I received an email asking if it was possible to buy ITIL software. (My Email address is on my About Me page)

Sorry – not really

As the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a framework of “Best Practices” – There is not “One Right Way” to perform any ITIL process. Compared with something like your accounting, where generally acceptable accounting practices are generally fixed – any accounting software is generally going to behave the same way.

ITIL Aligned

While you cannot purchase ITIL Software – various software packages can be ITIL aligned

Software tools such as Help Desk, Asset Management etc can be ITIL aligned when they understand and work with the ITIL processes. For example, a Help Desk tool can understand that incidents can be linked to problems (or multiple Incidents can be linked to one Problem.)

Of course, if you are a large organization and can drop 7+ figures, companies such as IBM or CA will supply suites of tools based around their CMDB’s (Configuration Management Database) that enable full lifecycle management of IT assets, from discovery through help desk etc.

For Mid to Large Market businesses – tools such as BMC’s Remedy and Provance (and others) can provide ITIL aligned solutions.

What ever your organization size, the key point is the process. You can leverage just about any tool (or tools) to follow the ITIL best practices.

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Enter In Ignorance

July 29, 2008

Over the years, when I have been interviewed to join new organizations I have been asked what the first things I would do to fix a certain issue or problem. Invariably my response is something along the theme of “learn”.

While experience and skills can provide a framework to apply, every situation is unique. As Peter Drucker is reported to have stated, he entered his consulting roles with mammoth organizations such as GE not from a position of expertise, but a position of ignorance.

Hiring, Or Being Hired

As a business manager In the SMB space, it can be difficult to accurately assess the skills that you want to hire as far as technology goes. Maybe it is the “first IT individual” you are hiring. Or you realize that you need a more strategic managerial view of your IT spending.

My comments of “learn” is exactly that. No preconceived notions or assumptions. Something that seems obvious on the surface, may have a root cause that is completely different.

When hiring, (or if you are being hired as a small business IT staffer)

Don’t: Assume that the world can be changed the day after a new hire starts. (warning flag if they say they will!)

Do: Ensure that you have documented the expectations that you have for the position – Especially for a more senior strategic role, this is not necessarily a “job description” – but the fundamental goal that you want the position to achieve.

Don’t: Set it and forget it. As detailed in other posts on this blog, it takes continuing management.

Do: Ensure that speaking in business terms, not “geek speak” is the norm.

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By far the most searched terms leading to my blog are regarding ITIL in the SMB space. (to the tune of about 10 to 1) If there is further information or questions that you have, or if there is other information that you are looking for, please feel free to drop me a line.

I have stated in many places that the benefits of ITIL are numerous and I would like to hear your thoughts.

Second, if you are an ISV or IT vendor in the SMB space, consider aligning your product or service along the ITIL framework.

Best Regards,

Elliot Ross

If you are one of the many small business / medium businesses that don’t watch their web site analytics as detailed in my previous post, maybe you won’t need to worry about this one!

In the SMB space, as our businesses grow and evolve, it is not uncommon to perform extensive “renovations” of our corporate web sites. (we just did a complete 100% rewrite of our own).

But if you have spent time working to optimize your site, or if in the past you have had third parties linked to case studies or white papers on your site; these renovations can be deadly. (figuratively speaking!)

Those Pesky Links and URL’s

As stated by Jennifer Osborne at Search Engine People;

After all, it’s still the same site.

or is it?

Google doesn’t think so.

When initiating any project to rewrite your website, evaluate what data you have, your keywords, and where they are located. If it is at all possible, keep your new directory structures identical to the old ones.

Because as Jennifer Osborne states in the above article, if links that formerly worked, cease working, the mathematical algorithm used by search engines start automatically lowering their level of “trust” in that website.

Not to mention, that if there is a third party reference to some material on your web site, the absolute slightest change in the full URL will cause that link to fail.

If you absolutely must change your full website structure, ensure that you correctly re-direct old URL’s to the new ones. You don’t want a user coming to your website getting a plain “404” Page Not Found error.

If you are currently planning a website overhaul, the above article has some tips on how to minimize the risk of that transition.

If you are in the SMB space – how many times have you “renovated” your site over the years?

