Can IT lead SM?

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In my blog article, “Is it time to drop the ‘IT’ from ‘ITSM’?”, I discussed the challenges of expanding IT Service Management concepts and principles to other service providers within an organization.   Personally, I think that extending ITSM beyond IT is a good idea.

Various industry research is indicating that the time for service management across the enterprise is coming (has come?).

  • In its March 2015 research report, “What is the Future of IT Service Management?”[1], Enterprise Management Associates surveyed 270 respondents from around the world. The research indicated that only 11% of respondents had no plans to consolidate IT and non-IT customer service management. Service Catalogs were evolving to support both enterprise (non-IT) services and well as non-ITSM-specific services. Other departments like Human Resources, Facilities, Purchasing, and others were using a Service Catalog as a means of publishing their services within their organization.
  • In October 2014, HDI and itSMF USA published a joint research report, “Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore”[2]. In this report, 29% of the nearly 1200 responses indicated that Service Desks were supporting a broader scope of customers than just customers of IT. More than half of the respondents were either applying or planning to apply service management principles in business areas outside of IT, with 15% of those responding had already begun ITSM adoption outside of IT.

Consolidating all support activities across an organization at a service desk would certainly be an early win for an Enterprise Service Management (ESM) implementation. Using service catalogs as the means to publish services provided by the various service providers within a company is a step toward ESM.

But it’s not as simple as dropping the ‘IT’ from ITSM and replacing it with an ‘E’. Yes, the basics may be in place – tools, SM processes, trained professionals, a service desk. There’s no question that many organizations have the capability to receive a request or issue, manage the workflow associated with that request, and reliably deliver results based on a predefined series of activities. But I would argue that just having the basics in place is not enough to expand ITSM beyond IT. Why?

First, the role of IT must change from one of “command and control” and “gatekeeper” to that of innovator, broker, enabler, trusted advisor, and facilitator. Many current ITSM implementations are far too focused on the operational aspect of running IT and less about delivering solutions or contributing to business strategy. If the IT organization hasn’t embraced its new roles, it’s not time to expand ITSM beyond IT.  If the current ITSM implementation is immature or not providing real business benefit, it’s not time to expand ITSM beyond IT.

Secondly, it can’t be just about expanding ITSM.   It has to be about real business outcomes and the value that the business will realize as a result of doing this. This must be a business initiative enabled by IT, not an IT initiative forced onto the business. It has to be a holistic approach, because ultimately, it will be the whole of the organization that will deliver and support the services defined as part of an ESM implementation.

Perhaps my largest concern is after all these years, many IT organizations still are unable to define services in terms of business value and outcomes. Rather, many IT organizations define a list of activates, applications, or products and call it a “service catalog”. Most tool vendors haven’t helped in this regard either. The concept of service portfolio, from which the service catalog should be derived, is nowhere to be found in many ITSM tools. The risk is that without truly defining services, an ESM implementation really won’t deliver the end-to-end outcomes demanded by the customer of the service provider ecosystem. All that would happen is that the ESM implementation would simply move all of the currently disjointed processes from across the company into a single tool – still lacking the outside-in, end-to-end perspective – and dig the hole deeper.

With all that said, can IT lead SM implementation across the enterprise? Maybe.

Leading Enterprise Service Management

Here’s my suggested five-point approach for IT leading the organization to service management.

  • Answer the “why” – The most important question you must answer is “why?”. Why should the business invest in this initiative? Why does expanding ITSM beyond IT make sense? Why should anyone care about this? Answering the “why” builds the strong business case needed to implement a consistent, repeatable, reliable, effective and efficient service management environment across the enterprise.
  • Define a clear strategy – Define the approach for ESM, who will be involved, and in what sequence. Include answers to the questions “what does success look like?” and “how will success be measured?”.
  • Build bridges – If you’re approaching this from the IT perspective, take some time to get out and learn more about the business – not just the applications or systems that are being used. If you’re approaching this from the business perspective, take some time to get out and learn more about IT – not just the applications or systems you’re using. The domain experts for each side of the house is inside the house! Build bridges between IT and the rest of the business.
  • Collaborate – If an ESM initiative is to be successful, IT must collaborate with – not dictate to– other areas of the business.
  • Take one bite at a time – An ESM initiative is no different from an ITSM initiative in that you should not try to do everything at once with your ESM initiative. Work in an iterative approach. Perhaps identify and implement a few value streams first, such as “onboard new employee” before expanding the scope of the initiative

ESM presents IT with an outstanding opportunity to lead. Is your IT organization ready to take the challenge?

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[1] Drogseth, Dennis, “EMA Research Report: What is the Future of IT Service Management”, Enterprise Management Associates, March 2015.

[2] “Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore”, HDI and itSMF USA, October 2014. Retrieved from itSMF USA

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2 thoughts on “Can IT lead SM?”

  1. Hi, Tedd!
    Do not you think it is a good idea to replace the “collaboration” with a “cooperation”. Having considered IT as a fully integrated entity in the organization, it is good to define its cooperative activity with other units as a “cooperative” , as this term better expresses the desire and self-initiative.

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