Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Foundations of ITIL v3

AFTER MAKING THE CHOICE TO SELF-STUDY for the ITIL v3 Foundation Exam (as opposed to paying for a prep course), the next decision was to find study materials.  My colleagues who'd obtained the Foundation certification had done so via prep courses offered by their employers, so unfortunately they weren't very helpful in recommending study texts.  So, after reading a dozen or so reviews of different texts on Amazon, I settled on Van Haren Publishing's Foundations of ITIL v3.

The book comes with study questions at the end of each chapter and then a comprehensive practice exam at the end.   The actual ITIL Foundation exam is scored Pass/Fail, consists of 40 multiple choice questions, and only requires a score of 65% to pass.  I supplemented the study guide questions with those at  And reading the book twice and taking practice tests until I was able to get an 80% consistently on the exam (after about 2 weeks of study), I registered for the real test.  (On the real test, I ended up scoring a 76%.  Which is to say, the test questions were of comparable difficulty as the actual test.)

For project managers who have obtained the PMP certification and are familiar with PMI's PMBOK text, you are familiar with how dry and abstract body of knowledge/best-practice texts can be.  Foundations of ITIL v3, while not ITIL's 'official' body of knowledge, reads with the same abstractness.  Since there are few real-world examples in the text, this type of abstractness can pose as a barrier to making connections among the various concepts and in determining what is, or isn't, important.  The text is laden with acronyms and definitions and Visio-inspired pictures, which can be abstruse if you've never worked within an ITIL-practicing organization.  Fortunately, I had worked in a (few) ITIL-practicing organizations. :-)

As with PMI's PMP exam, you are advised to not rely on your workplace experience to answer questions, but to instead answer questions in the manner in which ITIL prescribes.  I agree that this is true, but it does help to have worked in an organization that has a service desk, that uses a Change Control Board, that has roles for Transition Manager, etc. as this helps to put meat on the concepts, making them more digestible.

The book is organized into the five phases of the Service Lifecycle (pictured above).  Needless to say, the names of these 5 core areas should be memorized, and, while you don't need to memorize the corresponding processes and functions within each, you should at least be conceptually familiar with the process and function definitions.

Click on each link for tips on preparing for each core area.

All in all, the book, paired with the practice questions from was more than capable of prepping me for the exam.  I give up two thumbs up.

Monday, December 29, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Transition

SERVICE TRANSITION IS TO ENSURE that the agreed services are deployed from Service Design to Service Operation effectively.  It entails the following processes:

  • Transition Planning & Support
  • Change Management
  • Service Asset & Configuration Management
  • Release Management & Deployment Management
  • Service Validation & Testing
  • Evaluation
  • Knowledge Management
Key Concepts

  • Configuration Item (CI): an asset, service component, or other item that will be controlled by configuration management (e.g., a user's desktop is a CI that would have a Configuration Record stored in a CMDB which would indicate 
  • CMDB (Configuration Management Database): a database used to store configuration records of Configuration Items.
  • Release: a set of new or changed CIs that are tested and will be implemented into production together.
  • CAB (Change Advisory Board): an advisory consultation body that meets to advise the Change Manager assess, prioritize, and schedule changes.  In the case of an emergency change, a smaller advisory board, the ECAB (Emergency CAB), would make the decision.
  • 7 R's of Change Management: 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Operation

THE PHASE WHICH ITIL REFERS TO AS SERVICE OPERATION is what is typically called steady state, or business as usual.  After a product or service is introduced into production, Service Operation entails the processes which support keeping that product or service available in the production environment:

  • Event Management
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Request Fulfillment
  • Problem Management
  • Access Management
  • Facilities Management
  • IT Operations Control
  • Application Management
  • Technical Management

In addition to these processes, it is also essential to understand standard roles in Service Operations such as:

  • Service Desk Manager
  • Super User
  • Incident Manager
  • Problem Manager

While project managers are typically not thought of in the context of Service Operations, it is important to recognize that project managers do often perform duties which work closely with Operations, such as in the case of major infrastructure upgrades or the deployment of new procedures, which often leverage project management techniques to ensure a clean handoff from Service Transition into Service Operation.

