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Next Practices in Business Service Management



Survey Results of “Attitude, Behavior and Culture” on Business Perception of IT’s Value
by Paul Wilkinson

Since the launch of the Attitude, Behavior and Culture (ABC) of ICT™, workshops have been held around the World and articles and findings published. The itSMF has been a champion in publishing findings and deploying the workshops. The aim of all these efforts is to help both delivery organizations, such as training & consulting providers, as well as Customer organizations, to address the ABC worst practices that are the reason many ITIL initiatives fail to realize the expected Business Value of Service Management. 

IT is becoming increasingly important to all organizations. We can no longer afford not to ensure that frameworks such as ITIL deliver demonstrable Value to businesses and at the same time reduce costs and risks of poor IT management. After all that is what ITIL is all about right?.....or is it all about getting a certificate!

In this article, I want to look at the latest ‘Shocking’ results of both the global ABC workshops and, for the sake of our North American practitioners, the results of the National roll-out of the ABC workshops by the itSMF and some of our GamingWorks partners in Canada and the USA. Why do I say ‘Shocking’ results? Because we still have not, as an ITSM industry, got together to make a concerted effort to solve these issues. Our global results still show 94% agreeing that ‘Current formal ITIL training and certification doesn’t help solve these issues.’  Worse still, is that I hear from training companies that if they offer ABC or People related training then Customer organizations decline saying ’Just give me the standard ITIL training and certificate!’  Perhaps this is why 70-80% of organizations fail to achieve the Business Value they expected to gain from an ITSM (ITIL) initiative and why more than 50% fail because of resistance. The reasons for these failures are Attitude, Behavior and Culture (ABC).

It is our view that ABC is like an Iceberg. ‘Much of it is hidden beneath the surface. We don’t see it; we don’t talk about it and we hope that it will simply go away and won’t do us too much damage’. Yet it is capable of stopping your improvement program dead in its tracks or sending you off on a direction you didn’t want to go…..such as the unacceptably large amount who have not received the business value they expected.

We need a way of making the iceberg visible. ‘How big is it? And what sort of damage can it cause?’ If we make it visible we can discuss it, make decisions and take actions to manage the potential risks and damage.

That is what the ABC of ICT™ card set was intended for - an awareness and assessment instrument. This is also what the ABC publications were intended for - ‘industry expert advice on how to deal with the issues’ …containing more than 35 cases from industry practitioners and experts. Something that practitioners could use and training companies could include in their offerings.

I want to now present the results of the TOP 10 Global findings from the ‘Business Customer’ or ‘Business User’ exercise. In this exercise, using the ABC of ICT™ Card set, teams are asked to ‘Choose the most common ABC worst practice cards that they THINK their Business Customers would choose’. We explain to the teams ‘…..We have had ITIL and such ITSM frameworks for more than 20 years. ITSM has ALWAYS been about the Customer and the User …yet have we actually resolved their NEEDS with all these frameworks? Are they satisfied and getting Business Value? What would they say if we ask them?’ The following are the top chosen cards from 4000 delegates. 



The following diagram shows the TOP 10 North American findings, taken from workshops held by the itSMF and ABC training partners in North America: (750 Delegates)


 Interesting observations about the top issues in North America:

The Solution the Customer sees isn’t the one that IT sees’ and the ‘Them and Us’ culture shows a clear disconnect between Business and IT. The ‘Helpdesk technoid’ card which represents a poor customer or service focus scores higher in North America than any other country in which we have run the workshops, which is a big surprise to me. Admittedly the results above are only based on 4000 delegates worldwide (750 delegates in North America) and isn’t a large enough population for any accurate findings, however it is an interesting initial observation worthy of further investigation.

The ‘Silo’ mentality also scores high in North America, compared to other countries, showing an issue with end-to-end service delivery. This may be partly explained when we review the top 10 reasons for ITIL resistance, in which ‘Throwing solutions over the wall’ scores high. It appears that there is a lack of engagement with and involvement of all departments. Please see the recommendations of experts for the number 1 success factor.

