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Agile Service Management

This is how your IT department reacts to an agile transition

By Bas Blanken on March, 1 2018

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Bas Blanken

Service Management Consultant & Agile expert

Introducing an agile way of working means a culture shift at your IT department. Some embrace the change, others might not be so eager to change the way they work. What reactions can you expect from your IT employees? And how do you deal with these reactions?

Here to help: Bas Blanken, IT consultant and agile service management specialist, and Mark van Meurs, Development lead at TOPdesk with extensive Scrum Master experience.

The back-office specialist: share your expertise

Bas: ‘For an IT professional, an agile transition can have quite an impact. Every back office has a system or network manager who’d happily spend their days behind their desk, solving complex puzzles. They are often the only expert in a specific field. This is very valuable. But working more agile means that the entire team becomes responsible for solving these puzzles. This requires the work to be transferable. No need to tackle it by yourself.’

Mark: ‘The big challenge for a back-office specialist is sharing knowledge, so the work becomes more transferable. IT colleagues need to open up, communicate more and explain to the team what’s going on and why they choose specific problem-solving strategies. This is not always easy, because a specialist is often proud of being the only one with this type of knowledge. As an IT manager, you need to show your staff that they can add even more value by sharing knowledge.’

Bas: ‘You don’t have to transfer all your knowledge at once. In most cases this isn’t even possible because the subject matter is complex. Start by encouraging specialists to talk about what they’re doing. Other team members will start asking questions and before you know it, the first tasks have become transferable.’

The service desk employees: get knowledge from your colleagues

Bas: ‘An agile way of working often suits service desk employees, because the agile philosophy is aimed at helping your customer the best you can. This philosophy fits their natural curiosity. However, transitioning to the agile mindset can still be a challenge for service desk employees.

In a lot of organizations, I see that service desk employees feel responsible for the calls they can solve on their own. Can’t solve anything? They forward to call to back office and wait for it to return. With agile working, the entire chain becomes responsible for all calls — front office to back office. This means service desk employees also become responsible for calls they can’t solve.’

Mark: ‘The goal of the service desk is to solve as many first-line calls as possible. For service desk employees, this means: when you can’t solve a call yourself, you need to get the knowledge you need to solve it next time. Be entrepreneurial and curious. Sit next to an expert to see how you can best help the customer. See if you can solve frequent calls yourself by getting the knowledge you need.’

Bas: ‘Working more agile often also leads to a better understanding between the front and back office. I often hear frustrated front office employees say that the back office communicates poorly, while the back office accuses the front office of giving them incomplete calls. When you talk to each other more often, you understand what the other needs to do his or her job.’

IT manager: give your team freedom and trust

Mark: ‘Introducing agile means changing the culture at your department. When you work agile, you don’t plan or design everything in advance. Instead, you leave more room for experimenting. Even a failed experiment provides valuable insights. Create a culture where team members are ok with making mistakes.’

The most important task of the agile IT-manager is to create an open work environment. Allow your team members to make mistakes and encourage them to be honest about it. Never judge them on failed experiments. Give the team the trust and freedom to determine what to work on.’

Bas: ‘IT managers that give their team little breathing room will have trouble with the transition to agile. Micromanaging initiatives can run a new initiative into the ground before it’s had a chance to properly take off. Make your agile teams thrive by giving new projects time to grow and develop.’

Mark: ‘Is there an “us versus them” mentality at the department? Then the manager needs to get rid of this mentality. In agile, everyone works on attaining the same goal: helping your customers. There is no room for islands.’

Workspace manager: contact the service desk

Bas: ‘Working agile improves communication between Workplace management and the service desk. A complaint I often hear from workplace managers, is that they receive incomplete information from the service desk. They get a request to fix a certain device, but they can’t see where the device is. The workplace manager needs to spend time searching for it, or just reassigns the request to the service desk. Both a waste of time.’

Working more agile means that the service desk and Workplace management see more of each other, for example. Instead of sending calls back and forth, the workplace manager needs to go to the service desk more often to have a look at a call together. This takes some effort, because the departments are often not on the same floor or location. The result however is that calls a processed quicker and better.

Mark: ‘Working more agile give most workplace managers a nicer job. They work with others to find a solution for the customer. No more daily task lists, but insight in and influence on the end result.’

Check out the free Agile Service Management e-book

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