OTRS ITSM Part III(a): You’re a Business


ITSM really doesn’t make sense unless you think of your shop as a business unto itself. This is easy if you’re a consulting or services firm that does contract work. If you’re in the IT department of a company, you might be less inclined to think of your shop as a business or service center, which could mean that you’re in a very reactive shop that seems to shift focus at the whim of whatever VIP last touched base with your boss about what IT should be doing. For all your geeky powers and ability to ruin the entire business with 1 shell script, to a lot of folks outside of IT, you’re just another go-fer. So in the next couple posts I’m going to focus less on your geeky powers and more about having a business-minded approach to yourself and your department.

My Business Cred

I’m not an expert at business, but I’ve had a lot of exposure to running businesses. I’ve been part of a few start-ups; I have several entrepreneurs in my family; and my wife has shared with me pretty much everything she learned while getting her MBA. I’ve also had a lot of success employing the principles I’ll be writing about here, so at the very least I can verify that what I’m telling you has actually worked once.

You’re a Business

This is business 101 for everyone: You, yourself, are a business. Your name is your brand, and your face (or maybe your face tattoo or that weird fedora you always wear) is your logo. Your skill set and the benefits you can provide are definitely drivers of value, but your personality also plays a huge role. Yes, if you’re smart enough, strong enough, fast enough, or unique enough, you can get away with being a huge jerk and still be valuable. Pop culture is full of these figures. Most of the time, though, you can win a job not by being the most qualified candidate but by being the most desirable to work with. A company can teach job skills but generally doesn’t want to work on making you friendly or fun. So you have two major assets as a business: your job-related skills and experience, and your personality.

Managing Your Brand

You need to think about this. What gives your brand value? Are you the printer expert? Are you the ultimate OTRS guru? Are you the jack of all trades who can give the quick answer to any question and knows who to call for more advanced problems? Think about and outline what you offer and how well you’re selling that. If you don’t concentrate on what makes your brand strong, you’ll just be a random IT person. And if you’re a random IT person, you’re a “computer person.” And “computer people” aren’t always highly regarded. The reason is obvious: if you’re the printer expert, but the user’s problem is with their iPhone, to them it doesn’t matter that you can fix printers. You can’t help them with their immediate concern, and so you’re useless. And that’s what they’ll remember–and it will get reinforced every time they have a problem you can’t solve.

This isn’t fair to you, but how are you managing it?

Here are some rules I try to live by:

  • If you have no idea how to fix the problem, be honest.
    • “That’s not my area of expertise, but I’m going to run it by my team and do some research.”
  • Help the user understand the context of their problem and what you can actually do about it. This helps you build expectations correctly.
    • “Well, Sharon, it looks like this isn’t a printer issue. You’re actually not connected to the network at all. I’m going to try a couple basic troubleshooting steps with you, but if they don’t work I’m going to have to call in the big guns. I can help you with all your printer problems, but when it comes to networks, I’m about as much of an expert as Google allows me to be.” (Hey, look at that! Next time Sharon has a network issue, she either knows not to ask you for help, or she knows what level of expertise she’s getting.)
  • Don’t hand off–collaborate.
    • This doesn’t always happen because it can spread resources too thin, but no customer likes to be passed from agent to agent trying to get their problem resolved–explaining the problem over and over again. When possible, stay with the user until either the issue is resolved or your presence is a hindrance. This is a huge value add for your personal brand.


You might be wondering what any of this has to do with ITSM. “Great life advice, Tyler, but I really just need to know how to implement ITSM.” The next post will make clear how this discussion is relevant. Remember that my goal here is not so much to restate the technical details that are already available in the official documentation but to provide context for the implementation and the mentality that will help you design a successful setup.

Love and kisses,



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