Are you buying the bike or the result?

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What are some common uses for an exercise bike?

  • Use the handlebars to hang clothes upon
  • Use to collect dust
  • Use as an uncomfortable seat while watching TV or reading a book
  • Use to maintain or improve muscle tone and cardiovascular function

Let’s consider for a moment that you bought an exercise bike for the last reason – to use to maintain or improve muscle tone and cardiovascular function.  Why is this important?   Because you wanted to achieve some result or outcome.  Perhaps you wanted to lose some weight.  Or maybe your doctor recommended a program of diet and exercise to help reduce the risk of a heart attack. Perhaps having an exercise bike gave you a way to exercise during inclement weather.   Maybe you just wanted to feel better.

How do you know that you’re achieving your desired outcome?    Is it the amount of time you spend on the exercise bike?  Well, if you’re only sitting on the bike while you’re watching TV, that’s probably not a good indicator of achieving the outcomes you wanted.  Is it the number of revolutions that the bike’s wheel turns while you’re pedaling?   While that would indicate (proper) use of the bike (versus using the bike for hanging clothes), just pedaling without adding some resistance to the wheel may not enable your achievement of the desired outcome.

Is riding an exercise bike the only way to achieve the outcomes I listed above?  No.  You could regularly participate in an aerobics class or racquetball league at your local health club.  Or you could jog daily, regardless of the weather.  There are a number of ways to be enabled to achieve the outcomes you want – using an exercise bike is just one way.

Now put on your ITSM hat.   Is the exercise bike the “service”, or is it a means to consume or utilize a service called “Personal Fitness Services”?  Does the provisioning of an exercise bike alone provide the valuable outcomes that you identified?   Does the number of revolutions on the bike indicate achievement of the outcome, or just the use of the bike?  How should achievement of the outcome be measured?

The concept of a “service” is the core, fundamental concept of an ITSM implementation, but too often, this is where so many ITSM implementations “go off the rails”.  If you don’t identify, define, describe, and measure services in terms of the outcome and the value to the business, your ITSM implementation will not achieve its full potential.  In fact, I would even argue that if you don’t get the concept of “service” right, your ITSM implementation will (eventually) fail.

Too many ITSM implementations focus only on the operational aspects of a service.  They focus only on the “what” and “how” and give no thought to the “why”.  The emphasis is often on implementing some kind of tool so that IT can manage tickets, without taking the time to understand the value and outcomes of what IT provides to the business.

As a result, a tool gets stood up fairly quickly and IT does experience some success.  Incidents are captured and (many are) resolved, requests are routed and fulfilled, and life in IT seems good.  Then IT decides that it wants to exploit its new ITSM capability and become more proactive.  IT wants to move beyond password resets and resolving server failures and understand the business impacts of requests and issues.   And then IT hits a wall.  Because IT did not take the time to understand the “why” and map the value chains of how the various components, processes, and teams of people work together (oh, by the way, “processes” and “people” will never appear on a discovery!) to deliver those outcomes required by the business.  The IT organization will struggle to evolve from reactive order-taker to a proactive business partner.

Or perhaps the business needs to reduce cost and before cutting costs in IT, wants to understand the potential impact of any cost reductions.   Perhaps the business would like to leverage existing services to improve enterprise efficiency and effectiveness and is looking for IT to lead the way. But because IT never took the time to define its services beyond “we provide exercise bikes”, IT is not prepared to step up to help the business.  If only IT had taken the time to identify its services in terms of value and outcome – “Our service helps you achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, which will keep your healthcare costs down and improve your overall well-being” – the IT organization could lead the way.  Instead, IT becomes a bystander.

This is why identifying and defining services is so critical.  The business really does not care what specific softwares and hardwares are being used.  The business really doesn’t want to learn how to speak geek. What the business wants is to understand – in business-relevant terms – is what IT does to deliver or enable outcomes required for business success.  What is the value that IT provides to the business it serves?  How can the business leverage IT to drive new lines of business and competitive differentiation?   How can IT be used to drive efficiency within the business?

But too often, IT doesn’t take the time to identify, define, and understand its services in terms of value and outcomes.  Why?

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