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In my last article I relayed some information about a conversation I had with one of our customers who is currently using our On Premise IT Service Management solutions.

 

In those discussions, we explored the benefits of moving these services to our SaaS ITSM products.  Upon reflection, what I found intriguing about this discussion is that it was not an isolated or unique conversation. As is the case with most IT practitioners who have been in the space for a while, we see that as technologies emerge from the official status of “new and innovative” into “accepted and viable”, these technology alternatives occupy a vast amount of mind-share throughout the entire IT community.

 

You may ask, “What is it about Software as a Service that compels everyone to discuss this deployment, administration, and ownership model alternative?” (Ok – maybe not those words, but you get the gist…go with me, here…)

 

Oddly enough, more often than not, it seems that the legacy challenges many organizations have faced for years uncounted is driving much of this interest:

 

  • As an industry, we are still confronted with the dilemma of how best to modernize our processes and practices

 

  • A great percentage of IT organizations have an older service desk solution that does not lend itself to accommodate new business and technical requirements (I hear this from most everyone whose IT Service Management portfolio is based on software that may be two or even three major versions behind a current release)

 

  • I also hear from many IT practitioners  that they are just now (or very soon will) emerge from long-term maintenance and licensing agreements…so they want to explore every possible option available to them

 

  • Quite a few of these discussions also include IT’s need to expand the services they offer the business

 

  • Additionally, the more daring of these souls want to dramatically shift the operating models in place today so they can help the business become more innovative

 

  • Lastly- of course – they all recognize the fact that  today’s ever-increasing work-load can only be balanced by removing time consuming maintenance /upgrade service management activities….

 

Cue Mick, “I can’t get no; Satisfaction…no, no, no……”

(Yes, Mick….you didn’t really think we were going to go down the “Devo” path, did you?) mick.jpg

 

So, how do we move towards something that is more….satisfying?

Let’s run on the assumption that you’ve done your homework:

  • You’ve spoken internally with other departmental customers, users, partners, who are currently using a SaaS application
  • You’ve exploited the all of the web resources available to you  for basic research
  • Though somewhat time consuming, you also have digested all of the industry analysts, media, and pundit reviews and speculations
  • You’ve reached out to your social community and leveraged the collective gray-matter of thousands of people who doing “SaaSy” things today

 

At this point, you know that there are some staple attributes about consuming a SaaS service that have to be present….and “no”… we are not going to wax philosophically on these base elements. We all know that SaaS has to be accountable in terms of availability, security, reliability, transactional performance, service level penalties, flexible subscription terms, etc. 

 

Given that all things in the SaaS model work as expected…where do you go from here?  How do you know which SaaS offering is right for you? How do you know that when you go all-in on the SaaS model that the shift in your culture and the technical and business requirements are going to pan-out?  Well….just for a moment, let me play the role of Mick Jaggers’ Protagonist,

And a man (yes, that’s me) comes on the radio - He's telling me (yes, this is you) more and more - About some useless information - Supposed to fire my imagination…. I can't get no, oh no, no, no…”

 

First of all, get back to the basic conversation of; what am I buying, how does it do what it does, how does it do it better than the other stuff, and why is this important to me and company.

 

Bottom line, according to the analysts and the realities of our current business and economic climate, we (IT as an industry) have to do things better than we did yesterday…or we won’t be in business tomorrow! Pretty straight-forward, huh? No guile. No deception. No tricks.  There are there hallmarks that you have to look for in your ITSM SaaS solution in order to be successful today and tomorrow:

 

Native / purpose built interoperable discipline capabilities: If you buy into a one-trick pony that may do one thing extremely well, you KNOW from your years of experience that you are going to wind up customizing that thing in order to achieve integration with other IT services, data, infrastructure, etc.  Why replace a high maintenance product set with something so limited that the only defensible metric you will have to show over the next three years is the amazing initial low cost (1st year only) subscription fees? 

 

If you think about it, IT Service Management is not just about opening and closing a trouble ticket. So why would you invest your time, money, and political clout in something that really doesn’t do what you need for it to do.

 

Just like the traditional and sadly much maligned On Premise solutions that provide a wealth of processes, features, functions, disciplines, you should demand nothing less from a SaaS based service, right?

