A ServiceNow investment can make or break your business, but, let’s face it, the upfront investment isn’t cheap. When making such a strategic investment, firms must understand that the platform requires a commitment beyond the individual software implementation. The firms who are most successful with their ServiceNow projects bring a modern, forward-thinking approach to their Service Management strategy. But what if I told you, the key to success wasn’t just in the digital tool, but your people? After 20 years in the service management sphere, I can say with confidence that closed-minded team members are one of the most common and fierce challenges that can arise in project implementations. Today, I’m sharing a list of ways to check if you’re complicit in this pitfall, and how to self-correct to get the most out of your new ServiceNow tool.
IT Hero Fallacy
Back in the early days of computing, invention was the key to personal and professional validation. The NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here) was rampant and teams were weary of solutions that originated from outside their installation. This fixation on internal initiatives fostered spaces for organizational “heroes” to emerge.
To this day, the concept of techno-heroism, where individuals must step in to ‘save the day’ is pervasive in IT. I’ve seen this many times in companies throughout my time in the IT ecosystem. I can relate – at a few different points in my career I was an IT hero in a medium-sized pond.
The Early Days
I was born in the late 50’s and grew up in metropolitan suburbs. Like g-zillions of other kids in that era, I watched every Mercury and Gemini rocket launched on my family’s 9-inch black & white TV screen, glued to the fuzzy image even when the image was nothing more than a rocket discharging excess liquid oxygen hours before takeoff. The national pride that surrounded these efforts, the millions of dollars invested, and the “space race” created an atmosphere that kept me transfixed for hours to this amazing display of technology. For many of us this interest was infused in our DNA – straight out of high school, I started working at a contracting firm that subcontracted to IBM, who was subcontracted to Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor to NASA. I got to apprentice working within organizations that were applying state of the art technology to the coolest problem facing our country at the time. Eventually, I job morphed into a more traditional IT computing role. Companies in those days rewarded personal initiative and through my own inventions, I became a modestly respected fish in a medium-sized IT pond.
A pivotal moment in my career came in the early 90’s, when I was the only networking technician in my pond who could get Lotus123 on our powerhouse 80286 PC to produce charts. This earned me the distinction of being the go-to guy for performance reporting. Over time, I developed some reporting tools and impressed a few people who are impressed by that sort of thing. I even got a few job offers on the basis of my reporting skills. One day, I strode my now inflated ego into a presentation where a salesman was demoing a solution that addressed the same reporting niche that my solution did, only his was 10 times better. I believe the term is crestfallen. My employer adopted the tool, rendering my solution obsolete. I adjusted accordingly and switched paths looking for another reporting problem to solve. Again, I dove into what was then state of the art technology and built what I thought was a reasonably good solution for what would be known as CMDB at my organization. A few years later, once again, a new product came in and *surprise* made my months of effort for naught. This new product was being presented by a guy named Fred Luddy, the product was Glide [something] or Service [something]. It was easy to see that this was going to be big and these guys had their act together.
Companies were, and today still are, looking to the future, trying to find real solutions to optimize their business systems. Yet, many firms still rely on their IT heroes to solve the company’s technological challenges. This organizational dependency on individuals is a surefire path to band-aid solutions and work arounds: as firms get more reliant on these few select, part-time hero developers, they become less inclined to consider the benefits of adopting emerging technology, seeking creative solutions, and looking ahead to the future. There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical of new technologies, but if you’re truly seeking long-term growth and business stability, it’s a good idea to be open to software and organizational management changes to your business.
Fifteen Deadly Sins of a Technologist Who is Too Personally Invested in an Outdated Solution: A Self Check List
For traditionalists, it’s easy to resort to a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but this reluctance to accept the possibility of alternative solutions to your current systems may prevent you from recognizing any existing issues in the first place. While we all want to stand by our work, it’s important not to let your personal pride prevent your team from exploring new technological possibilities and partnering with consulting experts. For the skeptics – if you feel compelled to advocate for continued use of personal solutions in lieu of superior alternatives, it may be time to evaluate your stakes in the game. Are you only advocating use of your solution to guarantee your viability to the organization (ie. Lock-in your job security)?
