Sunday, October 28, 2012

Are your managers just going along for the ride?

Every ITSM conference has multiple presentations on how you go about getting that all elusive "management commitment" to your ITSM initiative.

Do we actually know what REAL management commitment or support looks and feels like? I think we all know what it isn't:
  1. Throwing money at it - budget alone is not going to make an ITSM improvement initiative work
  2. Standing at a launch meeting and saying that the initiative has the full support of management
  3. A few emails to the business 
  4. Taking a backseat role and letting IT be the driver in the project
Is management just going along for the ride without
any sense of direction?
We need the C level team to take the lead in the improvement of ITSM practices. These initiatives will only work when they are imbedded in the strategy and business plans of the organisation.

Agreement with a plan proposed by the IT department will just not cut it. The entrenchment of IT into every service the organisation provides makes it a business imperative to provide exceptional IT service. This is no longer an IT issue.

The issue we often have is that management still thinks of IT as "those people in the basement" who you call when something breaks down. Even in organisations who rely totally on IT systems to stay in business IT is still  seen as a necessary evil and not the sort of people you invite to sit around the board table. They might be invited to explain themselves after a major incident, or could get to make a presentation when they are after investment in new infrastructure, but that is, in too many cases, as far as it goes.

How do we get people at this level, with very limited bandwidth, to understand the importance of ITSM to the whole business and take an active role in leading these improvements? I don't know that I have any silver bullets to answer this question. The IT Service Management Forum's International publishing initiative has produced two excellent executive guides aimed precisely at this group to give them some idea of the importance and value to the business of ITSM. Slipping these books under the boss's door would be a start, and may plant the right seeds that can then be harvested in the future when the environmental conditions are right.

The tactic I have seen work most often is to take advantage of adverse conditions. When a major incident has resulted in, or threatened, the loss of business, your management team is going to want to do anything they can to make sure this doesn't happen again. So when you are called to the board table to "please explain" take the opportunity to impress upon them just how an ITSM improvement initiative can minimise the risk of this happening again. When profitability is clearly under threat, or has already been lost you will find a very receptive audience. Don't spend your time apologising for what has happened, let them know how THEY can prevent this happening again.

Something else that may make a world of difference is for you to take the "IT" out of the equation and call for commitment to a "Service Management" improvement initiative. Too often management will hear the acronym "IT" and just think "not my problem".

Management needs to provide the foundations for ITSM
© Sam Spiro -
In reality, we are not after "support" we need commitment and involvement for the long haul. Support suggests something on the outside that you can lean on, we need the C level team to be the foundation and supporting structure for ITSM improvement.

So here is what I think true management commitment looks like:
  1. Inclusion of ITSM as a key initiative and capability in the strategic plan for the organisation
  2. Announcing publicly, and directly to customers, that the organisation is committed to a long term ITSM improvement plan. If the initiative is kept quietly in-house it is much easier to let it die
  3. Announcing and celebrating ITSM milestones and goals publicly
  4. Initiating a company-wide education programme - IT services are part of every aspect of most businesses, so it is critical that the entire organisation is behind the improvement programme
  5. Provide a recurring budget item for ITSM separate from the IT budget. This is NOT a one-off project, the initiation phase may be able to be treated as such, but ITSM improvements do not have an end-date. CSI (Continual Service Improvement) is forever!
  6. Bringing IT to the board table as a partner
  7. C-level involvement at every ITSM planning session
The argument that your C level team is too busy to be involved in ITSM cannot be allowed to be used as an excuse. They simply cannot afford not to be the leaders in this area, the organisation's profitability and longterm survival depend more than ever on the quality of their IT services, and this dependency can only increase in the future. NOW is the time for them to step up and take the driver's seat.

No comments:

Post a Comment