IBM Service Management Simulator:
Back By Popular Demand

Get your game on

Service Management in Action.

Pulse 2012 — aptly billed as Optimizing the World's Infrastructure — will be the leading service management event of the year. And one of the front-running attractions at the event, to be held March 4-7 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, will surely be IBM's Service Management Simulator Workshop. (The Workshop will be held on Sunday, March 4, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm.)

Have you heard of gamification — the trend in social business to educate and update team members via smart games that reflect real-world conditions? The Simulator Workshop takes that idea to new heights. Its goal, simply put, is to engage players in a game that can help them rapidly understand:

Particularly in that last category, ITIL, a certain amount of assistance is typically needed even today. Best practice frameworks are, by nature, rather abstract — written more as guidelines than specific processes or manuals of operation. So, for many organizations, moving from that kind of general description of what should be done to a specific in-house implementation is far from easy.

Additionally, there's always the tricky fact that service management requires team members with very different roles and views of business performance to collaborate effectively, and this can often be difficult to deliver in reality.

"More than a lecture or presentation, a game turns what would have been passive audience members into active players. It encourages all participants to think and cooperate in new ways, providing just enough pressure to keep everybody invested, and also to accurately reflect the fact that emerging problems really do require a quick and effective response."

For instance, if you're an executive who thinks in primarily business terms, how best should you collaborate with an IT manager many levels below you in the hierarchy, who thinks in primarily technical terms? And what if that IT manager doesn't even work at your organization, but instead works for a critically important business partner to whom you've outsourced key technical tasks?

Really establishing how everyone in the chain of problem solving thinks and acts is key to achieving the best business outcome.

Back by popular demand!

That, in a nutshell, is why the Simulator Workshop is back again this year at Pulse 2012. It's a great way to bring yourself up to speed on not just leading best practices, but also many related issues; communication both within and outside the company hierarchy, for instance, or intuitive visualization of how seemingly-small technical challenges can translate into an unquestionably large impact on the business bottom line.

Another reason for bringing it back to Pulse 2012: the Simulator Workshop was a clear success at Pulse 2011.

More than a lecture or presentation, a game turns what would have been passive audience members into active players. It encourages all participants to think and cooperate in new ways, providing just enough pressure to keep everybody invested, and also to accurately reflect the fact that emerging problems really do require a quick and effective response.

So instead of coming away with a merely cerebral grasp of the details of ITIL best practices, participants come away with direct insight into how best practices can create real business value — because, through their own gameplaying, they have actually seen it happen in a matter of hours.

Last year, while watching an early version of the workshop prior to Pulse 2011, David Ojalvo (of IBM's Integrated Service Management Marketing group) had this to say:

"After three hours and three rounds, the group was both exhausted and exhilarated… I had a chance to interview several of the participants after the session, and they were all effusive in their praise for the workshop. Clearly, the workshop far exceeded their expectations, and they were anxious to share the experience and apply some of the best practices at their own organizations."

You can't ask for a better way to learn about ITIL, business value, and cross-team collaboration than that. Register for Pulse 2012 and get a chance to play the game for yourself. If, of course, you're up for the challenge.

A real-world, challenging business context pulls you into the action

Curious to know more about the specifics of the Simulator Workshop game at Pulse 2012? Essentially, it puts players in various business and IT roles and assigns them corresponding responsibilities. Collectively, all players are chartered with keeping services at an imaginary logistics company up and running, with a particular emphasis on timely shipments.

Via an overarching screen that can be seen across the room, players are continually apprised of the direct business outcome (revenue, profitability) of their decisions and actions. When things go wrong, they'll have to cooperate in order to make sure the impact on that business outcome is minimized. And, as a direct reflection of real-world infrastructures and business strategies, things frequently go wrong.

Complicating that already daunting scenario a bit more is the fact that this particular logistics company has chosen to outsource its IT responsibilities to a third party. So there are really two different organizational hierarchies involved, one at each company, which makes decision making and communication a significantly bigger hurdle than it might otherwise be. It also acknowledges the fact that in the 21st century, very few organizations have service management wholly within the company walls — success requires close interaction with key business partners.

