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This blog, written by itSMF UK leaders and guest contributors, offers service management thought leadership and discussion of industry trends. Please feel free to comment on these posts (you will need to be logged into the website as a member). We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Soft Skills Are The Hard Part

Posted By Barclay Rae, 02 February 2017

We are now seeing a real renaissance in the ITSM industry. The days of the single approach to service and project management, based purely on ITIL or Prince2 as the only tools and models to use, are numbered. There is a clear and tangible move to use a broader portfolio of methods and approaches, including CoBIT, DevOps, BRM, Lean, Cynefin, IT4IT, SIAM and other ideas, as well as ITIL of course. This development is healthy and underlines the need to use a variety of techniques in order to be flexible.

'People skills' appreciation is on the rise

But as with every renaissance, we now need to find the renaissance men and women with the diverse skillset and knowledge to support our Brave New World, people who understand people. Indeed, the other big development in the last couple of years (and on-going) is the growing appreciation of ‘people skills’. We’re all familiar with the long-trumpeted ‘people, process, technology’ mantra which is used in our industry. However the focus has too often been on process and technology, at the expense of the people part. 

"We now need to find the renaissance men and women with the diverse skillset and knowledge to support our Brave New World, people who understand people."

It’s long been known and understood by many people across the industry that ‘soft skills’ are the real differentiators, the skills and attributes that lead to success.

If you simply compare two practitioners with the same levels of qualifications - technical and process - the one with the good people skills is more likely to succeed, to be the one that you would hire and want to work with. Similarly, you might prefer someone with fewer technical skills and qualifications to work on a project if they have the ‘soft skills’ needed - good personal communications, diplomacy, organisational change experience, negotiation, management, commercial skills etc.

Thankfully we are now calling this out and there is a real demand for knowledge, guidance and expertise in this area. The ITIL Practitioner included a number of these elements, our own (ITSMF UK) PSMF is based around these ideas, and many of the plethora of new models include or are focussed on people and cultural elements, such as DevOps, BRM, and Cynefin.

At last!

So why has this been such an issue? Why have so many projects missed the point about people and human interaction skills? Why have we not taken this seriously at the industry level so that it’s clear to all involved that process and technology are not enough? 

One simple answer might be that it has often been beyond the capability and experience of those tasked with delivering these projects, and whose management assume that by sending them on a few training courses, they will then be able to transform the whole organisation. Given that the industry hasn’t really pushed the value of people enough, this is perhaps understandable. 

A wider interpretation of the problem could also be that soft skills are actually the hard part.
The demands of changing culture, and particularly standing up to long established dynasties and embedded ways of working, is often just too much of a challenge, particularly if you don’t have the necessary soft and hard skills. To be honest, it’s a real misnomer to call these skills ‘soft’ which implies easy, fluffy and lightweight. In actual fact these skills require mental toughness, initiative, bravery and confidence and are anything but ‘soft’.

"To be honest, it’s a real misnomer to call these skills ‘soft’ which implies easy, fluffy and lightweight."

What we need to do as part of the reinvention and renaissance of people at the centre of ITSM is to clarify that their people skills are not just essential but that, whilst they may not be IT/technical skills, they are very much in demand as part of what IT does and the value it delivers. 

So, what do practitioners need to do to develop these ‘soft hard’ skills? 

  • As mentioned above there is a growing set of standards, methods and models available, many of which embrace these competence areas explicitly. It’s a good idea to be aware of these and to explore them, and to use relevant parts for your organisation.
  • Using experience gained in other areas is also useful, and should be called out and referenced as widely as possible. 
  • Recruitment specialists should reference the key skills and attributes required - not just certificates but also real-life experience and evidence of competence in areas beyond technology. 
  • Our management of people should reflect the wider set of skills needed - so job descriptions, appraisals, reviews and rewards schemes should all include the ‘soft hard’ skills as key elements. 
  • Self-awareness is important: we should all be clear of our areas of strength and weakness, in order to improve. It is true that not everyone is a great communicator or leader - however being clear of where you can add value and where you need to improve your skills is an essential starting point. 

So whilst we can build awareness of the types of skills needed, and we can’t all be exceptional at ‘soft hard’ skills, it’s useful for the organisation to set out the importance of these skills and how they complement the more traditional technical and process oriented capabilities. Recognition and awareness are the first steps: we can improve our organisation’s performance and perception by emphasising the value of the tough side of work - soft skills!

This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of ServiceTALK.

Tags:  Career  PSMF 

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Is it Time for ITSM to be Counted as a Professional Discipline? Part 2

Posted By Barclay Rae, 16 June 2016
Updated: 15 June 2016

 

In Is it Time for ITSM to be Counted as a Professional Discipline - Part 1 I discussed how ITSM is still seen by many as purely ITIL-focused or relevant only to internal IT operations. In Part 2 I continue to explain why ITSM needs to grow up.

