Why Global Businesses Need to be Aware of Cultural Differences in ITSM

Why Global Businesses Need to be Aware of Cultural Differences in ITSM

There are two areas of culture we need to look at. The first is an understanding of the role of ITSM and the need to challenge the business perception that looks upon the Information Technology department or division in an organization as a separate entity rather than an integral part of the organization. IT themselves often look at the "business" as separate to themselves and this is one area that must be addressed if we are to truly gain the inherent value in ITSM.

Phil HearsumAt this point, the "IT" that appears in "ITIL®" is well established and still remains the global de facto best practice framework for IT Service Management since it was founded 25 years ago. That said, some will still persist in thinking about ITIL as "just IT", just for the IT department and casually dismiss the service management element. It is gratifying to see that these barriers are being broken down and that with ITIL's help may become a thing of the past.

The second main cultural piece we need to address is the different cultures that exist in a global market. Luckily, advocates of ITIL recognize that as much as it represents best practice in ITSM, ITIL can also transcend culture and provide reassurance that a job is being done using proven best practice. For example, if a company is seeking a provider of Cloud technology, the fact the provider is using IT service management principles described in ITIL gives the buyer confidence and trust that the system is going to provide the service they need, and this reassurance is relevant anywhere in the world.

For multinational companies, using ITIL means your people are following common processes and procedures in multiple locations. So when there are incidents or problems across the globe, there's an immediate understanding, recognition and reassurance because they're using a universal language of IT service management.

That said, we realize that best practice originally devised in the UK doesn't always transcend the native language where it's being adopted. Sometimes, translation is necessary as, in some places, people will use it only in their native language. But more than that is the quest for localization, which boils down to making best practice guidance relevant to the practitioners wherever in the world they are doing the job and facing challenges on a day-to-day basis.

We recognize there is a cultural difference in IT service management that depends on the country where it is practised and the language being used. While it remains a challenge to understand fully the cultural differences that exist between, for example Japanese and UK service management, it's our job to explore and appreciate those differences as far as possible.

And while ITIL presents cultural considerations for companies, it does the same for individuals.

In some cultures, having a certification, such as the ITIL Foundation certificate, is important simply to obtain a job. Other countries and cultures are less prescriptive about that. The "sweet spot" is when the certification is seen as important evidence of learning and a demonstration that the ITSM practitioner knows what he, or she, is doing in their role.

The new joint venture enshrined in AXELOS has given us the opportunity to understand better the different cultural approaches to ITSM and we are undertaking this by speaking to practitioners and training providers in different parts of the world.

AXELOS has been hosting a series of round table discussions in various countries with key partners. These round table events are a critical part of our learning curve across the world ; understanding cultural differences by meeting and talking with training organizations, businesses and practitioners, listening to what's important to each of them.

And there is genuine potential for our stakeholders to influence what we do in developing best practice guidance and qualifications to help improve the home-grown IT service management community.

For example, some cultures are interested in on-going learning through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Potentially, that could mean starting with a qualification in ITSM and then gathering CPD points to maintain status and knowledge. We are currently looking at the ITSM career paths and how certification is a career building block.

These developments are unlikely to change the core disciplines of ITIL but could include guidance and instructions that are more culture-specific. As an example, some cultures are less interested in the ITIL principle of "adopt and adapt"; they would rather be instructed in what the best organizations in the world do and follow that more closely. Therefore, part of our task is assessing what "good looks like" in the world's leading organizations.

We are very keen to talk and cooperate with ITSM professionals throughout the world and would welcome the opportunity to listen and understand what is happening in the community. We are constantly looking for case studies on how ITIL has been implemented into business and white papers on new developments, issues and ways of working. Please interact with us to ensure that ITIL continues to produce real value where it matters, both now and in the future.

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