Meeting in a coffee shop and sharing a cupcake doesn’t sound like the opening to a discussion on ITSM, but then when meeting Carl Chapman from Capital Support the conversation can traverse many topics from Service Desk to Expectation Management and yet remain firmly rooted in delivery of excellent service to every customer every day.
I first met Carl at an SDI Software Showcase. He had a refreshing manner about him, cutting through the sales banter trying to identify the value and practical use of each of the systems on show. I distinctly recall him describing the process of application selection as similar to choosing a prize cow. When I questioned this analogy he quickly responded by saying the nuances in the applications were the value, not the similarities. He’s sparked my interest and given a different perspective on a process we’ve all encountered on numerous occasions.
So, Cappuccino in hand we found a quiet corner to see how Carl has used his near 30 years of IT experience to help deliver the promise of excellent delivery to both large corporates and still translate his skills to grow traditional SMEs.
“It’s all about the bits we don’t write down” starts Carl. “The inherent desire to deliver great service and through that Service Management without the need to read the manual every time a question comes up”. I take from this he’s about to go head long into an expansive story pulled from his past where he’s taken a stuttering IT function and helped it improve by educating, cajoling or just enunciating the benefits of ITSM, but instead his focus is on the contents of our table.
You can teach someone to make a cup of coffee but what separates the best Barista from someone who makes instant coffee served in a soft foam cup at the side of the A1 is their passion to do the best they can and to adapt the instructions to make the magic happen.
I understand the context, but how does that translate into a real world IT situation where calls are flowing in, services are failing and the general consensus of opinion is that IT is just not good enough. I can’t accept the immediate comparison but can see Carl isn’t going to let this go without explaining why he is able to draw this conclusion.
I’m a strong believer in the individual and the role of the individual in delivering success through collective engagement and delivery. Since I started my career as a field service engineer back in the early 1980’s I’ve always felt my role was to fix people; people who just happen to have IT problems. Before ITSM was a set of books or a global community I therefore simply asked my teams to focus on the person and not the problem. You can fix the problem but if the person is not happy then you’ve failed. Equally, fix the person, make them feel valued, give them your time and in parallel fix the problem and you’ve got a 6-0 Cup Final win.
While I couldn’t fault Carl’s logic I wondered how you draw a line from ITSM fixing people to the original comment about great coffee. For me, it sounded like Carl was holding back on how you use ITSM to empower people to deliver peak performance.
Ultimately ITSM is a simple menu. A set of instructions on how you should do things in order to meet the needs and desires of your customers. Following the instructions will ultimately give you delivery, be it coffee or IT. It’ll be functional and adequate. The real magic happens when people use the knowledge from ITSM as a bond to expand their collective desire to be a little bit better than OK. In my experience opening the eyes of your teams to ITSM is the same as giving mountain climbers the best possible equipment they need to reach the peak. It’s a common language, with interlinked objectives that map out how to go from ground zero to the peak. On many occasions opening up a team to ITSM creates a light bulb moment; when delivery teams understand see how they can be impacted by change and how capacity management can support availability. The magic is taking the best people and giving them the understanding of how to make IT easier. Don’t get me wrong, if your people are rubbish then no end of ITSM will help them, but if you start with good people in any business, give them a successful menu, encourage their growth and development and you are significantly more likely to deliver success.
Coffee nearly over I ask Carl for a closing comment on how to breach the gap between adequate and excellent and how ITSM supports this objective.
“Great question, Rebecca. I’d simply say in all organisations you have professional trained people delivering services such as Legal or Finance. In my view a knowledge of ITSM is our equivalent. It’s critical to know how each element works in unison and provides the opportunity for excellence. Ultimately with or without ITSM you’ll still be able to deliver, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could do it a little bit better than everyone else?”
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Having worked in IT since the early 80’s Carl has built an enviable reputation as someone who leads teams in a positive and respectful manner to deliver tangible bottom line improvement by having the best people using the most appropriately aligned processes. The starting point in his career was in field services, fixing IBM PCs, and since then he’s taken every rung on the ladder to his COO status in his stride. Carl has remained grounded, has an acute understanding of service delivery and how it can positively impact not only the customer but also the morale of the team and still has the skills to translate complex technical problems in terms which everyone can relate to. Regardless of whether it’s a global team of hundreds or a local team of a few, those who work for Carl will tell you one of the most powerful things he does is to give them the space and support to do the job they are paid to do, to the best of their ability.