In a previous blog (The ABC Of ICT – The Top 10 People Issues), Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks and I shared how the “ABC of ICT” (the Attitude, Behavior, and Culture issues), or the “people factor,” is a critical success or fail factor in IT, and particularly IT service management (ITSM), operational and improvement initiatives.

In this blog, we want to move on from the “resistance areas” and share the top 10 critical success factors for dealing with the ABC of ICT. These are borrowed from the ABC of ICT – An Introduction to the Attitude, Behavior and Culture of ICT book by Paul and Jan Schilt so that, as Paul likes to say, “We can make a difference together.”

Top 10 people critical success factors for IT

  1. Involve all functions in design. Involve and include all functional units, development and operations. Bringing people together in face-to-face meetings, workshops, forums, and simulations to stimulate discussion, engagement, involvement, and address resistance. Resistance is a fact; you will encounter it. Bringing people together helps to make it visible, helps to create buy-in, and empowers people to change their own ways of working.
  2. Spend time with the customer. Learn how they use your services, spend time with the business. For example let IT staff work “in the business” (obviously they are already in the business) for a day. Engage with the business, take ownership and control, and seek ways to actively identify business needs and ways to improve business and IT working (and trust). Show that we (in IT) understand, show that we care, and show that we are doing something about it.
  3. Understand and verify business needs first before making a proposal. Ensure that business need drives the business case for improvement. Make this explicit in all ITSM improvement proposals. Look from the customer, user, and business perspectives. Consider hiring people from the business to bring greater business perspective, such as moving business analysts into IT.
  4. All in IT must know what business value is and how they contribute toward it. People must know what “success” is and how it can be measured and demonstrated. In the context of ITSM, people need to know WHY there is an ITSM or ITIL initiative and what the organization wants to achieve. People need to be continually reminded and confronted with desirable and undesirable behavior, and the consequences of their behavior. Need I remind you of Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology?
  5. Look beyond (ITIL) certification. Look for a demonstration of capabilities when selecting or hiring people for ITSM. Look for demonstrated, proven abilities to use frameworks such as ITIL to realize results. Look for ways of developing practical experience and achieving impact following ITIL certification. When hiring “expertise,” ask, “How would you deal with the ABC issues?”
  6. Get executive commitment. This is executive commitment from both the business and IT. Without a demonstrated commitment culture change will fail. Commitment means things like “lead by example,” “walk the talk,” “confront undesirable behavior,” “communicate and reinforce goals and aims,” and “reward desirable behavior” (I bet James Finister is thinking … “and not using buzzwords and clichés”). Plus demonstrated results are required to sustain management commitment.
  7. Communicate and market IT and what it can do for the business. Market and learn to speak in user and customer language; communicate outcomes and results not “ITIL-compliance.” Communicate in terms of business priorities and goals. Understand executive management concerns and the business case. Communicate and re-communicate in these terms.
  8. Use facts and figures to create business buy-in. Use impact, consequences, risks, and facts and figures to change attitude and gain buy-in. Remember that an IT or business service is all about “Value, Outcomes, Costs, and Risks.” Measures must demonstrate the “customer experience” and be focused from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. (See for more on outside-in thinking.)
  9. A holistic approach is a must. Consciously addressing and balancing People, Process, Product, and Partner capabilities in the pursuit of the fifth "P" – Performance, when applying ITIL or other ITSM frameworks/methodologies/standards such as USMBOK
  10. Recognize that improving is a “continual and gradual maturing.” You need to learn to walk before you can run; being aware that it takes time and effort, and that it is a journey. We (Paul and I) have yet to see an organization that has implemented a single process from level zero to optimum maturity in one go. Embed “improving your work is your work” into your culture.

So there you have it, Paul's and Jan’s (and the collective input of global ITSM experts and thought leaders) views on improving the people aspects of IT service management change and ongoing delivery. How much are you doing? How much do you wish you had done? We’d love to hear your successes and war stories.


UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:


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