Tuesday, 7 February 2012

'Tunnel Vision' or 'ITSM and the Passage of Time'

My career has taken many twists and turns over the years. However, in my work, technology has always been a constant. From analogue to digital electronics; assembly code through ansi C to visual languages; and desktop support into line management and ITSM. I've recently popped out of my umpteenth chrysalis and find myself fluttering my wings in the pretty garden of data and predictive analytics. ITIL seems like a distant dream (or is that nightmare?).

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the challenges of my time in ITSM; most of all when it was just plain old IT support. I like to say that my time in desktop support, many moons ago, were probably the most satisfying. Back then IT knowledge wasn't as widespread as it is now. One could be hailed as genius and saviour through the act of recovering a busy executive's lost file (renaming a .tmp to a .doc file). Indeed in the days before the industrialisation of computer support, we techies had a far closer relationship with users. We were like cornershop proprieters in comparison to ITSM's hypermarket checkout operatives.

Around about this time, quite a few chancers realised that there were considerable sums to be earned in IT and thus reputation of the support tech became diminished. I feel this played a part in driving the need for certification and industrialisation. Add to this the ever-present need of businesses to shrink costs (even if it means a reduction in quality), as well as the dominant paradigms in organisational thinking (scientific management and systems thinking), and the beast that became known as ITSM was born.

I guess that we all reacted favourably to it initially. It suggested the promise of a system that would deliver great service and happy customers without our needing to think too much or to innovate or improvise. Simply unwrap the books and follow the instructions. Looking back, one could argue that it was similar to those adverts that promise a flat stomach in two weeks or muscles like an Adonis within a month. Really, it ain't gonna happen. I guess we have learnt that much over the last twenty years or so. Indeed the systems thinking paradigm is on the wane, replaced by networking and (to a lesser extent) complexity theories.

This learning should of course mean that the whole ITSM/process edifice comes tumbling down and IT service organisations and departments return to thinking a lot, innovating and improvising (as well as stealing good ideas from others - all the best companies do). However the world doesn't work in such a simple and logical manner. The industrialisation of IT support has naturally created an industry. It doesn't matter whether the industry benefits its customers in the larger sense - it at least enriches those who work within it.

Of course this effect - similar to Wiley Coyote continuing to run when he is a long way past the cliff edge - cannot continue for very long (bankers should be familiar with this scenario). Ultimately the protagonists will become aware of the yawning canyon underfoot. I feel that we're getting quite close to this point now. When bodies responsible for promoting ITSM are furiously promoting themselves, and when initiatives aimed at resurrecting the core values of the 'movement' are launched, it is the beginning of the endgame. Furthermore when the acronym-happy acolytes start layering TLA upon TLA to convey some obscure idea then it's clear that the light at the end of the tunnel is not in fact a train, rather it's the hazy glow of the lower intestine.

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