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Developing Awareness & Education Strategies For ITIL Deployment

An interview with Gary Case, Principal Consultant, Pink Elephant

He aha te mea nui o te ao

What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

For the first of our interviews with speakers at the upcoming Pink Elephant conference, the IT Skeptic chose to talk to Gary Case.  It’s not just because Gary is so widely travelled he has even been to New Zealand and met the IT Skeptic.  It is not even because Gary just returned from a trip to Pakistan with Pink Prez David Ratcliffe.  It is because the topic Gary has chosen for one of his sessions, Developing Awareness & Education Strategies For ITIL Deployment, is such an important one right now.  There is a shift quietly going on in IT in 2009.  Behind all the din about recession and Cloud and SaaS and social media, there is a slowly rising murmur about People. You may not even have noticed it yet.  Since I’m writing a book about People First in IT I’m attuned to hear it.  In the forums, blogs, articles and twitterings, even in new software products, people are finally (sometimes) coming first.  Amongst all the tech toys, feature bake-offs, sales hype, process obsessives, framework zealots, and ROI bean-counters, finally we are seeing a proper weight put on culture change, awareness programs, stakeholder involvement, education, certification, professionalism and all the human aspects of ITSM.

You may be thinking: “Hey! What’s the big deal? I don’t need an awareness and education strategy! Consultants always try to make things too complicated. So, what’s not to get – I send people on ITIL Foundation courses; they come back knowing what to do, and then we take off…”


There are many things that can go wrong with an ITIL implementation, and during his twelve years helping others work with ITIL, Gary has seen it all. As he will explain, one of the biggest mistakes is not spending the required time developing and executing awareness, education strategies, and plans.  In his discussion, Gary will start by highlighting the difference between awareness and education (yes, there is a very important difference!). He will then review: 1) why, and how to develop and execute an Awareness Campaign, and who should do it; 2) the steps involved in developing an Education Plan; 3) various key roles and recommended courses – both within the ITIL certification scheme and other courses (no, it’s not just about ITIL!); 4) how to execute and track results against the plan.

Gary, who co-authored ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement book, has helped numerous organizations through this process. Not only is Gary an ITIL Expert, but he also has over three decades of consulting experience. Attend this session to learn real-life practicalities from one of the industry’s foremost experts.

Skep: If asked a few months later, people often only remember one message from a presentation.  What is the one thing you want them to recall from this one?
Gary: Implementing ITSM requires a holistic approach in that it involves people, processes and technology and they are not all equal.  Much more emphasis needs to be applied to the people component.

Skep: Tell us about what you mean by “education”. 
Gary: Even though the word education is used in the session title and session description there is a difference between education and training and there is a role for both in an ITSM program.  Education is ensuring that people acquire the knowledge about ITSM, processes, technology, skills etc.  So your basic ITIL V3 Foundation course, Lifecycle or Capability courses as well as other non-ITIL courses are more aligned with providing education.  Training is actually taking that knowledge acquired and putting into practical application.  In other words throughout the ITSM program there will be plenty of education opportunities to provide knowledge and new skills required, but then before a process and tool is deployed, the staff needs to have training on how to apply the knowledge of following the process activities and utilizing the ITSM tool appropriately.

Skep: Yes, there is so much more to changing people than just a formal course, isn’t there?  Workshops, walkthroughs, coaching, practical exercises, on-the-job experience, team sharing… I think either “education” or “training” can be used to cover all that.  What do you think about the phrase “cultural change”?  Is it rendered meaningless from overuse or does it still have a clear definition for us in ITSM?  And if so what?
Gary: I feel that it is very difficult to change to say that you will change the culture of an organization because you are implementing ITSM.  Culture is made of an organizations history and the leadership’s values, beliefs and the organizations way of doing business.  Saying that implementing ITSM will change all of this is a huge challenge however what ITSM should focus on is changing peoples behavior.  Once enough people have changed their behavior including management as being the proper role models then you end up with a new culture but this doesn’t happen overnight.  So the focus should be on changing individuals behavior, rewarding for the new behavior etc.

Skep: While I’m getting hung up on terminology, you chose “awareness” instead of say “communication”.  Any special reason? 
Gary: Awareness is a term used in the ITIL publications however and I also personally struggle with only thinking in terms of creating awareness, I feel that awareness is one aspect of what needs to be a part of the communication strategy and plan.  In the beginning and throughout the program you will need to create awareness of what is happening, but there is also different types of communication that are important and can be considered a part of awareness, i.e., who will be involved, project status etc, Awareness and communication need to be managed by using multiple medias instead of only focusing on emails or web sites that a lot of organizations have a tendency to do.  ITSM initiatives that will require buy-in and behavioral change should be done fact to face when ever possible such as using focus groups, brown bag lunches, town hall meetings, and attending and presenting at staff meetings and let’s not forget training as that is another aspect of communication. 

Skep: What is the key objective of an Awareness Campaign?  It doesn’t sound exactly essential to the project in the same way as, say, a tool upgrade. 
Gary: Again, this goes back to the importance of managing organizational change as the people aspect is the most important to being successful with implementing processes and technology into the production environment.  An organization can have the best technology and the best processes but if it doesn’t have the people wanting to adopt and use the process and tools then the project becomes a very costly failure.  An awareness campaign is important part of any ITSM initiative to gain buy in from the IT staff at all levels within the organization and also should include the business. 

Skep: You mentioned the classic mantra “People Process Technology” to which I like to add “in equal parts and in that order”.  Do organisations put sufficient emphasis on people aspects for an ITSM project?  If not, how far have we got to grow? 
Gary: I feel that the three are not equally important because of the criticality of the people component thus we should be seeing the people component as larger than the process and technology components.  Unfortunately organizations don’t put enough emphasis on the people aspect of ITSM.  This is why many ITSM programs / projects struggle.  Developing a process is relative easy, implementing a process is a little harder, however getting people to adopt and use the process and tool is by far the most difficult and this is where an organizational change strategy and plan come into play.  Organizations also tend to over focus on the technology such as the ITSM tool that will be utilized as this is something tangible and also something that IT is good at doing.  So we do have a long way to go, and that is why it is important to approach any ITSM program / project from a holistic approach. 

Skep: Why should I go to this session.  What’s in it for me? 
Gary: We provide steps to a strategy and a plan outline for both communication / awareness and education / training for you to take away and use.  

Skep: ITSM in Pakistan? You’re kidding, right? 
Gary: Amazing isn’t it?  IT issues aren’t any different in Pakistan than they are in the US or Canada or New Zealand.  There are pressures to reduce budget, improve services and service levels thus a need for documented efficient and effective processes etc.  It’s a small ITSM world.
Gary is right on the money with this presentation.  When we succeed it is because we got the people-stuff right.  When we fail it is because we didn’t.  This stuff really matters to the success of an ITIL initiative.  Don’t miss it.

Posted by Rob England (IT Skeptic) on 09/23 at 07:53 PM






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