Community, Activity, Environment: put the main effort into changing the people and culture instead of twiddling with tools

Regular readers know the IT Skeptic is a big fan of the People Process Technology model for approaching any IT change/innovation/project. It is a model that seems to be honoured in the breach - people mostly ignore it. Maybe we can tweek it a little to get it to stick?

Time after time I see people focus on the technology/artifacts/products/things with lip service to process and a passing nod to the people who work in the culture that will implement it.

"But we emailed the documents for review"
"What do you mean nobody knew? The new standard process is clearly posted on Sharepoint"
"No point arguing now: we've bought the damned thing and that's how it wants it".

The IT Skeptic has suggested a variant model in the past: People, Practices, Things. Now I've gone a step further with Community, Activity, Environment, trying to broaden the model's applicability and also better refine the three aspects it aims at.

I've especially never been happy with the word "technology" - far too narrow to cover all the things people fixate on.

And "Process" has lots of baggage (thanks to ITIL, amongst other causes). So while we're at it, let's change all three apects of the model, hence Community, Activity, Environment.

If you read it, I welcome feedback. You may especially enjoy the ironic twist at the end, which does raise a serious question; just what does the ITSM industry have to do to get people to take the PPT or CAE model seriously, and actually start with and put the main effort into changing the people and culture instead of twiddling with tools?


Why reinvent the wheel?

As I was reading the article I couldn't help but think you were just, in your own words, "putting lipstick on a pig." The words of PPP aren't the problem. Then I saw your closing remarks, and I think you agree, but then I don't really understand the point of the article.

the article is pointless

You're right, the article is pointless :-D or rather, the point is to get people to re-examine the whole PPT thing and see it in a broader light than just technology, or just process. I want readers to see that we so often fixate on the "thing' bit and ignore the "people" bit. But as to what the solution to that is, well the article doesn't say: I'm open to ideas!

How 'bout 8 P's?

Service Design does specifically mention the "4 P's" (people, process, products, partners) including a diagram on page 16.

Service Strategy , on page 56, also references "the four P's" (Perspective, Position, Plans, Patterns).

As far as People go, I could not agree more that at the end of the day that 'P' is the ultimate key to success (and the hardest to deal with). I've blogged (alone) on this topic over a year ago:

Implementing a CMDB is Like Blogging Alone: Why Products & Process won’t be enough to reconnect with the business

Of course my spin at that time (and still) centers on the need for real-time information and collaboration that many ITSM tools seem to ignore.

People make things go (or not go).

John M. Worthington
MyServiceMonitor, LLC

People are distinctively different

Something that worries me about these attempt to put People into a model along with other Ps, or whatever, is that we fall into the common IT management trap of trying to treat people as if they were the same sort of thing as the other Ps.

We distinguish people from process and technology, but we still draw up an ITIL implementation plan that ignores the people side, presuming that the people elements will somehow fall in place to plan. We don't take into account that individual A might “get” ITSM a year ahead of the member of team B, or that the state of an individual/team changes dynamically. We don't get than detailing a job spoec. For a service manager doesn't address the fact that the current role holder does not have the personality type to fit the role.

The other side of this is that we forget that the things people can achieve are different from the things achievable by good process or technology. It is only a change manager who can look you in the eye and say “Are you really confident this change has been properly tested?”

People are as different as process is from technology

I think People can and should be treated as part of the model.

People are as different as process is from technology. i.e. all three categories/dimensions have entirely different considerations, approaches, and solutions, but all three should be aspects of the plan, each with their own budget, tasks, objectives, measures ...

People in ITILv3

Obviously the human factor is an important element of making an IT Service Management implementation work. I also think that the authors of ITIL v3 have caught on to this aspect. In addition to the mentioned 4P's and Kotters 8 steps there is also Rosabeth Moss Kanters 10 reasons why people resist change (such as an implementation of ITIL). The three activities in Service Transition nicely describe these.
Also please mention the "emotional cycle of change" (ST 5.2.1), which is based on studies of the psychologist Kübler Ross (although this isn't mentioned in the Transition book). She observed reactions of relatives of people that were told they were about to die (as a result of illness...). In fact, these reactions can be compared (although maybe not as strong) to emotions people go through in dealing with organizational change such as working in new roles or being made redundant as a result of new ways of working.

Maarten Bordewijk
Getronics PinkRoccade

Other PPT models

Thanks for the feedback!

Actually, as far as I can find, the "People Process Products Partners" is only in An Introductory Overview of ITIL, Colin Rudd, itSMF 2004, which is what we would now call a complementary publication, not core.

The only reference I can find in core ITIL V2 to a model like this is in Planning to Implement Service Management, Vernon Lloyd, 2002, which has the even more arcane "vision and strategy, steering, processes, people, technology, and culture".

Someone who has paid for the online suibscription, please check for me [maybe I shouldn't be recommending buy hardcopy]: as far as I can recall People Process Technology or any variant is not in ITIL V3 at all???

To me, what really matters is to put the things/products/environment/technology category:

  1. as just one of a list of things and
  2. last on that list

Also I like the Rule of Threes: people like threes, they grasp threes. This is a model. All models don't fit reality exactly. We could keep going for ever adding to the list if we are not careful. I think the three essentials are indeed "People Process Technology" or People Practices Things" or "Community Activity Environment".

P.S. Every word has its baggage. "activity" is meant in the broadest sense of "what people do", not in any technical sense that excludes controls or any governance or measurement or reporting activities.

Four P's


In the Service Design book, you should check the index very logically under the 'F' (from "Four P's"). It refers to two different paragraphs in the book, were (oh confusion) they also mention 'Business, people, processes, tools, technology'.

What is it about men?

I had this vague recollection of having seen it, but a search of the six books when researching that article came up with nothing so I figured I'd mixed it up with something else.

I can also stand right in front of my glasses or mug of tea and not see them, or search a cupboard three times for the biscuits. My wife says it is a man-thing: can't see for lookin'.


I personally am a fan of John P Kotters 8 steps for succesfull change, I try to use it on any project I do. I find it gives a fair bit of attention to the 'human factor'.

Actually ITIL v3 gave PPT a new twist: the term People, Proces, Product (i.e. tool) and Partner is now used. I am suprised to find that the writers did not add the P from Performance. That would make common sense with Service Strategy being all about 'added value'.

Any comments / thoughts?




Hello Skeptic,

It is an interesting concept / change of terminology (CAE) that you brought in. Creative and sensible indeed.

However, with the new concept of 4Ps instead of 3 Ps (or PPT) - with Partners as the fourth P, how does the new terminology change?

Or you split the partner also into these three areas - which doesnt seem right.


PPT has become an empty cliche

Like you I have long been a fan of PPT in trying to shift the emphasis on to the people issues. In the last few years though I've become frustrated by seeing the concept being used in a cliched fashion. Vendor/manager/consultant stands up and tells everyone that PPT is important, and that people are the key issue to address, and then their actualactions address every issue except the people ones.

I like the community and environment tags, I'm less sure about activity, being an auditor I think I would have control in there somewhere.

How do we start to get people to take these models seriously? Making all IT managers work outside of the IT environment for twelve months of their careers would help.

Syndicate content