Key Concepts:

  • Problem vs. Incident: An incident is something that needs to be resolved immediately. This can either be through a permanent fix, a workaround or a temporary fix. An example of an incident would be a server crash which causes a disruption in the business process. If a server is used only during office hours, a crash after office hours is, strictly speaking based on the definition, not yet an incident since the no service was affected. It becomes an incident only when the outage extends to the hours of use.
  • Problems however are not incidents. An incident can raise a problem, specially if there is a high possibility that the incident might happen again. In the case of a server crash after office hours, the crash is a problem. This is a high priority problem because if this problem is not resolved, this will become an incident.
  • The 9 activities in the incident management process are useful to know:

  • Problem Management entails:

  • Workaround: A method of avoiding an Incident or Problem, either by employing a temporary fix or technique that means a Customer is not reliant on a Configuration Item (CI) that is known to cause failure. 
  • Service Request: a general description for a request from a user for information, advice, a standard change, or access to a service. These occur on a regular basis and involve little risk (e.g password resets or installation of software on a workstation) 
  • Service Desk: A service desk is a functional unit with staff involved in differing service events. These events come in by phone, internet, or infrastructure. It's important to note that it is a SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for IT users and it deals with all incidents, access requests, and service requests. It can organized in many ways, depending on the needs of the organization: 

Culinary Capers: African Chicken Peanut Stew (Week 1)

In week 1, I tried African Chicken Peanut Stew.   I think I bit off more than I could chew, literally.    The recipe seemed straightforward enough, but it was the first time I'd used canned tomatoes, ginger root, and peanut butter in a dish.

The dish called for browning the chicken legs in oil in a skillet before adding it to the stew ingredients.  I browned about 5 drumsticks for this purpose, but I wasn't confident that they were done all the way through.  While the dish called for adding the chicken to the stew bone-in, I opted to remove the chicken from the bone before adding to the stew, so I could inspect that the chicken was thoroughly cooked.  And sure enough, one of the five drumsticks was undercooked with blood at the bone.  Would the chicken have finished cooking in the stew?  In hindsight, probably so, but I threw the bloody piece out.

I like to think I have an adventurous palette, but the finished dish, which I served in a bowl with jasmine rice, made me a little nauseous. I couldn't quite put my finger on the culprit. I tried the dish again as leftovers the next day and still had the same feeling.  Then, I went back and reviewed the recipe, which called for cooking for 1 hour and 55 minutes--except I only cooked it for 55 minutes.  I suppose that's what puts the stew in stew!  I'm thinking that the ingredients didn't have a chance to fully combine together because I removed the heat too early.  Reading is fundamental.

I'll try this dish again in April, but I learned a couple of things here:

  1. When browning the chicken legs in the skillet, I'll cook them longer and leave the bone-in.
  2. I would've preferred more bites of chicken in the stew.  Next time, I'll add a couple of more drumsticks next time.
  3. Knives!  In removing the fat from the chicken, I realized my knife game sucks!  I need to invest in some proper knives.
  4. I didn't thoroughly peel the skin off of the onion and the ginger root, which left annoying bits of skin in bites of the stew.  I'll be more meticulous about peeling them in the future.
  5. While I've always hated seeing people post pictures of plates, I need to take pictures.
On to week 2!

Culinary Capers: Black Man Cooking (Week 0)

SO, I'M A BLACK MAN FROM the South who grew up in a family with very "traditional," i.e. sexist, gender roles where, on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, men refined their jive-talking and armchair quarterbacking in the den around the TV and women spun their stories and generational recipes around the stove in the kitchen.  I remember the rare occasion as a boy where I'd cross the imaginary lines into what in my family was considered the "woman's domain." The way my entrance into the kitchen would stop time and stop conversations made me feel like a White man who'd accidentally entered into a Black club.  I may as well had stumbled into the jungles of Thailand or the countryside of Poland; it was that bewildering and strange.

