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Things I didn’t learn in ITIL school

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4902440868_5f916ccdb6_zWhile at the Pink Elephant Conference back in February, I successfully completed an ITIL intermediate class/exam and the really cool part of this is, that I’ve been able to use the knowledge gained in the course to change my company’s adoption plan and help streamline our strategy.

I was discussing this sequence of events and outcomes with colleagues. Our conversation kept circling back to the things we have to do in ITSM to help drive adoption and how many of those things that are not covered in ITIL courses. I have jotted them down here to help you in your planning, as these items can be the “sticking” points that disrupt and delay ITSM activities.

Sales/Selling

In any ITSM plan you need to have a sales strategy and sales plan. You are bringing concepts and ideas that may be seen as “threats” to the way your colleagues currently conduct business. You will need to be able to convey your message to senior/executive management, line staff, mid-level management, and customers.

You will not find much in the ITIL books that explain how to sell a new idea/change to your business. You will need to master this skill on your own and you will need to spend time outside of work perfecting it.

One other point to mention is that people sometimes swap the terms “sales” and “marketing” in similar context. Personally I do not think they are the same thing. Sales plans are designed to help decision makers “buy” your ideas/concepts. Marketing plans are designed to help teams adopt decisions. Of course, there is overlap in the definitions though. I encourage you to gain insight in to how your organization views these terms and plan accordingly.

Takeaways:

  • Have a “sales” plan for each ITSM item
  • Read books on selling or discuss with professionals who sell things for a living

Negotiation

You and your team will have wonderful ideas. While we know you have the organizations best interests at heart, not everyone may see your proposals as progress. You will need negotiation skills to help settle difference in opinions and reach the best possible outcome. You will need to assess attitudes, understand what knowledge is available, and draw on interpersonal skills to obtain a win-win situation.

Mastering this skill will not only benefit you in an ITSM role but may also help you be seen as a better candidate for future positions.

Takeaways:

  • Take courses on formal and informal negotiation techniques
  • Build a relationship/mentorship with a person who negotiates for a living. Practice negotiating with this person

Building Relationships

Of all the potential pitfalls you may encounter, building relationships can be the showstopper. This skill is necessary regardless of the work you do. You MUST learn to network and build relationships with people throughout your company/organization.

Think of it this way; a person’s decision whether to help you may depend on how you make them feel, how much they trust you, and their perception of how willing you are to work with them. Building good solid relationships with everyone who will execute your ITSM vision is critical for success.

Yes, it will be a lot of hard work. You will need to prove you put their needs before yours, be prepared to give consistently and receive occasionally, value the message and the messenger, and be willing to see the other person’s view without bias. You do not necessarily need to have deep, meaningful contact with everyone but you do need to have the ability to allow others to perceive they can be comfortable around you.

Takeaways:

  • Try to meet someone new in your company every day. Once you have met everyone in your company branch out to your community
  • Make notes on family, hobbies, likes, etc., on your contacts. Review these notes prior to meeting with the person
  • Use social media to meet people from around the globe
  • Do not force this – build relationships at the other person’s pace

The value equation

In ITSM, we spend a great deal of time discussing the value of a service. We discuss the importance to the business of showing value in the services we offer, we discuss the pitfalls off not showing value, and we discuss the criteria and mechanics of how to show value. Do we discuss how to show the value of ITSM adoption?

The CIO has made an investment in the IT department by deciding to adopt ITSM. The CIO most likely had to get someone above his/her role to agree this was a good idea as well. Regardless of stated requirements for your role, the CIO expects you to demonstrate value. You will need to show the ROI of an improved process, the TCO of service activities, how efficiently it has provided more resource capacity, how teams are now utilizing the additional resource capacity, and how the ITSM program is fit for purpose & fit for use.

Takeaways:

  • Understand how to calculate ROI and TCO and how your company interprets this information.
  • Be able to show the utility and warranty of your ITSM work.
  • Hold regularly scheduled reviews with senior leadership on ITSM value.

Final Thoughts

I learned about most of these items the hard way. Most (if not all) the things listed here are (possibly unstated) expectations of you. Remember:

  • Focus on building relationships. Good relationships will take you far in your journey.
  • While you need to be in charge of the sales plan, you do not have to be the chief seller. If others in your company are good at selling, enlist their help.
  • Make sure you understand what information/reports your boss and the CIO want/need regarding the value of the ITSM program
  • Do not get overwhelmed if you cannot quickly master these skills. These skills take time to learn and internalize. Remember this is an iterative process and little improvements on each interaction are good.
  • Do not forget to record your accomplishments somewhere. You’ll need them for your value calculations and discussion.
  •  Do not forget to enjoy what you do and have fun. You can quickly succumb to the negatives in ITSM work. At the end of the day, especially the tough days, ask if you helped make your company better. If the answer is no, regroup and try again tomorrow. If the answer is yes, pat yourself on the back move onto the next goal.

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7 Responses to " Things I didn’t learn in ITIL school "

  1. Karen Ferris says:

    Nice post Earl. One comment I would make is that it is not just about sales and marketing but more importantly organisational change management. But I would say that wouldn’t I?

    • Earl Begley says:

      Thank Karen. I agree and I’m thinking/working on an orgaisational change post.

  2. Mike Spooner says:

    Interesting post – it applies not just to ITIL plans, but to many many IT rollouts of other flavours.

  3. […] we have to do in ITSM to help drive adoption, but are not covered in the typical ITIL courses. Things I didn’t learn in ITIL school (ITSM […]

  4. Paul Wilkinson says:

    Nice piece to raise the importance of the people side, the ‘soft skills’ and dealing with ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) and as Karen says organizational chenge management. I missed the bit about relationships/engaging with the Customer/the business and determining their satisfaction and needs. Still two of the top 3 ABC cards chosen worldwide in surveys by customers is ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ and ‘IT is too internally focused’. I would add in your bit about building relationships – send everybody in IT into the business for 1 day to learn how services are used/perceived and what improvements would the customers see as valuable or necessary. cheers

    • Earl Begley says:

      Hi Paul. Somehow your comment slipped past my radar. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to respond. Great point about relationships. Relationships are key to what we do regardless of being face to face human interaction or the relationship between the customer and a services or how two hardware components work together. The point is that we have a responsibility to make all those relationships as great as possible.

      Thanks!
      Earl