Project Management

A brief comment in praise of HP's ITIL Simulation

If you have a chance to participate in

HPs ITIL simulation, take it. If you do not see one in your near

future, find a reason to schedule one. It's great fun. A complete

and total bloodbath at first, of course, but still great fun.

At first glance the whole idea seems

pretty goofy. You and a group of your closest work acquaintances

organize yourselves into a system support team for a Formula 1 racing

team. You try to keep the IT systems running over a 25 minute race,

passing information and solving problems as quickly as possible.

When a system goes down the affected cars lose speed; the slower your

cars go the less money your team earns at the end of the race. A

ticking counter shows you just how much money you will earn if the

race were to end at that moment. Your race team also scores points;

if you win the most points over five races you claim the championship

(and the adulation of children everywhere).

The first race is pretty much a blood

bath. People assume their familiar roles, doing what they always do.

Your organizations failings stand out in sharp relief, especially

every little turf battle or bit of chaotic interaction. Oh, and

concepts like priority, urgency, impact, and even just basic

information sharing go straight out the window. No one has any idea

what's going on, and it's all good fun.

After that you get to step back and

assess how you did. It starts out pretty ugly, naturally; no one

really understood what we were trying to accomplish. Everyone held

onto information they had, not out of any negative designs but simply

because it never occurred to them others would care. Meanwhile we

all complained about the problem solving team, who never seemed to

get anything done. Mind you, I was ON the problem solving team and I

agreed with the assessment. Of course, I also knew half the time we

couldn't figure out what to work on, let alone if there were any

problems for us to address.

Over the next few races they introduce

ITIL concepts. If you do not know ITIL, it's a good chance to get an

overview. If you do know ITIL, it's a fun recap of stuff you already

know, with a chance to show people how these things work without

having to change your entire organization. By the end of the

simulation you should have a humming, information passing machine

churning out solutions at a rapid rate.

I suspect it really shocks folks to

discover how much people infrastructure it takes to support just a

few problem solvers. We tend to think of all IT people as “problem

solvers”, each with our own areas of expertise and skill. The

reality is, though, that a mass of problem solvers attacking things

independantly cannot generate anywhere near the output of a small

group supported by a people and process architecture prioritizing

their activities, feeding them the right information, and keeping

everyone else off their backs while they do their jobs.

The converse is also true. It takes

relatively few problem solvers, technical folks, and architects to

support even a complex organization plagued by real-time faults if

you communicate clearly, have adequate status tracking, and some

means of deciding when you need help. That first part, though, takes

a lot out of most people.

Anyway. Take the ITIL Simulation. If

nothing else, it will show you exactly how people think...always a

good thing to know as you prepare for the next wave of business


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