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The Human Effect

By Dr. Don Page, ITSM Strategic Director, Marval


I keep hearing complaints about time-consuming and expensive investments in technology that failed to fulfil expectations. I have to say, I find these comments really annoying. Wake up and smell the coffee, people. Technology is fantastic. The only thing that’s failed is people using the technology.


Technology is usually designed to help us optimise things; it allows us to do our work faster, better and cheaper. Technology does not just stand out there by itself; it is designed for people to use. If it’s not used properly and effectively, technology is not to blame. People are.


Imagine a small tool, a hammer for example. Hammers are useful tools, right? If I pick up a hammer and break a window, it would be insane to blame the hammer. It was me using the tool in a wrong way; I should be considered responsible, take the blame and face the consequences.


The same principle applies to Service Management. When something goes wrong, organisations tend to put the blame on the tool. In most cases, though, it’s people and culture that failed the organisation. I ‘ve said this before: great service is provided by great people who follow a great process and use great technology. The tool is just a vehicle for them to do their job faster, better and cheaper. If that doesn’t happen, or takes more time that anticipated, then something is seriously wrong; and organisations should take a closer look at their culture, processes and training.


Lack of self-interest, for example. Introducing a new technology to the enterprise doesn’t mean that people will roll up their sleeves and start working on it (or with it) straight away. People have to buy-in and get excited about it; and that will happen only if they can see “what’s in for me”, I often refer to this as “Enlightened self interest”. It’s human nature. Unless people appreciate that there is a hidden benefit for them, it is very unlikely they will embrace the new tool or way of working and put their minds into making the most of it!


Lack of accountability is another common reason for failure. Integrated Service Management technology reinforces accountability across the whole Service organisation. In organisations where culture is poor, people’s accountability is not established as a value, nor well accepted in general. Therefore, we should expect people to be reluctant when presented with a new tool that requires them to be responsible and introduces them to process, metrics, reports and evaluations.


Another main challenge is our belief that the “next big thing” will solve all our problems; whether it’s a supplier, software tool, industry standard or process framework. ITIL for me is the only real ITSM framework which underpins an international standard (ISO/IEC 20000) and I am a firm believer in the principle “adopt, adapt and improve”.


Over the last 20+ years, we have been fed by the ITSM industry the golden chalice, whether it’s Automated Operations, Lean, Six Sigma, CMMI, IT4IT, SIAM, DevOps, etc or the latest VeriSM. All these frameworks and approaches are great and it’s easy to pick out elements that can be debated and argued as being better than ITIL; for example the IT4IT focus on value, Lean and its focus on process improvement by identifying and removing the fat from bureaucratic processes.


My frustration steams from the fact that, when ITIL is slated for deficiencies which are solved with the “new approach”, we often forget the original promise of:


·         Adopt - Adopting a suitable ITSM framework – e.g. ITIL

·         Adapt - Adapting the framework that meets the organisation’s needs

·         Improve - Improving the areas that need to be improved


The elements of adopt, adapt and improve have been in ITIL since its inception.


But a most common reason for Service Management investments failing to fulfil expectations, is lack of a solid customer-centric culture. Great customer service does not “just happen”; it is built upon a corporate ethos and instiled across the organisation by its culture. Customer-centric cultures can be founded and reinforced by great technology, too. An Integrated Service Management tool can help organisations empower their teams to be the best they can be and make a difference on every single interaction with their customers, by delivering a personalised, impeccable service experience.


Technology is fantastic and it can meet pre-set expectations and deliver return on investment, when applied and used properly. Organisations that are about to begin their Service Transformation journey should consider providers and tools which will not only offer them the functionality they need, but also enable them to promote the right culture; by building strong, confident and accountable teams who deliver consistent and reliable customer service.


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