successful event management requires that both sides work together to achieve a successful outcome - 'one hand washes the other'

A Series of Symbiotic Events

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Where does Service Management fit in a Digital World?

Event the Third: One Hand Washes the Other

Having earlier set the groundwork for why relationships are a fundamental part of successful event management, I can now discuss in more detail why I chose symbiosis as the basis for describing these relationships.

The original usage of the word symbiosis had to do with communities of people. In the late 1800s it was applied in biology, basically settling in for a long while to mean “the living together of unlike organisms” (as stated by Heinrich Anton de Bary), describing it as meaning that both sides benefitted from the relationship.

But, as with most everything, over time others recognized that there were also relationships in which things were not so even, or were actually detrimental to one side. Being a realist rather than a purist, I agree with this “newer” view, and will use it to ensure the darker side is not left out – since we all know that ignoring the dark side does not mean it isn’t there – right?

It All Comes Out in the Wash

Every culture likely has a phrase similar to “One hand washes the other”; in using them, we are trying to convey that both sides need to work together to achieve a goal.

In ITSM, those consuming IT services have needs that they expect to be enabled; those providing IT services strive to deliver them in ways that satisfy (or exceed) those expectations in return for acceptable compensation. The only way to achieve the balance required to allow both consumer and provider to remain happy is by knowing what events are occurring and planning how they should be handled so that balance is maintained.

For me, the most obvious relationship for event management to have in ITSM is with incident management – with a side note of sympathy for any that are only allowed to practice it in support of capacity/availability, of course. I use incident because for a long while many of those “educated” in ITIL did not recognize the difference between an event and an incident because they focused on the verbiage that stated an incident was “any event which disrupts, or which could disrupt, a service” (the effect of which lingers long after ITIL changed their definition).

So let’s follow Eve (event) and Dent (incident) through several variations of symbiotic relationships, starting with the type we should all be striving for, that special modern subset of symbiosis known more specifically as mutualism.

The Love Story

This version of Eve and Dent are the couple everyone points to when they think of a happy pair. They met young, and immediately felt drawn together, knowing from the start they were meant for each other. Though each already had a plan for their future, they worked side by side to align those plans to ensure that future would always be appropriately balanced. From feelings to finances, they make sure they are aware of what is going on and how things change over time. They have a lot of the same friends (Mr. Av Cap, Ms. Prob, etc.) that they interact with regularly. They communicate, understand, and adjust their plans as things change, and fine-tune the responses required to mitigate new or changing events that life tosses their way.

Now don’t get the wrong idea; this is a real relationship, not some sappy utopia. They sometimes disagree about what is important or needed. The unforeseen still occurs. The future is not always clear. But they recognize all this, and both are committed to making the relationship work.

The Wallflower

In our first parallel universe, our couple takes on a different subset known as commensalism; in this type of relationship one side benefits while the other is effectively neutral – not harmed, but not benefitting either.

This time Dent is the star quarterback, while Eve is the shy, quiet type. They are an unlikely couple; she lives in Dent’s shadow, always there but not really noticed by anyone. She does things in the background that support flamboyant Dent, who is ever the center of attention, credited for many successes that were only possible because of the work Eve does. Occasionally there are times in which a miss or two occurs, but Dent is able to brush those off in the main because he still wields that star power that keeps him in the limelight – and Eve behind stage – so still, no one notices her. When friends come by they interact with Dent, playing cards, watching the game, while Eve scurries about serving drinks and keeping food available, cleaning spills and washing dishes while Dent entertains.

We will give her enough personality to recognize her current lot in life is not fair, and to have dreams of someday being recognized for her contributions, but so far she has not found her voice.

The Black Widow

The final iteration of our couple that we will cover represents the true dark side I mentioned earlier, where one side benefits at the expense of the other, which science has labeled parasitism.

Dent is delivering decent results at work (mainly because he has a good sized budget that allows him to handle things by throwing plenty of personnel at whatever comes along). His boss is happy with his work, since the budget is there and the results are keeping the business complacent. Then one day his boss introduces him to Eve. She is new, and sexy, and the boss asks Dent to mentor her and bring her up to speed. They get together pretty quickly, and in the beginning things seem great. Dent figures he hit the jackpot, practically being handed this hot little number on a silver platter.

It isn’t long though before things begin changing. Not much at first, but over time it becomes evident that the regular practices are not sufficient anymore. More issues seem to be causing more impact, and he can’t seem to keep up with the incoming problems. Targets that used to be met regularly are suddenly just as regularly being missed, and the boss is demanding answers.

Confused, he goes to Ms. Prob for help, whom he previously ignored as he thought her a bit nerdy, only to find her deep in conversation with Eve; as he retreats he hears them laughing. A bit later Dent gets a call from his occasional beer buddy Av Cap, cancelling a planned happy hour get together because he is ‘too busy’. When Dent stops at the bar later anyway, he sees Av sitting with Ms. Prob, Slim, and several other coworkers – including Eve. They seem to be having fun. Dent slips out before they spot him.

Over the next few weeks Dent slips further and further behind; issues are coming in faster than they can be handled. A great number of them turn out to be non-issues – but only after time is spent to investigate them. He can’t understand it, he has nowhere to turn and the boss has pulled half his budget, making things worse than ever. Desperate, he decides to go to his boss’s boss, Ci Oh – only to find Eve sitting on the corner of his desk. A month later finds Eve occupying Dent’s office and meeting Ci on the sly. Dent, a shell of his former self, fades into the background, becomes a raging alcoholic, and eventually is committed to a psychiatric facility for the service management insane…

Be Afraid…at Least a Little

I hope I conveyed, to some small degree, why the right kind of relationship is important – not just between event and incident, but between every process, and the business, and most everyone and everything we encounter on our all too brief sojourn in the universe. Hopefully a hair or two stood up on the back of your neck while reading, because a little fear is actually healthy – it tends to make us plan ahead.

What to Walk Away With

So why did I set out to take you on an event management journey and not dwell on thresholds and filtering and correlation?

If you read the first two ‘events’ in this series (The Party and The Plan), you already know that my view of event management is rather broader than what one might glean from ITIL®. The premise I have been building on however is pretty basic:

Everything you do is the response to an event. Everything.

Sounds rather bold, doesn’t it? But think about it. Every breath you take, every move you…well, you get it. When event management is working properly, the response to these events is measured, appropriate, and delivers a result we want (or one we have a plan to mitigate). When it is not, we can quickly find ourselves scrambling to respond to events that might normally not present a problem but suddenly overwhelm us when several occur at once.

What I hope you walk away with is the understanding that event management has much greater potential for helping you make sense of things than simply being the basis for sifting through endless streams of cryptic messages. Properly utilized, the principles can contribute to greater success in most every endeavor.

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Michael Keeling

Michael has been providing consulting and guidance in IT Operations, ITSM and SIAM to enterprise level organizations in many industries for more than 20 years, and has extensive background in data center and service desk operations, technical writing, mentoring, cause analysis and workflow improvement. He is known for bringing the view of a detective to these efforts, perspective he credits to education in crime scene investigation and over 10 years designing processes and performing risk management in the private security sector prior to his career in IT. A confirmed realist that believes no project can be truly successful unless all involved parties are grounded in reality, Michael is always prepared to paint ‘the elephant in the room’ bright yellow when appropriate….

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