A New Model for sustainable Service Management

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ITIL Service Management Processes

ITSM is a Human endeavor, not a technical one. So why is it we always seem to place the focus on Tools and or Processes? If you want to truly embed service management into your organization, you need to approach it from an Organizational Change Management perspective as opposed to a technical one. In this brief article, I will provide some thoughts on how to make Service Management a sustainable part of your culture.

If I had to summarize my career over the past 35 years, I would have to say Service Management Practitioner.

Sure, I’ve had a lot of titles – everything from Field Engineer, Operations Manager, Solutions Architect, even CEO – but the common denominator in every job was IT Service Management – either practicing it in the trenches or overseeing the delivery of it.

And if I’ve learned one thing in that time its that Service Management works!

However, you will not see any real benefits from Service Management unless your organization truly practices it – and makes it a sustainable part of your culture.

sustainable service management - itsm success

That brings me to my key message – ITSM is a Human endeavor, not a technical one – and you will only achieve true success if you approach it from an organizational change perspective as opposed to a technical one.

I’ve seen a lot of ITSM programs over the years – and a lot of failed ones.

The one thing that all the failed programs had in common was the inability to truly get people bought into the vision of ITSM.

Programs that put the emphasis on tools or technical processes run the risk of alienating the very people they need to make ITSM work.

If you buy into the idea that ITSM is a Human endeavor, then I submit its time for a NEW MODEL for ITSM implementation, one that is aligned to the human condition.

So what do I mean by the human condition? Well, when I look at friends, colleagues, employees or even clients, I see four distinct elements to their personality.
sustainable service management model diagram
First off there is the EMOTIONAL element.

People get excited, angry, fearful, happy, sad, and hopeful.

Emotions are real, and believe it or not; they play a role in how successful your ITSM program will be.

You need to win the hearts and minds of your stakeholders to be successful.

Then there is the INTELLECTUAL element.  It’s the counterpoint to the emotional side.  We use the intellect to draw conclusions, solve problems and build plans.

Now, you can have the best plan in the world, but it’s useless unless you take ACTION.  That’s the third element of the human condition – our ability to work together as a team to get things done.

Finally, there is something I refer to as CONTROL.  That entails the human virtues of perseverance, discipline and the desire to improve and make things better.

This model isn’t a “one-time” thing – like service management itself, we derive value from the journey.  Each of these elements comes into play at every stage of your ITSM program.  Whether you are in the early stages of implementing a program or you are well into continual service improvement.

So let’s take a moment and look at each of these elements in more detail.


sustainable service management model diagram emotionThe first aspect of the model I want to speak to is Emotion – or as I like to put it “winning the hearts and minds” of your stakeholders.

Service Management is about changing the organization for the better but you can’t do that without getting the organization on-board. Dr. John Kotter, a leading authority on organizational change, says it all starts with creating a “climate for change”.

To create the climate for change you have to get buy-in and support – and that starts with emphasizing WHY the change is important – What’s in it for them.

What’s the first thing your kids say when you ask them to do something, like their homework? “WHY”

But there is a caveat – the why is different for each person or group of stakeholders.

What’s important to the CEO or CIO may not be the same for a help desk agent or technician.

You must communicate the why in terms of business outcomes that each group of stakeholders can relate to.

This takes leadership – you need to inspire your stakeholders with communication that is open, authentic and honest!


sustainable service management model diagram intellectAs important as it is to “Win the Hearts” you also have to follow up with a Plan – and that is where the INTELLECT comes in to play.

You can’t wing it folks – you need a solid plan to implement and sustain ITSM.

According to Dr. Kotter, once you create a climate for change you need to engage and enable the organization.   One way to engage your stakeholders is through benchmarking.

Go out and ask people what’s working, what’s not working and get their input on how to make it better.

Understand the pain points from their perspective and build a plan that addresses their issues.  Remember – this is about making service better for the users.

When it comes to building a plan for ITSM it needs to be realistic – don’t paint a bulls eye on your back by building a plan that is doomed from the start.

There are two things I’ll caution you against doing:

By big bang I mean avoid trying to do it all at once.  It’s relatively easy to implement a tool that supports 10 processes – its completely another thing to get the organization to truly adopt those processes.

By “lift and shift” I mean taking existing processes and migrating them to a new tool.  The problem with that approach is that most people are not happy with the tool they’ve got – so why recreate it?  It was Albert Einstein that said,

“ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

Sure – lift and shift may seem faster in the short-term, but it usually has sub-optimal results and can hurt your ITSM program in the long run.

The last thing I want to say regarding your ITSM plan is that you need to communicate and engage.  The best way to get support for your plan is to engage others when you’re building it.  This is a fundamental tenant of organizational change management.


sustainable service management model diagram actionSo you’ve “won the hearts and minds” of your stakeholders and have built an excellent plan to move forward – now its time to take ACTION.

One may say that as IT people – this is where we excel – getting things done, moving the ball forward.

However, it’s been my observation that as IT professionals we often forget the softer side of implementing new processes or tools – the people side.

Implementing processes in an ITSM tool is the easiest part of an ITSM program.  It’s getting people to believe in and follow the process that takes work!

For example, creating an incident ticket is easy.  What’s hard is getting people to fill it out correctly, monitoring the ticket through to resolution, ensuring the status of the tickets are updated, that knowledge is captured, metrics are produced and the process is made better through CSI.

A process has to add value.  You’ll never get value out of your processes unless they are truly adopted in the organization.

To get people onboard you need to be collaborative!

Your processes can’t be built in a vacuum.  True organizational change requires that you get the right people onboard so that the change comes from within.

Pull these folks together in workshops and meetings so that their requirements are heard and embedded into the solution. It is a lot easier to get people to buy in if they were part of the solution.

Finally, as you’re taking action you also need to continuously educate and communicate.  Don’t assume your stakeholders know and understand the “why” of the process.  Education and communication is the best path to adoption.


sustainable service management model diagram controlAccording to Kotter, once you’ve created a climate for change by engaging the organization, you need to implement and sustain the change.  This is where the 4th part of the model comes into play – CONTROL.

All your hard work will be wasted, and you will never realize the benefits of ITSM, unless you can sustain the program.

To do that you need to get agreement on KPIs & metrics and then hold people accountable for the success of the program.

In order to lock in the benefits of the change you’ve got to communicate successes.

By highlighting the wins you will reinforce the behaviors required to make ITSM sustainable.


sustainable service management model human endeavor

ITSM is a HUMAN endeavor, not a technical one!

Organizations must be cognizant of the Human Condition! And you must look at your program through that lens.

It’s all about creating a climate for change, engaging the organization, then implementing and sustaining the change.

We are EMOTIONAL beings – you have to win the hearts and minds of your stakeholders.

We are INTELLECTUAL – you need to engage others in developing a realistic plan that makes sense.

We are ACTION oriented – but you can’t do it alone or in a vacuum – you must collaborate with others in order to drive adoption.

And finally – you need to lock in and reinforce the benefits by having the right CONTROLS in place.

Service Management works – but to derive true benefits it needs to be sustainable, and that has little to do with tools or processes and everything to do with PEOPLE!

David Mainville

David Mainville, CEO and co-founder of Navvia, is a passionate advocate of Service Management and a frequent presenter, blogger and well known member of the ITSM community. With over 35 years of experience, David has held progressively senior technical and management roles allowing him to "connect the dots" between the Business and IT. At Navvia, David leads the charge to bring innovative ITSM solutions to market focusing on Product Development, Marketing and Operations.

• Posted by David Mainville on Dec 15, 2014
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