After the success of his previous blogs (including The ABC Of ICT — The Top 10 People Issues), Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks returns with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at IT, IT service management (ITSM), IT service delivery, and this “IT end user thing” some people call a “customer.”

I hope that it makes you smile but, more importantly, I hope that it makes you act. I’ll leave it to Paul . . .

“IT’s not about the IT?” Really?

I’m always surprised — no, amazed — in fact staggered. That’s it, literally staggered, at how poor “we in IT” are at being customer and service focused. Ever since I passed my ITIL v1 exam I have been aware that ITIL (the ITSM best practice framework) has always, always, been about customers and service. David Wheeldon taught me this when I was a “technogeek” who thought that end users were something dangerous and contagious.

I used to think that we should outsource the business, as they got in the way of IT and were simply annoying. David taught me that end users were human after all, just like us, and it was our job to provide services and value to them. I wasn’t convinced initially, but I was willing to be open to the idea.

That was more than 20 years ago, and while we have had ITIL in all its variants for more than 25 years, we still score badly on the customer-focused side of things.

Why does IT struggle with the concept of customers?

Is it because we are genetically incapable of understanding the concept? Are customer expectations changing so quickly that we can never hope to close the gap between them and our delivery? Are we frightened of end users?

Believe me, users don’t glow in the dark nor turn into savage creatures when fed after midnight like Furbies or whatever they were (Stephen: I think you will find they were Mogwai . . . then gremlins . . . but you knew that). I’ve met some and they were really quite pleasant, and I didn’t catch anything after shaking their hands — users that is, not Furbies. Or do we in IT simply not give a hoot?

That’s enough about our views of end users, what do they think of us?

GamingWorks continues to undertake its ABC (Attitude, Behavior, and Culture) workshops and Apollo ITSM simulations all around the world, capturing key customer issues (with IT). And it’s like “Groundhog Day” — today is as it was ten years ago. It’s scary.

In describing IT, these are the top ten ABC cards customers choose:

1.     IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority.

2.     Everything has the highest priority according to the users.

3.     Not my responsibility.

4.     Throwing (ITIL) solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them.

5.     Too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing.

6.     IT is too internally focused.

7.     Plan, do, stop . . . no real continual improvement focus.

8.     Process managers without authority.

9.     No management commitment.

10.IT thinks it doesn’t need to understand the business to make a business case.

So what can we do to solve this problem?

ITIL publications and examinations (for version 4/2015):

1.     Put pictures of users/customers on the front covers of the new books with the message, “Have you ever seen this person?”

2.     Make it mandatory to interview a user before anybody can get an ITIL certificate. Better still, insist that everybody spend a day in the business before being certified.

3.     Change the books to say all new help desk or service desk staff should first spend a day in the business.

itSMF chapters:

1.     Go out and film three to four users from different industries explaining how they use IT and what they’d like to see change. Ask them what ITSM is to them. Then show these as the opening film at all itSMF conferences worldwide.

2.     Put articles with interviews from users in the itSMF magazines.

3.     Introduce a business stream at the itSMF conferences and involve the users and customers; let them present their views and needs related to ITSM.

4.     Start a new award, a “Save the User!” campaign . . . “Let’s take satisfied IT users off the endangered species list!”

5.     Have a user come on stage with the itSMF project of the year.

ITSM organizations:

1.     Send all your IT staff into the business at least once for a day. Get together and actually agree what customer-focused behavior means and what it looks like. Then hold each other accountable for doing it.

2.     Invite users to come and talk to IT.

Let’s make 2013 the Year of the Customer

This all might seem a little tongue-in-cheek from Paul, but we need to do something and what we’ve done before doesn’t seem to have worked. Maybe we need to take advice from the IT management guru that is Vanilla Ice and simply “stop, collaborate, and listen.” I don’t need to remind you that the internal IT organization no longer has a monopoly on IT service delivery . . . how are you going to continue to win business?

As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated.