Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Power To The People?

OK, I'll admit it. I'm only just now getting up to speed on ITIL V3. Yes, of course I've had a good awareness of it, and understood the 5 elements of the lifecycle and the superior integration with business outcomes that this version describes. However right now I'm starting to dig deeper into the detail. This laggardness is mainly because I now have some free time; last year my head was firmly stuck in academic papers contrasting the various approaches to topics including allocation of function, workplace well-being and power and politics in organisations.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Automate, Automate!

Last week I was having a conversation with a colleague about SaaS, mobile computing, and monopolies. As is usual with conversations in which I am involved we got to musing about people aspects of working in this industry. Now my colleague is a young rising star and is a proper tech-head. He's heavily into home automation and sees the future of computing as being mobile and XaaS-driven - which looks about right at this moment in time. However his response to my people angle was a pretty blunt "good idea and it's probably relevant now but soon it won't be 'cause companies won't need so many people to do this sort of thing" (he drew an arc to indicate the workers in the large operations centre that we were sat in). I wondered what he meant. Did he see the future of ITSM as being an automated one? That SaaS scaling would reduce the size of our industry and introduce much more self-service? Technology that repaired and configured itself? He also suggested that much of the manual work will be outsourced.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I take my hat off to process

Recently there has been an increasing number of commentators who are giving mucho lip service to the people aspects of IT service management. Yet some of these bloggers do nothing short of flaming those who won't follow what they consider to be the correct processes. Right intention - wrong method!
There's theory and empirical evidence behind this, but its like the old childrens' story about the North Wind and the Sun. They both have a contest to see who can get an old man to take his hat off. The North Wind huffs and puffs and blows up a gale, but the old man just pulls his hat harder down on his head. The sun gives him some warmth and loveliness and the old man does a "phew it's hot today" and off comes the titfer.
In business it's all about achieving the ends (or ensuring that the critical processes are followed), and sometimes salving a manager's (or consultant's) ego can make it more difficult for these ends to be met.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Taylorism and ITSM's Obsession With Process

Many recent theories and studies within occupational psychology have been positive about the role that autonomy plays in achieving beneficial workplace outcomes. By ‘beneficial outcomes’ I’m referring to stuff like motivation, performance, innovation, job satisfaction, well-being, receptivity to change, and proactivity to name a few. There are some however, who argue that the field’s preoccupation with autonomy is a reaction to Fredrick W. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management. It’s a pretty famous book which influenced millions of working lives (probably including yours). It was published in 1911 and contained the then new technique of time-and-motion studies, and an approach that argued for a reducition in worker decision latitude, and work variety. In total this constituted a major restriction on the freedoms that workers enjoyed at the time. Taylor argued that his approach resulted in increased efficiency from the enterprise point of view, and greater pay (due to greater output) for the employee. The philosophy was based upon the idea that the role of managers is to understand the most efficient method (best practice – sounds familiar?) of achieving a task, and to then to exercise control over the workers to ensure that the task is subsequently performed in this manner. His ideas caught on spectacularly and remained popular throughout the twentieth century. Scientific management is epitomised in the production line that the Ford Motor Company introduced and which we are all familiar with today.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

First post

In the last two years I have been seriously considering the synergies between the science of occupational psychology and the practice of IT service management. I think the germ of the idea was nourished by a number of different 'nutrients' during my IT career:
  • experiences at companies who were struggling to develop a service mindset
  • experiences at organisations where the management practices were poor
  • my excellent undergraduate education (B.A. Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, 1993 - 1996)
  • reading Rob England, the IT Skeptic's blogs in 2007
  • talking to colleagues and customers
On that last point, during 2007 I asked a contractor colleague who had many years experience at organisations large and small (including Microsoft) about his view of ITIL and implementations thereof. He talked about a large public sector body which he had recently left who had spent vast amounts implementing ITIL to the letter but where service was still poor. I quizzed him incessantly to get to what he thought was the root cause; "the culture" he eventually said. "ITIL offers a process framework, but it can't change the culture".