How to be a butterfly, not a caterpillar: thoughts on service management metamorphosis

Posted: 02/12/2016 - 01:07

"When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.” - Dean Jackson

I recently came across this quote which provides an interesting analogy for my own field of service management. It combines an unfettered desire to change with the courage to see it through and hints at the rich rewards in store for those who successfully achieve transformation. The quote implies that the only thing stopping the other caterpillars from transforming is that they are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, “weird” new creature. However, for the one that has transformed there is no going back because now she has achieved the unimaginable: flight.

This metamorphosis is a powerful metaphor for the continuous cycles of transformation which will be required to allow service management to respond to changing customer demands and continue to make a positive and long-lasting impact on businesses in the future.

Like the caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly using the same building blocks it possessed in its larval state, this does not necessarily need to involve investment in new assets. Rather, we service management professionals must adapt our existing assets – best practices, processes, tools, a rich variety of skills and vast quantities of data) – to new and improved effect. By achieving this this we can remain current and relevant and be nimble enough to survive in our new environment.

From Caterpillar to Chrysalis

In many organisations, service management is currently like a well-fed caterpillar. It has ravenously devoured everything available: ITIL, Lean, Agile, COBIT, DevOps and Kanban – storing terabytes of information in its tools and systems belly. As a result of this feeding frenzy the service management caterpillar has grown bigger, but remains essentially the same, with no transformation or improvement. And so it fails to address challenges such as the emergence of “shadow” IT, out-moded technology, poor customer satisfaction and misinterpretation or lack of any interpretation of customer and business needs. Instead it participates in endless discussions on how to perform incident and problem management and infinite debates on whether ITIL or DevOps is best without making any advance.

All of this consumption will be of little value until the caterpillar retires into a chrysalis and undertakes its ultimate metamorphosis. So it is with service management that all the data and information ingested during this ‘caterpillar phase’ needs to be re-modelled into practical and effective components of a radically transformed and valuable new approach.

From Chrysalis to Butterfly

During metamorphosis the caterpillar breaks down the fibre of its being into different components which are then reconfigured to form a butterfly. Despite its radically different appearance the butterfly comprises the same building blocks as the caterpillar – it emerges as the same creature, but in a different form.

Similarly, it is very important that the old ways of service management are not dismissed or ignored during transformation; every element must be considered and reused effectively. Intelligent and predictive analytics should be employed to scrutinise and interpret data and then used to drive new ways of working and thinking. This will enable service management to rapidly and dynamically change its course by responding to novel, yet anticipated, customer requirements.


In contrast to relatively one-dimensional IT analytics (an automation-driven combination of machine learning and the mining of existing complex data sets), predictive and intelligent analytics are the combination of common sense, emotional intelligence and business intelligence. Using a predictive and intelligent approach to analysis ensures that when the service management butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, its new form is perfectly adapted to its new environment.

Transformed Butterfly

What will be the new capabilities of the service management butterfly that has successfully completed its transformation? All the useful information that was hungrily consumed during the ‘caterpillar phase’ will have been metabolised. The service management butterfly that emerges will have:

  1. Practical in-depth knowledge on how to use best practice frameworks alongside each other. There should be no more debate on which one is better but a confident recognition of complementary frameworks and how they align with the customer’s environment.
  2. The strength and insight to adapt its course in response to changing business demands. Moreover it will be able to anticipate when to do this.
  3. In-depth understanding of the real value of ITIL.
  4. The ability to interpret data using predictive and intelligent analytics.
  5.  A strong grasp of the issues surrounding cyber security, including an understanding of where the current threats are and how to develop effective protection strategies.
  6. An effective means of communication with customers allowing it to shed archaic IT language.
  7. Proficiency in SIAM (Service Integration and Management).

The service management transformation process is iterative. With each cycle of metamorphosis, service management needs to evolve to become better adapted to changing customer needs and business demand. Service management practitioners need to ensure they don’t get stuck in the caterpillar phase of just consuming more and more without purpose or strategy. Only by pausing to review, analyse and reorganise will they be able to reap the benefits of this vast consumption and transform ton reach new heights. Just like Dean Jackson’s caterpillars, those that lack the courage and desire to do things differently will remain unaware of their potential to become a transformed entity with new capabilities and potential.


Information Services Group (ISG) (NASDAQ: III) is a leading technology insights, market intelligence and advisory services company, serving more than 500 clients around the world to help them achieve operational excellence. ISG supports private and public sector organisations to transform and optimise their operational environments through research, benchmarking, consulting and managed services, with a focus on information technology, business process transformation, program management services and enterprise resource planning. Clients look to ISG for unique insights and innovative solutions for leveraging technology, the deepest data source in the industry, and more than five decades of experience of global leadership in information and advisory services. Based in Stamford, Conn., the company has more than 800 employees and operates in 21 countries.

About The Author

Andrea Kis's picture

Andrea Kis is a Senior Consultant with ISG and is a recognised industry expert in service integration and management (SIAM) field. She has an extensive practical background and passion for SIAM and BRM (Business Relationship Management) with 13 years of experience in various service management roles. Andrea’s focus lies in understanding business and customer requirements and demand, with strong focus on impact assessment in the context of IT service management. In her work she puts strong focus on walking in her customer’s shoes, the importance of communication and relationship building.