This is the SECOND blog in our series that solves the equation that has been puzzling IT professionals ever since the acronym “ESM” gained traction on the Internet: Does ITSM + EAI = ESM? In our first blog post, we explained The Evolution of Enterprise Service Management (ESM), while this article outlines the steps you should take for shifting your corporate culture from ITSM to ESM. In our third and final article, we will explain the main steps (along with a few best-practices) that you should follow to Build a Strong Enterprise Service Management (ESM) Strategy.
When you think about how your company operates, each business function (i.e., department) in your organization mirrors your IT group in terms of how it interacts with its “customers.” In one way or another, each department receives requests for help, information, services, and changes to the way things are currently done. While the people, processes, and terminology may differ across teams, the requests that each department receives are very similar to what your IT Service Desk sees every day—such as incident management, service request fulfilment, and change management.
Over the past few years, we have seen a noticeable change in attitudes toward software services. Employees are no longer looking for complex capabilities that they really do not need, but instead are asking for simpler solutions that “just work.” Employees prefer using an intuitive ESM system over sending emails to generic mailboxes because it prevents messages from getting lost between colleagues or marked ‘read’ and forgotten. Shared mailboxes often receive thousands of messages every day. ESM makes service requests more manageable, and solutions can be tailored to each department’s unique requirements. Performance can also be monitored using metrics like the response times for assigning and completing service tickets.
The change in attitude toward software services can be directly attributed to a shift in corporate culture. But how do you shift an entire culture? Changing your company’s culture requires a movement—not a mandate. For organizations seeking to implement an ESM system, culture change is often the most challenging part of the transformation. Service management demands new behaviors from C-level executives and employees that often work against “traditional” corporate culture, which is historically focused on operational excellence and efficiency.
What is Corporate Culture?
Corporate culture is defined by the shared values, attitudes, and beliefs of the people who work in your organization. Culture is what makes your company unique, and it impacts everything from your company’s public image to employee morale and retention. If your employees share your company’s vision and other cultural elements, it can positively affect your income statement and balance sheet. Companies with good corporate culture often have high employee morale, which fosters highly engaged and productive teams.
Culture has deep roots that have the power to help or hinder your organization’s goals, strategies, structure, products, services, and the way that your company is perceived by the greater community. When corporate goals are infused with “good” corporate culture, tasks and projects are guided to completion through shared assumptions and group norms. Cultural norms define the kinds of behaviors that are encouraged, discouraged, accepted, and rejected by the people in your organization.
Corporate culture is a group phenomenon that does not exist within just one person, nor does it represent the simple average of everyone’s individual personality traits. Culture is far more complicated than that because it also resides in the “unwritten” rules that are subconsciously decided by everyone who works in your organization. Culture traverses every level of your organization, from your accountant who hides behind an endless stack of invoices to the IT guy who runs around the office fixing broken Windows. Culture manifests itself in collective behaviors like taking notes on a Surface Pro, group rituals like meeting at the BBQ food truck for lunch, unspoken assumptions like employees actively working from home, and many other aspects that are not even visible. Mindsets, motivations, and unspoken assumptions—invisible to the eye—play an integral role in how your corporate culture changes its shape over time.
When properly aligned with personal values, needs, and desires, culture has the power to unleash a tremendous amount of energy and focus on the completion of a common goal. Culture can also evolve on its own in response to new opportunities and changes in business requirements. Over the long term, culture can direct the thoughts and actions of everyone in your organization. People are drawn to work for companies with characteristics that are much like their own—because they want to “fit in.” Those employees who do not “fit in” eventually leave your company and get replaced by others who do fit the mold—better. When this happens, your organization grows increasingly resistant to change, which makes implementing an ESM system much more difficult. Ultimately, culture is an essential component that determines whether your company succeeds or fails in all its endeavors.
Unfortunately, some C-level executives allow corporate culture to go unmanaged, or they delegate the responsibility to Human Resources with low expectations that they (or anyone else) can do anything to change or improve the existing culture. If you strive to understand the core elements of your corporate culture and learn how to properly manage those elements, culture can help your company survive during difficult times and excel when opportunity knocks.
What Are the Core Elements of Corporate Culture?
Companies with the best cultures know how to create an environment that fosters satisfied and engaged employees, which results in a positive reputation for that organization. But what really makes a company’s culture so special? Why are Apple and Google held in such high regard? In his book “Creative Selection,” Ken Kocienda summarizes his view on how Apple’s culture was built:
“A small group of passionate, talented, imaginative, ingenious, ever-curious people built a work culture based on applying their inspiration and collaboration with diligence, craft, decisiveness, taste, and empathy and, through a lengthy progression of demo-feedback sessions, repeatedly tuned and optimized heuristics and algorithms, persisted through doubts and setbacks, selected the most promising bits of progress at every step, all with the goal of creating the best products possible.”
Every corporate culture is unique and, as you can see by Mr. Kocienda’s perception of Apple, many factors contribute to its creation. At its core, corporate culture is comprised of the following seven elements: mission, vision, values, actions, people, story, and environment. Understanding each of these elements and recognizing how they affect one another is the first step to building a unique culture that employees and their surrounding community can be proud of.
- Mission and Vision: A great company culture starts with clear vision and mission statements. A mission statement defines a company’s business, its objectives, and its approach to reach those objectives, while a vision statement describes the desired future position of the company. Sometimes, elements of the mission and vision statements are combined. The mission answers the “what” and “how” questions, while the vision answers the “why.” At SunView Software, for example, our mission is to “take the complexity out of our daily lives by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform how we gain information, collaborate, and share. Our vision is to create innovative and effortless platforms to empower you to build things with intelligent insights that deliver amazing experiences for your users.”