This is where the importance of efficient, focused cross-team (in fact, cross-organization) collaboration becomes particularly apparent. Consider the five roles represented in the Simulator Workshop at Pulse 2012, as allocated across the two different companies:

You can see at a glance that the combination of roles spans both business and technological roles, as well as multiple levels of the company hierarchy at both companies. All five roles interpret services and service management in different ways, as viewed through different lenses. Yet all must come together to understand and solve problems — ideally, in the shortest possible time for the smallest possible business impact.

The clock is ticking — how fast can you get key services back up and running?

From the standpoint of the logistics company, the question is: Can we make our shipments correctly and on schedule? And from the standpoint of the outsourced IT provider, the question is: Can we work with our client (the logistics company) to solve the technical challenges they report well enough to satisfy them, and maintain a good business relationship?

The game is also fairly aggressive about creating different kinds of unexpected challenges (which are announced with a horn). Overall services are continually threatened in different ways; teams must find a way to detect service outages, isolate them to root causes, and resolve them. Because these services break unpredictably and for different reasons, it's not always clear to team members exactly what's gone wrong, or what they should do. What should be clear is that there is no time to waste.

Pressure applied in this way challenges game participants to move from a completely abstract concept of "best practices" to a far more pragmatic understanding of how best to get things done when the clock is ticking and money is being lost with every passing minute.

As a result, teams (which consist of between 15-20 players) will typically struggle early on, as they strive to define business processes, communicate across operational or organizational boundaries, assess incoming trouble tickets, and solve problems in a way that's not just effective, but also business-prioritized (which, in the game, means revenue-critical). Solving technical challenges in the right order, as measured against the potential business impact, is just as important as solving them efficiently in any given case.

Fortunately, the Simulator Workshop game at Pulse 2012 was designed to accommodate the probable learning curve of players, who will likely struggle at first when confronted by such a complex total challenge. It involves multiple rounds, each of which takes about an hour. So, while the first round is likely to be chaotic and unsuccessful, it will also generate many valuable lessons about what works and what doesn't — in short, illustrating why ITIL-type best practices really do work, and how they can help generate best business value.

Once you register for Pulse 2012, get in on the action by registering for the Service Management Simulator Workshop. To register or receive additional information on the game, email Tivoli Marketing at tivmktg@us.ibm.com and include the following details: confirmation that you want to attend along with your name, title, email address, and cell phone number. You will receive a return email from David Ojalvo confirming your participation in the session.

An adrenaline-generating experience that yields practical insights

By the final round — a mere matter of hours — teams have usually come to a practical understanding not just of ITIL, best practices, technical challenges, and how IBM solutions can help, but also something much deeper: insight into how organizations can collaborate in a better way, for a better business outcome through better service management.

And typically, they will genuinely have enjoyed themselves along the way, because while the challenges were steep, so was the sense of accomplishment in overcoming them.

Rich Ptak, an analyst with Ptak/Noel, had a similar take on the Simulator Workshop at the Pulse 2011 event.

"As was to be expected in the roomful of attendees, there were a number of skeptics," he said. "However, it didn't take long before that changed. In my opinion, this was, by far, the most fun and engaging workshop session I've attended in a long time. This opinion was confirmed with other attendees after the session and in casual encounters over the next few days at Pulse 2011… I wasn't ready to quit at the end of the three hours. I was really involved and want to go for more — a feeling shared by others. If you get a chance, take this workshop, but watch out: the scorekeeper has lots of surprises for you."

To actively participate in this challenging and engaging way to learn about leading best practices, improved communication both within and outside the company, and better visualization of how technical challenges may impact your business, register for Pulse 2012. And mark on your calendar that the Workshop will be held Sunday, March 4, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm in Room 306, located on Level 3 of the MGM Grand Hotel Conference Center.

For clients and partners who attended Pulse 2011, a special alumni rate is available. Enter the PULSE12ALUM promotion code at registration and pay a reduced rate of $1,495 USD, available now until January 28, 2012. This discount cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions, and all alumni will be verified.

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