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08 April, 2022 ITIL Service Management

Tools and frameworks – the means, not the end, in creating business value

A fixation on service management tools and best practice frameworks has led to many historic failures to meet the expectations invested in them by both organisations and individual practitioners.

Regularly and consistently, people and organisations have had to come face to face with the fact that a framework or toolset, regardless of pedigree, doesn’t guarantee value without understanding and considering the context.

Simply buying a tool or investing in a framework in the hope that it will “colour in” everything a company needs doesn’t add up. In fact, you need to have the “drawing” first before wielding the “crayons”.

Most work management tools require organisation-wide implementation and, often, people are left to get on with this after the business case has been satisfied. However, those people across the organisation may not realise the tool’s benefits, or fully understand the expectations or return on investment.

One fundamental error is in having a solely service management focus for a new toolset when it needs to meet requirements across the whole organisation. Also, an individual may have championed the tool and its underwhelming showing will have a knock-on effect on that person’s standing.

Ultimately, the tool, the vendor and its champions are blamed; performance is below par and teams may revert to what they did before; then the cycle is repeated – again and again – every few years, wasting time and money.

The potential ill effects of adopting frameworks could be summarised as “ditto the above”, often carrying with them expectations far beyond reality. There are also misconceptions that training or certification alone will deliver change. The focus is often on the delivery rather than the outcome.

We need improved planning, communications and pragmatic organisational change to fully achieve value from new tools and frameworks. This also need to start with a practical and realistic understanding of the current state – where are we now?? ‘Start where you are’ etc…

Avoiding the “get rich quick” view of tools and frameworks

If an organisation has spent a reasonable amount of money on a tool and best practice but had questionable value, this can affect trust and the belief in people knowing what they’re doing.

Unfortunately, this has led in some cases to bad outsourcing: buying things for the wrong reasons and with flawed criteria or deciding to add yet another tool or framework to the kit box.

So, a sensible and mature starting point is treating service management tools and techniques more as “bricks and mortar” rather than “get rich quick” schemes and as something that offers a route to becoming an organisation underpinned by quality, control and governance.

Yes, these are overheads but should be treated as part of the organisation’s overall infrastructure. It’s also about the culture towards business value and customer/employee experience: in other words, what happens when people engage with the organisation and find it’s a satisfying and positive/easy experience.

It’s imperative to communicate what service management is and its business value – by keeping it simple and making the conversation more about business and adopting a business-focused viewpoint.

If you can tune into the C-suite appreciation of what’s important to the customer, then you can explain better than service management is about the customer/employee experience, operating within corporate governance and in an accountable way that builds quality.

Bringing the tribes together under one enterprise umbrella

Before getting underway with tools and frameworks, you need to ask: what is our organisational maturity? This is about assessing your organisation’s readiness for change and whether it has the ability to plan properly.

This is vital to understand how the organisation as a whole sees this challenge and what is needed in terms of communications and bridge building.

Part of that is conducting a “tribal audit”: what are the different groups in the organisation, what are their preferred tools and approaches and how open are they to collaborating and moving forward together?

For example, the approach within ITIL 4 has really helped in bringing more traditional service management people along with the concepts of DevOps and Agile. But this also emphasises to DevOps and Agile advocates that organisations still need a sound governance and management layer; yes, we need to be agile but we also need control.

Building consensus in this way across tribal boundaries is one of the newer approaches that many organisations need to improve upon.

Realising the benefits of best practice and tools

A sports team can already be high performing. But it will be even better if the players have a clear picture of what they need to achieve.

In business as in sport, having a sense of direction and clarity is vital. And then, in that context, best practice frameworks and tools resonate more and can provide the means to achieving the goal.

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) requires service management people to look at their approach, language and focus in order to achieve success. This requires organisations to describe strategic goals in simpler terms and be better placed to sell new ideas to their staff.

Of course, getting to this point needs good leadership: understanding different perspectives, bringing people together as early as possible and making them feel that they’re involved and their feedback is important and encouraged.

Having better definitions of what the organisation is trying to do at a corporate, department and team level then makes it easier to introduce the concepts of service management and IT (and ITSM/ESM) tools.

If you would like help with frameworks, tools and transitions, I’d be delighted to discuss this with you – I’ll be at various industry events in the next few months, including SITS (London) and Pink Elephant (Las Vegas)