Is Your Organization Delivering ‘Real’ Service Management – Or Just Lip Service?

by Doug Tedder
Date Published June 3, 2024 - Last Updated June 13, 2024

When it comes to IT service management, is your organization delivering real service management…or just “lip service”?

Here’s a few examples of service management “lip service.

Many organizations claim to have service level agreements (SLA)According to ITIL® 4i , an SLA isa documented agreement between a service provider and a customer that identifies both services required and the expected level of service. Furthermore, ITILii suggests that an SLA is agreed in the wider business context and relates to business outcomes. 

But many organizations only pay “lip service” to SLAs. When asked, they will say that they have SLAs. But what are being called SLAs are parameters related to IT performance targets used for configuring the ITSM toolEven worse, these targets are determined with no input from non-IT colleagues. There is nothing documented. There are no customer signoffs. In other words, these organizations really don’t have SLAs; they have self-determined operational performance targets.

Here's another example of service management “lip service” – continual improvement. Many organizations will talk about their commitment to continual improvement. An effective approach to continual improvement reduces friction associated with IT-provided products and services and improves consumer satisfaction.

But when taking a deeper dive into continual improvement at many organizations, it is a vastly different story. There is no budget allocated for continual improvement, much less regularly allocated time for continual improvement activities. No one has been named to lead or coordinate improvement efforts. There is no formally documented and maintained continual improvement register. 

How about one more example of service management “lip service”the service catalog. Lots of organizations claim to have defined their “services” in a service catalog, which is accessible via a portal found within their ITSM tool. To be clear, defining a service request catalog and instantiating it within a service portal can be a good thing for consumers.

But what a service portal contains are the descriptions of devices provided and supported by IT, service actions that the service desk can perform for a consumer, and the means to request access to IT-managed resources – in other words, service requests. And while managing these types of service requests are important aspects of service delivery, they are not services.

A service catalog describes services in terms of business outcomes (what business process / objective / strategy is enabled or delivered) and business value (the worth or importance of the service). But because these organizations do not have a “real” service catalog, one impact is that IT is unable to provide metrics and reports that are relevant to the rest of the organization. 

The impact of lip service” service management 

When organizations only pay “lip service” to service management, not only does it impact the effectiveness of the service desk, but it also damages IT in several ways.

  • IT – especially IT operations or the service desk – becomes commoditized: The products and services internally provided by IT have not been differentiated from what is readily available on the market.
  • IT actions are not aligned with business needs: Believe it or not, business-IT alignment is still a “thing” with many organizations– and an on-going source of frustration for non-IT colleagues across all levels of an organization. 
  • IT is left out of strategic and tactical business discussions and planning: Good service management enables IT to earn that seat at the business strategy table. But “lip service” service management only invites criticism of the IT organization. IT is perceived as a reactive, rather than proactive, organization because it is unable to illustrate the business value and business results delivered by its products and services. To the rest of the organization, IT is a “cost center” and not a “value enabler.”

Change from “lip service” to real service

Many of you reading this article may be thinking “but wait- I’m at the service desk. What can I even do about this?"  The answer is “a lot."

I’ve discussed the unique position and value of the service desk before.  The service desk is the only part of the IT organization that has the data from all interactions with consumers of IT products and services. The service desk is sitting on a “gold mine” of data. Leverage that gold mine of data to begin to transform your service management approach from “lip service” to “real service”.  Here are a couple of suggestions.

  • Conduct a Pareto analysis  A pareto analysis is used to identify the critical “80%” of the issues that result from “20%” of the causes. Applying a pareto analysis to the contacts with the service desk provides data to determine what are the top issues that consumers contact the service deskin other words,  continual improvement opportunitiesBut don’t just report the results of the pareto analysis – also provide the narrative that describes how these “20%” of the causes impact the business of the business. 
  • Attack FCR -FCR, or first contact resolution, is a measure of the percentage of consumer contacts that are resolved during a single contact. Many service desks look at FCR as a measure of effectiveness (I don’t fully agree with this position). FCR should also be viewed as an indicator of continual improvement opportunities from the consumer perspective. Rather than have a consumer contact the service desk to resolve some (easy) issue, use FCR as an indicator and justification for continual improvement. Permanently addressing the underlying cause of these issues removes needless friction that the consumer has with interactions with IT products and services and improves the consumer experience.

Evolving from “lip service” management to true service management requires a data-driven and holistic approach, with clearly defined, business-oriented goals and objectives. But every journey starts with a few small steps. Using the two suggestions above, along with persistence, will provide great first steps for moving toward true service management. 


Tag(s): supportworld, support models, service design, service catalog, service level agreement, service level, service strategy, service management


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