Is there a Future for IT Service Management?


This is an article intending to highlight some areas where IT Service Management will be a major cornerstone on the IT executives’ agenda and hence will need serious consideration for key projects and IT delivery to be successful.

 

Since the inception of formal IT Service Management and the creation of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) framework more than 30 years ago, we have seen numerous changes and ongoing developments to drive and improve good practice in IT Organisations. Despite this evolution, many would argue that the industry has remained quite static or indeed is even archaic; the mind-set of many of the leading IT Service Management experts hasn’t changed and ITIL has been increasingly dismissed due to its over robust, inflexible approach to meet customer demand and regular business change.


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In fact, despite the changing IT landscape, new technologies and growing proportion of service outsourcing, IT Service Management has a greater importance today than ever before. It isn’t the heavy, datacentre operations framework as adopted by many in the 1980s and 90s. Today, successful organisations select and adapt the key principles and embed high quality, manageable and repeatable policies, processes, and practices (together with skilled resources and suitable technology) that deliver services (and service levels) that the business requires in order to remain market competitive, if not market leading.

In this paper, I intend to highlight some areas where IT Service Management will be a major cornerstone on the IT executives’ agenda and hence will need serious consideration for key projects and IT delivery to be successful.

Renovating the IT Core (Re-investing in your critical systems)

We cannot deny that nearly all organisations were impacted by the global economic downturn. The level of investment in all business units declined heavily and IT’s decades of continued growth and investment came to a halt. Budgets were slashed and many companies barely kept the lights on! However, we can also recognise that this situation is unsustainable and that a recent growth in adopting new technologies is clearly not going to be nearly enough. Businesses and their operating models have changed dramatically, the end user is much more knowledgeable, and the demand for high quality services and exceptional customer service has placed new dimensions of pressure on IT.

The quality in which services are delivered and the governance of the IT environment upon which they are dependent, cannot be managed through technology alone. IT Service Management provides a model in which organisations can define fit-for-purpose (yet adaptable) processes and practices that help ensure the technology delivers effective automation in its services. By introducing a consistent, repeatable manner in delivering services, clear measures and reports can be introduced which will provide greater visibility and insight into performance. This results in appropriate continual improvements to meet changes in demand and to support new business products / markets. Renovating critical systems cannot be just about the technology but must include enhancing the services and the effectiveness in the way they are delivered.

Integrating DevOps and Agile Development

IT development and change in the operating environment seems to be a growing phenomenon as business demand becomes more insistent to meet rapid deployment of new or changed technologies for their customers. This practice, is more embedded in leading organisations.

In many instances, the ‘bimodal’ management of IT seems like a natural transition. A conscious action by IT executives to deliver more rapid yet smaller changes to the live environment, and for the business to accept higher risks for potentially larger gains, seems like a sensible move in today’s fast paced world.

However, we believe that neglecting core elements of a best practice framework such as ITIL, and in particular some of the Service Design and Service Transition processes, only serves to increase the risk of failure further down the service lifecycle. It seems counterintuitive to have a successful DevOps project without consideration of Service Level, Capacity, Continuity, Change or Knowledge Management processes. After all, at some point these will eventually reside in core IT!

We’re not suggesting that ITIL in its fullest form should govern the DevOps environment, BUT there should be recognition in the development lifecycle of the existing IT operations core practices with input to change and knowledge bases for ongoing support of the applications (see Fox IT’s article The IT Organisation is Changing – are the Core Principles and Key Objectives?). In addition, we are starting to see a degree of standardisation in DevOps tools where, as more competitors adopt them, it would neutralise any competitive advantage in design and service with time to market being the only possible differentiator!

Striking the right balance is essential – risk vs reward can be refined with ITSM consideration to mitigated risk vs long term value!

IT Service Management and DevOps Alignment

ITSM and DevOps alignment

Digitalisation of the Business

IT is doing much more than just managing core technology services to the end-user or its customers. IT is being engaged more often to deploy and support technologies that engage directly with the business’ end client. This has placed a greater degree of dependence, effort and pressure on IT and raised ever higher the importance of delivering the requisite levels of availability as well as providing flexible but effective support mechanisms.

Digitalisation goes beyond the World Wide Web and supplier integration – it is a tectonic shift in the way you or your market does business. It is thought that if your business has introduced a digital way of doing business it will be a market leader and if it has not, it will be a follower. Either way, in a more digitalised environment, the core principles of IT Service Management play an important role and integrates the people, processes and service across both IT and the business. Without this holistic service integration, IT will continue to be a commodity technology provider, competing with third party vendors and running the risk of having their services replaced.

In our paper Enabling IT Service Transformation in a Digital Age, we explore the benefits and the necessary steps the IT Organisation will take to move from being a traditional IT function through IT partnering with the business and achieving digitalisation. The journey will take them through defining and exhibiting a service culture as part of this evolution. IT Service Management frameworks can support this development to manage and govern in the same way the business engages and retains its clients!

Internet of Things

We are already witnessing a tremendous growth of device connectivity to the digital world. This is not just IT (servers, applications or monitoring tools) or our personal devices (PCs, tablets, phones and watches), but a growing number of everyday items, such as TVs, cars, fridges, biosensors, thermostats, etc., etc.!

This provides significant challenges to businesses with the exponential growth of assets in their portfolio.

  • What will be the boundary for IT in managing assets on their networks?
  • Will we start to see the convergence of asset management and associated monitoring tools and management processes?
  • How will IT and the business integrate corporate wide configuration items (CIs) and manage the Configuration Management System (CMS)?

I’m not sure many organisations have made much consideration of this just yet, but when buildings, sensors, transport and machinery and other ‘business infrastructure’ become IP enabled assets, translatable good practice service management principles will ensure a smoother integration!

Summary

The IT Organisation continues to evolve in its strategy, its structure and its role. Regardless of business and environmental changes, at the heart of its core functions and principles there should remain good management and governance of how it delivers its services to, or with, the business. This relies on sound policies, processes and defined services that are supported by knowledgeable and skilled people and well-configured automation and technology. IT Service Management is essential to the successful development and success of the IT Organisation by extracting the right elements of ITSM frameworks, and applying them to continuously deliver high quality good practice services.

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