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ITSM: The Tie That Binds

Level 10

Few relationships sail along without ever having to cross stormy seas. Even the best marriages need to batten down the hatches occasionally. A combination of genuine involvement, good communication, and various tools used by all involved is the best way to extend the time between encountering tempests. Business and professional relationships are no different.

Calming the Waters

The relationship between an IT department and the business it supports is one of provider and customer. A real relationship thrives when all participants are genuinely involved and prospers with good communication. Set up adequately and then maintained, IT Service Management (ITSM) is designed to create an environment where the relationship flourishes.

What Is ITSM?

The set of activities involved to plan, design, create, deliver, operate, and manage IT services for the business.

What Does This Mean?

Most people are familiar with the paradigm where IT systems management focuses on managing specific technology silos such as network, storage, and compute. Success is measured in uptime, availability, utilization, and how often the email inbox doesn’t get flooded. IT service management focuses on the processes to meet employee needs and business requirements. Success is measured by employee satisfaction and quality of experience. The processes for ITSM maintain a keen focus and a strong motivation for continuous improvement. An email or chat notification is an opportunity to jump into action and enhance the relationship.

Benefits of a Healthy Relationship

Great things can happen when IT is in a healthy relationship with the broader organization and employees. ITSM can deliver benefits for IT and the business.

Benefits Realized by IT:

  • A better understanding of business requirements
  • Well-defined processes
  • Proactive problem resolution
  • Improved tracking of repeat problems
  • Stats to measure and improve performance
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Happier employees

Benefits Realized by the Business:

  • Increased IT service availability translates to increased employee and business productivity
  • Increased value and cost-efficiency
  • Reduced risk as the business complies with industry regulations
  • Adoption of new IT technology at a quicker pace
  • Increased competitive advantage

One Size Does Not Fit All

An IT department can be set up in many ways, and a business can consume the services offered by IT in many ways. Because of these variables, there are myriad types of relationships between the business and IT. It only makes sense that there are multiple ITSM frameworks to choose from.

Some Common Frameworks:

  • Business Process Framework (eTOM)
  • Control Objectives for information and Related Technologies (COBIT)
  • FitSM
  • ISO/IEC 20000
  • ITIL
  • Lean
  • Six Sigma
  • The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)

Supporting the business and helping it achieve its goals is true north for any IT department. An ITSM framework should, therefore, be chosen with the business in mind and for business reasons. It’s possible to build your own by adopting the most relevant parts from some or all of the frameworks listed above. It’s also possible to incorporate homegrown processes into one of the well-known frameworks. This mixing and matching allow complete customization of the way IT offers its services.

What’s in a Framework?

The success or failure of any system can usually be traced back to people, processes, and tools; in order of importance. While the IT department supplies the people and the tools, the ITSM framework delivers on the processes. All processes are designed to shift the habits of IT from being operationally focused on systems to being employee-focused and service-oriented.There are conventional processes contained in each of the different frameworks. The broad categories for these processes are:

  • Service Desk
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Asset Management
  • Knowledge Management

The Core of ITSM

A core benefit of ITSM is how it can positively change the relationship between the business and IT. When IT takes on a more employee-focused and service-oriented approach to delivering its services, IT can transform from being viewed merely as a cost center to a trusted business partner. There will always be a need for IT to be tactical in certain situations. By adopting and being genuinely involved in ITSM processes, IT can spend more time being strategic. IT can be a business enabler.

27 Comments
Level 13

Thanks for the article

Level 14

Thanks for the article!

Level 13

Good post, thanks.  I always think of IT like an old BASF commercial that stuck with me.  We don't make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better.  There is literally no area of a modern business that IT doesn't touch, and if we're doing IT right, the organization benefits in a myriad of ways.  We're a force multiplier for the entire organization.

Level 16

Thanks for the write up.

Level 12

Kudos to you for taking on this topic that always sparks lots of opinions!