 

Get to your end-goal NOW: Yeah, this is a big deal. Like any other IT based project, you know you have your list of requirements. You have identified your critical success factors and key performance indicators. Most likely, you’ve also created (based on this data) your total cost of ownership models? So what is the fastest way to hit your goals…or put another way, the shortest distance between two-points? In this case, it is to use the SaaS “product /application” as it was designed.  You know the words here, Out-of-the-Box! This means, you need to find SaaS solutions with so many goodies “in-the-box” that you can run immediately without customizing the processes, the data schema, or the products capabilities.  And yes, this also ties back to the first hallmark, leveraging the native purpose built interoperations.

 

Manage IT as a Business: OK – this one sounds easier than it is…or not? Looking towards the future of how IT provides and consumes services, we most likely will enter into a new world of management challenges. A few years back you could not read one IT periodical without seeing something about the new 5th rider of the apocalypse, “Virtualization Sprawl”.  Yes, he who should not be named….

 

Well, as history has proven time and time again, stuff is cyclical and repeatable. The next rider to join the ranks of IT pestilence, may likely be SaaS Vendor Sprawl. No, not a particularly frightening name compared to its Armageddon peers, but still something that should keep you up at nights…

 

We, the managers and guardians of IT services, to keep a vigilant eye over all of the services consumed by our user and customer communities. We need a SaaS ITSM solution that understands business transparency, service costing, supplier and service portfolio management. Moreover we need to be able to provide to the financial and procurement teams important effectiveness information pertaining to these services (and service providers) to help them select and consolidate their SaaS provider portfolios accordingly. By utilizing an IT Service Management SaaS solution with native/purpose built IT Business Management capabilities (yes, back to the 1st hallmark yet again) we help drive monetary efficiencies and simplify the realm of our management and administration activities.  Go figure…cause and effect….nice symmetry, yes?

 

So, at the end of the day, are these three things going to deliver peace, tranquility, harmony and ultimate satisfaction? They just might. You have to remember to all things there is balance, there is a path to achieving end goals. And even though Mick-and-the-boys, may have suggested that, “You can always get what you want – but if you try sometimes – you get what you need”, I think you‘ll find if you look at the actual application that exists behind the SaaS curtain, you can achieve a high degree of Satisfaction.

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with one of our customers’ IT leadership team for an IT Service Management strategy planning session. The organizations primary business is producing hardware and software. Their secondary line of business is hosting and managing IT Service Management solutions.  As you would imagine, they are always looking at ways to improve the variety of services and the delivery and management of these applications and services.They are also an organization that consumes their own service offerings, so, their concerns encompass their external customers and their internal customers.

 

We started off with an overview of the solutions (and supporting technologies) being delivered today and concluded with a “where we want to be tomorrow” discussion.  I love these conversations. They really are a delicate balance between absolute empirical technical data points, positions of financial objectives, competitive market analysis, keen portfolio strategy definitions, and even some flights-of-fancy….

 

Having covered all of the fundamental information, we began to explore a longer-term vision extending beyond the immediate, “tomorrow”: Beyond the next release of products that they need to install and configure - Beyond the next “application” that they may want to bundle and resell – Beyond the next round of pricing updates.

 

So, at this point, I might suggest that I know what you’re thinking, “here comes the ten-point value-based list of goodies that a software vendor uses to boast about why their Software as a Service (SaaS) products are so important, and why I can never be successful if I don’t buy their products…”

 

Nope. Not this time. What I am going to offer is why SaaS is really important to this organization….I’m not even going to drop down to the product or discipline level discussion. With that said, here are the three basic objectives of the company, and how an ITSM SaaS model is going to deliver innovation for this line of business:

 

  1. Time to delivery: Whether you provide services to internal customers, to external customers, or to both, you have to be fast. Every IT consuming organization has options on where they are going to spend their budget. And those monies are going to be allocated to whichever service provider delivers the most flexible and dynamic delivery source available – while also being able to deliver those services as quickly and error-free as possible. In many instances, you will find a balance between internal and external supplied services, creating a multi-source service topology. And the main reason behind this is being able to provide the most current - and relevant – business services faster than the competition. To sum it up: Time to Market!

