IT service management as an enterprise-wide service

What’s good for the IT goose is good for the business gander

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When it comes to providing efficient services, can the IT department teach the rest of the business a thing or two?

IT has come a long way in the last few years. Traditionally, the IT department lived in an ivory tower, but commercial pressures forced it to change its stance. IT service management (ITSM) tools and techniques helped to reposition IT within the business, making it more accountable and more responsive to departmental needs.

For years, ITSM was something unique to the boys in the engine room. But now, companies are gradually rolling out service management software to other departments.

If ITSM helped IT to better serve the rest of the business, then perhaps it could offer the same benefits to departments including legal, finance, and HR. After all, these departments have to serve employees too.

In an age where cloud services are proliferating across organisations often without IT input, service management software can potentially provide a sane cloud delivery platform for the entire business.

It’s high time that ITSM got rid of the ‘IT’ and looked at service management as something that can be used far outside the IT department. So, how do we take the best parts of ITSM and apply it elsewhere? Some of the answers lie in software, and some lie in technique.

ITSM software

ITSM has been a way of organising the services that the IT department could deliver to the rest of the business, and most of it has been handled using service automation and management software.

This software helped IT administrators publish their services in online catalogues, and define service level agreements. It gave them a single point of management for problems as they occurred. It enabled them to understand the cost of providing an IT service by aggregating the costs of its different components, and it helped to automate the various services behind the scenes.

The software used for traditional ITSM is evolving to the point where it can be used to support services in other parts of the business. Strip away the actual IT services being provided, and you’ll find a set of workflows that apply equally to services in other departments.

Implementations of IT self-service portals help to improve customer satisfaction and delivery efficiency, by publishing an intuitive and attractive service catalogue that can be employed by end users,

What’s critical here is the quality of interface and how well the service catalogue items are published to the business. Then, once established in IT, the same service catalogue approach can be extended to other areas of the business, such as HR or facilities.

Those services need to be requested, and approved. They may trigger back-end orders to a third party supplier, or tasks for internal staff. They may interface with ledger systems that register the cost involved. These things apply just as much to, say, someone requesting that the facilities department fix a chair or setting up an expense account with the finance department as they do to someone ordering a new laptop from IT.

Technique

The other crucial part that many forget when setting up service management in other departments is technique. Can we use the same frameworks for service management in other parts of the business that we use for ITSM?

ITIL remains the key service management option. At a high level, this has a lot to teach people considering the implementation of ITSM-style disciplines in other areas of the business. It breaks down into five key parts, ranging from service strategy through to continual service improvement. Thinking about their service management in the context of all these steps, rather than just operations, may help other departments to make their service delivery more capable.

Service strategy

Starting with a focus on service strategy enables non-IT business departments to think more broadly not just about how to deliver their services, but about what services they’re delivering and how much resource they’re allocating to them. Are the services currently being delivered – in any form – seen as accessible? Are employees using them? How much resource is allocated to each of these services and are they being prioritised properly, based on service usage?

Service design

Having audited the current service landscape and decided on what needs to change, service design is the next step. This is where service catalogues are created, and service levels identified. It’s where external suppliers (if there are any for these parts of the business) are identified, and service expectations set for those, too.

All stakeholders should be involved here, including the department delivering the service, but also the internal ‘customers’ – and the IT team delivering the software that will underpin the whole thing for the HR, finance or other department moving to a structured service portfolio.

At this point, the concept of a playbook for service provision applies just as much to non-IT departments as to IT, and automation is a key concept when designing it all.

Via self-service portals and the automation of the processes and workflows those departments use most, HR and facilities teams can much more easily identify, track and fix issues – without users needing to make lengthy phone calls to the department.”

Transitioning and operations

After this part of the process, the department involved has to plan the transition between its old service model and the new one. How will customers move smoothly from one kind of service that they’ve been used to for years, to another, perhaps with a self-service portal and a new means of escalating service issues?

Operations, the fourth stage in the service delivery mechanism for non-IT business departments, is the stage that will depart most from traditional IT service management. After all, the services will be entirely different.

Will incident management and applications management apply? Perhaps not in the same way. But components such as request fulfilment and access management (ensuring that people with the right roles get access to the right services) may well do – and the department in question could benefit from IT’s help here.

Finally, continual service improvement relies on service reporting to understand how the department is performing, and how it can improve. The metrics provided by the service management software will be of key importance here.

Throughout all of these stages in the service delivery process, having a liaison of some kind is crucial. A key element of a mature service delivery mechanism is the business relationship manager and their role as a facilitator, advocate and point of responsibility for services.

All the technology in the world can be deployed, but it will be for little effect if the services being pushed out into the business don’t meet the requirements of the people at the other end.

Selling service management to the rest of the business

That person may end up being the person whom the IT department approaches with this opportunity in the first place. Service management of this kind may well be something that the IT department has to sell to other business departments who aren’t yet aware of the possibilities.

For that to happen, the IT department has to have its own ITSM finely honed, so that it can lead by example. The ITSM system should offer some solid performance metrics that the IT team can take to other departments.

If it can show how service levels have risen, and how the cost of service has fallen, then it stands a better chance of persuading departmental managers that the software it has been using might benefit them, too.

It’s likely that this expansion into other departments will happen on a piecemeal basis, as the IT department convinces individual managers that they could benefit by adopting the same approach to service management.

The IT team will be a critical partner in all this, rolling out the infrastructural underpinnings to make this happen. One possible way to minimise the initial cost and complexity for the internal ‘client’ is to move to a cloud-based provider and slashing the capital cost.

It will be more than just an infrastructure provider, though – it will be a strategic partner for these departments, and it should think strategically about what its doing. By all means, serve specific departments on a project-by-project basis, but leave room for an aggregated service portal that could provide access to multiple departments as they come on board.

Thinking about the bigger picture – and about what automated service management might look like across the whole company – will help the IT department to reposition itself within the company.

Service management started in the engine room, which means that the IT department is now a leader in process improvement. That’s the kind of positioning that goes down well in senior management discussions. Who knows – it might even help IT to squeeze more budget out of the board next year. ®

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