- Values: Your company’s values are the core of its culture. If your company says it values integrity, honesty, fairness, trust, learning, and customer experience, then those standards need to be clearly communicated to all employees.
- Actions: Values are meaningless unless they are demonstrated and reinforced through your company’s actions. If your organization claims that, “people are our greatest asset,” it should regularly invest in training programs and team building exercises. Managers should continually reinforce that they have an “open door” policy to discuss any issues without the fear of repercussions.
- People: The right people are your greatest asset. They provide the knowledge and skills your company needs to develop, market, and sell its products and services. When trying to shape your corporate culture, you need to hire people who either share your company’s core values or are willing and able to embrace those values.
- Story: Every company has a unique history that helped shape its culture. The ability to unearth that history and spin it into a compelling story is a core element of creating, shaping, and managing culture. Consider SunView Software, for example. Since 2003, Seng Sun (founder and CEO) has continuously worked to push the boundaries of what is possible in the service management space. From his perspective, nothing is impossible when it comes to creating award-winning technologies that use AI and machine learning to enhance and automate the workforce experience.
- Environment: Open architecture facilitates collaboration, while natural surroundings bring peace and tranquility to employees. Steve Jobs, for example, wanted Apple’s new headquarters to look less like an office park and more like a nature preserve. Most of Apple’s “corporate donut” consists of green space planted with drought-resistant trees and plants indigenous to Cupertino, California. And the center courtyard of the main building features an artificial pond.
While there are many other factors that can influence the way your organization behaves, these seven elements comprise the core of your corporate culture. Being able to identify and understand them is the first step to shifting your corporate culture toward embracing ESM without disrupting the core elements that make your organization a great place to work.
How Can You Shift A Great Culture Without Disrupting Its Core?
In order to answer this question, think about what happens during a corporate merger or acquisition. Obviously, handling the technical side of the organizational change is extremely complicated. Lawyers and accountants work out the legal and financial terms of the deal. CIOs and CTOs are tasked with figuring out how to integrate business systems. CEO’s make decisions about the new organization’s structure, while countless other tasks are performed by counterparts from both companies.
Getting people on board and participating in the merger or acquisition can make the difference between a resounding success and total failure. Why? Because employees know they will be “forced” to perform their jobs differently in the new organization. The degree to which employees change their behaviors and adopt new processes has a significant impact on the outcome of the merger or acquisition, which is why cultural change is often the hardest part of the entire process. Spreadsheets can balance the numbers, business processes and applications can be integrated and/or replaced, but people (and their behaviors) are much harder to control.
Cultural factors and organizational alignment are critical to the success of any initiative that involves organizational change. Yet C-level executives often do not give corporate culture the attention that it deserves, which is an unfortunate oversight that can lead to poor results. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel—and, no, it is not an oncoming train. A structured approach to managing the people side of any large change initiative can have a big impact on its overall success.
Moving from a siloed ITSM model to a company-wide ESM solution requires shifting your culture from reactive to proactive. You may think your organization is “proactive” because some of your teams practice risk management. Perhaps they try to anticipate issues and problems before they arise and make contingency plans for how to handle things when they go awry, but where are they getting their information from? Where are they storing their contingency plans? If the answer to these questions is their team’s folder on a shared network drive, then your teams are still working in “reactive silos.”
In a reactive environment, people simply respond to events that occur each day (i.e., fight fires) without regard to the impact that their actions may have on the overall organization. A reactive environment is people-dependent and IT-centric. Subject matter experts are called upon to handle work activities any hour of the day or night, which often results in lost productivity and burnout. Employees have little or no understanding of the business impact of their actions, and priorities are based on how loudly they shout at your IT team.
In a proactive environment, people use information to anticipate customer needs (i.e., prevent fires). A proactive environment is process-dependent and business-centric. Knowledge is captured and reused, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, and subject-matter experts are effectively utilized. Business impact is predefined, business goals are understood, and IT priorities are based on the larger impact and needs of your company.
Bridging organizational silos not only requires collaboration and coordination between teams, but also a strong connection between business processes and systems. There are three key steps involved in shifting a good corporate culture to ESM without disrupting its core:
- Sell (get buy-in for) the change. Even when a change is highly favorable to the people affected, you should not assume that buy-in will be automatic, or that your change will not be met with resistance (caused by fear of the unknown). It is important to address, in simple terms, what, why, and how questions associated with the change as early as possible. You should communicate your messages repeatedly, but also intelligently. Adjust your messages and communication channels as needed, based on employee feedback and engagement. Convince your employees that the change is a good thing for everyone and explain how it will benefit them on multiple levels.
- Prepare your employees for the change. Most of us would probably admit to feeling better about “entering the unknown” when we feel adequately prepared. Provide education and training to make everyone feel more comfortable about what will be happening during the transformation process.
- Assemble a small (manageable) focus group and collect feedback. A focus group is a gathering of stakeholders who are selected to participate in a planned discussion. Their goal is to uncover perceptions about a particular topic (e.g., ESM) in a non-threatening environment. The focus group must be designed in a way that allows employees to feel safe talking about potential pain points. One way to ensure open dialogue is to conduct separate focus groups for employees at different levels to ensure they are not holding back on expressing their true opinions for fear of reprisal.
Managing the people side of a change is often the most challenging and critical component of an organizational transformation. An integrated approach to implementing ESM enables IT organizations to balance critical traits such as efficiency, stability, and standardization with other traits like effectiveness, agility, and innovation to ensure a smooth shift in your organization’s culture.