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Tom Peters, the famous business guru and frequent public speaker once said “I hate sports analogies. They’re a bunch of male macho …” Sorry Tom it is March Madness and time for taking liberties, use analogies and pursue equal opportunities (the men’s basketball brackets were announced on March 17th and the woman’s announced on March 18th).


Mr. Peters, I can’t resist taking advantage of the season!  I will agree though it might be a stretch comparing the consistent success of a few basketball coaches (Geno Auriemma, Jim Boeheim, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Bo Ryan, Bill Self, Vivian Stringer, Pat Summit, Tara VanDerveer, Roy Williams) with the effective management of an IT service environment.  Remember it is March Madness and too late to stop me now!


How is it that these coaches manage to find their way to the top?  They have a system that year after year they use with minor adjustments based on changes in talent, changes in the game and new competition.  They hire the best assistant coaches, often from within the ranks of their own program.  They are committed to their team and know each individual’s skills and needs. They recruit talent that has the maximum potential to succeed within the profile of skills needed to support the system. UCLA coach John Wooden (Wooden’s bio), known as the coach of the 20th century, guided his teams to 10 NCAA tournaments in a twelve year period, with seven titles in a row, and a record 88 wins in a row.   Wooden summed up his consistent results with this perspective “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” 


Wooden.jpgIn IT land, the analogy works well when we look at the skills of forward-thinking IT directors tasked with managing IT service management 24*7. What does an IT Service manager have?  They are dependent on a group of talented resources and hopefully the right management skills to reinforce discipline, to adjust to changing business and technology, and processes such as ITIL that are ingrained into the operational model. While having the best business service technology provides a good foundation, how many business users view their service and support as something they can stand up and cheer about?  Balancing the right technology with consistent and effective process, while developing the team’s talent will provide the best odds for success.


The process of constantly re-aligning the IT service management environment with the demands of the business is at the core of success.  Expectations of your business users are that meeting their needs are your life’s mission.  Not much different than the fanatical sports fan who has little tolerance for losing, business users have no tolerance for waiting on a business service. In a DIY (do it yourself) world, it takes a strong team to constantly stay one step ahead of your users and not get distracted by shiny objects.


None of us want to be one time wonders!  When conditions on the outside change, and they will. The IT Service Management environment that is agile, consistent, and operates as team will shine. As Pat Summitt (Summitt’s bio), the most successful coach in NCAA basketball history for either gender said “Teamwork is what makes common people capable of uncommon results.” 


She also said “Don’t take donkeys to the Kentucky Derby.” Only eight teams of the 126 (62 men’s teams and 64 women’s team) make their respective Final Fours and there will only be one men’s and one women’s champion.  There are few donkeys on the remaining list of 124 teams. They will all end their seasons with a loss, and their fans will call their coaches worse things than “you are a jackass.” 


Set your own standards for building a winning IT Service Management team, be consistent and drive toward uncommon results. You may even find there are end users who are willing to stand up and cheer.