The Growing Importance of ITSM

Aug 15, 2006

Allen Bernard

Every business person not living under a rock today knows that IT supplies the lifeblood of almost every organization on the planet with more than three employees. They also know that IT has struggled over the years to provide them with what they need, when they need it and make it all work seamlessly without having to call the helpdesk every 10 minutes.

While IT has come a long way towards this goal, perhaps more so in the last five years than in all the years preceding, most IT folks know that much of what looks seamless to outsiders is actually a lot of disparate systems cobbled together with band-aids and rubber bands.

The user interfaces are slick and things do work pretty well most of the time, that's a fact, but, behind the scenes IT is still working hard to keep the wheels on.

"How can you improve customer service if you don't know what the service is you are delivering?," asks Rob Stroud, director of Brand Strategy for CA.

This is where ITSM comes in. Based on the U.K.'s ITIL (IT infrastructure library) books, ITSM is the way most large, diversified IT shops are beginning to, finally, make sense of and better manage all of the hamster wheels, rubber bands and band-aids that make up today's typically corporate IT shop.

While ITSM won't solve your heterogeneous infrastructure problem, it will allow you to put in place repeatable processes that are based on twenty-plus years of industry best practices therefore relieving you of the burden of having to figure everything out for the first time, every time.

While this may be bit of an exaggeration since most IT shops are not quite so process fragmented, the truth of the matter is there are many areas that need a lot of improvement and ITSM is a good way to make these improvements.

"If we don’t continue down this path we see ourselves in the same place as manufacturers who didn't take advantage of quality and efficiency improvements as that revolution happened," said Brooke Guthrie, IT governance manager for Hosting and Managed Services at Berbee Information Networks.

The end result is the ability to better meet the needs of the business in a more transparent, automated, repeatable and manageable manner than without ITSM. The opacity of once lofty ideas like IT/business alignment begin to clear when ITSM enters the picture.

Meeting compliance mandates becomes less of issue, governance becomes less of an issue and easier to implement enterprise-wide, your service desk calls drop dramatically because your employee self-service initiatives are finally working the way you want them to, just to name just a few of things that can go right when ITSM becomes part of your IT department's culture.

"The point of ITSM is to combine a series of best practices to turn IT into … a high-quality manufacturing operation—something that is repeatable, stable dependable and builds the products customers want," said Hank Marquis, managing partner and CTO of itSM Solutions, an ITSM training company.

Because of the standardization that enables this shift in IT towards a more manufacturing-like division of the company, all manner of once unwieldy, ad-hoc internal "we've-done-it-like-this-for-years" processes that are ingrained in the heads of your employees can now be exorcised in a defensible manner based on someone else's ideas. Ideal if you don't want to take the blame for all the changes you are going to have implement to make ITSM work.

And, if there is a down side to ITSM that is probably it: Change. To manage this, you have to start by figuring out where you are today; a point many IT managers fail to realize as they scratch their heads wondering why their ITSM implementation isn't living up to expectations, said Marquis.

"There's a whole series of best practices that have to align to be able to pull this ITSM thing off," he said. "And once you know where you are you can define where you want to get to. And it also shows how far away is too far away. You wouldn't take a child (athlete) and put them in the Super Bowl, it's too far away."

Once you get a handle on this, however, said Berbee's Guthrie, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

"During the last few years while we've had an ITSM process improvement program we have significantly increased the total work load we're doing to the tune of 20% per year while we've only increased our costs for doing this by five percent per year."

Not bad.


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