So what do ASG do and what services do they sell?
We sell software that is used in the large data centres, including performance management software and operations management software. We also develop information management software and metadata management solutions.
We have a service desk management solution a service level management solution and asset management and we're finding a great deal of interest especially with the new ITIL® V 3, where you kind of need a configuration management system in place and a process to be able to manage your IT assets much more efficiently and align them to the business.
One thing I was told when I first started learning about all this stuff was that if you go to any CIO or IT director and ask them 'how much did you spend on IT last year?' he'll give you a figure; the budget figure is ingrained in his head! But if you then turned that question around and asked him 'how much of that was necessary for the business; what percentage of it added to the bottom line?' he'd be very hard pushed to give you an accurate answer, unless he has some sort of business service management solution in place.
We aim to enable customers to get to that business service management level where they're proactive, where they're aligning their IT to the business and they're getting rid of things which aren't necessary to the business. In today's economic climate cost optimisation is key so if we can help our customers identify the parts of their IT assets, which aren't contributing to the bottom line; it's a great way for them to optimise their costs.
How do you view ITIL®? Is this latest version a step in the right direction; how do you see it evolving further?
One thing that we've found in talking to our customers and prospects, particularly through our CEO, Arthur Allen, (who travels about 250 days of the year meeting clients and interested parties), is that most of the people we speak to have already embraced ITIL® V2 and have it in place and are getting on OK with it; then low and behold another one comes along!
The uptake of version three is still very low, only about five per cent in the UK, which is, of course, one of the more mature markets. In the US, for example, they're only just embracing V2. I think it's going to be a much longer time frame before anything else comes along because they haven't got their arms around Version 3 yet.
The benefits of Version 3 is that it allows you to roll out these processes that will allow you to truly see what value the IT division brings to the business. I think that's what it was trying to do as a whole and I think V3 comes closer to that vision. However, I think it's going to be at least another two to three years before V3 is embraced by the majority of users.
Have any of your customers mentioned what the improvements are in V3 and how it's affected their businesses?
No they haven't. Most are saying 'we've just finished doing V2, we haven't even started looking at V3 yet.' I was at the Gartner IT expo in Cannes, where they launch all their findings, and even the Gartner analysts were saying that no one really knows what V3 is going to bring, although in theory it should improve processes and should streamline all your IT processes, but let's not try and fix it if it's not broken.
Do you have any advice yourself on how organisations can improve their service management systems?
We're actually in the middle of writing a paper on 'four easy steps to improving your service management.' We're applying it from a CMDB perspective. What we always say to our customers is don't try the big bang sort of approach. Start with one service that you want to get a better visibility of. Implement the solution and make sure you're getting the information that you require, via the solution, and once you're happy with it, and you've almost got a blueprint for success, and then roll it out for another IT service. Some of our contacts, who have gone down this big bang route, have said they haven’t achieved what they wanted to. Our advice would be to start small, taking small steps and roll it out gradually.
Do you have any advice for the dos and don't of an IT project?
I don't really get into that side of things myself but as I said before start small and take incremental steps to reach your goals.
What is you view of professionalism in IT?
The only way I can answer that question is to relate it to what we're doing internally at ASG. ITIL® V3 is a standard we refer to all the time and you can become ITIL® V3 certified, which means you understand what the best practices are in any IT implementation and we are actively training all our sales people, all our professional services people and our pre-sales consultants to be ITIL® V3 certified.
I think it just demonstrates a bit more professionalism and adds credibility when you're dealing with a client. The same can be said for PRINCE in regard to project management. All our professional services people abide by those kinds of rules and guidelines. We're very vocal in saying that to our customers once we've started on an implementation project with them - it does demonstrate a degree of professionalism.
I know most vendors are less likely to recruit someone who doesn't have a proven track record of working in the IT area. Some of our consultants have reported back some horror stories of people who really don't know what they're doing and who use really archaic IT systems. In today’s world there are still too many people doing things manually.
What would you say have been the defining trends within service management in recent years? How do you think the industry might move forward during the coming years?
One trend that we're seeing, especially in relation to IT service management, is increasing levels of virtualisation and cloud computing. Even Gartner says it's the number one hot IT topic of 2009. A lot of the virtualisation vendors are promoting the fact that virtualising your IT network will enable you to cut costs and become greener at the same time. But what a lot of people don't realise is if you've got a whole lot of virtual machines out in your IT network how on earth do you keep control of them; how on earth do you manage the performance of them?
Although we don't supply virtualisation software we've found that performance management software can help manage virtual machines. So we're going to market saying manage your virtual environment much more efficiently and we're finding that that is generating a lot of interest.
We write quite a few white papers that we circulate and syndicate on various websites and the virtualisation paper that we put out last quarter has generated the most interest ever out of all those papers, which is proof to us that it’s a hot, emerging trend. IT managers are probably getting huge headaches at having to manage this new environment.
Do you think organisations and companies invest enough money into their service management programmes?
I think they do invest a substantial amount and I think that investment is going to grow in future because we can't just treat IT as a silo anymore and I wouldn't be surprised if the term IT service management doesn't change to business service management. Forrester is very visionary in its research and it says that IT shouldn't be called IT anymore - it should be called BT, or business technology because, at the end of the day, when you've got to prove ROI, and as vendors and IT departments we do have to prove that we provide value to the organisation, then it does become more about how business and technology interact.
As IT service management moves to business service management that's how they're going to prove they bring value to the company, so I think they'll be a lot more investment going forward as people begin to realise that. Especially in today's economic climate when you can't afford to spend money willy-nilly, you have to prove that what you’re doing is going to contribute to the business. So I think people will start investing more and more in these solutions.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is working with a very diverse team. Working with such a varied cultural team is great because they're all so different. Taking a concept and seeing it through to fruition within the various geographies and getting results form the various geographies is very satisfying.
Who would you say has been a good role model to you within the industry?
My first mentor was a woman and she gave me my first job. She's now the VP of marketing for a company in the US, and she taught me a lot of what I know and I really admired her assertiveness and vision. Her name was Marie Patterson and she, as my personal mentor, had a big impact on me.
Open source of proprietary (software)?
Blackberry or Smartphone?
Apple or PC?
Wii or Playstation?
Geek or nerd?
Geek; I always think that geek and nerd are the same thing really.