How To Avoid the Ghosts of ITSM Past

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What happened to IT service management? It feels like not that long ago IT was the master of its domain. But things have changed. Shadow IT is rampant in most organizations, there are higher expectations from consumers and less patience from end-users. IT organizations can’t afford to be unresponsive and uncooperative.

IT can’t keep playing by the old ITSM ways because they’ve stopped working. I’m not the only one who feels this way. According to a survey by ITSM.tools, only 24% of respondents think that existing ITSM best practice has kept up with the changing IT and business landscapes.

However, there is still a need for service management. In fact, I’d argue that the proliferation of technology in the workplace has made service management more important than ever.

Additionally, Enterprise Service Management is gaining traction among organizations, as is new technologies, such as AI and machine learning. Both of these will require strong service management foundations.

So what is a smart IT leader to do? You can’t keep trying to make new technology fit into old ITSM frameworks – but you can’t ignore the need for frameworks and processes. You need to avoid the ghosts of ITSM and instead apply modern principles of Service Management.

Let’s talk about the ghosts of ITSM past.

Seeing ITSM as Controlling

If there’s one thing that haunts ITSM, it’s the belief that it’s all about control and rigid processes. ITIL®, one of the most popular ITSM frameworks, was introduced in the 1980s and heavily focused on processes and managing IT infrastructure. But IT has evolved over the years and it’s become less about managing infrastructure and more about keeping end-users happy and delivering effective services.

While new versions of ITIL and other methodologies, such as DevOps, have been introduced, ITSM still struggles with having a reputation for enforcing unnecessary processes.

What CIOs and IT managers must do is learn more flexible frameworks and adapt them to work with their organization. ITIL4, DevOps and VeriSM™ have all become smart options for anyone looking for adaptable approaches that focus on efficiency, collaboration, and consistency.

A “Tool-First” Mentality

Another ghost of ITSM past that tends to haunt organizations is putting the primary focus on implementing the tool and not the processes, services, or people using the tools.

A “Tool-First” mentality is an easy mistake to repeat because, well, implementing tools is exciting. It is much more exciting than developing the enabling foundational pieces. Tool vendors make a lot of promises and to be honest, those tools can enable processes and make IT more efficient.

But modern ITSM means leading with services and processes and not with the tool. Before you implement a tool, you need to define processes, how the process moves information and work from beginning to end, and what activities will be performed as part of the execution of the process. It’s also important that you define the results from the execution of the process and how those results will be delivered and who will be responsible for each activity within the process. You need to define services in terms of value co-creation and measurable outcomes, and what’s in it for the customer, the consumer, and those that deliver and support those services.

This “services, processes, and people first” mentality is going to be extremely important with the new wave of AI capabilities hitting organizations. If your enterprise is interested in implementing AI, then the smart strategy is to define the objectives, processes, and roles before investing in a new tool.

Ignoring Business Objectives

For a long time, IT organizations perhaps didn’t feel the need to be involved with the business. Their focus was to manage the technology that supported the rest of the organization and let the organization grow the business.

But IT cannot afford to sit on the sidelines of the business. 81 percent of IT leads agree that CIOs are under extreme pressure to defend their investments and prove ROI. Technology places a role in almost every part of the business these days and much of that technology impacts the end-user. Nearly all business proposals today involve a technology component that needs evaluation and the C-suite will want to understand how that investment is paying off for them. Additionally, even for technology that doesn’t involve the end-user or relate directly to sales, the C-suite will want to know the ROI of that investment.

Properly managing technology in today’s world requires an understanding of the business, being able to communicate in the language of the business, and having a clear view of how IT and technology contributes to business objectives.

Being a Barrier to Technology

There was a culture of “no” that existed within IT in the past. It was easier to shut down tool requests or service requests within the enterprise. IT was often seen as the barrier to technology. But technology is so readily available these days and organizations will no longer wait for IT to say yes to a request.

According to an ITSM.tools survey, 40% of respondents think their IT department is behind meeting employee expectations – across services, support, and customer service – versus consumer-world companies.

Smart CIOs facilitate inter-department collaboration and communication. IT needs to learn to work together with the organization to deliver services within the enterprise and to the end-user.

Additionally, beginning to embrace Enterprise Service Management and co-creating processes with other departments to improve service delivery within the organization will help position IT as a leader in this new era of service management.

I recognize that it can be uncomfortable looking back at past mistakes and the ghosts of ITSM past. However, if we don’t look back, we’ll never learn – and the great news is that IT can easily avoid these ghosts. We’re in an ITSM renaissance driven by initiatives like digital transformation and the introduction of new technologies like AI.

Revisiting your ITSM foundation, defining the roles and processes, working within business objectives, and incorporating other departments into your processes and services will help bring your IT organization into the modern world.

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