Thursday, 27 September 2018

Become a Champion Thought Leader!

Earlier this month I had the great honour to be awarded the itSMF Australia ITSM Champion of the Year and the Thought Leader of the Year Awards (the latter together with my indomitable colleague @mmg9898).  Now, as thrilled as I am with this recognition and as much as I think it is a reward for my activities and commitment, it also got me thinking how we need more champions and thought leaders, in all organisations, at all levels!

I need to clarify that the word ‘champion’ in this context is not about being a winner (although on the Industry Awards night I certainly felt like one), but rather about being an advocate (i.e. ‘to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly’- source:!

In order to be a champion\advocate, firstly there needs to be an audience otherwise you are just ‘shouting in the desert’.  But, a champion provides a reminder to that audience about what (in this case) service management is, its correct application, new developments and other noteworthy aspects.

During the conference it was frequently mentioned that organisations need a kind of ‘Service Management coach’ (similar to an Agile coach etc.) to guide an organisation in its use of the many different service management practices available these days (as well as the staff applying them).

But … it goes further.  A champion is not necessarily a person with expert knowledge and capabilities or seniority, but can be ‘merely’ that one person in a team who is motivated about the practices in use, and advocates, encourages, guides, supports and influences the team members around them (regardless of hierarchic position).

We need those champions: from a global expert perspective, but also as an organisational coach or an operational enthusiast … BE A CHAMPION!

Thought Leaders
Apart from Champions, we also need more Thought Leaders.  I think sometimes people expect our ‘thought leaders’ to be exceptionally brilliant people who amaze the world\industry with creative and original ideas …

Far be it for me to say that this isn’t true for some luminary colleagues, however, I reckon that most thought leaders do not necessarily have all their original thoughts themselves.  Instead they observe their environment, the community they operate in and collect individual challenges, opportunities, thoughts and solutions.  They engage and interact with the community to gather and this information and proliferate, expand, share it in a novel & structured way that is recognised as ‘leading the way’.

It reminds me of the ‘Dancing Guy’ video from Derek Shivers, whereby the ‘lone nut’ is the person with the original idea but indeed is only a lone nut, until the ‘first followers’ validate the idea and start the movement.  Thought Leaders are these first followers who recognise and validate the potential of new ideas.

And with this comes the concept that ‘Continual Service Improvement’ is at the heart of any (service management) operating model and culture.  We need to question the status quo, we need to judiciously apply new practices and methods and constantly measure the value of our outcomes. 

Thus, if thought leaders do not need to be exceptional thinkers, and we all need to be thinking about bigger and better ways of operating … BE A THOUGHT LEADER!

Why do we need Champion Thought Leaders?
Now, all of the above has been true for some time, but I think that in this current day and age it is even more important to have Champion Thought Leaders.  First and foremost, as Service Management is a community that is fed by individuals contributing to the collective wisdom (as well as organisations, commercial or otherwise).  The more people that contribute, the larger the collective wisdom available to the community is.

I can see three current developments that increase the need for Champion Thought Leaders today:

1. Relevance
Unfortunately, a reality is that the field of traditional service management is losing its relevance.  Not so much in real terms (as in contributing to business outcomes and value) but in terms of the attention it gets (from the business, management but also prospective staff).  It is just not ‘sexy’, and definitely not when compared to agile practices or artificially intelligent technology!

I think this is partially because we view service management as operations only (i.e.  day-to-day, business-as-usual), rather than seeing the full scope of it, of the complete service lifecycle including strategy, design and transition.

And, regardless of whether this is true or not (and: it’s not!), service management is here, it’s not going away and all those agile projects, all those smart, connected technologies still need to be part of a service that delivers value to the consumer and need to be operated (and improved, and … well: managed).

Thus, we need Champion Thought Leaders to not only keep service management in the forefront of people’s thinking, but also to look for improvements & new practices (and that way linking service management to the more sexy agile, lean and innovation\transformation activities organisations are paying attention to).

2. Complexity
The days of the de-facto standard in service management are gone (the one ring to rule us all, to repeat another theme discussed during the itSMF conference) and instead we are bombarded with a myriad of practices, each promising to do things better or rather to focus on a particular area of service management (where pain is felt, improvements can be achieved or transitions made).

So, we need global experts to create and introduce these new practices, and then organisational ‘coaches’ to find the best ways to introduce and apply them, but it all starts with ‘local’, operational Champion Thought Leaders who see existing practices that need improving and are willing to expand their scope beyond the known\available\common theory.

3. Relevance (again)
Yes, I know that service management relevance (or rather the lack thereof) was my initial development necessitating Champion Thought Leaders but this one is more or less the opposite of that first one, as there is an increasing relevance of service management in the enterprise, i.e. outside of the IT department.

Enterprise Service Management is needed for those organisations tackling digital transformations (and let’s be honest: which organisation isn’t … or doesn’t want to?) as now we no longer have IT-services, but rather technology-enabled business services.  The end-to-end service covers the technology, but also the other enterprise aspects and thus service management capabilities need to be extended into the enterprise as well.

Now, back at the same conference where we were awarded the ITSM Champion and Thought Leader awards, we delivered a presentation on VeriSM™, as one of the new ITSM kids in town, especially focused on service management in a digital age and in an enterprise setting. 

Afterwards we got the question of who would talk to the business about this (i.e.  enterprise service management practices), and the answer is: ‘well … you of course!

Become a Champion Thought Leader!
Service management is on the praecipe of a renaissance.  Emerging technologies (cloud, IoT, AI …) make IT service management less relevant, but technology enabled business services much more so.  Digital transformation is on everyone’s lips, including of the organisational decision makers (i.e. outside of, as well as over-and-above the IT department).
And because we’re entering unchartered territory, it is not the usual channels that will bring the message.  Not the globally recognised service management guru’s (or skeptics), not the spruikers of new practices and methodologies, not even the consulting organisations and researchers, like Forrester, Gartner and the like, that are usually keen to provide an insight of ‘where it’s at’.  Rather the message needs to come from ‘within’, from those that understand the business and preferably have some real life experience in this (warts and all, good and bad, lessons learned, pitfalls and all that). 

This is where you come in.  Service management is one of the things that we have actually done quite well within the IT environment, and it is our duty -and I mean: all of our duties … including you as the reader here- to share this with the business, advocate service management practices and lead the corporate thoughts on practices and structures … BE A CHAMPION THOUGHT LEADER !