Patrick Bolger with Joe 1

ITSM Views from a Vendor, with Patrick Bolger from Hornbill

What exactly is your job?

If you asked my wife, she’d say …“he travels around the world, speaking at conferences, about the latest things that are happening in the IT industry”…but it’s not as simple, or glamorous, as she makes it sound.

Travel can be taxing, but it gives me a more global perspective and allows me to spend time with the some of the brightest minds in our industry, discussing ITSM trends, ideas and concepts, which is essential for my job.

At Hornbill, my primary responsibility is to understand trends and practices that impact the ITSM industry.  Practitioners are bombarded by hype and predictions surrounding new technologies and practices.  We’ve all heard how …Consumerisation, Social, Mobile, Cloud, Agile, SIAM, etc… will “…revolutionise the industry”, or “…be the death of IT.”  My job is to cut through this hype and assess the real impact, then provide practical advice to help shape our product roadmap and educate our customer community.

Although customers appreciate a view on what’s ovr the horizon, what they really need is help with the things that affect them today.  We solicit feedback from our community on the topics they’d like us to cover and then provide resources to help them.  A large amount of my time is spent producing whitepapers, templates, webinars, case studies, videos, and attending physical events to cover ITSM topics, such as Problem Management, Service Catalog, Service Level Management, and Metrics.

I also spend time with industry associations (SDI, itSMF, HDI…), getting involved with community initiatives (SMCongress, Back2ITSM…), and as one of the hosts on the ITSM Rest of the World Podcast.

What is the best thing about working in IT Service Management?

We have some real characters with strong opinions, and often, polar-opposite views, so it’s no surprise that we get some heated industry debates.  I like working with passionate people, who don’t take themselves too seriously and show respect for others.

Over the years I’ve been approached by practitioners, who just wanted to let me know that they’ve applied something I’ve written, or spoken about, and it’s made a marked improvement in their organisations.  From a personal perspective, that’s one of the most rewarding things I could hear.

What do you think is the most important element missing from traditional ITSM? And why?

Traditional ITSM mentions the four “P’s” – People, Process, Partners, and Products, but I think the most essential “P” often gets missed, and that is “Perspective”.  ITSM has reinforced the view that IT, as a service provider, is somehow separate or different, and needs to align itself with business strategy and goals.  This mythical separation between IT and business goals plays a large part in our struggle to demonstrate value.  There’s too much focus on the services we provide, and not enough on the outcomes they deliver to customers.

What do you think is the biggest mistake that people can make in ITSM, and how can it be avoided?

The most common mistake we make in IT is not fully understanding the goals and objectives of the business units we support.  In fairness, this isn’t always IT’s fault, as senior executives often don’t communicate business strategy and goals effectively to IT groups.  However, we can’t simply sit back and blame the business.  We have to get away from implementing systems and processes to manage failure, and move towards managing value. IT has to get involved with business units to understand the activities they perform in pursuit of their success, and the support we provide to help them achieve it.

What one piece of practical advice would you give to somebody working on the Service Desk?

I can best sum this up with a tweet I sent earlier this year…”We are all customers and know what service should feel like. At work, when we’re the service provider, why do we forget so quickly.”

It’s all too easy to slip into a different mode at work and to forget that we’re responsible for providing a service experience.  It costs nothing to greet the customer well, make an effort to understand their situation, empathise, and manage their expectations.  If a service desk does these things well, customers are far more patient and accommodating, even if their issues can’t be resolved immediately.

What one piece of practical advice would you give to the CIO of a company with regards to ITSM?

As business matures, internal delivery of IT services is becoming strategically less important.  Focusing on ‘cost reduction and efficient delivery of IT services’ will prevent existing value from being destroyed, but won’t create new value.  To create new value, invest in exploiting the technologies your customers use to improve how they interact with your business.

If you could change one thing about the ITSM industry as a whole, what would it be and why?

It’s difficult to choose just one thing, but top of my wish list would be for businesses to realise the strategic importance of ITSM and to stop viewing IT as a utility, or supporting function.  IT should be viewed as the driver for business innovation, organisational change, and a means to deliver more value to customers.

