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Interview: The opportunity to increase service maturity from low to high has never been better

Paul Wilkinson is the head of the business and marketing department at UK's largest independent IT Service Transformation Consultancy - iCore. He has spent the last 20 years supporting organizations on technology optimization and transformation journeys. In this interview we discussed why ITSM struggles to find its place in modern companies and what is the remedy. We also talked about ITIL implementation in SMB sector.
Jana Mancikova

24. 10. 2022

Paul Wilkinson, IT Service Transformation Consultancy - iCore

You often mention that ITSM is losing its place within the organization due to recent trends in digitization. Will ITSM as a discipline survive in the long run?

Until recently, IT departments did IT things. ITSM was pretty much about protecting the living environment. Now there's a shift as technology is in the wider business. It’s everywhere.

Service management as such remains but where it will be delivered from? Who will be responsible for it? The delivery is now often done by 3rd party suppliers. You have product managers doing a similar job to service managers. The organizations that will thrive are those that understand a shift is needed, move to a new model, and start to embrace ITSM in the new world.

The basics remain but you need to adapt to the new speed. If you don’t, it will only get worse.

What exactly do you mean by a new model?

A lot of companies are set up in delivery towers. They need to make the shift from towered-based delivery to a DevOps-aligned model and figure out how and where to add integration points. How to make sure responsibilities are clear and defined. And the processes need to reflect the new world, enabling speed and quick decision-making.

A lot of people might not be comfortable in this new world. They might have been happy in the past: putting out fires and being a hero. But this new world is all about collaboration. The service delivery management professionals of today need less technical capabilities and are more able to communicate, negotiate and adapt. They need the ability to thrive in an ever-changing world.

One of the key ITSM functions is Service Desk. The Service Desk needs to balance utility for the IT team with great end-user experience. How to reconcile these two goals?

We talk to a lot of companies and help them modernize not just the Service Desk function but also their approach to Service Desk good practices. They usually want to provide first-class service to every single of their users. That’s fine in theory but it’s also extremely costly and extremely complex.

You need to decide whether you want to try and get 10/10 on every single customer satisfaction score or whether you want to achieve a solid 7/10 across the board. You need to plan for reality, not for an ideal world. Otherwise, you’re going to be after this holy grail of a Service Desk that supports everybody and never gets there.

You cannot `wow` people with 10/10 every single time but you need to provide brilliant basics. For instance, you might not be able to have e person on a phone available all the time, but you can introduce a call-me-back option. This way you keep the phone channel open while giving your team a bit more flexibility. People don’t have to wait. The service desk will call them back. This leads to better customer satisfaction and reduced call queues.

You interview CIOs on a regular basis. What are some of the more surprising insights you learned from these interviews?

One of the key takeaways is that everybody is excited about the future. They are excited about the fact that the new CIO is not seen just as a technical person. The CIO needs to work alongside the CEO. They need to understand the business and the business roles. There used to be a divide. The CEO did not see IT as being integral to underpinning and achieving business goals. It used to be like we need to call IT when our laptop gets broken. But these days we cannot do anything without data, insight, and the constant evolution of technology to underpin business goals. It's exciting to be influential. It is an opportunity for the technology leader to show a different side to their skill set.

When you take ITIL or any other ITSM framework, large parts are dedicated to IT management in the context of a big enterprise. How does ITSM in the SMB sector differ from enterprise?

ITIL and other frameworks are relevant to small and medium businesses. But for instance, ITIL books tend to be heavy on details. Lots of processes. Big life cycles. Big value chains. A lot of SMBs look at it and see it as too big.

But they are in fact not too big for SMBs. The opportunity is there. Even as an SMB you still need to have a standard approach to requests, incidents, etc. The advantage for SMBs is that they can achieve all of the outcomes that ITIL talks about but in a much more simplified way. They can automate more. They can get their hands around more data. They are not bound by the whole ITIL lifecycle. They can pick and choose the areas that are necessary.

Take the example of Agile and DevOps. One of the barriers to Agile and DevOps is that companies are steeped in legacy and have big hierarchies. Small companies don't have this problem. They can be leaner. Faster. They can respond to opportunities quickly.

Small and medium companies tend to think the best practices exclude them. But they don’t.

You advocate for IT managers to focus on understanding their customers rather than blindly following the trends. How to do this in day-to-day practice?

Theoretically, it is simple. You have a lot of IT professionals who almost guess what the business needs. We need incident management, we need change control. That's fine. You put this on the back end. But many miss out on the more important topic: What does the customer want? What do they need from the IT department? What it is that their users need? What are the building blocks of good service in their eyes?

We very often talk with companies that have good processes, are well documented, and everything but the customer is not happy. You have to speak to people. They are the ones to tell you what good looks like.

What is the biggest opportunity for ITSM going forward?

The opportunity is to spread the wings and influence of service management. If you take a look at SIAM, ITIL 4, etc., you have a lot of information available. With new best practices and tool sets, you can embrace new processes and practices. The opportunity to increase service maturity from low to high has never been better. A lot of companies are wondering what to do. Those doing well have answered those questions already.