Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Is ITIL missing the human touch?

Earlier this year a research-based report entitled “What’s next for ITIL and Service Management” was produced by the Service Futures Group (www.service-futures.org). It stated that “ITIL implementation is largely influenced by the perception, motives and attitudes of those involved. ITIL is less likely to be successful if it is implemented purely as a way of managing processes and far more likely to be successful if it is implemented as an initiative to change the entire ethos of the IT Department and to deliver benefits to the organisation as a whole”.

The areas that need attention for ITIL to be adopted successfully are people, process
and product. Organisations frequently focus on process and product, but the people aspect is often restricted to ITIL foundation training for IT staff, with little emphasis on the need to adopt a service ethos. Without sufficient attention to people, some ‘quick wins’ can be missed entirely – I call it applying the ‘human touch’.

People are key to differentiating between perceived success and failure. Changing the service ethos of the IT Department is about making the customer feel in control of the business, with IT providing services at their request and in an appropriate manner and language.

Remember that people (your service desk staff) provide the customer with the first impression of service and establish the baseline for service quality. People take ownership of issues and take action to avoid service degradation. People review trends in service performance and establish meaningful metrics. People also coach staff on performance to goals.

Too often service desk mentality sees customers and consumers of services as potential problem providers. The staff that man service desks respond to problems and incidents and are typically trained by and part of the IT infrastructure. The understanding of the business departments that the service desk supports is all too often very limited. This needs to be reversed with a high percentage of the staff in direct service functions having real knowledge of the business and IT management continually refining the support processes so that they are business driven.

The new V3 release of ITIL has moved much closer to embracing business value but it still uses acronyms and terms that the business does not immediately relate to. Delivering
service with a ‘human touch’ requires that the service teams embrace the business language and fully understand the needs of their customers.

What can be done to break down barriers between IT and other departments? IT can work to increase its status and humanise its approach. This doesn’t require a radical change of process. Instead, IT needs to interact more with its customers. I recently heard the relayed experience of the CIO of a large insurance company. He turned around the perception of the IT department, from abysmal to award-winning for service excellence within six months, with no extra money, new systems, nor the need to radically
change process. Instead, he mapped out the most influential business managers within the organisation and instructed his most customer-focused IT staff to visit them on a daily basis to check that they were being adequately supported.

As there are now several service desk tools that can claim to tick all or most of the boxes in relation to ITIL processes, organizations would do well to remember the primary reasons for their purchase: to improve the perception of IT service provision and increase
customer satisfaction.

If a SelfService portal is available to the customer, it should allow them to raise their requests in business only language, explaining the options and possibly costs in a way that makes sense. IT staff should also be aware of the services that are most important to the customer at the point when incidents are logged and requests prioritised appropriately.

Finally, the customer’s satisfaction level needs to be visible. Is the customer happy, or unhappy with the way their requests have been handled? This information prepares IT staff when interacting with the customer and enables them to offer a better service and focus on the human touch.