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As small business / medium business owners amd managers most of us really suck at both utilizing and understanding search engine optimization and marketing. (SEO / SEM)

Frank Reed of bnr marketing writes;

…. The adoption rate of search marketing as a real marketing tool is still quite low for small to medium businesses (SMB’s).

It is true – Even in the businesses that I have been associated with – only one even did web site usage analysis, and they did not perform search engine analysis.

What is your website homepage?

And this is a problem – quite simply;

Those little lines of links on Google or Yahoo! are part of your homepage. Unless it is your Aunt and Uncle who already know you exist, anyone finding your business has to look for it.

And today that means Search.

The question for those in the SEO field has to be communicating the value, communicating the necessity and demonstrating the efectiveness of this process.

And for us as SMB managers, it is truly understanding that http://www.google.com is going to come before http://www.your_company.com – Just about every time.

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IT Hostage Taking

July 23, 2008

Larry Seltzer at eweek published an article on the current San Francisco case where a Network Admin was the only individual to have business critical knowledge and passwords for key IT infrastructure. Allegedly, this now jailed employee changed all the passwords and is refusing to divulge them.

As Mr Seltzer states;

If critical information exists only in the brain of one person, that person is a disaster waiting to happen.

This situation is not just an IT issue, in the SMB space this crosses many boundaries as we do more work with less people than large organizations, we all wear many hats. In this tongue-in-cheek titled post Can your Small / Medium Business pass the Beer Truck Test? I wrote;

Who else knows where that payroll or financial information is? Who else has any idea on your accounting system, or any other technology resources that you have?

As a small / medium business manager or general manager it is absolutely critical that your IT (either outsourced or internal) is part of your agenda. Your infrastructure must become systems dependent – not people dependent.

This is a case where Managers abdicated their IT responsibility, they did not delegate it. In the SMB space we have less redundancy in our staffing of various critical functions.

Without getting into possible deliberate misconduct as in the above case – how many scenarios can you think of that would have more of an impact on a small / medium business with one person gone?

Like your controller who suddenly has a death in the family – 3 days before payroll?

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On this blog I have posted many summaries of how even SMB managers can save time and money utilizing ITIL processes . This post is not one of those summaries, but a real world example of how “practicing what I preach” has just saved me an inordinate amount of time.

This is one small example – but scale this small example over time, and you begin to see where the time and productivity savings start to accrue.

The Incident

At my organization we use many of the same make and model of laptop computer. Approximately 6 months ago, one of these computers died. The symptoms were extreme corruption of the video screen and then a failure to boot up properly.

My home built Asset Management system told me that the unit was under warranty, So I called the vendors warranty support line.

The support issue lasted almost 2 weeks and took hours of my time, on phone calls, repair work and shipping;

* the support representatives shipped a new hard drive for the laptop. I had to remove the old drive, return it to the vendor, install the new drive, and start to reinstall the operating system. No luck – still dead – The operating system install died halfway through.

* they then shipped new memory (RAM) chips – I had to remove the old memory and install the new chips – Again no luck – still dead.

* Finally they sent a service technician to replace the Video Processor and Main Board – voila – it was actually the video board that was the problem

So the ITIL Incident Managememt Process has a “failure to boot” of that particular asset

The Problem Management Process documents that the Video Processor card was the culprit that caused that incident.

The Benefit?

I just had another laptop of the same Make and Model fail with the exact same symptoms. Will I have to repeat that 2 weeks and countless hours?

No!

I will be calling the Warranty support line again, but due to my documentation from the first incident and problem, I can reference that first “service Ticket” with the vendors support staff – we know what the fix will be.

They will still have to replace that video processor – but we will avoid the days and days of shipping new parts and hours on the support line.

Duuh Can’t you remember that?

Of course – I personally could remember that first incident – but the point is that regardless of your IT being supplied by a provider, or internally – anyone could avoid that wasted time and effort.

The Caveat

I have written in the ITIL summaries that the process of managing the ITIL framework can be the most difficult. If staff do not follow the framework, all the knowledge captured in that first incident and problem resolution is wasted if the second time it happens some tech just ignores the historical information and picks up the phone to repeat it all over again.

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