 

  1. Service Portfolio: The world of technology (generally speaking) has witnessed exponential growth over the past thirty years. The most consistent hallmark supporting this growth has been focused on three factors: Physical (shrinking the actual foot-print of computing components), Navigable (ease-of use), and Value (how does this thing make my life / business better). SaaS serves the Value factor well by virtue of the competitive market in which the SaaS solution creators reside.  SaaS vendors are dedicated to delivering the most robust and comprehensive (yes, an overused and yet extremely appropriate term) set of capabilities to position themselves as competitively superior. So, why wouldn’t you, as a service provider, utilize the efforts of a third party organization to fuel your business? Rational: Increase the variety of services we can sell without investing in the development cycles.

 

  1. The Profit Margin: More for Less. “Gee, not too innovative”, you may be thinking. And this is true…to an extent. . The notion of being able to provide and financially support an entire line of business based on a third party application also is not new.  For many years now, our financial climate has forced every organization to think about how to invest the IT budget to better manage costs.  So, although the practice of financial responsibility and transparency may not be new, the increased variety of SaaS offerings - has become a main-stream alternative that delivers a higher level of financial cost management abilities. Also, what is new is the ability to absolutely – not notational – reduce the administrative, developmental, and managerial aspects related to a traditional hosted application service. Because we do not need to dedicate a vast army to “keep the system running”, we can shift these resources to creating new services and thus produce more revenue. Maybe resource realignment is not a new concept, either. But, the ability to do this without impacting the quality of services supported…well…that is just now becoming a reality for many organization. Yes, we can actually embark on a paradigm that delivers: More for Less.

 

Yes, SaaS solutions do have great impact on how we traditionally source and manage services.

Yes, SaaS solutions do enable organizations to expand and extend the services offered by our internal IT teams.

And Yes, SaaS solutions are great alternatives for how we manage our budgets and costs.

But even more so, if you need to think BEYOND tomorrow, you also need to think beyond the confines of your organization and leverage the resources available to you  - and your competitors – that position you to execute immediately with a wider array of services at the best cost possible.

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I love this question.  Simply because most folks in IT Service Management would respond with something like, “Well, it depends…”

 

And in some instances….that is an accurate statement.  It really depends upon what the box is labeled, and then, “who packed the box”, but most importantly, “what you do with the contents of the box once it has been unpacked”.  So let’s take a look in detail at the box.cereal boxes.png

 

  • The box-label:  So, let’s call it ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library). No? Don’t like that one? Then how about Industry Best-Practices? Don’t like that one either? Then how about SAS or ISO? How about IT service Management Process Flows? In any case, whatever you call it, the idea here is to arrive at a set of terminology that is simple while being comprehensive enough to allow you to define your standard operating procedures, communicate those standards to your customers – users - administrative staff, and achieve ratification that promotes adherence to those standards.

 

  • The contents of the box: Yeah…this is the big one… Out-of –box means that you have everything you need to be productive on day one. It’s a simple matter of being able to provide a process flow that fosters compliance to internal standards and procedures, externally imposed mandates and regulations (be they imposed by governments or the dictums of an industry), and probably most importantly can be measured, monitored and reported upon.

 

  • Using the contents of the box:  This is the ironic bit. Many times, organizations will take the embedded best practices and modify them to fit their needs….slightly. This is OK….as long as you don’t go overboard on the modifications. Embedded best practices are normally created by leveraging a vast amount of experience attained via hundreds and sometimes thousands of real world experiences. They work well because the oddities and inconsistencies and inefficiencies have already been identified and removed from the process. And, the result should be one that supports a wide array of compliance control objectives and industry requirements WITHOUT modification. However, there is always that rogue desire to stray from a proven methodology in order to “adapt it to our unique culture because we really are that different…” It’s just like going to a five-star restaurant in Rome and before tasting the food, you dump a pound of salt on the entrée because the restaurant at home always needs salt….  Try it first, spend some time with it, and then if you still need to, just add a pinch of salt to see if it really makes a big difference.

 

If you acquire a solution that has been around for ages, has great compliance best practice expertise, is a recognized leader in that specific field, and can PROVE through industry presence and effectiveness that their Out-Of-The-Box solution really does work…..then you should be able to leverage those cornerstones of process into a compliance and best practice model that lives up to the expectations.