 

What Needs to Happen? - Continued

Here are some key areas for development:

The ITSM industry needs a broader definition of itself and the roles within – this needs to be supported with a wider range of education and training, plus ongoing professional development. The definition can also extend beyond IT – to include other ‘service’ areas, back office functions and departments such as HR, Finance, Marketing, Estates etc.

The industry must have a single, consistent approach that recognises people and organisations in competence and excellence. This should include organisational accreditation, career development in a number of areas and recognition of real experience as well as qualifications.

The ITSM world should work together to unify its various groups and organisations - otherwise it looks like an amateur ‘cottage industry’. There should ideally be a singular body who see themselves as a common community which spans technical, functional and process areas and also levels of management (including executives).

 ITSM needs to promote, explain and market itself as a distinct discipline much better and bring the different parts of the sector more together, with success stories amongst target markets with the active support of senior people.

The business case for delivering value from ITSM must also be clear to other parts of IT organisations, not just the ‘Service Management guys’. This is essential in order to achieve the value from collaboration and to really deliver ‘end-to-end’ service delivery.

The value of Service Management should be clearly articulated as (1) to manage delivery expectations for customers and (2) minimise risk for the service provider. It’s a win-win – or should be – for customer and provider.

 

What Skills are Needed Beyond ITIL? 

There are 2 main areas of expertise and knowledge required – these are some examples:

Market and industry-wide knowledge – awareness and skills in a variety of other frameworks, e.g

COBIT – this is a model for governance based around a wider set of processes than those in ITIL, although these are defined in a more systemised and integrated taxonomy. ITIL has more ‘stories and anecdotes for reference, whereas COBIT can be better measured and tracked.

DevOps/Agile – ITIL is often criticised as being too inflexible and slow. It is still couched in the 80s/90s IT world and agile methodologies speak to a younger audience, many of whom would not recognise a mainframe. DevOps is a fusion of Agile and a collaborative controlled approach and is gaining significant traction as a useful set of values rather than a rigid framework.

Lean/Kanban – these are additional alternative approaches to how to make change work – using principles for reducing waste and also for work management and prioritisation. These have been used for some time in ITSM projects and add significant value to the practical side of implementations. 

Prince2/PMP – ITSM requires change and this needs to be managed – there has always been a need for synergy with Prince2 and other Project Management models, although this has not been delivered with any formal structured integration. It’s essential however that anyone taking on an ITSM initiative must be able to manage a project and - ideally more than that – deliver organisational change.

IT4IT – this is a new initiative developed by strategic thought leaders in ITSM and service architecture, as well as being sponsored by some major blue chip organisations.  Like DevOps it recognises the need for an integrated and collaborative approach and sets out to look at transformation from a holistic perspective, based around business collaboration.

SDI/HDI – The Service Desk and Helpdesk Institutes in the UK and US provide a number of services and vocational standards for those involved in these teams. These organisations and their standards (individual and site based certification based on EFQM) have a defined audience (the wider ITSM world is more dispersed) and provide useful practical input to the industry – this could be further integrated.

SIAM – Service Integration and Management - this is a new concept, based on an old one – i.e. the need to co-ordinate and manage a number of IT suppliers in a single ‘supply chain’. The ‘new’ element is the idea that multiple outsourced suppliers need to be managed by one (SIAM) management layer, so that a single service view is managed and delivered across the supply chain. This uses ITSM concepts in a more commercially focussed way and is gaining credence and adoption.

ISO 20000 / 9000 / 38500 – these are various certification standards for organisations, with ISO/IEC 20000 being based on ITIL, plus some areas of management and control. ITIL is often confused as a standard which can be ‘implemented’ and ‘certified’, although this is not the case. ISO2000 has not achieved the levels of adoption that were expected although it remains the nearest any organisation can come to being ITIL ‘certified. The ISO 9000 series is centred on customer service and as such a useful starting point. ISO38500 is a governance model for organisation around IT and is a useful model for the integration and fusion of business and technology goals, as well as being an executive blueprint for the management of an IT function.

 

Personal and Management

Overall ITSM requires strong people skills in order to drive through change and make it sustainable – management, organisational skills, influencing skills, communications, project management, business understanding and focus.

ITIL has tended to define roles in operational terms rather than those required for the transformation, and often the change roles were given to those better suited to operational/business as usual functions – often not enough to really affect change.

Other key skills needed

Presentation and promotion – Organisational ITSM change requires a number of people to make e.g. small changes in the way they fill out forms, or communicate with customers. The best way to make this work is by presenting and motivating them to do it and not by bombarding them with directives, processes and documentation. ITSM projects also need to be well communicated across organisations with a good focus on message and target audience, not technical detail.

