Collaboration is the name of the game!

Collaboration was the top scoring takeaway from my sessions at the annual ITSDFI conference in Brno in the Czech Republic. In both my DevOps presentation as well as my ITIL practitioner workshop this was raised as a core competence area that needs to be developed. Indeed the need to develop new skills was a theme throughout the conference.

Workshop findings – ABC THE number 1 success or fail factor!

One of the goals of the workshop was to show how ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) is STILL the number 1 success – or more commonly -‘FAIL’ factor in ITSM improvement programs. It was this workshop that prompted a CEO at another conference to ask ‘Why wasn’t this session a keynote session’? As she recognized not only the ABC issues but also the value of the ITIL Practitioner concepts.

ABC is like an Iceberg, much of it is hidden, we don’t see it, we don’t talk about it and we HOPE that it won’t damage our ITIL/ITSM initiative”. Yet our surveys reveal that a large majority of organizations do not get the HOPED for value from their ITIL/ITSM investments because of the ABC hidden Iceberg.

Workshop exercises – Making the hidden Iceberg visible

In the workshop we used the ABC cards (ABC is named in the ITIL Practitioner toolkit) as an awareness and assessment instrument to conduct two exercises that are critical to the success of an ITSM initiative.

Exercise One -The Customer exercise: ‘Why are we doing? ‘What does the Customer need’? ‘Do we really KNOW what the Customer needs’?

Exercise Two – The Resistance exercise: ‘Adopting ITIL represents an organizational change – which always meets with resistance. What does that look like and how can we deal with it’?

The ABC of ICT card set represents 57 worst practice cartoons in Attitude, Behavior and Culture, displayed by both IT and the Business.  Delegates representing more than 4000 organizations have participated in workshops using the cards. The output of the exercises can be used as input to a CSI (Continual Service Improvement) initiative.

High scoring Customer findings

The Top scoring cards chosen in the ITSDFI customer exercise were no surprise, but were still extremely worrying if they represent the current state-of-affairs:


  • Neither partner makes an effort to understand each other (Business & IT-alignment scored once again number 1 position in a recent global survey)
  • No understanding of business impact & priority (top scoring card for the last 15 years!!!!!!!)
  • The solution the customer sees isn’t the one that IT sees (lack of business understanding of IT, poor understanding of requirements, poor ability to make a business case for emerging technologies)


  • Throwing solutions over the wall and HOPING people will use them (Best Practices, as well as IT solutions)
  • Maybe we should have tested that change first
  • Plan, Do, Stop….No real continual improvement Culture (In my mind the single most important competence for IT organizations for facing the pace of change)


  • Knowledge is power (Not wanting to share knowledge)
  • No capturing the right knowledge for use (Poor use of work-arounds)

Top issue – based on business impact

The teams then discussed and chose a TOP card based upon its impact on ‘Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks (VOCR). They chose ‘Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other’. The impact being ‘Value and outcomes not realized, or delayed, wasted costs, risks to business strategy’ – in short this was an unacceptable business risk, and clearly shows why ‘Business & IT Alignment’ is a hot issue and is confirmed in this article.

What Guiding principles were missing?

The teams looked at the Guiding Principles from ITL Practitioner and were tasked with identifying ‘which principle may have been overlooked or neglected, that may be the cause of the top card’?

The Guiding Principles underpinning their top chosen card were seen as: Lack of ‘Collaboration’ and engagement, a poor ‘Focus on Value’, too many assumptions rather than ‘Observing Directly’ and not ‘Designing for experience’.

 What ITIL or Best Practice can help solve this issue?

The team explored which ‘best practices’ or which bits of ‘ITIL’ were missing and are needed as instruments in helping solve this. They chose:

  • BRM (Business Relationship manager) – to play the ‘marriage counsellor’ role between business and IT, to help foster ‘Collaboration’. Which could explain why the BRMI membership is growing rapidly World-Wide.
  • SPM (Service Portfolio Management) and ‘Demand management’ to help visualize (Be Transparent) and prioritize business demands (Focus on Value).
  • A need to ensure Strategic, tactical and Operational understanding of ‘Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks’ and have this translated throughout the lifecycle.

What Resistance will we meet and what to do about it?

All well and good! The team was now inspired, enthusiastic, motivated and had a set of concrete improvement areas to take away and focus on…Not so fast! The second team performed the ‘Resistance’ exercise. ‘Which resistance do we see or expect to see when we embark upon an ITSM improvement journey’? Which types of ‘Resistance’ is team ‘A’ likely to encounter with their new found enthusiasm that will soon deflate their initiatives? Top scoring cards from the ABC resistance exercise were also no surprise, these being:

  • Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall and HOPING people will follow them
  • Not my responsibility
  • ITIL is the objective not what it should achieve
  • Never mind about following procedures just do what we normally do
  • Process managers without authority
  • No management commitment
  • Blame Culture
  • Hierarchic culture – the boss is always right

The ‘Resistance’ team sorted the cards into ‘Cause & Effect’ and selected a top card. The top card chosen was ‘No management commitment’.  Using the guiding principles the team defined some behaviors aimed at gaining management commitment, or behaviors that managers need to display to demonstrate commitment.

Collaboration: Use formal and informal opportunities for collaboration. Formal can be seen as structured meetings such as ‘Steering committee’, ‘Service Review’. Informal meetings can be for example, organizing a business simulation session or an ABC workshop with business & IT to explore common issues and seek shared solutions and commitment. Here is an example.

Be Transparant: Show and demonstrate results of improvements, as related to Value (Value, Outcomes, Costs, risks). Managers need to demonstrate commitment by ‘walking-the-talk’ and ‘Leading by example’, openly and visibly supporting the initiatives and communicating how the initiatives support business goals.

Design for experience: Explain the improvements in the context Value, and in agreement with the business, showing how the business supports the improvements.

Keep it simple: show some short term wins and ensure you explain improvements in terms of fit-for-use & fit-for-purpose.

Progress Iteratively: Small iterative improvements – linked to formal CSI. Involve ALL stakeholders in recording CSI items and prioritizing improvement needs. Prioritize needs based on value.

Focus on Value: Ensure you understand stakeholder Value. In terms of VOCR. What constitutes Value, the team in the exercise suggested CSAT as one indicator, another equally may be ‘Employee satisfaction’.

Many management teams when shown this card become angry and frustrated, convinced that THEY are committed. Here is an example.

Additional findings, challenges an tips relating to my sessions at ITSDFI

A Key discovery in the ABC workshop was a need for BRM, to dive more effective collaboration and communication with the business, and within IT. Here are key findings taken from Grab@Pizza business simulation workshops held globally with both business & IT representatives. These sessions were also facilitated by the BRM Institute.

Some of the key discoveries I presented in my presentation ‘DevOps will fail…..unless’ can be found in the results of the DevOps Phoenix project simulation game session at the itSMF Slovakia conference.

An additional examples of using ABC cards to ‘engage’ with the Users to gain input for ‘Designing for experience’: Using the ABC of ICT cards together with end Users – an Axelos blog.

An additional example of using the ABC cards to ‘engage’ with the Business decision makers to help ‘Focus on value’ with an ITIL/ITSM improvement initiative: Using the ABC cards with the Board of Directors – An ITSM Tools blog.

The need to ‘Focus on Value’ is one of the main weaknesses for IT organizations, this was explored a blog entitled ‘What does IT value look like’?