Enterprise Service Management: Learn Other Languages


by Roy Atkinson
September 27, 2017

In order to garner the trust and acceptance you need for success in Enterprise Service Management (ESM), develop an understanding that other business units have vocabularies of their own and that many of the terms used in IT mean something very different. When IT talks about service management, the terms used are most often taken from ITIL®, which has become the standard lexicon. In general, terms such as incident, service request, process, and problem have meanings above and beyond everyday usage. The technical jargon of IT is another layer of differentiation, and we’ve all had the experience of trying to describe what we mean by virtualization and the ubiquitous cloud to those who are not in the field.

IT is not alone in having a distinct language. The other business areas most commonly involved in ESM—human resources, facilities, and finance, for example—also have terminologies which are more or less proprietary. When championing or taking part in an ESM transformation, it is very important to take these differences into account and to provide information and interfaces in the language of the participating business areas. Asking (or worse, telling) other units to adopt IT language is one way of conveying the wrong message (i.e., that IT is telling the rest of the organization’s departments how to do their jobs). (For more on that topic, see a previous post in this series, Make Sure It’s Not About You.)

Some people in the business units or departments you’ll be working with may have heard of ITIL, or may even know a little about it, but chances are they will not be as well-acquainted with its lexicon as IT is. ITIL is a great framework, but don’t expect your business partners to know it. They, too, have frameworks and methodologies. Listen to what they say and how they say it. It’s important to:

  • Make sure that you can adapt the tool you intend to use for ESM to present the appropriate language to the customer. If you cannot, you will be at a disadvantage from the start. If you need to acquire new technology, that’s another thing to be considered in budgets and timelines.
  • Have conversations with business stakeholders aimed more at learning about their needs than about teaching them about IT. Answer their questions while making sure you are asking, too.
  • Scour your IT intranet pages for jargon that is specific to IT and remove it wherever possible, replacing it with plain language your business partners can easily grasp.
Scour your IT intranet pages for jargon that is specific to IT and remove it.
Tweet: Scour your IT intranet pages for jargon specific to IT and remove it. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #ESM

In discussions, project planning, communications, and even in the way a service catalog is displayed to various business units, ESM must be mindful and respectful of the professionalism of others. Expecting HR staff to forget everything they know and select incident in the service management tool when they want to report an interruption of service or create a work order is simply not acceptable. The first rule of service is to serve.

It has often been said that business leaders understand dollars more than anything else, and that is, to a certain extent, true. Businesses (and institutions) need to make money in order to continue being in business. But dollar signs aren’t everything. Get to understand what a value stream is, learn about systems thinking, and begin to understand the role of service management in the delivery of value.

Business leaders want to be able to understand how service management is going to help increase productivity, create efficiencies, lower costs, and add value to the organization’s products or services. They will want to know how you will deliver that value to the customers who pay for those products or services. That’s what ESM is really all about.


Roy Atkinson Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): supportworld, ITIL, service management

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