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How to translate ITIL/ISO 20000 language into business language understandable by your management

Involvement of your management during ITIL or ISO 20000 implementation is – unavoidable. Sometimes you will need a (implementation) project budget and sometimes you will need a sponsor (your “political” patron inside the organization). Whatever the reason, talking to them is not the same as talking to your colleagues.

Why is that so? Your colleagues understand your language – meaning, the vocabulary you are using. So, you will not have to explain to them that changes must be managed if further incidents are to be avoided and therewith service unavailability.

It’s not as complex as you think

If you think about the situation – talking to your management shouldn’t be complicated. Namely, they are also just people working in a certain environment and who use a certain language. And, from my experience, it’s easier for someone working in IT Service Management (ITSM) to adapt to management’s vocabulary than vice versa. If they would try to come to the ITSM level … well, I’m sure it would take some time (to be clear – because of the complexity and specifics of the wording).

So, let’s see how best to use communication to approach them.

Business language – do you expect management to understand what a Request for Change (RfC) must contain? Or, what’s the difference between incidents and problems? Or, what the Known Error Database (KEDB) is? Your managers usually don’t even understand IT roles (who does what) and the scope of their activities. Basically, there are two types of managers: the ones who understand (at least) something from IT, and the ones who don’t have a clue about it. From my experience, it’s hard to talk to both of them. Those in the first category think that they are able to see all realistic options and make decisions (which is usually not the case – they just know what’s on the “surface”). Those in the second category – maybe you should not expect to make them understand everything in your first attempt. But, whatever the type, you can approach them in three steps:

  • Explain the problem (from a business point of view).
  • Explain the options or what your competitors do.
  • Explain your recommendation and the reasoning for it.

In such a way, you will make sure that they are aware of all necessary facts needed to make a sound decision.

Benefits easily explained – this should be strong. If they don’t see benefits – why would they give you the budget? Benefits go in both directions, inside the company (internal) as well as outside the company (external). External benefits are “easy” – e.g., fewer SLA breaches, an increase in customer satisfaction, customer acceptance signed … etc. But, internal ones are, sometimes, not that obvious. Take, for example, employees’ (who are part of the IT Service Management team) satisfaction. On one extreme there is a chaotic organization (no processes or roles/responsibilities in place), and on the other side there is an organization with mature processes and respective organization. I know that there are some people who do well in chaos, but what I found out is that most of the employees like a managed environment. And, most interesting, internal efficiency shows on the outside. Believe me: customers will notice an inefficient internal organization.

Fact based – facts, facts, and facts. This is maybe your strongest weapon. There is nothing more that managers like than provable facts. And, if you combine them with the two previous arguments (i.e., explain the benefit those facts present, but explain it in easy-to-understand language) – “the whole world is yours.”  Particular care should be taken when explaining what’s important. For example, information security is always a good topic, but it has to be presented effectively (e.g., potential loss of clients’ data hosted on our servers). Again, try using words that management understands.

And, one more thing. There is no recipe to tell you how to communicate with your management. After all, whenever the situation includes people – nothing is certain. Everyone has their own individual personalities, etc.

You can’t live without them

And – that’s a hard fact. You can have the best intentions, underpinned with a reasonable ITSM implementation need (ITIL or ISO 20000), but if you don’t have your management’s support – it’s worth almost nothing. OK, I agree – it could be a hard job to talk to them and get their support, certainly, the first time around. But, you will see, every new try will give you more practical experience and sharpen your communication (i.e., managerial) skills. And, you know what? That’s quite useful in your daily job as well. I would say – you’re killing two birds with one stone.

If you need to present your ITIL implementation project, use this free  Project proposal for ITIL implementation.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.