How do we create an increased service management culture in IT?

What is culture? The Oxford English Dictionary says it is: 

  • The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society 

In any organization or group of individuals there are learned and shared patterns of behaviour or shared values which give us the culture of that group.  Good, or bad, customer service is catching and can become engrained in the culture of the IT organization.  Traditional IT can sometimes lose sight of what the business as a whole is trying to achieve and often goes its own way, focusing on the technology and not how it contributes to a service which is enabling the overall business goals. This, in turn, can lead to the business viewing IT, in extreme cases, as a hindrance rather than an enabler. 

Ask someone who works, for example, in the internal IT department of a company that manufactures gym equipment, “What do you do?”; I would hazard a guess that a high percentage would say “I work in IT” and not something like “I work for a company that manufactures state of the art gym equipment which aims to completely change the way people exercise”; again focussing on IT and the technology rather than the shared goal of the business.  

Where should we be focused?  I recently read about a cleaner working in the NASA building in the 1960s who told a visitor, while sweeping the hallway, he was helping to put a man on the moon.  That guy had a very clear vision of the organizations goals and how he contributed towards them! 

So to change the focus of our traditional IT department, we need to be very clear on the organizational goals and consequently, as much as IT needs to change its attitude to the business, the business needs to change its attitude to IT.  It is, therefore, essential that the business leaders and IT engage fully so that everyone in IT understands their contribution to the goals. This is not a one off training course, although it will of course help at the beginning of the journey, but a consistent approach demonstrated from the top of how to treat customers. 

Some suggestions for IT to start off: 

  • Have an increased induction program for IT employees, giving exposure to other areas of the business to give an understanding of the interactions between them – include all customer facing departments in this exercise. 
  • Define the services that IT provide to the business.  Show how they contribute to the business objectives and make sure all IT staff understand the priorities for these services. 
  • Have a Service Level Agreement between IT and the business so that both parties understand their expectations and responsibilities; and regularly measure performance against this.  Agree what KPIs the business wants to see and regularly review them with the customer to make sure they are still in line with the overall objectives. 
  • Shout about successes as well as failures – your customers may not notice them otherwise! 
  • Adopt a service oriented framework such as ITIL or aim to be accredited to ISO20000 which will be a continuous measure of the effectiveness of your service management system

This focus on service improvement will then become a way of life for the IT team.  Remember that good (and bad!) customer service is infectious, once a few core members of the team have adopted this attitude, others will follow and slowly the culture will change. 

Is it good enough? Ask the customer…….. 

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