DanskIT – concrete steps for dealing with ABC

Published on Tuesday 12 March 2013 by in News with no comments

At the Dansk IT Service management seminar, held in Copenhagen on 12 March,  I presented the ABC of ICT and showed some of the most common ABC worst practices as perceived by the Customer. This being our adopted ‘Make 2013 the year of the customer’ I thought it appropriate. I also showed the  perceived impact on business value and business risks.

The audience recognized the issues, recognized the impact and agreed that there was too little ownership or responsibility for solving ABC issues.

The audience also agreed there was too little relationship between the ITIL processes adopted in their organizations and the ABC problems recognized. For example ‘No understanding of business impact and priority’ was a recognized issue, few were adopting processes like portfolio management to make the business demand visible, service catalogue management to help prioritize existing offerings and no additional focus was given to the operational processes to ensure business aligned priority and escalation mechanisms. A general recognition of ‘ ITIL is the objective and not what it should achieve’.

I explained how ABC was like an Iceberg, ‘much of it was hidden yet capable of stopping your improvement initiative or sending it off on a direction you didn’t want to be‘, as can be confirmed by the fact that 70% of organizations don’t get the hoped for value from an initiative and the majority hit damaging resistance.  In the afternoon exercise we focused on the damaging resistance.

60 minutes to measure an Iceberg and agree countermeasures to stop it damaging the enterprise

During the seminar we performed the ABC resistance exercise, using the ABC of ICT card set to identify how BIG the Iceberg is? Which ABC resistance cards people experienced, then we looked at the damage the Iceberg was capable of causing. Finally we brainstormed management actions to deal with the resistance.

How big is the Iceberg? The Top scoring resistance cards chosen (individually) were:

  • Saying Yes, meaning NO
  • Not my responsibility
  • No understanding business impact and priority – seen as a barrier to the adoption and buy-in to ITSM frameworks.
  • Throwing solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them
  • Plan, Do, Stop….No real Continual improvement culture

What is the damage or potential damage it can cause?

The teams were then asked to choose the top card. ‘Which card had the most negative impact on Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks‘?  This exercise was aimed at discovering the potential damage the Iceberg could cause and to help create a sense of urgency for change. The teams tried sorting the cards into cause and effect, the further up the cause chain the higher the impact.

How in just 1 hour they could create a dialogue and understanding and create a shared set of countermeasures for dealing with resistance

The teams soon discovered they could not choose 1 card, there was a top resistance card that was related to strategic level resistance and also one for operational resistance. They discovered how the exercise allowed a management team to identify strategic, tactical and operational level resistance.
The teams recognized how the exercise in just 1 hour could create a dialogue and understanding and create a shared set of countermeasures for dealing with resistance.

All three teams finally chose ‘ No understanding of business impact and priority’ as being the top card.

Impact being:

  • No sense of urgency felt because we have no clear insight into the real impact on the business of our undesirable behavior and poor processes.
  • Wrong decisions made on investments (wasting money, possible business outcomes delayed or not realized), wrong resource allocation (wasting money), resources sometime taken off lower priority projects (wasting money), demotivated employees.
  • Risk that business value (new markets, revenue) and outcomes (productivity gains) will not be achieved.
  • Too little insight into risks, cannot control risks.

The exercise had helped create a sense of urgency for dealing with ABC.


No management commitment’  regularly scores number 1 in the global resistance exercises, although managers are convinced they are committed, the question is ‘What type of behaviors do managers need to display to demonstrate that commitment‘?

The team then brainstormed countermeasures. Which behavior must senior managers display, which behavior should process owners, managers, team leaders display? (Because of the limited time we did not also focus on which behavior must the ‘ implementation project’  take on board as countermeasures. This can help create a risk log and delineate countermeasures between the project and the line organization. This can also help fill in the risk management section of an ITIL or ITSM improvement plan).

Senior managers

  • Invite business managers to present their strategy and goals and how IT supports V,O,C,R  to management teams and departments.
  • Do strategy statements with business, stressing on the one side the Value and Outcomes required by the business – how IT will enable business innovation and on the other side how IT must help mitigate Costs and Risks. Spread the word in department meetings, have team managers , process owners, department managers spread the same messages. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.
  • Ensure portfolio management adopted to gain insights for both business and IT. Create a shared understanding.
  • Ensure Business and IT project managers aware of impact and needs in terms of V,O,C,R and communicate these into projects and project controls.
  • Gather and use real life examples of the impact of ‘undesirable behavior’ to help create a sense of urgency and recognized NEED to change.
  • Ask middle managers and process owners the real impact and examples of  ‘no understanding business impact and priority’
  • Ask middle managers and process owners ‘What KPI will they work on related to impact and how will they embed these improvements’? Ask for demonstrated results. (Embed CSI into the line responsibilities).
  • Start of each department meeting restate the sense of urgency. ‘Why we are doing this’ . Review what improvements have we made? concrete examples. Ensure these are recognized, rewarded and widely communicated and celebrated. What resistance and barriers still exist and what CSI actions will be taken to address these from managers and team leads and process owners and managers?

Team leaders/Process owners

  • Visit business units, participate in business process and see the impact of ITSM processes and IT on business V,O,C,R, present back to teams, invite business people to present to teams. Create a sense of urgency and also celebrate the benefits and value currently being perceived by the business.
  • Develop and update a priority/impact matrix for the processes, ensure this drives decision making and resource allocation and is used to signal and escalate resource conflicts and risks.
  • Send IT staff into business to understand priority (process and cycle times) and impact of outages.
  • Regular evaluation of KPIs and process together with team to gain insight into barriers and resistance and new improvements to processes. (Embed CSI in team responsibilities).

It was just a short 1 hour exercise to show the teams the power of using ABC of ICT to help create awareness, assess issues  and impact as well as create a shared view and buy-in for actions for dealing with ABC…..imagine what we could have achieved with a ½ day workshop.

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