Sales and marketing – these key skills are needed to define benefits and ‘sell’ these to business leaders and users across organisations. Normally this is not a natural skill for IT people and many ITSM initiatives fail due to lack of clear focus on message and communication of expectations and results.

Business and Financial Management – there is a need to define business gaols and build these into business plans and budgets.  This can also be an area where projects fail, not because of lack of need but lack of presentation of need, risk, value etc. Good commercial skills are also needed for developing, negotiating and managing external suppliers and contracts to deliver a successful ‘joined up’ service, rather than a sum of parts.

Management, Relationship & Interpersonal skills – Influence and motivation are essential elements in successful ITSM – this can’t simply be based on autocratic management. Managing and developing people to want to deliver better service is the goal and this needs keen skills in team building, personal motivation, influencing and collaborative working 

Project Management – budgeting, planning & personal effectiveness skills are needed to make change happen, this also needs a strong sense of self-motivation, self-confidence, time management, leading by example, organisational skills etc.

Successful ITSM requires participants to have good understanding and knowledge of their own organisation, key contacts, stakeholders and sponsors, as well as having a good amount of ‘clout’ and respect across the organisation. They need to be experienced in perhaps more than one area to be able to really see how to deliver ITSM. 

 

Summary 

Many organisations are using ITSM for work management beyond IT. In these cases the IT organisation is becoming the department that says ‘yes’ – a solution provider not a blocker.

In this way IT can further transform itself and add value – if this is not grasped then ITSM will become another obsolete museum piece.

ITSM is actually a potential game changer for IT, not an albatross around its neck…!

The challenge for individuals working in ITSM is to step up – develop their skills beyond ITIL and the ‘silo’-based department, stop seeing other teams, departments and industry areas as ‘them’ and start to engage and work together in positive collaboration as ‘us’.

The challenge for the industry is to unite and see the real potential for ITSM as a business enabler, not a best practice.

We need more practical and enlightened collaboration across frameworks, training organisations and established communities to support this move.

We need as an industry to move away from ‘them and us’ – IT and ‘the Business’, Operations and Development, Service Desk and other support teams.

If we must have ‘them and us’ – then let that involve natural selection. Let ‘them’ (competitors) have best practice, whilst ’we’ (our whole organisation) deliver business value.

 

Click here to find out more about our plans to develop and advance ITSM as a professional discipline.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  PSMF 

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Will We See You at SITS16?

Posted By Barclay Rae, 08 June 2016
Updated: 07 June 2016

 

This week ITSMF UK will be at the SITS show – we look forward to meeting many ITSM people there – it’s always a great business and social event.

 

We will be promoting our new PSMF (Professional Service Management Framework) there – come and hear about it on our stand. This is our high level framework which sets out the bigger picture of the competencies an ITSM professional needs – much more than just technical or process. This is a useful tool for organisations and individuals alike to build solid and rewarding career paths and clearly define our profession.

 

We are also presenting this on Thursday as a plenary session in the keynote theatre at 4pm. This will include a representative from CGI who are the first organisation to be endorsed by ITSMF UK in this scheme – read the Press Release here.  

 

I’m also pleased to say that over the last few days I’ve met several other organisations who have started simply using the free content from PSMF for their own people development.

 

SITS is a milestone in the calendar for the industry and we are also working hard to plan towards our own conference in the autumn, where we will feature professionalism. This is a big year for ITSMF UK as we move to re-define our position and proposition for the industry, backed up by a variety of new services.

 

It’s also a big time for our ITSM industry. ITSM is at a crossroads – it’s no longer just about ITIL - or any specific framework, with a number of new approaches DevOps, SIAM, BRM, IT4IT etc. How do existing practitioners evaluate and absorb new ideas into 'traditional' operations and service delivery? It’s a tough call and there is also too much confrontational marketing hype around 'xxx' is dead', or 'ITSM vs xxx'

 

What is clear is that our (ITSMF UK) role is to promote a clear definition of professionalism and recognition in Service Management. We need to incorporate new skills and roles within the world of IT. The changing market require s a wider definition of Service Management than just process or tech. We need a clear definition of a much wider set of skills and capabilities that are required to make IT service delivery successful.

 

We also require a grown up approach to understanding and incorporating the best of new and older practises... So we need to understand what is offered by new models and act positively to make these work – as and if they are appropriate. Our role is to present and investigate new ideas and models as they appear and to help professionals evaluate what is best for them.

 

ITSMF UK are no longer the ITIL user group* – rather we are independent curators, presenting and analysing the wider world of ITSM.

 

Enjoy SITSs and we hope to see you there…!

