Gaining Commitment – The Service Management Challenge

Long lasting relationships often come about by accident. Such is the case with Kate Peacock. (More Information) Kate is one of our associate trainers and she and her husband Miles support us with the cultural and management training that is so crucial to the successful implementation of IT service management.

I first met Kate when I engaged her company to carry out some training for the Sysop team itself.

Kate reminded us, first of all, just how much experience there was in the room – the collective experience of the Sysop team was and is pretty impressive. She then went on to demonstrate to us that even the most daunting tasks could be accomplished if one were properly aware of how it should be done and, importantly, if we had self-belief!

Her challenge was to get us to memorise 20 random items and to be able to recall them in sequence and on demand. In just a few minutes the entire team achieved this seemingly impossible task with ease – in fact, many years later, most of us can still remember many, if not all, of the items Kate gave us. At the end of the training session, the whole team was buzzing. We were inspired – confident that we could achieve anything. That’s when Kate delivered the most important lesson of all . . . .

Kate lit a candle and set it on the table at the front of the room. Our challenge was to focus our minds on the candle and extinguish it using the power of thought alone!
Up for the challenge, the team directed its total thought energy at that candle. It flickered. It fluttered. It wavered. It burnt fitfully but it did not go out – failure!

Then Kate stepped forward and pinched the wick. The flame went out.

The lesson, of course, is that you can think and plan as much as you want but if you want to achieve anything you have to get off your backside and do something.

So it is with IT service management. So many service management professionals return to their workplace fired up with the enthusiasm for ITIL® only to be frustrated by the difficulties of persuading colleagues and senior management to act together to deliver best practice.

Carrying the burden of changing people’s attitudes alone is a heavy one indeed. That’s why we almost always recommend a series of workshops at the start of a project to make sure everyone is on the same page, that pain points are brought out into the open, priorities are set and the quick-wins are identified so that progress can be made visibly – swiftly building momentum and winning management commitment.

Kate and Miles continue to support our management and cultural offerings. More information can be foundhere:

Merry Christmas and a happy and Prosperous New Year.

Stuart Sawle

Change and Sustainability

I’ve been deeply involved with Green IT this week. The climate statistics and how they’re changing reminded me of some wise counsel I was given by my dear friend Ivan Goldberg (  Change is inevitable, be an enthusiastic early adopter.

  • In a typical office environment the IT Infrastructure will account for around 40% of the total energy consumption (carbon footprint) – the remaining 60% being (mainly) heat & light.
  • Cities and towns cover 2% of the surface of the planet, 50% of the world population live there, they use 75% of all the energy produced and in turn, they produce 80% of all emissions.
  •  Of a total world population of 7 billion, 5 billion have mobile (cell) phones and there are more than 7 billion in use.

These statistics demonstrate the dramatic changes that have taken place on this planet over the past thirty or so years. In fact the change-rate is exponential! One of the most compelling effects of this rate of change has been the compression of time.

For example, we now expect a response to our communications, probably through text or email, in hours and preferably minutes, whereas even fifteen years ago, we had to wait for a snail mail response which could have taken days if not weeks.

Everything is urgent! We are continually distracted by that ping which tells us that another text message or email has arrived demanding that we read it and reply instantly.

The next ten years may see the demise of email as the use of instant messaging and other forms of less formal communication take over. How long will instant messaging last before something else arrives out of left field to improve our lives?

None of this is right or wrong, good or bad.  It is simply the reality of the way in which our lives have been changed and it is up to us to determine if it is for the better.

Change is inevitable. Like it or not, change will happen around us and by definition affect the way we live and work.  By far the best way is to embrace these exciting changes and use them for the benefit of our organisation and for ourselves.

The pace of change and the ever increasing demand for technology driven solutions has a huge environmental cost. From 2012, the global carbon footprint of IT activity will exceed that of the airline industry!  A typical administrative centre packs an annual IT energy bill of over £200,000. This too must change!

Apollo 13, A Study in Service Management

Almost everyone knows the story of Apollo 13. Indeed it was made into a highly successful film starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell the mission commander. It illustrates how human ingenuity and carefully thought-out processes can be used in even the most challenging of circumstances to deliver success.

The parallels with IT service management best practice are striking.

There is a service desk (CapCom) handling all the communications between the astronauts and mission control. There are professionals dedicated to incident and problem management.

There are carefully thought out processes and a robust change management team responsible for making absolutely certain that the safety of the astronauts is never compromised by a poorly tested change. There is a carefully crafted strategy with clear mission objectives that had to be re-evaluated in the light of the catastrophic explosion.

Yet in all of this, the astronauts were returned to Earth safely.

Whenever Sysop consultants run our Apollo 13 simulation as an ITSM learning workshop, they observe the ITSM professional participants disregarding all that they have learned about ITIL® best practice. Processes, designed by the team to see them through the simulation, are forgotten and abandoned; communication breaks down; leadership seems to be lost in space.

The lesson from this, of course, is that this is exactly what happens in the workplace when best practice processes are stress tested by a major crisis. Just when reliable resilient processes are needed to support problem-solving and crisis management, best practice goes out of the window.

We often say that adopting service management best practice is as much bringing about culture change as it is about rolling-out the framework set out in the core volumes. If an organisation fails to win the hearts and minds of everyone involved in the provision of IT services, then an implementation of best practice, no matter how well intentioned, is doomed to failure.