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27 May, 2022 Service Management ITIL Insight

Service management – it takes a village. Connected people, leadership and culture

Whatever processes or practices an organisation wants to implement, it will usually need to sort out issues in other connected areas, somehow.

Traditionally, processes and practices have often been treated as ‘silos’. As we develop broader roles in IT, it will therefore require work to ensure that we either break these down or improve our collaboration across these ‘silos’.

In the past, organisations have created process silos, such as – for example – having an incident team, among others. This often and inevitably led to an autocratic approach to ITIL and IT service management; something not always in the best interests of businesses or customers for speed and efficiency, or for visibility of who is managing what.

Therefore, if senior management wants an organisation to operate more holistically and seamlessly, things have to ‘join up’.

Taking an end-to-end view

In whatever way you are involved in processes and practices including major incident management, incident, problem, change, configuration management etc, at some point there needs to be a holistic view across processes, service design and mapping.

Think of this as a “helicopter view” of end-to-end working: seeing the ‘big picture’ and  understanding how it all works together, communicating better, removing blockages and ultimately improving how it all works.

Not necessarily everyone involved in service delivery will live that concept on a daily basis, but they should know what’s upstream and downstream from their area and ‘silo’ and how they should engage in either direction.

If the organisation is not good at collaborating, there may be ‘competition’ across some technical and escalation teams who will try to get to the root of, and fix, a problem without collaborating. This does not usually provide business efficiency or experience quality to the customers – quite the opposite, as it exposes a disjointed organisation.

It’s therefore vital that the organisation’s leadership and management make it clear that the overall approach, culture and mode of working should be collaborative.

Finding a “way in” to transformative improvement

There’s no simple answer to starting the process of service management transformation and improvement in an organisation.

Situational analysis is vital and, to get the most real experience of where the issues are, a sensible place to begin is with the service desk. But this doesn’t mean that the service desk is the problem: many issues are likely to have their origins elsewhere, such as a lack of governance, company culture, poor processes, lack of collaboration, limited understanding of the bigger picture and lack of management focus on the core things that need to happen…

From experience I have found that many issues visible at service desk level actually relate to other parts of a business – and this implies an imperative to work more collaboratively and closely with other functions, teams and individuals.

So, what are some of the most important factors to look for when addressing service management improvement?

  •  Understanding overall objectives

Has the upstream/downstream supply chain element been defined clearly for people and do technical teams see the relevance of it?

  • Visibility and understanding

The more that your people can understand and recognise the reality of how things are across the organisation, the better things get.

  • Responsibility for providing an end-to-end view

Greater clarity of how things are joined-up – i.e., the interconnectivity of things – reduces the need for too many processes, which often restrict people from being able to provide flexibility and ‘do the right things’. The more we understand the better placed we are to do the right thing and deliver value to our customers.

  • Understanding the ‘why’ of what you’re doing

If you want your organisation to change the way it works, then explaining why will encourage people to embrace change and minimise resistance to altering the status quo.

If customer satisfaction is poor and affecting the company, being transparent with people and removing process constraints gives them permission to get the right things done.

This is why seeing the connections between processes and practices is important: as the old adage says, it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, delivering effective service management requires a variety of things to come together beyond just buying a tool and expecting change.

And the people dimension of this is paramount: through mentoring, a culture of continuous learning, encouraging different areas of knowledge, opinions and attitudes.

Close collaboration doesn’t happen overnight and this depends on levels of regular contact, interchangeable roles and secondments, the availability of maps and other artefacts that provide clear transparency of value streams and ‘joined up’ processes.

Good service management is about looking at things from different perspectives and being able to respond as people in different contexts. To get to this level of transparency and flexibility is what the service management ‘village’ must develop, through our people, our leadership and our culture. All of these things take time and experience, that can’t simply be bought, implemented or just ‘switched on’.