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Not Invented Here…

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Fieldwork at the Ostrich School of Coping Skills

One of the biggest challenges I’ve been put up against this year is probably the view that, if something wasn’t invented here, it’s no good. And boy, have I struggled with trying to make things look like we actually invented them here.

I won’t try to figure out why the ‘not invented here syndrome’ is so rooted in our organization. There are probably lots of reasons, historical, organizational, cultural, previous experiences and what not. Some experts tell me I have to change the attitude among my co-workers and kill the opinions that abound and are aimed towards massacring external influences. That would probably be a good thing, if you had the support and means to do it. I, and my ITSM colleagues, went for another approach.

The post-it walls

We have a ‘war-room’ on the third floor of the building where most of operations and tech department are located. That’s where people gather whenever there are major incidents going on, or just for debriefing when the nightshift go off and the dayshift starts. The walls of this room were once covered with whiteboards and huge post-its. Every now and then some manager would move the post-its around and write stuff on them during the meetings that were held there.

When we looked into this room we discovered that they had built a sort of an incident and problem management ticketing system with post-its on whiteboards.

As we are interested in having people working in the ITSM-tools we have, and actually following the defined processes, we of course asked:

Why don’t you use the ITSM-suite and the incident and problem management processes?

We mostly got mumblings and a lot of staring at shoes in response. The ones who spoke back did so in a quite animated manner. Some claimed that the processes were over complicated and useless, others argued that the ITSM tool didn’t meet their requirements or that it was too hard to understand how to use it.

No problem, we thought, let’s work together to change what doesn’t work well enough in the tool and the processes. However, the people in the room were not so interested in that.

First of all, they didn’t recognize what they did as incident or problem management, it was the ‘8:45 war-room meeting and that’s where we actually work’. So even if we had some shiny processes to help them do their job more efficiently, we weren’t welcome. Just for that reason.

Furthermore, not only did we miss the opportunity to control, but also the ability to measure the processes and activities. Apart from that, you had to be physically present in the room to be able to get all the information needed to work on the cases. The various managers had different ideas on how to do things as well, so we never got a chance to actually work in a process oriented way or with commonly agreed routines.

Inventing it here

We started by accepting the methods used in the room with the post-its and slowly but patiently planting small but important changes to the methods and the vocabulary. We did some parallel registration of the data on the post-its in the problem management ticketing tool, and we began to show the advantages of a tool that wasn’t physically restricted to a single room.

By now we’ve lost the post-its and we register and follow all PM tickets in the ITSM tool. We’ve started to deliver some metrics on what we believe should be important to the company, and we show that our methods get the job done faster and with better results than before.

There’s still a long way to go to make this stick throughout the entire organization and to be able to convince all the people involved that it makes a difference.

But, just the same, we have actually invented problem management here at my company and we are proud of it!

(Please just don’t tell anyone…)

Image Credit

Tobias Nyberg

Tobias Nyberg is a Configuration Manager at Svenska Handelsbanken in StockholmSweden. He has a growing interest in IT Service Management and how ITSM can deliver value to companies and people. Tobias strongly believes in sharing as the best way of boosting knowledge in the ITSM community and is an active member of the Swedish itSMF chapter.

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  • http://www.itskeptic.org/ Rob England (The IT Skeptic)

    Brilliant culture change Tobias.

    I notice in any organisation I go into that there are the ruins of “systems” all over the place (I call myself an archaeologist). Whiteboards with lines ruled on them and column headings; planning charts pinned to walls; dusty binders; even old post-it notes peeling off charts. We implement these systems but they slowly die. Why? Some or all of:

    - no ownership
    - no processes to keep them alive: review, audit, update, promote, improve
    - no induction of new staff
    - they don’t actually add value

    • Tobias Nyberg

      Thank you Mr. England.

      I try to convince co-workers in other domains as well that those things you mention are crucial to any “system” you decide to develop or promote. They tend to hate me for it but at the same time agree that I’m right.

      Without the ownership, keep-alive work and value-add they have no place in our organization and should not be put to work in the first place.

      Not everyone agrees though or have different views on what their roles in the system are. It’s clear beyond doubt however that we have a pile of old systems that every new archaeologist (consultant) need to wade through before reaching
      present time and current systems.

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