Every service management implementation is a cultural transformation.
And culture change is an even bigger issue for senior management than it is for IT and ITSM, as they need to recognize that for such a transformation to be successful, they need to lead and be role models.
But one of the biggest issues is that the concept of culture generally isn't “on the table” when companies are preparing for service management implementation.
For organizations, service management is about saving money, improving service quality and business benefit: creating a better, faster and cheaper service culture change doesn't tend to figure on the agenda. This might be the consequence of companies’ increased focus on electronic/virtual relationships where it’s the norm to email rather than speak to the person sitting at the neighbouring desk.
However, every service management implementation is a cultural transformation (not just the implementation of a set of processes) and this is the reason why many don’t succeed.
But when that’s understood, the results are significant. For example, one service management implementation I was involved with included a CIO who had sat the ITIL Service Manager certificate. Consequently, he understood the cultural transformation goal and the interrelation between technology, customer service and business focus.
The ramifications of not “getting” cultural transformation
To not recognize the cultural element in a service management implementation can lead to having the wrong objectives and pursuing the wrong direction.
This can extend also to having the wrong metrics, which is a problem because measurements drive behaviour and what gets measured gets done! Yes, you can set process metrics but this drives only process improvements without necessarily affecting the overall quality of service or business value.
The ultimate aim is to produce winning ’moments of truth' - i.e. when a team member comes into contact with a customer and makes the experience as easy and delightful as possible. Alas, many IT organizations tend to make it neither easy nor delightful for the customer!
The key is to focus on business value streams which means taking each ‘moment of truth’ and making the customer journey and experience as simple and effective from the customer’s point of view. For example, that could begin with logging an incident, which leads to a problem and the subsequent implementation of a change and the update of a configuration. Each value stream should be made as effective and efficient as possible as a complete business value stream, from the customer perspective.
And something that needs to happen more today is a leaner approach to value streams and greater adoption of agile principles, focusing on the removal of all bottlenecks, duplication, wastage and ‘non-value add’ activities from all processes.
How should planning for cultural transformation begin?
An organization has to recognize the need for cultural transformation to achieve effective service management implementation.
For example: the overall objective for an internal IT division in a global organization might be to become the “business partner of choice” which involves setting a clear objective for cultural transformation.
Ultimately, the initiative must come from the top: ideally from the CEO and the head of IT, both of whom need to understand what being a business partner of choice looks like and can therefore act as role models. It’s also necessary to agree with the business what the business wants; then IT can set the vision and start working towards it with the accompanying activities, processes and metrics.
This approach is very much a partnership that must be structured and organized with a clear and concise strategy and vision that can follow-through to the projects and programmes that will help realize that vision. Essentially, an organization needs to embrace cultural collaboration and integration as it won’t work if people operate in isolated teams.
What’s the payback from a well-deployed cultural transformation?
A successful cultural transformation will give you a business-focused service provider delivering quality services to a business in partnership with IT. Service improvement comes down to making people accountable while empowering them to influence their area. Let them make mistakes and learn from them without creating a ‘blame culture’.
True transformation is achieved when everybody (including architects, analysts, developers, testers along with operations) is being mutually supportive and collaborating on quality of service to ensure that change works.
Service management is one overall integrated process that thrives on integration of processes, tools and people. And establishing knowledge sharing, continual learning and improvement as a way of life will lead to a long-term focus on customers and business value.
Unsurprisingly, people are the key resource and asset within organizations: they are the ones that achieve things, not systems or processes, and the relationship those people create between IT and the wider business are pivotal to success. Establishing a culture of continual learning and improvement will develop the capability of the people and the service provider while improving the customer experience and increasing the business value of the services delivered: truly a ‘win-win’ situation.