Is it time to drop the ‘IT’ from “ITSM”?

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The telephone rings at Fred’s desk in the support center. Sue is calling to make a service request. After capturing the specifics of Sue’s request within the ticketing system, Fred ensures that she is authorized to make the request. Following the information found in a knowledge article, Fred informs Sue of the expected timeframe for fulfillment of her request, and dispatches the ticket for further action. “Great”, says Sue. “Our new employee, Jane, will be starting on Monday. Having her workspace setup by the end of this week will be perfect!”

Does this scenario represent an example of Request Fulfillment?  Of course.  But here’s a twist – this scenario wasn’t about a call to IT. This was a call to a Facilities organization.

IT is just one of several ‘service providers’ within any given company. HR, Facilities, Marketing, Communications, Legal, IT…the list goes on. The fact is that there is no part of a business that can function effectively without an ecosystem of internal service providers. For a company to be successful, each of these internal service providers must provide deliverables that are consistent, repeatable, reliable, measureable, and valuable to the business. That sounds a lot like Service Management to me. Regardless of whether it’s IT as the service provider, or Facilities, or Marketing, it’s the same thing. Service Management is Service Management.

Is it time to drop the ‘IT’ from “ITSM”?   In my opinion, yes. But that is easier said than done.

What’s stopping us?

  • Perception – Some ITSM implementations have been over-engineered and slow to deliver. Many ITSM implementations suffer from “IT myopia” by only addressing the IT side of the equation and not articulating how ITSM is leveraged for value and benefit of the whole of the business. Think about it – how many ITSM implementations have been perceived as “needless bureaucracy” rather than “valuable” or “beneficial”? How many times have you seen an ITSM implementation that produces and publicizes reports on things like the number of incidents resolved or changes implemented and not any business-relevant measures?   If I’m on the outside looking in at many ITSM implementations, I’d be hesitant to push for an enterprise wide adoption of Service Management based on that perception.
  • Culture – Enterprise Service Management (ESM) implementation will change the culture of an organization. Many organizations resist change and cling to the status quo, because the status quo is known – not necessarily because it is good. Furthermore, office politics play a role – some senior managers only want to advance their part of the organization, sometimes at the expense of other areas within the company. For ESM to have success, the organization has to be willing to change, and strong leadership (not just management) must be in place to make this happen.
  • No ”Burning Platform” – If a company wants to truly expand from ITSM to ESM, the “burning platform” must be established. (John Kotter talked about the “burning platform” in his book, “Leading Change”[1].) Many organizations see no reason to move to ESM because of the lack of a “burning platform”. What are the benefits of expanding Service Management across the enterprise? Why do it? Many ITSM implementations have tried to answer this question with varying degrees of success and failure – are we prepared to try this at an enterprise level?

What will it take to move from ITSM to ESM?

  • ITSM done well is a good thing. ITSM done well provides and delivers services that provide measurable valuable outcomes to those that use those services. Those services are delivered and supported in a reliable, repeatable, and consistent fashion, while at the same time, is continually improving and adapting to the ever-changing needs of business. There is nothing about ITSM concepts that cannot apply to other service providers within an enterprise. Doing ITSM well to begin with will help in a move to ESM.
  • Shift to “outside-in” thinking – Companies have to look at the ecosystem of the organization, and less at the organization chart. Companies have to move from current “inside-out” thinking to “outside-in” thinking. “Inside-out” thinking is a mind-set that looks at the internal organization and its processes and services and pushes them from the inside to the consumer that is outside of its organization. Outside-in thinking reverses that paradigm – looking from the outside, what should the consumer’s experience be? It often takes the combined efforts of several internal service providers to deliver the outcome needed by a consumer. For example, think of all of the internal service providers – IT, Facilities, and HR – needed to on-board a new employee. None of these service providers can completely on-board a new employee without the others. A mindshift to “outside-in” thinking is required.
  • We have lot to learn and a lot to share – IT can take a leadership role in this effort by bringing process design skills and technical expertise to solve the ESM puzzle. Other internal service providers also have similar process design skills, as well as in-depth understanding of a business segment. The point is that all service providers within an organization have a lot to share and learn from each other in terms of knowledge, skills, and expertise. If ESM is approached as a collaborative effort (and not something being pushed from IT), there is a much higher probability for success.
  • Tear down the walls – ITSM is not successful in a work environment that allows internal fiefdoms to exist, much less thrive. ESM cannot be successful either in such an environment.

How much more productive and effective would your organization be if it were working as a team and not as a collection of siloed activities?  Service Management concepts used throughout the organization will break down those silos –  and “Next Generation SM” will get you there!  Contact Tedder Consulting today and get started! 

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[1] Kotter, John P. “Leading Change”, HBR Press, 2012.

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2 thoughts on “Is it time to drop the ‘IT’ from “ITSM”?”

  1. Doug – great article that on a topic that is constantly top-of-mind for me. My wife of 17 years is an Human Resources leader, and my numerous attempts to convince her of the universal value of the IT service management body of knowledge have led me to almost identical conclusions on the “what will it take …” front. For us, the breakthrough concept was reflected in your concept of “Outside-In” thinking. It was the appeal of being able to measure and manage the employee experience that finally hooked her on the value of Service Management.

    Thanks for sharing this article!

    1. Thanks Bill for reading the post and for your comments. Many ITSM implementations have suffered, despite the best of intentions, from looking at service management from the “inside-out” perspective. The focus was solely on “what can IT do better?” and not on “what can IT do to improve the business use of IT?” As a result, ITSM hasn’t had the transformational impact that perhaps it could have with many organizations – it was just another IT thing done to benefit IT. Looking at service management from the “outside in” perspective completely changes that perspective. Like you, I truly believe that service management concepts can and should be applied throughout an organization, but it must follow an “outside in” perspective, and be driven as a business initiative enabled by IT, not an IT initiative.

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