What do you think the ITSM trend to watch will be over the next 12 months? And why?

The pace of evolution in business and technology has never been so rapid.  Social businesses must have flexible strategies, and be prepared for an intentional outcomes to give way to emergent outcomes, through interaction with their communities. The traditional yearly, quarterly, or even monthly IT/Business planning model just doesn’t cut it in this new world, so there’s no doubt that we’ll be hearing much more about applying Agile methods to ITSM in 2014. However, Agile values rely heavily on individuals, interaction and collaboration, and I believe the latter is one to watch in 2014.

Social media may not have impacted every business to the extent suggested by the hype.  However, it has taught us lessons about the speed of communication and importance of community interaction.  Even businesses that are concerned by the exposure of social channels in the public domain can appreciate how collaboration can be harnessed within the enterprise to improve communication, agility and performance.

In 2014, I expect to see increased traction and adoption of collaboration technology platforms, enabling individuals and teams to work together on ideas, documents, and projects, with greater visibility and transparency.  Adopting and implementing these technologies will give IT groups a better insight into real business priorities and provide an opportunity for IT to add value.

Where do you see the IT Service Management industry in 10 years time?

Not that long ago I would have described, Apple as a computer company, Google as a search engine, and Amazon as an online book store.  Now they complete with each other in all of these markets.  Ten years ago Facebook didn’t exist, so it’s a tough call to project where we might be a decade from now.

We’re seeing more wearable technology, apps, and mining of big data to understand and influence consumer behaviour.  In 2014, Google Glass will be released and you don’t need a great leap in imagination to get to the next stage, where devices disappear completely, and technology gets literally ‘under your skin’.  Although some may think this is a step too far, I suspect I might be tempted to have a small chip embedded, if it meant I didn’t need to carry keys or credit cards.  I may not need any device, if my personal computing needs could be displayed on any interactive surface.  That reality is closer than we think, and it gives a whole new meaning to providing ‘internal support’.

With the growth of Cloud and XaaS (Anything as a service), we’ll certainly see a decline in the need for conventional IT support for desktop applications.  Business units have embraced Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Force Automation (SFA), ITSM, and there’s increased adoption of SaaS solutions for Project Management, Finance, and in other areas of the business.  Of course in-house technical skills will need to be retained for business critical or legacy systems that cannot easily be supported by third parties.  However, in this multi-sourced environment, the traditional model of internal IT support will change dramatically.

This may be a scary thought, but it doesn’t mean doom and gloom for the IT profession.  As businesses evolve at a faster pace, their dependency on technology will be even greater.  IT may not be responsible for delivering every service, but it will remain accountable for managing the availability, capacity, and integration of services, and the performance of suppliers. To be effective, IT needs to acquire a different set of skills, and this won’t appeal to all IT professionals.

Those with a technical bias might choose to work in specialist teams within the IT organisation, or may be tempted to work for external service providers.  Individuals with a more customer-centric bias may end up working within business units, learning how they operate, and defining requirements to ensure that technology meets very specific needs.

Over the last decade, we’ve worked hard to demonstrate that ITSM enables efficient and cost effective delivery of services.  Over the next decade, this will not be enough, as third-party suppliers, low-cost solutions and ‘always-on’ services reset what businesses expect from technology. Over the next decade, IT value will be judged by how we to adapt to change, and our ability to demonstrate returns from business investments in technology.

Finally, what would be your 5 tips for success in ITSM?

  1. Hire the right people.  Have a clear directive that you recruit to bring new benefit to the business, not to plug a gap in process or technical skills.
  2. Examine current projects and question any initiative that doesn’t clearly articulate how your business will benefit.
  3. Framework fairies don’t exist.  It’s just guidance.
  4. The quickest route to value is from the customer-in, not from the infrastructure-out.
  5. Identify low-value interactions that irritate IT staff and customers, then target them for elimination.

Thank-you to Patrick for taking the time to talk to me! Let me know if you agree/disagree with Patrick’s views… oh and don’t forgot to follow him on Twitter for more great insights.


Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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