Don’t Go Chasing Electrons

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One of my biggest gripes about service management is that the work of service management has become synonymous with service management tools. This has really become an Achilles heel for service management. While service management tools are useful, they typically don’t take a value and outcome-based approach to identifying and defining services.

Because of this, many IT organizations have found themselves executing superficial service mapping initiatives that hardly get the complete job done. Rather than first critically think about services in terms of the value and business objectives that must be achieved with the use of technology, they buy and implement a service management tool. Then they use the tool to chase electrons across the network, map where those electrons went and what was found, and call it done.

Here’s why chasing electrons with a service management tool to define services can be the kiss of death to any real service management success.

What Service Management Tools Actually Do

I want to be clear that I am not “anti-tool”. Good service management tools are a vital and necessary component of any successful service management initiative. But those tools only address a part of service management challenges.

In its simplest form, using a service management tool to identify services is an exercise in chasing electrons. This approach focuses on the technology and seemingly puts order to that technology… so you can keep chasing more electrons.

But it’s this use of the tools that frequently causes the biggest problems with service management within organizations. Sure, this approach will find whatever is active on the network. It will group what it finds by application or system. But it also perpetuates the perception that service management is just about the tool… and not how good service management enables and supports the outcomes and value needed by a business from its investments in and use of technology.

Network maps don’t mean much if you can’t connect them to real business outcomes. Capturing what software is found on what hardware does not articulate the business value provided by that technology. An electronic discovery will never find the people, practices, or processes involved (and absolutely critical!) in delivering services within the organization.

What you’re left with is a reinforcement of a gap between IT and the business.

The Consequences of Relying on Tools to Define Services

Here’s what happens when you implement a service management tool without doing the prerequisite work:

  • IT spends a chunk of money on an expensive tool.
  • IT spends a large amount of time and money implementing that tool.
  • Because of the investments in both time and money, IT and the business as a whole feel they need to stick with their tool, no matter if it’s actually solving their problems.
  • When the initial tool implementation is done, IT and the business think that service management work is “done” as well.

Well, it’s not “done”. In fact, it becomes an ongoing issue. And the longer businesses ignore what should be service management, what should really be defined as services, the harder it becomes to fix it. As a result, IT will keep struggling with a reputation of being technology-oriented order takers. Yes, IT does more than configuring routers, writing code, and resetting passwords…but the tools don’t demonstrate that in business terms.

At some point after implementation, IT leaders have to ask themselves, “Have the accomplishments we’ve achieved with this tool helped us improve the value proposition of technology investments for my organization?”

How IT Can Stop Chasing Electrons

Defining services in terms of value and outcomes and implementing a service management approach that is actually about the business (not the technology) isn’t an out-of-the-box solution. But if you treat it like it is, you’re going to get stuck with definitions of services that don’t reflect the business needs of the organization and a burgeoning gap between the business and IT.

  1. IT needs to define services in terms of business value and outcomes

This is a point many would prefer to ignore, but it simply can’t be ignored. You can’t shortcut your way to defining IT services – and do it the right way. Tools will come into play at a later date and they will streamline the work, but they can’t do it without the right collaboration between IT and the organization.

Doing the work to articulate how your services enable or deliver business outcomes also positions IT to evolve as the business evolves. If we’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that the way we do business can turn on a dime and IT has to be able to adapt to the ever-changing nature of how business does business. You can get ahead of the curve by having defined services in terms of business value and outcomes, then having ongoing conversations with your business colleagues about the value and outcomes needed from investments in technology, not just the technology.

2. IT needs to define the buying criteria for tools

You have to think about the long game with IT tool investments. It’s not easy to do, but it’s what builds the solid foundation of an IT organization that contributes to the bottom line.

IT has to define its tool-buying criteria based on business needs, not what the IT industry is seemingly telling them to buy. Every business is unique and solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all. Engaging key stakeholders to understand technology needs and business goals will help create buying criteria that will shortlist the tools into those that could actually work for you.

Additionally, establishing this buying criteria can help you improve your tool implementations. Often tool vendors or consultants will want you to implement a tool following some predefined technology playbook. But in reality, the best thing for your business is likely configuring the tool differently and in a way that best fits your business.

Before investing in a service management tool, ask yourself:

  • How does this investment answer the business value question?
  • Do we understand the types of outcomes that must result from this investment?
  • Why should our business want to invest in this?
  • Are we prepared to leverage the functionality of the tool?

Don’t Short Cut It

Tools are often marketed as an easy shortcut for your service management issues. But you have to think of investments in service management tools like running a marathon. A service management tool is like having a really good pair of running shoes. It can enable you to succeed. But if you haven’t done a pre-marathon training program, having good running shoes will only get you a few miles into the race – and then you will find yourself struggling. Good shoes alone will not help you complete the marathon.

Just like in running a marathon, you have to do the necessary work ahead of time to prepare yourself to win. You have to do the work to define your services in business terms, ensure you understand and can deliver the needed business outcomes, and that the work your team is doing is aligned with the business. Then, implement your tool and it will work better in the long run!

Good service management is not just about opening a ticket. It’s not just about resolving an issue or implementing a change. It is about how people, processes, and technology work together in a repeatable, measurable, and holistic way to consistently enable business outcomes and value realization by the entire organization. If service management isn’t doing this for your organization, I can help. Contact Tedder Consulting today.

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