Transformational technologies are a small view
It seems to me that new technologies such as cloud, social media, or mobile personal computing, are seen as much more transformational by some of us in IT than they really are. I suspect that is because of our industry's fixation with technology at the cost of people and process.
We are having a torrid debate on this blog over "Social ITSM". Let's not re-litigate that here. But let's look at the more general case of why things such as social media send some analysts (and vendors) into paroxysms of excitement over how this is going to change everything and you better grok it or perish... yet others like me see it as quite interesting really and something we better do something about at some point.
Putting aside the fact that vendors will talk up a new version of Windows as if it was the second coming if it will sell a few more boxes for them, there are plenty of genuine people falling to their knees before the bright light when all I can see is an odd-shaped stain on the wall.
Since some friendships are becoming strained over this disconnect, I have pondered it. I have a theory.
If you see IT as only technology (and information kept on that technology) then something like cloud or virtualisation looks like quite a big change.
And if you see IT as even smaller: only the technology you touch as a user, then mobile computing, BYOD, tablets and micro-apps look huge.
But most readers of this blog know that there is far more to IT than information or technology. The information and technology are useless dead lumps without the people and process and business and partner and service and value and governance aspects of IT to bring them to life.
When you look at IT in this broader context, then the fact that you now access a business process through a little bit of metal in your hand instead of a big bit of metal on your desk shrinks to its proper perspective: mildly interesting.
When you look at all the considerations for service delivery, the fact that some users now talk to each other on a forum to get mis-information instead of getting it from some underpaid hack on the service desk is just an existing issue to be dealt with in a new location, not a tsunami of biblical proportions.
There are some more serious issues to address from new technologies:
The fact that vendors of cloud services and SaaS tools are seducing business managers into violating corporate policies by signing their own IT contracts is a governance issue that Boards need to stamp on before somebody takes their company down. And in the meantime IT needs to do some serious discovery and policing. These maverick business units are like children who have run away from home: you need to find them fast and keep them alive until you can get them back home safe behind locked doors.
Or another issue: some companies will of course embrace the fact that users communicate on channels outside the company so their is nothing to subpoena, but others are of course tearing their hair out over the security nightmare this presents (there's a reason so many companies stuck to Blackberry for so long). Yup, that's an issue.
Another issue is that cloud services and virtualisation are transforming how we manage IT infrastructure. In future, the staff operating the infrastructure will spend less time trolling logs and tweaking configurations, and more time integrating third-party services, managing service contracts, planning future capacity, and strategising availability. Most of them are hopelessly underskilled for this. We have a people problem in IT ops.
But these aren't the transformations that get the analysts all fizzy. Apparently all our processes will change and the service desk is dead. As I said on another blog post, I well recall all the bullsh1t around how the internet was going to transform business and the apocalyptic predictions for those who didn't drop everything and embrace the "digital economy". It nearly collapsed the world economy. The fact is that the internet changed little about how business is conducted (except in selected industries) and changed next to nothing about how ITSM is conducted. Today's talk sounds unsettlingly similar.
let's take a simple example: Incident Management. A service is interrupted. We need to restore the service. How much of the Incident Management process will change because we hear about the incident when somebody tweeted about it or some users were bitching on a website? Are the users going to restore the service themselves? Nope. Not unless the fault is on their end-user mobile platform, in which case they can help each other and it's one less call for the service desk.
i certainly need to refocus my Business Relationship Management, as ITIL 2011 would call it, to go tap into those conversations and provide some user education before they lead each other over the cliff. but is the way I record, analyse and resolve the incident gonna change? Nope. Quiet up the back! Just because the techoes twiddle and tweet on some dinky internal comms tool instead of using email, the phone or turning round and talking to each other - that doesn't change the process. I've spent years trying to get the sods to communicate via the ticketing tool so we have a trail instead of emailing, so guess how pleased I'll be if they are doing it on ButtBook. Sure it is cool when the tool vendor provides a twiddle-tweeter for them integrated with the ticketing. That makes me feel better about proper records but does that change the process? Nope. Just the comms channels.
or another example: Change Management. I'm told that CM will be radically transformed now that everything will be outsourced to external providers. I'm not sure how. Let's imagine our SaaS provider is upgrading us to a new version. let's look at the key concerns of operational Change Management:
- manage risk
- minimise impact
- succeed the first time
- ensure all stakeholders get sufficient notice and information
Any of that change? Nope.
How about the key process steps?
- record the change
- review, asses and categorise it
- determine who needs to approve it
- evaluate it
- get the appropriate owner(s) to authorise it
- communicate the decision
- plan the change
- coordinate change implementation (don't let the vendors sell you this crap about how a version upgrade takes no work on your part; gonna let the users find the new system the next morning without support and coaching? Think it won't need a new version of the browser, Java ...? most of all will it change the business procedure and work instructions in any way?)
- go into recovery mode when the change all turns to custard
- review and close change
Perhaps I'm thick but I don't see any of those steps going away or even changing much. Sure you are going to need Supplier Management and SLM like you never needed them before. But changing Change? Nope.
I apologise that I'm overworked right now so this post isn't as crafted and structured as I would like, but I hope you see my point. These technologies only look enormous if you are taking a small view.