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Three bad mistakes that will sabotage your ITSM program

ITSM needs to serve the business, not obsess over IT metrics. Here are characteristics that will stop your ITSM program dead in its tracks.

Part one of this two-part story focused on the CIO challenges of building an IT Service Management (ITSM) program with limited resources and in the face of new technologies, such as cloud, mobile and social networking. Here, Gartner Inc.'s research director Jeffrey Brooks illuminates three mistakes that undermine even the most well-funded ITSM initiatives.

Jeffrey BrooksJeffrey Brooks

IT departments with immature ITSM programs frequently exhibit three characteristics, according to Brooks:

  • Training programs that fail to measure the effectiveness of IT training;
  • Hero cultures that reward a "save the day" mentality; and
  • Metrics that focus on IT performance rather than on business impact.

While many organizations spend plenty of money on IT training, only a minority of Gartner's clients measure whether the training has brought any benefit to the company. Hero cultures also miss the point. "We continue to reward people for saving the day. But we don't ask the question why the day needed to be saved," Brooks said. "Maybe we should be yelling at the guy instead of rewarding him, because he created the issue by not doing what he was supposed to do."

It's not about the downtime or uptime but about lost business. No more IT for IT's sake.

Jeffrey Brooks,
research director, Gartner Inc

At Wellesley College, the hero mentality was a big impetus for creating an IT service catalogue, said CIO Ganesan "Ravi" Ravishankar. At academic institutions, where resources are scarce and people tend to stay in jobs a long time, the reliance on certain individuals for certain jobs "is huge," he said. "We end up having people who know about a particular service or component of IT service and only they know. They go on vacation and we have to call upon them if it doesn't work."

After working out a matrix for primary and secondary support for IT services, "it was glaring" how many did not have a reliable secondary support person, Ravishankar said. Until recently, for example, only one person knew how to troubleshoot the back-end systems for Google Apps for Education, a major service. Still, persuading staff that sharing information about their jobs and taking on responsibility for other jobs would ultimately be a good thing took some explaining. "The first defensive reaction is: Is it going to make my life harder?" he said. Developing the service catalog has also brought more focus to which services are most important to the college. "It's all about prioritization."

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Indeed, probably the single biggest hurdle to effective ITSM, in Brooks' view, is the persistence of many IT organizations to focus on IT performance rather than on the effect of that performance on the business, or on what Gartner calls below-the-line as opposed to above-the-line metrics. "The business doesn't care about the number of incidents closed or the number of change requests processed. They care about whether that change request resulted in any downtime for them," he said. The five 9s of uptime touted by IT is irrelevant if, for example, the approximately 5.6 minutes of downtime meant the company failed to ship x number of units and missed its quarterly earnings.

"It's not about the downtime or uptime but about lost business," Brooks said. "No more IT for IT's sake."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, executive editor.

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Which ITSM mistake are you guilty of making?