One of the most common critiques I hear about these frameworks is the layers of bureaucracy that are added. I wonder if you have any thoughts on how to implement these frameworks in an IT landscape that's moving ever faster and continually adopting methodologies like DevOps that are mean to strip away bureaucracy?

Thanks for the post

Level 12

Just to be clear, I think there is room for these frameworks in today's world, I just love to hear other peoples thoughts, opinions and what they see working.

I took the time to write about ITIL specifically a couple of years back now, for anyone wanting to dig a little deeper. ITIL – Virtual VT

Level 12

Bureaucracy is the bane of everyone's existence, with the obvious exception of bureaucrats. Unfortunately, if you stick with a small business as it grows into a big business you will see bureaucracy grow as fast as the business grows.

Level 16

I think that is why the cloud and outsourcing is so appealing to some companies.

Level 10

You're welcome.

Level 10

You're welcome.

Level 10

Thank you. I'm glad you liked it. I agree with you. If we do IT right, the organization and its customers all benefit.

Level 10

You're welcome.

Level 10

Thanks. It's not an easy subject to write about.

I try not to think about ITSM frameworks as bureaucracy. I see them as ways to provide consistency and accuracy to services that are already being delivered. If you have 10 people on your team, and they deliver the same set of services in 10 different ways, your department is just the wild, wild west. How do you onboard new employees? How does a team member fix an error in a teammate's work in a timely manner?

I think there are frameworks that can adapt as quickly as DevOps when employees see benefit from the framework and buy into it.

Level 10

I think bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy is a problem. I believe it is hard to manage what you don't measure. Implemented properly and customized to work for each team, I think an ITSM framework can provide value.

Level 10

Cloud and outsourcing still need to be measured and managed using a consistent framework or formula. Costs can increase while service decreases if any system is left unchecked.

Level 10

I just read it. Nice article.

MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article.

Level 12

In my experience, I've found outsourcing to actually increase bureaucracy as you're now managing the work and the relationship.

I think bureaucracy is indeed a reason why you see Shadow IT pop up. Cloud adoption being more of a result. Unfortunately that tactic doesn't address the fundamental problems that cause Shadow IT to begin with.

IT needs to do a better job talking with the business about what each of their needs are and how to jointly solve them. There are times where this isn't possible, but if the lines of communication are there, then at least the business users can understand the "why's" behind the bureaucracy.

Level 7

I'm wondering if a short description is available for the common frameworks above? For example, a small company might benefit more from one framework, and another might be better suited for a larger one. Maybe there is a link that points me to more details to determine which framework might be best suited for a company that is not currently implementing ITSM?

Level 10

You're welcome

Level 10

My research revealed that size really doesn't matter. Each of the frameworks can be customized to suit your particular business case. You can take some or all parts of 1 framework. You can mix and match multiple frameworks. You can customize any process from any framework to make it work for you and your business.

The key is knowing what your business requirements are. This knowledge will act as a compass to help you get your IT department to where it needs to be. If desired, these processes can stay acting as a simple compass if that's all that's required. On the other hand, they can also be fine-tuned to help develop a detailed roadmap.

Level 12

Good article, looking forward to more installments. Also very constructive comments, I appreciate when the 'story' continues and is enhanced.

Level 12

thanks for the post

Very nice post

I'll reinforce the point on choosing your path. There are many different flavours of 'Best Practice' for ITSM. Find the one that fits, but don't be afraid to use a hybrid approach or even change if you find your current ITSM practice isn't working for you.

Level 10

Thanks for reading. this post is 1 of 5. Hopefully you got the chance to read the others.

Level 10

You're welcome.

Level 10

Thank you, and thanks for the reinforcing comment.

About the Author
I’ve been in the Information Technology (IT) industry for over 20 years, with most of my roles revolving around computer networking in some form or another (i.e., design, architecture, implementation, support, and troubleshooting). Other positions I’ve held have been in sales, training, software development, desktop support and server administration. I’m currently self-employed and have been for more than half of my career.