Martin Atherton, originally published on The Register
In its broadest sense, service management goes beyond IT service management and looks to influence many of the processes which underpin the activities a business engages in. Previously, we asked how you thought service management had changed in your organisation in recent years. Let’s dig around a bit further.
One of the major differences between ‘traditional IT’ and ‘service management’ is in how things need to be communicated to the business. Feed and speed data won’t cut it anymore. We have found that few organisations have established service level agreements in business terms. IT performance is formally reported in around one in three organisations but when it comes to measuring and reporting on IT’s contribution to overall business goals the number of organisations with formal reporting processes in place drops to only one in five or even lower.
This idea may well be a case of putting the cart before the horse for many organisations today but there is a serious point to consider: Until IT undertakes to report on its contribution to the business it will find it hard to have meaningful conversations about how further IT investment can help.
There are tools available now that can help IT measure and report on such topics as the contribution to the bottom line, overall business goals and even on business value generation. All require a sound and well monitored IT infrastructure – something we know most IT shops have been working towards for the last decade. But most importantly, they require contextual input from the business about how its processes work and the role IT systems play therein.
So the way IT’s contribution is measured and articulated needs to change; but that’s not all. Until now the tools available to help with service management have mostly focused purely on IT services. However, in most organisations, business involves delivering services which might be underpinned by some IT-provided services but also other elements such as interactions between people and / or the use of other systems and assets. ‘Real’ service management must be able to combine the IT elements with all other components that form the complete process, and this takes us back to the idea of joining up the two separate service management ‘worlds’.
This idea presents what for many IT operations is perhaps a far greater challenge than any technical one. The traditional way that IT has operated has been with with limited “contact” with business managers. Yet the benefits to the business offered by a more holistic approach to service management depend on overcoming such established limited communication. This will not be achieved directly from establishing and formally reporting on IT service usage in business terms but in establishing ongoing, two way communications channels between business and IT professionals at a variety of levels. This means cultural changes, on both sides.