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Learning never ends and neither should it. That’s not only relevant for regular education but even more so for a professional career. If you’re looking to be a service manager or want to improve as a service manager, you should consider the following points.

Skills for a digital age

One of the most challenging issues for service providers in the digital age is making sure staff have the right capabilities to deliver and support products and services.  Focus on learning paths and career development for staff involved in creating, managing and improving services is important for any organization. Whilst specific expertise and specialization are still required, end-to-end delivery and management of services for the consumer also requires a substantial breadth of knowledge and a wide range of skills.

Staff need to be adaptable and able to work alongside other teams, departments, providers, suppliers, and organizations. Delivering value and great service to customers is not the responsibility of one department, but of the business a whole and by achieving great outcomes, businesses will prosper.

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The latest approach to service management; VeriSM, acknowledges that organizations need to take a holistic view to delivering business outcomes and use a range of frameworks and best practice methodologies to add value for the customer. VeriSM was created by the International Foundation for Digital Competency (IFDC), to provide an organization-wide view of service management and the approach to delivering products or services within a digital age.

Preparing our people for success

A recent McKinsey article discusses the digital future of work. Whilst much of the focus is on how automation is evolving the knowledge we need and the tasks we undertake, it suggests that machines cannot do everything.

“To be as productive as it could be, this new automation age will also require a range of human skills in the workplace, from technological expertise to essential social and emotional capabilities.”

On this basis, organizations need to develop a range of skills across staff. These skills can be expected to evolve over time in response to new technologies, changing customer needs, the environment, and best and enabling practices. The ‘continued’ in continued professional development is important; constantly learning new skills, refining old ones and looking at service delivery with fresh perspectives leads to more value being delivered.

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One concept that supports this approach is that of the T-shaped professional. The earliest reference to this term is by David Guest in 1991.

”…an innovative and powerful problem-solver in their area of expertise and capable of interacting and understanding specialists across a wide range of capabilities.  The T-shaped professional is used as a contrast to an I-shaped professional, who is a specialist with no breadth of knowledge.”

This means that as well as ensuring that staff that are subject matter experts or specialized in one capability, they also have breadth of knowledge across the organization, industry, and environment.  There are some additional skills required to support cross-functional working and collaboration efforts between the various parts of the organization used to develop and support the products and services.

T-shaped professionals, the solution?

When an individual has ‘I-shaped’ skills, with a total focus on one particular knowledge area and skillset, the workplace becomes a more challenging environment with silos that don’t interact effectively.  Of course, every organization needs specialist skills and subject matter experts to develop services and products.  However, their limited range of skills can create challenges.

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Additionally, at a personal level there is often no clear career path for those individuals.  This focus and organizational structure does not fit well within today’s interconnected and constantly changing business environment, and thus the ‘T’ should be our professional of choice.

Developing T-shaped individuals requires a more ‘rounded’ capability set.  The T provides for deep knowledge in one area of a service, technology, business area or such like (stem of the T) and combines this with generalist knowledge across the organization (and organizational vertical), technology, people and shared information, which is the crossbar of the T.

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How do we create these T-shaped people?

The VeriSM book provides some good guidance in this space.  We need to consider:

  • As one size doesn’t fit all it is important that an organization defines what core skills and capabilities it needs within its people. This must include the skills required, the level and depth of knowledge and so on.
  • Consider what interdisciplinary skills are needed and how these might be developed. Some additional skills aren’t gleaned through attendance of a training course but gained through more informal approaches, such as learning from peers. Other knowledge needs formal training and provides formal certification.
  • And finally, an absolute imperative is the development of emotional intelligence. There has been a great deal of research regarding how important this skill is for everyone, not just leaders and managers.  Emotional Intelligence underpins our capacity to work well with others, manage stress and make effective decisions.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s professional lives, to foster the continuous development and improvement of knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment.  This is described in the 70-20-10 approach, a formula commonly used within the training world to describe the optimal sources of learning.

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The 70-20-10 approach states that individuals obtain 70 percent of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal education.  Within that, the suggestion is that a person’s development is their own responsibility, of course, supported by the employer, managers and peers.  In this learning path, gone are the days of having to attend classroom training courses to achieve qualifications!  5 days out of the office each year will not fulfill staff or help support their lifelong learning. Online and mobile learning technologies have developed and improved so much in recent years and are the channel of choice for many learners.

Subscription models (such as elearnist.com) allow learners to manage their own timetable and constantly refresh their skills) while learning can be further supported by reading blogs, white papers and engaging at learning events such as webinars and conferences.

Final thoughts

Developing an organization-wide view of service management means developing service management skills within all an organizations capability areas.

Knowing what skills are required and ensuring we don’t limit our range of skills is important. Making a commitment to lifelong learning in today’s constantly changing landscapes is also important.   With the speed of change in the business environment, creating sustainable people with adaptable skills and an ongoing focus on learning is vital.

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True learning occurs when there is a sound appreciation of the business and organizational setting, processes, and purpose.  VeriSM tells us that:

“Learning should be liberalizing and underscored by an understanding of broad concepts, while instilling social responsibility-type values.  This helps prepare the individual to meet and deal with unexpected or unscripted events.  In other words, when learning is at its best, it helps prepare individuals to meet the requirements of the real world.  This means they can, without hesitation, work across boundaries.  The individuals must, therefore, understand what is important to them and their organization”.

eLearnist, powered by ITSM Zone, has been developed to provide a modern way of learning from a variety of service management approaches like VeriSM, ITIL and DevOps.  Lifelong access to accredited courses and content empowers lifelong learning and allows the individual to add a broad range of knowledge and skills, without time constraints. Subscriptions are available now with a special introductory offer. Visit the site, or contact [email protected] to find out more.

With thanks to Michelle Major-Goldsmith, a leader in education within the service management sector, for her contribution to this article.

Photo credit: The feature image as well as the image 2, 3, and 4, have been taken by Sebastiaan ter Burg. The image 5 was done by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the image 6 was done by Thomas Bonte. The t-shape graphic has been provided by the sponsor to us.
Source: McKinsey InsightsVeriSM (A Service Management Approach for the Digital Age) / Joy’s Law (Wikipedia)
Editorial notice: This article has been made possible by site supporters.