A final observation which was considerably higher than the majority of European findings is the ‘Blame culture. Perhaps this is indicative that No management commitment wasn’t in the top 10. Perhaps the management style is North America is very dominant and directive which manifests itself as ‘Blame’.

Interesting observations relating to the Global results.

Internal focus’ and ‘Not my responsibility’ scored higher in the global findings than in North America. Perhaps the ‘Solution mismatch’ and the ‘Them and us’ culture in North America are a result of more dialogue between business and IT and yet a disconnect about what is important, whereas in the global findings IT organizations are still ‘Too internally focused’ and haven’t made the approach to a dialogue with the business about the level of service and customer satisfaction. Certainly in my experience in delivering numerous workshops in Europe when I ask ‘Do you KNOW or THINK these are the cards the Customers would choose?’ in more than 95% of cases the answer is ‘We THINK, because we’ve never asked them’. Which is also quite 'Shocking' when you consider that ITIL or ITSM is focused on Service to Customers and Users of IT.  See also the Blog ‘Why didn’t we ask the Users’.

Throwing solutions over the wall (ITIL processes)’ scored higher in the rest of the World in the ‘Customer perception’ exercise, showing also that Customers don’t feel involved in ITIL in any way. Which supports the Forrester report a while ago that showed this to be the second biggest reason for ITIL type failures – ‘Lack of Interest or Involvement from the business

Lack of Authority for Process managers’ also scored higher in the rest of the world, perhaps because the acceptance for processes is higher. When we review reasons for resistance we see that North America scores extremely high on the Tool focus and lack of buy-in to processes and procedures in general.

General overall observation

The reason I call the results ‘Shocking’ is that the number 1 reason chosen in the rest of the World AND in North America is ‘No understanding of Business Impact and Priority’.

Why is this 'Shocking'? We have had ITIL for decades in an attempt to provide Service to meet business needs. If we don’t know the business impact and priority then what have we been trying to do with all that ITIL?? The old adage ‘A FOOL with a TOOL is still a FOOL’ springs rapidly to mind!  Is it any wonder so many fail? We don’t know what the business needs are and we don’t know how to make the business case. This is why many ITIL initiatives were killed in the financial crises. We couldn’t convince the business that it would add value or reduce costs and risks.

The second exercise conducted in the ABC workshops is the ‘Resistance’ exercise. The question being: ‘Which types of resistance do you expect or see when adopting and deploying framework such as ITIL?’  The following sets of results show the Global Top 10 resistance issues to ITIL. Global Top 10 (1250 delegates):


The Top 10 resistance in North America: (500 delegates). It must be noted that the resistance question has been reformed for these workshops. Customers asked for an expansion of the question to include ‘Which type of resistance do you see or expect when you try to adopt and deploy ITIL, including Tools to support it?’



Interesting Observations about the North America results

By far the highest scoring resistance issue in North America is ‘A Tool solves all problems’, a belief that ITIL can be implemented as a Tool. I will not say that I blame the tool providers for this…….It could also be that Customer organizations say ‘Never mind about all that process stuff just give me a tool?’, just like Customer organizations say ‘Never mind about all this culture and change training just give me a certificate!’ but it is noticeable that at IT conferences in North America there are more Tool provider stands and Exhibitors than there are training and consulting. This belief on the Tool as the solution and lack of focus on Processes may explain the high score for ‘Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall’ as a top type of resistance, certainly when taken into account with the ‘Silo’ mentality. The fact that ‘We are going to install ITIL it can’t be that hard’ also supports a belief that a Tool will solve all the problems so we don’t need to spend so much effort on getting processes to work……let alone having to deal with the people.

