It's time to mothball traditional ITSM approaches

Traditional IT services management tactics belong in museums, not in forward-looking IT departments. IT strategist Harvey Koeppel explains why.

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IT services are being outsourced to the cloud and beyond. IT departments are being de-centralized and distributed and, in many companies, IT resources are being acquired, implemented and managed by departments outside of, and often out of sight of, the IT department. Bring your own device (BYOD) is being replaced by buy your own apps (BYOA). Listen up Dorothy, the information technology service management (ITSM) times, they are really changing.

IT services management has traditionally been defined as the body of disciplines -- methodologies, procedures, tools, etc. -- enacted by technology and operations areas that enable the delivery of IT services in a business-aligned, operationally-controlled and cost-effective manner.

IT departments must now be equal partners in ensuring the quality of the end-to-end customer experience and value proposition.

Sometimes "traditional" is a good thing -- enjoying that great bottle of champagne with the gold-crested label on New Year's Eve, or wearing those lucky socks when you hammered that high-inside fastball over left field fence that cinched the championship in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh playoff game. There certainly is a level of comfort in doing it the way you've always done it -- it's predictable, it generally works reasonably well -- it's safe. And it usually passes audits.

But we are living in a time that is anything but predictable. Where what worked last year may be obsolete this year, and given escalations in cybercrime, new demands for information security and data privacy, big data, real-time analytics, cloud, SaaS, and the ubiquity of mobile everything, safety has become, at best, a temporary condition that requires continuous proactive hyper-vigilance. In this environment, "traditional" has a place only in museums, not in forward-looking IT departments.

To remain business-aligned, operationally controlled and cost-effective, IT services management needs to evolve to keep pace or -- forgive my audaciousness -- get out in front of the ever-increasing pace of technological change.

"My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."
-- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Queen of Hearts

It's now, more than ever, all about the customer …

Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell Computers, made the Customer-1 list of 99 Legendary Customer Service Quotes a couple of years ago to advance the notion that "The customer experience is the next competitive battleground." More than likely, Gregoire was talking about how Dell supported and serviced its external customers, although with self-service rapidly becoming the channel of choice, Gregoire's remarks are just as relevant to how today's IT and operations areas must think about their internal customers as well. App Stores -- internal and external -- that provision mobile devices are rapidly replacing "standard" desktop images and service catalogs. "Integration" is rapidly replacing "Information" within the traditional hallways of ITSM. The consumerization of IT is already and will continue to drive internal customer expectations to be more and more similar to the personal consumer customer service experience.

Consider cost and focus on business value …

Cost of service delivery will always be a key driver to be reckoned with. But if you focus on cost alone you might as well be standing in the train station when your plane lifts off the runway. CIOs and their ITSM departments need to focus on enabling their internal and external business partners and the revenue opportunities associated with more effectively supporting additional mobile devices, new cloud applications or new identity management technologies, to name a few. Factors such as acquiring new customers, satisfying, retaining and expanding existing customer relationships have moved well beyond being concerns of marketing and sales. IT departments must now be equal partners in ensuring the quality of the end-to-end customer experience and value proposition. Budgets and business cases must now be developed collaboratively with internal and external partners to ensure that IT has a full understanding of the business value potential of every initiative. Similarly, business partners must have a full understanding of the return on their IT investments. Understanding the needs of and being able to build and grow successful relationships with this expanded set of stakeholders will be more and more critical to the success of every service management organization.

Build bench strength and skill sets for a brave new world …

As new technologies and the business opportunities that they enable expand geometrically at an ever-increasing pace, the team that brought you the championship trophy even two-to-three years ago will increasingly need to acquire and build players with new skills.

More columns by
Harvey Koeppel

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The very nature of what needs to be provisioned, supported and controlled has changed. BYOD has in many cases eliminated that enterprise's ability to dictate what devices connect to their network. Now, the enterprise must develop new levels of control around what those devices can and cannot do when they are connected. New understanding and skills around network access and identity management are of more critical importance than ever before.

As more and more applications are migrated to the cloud -- with or without the involvement of the IT department -- a new level of application and data integration skills are required to ensure that private, hybrid and public cloud applications can seamlessly integrate with each other, often in real-time, while continuing to connect to legacy environments that were implemented at a time when the existence of multiple clouds meant that it was probably going to rain that day.

To bring all of this together in a business-aligned, operationally- controlled and cost-effective manner -- note that in the midst of all this change, the base definition of ITSM persists -- service management staff will need to become relationship managers. The new team must understand the end-to-end needs of their internal and external partners, proactively lead their organizations through the entire life cycle of product and project development that leverage capabilities and economies of these new and future technologies and, most importantly, become the leaders and agents of change.

Let me know what you think. Post a comment or drop me a note at hrkoeppel@aol.com. Discuss, debate or even argue -- let's continue the conversation.

This was first published in May 2014

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