How To Maximize Your IT Service Management Investment

By David Mainville

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Throughout my 29 years of IT service management experience I never once doubted the value of having well defined and well implemented IT service management processes. Over time, it became part of my belief system. I had faith that IT service management (ITSM) provided real value to an organization even though that faith was sometimes hard to explain to others.

However, just because I had faith in ITSM, it didn’t stop senior management from asking “What’s the ROI?” That got me to thinking about my own experiences with ITSM. As a young field engineer fixing mainframes I was on the front lines of incident management.

No one ever argued about the value of getting a client back online quickly.

As a service support manager I learned to look at trends and, in one specific situation, our team identified the root cause of a serious problem. By implementing a simple low-cost engineering fix, we were able to save the company millions of dollars in component replacements, employee overtime and, not to mention, customer goodwill.

No one ever doubted the value of saving money.

As an owner of an ITSM consulting firm, I count on having well defined processes, supported by metrics and continual service improvement, to grow my business. I’m happy to say that my investment in processes has paid off and we are celebrating 10 years in business. So, why do people still question the value of ITSM? I believe it’s because people confuse “adopting a framework” with the hard work of “managing the details”.

Going back to my earlier examples, the true value comes from working the processes. Take incident management as an example. The only way you benefit from an incident management system is if it helps you resolve incidents quicker, reduces the cost of an incident or helps you avoid incidents altogether.

In order to realize maximum benefits from incident management, system data needs to be captured, analysis must be performed and improvements must be identified and implemented. Getting to those improvements is where both the value and the hard work lie. Unfortunately, far too many organizations have gone down the path of writing process documents that sit on the shelf or jump from one ITSM tool to another because they never get the implementation right. Thus, when they fail to derive value from ITSM, the blame is placed on “a faulty framework” and never on the lack of execution.

When people question their faith in ITSM they need to remind themselves that it’s easy to define a process or buy a tool. What always tends to be missing is the willingness, governance and the hard work required to get the value. It is my unfortunate experience that many IT organizations have lost sight of what ITSM is all about. ITSM is not a fad, it’s not a “nice to have” and it’s surely not something from which to calculate ROI. ITSM should be at the core of every IT organization. Ask yourself the question: Why do IT organizations exist? I believe it’s for one reason: to service the business. So, why is there so much dissatisfaction with IT organizations?

Back in 2005 Nicholas Carr, in his bestselling book, asked the question “Does IT matter?” Is the trillions of dollars invested annually into corporate IT actually providing a competitive advantage? That book set off a firestorm of debate, a debate that was held over the backdrop of outsourcing, off-shoring and “on-demand” services.

I believe the reason that argument resonated with so many people is there was already serious doubt about whether IT provided any real value to an organization. All one had to do was follow the endless stream of outsourcing announcements to see there was obviously a powerful chord of dissatisfaction with IT. You may disagree and argue that outsourcing was driven purely by the bottom line. However, it’s been my experience that organizations flirt with outsourcing when the business is dissatisfied and feels that IT is being non-responsive and un-supportive. Outsourcing starts with dissatisfaction and is justified by dollars.

Whether we like it or not the latest generations of business users are computer savvy and used to getting things on-demand. These folks, brought up on YouTube, FaceBook and Google have much higher expectations. So, when IT says it will take months to provision a service or make a change to an application they are tempted to go out on the Internet and find something they can use right away.

We can shrug and say "The business just doesn’t get it―they don’t understand the complexity we have to deal with,” or we can use the discipline of ITSM to find ways to better communicate with the business, improve cycle-times and reduce cost. When we lose sight of the SERVICE in ITSM we are just putting our companies, our co-workers and our own livelihoods at risk.

Nuts and bolts

So, how does an organization go about maximizing its investment in ITSM?

Realize that ITSM is not something new, but it’s something you already do. The important thing is taking what you do and making it better. In order to accomplish that you need to understand your services, you need to track your performance and you need to take corrective action.

Don’t waste your time trying to justify ITSM―that’s like justifying breathing. Take it on faith that the discipline of ITSM is a given. Focus on communicating with your clients, on having clear and measurable services, on making your supporting processes actionable and on making your people accountable.

Get everyone on the bus and point that bus in a single direction. You can’t have your organization driving different ways to get to the same point. Agree on a plan for improving services, implement processes to support the services and measure the outcomes. Don’t be afraid to tell someone they need to get on a different bus. For that you need leadership.

Educate and automate. Communicate the value of improving services, communicate how the processes will provide value and automate the processes wherever possible so that people are guided through the steps. Leave nothing to chance.

Lastly, don’t fall into the trap that a tool will solve all your problems. There are no silver bullets. The value will come from developing a culture of service and the discipline of measurement and continual service improvement.

I’ll wrap up this article by asking you to do one thing for me: look at your own personal experiences and think of a service provider that consistently provides you with an outstanding service experience. Now think of one who provides the opposite. The difference between organization A and B is the degree to which they practice the discipline of ITSM. Now which organization do you want to be?

This article appears courtesy of ITSMWatch.com.

David Mainville is CEO and co-founder of Consulting-Portal, an ITSM consulting and ITIL training company focused on helping Fortune 500 and mid-size companies assess, design and implement robust IT Service Management processes. Consulting-Portal also offers a full curriculum of ITSM education including: ITIL, ISO and CobiT.