 

Three things to remember:

  1. Communication: Make sure everyone is speaking the same language from the onset with respect to expectations and goals and mandates
  2. Source: Do your homework. Not all solutions are created equally, thus not all process flows are comprehensive and effective – or even meet your needs. See where you are today, where you need to be and then select the right Box, packed by people who understand where you need to be tomorrow
  3. Be Bold!: Yes, in some instances you will be championing something that is culturally new and different. Get your sponsors on-board early and make sure they understand the importance of the project. Then implement those new standards and be ready to resist the urge to “add salt” straight away.

 

Change takes time and endurance and a strong belief in what you are doing….but…when you get it right, and the solution comes “out-of-the-box”, and you can demonstrate the effectiveness in terms of time, money and compliance….well…the benefits to the organization and to your career can be enormous.

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“IT is not the strongest or the smartest of the species who survives, it is the one most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin


 

To all of the fans of Darwin who somehow became a member of the IT Service Management world: A series of observation s and perhaps a prediction or two…..


 

Communication and the Collective Mind

In IT service Management practices, for example, we see communication as the corner stone for all employed and hoped-for best practices. It has become the Alpha and Omega of everything we do with regards to the management practices of Incidents, Problems, Assets, Configurations, Changes, Releases, Requests, Financial Planning, Supplier and Vendor Activities, Auditing and Reporting…to name but a slight few.

 

In today’s technological realm we see an overwhelming utilization of communication forums and formats between the user community (yes, genus-user has established themselves as a community with equal rights and everything that goes with a sense of community) and the IT world. Incidents and problems and requests are now funneled through e-mails, tweeted from varied ports of origin, submitted from self-service facilities, perhaps generated from mobile hand-held devices - and then collectively resolved via social media mediums that utilize collective reasoning and vetting processes….

 

And the trend towards the utilization of the collective mind – group via the exploitation of the personal mobile device (a wee bit ironic) is just in its infancy. One could almost reason that if an evolutionary “itch” were to surface that compelled us to return -- temporarily -- to a nice high branch of a sturdy tree, you could still communicate with your new technological social tribe via your mobile “pad.” Yes, one could actually tweet as nature originally intended the activity….

 

With respect to the use of communication tools in the practice of managing the IT services we provide, we wield a triple-edged sword of timeliness, accuracy, and personalization. The data once we provided when the Brazilian Rain Forrest was thought to be the unending source of green-bar paper, is now an unusable medium with arcane restrictions of portability. Each user requires a specific slice of data that is exactly oriented to their task-at-hand.  Anything delivered beyond that specific request is thought to be wasteful and woefully not aligned with expectations perhaps defined in the service definition. The accuracy required is often thought to be a combination of pinpoint data elements in an easily consumed combination of intuitive graphics and simplistic text format – which of course must be made available in any manner of display device…at any time…in any language.

 

Now What?

So let’s agree that we now have a primal indisputable reliance on communication within the IT Service Management world. And let us also agree that this reliance has created new genres of commerce and unprecedented levels of competition in the business world.  And then let us further agree that the ability of IT to provide and manage all means of services depends greatly upon its support and integration with multiple means of communication. Then certainly we can see that the next age of technologist are crossing our door-steps and are currently developing the next user oriented service management paradigms that are completely based on mobility and immediate dynamic interactions (I dare say some of them are here already and can be readily detected by their ultra cool new devices that cannot be operated by our IT management predecessors due to the lack of the opposable thumb).

Yes – the next age (say two years out perhaps) could very well be based upon the power and need of the collective communication tribes.  No, this is not socialism, in which we are all forced into individual obscurity because of homogenization and lowered standards oriented towards satisfying the needs of the lowest common denominator.

 

The outcome of the interactive social community is quite the opposite, actually. It is an IT-based service environment that utilizes multi-domain service provisioning (that does use the tenants of today’s Cloud Dynamic/Elastic computing model). However, the prime goal is not about satisfying transactional and performance fluctuations with the most attractive financial attributes. Rather, the multi-domain communication service is about access to (and the utilization of) collective decision oriented information.

