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Workshop Over the past few weeks that we’ve been writing about service management, it’s become very clear just how hard it is to hold the fort. Indeed, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of you don’t wonder – at least to yourselves – why bother?

This is actually a very good question, and one which deserves just a little scrutiny. What is service management trying to achieve? We can talk about “providing the interface between IT and the business”, but this is not an end in itself. So, once everything else is stripped away, what exactly is the point of service management again?

As one senior IT guy said to us a few weeks ago: “It’s not about helping your ‘customers’. It’s about helping your customers’ customers.” The goal of service management has to be working in an integral fashion with other front-line services (IT and otherwise), to keep the business running smoothly. In private and public organisations alike, this loose idea does translate into monetary terms effectiveness, and efficiency.

From an effectiveness standpoint, this is about ensuring the business is providing the right services – ones that perhaps people are prepared to pay for. The ‘right’ services will require the ‘right’ set of facilities from IT, which will need to be provisioned, configured, operated and so on.

Meanwhile, we have the efficiency standpoint – which is about ensuring that services are being delivered in the right way. Inefficient service management equates to unnecessary costs and overheads, and now is not the moment (is it ever) to waste money fixing broken or inefficient services.

While efficiency and effectiveness may be laudable goals for service management, they do require a handle on why the business needs certain services delivered in certain ways – and this information may not always be forthcoming particularly if the business has suffered poor service delivery in the past. There’s also that strange perception from customers, that IT can in some way second guess what the business needs – “Isn’t that IT’s job to know?” which can make it even harder to understand what the business is trying to achieve.

Now it’s possible to dress up ‘finding out’ with all kinds of terminology – ‘needs analysis’, ‘business mapping’ and so on – which can frighten off both sides. But fortunately, things can be kept much simpler. Like the PM in Yes, Prime Minister, it really can be a case of “going walkabout” and asking some seemingly dumb questions of real people – “what are you up to?” “how do you do it?” “where does IT fit?” and so on.

If you haven’t done it for a while, it’s worth a go. The results might surprise you. You know what’s coming now: if you have ventured out into ‘the business’ in the name of making things better – what’s the reaction been like? As usual we’d love to hear from you. ®

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