Tuesday, 9 February 2010

CoreITSM 101: The Basics

How have we managed to turn something so essentially simple as ITSM into a multi million pound industry?
Why have we over complicated it, and in doing so lost sight of the basic truths that lie at the core of it?

There was a spoof chat show on British TV, the Mrs Merton Show. Think of it as a low key predecessor of Ali G. The most famous moment in the show's history was when "Mrs Merton" asked Debbie McGee, wife of an ageing but famous British TV magician  "What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

So what has made us turn ITSM into a multi million pound industry? Hmm, perhaps it could be we all want a share of those millions. Heck I can't complain, it has provided me with a decent living for years. After all the market is never wrong, is it?

Don't you lie awake at night, though, thinking that you are missing something simple and obvious? Don't you occasionally cut yourself when shaving  because you've been distracted by the thought that  giving your ITIL project a punning name is not enough to make it successful?  Oh and trust me on this, all the good names were used a long time ago, and if you think it is funny, it probably isn't.

Worry no more, though. Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging on some of those basics that we so easily overlook.

Today's Lesson - Why We Have a Job

Here is an extreme example, but unfortunately  true, of how out of touch IT staff can be. I was running a workshop at short notice for a client. They were a small UK government agency with a clear remit and a reasonably high profile. The sort of agency you will find mentioned in a newspaper story on a regular basis. This is a consultant's dream because before you even walk through the door you can learn an awful lot about the client's culture, what they want to achieve and all that good stuff.

On this occasion it was just as well I'd done my homework because it soon became apparent that the IT team had no idea at all about what their users did for a living. We are talking being unable to name their Chief Executive, or being unable to pick out their mission statement from a list on a slide. It was a short list, it was the only one on it.

Why was I running the workshop? They were being threatened with being outsourced and wanted help to defend their position. What did they think their greatest strength was compared to the wolves at the door?

Give yourself five bonus CoreITSM CPE credits if you guessed that they thought it was their knowledge of their own organisation.

Simples, huh!

Now before you give yourself another pat on the back, and for double or nothing points, what lesson do you think I'm going to draw from this?

I'm going to tell you how important it is to think about yourself as part of the business, right? I'm going to tell you to forget about Business IT Alignment (BITA) because that is so yesterday compared to actually being an indivisible part of the business, right?

Can you hear that sound? That is the sound of those five bonus CPE points flying back into my pocket. Better luck next time.

Here is the lesson.

Had those guys had the nous to listen to their users, and discussed with their boss what the users' bosses were saying, they would have found out that their understanding of the business was not the issue. In fact the customer knew full well that because of  European employment law they would probably be stuck with the same staff regardless of who won the contract.

The two things that mattered to the business were:
  • They got an IT service that actually worked
  • They got Value for Money (VfM)
You didn't need to understand what the agency did to know that fifteen days to process a new user request was unacceptable, or that every time a major upgrade failed senior management despaired. You didn't need to know about the business to understand that they were fed up of every IT project getting the costs wrong and asking for more money.

Having an ITIL v3 Service Strategy would not have kept that IT department in house. Sorry to break that news to you. 

What the business needed was for IT to get the basics right

Possibly so, but with a move towards SaaS and cloud computing who actually cares what your IT provider knows about your business? The majority of IT should be a commodity service, just like the electricity supply and the telephone system. That is where we are headed. I'll talk about the value added in a later post.

You know I feel uncomfortable about taking those points away from you. I would love to say getting close to the customer and user is really really vital. If nothing else if they had been close to the business that IT department would have known that  basic utility* and warranty* was what was important, and would have understood that their "delivery wasn't good enough."

So you can have the points back if you can correctly identify what film and musical stage show that last quote is from.

The next two posts in this series will build on this one by looking at the Kano model to assess ITSM maturity, and defining the basic requirements for a service desk in a contract. Look out for them over the next couple of weeks. 

*Since this is a CoreITSM course, not an ITIL v3 one this translates as "it does what it should do"

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