Several years ago I wrote a piece on service in this column. I alluded to the lessons we could learn by adopting some of the practices used by the medical industry in terms of bedside manner.

Things have moved on. Service desk staff are increasingly calling users by their real name rather than their ticket number.

I would like to take the service theme forward now by focusing on the front line IT staff, including you the CIO.

You are unlikely to be delivering a user-pleasing IT service if your service desk staff are:

 - Unhappy
 - Irritating the users

Keep in mind that a five star hotel with a one star reception is a one star hotel in the eyes of the customer. So service desk staff define the service you deliver and thus define your effectiveness as a leader.

Let's look at each of these in turn. A recent Harvard Business Review edition was dedicated to the subject of happiness.

So it would appear that this theme has migrated from a self-help new age cosmic ordering service classification to one that sits squarely in mainstream business.

Of course anything that impacts business will impact IT. However I suspect that it will be a while before the curricula for ITIL and Prince will be extended to embrace happiness.

Related:

HBR made a strong case for the correlation between happiness and productivity. And in any case it would be very difficult to mount an argument that made the case that happiness in service desk function personnel is highly undesirable.

The first question is then how do we make people happy. There are a number of factors to improving one's happiness.

The principal one mentioned was helping other people, which if I am not mistaken is the role of the service desk. Another important factor was autonomy.

So perhaps there are ways in which you can loosen the leash in terms of scripts, procedures and processes such that the staff can have some control over how they address user issues.

This of course flies in the face of IT service management and any other factory/industrial business models, but the rules of the digital economy are different and we in the IT industry are supposed to be the 'digital kings', so we need to set an example.

I suspect the task-focused management style many CIOs developed during their project manager years has left an imprint; one that now colours every aspect of the IT function.

It would be wrong to criticise a task oriented/industrial approach as this was an important phase in professionalising the IT industry. However I believe we need to move on up the value/service stack.

Focusing on the well being of IT staff (happiness and competence) is the next phase in our growth.