IT Service Management (ITSM) refers to the IT organization’s orientation towards delivering IT services with a customer-centric approach. However, this is a broad discipline which, left to interpretation by a wide range of IT adopters, can take various forms and meet a range of success. Info-Tech’s view on ITSM, discussed in the McLean Report research note, “Diagnostic IT Service Management for the Framework Impaired,” is that blind adherence to framework adoption is a leading cause of failure for ITSM initiatives. Lack of organizational commitment, and a lack of common-sense, IT-level operational processes, were also mentioned as hurdles to implementation. Interviews with IT professionals reveal that these are, indeed, on-going issues. As part of Info-Tech’s In-Depth research on ITSM, IT leaders and practitioners discussed successful implementation techniques. These are listed as recommendations following this research note.

Drivers for Improvement to Service Management

The following have been identified as key drivers for ITSM efforts or projects. Initiatives for improving service management, most typically, came from the IT side, and not the business. As a result, IT leaders who drive process change exclusively from the IT department with little external interest find it difficult to gain support from the business for ITSM initiatives.

Table 1. Drivers for ITSM Improvement

ITSM Driver

Scenario

Driven by

A major outage.

A single event such as an outage or security problem prompted either IT leadership or business leadership to formalize IT policy, process, and procedure.

Driven by the business or, possibly, IT executive leadership.

IT resource exhaustion.

IT leaders may actively pursue operational process improvement for the sake of IT sanity. This “death by a thousand cuts” stems from ongoing reaction to minor IT outages and incidents which require an unsustainable, heroic effort to control.

IT Director, Data Center Manager, Help Desk Manager.

Growth, acquisition or restructuring.

The merger or acquisition of two IT departments, or the adoption of an enterprise wide application leads to a need for consolidating IT departments. Subsequent restructuring is seen as an opportunity to streamline IT or to build an IT shared services model.

Driven by the business with some CIO’s participating in decision making.

External need to formalize documentation or process.

Defining IT process for the sake of audit by regulatory bodies.

Driven by the business

Improvement to IT service based on end user demand.

End user surveys demonstrate the need to improve the level of service provided by the service desk.

Driven by both IT and the business.

Ongoing evolution

IT leaders that have always strived to improve IT processes and consider service management a regular part of their leadership as opposed to a project.

Driven by IT across all levels of IT management.

The Good, the Best and the Common (Practice)

Few enterprises actually adopt every best-practice in pursuit of improved end user support, network availability, or application stability. Table 2 demonstrates findings in terms of common and rare occurrences amongst leaders interviewed.

Table 2. ITSM Common and Rare Practices

ITSM – Modules

Common Sightings

Rarities

Service Desk: Request, and Incident Management. Collecting and triaging end user requests and responding to incidents. 

  • Incident triage and automated ticketing with defined processes.
  • Ticket management tools.
  • Recognition of need for good response times, ticket closure.
  • Help desk metrics.
  • Both outsourced and in house level 1 and level 2 help desk.
  • Service Catalogs and well defined IT services.

 

Change and Release Management. Reducing harm when making changes to the technology environment.

Many enterprises had some control over how they handle application/infrastructure changes:

  • Use of change request form.
  • Policy and procedure for IT changes.
  • Informal meetings to discuss impact of technical changes.

Communication of approved changes prior to implementation:

  • A formal role and sub-committee for change approval (Change Manager and Change Advisory Board)
  • Toolsets for tracking changes and approvals.

Problem Management. Proactive mining of help desk incidents for trends and common errors resulting in the resolution of root causes.

  • Ad-hoc or scheduled socialization between IT staff to identify recurring issues.
  • Identification of user training as a common root cause.
  • Use of metrics for identifying problem issues.
  • Use of knowledge management database to record solutions to root causes and known errors.
  • Formal process for proactively identifying the root causes behind help desk tickets (incidents).

Asset and Configuration Management. Collecting information on IT Assets and their relationships.  

  • Inventory of IT assets.
  • A common desire to have more accountability for IT hardware and software assets.
  • Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB). The mapping of assets, and configurations, and their relationship to the technology environment.

Availability and Performance Management

  • Uptime is seen as a crucial first priority.
  • Network management tools are common.
  • Accountability for uptime by the business.
  • System monitoring tools.

Recommendations

  1. It’s a marathon not a sprint; roadmaps are helpful. While implementation takes on various forms from ongoing improvements to long-term projects, IT leaders, as a whole, noted an evolutionary mentality. Having a roadmap for the direction of the IT organization was seen as particularly effective by demonstrating the achievements of long-term goals, and directing future decisions. 
  2. Don’t underestimate the value of a good sales job. Effectively communicating the business value of process improvement optimization to the business was noted as a key to the success of many enterprises service management improvement projects. Selling improvements such as cost reduction or service improvements were both noted. Where IT was perceived as a maintenance organization cost-reduction seemed to be the greater selling point. 
  3. Maintain core services to build IT credibility. Rather than reinventing IT, directors and CIOs were able to leverage the existing perception of IT, as a maintenance organization, as a strength. If IT can succeed in the core activities which the business has come to expect of them, i.e. keeping the lights on, they can build goodwill and credibility with the business. Credibility makes the sales job easier when it comes time to gain support for process improvements which may not be perceived as mission critical to executives.  

Bottom Line

Moving IT to a business-centric IT delivery model is a process that continues to challenge small and midsized enterprises. Gauge the enterprise’s current ITSM maturity by learning why and how other small and midsize enterprises are moving to become service oriented.

This article was originally published by Info-Tech Research Group (www.infotech.com). Copyright (c) 1998-2008 Info-Tech Research Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Related Article: How Senior IT Staff Can Boost Their Value and Career (http://www.infotech.com/research/how-senior-it-staff-can-boost-their-value-and-career?sc=M_Sourcemedia)


Info-Tech Research Group is a professional services firm dedicated to providing premium research and objective advice to IT managers of mid-sized enterprises. The firm's products and services combine actionable insight and relevant advice with ready-to-use tools and templates that cover the full spectrum of IT concerns. Its practical approach is designed to have a clear and measurable positive impact on your organization's bottom line. Info-Tech serves over 21,000 clients at 8,000 organizations around the world.


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