The ABC Of ICT - The Top 10 People Success Factors For IT Service Management

In a previous blog (The ABC Of ICT - The Top 10 People Issues), Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks and I shared how the “ABC of ICT” (the Attitude, Behavior, and Culture issues), or the “people factor,” is a critical success or fail factor in IT, and particularly IT service management (ITSM), operational and improvement initiatives.

In this blog, we want to move on from the “resistance areas” and share the top 10 critical success factors for dealing with the ABC of ICT. These are borrowed from the ABC of ICT - An Introduction to the Attitude, Behavior and Culture of ICT book by Paul and Jan Schilt so that, as Paul likes to say, “We can make a difference together.”

Top 10 people critical success factors for IT

  1. Involve all functions in design. Involve and include all functional units, development and operations. Bringing people together in face-to-face meetings, workshops, forums, and simulations to stimulate discussion, engagement, involvement, and address resistance. Resistance is a fact; you will encounter it. Bringing people together helps to make it visible, helps to create buy-in, and empowers people to change their own ways of working.
  2. Spend time with the customer. Learn how they use your services, spend time with the business. For example let IT staff work “in the business” (obviously they are already in the business) for a day. Engage with the business, take ownership and control, and seek ways to actively identify business needs and ways to improve business and IT working (and trust). Show that we (in IT) understand, show that we care, and show that we are doing something about it.
  3. Understand and verify business needs first before making a proposal. Ensure that business need drives the business case for improvement. Make this explicit in all ITSM improvement proposals. Look from the customer, user, and business perspectives. Consider hiring people from the business to bring greater business perspective, such as moving business analysts into IT.
  4. All in IT must know what business value is and how they contribute toward it. People must know what “success” is and how it can be measured and demonstrated. In the context of ITSM, people need to know WHY there is an ITSM or ITIL initiative and what the organization wants to achieve. People need to be continually reminded and confronted with desirable and undesirable behavior, and the consequences of their behavior. Need I remind you of Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology?
  5. Look beyond (ITIL) certification. Look for a demonstration of capabilities when selecting or hiring people for ITSM. Look for demonstrated, proven abilities to use frameworks such as ITIL to realize results. Look for ways of developing practical experience and achieving impact following ITIL certification. When hiring “expertise,” ask, “How would you deal with the ABC issues?”
  6. Get executive commitment. This is executive commitment from both the business and IT. Without a demonstrated commitment culture change will fail. Commitment means things like “lead by example,” “walk the talk,” “confront undesirable behavior,” “communicate and reinforce goals and aims,” and “reward desirable behavior” (I bet James Finister is thinking … “and not using buzzwords and clichés”). Plus demonstrated results are required to sustain management commitment.
  7. Communicate and market IT and what it can do for the business. Market and learn to speak in user and customer language; communicate outcomes and results not “ITIL-compliance.” Communicate in terms of business priorities and goals. Understand executive management concerns and the business case. Communicate and re-communicate in these terms.
  8. Use facts and figures to create business buy-in. Use impact, consequences, risks, and facts and figures to change attitude and gain buy-in. Remember that an IT or business service is all about “Value, Outcomes, Costs, and Risks.” Measures must demonstrate the “customer experience” and be focused from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. (See for more on outside-in thinking.)
  9. A holistic approach is a must. Consciously addressing and balancing People, Process, Product, and Partner capabilities in the pursuit of the fifth "P" – Performance, when applying ITIL or other ITSM frameworks/methodologies/standards such as USMBOK
  10. Recognize that improving is a “continual and gradual maturing.” You need to learn to walk before you can run; being aware that it takes time and effort, and that it is a journey. We (Paul and I) have yet to see an organization that has implemented a single process from level zero to optimum maturity in one go. Embed “improving your work is your work” into your culture.

So there you have it, Paul's and Jan’s (and the collective input of global ITSM experts and thought leaders) views on improving the people aspects of IT service management change and ongoing delivery. How much are you doing? How much do you wish you had done? We’d love to hear your successes and war stories.


UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:

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Success factors

Stephen hi, thanks for posting this. I'd just like to clarify where this list came from. The ABC of ICT book contains cases from Industry experts and practitioners, not only Jan and myself. We asked various experts and practitioners from around the world to write cases and best practice tips for dealing with ABC issues. Sharon Taylor, Vernon lloyd, Colin Rudd, Robert Stroud, Rob England, Gary case, Ken wendel, Ivor Macfarlane......and many more (I apologize if I have not named everybody) wrote cases which represent literally 1000's of combined successful ITSM initiatives. This list is a consolidation of their tips as well as findings from more tha 2000 people who have participated in our business simulations. Hopefully, in response to your call for 'giving back to the ITSM community' other industry experts and practitioners will leave their tips here and then somebody else can consolidate them all and make the ABC of ICT version 2......and give back to the ITSM community.

cheers , paul

Senior Managment


Indeed I am going to pick up on using "buzzwords and clichés" , and mot just by senior management. First of all people need to recognize when that senior management commitment really is nothing more than buzzwords. More than once I've followed a CxO from meeting to meeting and at each one they've assured the team that their project is the number one priority.

But it is an issue for all of us as well. It is dangerously easy to get into the group think that talking about service is the same thing as delivering service.

James hi, I agree 'management

James hi, I agree 'management commitment'seems to be a buzzword or Cliche as you mention. Very often I show senior managers the results of ABC resistance workshops in their organization in which lack of management commitment scores high, senior managers are often frustrated and don't understand the results. They are often convinced that they are commited. When I ask them what behavior will I see that demonstrates their management commitment they say 'I have sent the memos, I was at the kick of to the project, and TOLD eveybody how important it is and how I back it all the way.', we then do an exercise or ask a group of employees to answer the same question. Management commitment suddely has behavior traits like 'walk-the-talk', 'lead by example', ' reward AND consequence measure for ALL, including managers who display undesirable behavior', 'talking-the-walk in all meetings and reinforcing the messages and desirable behavior'. I think if we made 'management commitment' a bit more explicit at the start of many initiatives it would help, as I say, there seems to be a blind area.

See what Michael Long CIO of Alberta Health said in his session at Share IT about how he approached his change initiative.


While reading your post, I've

While reading your post, I've realized how much critical ITIL is nowadays especially for management in IT positions. This whole certification thing is becoming ridiculous and a money drain, you get certified in something, and then you need to get certified in something else, which opens up other certifications, repeat forever...

The bar, when it comes to certifications, has risen so high that it's impossible to get the right candidate for the right job anymore. In my opinion, certifications are worthless if they're not twinned with real life experience. But the growing demand in certifications and for certified people will make my opinion obsolete and irrelevant in the very near future.

The first thing I look for in a candidate is the right attitude - everything else is secondary, including previous experience. Certifications come last for me, because a certification does not prove the ability to do a job.

Fadi El-Eter -