IT Service Management Still Matters – Here’s Why

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Believe it or not, your company has always been doing IT Service Management (ITSM) – from the moment it first used a computer. 

Whether formally defined or not, ITSM exists in some form in every organization that leverages technology in achieving business results.

Don’t think so?  Consider this:

  • What happens when the phone rings in IT? Someone answers it.
  • What is something breaks in the production environment? It gets fixed.
  • When business colleagues ask for something different in a live system or application?  A change is made.
  • When business colleagues request new capabilities based on the use of technology?  The request capability is planned, funded, designed and implemented.
  • When a colleague needs advice or instruction?  Help is provided.

All that seems like ITSM to me. But good ITSM has to be more than just answering the phone or making a change. Is your approach to ITSM working as it should?

The “usual” approach to ITSM…and why it doesn’t work

If ITSM hasn’t delivered the expected value for your organization, it’s usually because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Many organizations implemented only the reactive aspects of ITSM – incident, problem, change, service desk, request – and nothing more.  They utilized whatever out-of-the-box process definitions that came with the ITSM tool – but those processes didn’t match the current state of IT, much less meet the business need.  Despite those challenges, those organizations did receive some benefit…. but not the full benefit of a good ITSM implementation. 
  • Some organizations implemented ITSM with a focus more on managing the technology and less on delivering services supporting business functions.  Those organizations implemented ITSM processes from a control perspective, which resulted in practices that actually got in the way of the organization taking advantage of using technology.
  • Many organizations’ ITSM implementations were never elevated beyond the IT organization.  ITSM was an IT project, not a business initiative.  Because core ITSM concepts were not implemented, like IT services defined in terms of business value and outcomes, artifacts like a service portfolio were never defined.  As a result, business leaders do not have critical ITSM resources and information that could help them make informed decisions about technology investments.  Nor do they have any data that helps them recognize the value provided by the IT organization.
  • Some organizations didn’t even elevate ITSM beyond IT operations.  As a result, IT became a “house divided”, with each side of the house actually working against the other side.

Is ITSM no longer important?

But despite these challenges, practicing good ITSM is more important now than ever.  Why? 

  • Because your organization is now completely dependent on technology to perform business processes and functions.  There is no part of any business that doesn’t have some dependency on the use of technology.
  • Because business and technology must work seamlessly.  “Business-IT alignment” is not enough.  It’s now about integration, not alignment.
  • Because organizations must take a holistic view of the use of technology to ensure the best return on investment and ensure that corporate governance and policies are enforced.   In a world of data privacy concerns and security breaches where business interruptions due to technology issues are widely publicized, organizations must take a holistic approach to managing and leveraging technology.
  • Because IT is still “on the hook” for the effective and efficient use of technology and business value delivery, regardless of whether those technology resources are provided from on-premise or via the cloud.
  • Because investments in technology must deliver an optimal return on investment.  The days of implementing technology for technology’s sake are long gone.
  • Because technology is always changing and evolving, organizations need a way to deal with that change in a consistent, technology-agnostic manner.

But this doesn’t mean that “ITSM as usual” is the right approach going forward.  In fact, the “usual approach” is usually why ITSM hasn’t delivered or fulfilled its promise.  And certainly, the “usual approach” to ITSM won’t be enough for the modern business.

What does modern ITSM look like?

The goal of ITSM has always been to make the best use of technology to deliver business value. But that’s not what many organizations have done with their ITSM efforts.

Many ITSM implementations struggled or even failed because the focus was on implementing a framework or methodology – or even worse, a tool – rather than doing the things that helped the business realize value in its use of technology.

A modern organization needs a modern approach to ITSM.   A modern approach to ITSM has the following characteristics:

  • More than one tool in the ITSM toolbox – Some look at methodologies like Agile, Lean, or DevOps as “anti-ITSM”, when in fact, these approaches address areas of the usual ITSM implementations that were previously skipped or ignored.  Even more compelling, these methodologies compliment traditional approaches like ITIL® and COBIT®.  The modern ITSM toolbox leverages the right tool for the job.
  • Emphasizes “enablement” over “control” – ITSM implementations must shift from a mindset of “control” to a mindset of “enablement”.  IT must be adaptable and responsive to business change, but at the same time, consistent, secure and reliable. A modern approach to ITSM strikes the right balance between responsiveness, adaptability, consistency, security, and reliablity to help organizations realize its business goals and objectives.
  • Inclusive – Many ITSM implementations never moved beyond IT Operations.  Make no mistake – developing and implementing the operational capability to respond to incidents, fulfill requests, or implement changes in a consistent and repeatable way was (and is!) a good thing.  But modern ITSM must be inclusive.  Modern ITSM must include not only all of IT, but also include the business that IT serves.
  • Looks at the organization from the “outside-in” – The (true) customer does business with the business – not an individual part of the business.  Effective service management will help a business act and present itself as a holistic entity and not a collection of parts.

Top 5 Reasons Why ITSM (Still) Matters

Here are my top 5 reasons why ITSM still matters:

1. ITSM enables IT to deal with ever-changing technologies in a consistent way while still ensuring the right level of governance.

2. ITSM enables Shift-Left toward the end-user. In the digital age, you cannot sacrifice quality for speed and IT teams must work as a cohesive unit. 

3. ITSM enables teams to deliver technology in a business-relevant way at the right cost and quality and show how IT is contributing value, all the way to the bottom line

4. ITSM ensures that the use of technology meets business need and delivers value and outcomes. ITSM expands thinking from processes that manage technology to practices that not only manage technology but deliver real business outcomes and value

5. Provides the opportunity and the ability to identify, justify, and implement improvements with transparency. 

Making ITSM a Strategic Capability

In the digital era, ITSM must be a strategic capability of your organization.   ITSM must become one of the primary ways that a business executes and fulfills its strategy.

How can you improve your ITSM efforts?

  • Define services in terms of value streams/value chains
  • Take an agile approach to process design
  • Shift-left to deliver a better end user/customer experience
  • Build peer support within the organization
  • Distributed, sourced: changing from traditional centralized IT with everything completed in-house

IT has always played a prominent role in the success of the organization but typically has played that role from the back office.  In the digital era, IT’s role is much more prominent and visible and IT must become more business and leadership focused.

Does your organization need to take a modern approach to  service management?  With our Next Generation ITSM consulting service, Tedder Consulting can get you there – contact us today!

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2 thoughts on “IT Service Management Still Matters – Here’s Why”

  1. Hi Doug!
    Congratulations on this article! I think it is very sobering to those who have hurriedly announced the classic ITSM as dead and the importance of using agile methodologies has been absent. In fact, ITSM, like any system, has different levels of maturity in its life cycle. This applies both to the whole theory of ITSM and to its particular application in an organization. Therefore, there are organizations that implement ITSM elements that do not know will implement ITSM, but there are also those who are involved in managing ITSM and ITSM for ITSM. And it will refer to the benefits of ITSM – not all ITSM contributions can be measured – eg. those about the change of the organization’s culture in the ITSM transformation.

    1. Appreciate your comments Alexander. I think many organizations don’t realize that their use of Agile, DevOps, Lean, or other methodologies are all part of their ITSM environment, just like ITAM, ITOM, InfoSec, QA, or ITIL. ITSM is all about delivering business value, with just the right amount of the right methodologies and approaches, to enable a culture of collaboration, learning, improvement, and success. Too much focus on one area of IT (or one methodology for that matter!) at the expense of other areas, is just a recipe for failure. That’s why ITSM – good ITSM – continues to matter.

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