The ABC of ICT - the top ten people issues

In my recent blog on the top 50 ITIL adoption mistakes many related to the people-side of changing the IT service management (ITSM) and IT delivery status quo. In many ways, people are the ultimate barrier (or success factor) to effective ITIL...

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In my recent blog on the top 50 ITIL adoption mistakes many related to the people-side of changing the IT service management (ITSM) and IT delivery status quo.

In many ways, people are the ultimate barrier (or success factor) to effective ITIL adoption or to other aspects of an IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) organisation successfully meeting business demands for IT services.

We often get the technology and process elements of what we do in I&O right, but the people-side of things can be a different matter. Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks has been a champion for addressing the ABC (attitude, behavior, and culture) of ICT for many years and he shares his (and his colleagues) thoughts with us below.

So what goes wrong?

As more and more organisations adopt ITSM frameworks such as ITIL, it often seems that ITIL or the framework is the goal itself, rather than being a means to an end - that is trying to improve the delivery of IT services from a business perspective.

Paul states that, in his experience, 70% of ITIL-adoption initiatives fail to deliver on their promises, i.e., realising the value that the I&O organisation (and business) had hoped for; with 50% of failures caused by resistance. However, we (the people) tend to blame the framework or the technology. But it often has nothing to do with ITIL - the root cause is commonly the way in which we (mis) apply and (mis) use the framework. That these failures are often down to people issues.

Paul and his colleagues believe that the “ABC of ICT” is the number one critical success or failure factor for making ITSM work. He adds that our current approaches to training and consulting aren’t working. That something else is needed. That ITIL’s concept of People, Process, Technology (or in terms of ITIL 2011: People, Process, Product, Partners) does not stress the emphasis on people enough. It should be People, Process, People, Product, People, Partner, People. It might labour the point a little but consider this, it is:

  • People who design processes to be used by people
  • People who design products to support and enable people performing the processes
  • Products are only there to support people in making decisions, sharing knowledge, and managing IT (for the people in the business)
  • People who manage partners who are made up of people.

As Rob England, otherwise known as the IT Skeptic, wrote in his book Basic Service Management - “Services are delivered by people for people to people.”

To try and get the ABC message across Paul uses the age-old iceberg analogy. He admits that it is clichéd but makes no apologies - people need to see all of the people-related stuff hidden out of sight below the waterline. We don’t talk about it, we ignore it, and we hope that it will go away. But that Iceberg is capable of stopping your ITSM improvement initiative dead in its tracks or sending it off on a totally different direction if not identified and addressed as a risk.

So let’s start to make the ITSM iceberg visible - address the Top 10 resistance areas

If we can see it we can talk about it, discuss it, and take decisions about what to do. GamingWorks, together with the itSMF and its world-wide partner network, has surveyed more than 3,000 IT organisations over the years. With one of the areas researched the Top 10 types of resistance to ITIL - the reasons why organisations fail to realise the hoped-for benefits from an investment in ITIL-focused change. So here is Paul’s iceberg:

  1. No management commitment.
  2. Saying 'Yes', but meaning 'No'.
  3. “Never mind about following the new procedures just do what we normally do.”
  4. Plan, Do, Stop ... No continual improvement focus.
  5. ITIL is the objective not what we should achieve with it.
  6. “ITIL - it will never work here.”
  7. Unable to specify the value required by the business.
  8. Throwing (ITIL) solutions over the wall and hoping that people will follow them.
  9. No understanding of business impact and priority.
  10. I&O thinks that it doesn't need to understand the business to make a business case.


It might appear a negative list but Paul and colleagues have been presenting such lists for over ten years now, and the iceberg has changed very little in this time. Paul says that we need to share knowledge and practices better as espoused by the Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community thinking.

So let’s start gathering the practical experience that counts and sharing it. If you’ve got something you want to share about how to deal with such issues then write an article, a blog, or submit a presentation proposal at your local itSMF. Take personal responsibility for taking ITSM to the next level.

If you like where Paul is going with this, he will return with an ABC of ICT Top 10 critical success factors list in the near future.

Posted by Stephen Mann

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