Why should organizations think about creating a customer-focused approach to delivering services? And where do they begin?
The experience of providing services during the current pandemic drives home a number of service management lessons, most prominently that the only path to success is focusing on the customer and developing the skills needed to meet their needs. When a crisis occurs, people and organizations pull back to essential needs and service providers must fill these needs or fail.
Essential skills for serving customers in a meaningful way include the ability to:
- define and understand strategy
- plan efficient action
- create a culture of continual improvement and, throughout –
- communicate effectively.
Also, the recent events have given service management professionals the incentive to consider the bigger picture. Rather than looking just at the problem in front of you, it means standing back, taking a minute and figuring things out.
In this situation, ITIL® 4’s guiding principles apply to even the most unusual circumstances. For example, progress iteratively with feedback makes practical sense as there are problems to solve immediately. And you can test whether the decisions you make align with the principles.
Breaking down D, P and I in ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve
The ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI) module offers a practical perspective on understanding and building the necessary skills in both individuals and organizations.
Taking each element of the DPI module in turn, you can ask yourself as a leader:
- Are you giving clear direction to your team and those who are doing the work at an uncertain time?
- Are you willing to change your plan in response to events or are you stuck in entrenched thinking?
- Are you using continual improvement that will solve today’s problems while also laying the groundwork for sustainable improvement?
If an organization doesn’t have a formal improvement mechanism in place, such as a service management office supported by a mature governance structure, there is a real risk of just doing “stuff”. Why waste time and money on unfocused activity when there is best practice guidance on how to avoid it?
There is an opportunity, now that the picture is starting to become clearer, to step back and look at the end-to-end value chain, understand demand to value and maximize the contribution of service management principles to business outcomes.
Communication – the key to everything else
An ITIL 4 DPI “essential skills” infographic rightly focuses on the importance of communication in all aspects of service management, promoting sound principles such as the two-way nature of communication. Effective communication is critical for collaboration and co-ordination across organizational silos and to create shared objectives.
Without the right kind of communication IT organizations often make assumptions, leading to mistakes and wasted investment like deploying technology without constant alignment to the mission.
To improve organizational communication, follow these key steps:
Assess your own communication habits: look at where you have experienced difficulty and improve your own behaviour. For example, try other communications methods for colleagues who don’t respond to email. If you feel you are communicating well but still aren’t getting results, it’s time to try something new.
Discuss with the team: if you have a team, have an open discussion about communication and agree on how to improve collectively. Follow up with training and coaching sessions. And be willing to accept criticism gracefully.
Communicating upwards: find respectful ways of communicating with superiors if and when they are not communicating effectively.
To create long-term improvements, you should consider establishing a service management office or centre of excellence that will focus on cultivating the necessary skills, along with the technology needed to support people.
By building these skills and competencies you will have a better chance of accomplishing real results, outcomes and value.