Are your processes in the way of ITSM?

What is IT Service Management (ITSM)?

Some will say that ITSM is ITIL®[1]. Not true – while ITIL is the basis for many ITSM implementations, ITSM doesn’t have to be just ITIL.

Some will say that ITSM is something that is just for IT operations. Also, not true. However, because many ITSM implementations stop after addressing only the operational aspects of IT, this is a common misperception.

Some will say that ITSM is the design and implementation of processes. Well, not quite.

ITSM is about how organizations make the best use of their IT capabilities to provide value by enabling or delivering outcomes needed by the organization. This value is determined by the organization; that is, just because IT thinks what it does is valuable doesn’t make it so. ITSM is about effectiveness, efficiency, repeatability, reliability, responsiveness, and continual improvement. ITSM (done well) gives an organization a way to ensure a good customer experience with every interaction with IT. ITSM is about safeguarding while exploiting an organization’s most valuable assets –its data, its expertise, its services. ITSM is about optimizing the know-how and skills of people through the use of process and technology for the benefit of an organization.

Yes, ITSM does define, implement, and leverage processes. But those ITSM processes should be the means to an end – delivering value – and not the goal.

Yet many IT organizations become so focused on processes, that they lose sight of the goal – provide services based on the use of information technology that deliver value for money by facilitating needed business outcomes.

ITSM is not about process for process sake. It’s not a competition about how many processes can an organization define and implement. It’s not about this framework versus that methodology, but how to leverage these frameworks and methodologies in such a way that produces and ensures value.

So why have so many IT organizations become obsessed with process? Perhaps it’s because those organizations didn’t identify the business drivers for ITSM. Or they took a ‘process cookbook’ approach to implementing ITSM. Maybe it’s because they didn’t approach ITSM as a collaborative effort between IT and its stakeholders. Or they don’t understand or can’t articulate how IT delivers value.

So, they implemented process for process sake, and hoped for the best. But because they looked at process implementation, rather than value enablement, as the goal, ITSM processes became bottlenecks rather than facilitators.

Enable your processes to become enablers

If the above sounds like your ITSM implementation, don’t despair. And don’t throw all that work away and start over. Rather, take a few tools from the ITSM toolbox and enable your processes to become enablers. Here are six easy steps to make it happen:

  1. Map the current process flow from beginning to end. What are activities of the process? Who is involved? Make this mapping very visual – that is, literally draw it out on a big whiteboard or a wall-sized piece of paper.
  2. Next, measure process throughput – how long does it take, from beginning to end, to turn a defined input into a defined output?  You now have a simple “value stream map” (VSM) in Lean terms.
  3. Recall those people you identified as being involved in the first step? Invite them all to come over to have a look at your VSM and discuss what is needed, what works, and what could be done differently.   Write it down on a flipchart next to your VSM. Sounds like what Agile would call a “story board”.
  4. Prioritize the identified needs and ideas of what could be done differently. Agile would call this a “product backlog”, Lean would call this an “improvement board”.
  5. Break down improvement efforts into small incremental improvements – or Kaizens. Involve the stakeholders in the development and implementation of these improvements, whether that be through communication or having them contribute effort. Measure process throughput before and after each Kaizen. Display the results and outcomes of those improvements on another flipchart. Repeat this step until all items listed in the product backlog or improvement board have been addressed.
  6. Now map the new process flow from beginning to end. Measure the process throughput. Compare that process flow to the one from step 1. Compare your throughput measures to the measures from step 2.

See the improvement? Congratulations! You have enabled your process to be an enabler.

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Photo credit ArtFamily

[1] ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.

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