If you’re thinking you may fall into the category outlined above, you aren’t alone. Again, many brilliant technologists have been there before. For those of you who still aren’t quite sure where you land on the IT hero scale, here are some of my favorite examples of warning signs that your personal technical solution may end up causing more harm than good…
- Your solution’s workflow relies on email. This one should be self-explanatory.
- You need to allocate at least two hours to explain the solution to a consumer. If it takes longer to explain the system than it does to use it, then it’s not an accessible, intuitive, nor a sustainable product.
- Supporting data isn’t readily visible. If you’re the only one that can create reports, or the metrics and statistics derived from the application don’t have supporting data, then the solution lacks transparency and may be a target for an auditing violation.
- It requires a sticky note to remember how to navigate features.
- It’s been over 10 years since the solution has been revised. No, seriously. We had to put this one on the list for a reason.
- The solution has open loop processes or workflows.
- Your official job title isn’t “developer” and all your work is done in your spare time of off hours. There’s nothing wrong with dipping your toe into development work, but if you’re making the solution after hours, it’s more than likely you are the only person that can explain how it works, and there’s no documentation because it’s all in your head. None of these are promising signs, my friend.
- “It only works on my machine….” If your solution only works on your computer, something is definitely off track.
- It has minimal or non-existent security. Is your solution ready to handle legitimate security threats? No matter your answer, please just don’t tell us you’re most proud of the encryption algorithm you wrote in half an hour…
- You invented an acronym for the solution that sounds like something from NASA or the military. Houston, we have a problem. Just because you have an acronym that sounds fancy, doesn’t mean your tool has the same sophistication and precision as rocket science.
- Your organization attempted to replace your solution with COTS (commercial off the shelf) software, but the buttons were in different places and the project manager figured nobody could cope with the switch.
- The solution is largely comprised of and based on freeware or open-source components.
- You have to warn people not to use certain characters or strings when working with it, otherwise the solution will crash
- The UI is a full-window Macromedia Flash application.
- You “made it run faster” by stripping all the comments out.
Shifting your Mindset: How to Realize the Full Value of your New ServiceNow System
Our current digital era forces companies to solve today’s business challenges with real, professional solutions. With the challenges of COVID-19, your organization needs all of its hands on-deck to stay afloat, which means there is no room for ulterior motives and closed mindedness. Instead, you must stay committed to your goal of streamlined, modern service management delivery, and this, starts with your people.
If you self-identify as a closet IT hero or find yourself nodding along to any of the list items above, we recommend further considering the following as a way to challenge yourself out of this mindset:
- Do you want to be able to take time off without worrying if the latest feature you implemented will function while you’re on PTO?
- Have you been passed over for, or avoided career advancement because you’re hoping that this personal solution will yield some windfall opportunity?
- Are there days where you feel like, “I just want to do my real job”?
- Are you embarrassed by some of the features or aspects of the solution?
- Do you envy the skills of seasoned professional software developers?
These fears and challenges are common, and often times inevitable, when working with a personal solution. In contrast, the benefits of a business enterprise software like ServiceNow is the stability and support the platform provides. While I understand why certain professionals may be weary of the platform, I urge you to look at the results that ServiceNow has yielded for companies across industries, around the globe and ask yourself whether or not you want to be a member of this innovative community enacting modern services for your business.
If you’re ready to turn the tide and look forward to the future of enterprise Service Management, my advice is to first recognize that you aren’t alone in this transition. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many people share your past, yet are now part of this community of technologists working to re-invision the world of work. As you join this group of like-minded, forward-thinking individuals, you’ll see the benefits of helping to realize your company’s significant investment in ServiceNow, and go down as history as one of the figures who helped steer the project along its course.
It’s never too late to redefine and preserve your “IT hero status” by joining the group of ServiceNow professionals who are bringing real and quantifiable change to organizations; it’s just a question of whether or not you are ready for the jump.