 

 

*other than selling some publications, we have no formal links to ITIL

Tags:  CGI  ITIL  PSMF  SITS16 

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Is it Time for ITSM to be Counted as a Professional Discipline? Part 1

Posted By Barclay Rae, 02 June 2016
Updated: 02 June 2016

 

ITSM is still seen by many as purely ITIL-focused or relevant only to internal IT operations. It is time for ITSM to stand up and be counted as a professional service discipline. Based on discussions with members across the country and the work of a thought leadership group, Barclay Rae outlines a future path for ITSM.


A Grown-up ITSM Industry 

ITSM needs to grow up – we need to look at ourselves and professionalise our industry and approach.

This means re-positioning as a more strategic and business-relevant function, with demonstrable business benefits, supporting organisational and customer expectations. In the past this has been too narrowly focussed on internal IT functions, projects and costs. 

ITIL has been the ‘de facto’ training and development approach for the last 10 – 15 years, yet those involved in delivering it know that ITIL is not enough – success requires much more than knowledge of a process framework.

IT and ITSM also needs to be viewed and appreciated more in a business broker role, more able to react quickly and be a solution provider rather than a ‘blocker’ - or the guys who always say ‘no’.


Tweet: For #ITSM to succeed we must show that it is professional, business-like and valued at the C-level - @barclayrae


Without a significant change in speed of delivery, quality and perception of service and demonstrable value, many IT internal departments and external IT companies will become more and more exposed as obsolete, and ultimately, redundant.

The ITSM industry itself also needs a make-over, with fresh and accessible content, some new and contemporary framing and messaging, in order to remain attractive and relevant.

In order to succeed with this we need first to take steps to improve the image of the industry, and the extent to which it can be shown to be professional, business-like and valued at the C-level. 

 

ITSM as a Discipline?

One problem is that ITSM is not seen as a discipline. There are several models for organisational certification (ISO20000, based on ITIL, SDI/HDI for Service Desks, COBIT as a governance model). Yet there is no central point of convergence or clarity about how these relate or are jointly relevant to support businesses. There is a growing but relatively low take-up of most of these models, which is disappointing since this would provide evidence that the ITSM programmes are working.

There are several industry organisations in this space that have members and forums, produce content, run events and in some cases set standards – yet these tend to exist as standalone niche bodies. Memberships have declined from initial high levels as the market has become saturated and knowledge and content has become more freely available online.

There is a large gap in the body of knowledge around ITSM – ITIL is primarily focussed on process, whereas successful ITSM requires a much wider portfolio of skills and capabilities. ITIL does not define organisational change, human interaction or customer experience, all essential for success.

Many organisations have expected ITIL to deliver results way beyond its capability or remit, seeing ITIL itself as the solution and ignoring these other factors. The result has been a lot of failed or incomplete ‘ITIL projects’ – these have burned cash and resources with little positive results – leaving the brand names of ITIL and ITSM damaged.

Without a central body to manage these issues, each area of the industry has continued unilaterally to deliver point solutions with limited success and restricted commercial penetration.

ITSM is therefore not a properly codified discipline. In its current form it will not be sustainable and the industry needs a new and wider definition, vision and structure. This must include e.g. a broader definition and portfolio of skills and capabilities, body of knowledge, organisational standards, plus clear career development paths, higher education qualifications and a code of conduct.

ITSM needs to be clearly positioned and presented as a business approach both within and beyond IT organisations. This is a growth area as many organisations are now using ITSM processes and tools to deliver wider collaboration and work management functions. C-level value propositions must be universally promoted around ITSM as an enabler, broker, orchestrator, rather than administrator.


Tweet: In order to survive, the #IT & #ITSM industry has to move to the next level of maturity. We collectively need to grow up - @barclayrae


All stakeholders need to engage and play their part in the delivery of Service Management - it’s a team game. We need to move away from thinking that ITSM is ‘just what the Service Desk do.’ 

In other words, in order to survive, the IT and ITSM industry has to move to the next level of maturity - we collectively need to grow up.   

 

What Needs to Happen?

What do we need to do as an industry to improve and broaden our skills and reflect that in training and development?

  • The view of (IT)SM from an executive perspective must be that it is a unifying and enabling discipline that brings together a number of functions, people and processes – we need to work harder to get that clear message across in suitable language.
  • From a messaging perspective ITSM has to be seen as the enabler of great customer experience as well as delivery of business outcomes/results.
  • We also need to get the message to the (IT) SM industry that we can’t do this simply by ‘doing’ ITIL – we need to get the people part right, plus the right use of governance and other tools, automation and frameworks to be successful.
  • The industry needs leadership to draw these ideas together and to normalise the needs for integration – ITIL is only part of the solution and more skills need to be developed and promoted.

 

Click here to find out more about our plans to develop and advance ITSM as a professional discipline and tune in next week to find out what Barclay thinks are the key areas for development and what skills are needed beyond ITIL.

 

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of Service Talk which is a benefit of ITSMF UK membership

 

Tags:  PSMF 

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