by Doug Tedder
Date Published March 3, 2020 - Last Updated September 2, 2020

On the closing morning of the 2019 Service Management World conference in Orlando, I was privileged to share the main stage with Julie Mohr and John Custy to answer the question, “What is next for service management—what do you predict will happen in 2020?”

If memory serves me, John answered that 2020 would bring a renewed emphasis on the importance of people. Julie answered that technology, such as automation and use of AI-related technologies, would expand greatly. (John and Julie, if I’ve “misremembered,” please let me know!) Both answers were great!

My answer?

“That organizations will realize that service management is not about IT.”

Yep. That’s my prediction. My prediction (hope) for 2020 is that organizations will realize that service management is not about IT.

Why Many ITSM Implementations Have Struggled

The reason why many ITSM implementations have struggled is that those organizations made ITSM about IT.

Wait a minute. ITSM, or IT Service Management, is not for IT?

I came to this epiphany a few years ago, when I recognized a pattern with struggling ITSM implementations. Here are some of the common themes of those struggling implementations:

  • ITSM implementation was too focused on just IT…or worse, too focused on only IT operations.
  • ITSM implementation was treated as an IT project and not a business initiative.
  • ITSM adoption was looked at as a “one-and-done” activity, rather than an ongoing, continually evolving system.
  • The IT organizations adopting ITSM never associated what IT did with business outcomes or value. Instead, they often measured and reported things like uptime (a meaningless metric) or the number of calls to a service desk. In other words, measures and reports that have little to no relevance to anyone outside of the IT organization.

In other words, the ITSM implementation was not about service management at all. It was about operations management, or process implementation, or the implementation of a tool.

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What Is Service Management?

Service management is a set of organizational capabilities for delivering value in the form of services. A service is a means of co-creating value by facilitating outcomes that customers want, without the customer having to own specific costs and risks associated with those outcomes. And while ITSM is defined as service management based upon the use of people, process, and technology, the fact is that ITSM has never been about IT.

It is about services and value. It is about how your company leverages its service management capabilities to deliver valuable services to its customers. And that’s where many ITSM implementations have struggled, if not gone off the rails completely.

ITSM Often Stops …with IT

The fact is that ITSM has never been about IT. But many organizations make ITSM all about IT.

To many organizations, ITSM is only about managing outages or interruptions to IT systems. To many organizations, ITSM is about a weekly meeting to discuss changes to the computing infrastructure, by people that have little qualification or authority to discuss and approve such changes. To many organizations, ITSM is about pulling together a group of individuals, sitting them down in front of computer screens and telephones, calling that group of people a “service desk”, then asking everyone else to call that service desk with any IT-related issue or question. To many organizations, ITSM is about establishing a portal through which consumers of technology can register requests for the IT organization to fulfill.

And while I would agree that, while these things are important, these things are only a small part of what service management really ought to be for these organizations. Because focusing only on minimizing the impact of outages and interruptions, implementing changes to IT systems, fulfilling requests, and staffing service desks do not address the elephant in the room. It does not address the question that every CEO has about the use of IT.

“How does what IT does create or enable business value?”

To answer this question correctly means that ITSM must be about the business, and not IT.

What Does Your Business Do?

No, really. What does your business do?

To be successful, ITSM implementation can’t just be about standing up a self-service portal or routing a ticket within the organization. ITSM must be about how the use of technology enables or creates value for the business. And the only way to understand how value is enabled or created through the use of technology is to first understand what your business does.

So, if your business is higher education, of course your business is about teaching students. But it is also likely that your business is also about conducting research, fundraising, and managing and dispersing student aid. Manufacturing organizations produce widgets, but also receive and manage raw materials, ship finished goods, and manage assembly lines. Retail businesses sell merchandise, but also manage warehouses and inventory, manage websites, and lease or build buildings for their stores. All businesses do things like payroll, accounting, marketing, talent management, strategy, and planning and manage business operations.

But regardless of the business of your business, your business relies on technology to make the business go. This means that the most important ITSM question that you must be able to answer is “How does our ITSM implementation help our business do business?”

Is Your ITSM Just About IT?

If you’re doing ITSM only for ITSM’s sake, then your ITSM implementation isn’t delivering on its full potential to your business. Here are three things that you must do to help make ITSM about your business:

  • Define Your Value Stream Maps. A value stream map depicts the sequence of activities to bring a product or service from concept to customer (from the book Lean IT, Bell and Orzen, 2010). Value stream maps help organizations visualize work and how information, materials, and work flow through an organization. Value stream maps can also be useful for identifying where technology is used to facilitate those flows to the customer. Once a value stream map is defined and agreed, ask “Does our ITSM implementation enable flow?” 
  • Go to the Gemba. Gemba is a Japanese word that means “the real place.” In Lean, a Gemba Walk is a visit to where work is being done, to allow participants to observe the actual work process, engage with those doing the work, gain knowledge of the work process (including how technology either enables or in some cases, inhibits, the work process), and identify improvements. After the Gemba Walk, ask “How does our ITSM implementation help those that do the work get work done?”
  • Define IT Services in Terms of Business Value and Outcomes. Many organizations have done themselves a disservice by defining services in terms of things or activities. Frankly, defining services in such a way only commoditizes what IT does—and a commodity can be obtained from anywhere. Rather, define services in terms of business value and business outcomes. Once you’ve defined services, invite your business colleagues to review the definitions, and ask “Do you recognize what is being described?” and “Do these definitions accurately describe the business outcomes and value delivered by these services?”

If your ITSM implementation is all about IT, it’s time to reorient your thinking. ITSM is not (and has never been) just about workflows and escalations and tickets and knowledge articles, but how the use of technology enables business value and outcomes. Make ITSM about your business and not about IT and you’ll have ITSM success.

If your ITSM implementation is all about IT, it’s time to reorient your thinking.
Tweet: If your ITSM implementation is all about IT, it’s time to reorient your thinking. @dougtedder @ThinkHDI #ITSM #servicemanagement

Doug Tedder is the principal of Tedder Consulting, a service management and IT governance consultancy. Doug is a recognized thought leader whose passion is helping and inspiring good IT organizations to become great. Doug is an author, blogger, and frequent speaker and contributor at local industry user group meetings, webinars, and national conventions. Doug holds numerous industry certifications in disciplines ranging from ITIL®, COBIT®, Lean IT, DevOps, KCS, VeriSM, and Organizational Change Management. He was recognized as an IT Industry Legend by Cherwell Software in 2016, and is one of HDI’s Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management. He is a member and former president of itSMF USA, a member of HDI, a contributing author to VeriSM, and co-author of the VeriSM Pocket Guide. Follow Doug on Twitter @dougtedder or visit his website.

Tag(s): supportworld, service management, practices and processes, ITSM, business value


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