What’s important in service management?
The do's and dont's
Workshop In its broadest sense, service management goes beyond IT service management and looks to influence many of the processes which underpin the activities a business engages in. Previously, we asked how you thought service management had changed in your organisation in recent years. Let’s dig around a bit further.
One of the major differences between ‘traditional IT’ and ‘service management’ is in how things need to be communicated to the business. Feed and speed data won’t cut it anymore. We have found that few organisations have established service level agreements in business terms. IT performance is formally reported in around one in three organisations but when it comes to measuring and reporting on IT’s contribution to overall business goals the number of organisations with formal reporting processes in place drops to only one in five or even lower.
This idea may well be a case of putting the cart before the horse for many organisations today but there is a serious point to consider: Until IT undertakes to report on its contribution to the business it will find it hard to have meaningful conversations about how further IT investment can help.
There are tools available now that can help IT measure and report on such topics as the contribution to the bottom line, overall business goals and even on business value generation. All require a sound and well monitored IT infrastructure – something we know most IT shops have been working towards for the last decade. But most importantly, they require contextual input from the business about how its processes work and the role IT systems play therein.
So the way IT’s contribution is measured and articulated needs to change; but that’s not all. Until now the tools available to help with service management have mostly focused purely on IT services. However, in most organisations, business involves delivering services which might be underpinned by some IT-provided services but also other elements such as interactions between people and / or the use of other systems and assets. ‘Real’ service management must be able to combine the IT elements with all other components that form the complete process, and this takes us back to the idea of joining up the two separate service management ‘worlds’.
This idea presents what for many IT operations is perhaps a far greater challenge than any technical one. The traditional way that IT has operated has been with with limited “contact” with business managers. Yet the benefits to the business offered by a more holistic approach to service management depend on overcoming such established limited communication. This will not be achieved directly from establishing and formally reporting on IT service usage in business terms but in establishing ongoing, two way communications channels between business and IT professionals at a variety of levels. This means cultural changes, on both sides.
As always, we’d like to know what you think. Is service management broadening into a broader discipline in your organisation? What kinds of things are you trying out to address some of the issues we discussed here, and is the IT department copping its fair share of the effort?
The many sides of the definition of "Service Management"
You should separate your analysis by the kind of business you're referring to. Let me explain. There is one class of business that see IT technology as a fundamental lever to their growth. They take IT as strategic asset, the same as their brands, intellectual property or other long lasting thing that allow it to survive and prosper. The .com (the survivors from the crash) belong to that category, but also every bank, travel agency or small business that exploit technology to maximize benefit and explore new markets.
There is other class of business where they leaders may say things like "IT is the cornerstone of our business" but that statement has the same value as things like "people is our biggest asset" They are obsessed with financials, short term profits, and meeting some artificial targets demanded by a cavern of stock analysts looking to where they can place their huge pension funds bets. For them, IT is an overhead just like any other and anything they do to reduce it is good for their bottom line. Those are the places where the latest outsourcing, offshoring, etc trends have been happening.
I'm sure that everyone can think of examples of the latter. Of course, most business are in between those two extremes, This links nicely with your idea of measuring contribution to the business. But note the difference, there will be places where IT's contribution will be embedded in each activity or process area that is using it and others where IT will be in its own separate line, just near the total overheads line.
Even in the best cases, the big infrastructure costs will be appearing on its own, as nobody can accurately measure their direct contribution to business growth. Except by crude allocation, really nobody can effectively measure those.
@The Original Steve, Dave Watts
Thanks for your comments.
Part of this is about finding out what you guys at the sharp end think service management is, and the other is pulling a load of (hopefully useful) stuff together we've picked up on our travels, research projects and so on to get a conversation going around this big topic.
'What the fu£k is service management' and 'its about doing the job properly' seem like a pretty fair set of questions and answers to me. Half the battle is being able to talk about stuff that people 'just do' without really caring what it might be described as elsewhere. We're going to try to cover a whole bunch of stuff relating to this topic over the next few weeks so both your comments have already helped keep this on the ground. cheers, Martin
Not Rocket Science...
Business Service management (BSm) is very often spouted by executives who have just as little idea about what it really means.
On the other hand Service Management is what many IT professionals do every day. Building quality products that help their respective companies/clients do what they do better/faster/cheaper; and build products that work, are supportable and supported, and really work.
There are also plenty of IT shops which insist on building:-
- glorious, glittering well architected systems which fulfill no discernable business need;
- utter rubbish;
- fabulous stuff, but forgetting to tell anyone how to run it.
Its about doing the job properly....