A Brief Review of Creating and Driving Service Excellence

Creating and Driving Service Excellence looks like a handy tool for selling ITSM to the bosses.

In my recent post on BoK Bloat I said:

I worked damn hard to keep my new book Basic Service Management down to 50 pages. Why? Because that's how the world works. With the exception of the few pontificating philosophers of ITSM who lurk on this blog (self included), who the hell reads 2000 pages of ITIL? 2000! A4 pages at that.

Nobody reads anything properly any more. When was the last time you went to a meeting and anybody had properly read the proposal or brief or whatever document you had spent a day crafting? Do we seriously think anyone outside a few eccentric wonks are ever going to read these doorstep BoKs?

So what happens when ITIL authors try to condense the material?

Sharon Taylor's Creating and Driving Service Excellence is a 60-tiny-pages introduction to ITSM for business executives. As almost every reader of this blog will know, Sharon was Chief Architect of ITIL V3 and author of the Official Introduction to ITIL. Now she turns her hand to the challenging task of introducing business execs to service management in a pocket-book.

I really believe writing small books is harder than writing big ones. And overall Sharon has pulled it off. The book is more of a sales brochure in places, ("It's time you knew what they know"), but then that was clearly its purpose. The book is a persuasion tool for ITSM proponents to get the support of more senior executives by selling the benefits.

Maybe I'm just sensitive but it seemed a bit patronising in a few places, a teaching of egg-sucking. Then again, given the standard of most management in the Western world it is probably fair to talk from a low base.

Then there are the same tired old statistics about the financial returns from Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and - yes - the good ol' Government of Ontario. We now apparently have Capital One, Visa, JP Morgan Chase, Shell and Avaya claiming similar miracles, but really this is a sad collection of unsubstantiated boasts to show for thirty years of ITSM.

But these are minor quibbles. The book does its job well. It speaks the execs' lingo; it lays out the case logically; and it is small enough that even the most illiterate of managers might attempt it.

Some of the points even warmed this old skeptical heart:

  • "The ITSM industry gets itself wound up around ITSM as a technology-enabled management practice"
  • ITIL is treated as just one framework amongst several, including COBIT. there's hope for itSMF yet.
  • "In the ITSM industry you'll find everything from self-proclaimed evangelists, experts, pundits and sceptics" to ninjas, gurus, zealots, girls, guys, punks, geeks, and of course queens (Sharon's twitter name is ITSMQueen).
  • "You really are already vested in ITSM to some degree"
  • "ITSM tools are a hotbed market ripe [sic] with both good and bad advice"
  • "beware of the ITSM zealot"
  • "No amount of technology, process [...] can replace [a] cultural acceptance and sense of value for ITSM within the workforce"

If there is a theme I'd have liked to see more of, it is that ITSM is about changing culture, changing the way people think and behave. Change to practices and tools flow from that. ITIL doesn't talk about that much, whereas it should be the front-and-centre foundational concept. This book is better, it spends one of ten sections on it.

Perhaps any book is a big ask for overworked execs. itSMF should follow this book up with a 10-minute video and a scripted PPT - these have more hope of getting through in this millennium. Once the next generations get in charge, they'll need to tweet it one line at a time, and set up a fanpage.

Actually my biggest issue with this book is the price: £25 or $45. Plus shipping. It's good but it's not that good. This hardly helps advance the cause, itSMF! (Makes my introduction to SM for twenty bucks look like a bargain: clearly itSMF have been taking pricing lessons from Apple).

I'll be buying a few (very few) more copies of Creating and Driving Service Excellence to use as a strategic weapon for aligning senior execs and getting their sign-off. I'll let you know how they work - looks to me like they will.


Culture change

Rob, a nice summary of the book. I totally agree about the Culture change bit, however Sharon did add bits about ABC and the need to adress it........we are perhaps slowly changing the culture with the authors to add the people bits.....Colin Rudd in 'Planning to implement' also mentioned ABC and declared that 'Cultural issues' were the biggest reasons for initiatives failing......but then again nobody read this book because it doesn't contribute to getting an ITIL expert certificate so why bother reading it........yes there is still work to do changing our culture to accept that culture is an issue....I blame the culture.....that is the end of my morning rant.

Review of Creating and Driving SE

Rob, many thanks for your review of the book. You hit the nail on the head about it being tough to condense a compelling message to C-level about ITSM in such a small package, but we know that unless we can, it won;t be read. And in my view, that's the place we have to start; getting C's to read about it. This is why you see some admittedly tired examples of success. For the C's they want to relate to something tangible, and P&G, and the like are such examples instantly recognized and widely accepted as empiricle. I wish we as an industry spent more time uncovering the new, fresh and just as compelling examples.

In a book this small, as you know, one has to make choices about what is in an out. I did have this reviewed by a sizeable number of C's and largely followed their advice about what would compel them to buy other books and seek out ITSM knowledge to a deeper level. Sadly, culture was not as high on that radar as it could have been, [perhaps a sign of the hard, economic times], but I think as an industry we are making strides.

I'm pleased that you find it valuable and will put it in front of your own customers. I hear it is gaining a good rate of acceptance, even among the "Western egg-sucking" gang!

And since when does anyone ever pay list price for books these days? I think these days cover prices are set for two main reasons and this book is likely no different in that regard; not so cheap that it will lack credibility with an executive audience and allowing room for the large discounters like amazon to offer it.

In the end, I spent the time writing it in the hope that exec's will read it, and that the people who will put in in front of them will benefit from that.

I believe your review of the book will help that happen as well and I thank you for that too!

Nevermind the width - feel the quality

Skep - I am surprised at your concern over the price. You too, know how difficult it is to write a short book. Distilling the collective wisdom of many a BOK and presenting it in the right way to a specific audience is not easy and if Sharon has done it well it is worth paying for.

Just think of the time, effort and therefore money she'll save you when you use her book as a tool to win you work by persuading those sceptical business executives making the decisions.

I just wish Sharon had published it with BCS.

Claims of Gains

Re "sad collection of unsubstantiated boasts"

I can vouch for the Capital One claims. I retired from there years ago, but ITSM is still sending cash to the bottom line there.

One thing we adopters forgat all to easily: ITILs processes are atthe core, dis-entropic - and are themselves subject to entropy. Maintaining what has been adopted takes some effort. The more complicated the process, the more effort it takes to maintain it. Just like every thing else!

Perception as a creator of value - mentioned by ITIL

You say the book is too expensive. Yes, 60 pages at 25 quid - 2.40 pounds a page - is expensive. But too expensive?

Too expensive for who? For an ITSM professional, used to getting some books free from reviewing them, or bought by the company, it's outrageous. They aren't the audience, though, are they. Their perception of value is not the point.

The audience is Senior Management or Directors. They'll be impressed by the price - do they really want to be seen on the aeroplane reading 'Boardroom Surfing for Dunces' for a mere 50p a page? Of course not!

I think that there should be a kindle version - maybe priced at 40 quid for the HD ( Huge Dunce ) special red copy ( with an automatic donation to starving ex-Castle staff ) and 5 quid for the black and white peon edition ( for those giving the lift-bore justification for buying the HD version ).

to enlighten the

It's not the execs who will buy this book - it is their underlings desperate to enlighten them so the flaky ITSM business case will get through. I used to hand out the similar V2 itSMF pocketbook liberally. I will be more restrained with this one.

BTW: The books I've been given for free are only a small part of my library, and I own my own company, so yes the price of books hurts.

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