 

We can see how risks are greatly mitigated when we consult with a large number of experienced individuals (in any practice) opposed to a decision made in a vacuum by one person with a singular set of experiences.

 

It becomes obvious that we will be able to better determine the root cause of incidents - and eliminate reoccurring problems – if we turned to the experiences of thousands of people who have ready eliminated time consuming variables.

 

We can all see the obvious advantage of preventative information that s shared by those unlucky few who have gained their Good Sound Judgment by their Experiences which were unfortunately based on  lessons they  garnered from Extremely Bad Judgment…..

 

I think you get the point here about the power of the collective.

 

So where does this then set us with respect to the evolutionary tales?

 

I would hope to think that we are about to “relocate” once again...maybe this time to “cloud”. Maybe we go up a little higher than the cloud level.  The neat thing about this next relocation is that it will not be a physical move. It will be a movement of thought. Thought shared. Thought vetted. Thought recommended. And hopefully, thought liberated……

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“IT is not the strongest or the smartest of the species who survives, it is the one most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin


 

To all of the fans of Darwin who somehow became a member of the IT Service Management world: A series of observation s and perhaps a prediction or two…..evolution.jpg

 

Now, let’s flash-forward a wee bit and look upon those earlier days of innocence and laughter from the perspective of many IT data center managers who were relieved of their duties because they thought the above verbal exchange was the “right and proper thing to do.”

 

No…that can’t be right.

 

Better yet, let’s look at it from the perspective of the next generation of IT Professionals who were assigned the task of cleaning up the messes left behind by their predecessors who thought the above verbal exchange was the “right and proper thing to do”.  Yes…that seems to be better aligned with the IT professional Evolutionary Theory with which we began…

 

Looking Ahead

Those new age technology theologians had an advantage over their predecessors that is very similar to the advantage that opposable thumbs gives us over our distant simian relatives; Experience. The idea being that Good Sound Judgment is based on Experience which is unfortunately based on the lessons garnered from Extremely Bad Judgment.

 

In order to improve our relations with our users, customers, and sponsors, we had to devise a new paradigm of operations. One based upon customer satisfaction which in turn is dependent upon the implementation of - and adherence to – a set of processes and practices whose application delivered a visible and demonstrable sense of value while mitigating risk and dissatisfaction.  Add to this new age wisdom that the “value” of these supported services needed to be thoroughly articulated in some sort of agreement that bespoke of the expected characteristics of that service…yes the new technology theologians brought to this earth a Service Level Agreement.  Marvelous. You can almost see those thumbs growing as we move through this tale….

 

The Rise of New Technology Serf Class

Let’s recap – and then add an unexpected element:

 

So far, we have come out of the water, ascended and descended the tree’s, relocated to a nice dry cave and then relocated yet again to a better cave with raised flooring and air conditioning and wondrous technology that manipulated data whose current inhabitants were some strange sub-species, who eventually and without any reason whatsoever – other than having mastered the art of communication and documentation behind our backs - became the dominant life form that still to this day….seem to have supreme authority over us; the new technology serf class. Odd how things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

 

Odd – but extremely just. You see, it all comes back to communication. And this is the main theme behind this monologue.  We have evolved because of communication. And in the age of the new Technology Theologians, the importance and extensive use of communication has never been more strongly supported or widely used.

 

End of Part II

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IT is not the strongest or the smartest of the species who survives, it is the one most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin


 

To all of the fans of Darwin who somehow became a member of the IT Service Management world: A series of observation s and perhaps a prediction or two…..darwin.jpg


 

So, some would say that long ago we oozed out of the oceans and began to do things a little differently than we had for many millions of years before. For some, this is thought to have been a good thing.  For others, there is some doubt as to the accuracy of this notion and the eventual consequences that this may have brought. Regardless of your position about these debated events, let’s ponder about the ramifications that may have resulted thereafter – in a technological vein.

 

From the briny shores we putted off to the tall grasses. Not too long later, we then took refuge in some lovely fruit trees – yes, a good location with access to convenient shopping and a view of the ocean we just came from (giving us the opportunity to feel superior to those lower life forms that hadn’t yet figured out that flippers could become legs). And eventually we migrated over to some very nice dry caves upon whose walls we could wax decoratively with impressionistic renderings of the Serengeti.