Interesting Observations about the Global results

It is interesting that ‘No management commitment’ scores the highest in the rest of the world, as we suggested above perhaps in North America managers have a more hierarchic and forceful leadership, perhaps the high scoring ‘blame culture’ is a characteristic of this. (It is also interesting in the rest of the world people take away the cards and declare they will try and do the workshop back at their organization, in the workshops I have conducted in North America people ask if I will come and do the workshop because of the ‘Shooting the messenger’ syndrome, “I can’t tell them this…..if I do that it will be a career limiting move!’.)

Perhaps the ‘No management commitment’ in the global results is also a reason that ‘Lack of authority for process managers’ scores high. If managers do not enforce behavior and demonstrate commitment, and process managers are also not given authority …this explains why procedures are not being followed.

Both sets of results, in North America and the Global findings show that ‘not following procedures’ and ‘saying yes but doing no’ score high. Whether it is as a result of the tool focus and throwing solutions over the wall or the lack of management commitment it is clear that ‘plan to stop…’or lack of a focus on Continual Service Improvement (CSI) doesn’t help address the underlying reasons for failure and for finally fixing them. This confirms for me the fact that CSI should have been the first ITIL V3 book published. People could have spent 6 months finally doing what they should also have been doing with ITIL V2 – Continual evaluation and improvement.

Another reason I call these results ‘Shocking’ is that in both sets of results, ‘ITIL is the objective not what it should achieve’ still scores in the top 10. Once again lets repeat the single most important learning point in my mind that every single ITIL trained person should be able to quote off the top of their head ‘A Service is a means of delivering VALUE to customers by facilitating OUTCOMES they want to achieve without the ownership of specific COSTS and RISKS’…….Go back into your organization and ask anybody and everybody who has been on an ITIL training to tell you ‘what is the definition of a SERVICE according to ITIL’. So far less than 5% have been able to answer me. ITIL is the objective …NOT what it is ALL about.

Oh and by the way, just in case you are thinking why I should bother about this ABC stuff, here are the results of the IMPACT of all these ABC worst practices on Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks according to the global survey:

And so….. these are simply my individual opinions, ramblings and interpretations of the underlying reasons for the 'Shocking' ABC results and resistance. I am sure many people will disagree with my opinions, which is fine.  Let’s start some serious discussions aimed at finding a REAL solution. However one thing is plainly evident. 94% of people in an ABC survey declared ‘Current ITIL training and certification’ doesn’t help address these ABC issues.

So if you disagree with my conclusions, observations and findings then take up the responsibility for asking the itSMF, OGC and other training and consulting companies to do some proper surveys, analysis and conclusions and to change the product and service offerings around ITIL to finally solve these issues.
If you do agree with my findings then change your training and consulting offerings to address these and help convince customer organizations that there is more needed than simply a ‘certificate’.

If you are a customer organization who recognizes the problems then I suggest you implement Demand Management. What does that mean? If you are going to buy a Tool, or hire any consultants or buy any ITIL training, then DEMAND that the provider shows you how they will ensure that the issues above are resolved.  Ask the Tool provider how their deployment strategy ensures equal attention to processes and people (ensuring buy-in, engagement, involvement and overcoming resistance).  Ask to see the CV of any consultant and ensure it includes references and experience in dealing with ABC related issues. For any training company, ask them which training or syllabus helps show how to recognize and deal with ABC. If none of them meet these DEMANDS then don’t hire them!!  

If Customer organizations start demanding this we will finally start to change the industry. This will help raise the success rate of ITSM improvement initiatives and reduce the more than 50% that fail because of resistance.

Perhaps the popularity and interest in ABC is an indication that finally ITSM is becoming grown up and starting to recognize that the objective isn’t about ITIL certificates …it is about behaving in a way that ensures ITSM meets the needs of the business, in which ITIL is simply one of the instruments that can help realize this.

Paul Wilkinson is the co-owner of GamingWorks. He is an ITIL Service manager with more than 25 years of experience at all levels within the IT branch, from Computer operations, to IT services manager to IT services development manager. Author of ITIL V2 publication. Designer of GamingWorks products. Co-Author and Cartoonist of the 'ITSM from hell book'.
































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