As I got older, I learned that there were many Southern men who, on the contrary, were rather good cooks.  And as I became a young adult, I marveled at the new wave of male TV chefs--Emeril Lagasse and Justin "ga-ron-tee" Wilson.  And despite my otherwise progressive and feminist leanings, it took decades for me to undo the mental shackles that stood between me and having the confidence to consistently work a stove to do something beyond boiling an egg.  So, for 2015, I'm committing to become a "better" cook, by cooking at least one dish per week, and blogging about it.

To baseline expectations, I'm starting out having never worked an outdoor grill and my idea of spaghetti is, much to my embarrassment, taking store-bought Ragu, mixing in some ground meat, and pouring it over the noodles.  I eat out--a lot.   I have a few recipes I've followed over the years to create edible meals, but not in a way where I'm confident in cooking for company.  So, to build suspense, I'll put a challenge out to myself.  Can I become a good enough cook in time to host Christmas dinner?  Only time will tell!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Continual Service Improvement

IF YOU'VE EVER WORKED IN AN ORGANIZATION that uses Lean Methodology, then you've got a running start into the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) phase.  CSI concerns itself with:

  • measuring and analyzing service level achievements by comparing them to the requirements in SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
  • Recommending improvements in all phases of the life cycle.
  • Introducing activities which will increase the quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction of the services and the IT service management processes.
  • Operating more cost effective IT services without sacrificing customer satisfaction
  • Using suitable quality management methods for improvement activities.
CSI accomplishes this via measuring and monitoring;
  • Process Compliance
  • Quality
  • Performance
  • Business value of a process
Key Concepts/Methods/Tools:

  • Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle: Deming's 4 steps which guide process improvement.
  • Metrics: Measurable attributes which determine whether a variable meets its target.
  • CSFs (Critical Success Factors): high-level objectives essential to meeting a business mission
  • KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can be qualitative or quantitative and help to define whether the CSFs are being met.
  • Benchmark: An agreed upon metric which is considered a baseline (may be determined from industry standards/best-practices)
  • Gap analysis - Determines where the organization is now and the size of the gap of where it wants to be.
  • Balanced scorecard - includes different perspectives on organizational performance - customer, internal processes, learning and growth, financial, etc.
  • SWOT Analysis - Looks at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of an organization/component.
  • Swim-lane diagram - Visualizes relationships between process and organizations
  • 7-step Improvement process:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

ITIL v3 (Foundation) - Service Design

THE GOAL OF SERVICE DESIGN IS TO PROVIDE the design and development of services and their related processes.   If you work in IT project management, this typically encompasses everything from after the signing of the contract thru the just before deployment into production.  In SDLC terms, this encompasses Analysis, Design, and Build.  (Testing and deployment activities would generally fall in Service Transition.)

Whereas Service Strategy typically dealt with what would go into the portfolio of offerings to a customer, Design begins with the demand for new or changed requirements for the customer which would typically fall within the pre-defined portfolio of service offerings.  The Four (4) P's of People, Products, Process, and Partners define how the what gets delivered, including:

  • Design of Service Solutions
  • Design of the Service Portfolio
  • Design of the Architecture
  • Design of Processes
  • Design of Measurement Systems and Metrics
Service Design also concerns itself with:
  • Development approaches - waterfall versus Agile (incremental and iterative)
  • Service Delivery Model (insourcing vs. outsourcing vs. co-sourcing, etc.)

As with PMBOK, the ITIL Body of Knowledge structures itself around processes.  In the Service Design phase, the corresponding processes are:

  • Service Catalogue Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Availability Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
  • Information security management
  • Supplier Management

For in-depth explanations on the processes, I suggest this link.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Help Us, Make It Stop

FOR THOSE WHO ARE GROWING TIRED of hearing Black people cry about being oppressed, I have a challenge for you: Help us. Make it stop.

The American Civil Rights movement was successful, not only because of the protests and outrage of those whose rights were abused, but also because of allies in majority communities who used their power and influence to help bring about revolutionary change. Help us. Make it stop.

You hear ignorance in your circles, make it stop. You learn of abuses of power, make it stop. You see police brutality in Ferguson and Staten Island, make it stop. We are grieving. Our blood is in the streets. If you really believe in Black humanity, if you really believe that your rights are our rights, if you believe in America, speak out, rally, protest, hold this system accountable. Help us. Make it stop.