Photo Credit: Solarseven

ITSM is not just IT Operations

I recently viewed a webinar from a tool vendor regarding Agile, DevOps, and Lean IT transformation. The vendor was hawking their product that helped IT organizations get code from development through build and deployment, describing this as the software lifecycle. The “Help Desk” and IT operations, found after this lifecycle, uses ITSM to “log incidents”. Strategy, planning, and requirements gathering (however those things happen) were found before this lifecycle.

So let me get this straight. Within IT, we have a “lifecycle”, but it only deals with software development. All the other parts of IT that help deliver and support the value being created by that “lifecycle” are not part of the lifecycle?

Yet another candidate for the “we-help-IT-work-in-silos” hall of fame.

Why do so many think that ITSM is just about IT operations? What is ITSM?

IT Service Management (ITSM) is the management of all processes that cooperate to ensure that the quality of live IT services, according to the level of service agreed with the customer. ITSM addresses the initiation, design, organization, control, provision, support and improvement of IT services.[1]

In other words, ITSM encompasses all of the processes that plan, budget, design, build, test, implement, run, support, and improve IT services.

Is there any part of IT that isn’t represented in that list? Didn’t think so. So why do so many think that ITSM is just about IT operations?

Maybe the confusion is around IT services

One way to define an IT service is as a value chain – the combination of people, processes, technology, and suppliers that work together to deliver outcomes required by the business. What makes up the IT value chain?

Certainly there’s the application code and software. But without infrastructure, such as servers, storage, and networks – whether that infrastructure is on premise or in the cloud – there’s not much that the application code and software will be able to do. There’s also the documentation, such as standard operating procedures for supporting the service and job aids to help the consumer use this software and infrastructure.

Before any of this can become reality, a strategy must be developed, supported by a plan for how all of this is going to be used, how much infrastructure and what kind of software is needed, and by whom this will be used. This strategy must also ensure that there is adequate funding to make sure that the application code, software, infrastructure, and documentation can be developed, deployed, and used by the business.

This means that people, with defined roles and responsibilities, have to be engaged to do the work and ensure that the business realizes value from its investment in application code, documentation, infrastructure, and people. To be the most effective and create the greatest opportunity for value realization, policies must be developed that govern not only the use of the application code and infrastructure, but also provide overarching guidance for the people and processes interacting with and managing that application code and infrastructure.

As the value chain is being used, the people that use it will need assistance from time to time – and occasionally, things will go wrong or not work as expected. Or the needs of the business will (do) change over time. This means that feedback loops must be established, not only to correct issues as they occur or are discovered, but also for identifying and considering areas for change and improvement.

In other words, there must an approach – a comprehensive approach – to manage every aspect of the IT value chain – from conception to use. That approach is called ITSM.

Perhaps it’s because they don’t understand what ITSM is about

A good ITSM implementation provides a comprehensive approach that develops, implements, monitors, and continually improves processes that make the IT value chain reality. A good ITSM implementation breaks down siloes and ensures that processes seamlessly interface with each other. A good ITSM implementation ensures that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, and how those roles interact with one another. A good ITSM implementation cares for the entire lifecycle of each IT value chain, not just a single link in a chain.

ITSM isn’t about just tools, although having a good set of tools is important for automating and facilitating ITSM. ITSM isn’t just about this framework or that methodology, although frameworks and methodologies provide great guidance for how to make ITSM work for your company.

Lastly, ITSM isn’t just about IT operations, although IT operations is important for good ITSM. The IT application development team is also important for good ITSM. So is the QA team, the system architects, the security admins, the budgeters and accountants, the service desk, the senior managers, and everyone else in IT.

Most importantly, good ITSM is about the business.   It is the business and only the business that determines if what IT is doing provides value. ITSM gives IT a measurable way to demonstrate how business value can be achieved through the use of IT – all of IT.

ITSM is not just IT operations.

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Photo credit Solarseven

[1] Polter, Selma et al. ISO/IEC 20000- An Introduction. Edited by Jan van Bon, et al., Van Haren Publishing, 2008.

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