itSMF SA is going places.

After a few bumps – the itSMFsa’s launch of the new website is the beginning of an exciting time for the itSMF and members.

We have created a place where you can find information, interact with the ITSM community, get involved, get answers or just chat with like-minded people.

Hope you enjoy the site and make full use of it!