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Customers Don’t Think Like ITSM Pros

When was the last time you thought about the language you use as an IT service management (ITSM) or IT professional? I’m not talking about the common language, or lexicon, that ITIL – the ITSM best practice framework – brought to the ITSM community. Instead I’m talking about the everyday language that your business colleagues, friends, and family would use.

The same is true for how you think about IT. Your business colleagues, friends, and family probably have a different mental framework as to what IT is, how it works, and how it helps them do whatever they need to do personally and professionally.

So it’s worth stopping for a moment to think about whether we continue to isolate and undersell ourselves, as IT professionals, through our inability to think beyond the technology.

The Language of IT

Let’s take this away from corporate IT for a moment.

If an electrician talks to me in a way that doesn’t help me to understand the work they need to do, I rightly or wrongly assume one of the following. That they:

  • Don’t know what they’re doing outside of the sockets and wires versus my requirements (though it’s highly unlikely)
  • Can’t be bothered to take the time to explain things, or aren’t bothered as to whether I understand
  • Are trying to bamboozle me, possibly in relation to the associated costs.

And of course I’ll stop them mid-explanation, and ask them to start again in non-technical terms. Ultimately wanting to know why things need to change, and the result of the change, rather than just about the change itself.

Why would I need to know what goes on behind the light switch or power socket? Surely the same is true for IT. And how often is language used as a smokescreen, as to what is or isn’t being done, rather than as a means of helping understanding?

IT Thinking

While the language used by IT professionals can be problematic, I believe that their thinking can be even more of an issue. Even though much has been done to move collective thinking from being technology-centric to service-centric (thanks in the main to ITIL); and more and more these days to a customer-centric viewpoint.

Sadly, it’s still not uncommon for the focus to still be on the IT rather than the actual need for IT. It’s a little like the aforementioned electrician thinking that all I want is new cabling, but I don’t. I actually want lighting, or to be able to use a device that consumes power, in a location where I didn’t have the ability before. So the cabling is merely the means to an end – not the end itself. And the relative positioning, such as the switch or socket height, or the number of sockets is important.

So how many IT professionals are thinking beyond the technology itself to think about the consumption of the IT (or IT services)? In my opinion, not enough.

It’s Not the Creation But the Consumption of IT that Helps Businesses

It’s easy to miss this. Whether it’s service desk agents giving overly technical responses or less-than-helpful instructions to end users. Or those that work in non-end user/customer-facing roles being totally oblivious as to how what they do ultimately helps or hinders business operations and personal productivity.

With the people in both scenarios forgetting that IT is the means to an end, and not the end itself. To be fair though, this is not unusual outside of IT too – it’s easy to work in a large company without understanding how the company makes money (or even that the company is an entity designed to make money), or how individual and team activities ultimately contribute to business goals, customer satisfaction, and corporate revenues.

But Hasn’t IT Operations Become More Service-Centric?

ITIL adoption should have made a big difference, at least to the thinking of IT Operations personnel, but I’m not sure it’s the always case. In my opinion, too many IT shops have adopted ITIL as a limited set of best practice processes rather than a new way of thinking about delivering IT as a service. For instance, incident management is still seen often as the mechanism for efficiently, and hopefully effectively, fixing technical issues rather than the mechanism for getting people or business services back up and running.

So it’s easy for ITSM professionals to miss the real need for IT support – that it’s actually PEOPLE support not IT support. With the way that IT professionals think about IT, potentially getting in the way of meeting business requirements.

We need to get the IT mindset away from the “means” to be more focused on the “end.” It’s the only way for IT to get better at meeting business needs.

So how do you and your colleagues think and talk about IT with others? Are you still stuck in the IT and the associated language, or have you realized that your business colleagues, family, and friends need a less technical approach to talking about and understanding new IT requirements or support? 

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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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