IT Service Management: Transforming IT From Managing Technology to Empowering Business
Shawn McCoy | 09/18/2014 | Cloud & Operations
One of the great hidden transformations happening in businesses today is within IT. As businesses become more focused on providing better customer-facing experiences through services, IT becomes necessarily intertwined in supporting increasingly complex ecosystems of people, processes, and technology.
The push for more technology services has been building steam due to innovations in services automation, remote storage and the availability of SaaS solutions for managing services. As these innovations have become increasingly important to the business, IT has been proactive in evaluating fit and driving adoption while continuing to make sure that technology within the business operates without interruption. To meet this expectation, IT organizations have begun adopting a mindset of service management. Despite having embraced the idea, they struggle with the change.
Change is hard. We’re rational beings tied to routines that make us feel confident in our capabilities. When confronted with change, it’s natural to question the value or need for it in the first place. It follows then that, shifting an entire organization’s mindset from a technology culture to a service-oriented culture will require time and an intentional effort on the part of management and the executive team. In order to help make the transition to IT service management more successful, I recommend taking the following into consideration.
1: Objectives at the organizational level lead to organizational change:
The level of change necessary to transition successfully from a technology-focused culture to a service-oriented culture requires attention from all levels of the organization. There need to be objectives that clearly communicate the desired outcome. The objectives need to be at the organizational level and be clearly communicated by the leadership team. Far too often, ambitious and well-intentioned managers take a “build it and they will come” approach to IT Service Management. As a result, the effort is not taken as seriously as it needs to be. For example, thinking only of their particular sphere of influence, managers may identify a project leader who is new to IT service management as a formal capability and underestimates the effort to transform a whole organization. Commissioned to execute change, this person will usually gravitate to one area where value can be quickly demonstrated or a problem resolved. Unfortunately, under these circumstances, the bar is rarely moved and the effort to drive a service-oriented culture is perceived as a failure.
2. Base-lining takes a lot of the guesswork out of determining what needs to change:
When I engage an organization, I start with an assessment of their current IT service management capability. In my experience, these evaluations are most valuable when they are part of a strategic effort supported across the organization. The intent is to develop an understanding of where the organization is presently and where it needs to go to achieve the desired future state.
To assist in that process we leverage an evaluation model loosely based upon CMM (the Capability Maturity Model developed by Carnegie Mellon) and practices from ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library managed through the Office of Government Commerce). This helps us evaluate the capability of the organization to manage services against a known and accepted set of standards. However, I recommend caution in overly relying on such frameworks as each organization is different and there is no “one size fits all” model standard. The uniqueness of each organization–its culture and practices–should be a primary consideration during any evaluation effort. However, an evaluation can shed light on areas where organizations have gaps or still need to improve.
3. A roadmap can help avoid wrong turns:
When driving the level of change that often accompanies service management, it’s critically important that a high level plan exists. I am surprised at how often I walk into a situation where there is not a roadmap. People within the organization need to understand the overall direction and what needs to be done to achieve the desired state.
A good roadmap includes enough information to let everyone know they are heading in the right direction as well as checkpoints along the way to verify that that the organization is heading toward the intended objective. It is critically important that the roadmap represent a realistic timeframe for the organization as it is common for some levels of accomplishment to take place over a period of years.
When working with clients, we create intermediate objectives from the organizational ones that act as checkpoints so that the organization knows when it has achieved a further level of progression. Intermediate objectives are “executable bites” that bring the organization to the desired state. These can be assigned to managers and their teams as a way to develop commitments towards their achievement. By doing this, the organization will ultimately accomplish both its intermediate and organizational goals.
4. End-to-end service life cycle definition and design leads to better supporting processes:
Service management frameworks/best practice libraries are very process-oriented. In working with IT to adopt a service management mindset, there’s a natural tendency to focus on improving or implementing process without much thought to the services being managed. This thinking needs to be reversed. When the service is emphasized, process areas are forced to align so that the needs of consumers can be met. This is what ensures successful service management. Processes are for the benefit of the service, not the other way around. When defining a new service or making changes to an existing service, relevant processes will necessarily need to be evaluated.
5. Take advantage in the wealth of external resources available:
There’s a wealth of information out there on IT Service Management. Most IT organizations look to ITIL for guidance as it is considered by the industry to be a quality source for organizations looking to get a better handle on IT Service Management. However, rather than trying to learn the discipline from available resources online, companies looking to transition or mature their service management efforts can also turn to consultants for their subject matter expertise, thought leadership, and practical execution. Consultants bring insight to organizations from their experiences with other companies as well as knowledge of multiple frameworks and best practices. They are able to lend assistance with many of the common challenges faced.
IT departments are experiencing a lot of pressure to evolve from a historically technology-focused reactive culture to a more strategic trusted partner that delivers end-to-end services across the enterprise, both for internal and external consumers. This shift requires a more mature IT organization that not only remains flexible to new and changing needs, but also provides consistent support and a reliable and stable delivery experience.
AIM Consulting helps IT departments both initiate and complete the transformation to becoming a service orientated organization. We can also rescue an in-process effort that is struggling. We assist at the strategy level, the tactical level, and the technology level.
- At the strategy level, we examine current service management capability, and help organizations in their transition by working closely with them to assist in defining their objectives and delivery roadmap.
- At the tactical level, we take a look at all of the issues and resources: Is there an appropriate level of knowledge? Are services defined end-to-end? Are there efficient processes in place? What are the service levels and key measurement indicators being used?
- At the technology level, we assess the company’s current technology and make recommendations for better enabling people and process. From these recommendations and requirements, we engage in delivering successful technology project to meet the needs of the organization.