IT Service Management (ITSM)

ITSM: Why it is Time for Radical Change

Paul Wilkinson explains why he believes in the ABC approach to ITSM

My desire to write this article is partly inspired by the SMCongress initiative and partly through my own frustrating experiences in the last 10 years. To provide some background, the SMCongress was an initiative started at the itSMF USA Fusion conference by a group of ITSM practitioners, experts and industry thought leader to brainstorm the way ahead.

But in the end the group went further than requested and created an industry-wide call to action based on the premise that: “The IT industry and the IT service management industry have "become stagnated by a systemic and fundamentally broken set of attitudes and behaviors." It is time for change!

This caused quite a divided reaction from the ITSM community. But I am a passionate advocate and for the past 10 years I have been touring the world conducting business simulation workshops, ABC workshops and presentations. I have presented to literally tens of thousands of IT professionals and management teams. The world needs an ABC approach to ITSM.

ABC stands for the Attitude, Behavior and Culture in ICT (both IT and Business roles). It is our belief that ABC is the number one success or fail factor for ITSM. However, it is not getting enough focus or attention in the training and certification of IT professionals and leaders. 

ABC is like an iceberg - much of it is hidden, yet it is capable of stopping your improvement program dead in its tracks, or sending it off in a direction you didn’t want to go. Often we don’t see it, we don’t talk about it and we hope the damage will be minimal’ –however 70% of organizations we surveyed don’t get their hoped for value because they hit this iceberg. The aim of the ABC assessment is to make the iceberg visible!

ABC exercises are conducted world-wide and based on a series of ‘behavior cards’. One of these is a resistance exercise which uses the question: ’What resistance do we see or expect when we try to deploy a best practice such as ITIL’?

Over the last 10 years we have seen ITIL V2, V3, V2011, ISO20000, CoBIT, MOF, BiSL, ASL….a whole set of best practice frameworks and certificates, yet the frustrations people list in this time remain the same. We seem to be adopting and doing ITSM and ITIL for the sake of doing ITIL rather than what it should achieve.

For example the top reasons chosen during the resistance exercise are consistently:

  • No management commitment
  • Saying yes but thinking (doing) no
  • Never mind about following procedures just do what we normally do
  • Process managers without authority
  • ITIL is the objective – not what it should achieve

These same factors have been cropping up for a decade. I conducted this exercise on people visiting my stand at the itSMF USA, UK and the Netherlands and everybody recognized these issues. Even the organizations using ITIL for years still recognized these barriers.

Yet of the 7500 people I spoke with who were ‘Doing ITIL’, only 5% had read the OGC (ITIL) publication ‘Planning to Implement Service Management’ or followed any training to learn to deal with the ABC issues.

Is it any wonder we keep failing!? Surely this signifies a need to change!


For more on the ABC of ITSM, you can read Paul’s blog here.


Paul Wilkinson is Co-owner/Co-director of GamingWorks BV


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Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson is Co-owner/Co-director of GamingWorks BV

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