 

It was in the caves that we began to “think about things”, since we no longer had to focus on not falling out of the trees.  As a general fact – to this day – that is still considered a bad thing to have done. Never-the-less, we started to think. And then we began to communicate. Once we began to communicate we began to disagree. . (Hmm…is this starting to sound analogous to the history of IT Service Management? No?  It will. Keep going). Of course that led to the invention of armies and weaponry and consequently politicians and taxes. Yes….all havoc broke loose and we have never quite been able to recover. Ironically, throughout these events, the lower life forms with flippers  that we once smugly scoffed at, looked at us from beneath their shimmering surfaced world and laughingly uttered, “foolish bipeds”!”

 

IT Service Management History Lesson

I’m certain that by now you can see that this is very much like the history of IT Service Management and the manner in which it has evolved over the years. Not buying the connection yet? OK – come with me for a bit of a comparative history lesson and we’ll see if I can’t change your mind…

 

When we first started toying with black-art of service delivery and service support, we didn’t even have a name for it.  We just knew that we had a data center. And in that data center we had computers. And on those computers we had all kinds of data and fun new ways to manipulate that data. And sadly, we had these “people” that needed that data. Now, if we are completely true to our history and honest with ourselves, we also very well understood that given our technological capabilities at that time…the data and those “computer-thingies” were generally not available when those “people” (let’s call them users, shall we?) needed them.  At this point you may ask, “Why is this?  And how does that support those strange notions of Darwin’s theories?”

 

Think of it this way; we (the computer management and practitioner species of bipeds) had just learned the computer technology equivalent of Water Management: The basic premise is that if we could actually control the flow and quantity of water in a river, and create a reservoir, then we wouldn’t need to travel quite so far to go water sking. 

 

And, of course, this is the same evolutionary equivalent of understanding that if we could somehow control the availability and management (and subsequent “user” expectations) of computers and the data that was manipulated by those computers (thus creating a notational sense of value of that data) then we could finally “communicate” how to properly manage a computer service. And we could do this while establishing a contractually binding set of guide-lines, practices, and processes upon which a governing set of rules and hoped-for levels of accessibility, reliability and data validity could be established.  And of course, this is where it pretty much all fell apart….

 

 

Communication Matters

How did it fall apart, you may ask?

It fell apart because of communication.  Again, if you look historically at where we perhaps did not do as well (as a species) as we could have, we repeatedly seem to not communicate as effectively as we should. The first attempts at communications between the IT departments and….those users… seemed to echo the same basic themes – repeatedly - and in many sad instances it went something like this:

 

User:

Hey, computer guys?  This thing is broken again!

 

Computer Guy :

Really? Is your computer powered on? (Under his breath a barely auditable snicker and insult of “not this person again” was uttered).

 

User:

Yes – I did everything you told me to do the last time I called - and it still doesn’t work.

 

 

Computer Guy:

I don’t remember you calling earlier….

 

User :

I called six hours ago

 

Computer Guy :       

Oh! That was the night shift operators….sorry… they didn’t say anything about this…they didn’t leave me any notes or anything…Are you sure you called? (Again, snickering at the immediately obvious lack of intelligence for which the sub-species “genus-user” is renowned)

 

User:

I don’t care who I called before – YOU need to come over here and fix this…NOW! (A barrage of dissatisfied rhetoric ensues…)

 

Computer Guy:                 

"Jerk!” (Said he, muttered under his breath) and off he went to once again provide service to genus-user in the vain hope that someday, in an idealist     future, this particular species would become extinct.

 

  • This event was not recorded.
  • Nor were the previous twenty-seven identical incidents ever recorded.
  • The computer guys’ restorative processes were not to be found in any form of documentation.
  • And as an involuntary act of self-preservation (ah…the Darwinian angle once again) would the computer guy share his knowledge and expertise with any of his peers due to the ever-present and unspoken looming fear that if others had access to the treasures secluded within his grey matter then he would no longer be needed?
  • Thus we were fated to repeat this scene of horror times unimaginable.

 

And now, perhaps we can see why our appreciation for communication is as important to us today as it was once underappreciated and discarded.

End of Part I

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