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Uniting ITSM, PPM process methodologies yields IT management benefits

ITSM and PPM are typically separate disciplines, but integrating them can increase visibility, help with budgeting and more. Learn more about this dynamic duo.

IT service management (ITSM) and project and portfolio management (PPM) usually speak different languages and adhere to separate procedures. But some organizations are integrating their PPM and ITSM process methodologies to more effectively utilize constrained IT resources and show that IT investments are paying off.

Project and portfolio management pulls together the information needed to select, manage and track new IT projects; ITSM aims to align IT service delivery with the needs of the business. Used together, the two frameworks and the systems supporting them provide greater transparency into the inner workings of IT, encompassing both strategic IT projects and day-to-day IT service requests.

PPM and ITSM process methodologies are converging organically at IT shops, said Brian Turner, chief service delivery officer at Seattle consultancy Point B.

"Organizations are seeking out more efficient operational procedures as they position themselves to be more agile," Turner said. "Everyone is looking to provide better service at a better cost, and integration plays a role there."

A single integrated look at the resources, projects, commitments and day-to-day support tasks can increase IT efficiency and effectiveness, whether through governance or software tools.

"The more holistic approach of putting ITSM and PPM under a common governance structure with common controls provides a set of indicators to relate them to," said Matt Light, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "This provides a clearly defined workflow across IT and could eliminate ad hoc responses [to service requests]." Instead, IT is able to expose root problems rather than just fight fires.

CIO Avery Cloud was able to refute a vendor claim using information from his integrated ITSM/PPM system.

Avery Cloud, CIO and vice president of New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC), has integrated his ITSM and PPM disciplines for North Carolina's ninth-largest health care network. He said he has a list of such instances where his IT department was able to identify the root cause of an IT problem before exhausting already constrained resources.

For example, "When we got an urgent request saying a system was failing on the clinician side for no apparent reason, our vendor was quick to say it was 'related to our network' -- the quintessential dodge," Cloud said.

But Cloud used detailed information and change management documentation contained in his system, which involves two tools from Compuware Corp. that now manage, track and coordinate 90% of the day-to-day activities at NHRMC, to prove that it was not an internal error. This forced the vendor to dig deeper into the situation. "Turns out it was an issue on their end and they had to send out a worldwide patch to rectify it," Cloud said.

From the budgeting perspective, the integration of the two process methodologies provides a clear view into both sides of IT -- the strategic (project planning and spend justification) and operational (resource allocation and ongoing business support).

With PPM and ITSM working side by side, "a CIO can start making the budgeting tradeoffs between ongoing IT operational spend and developmental strategic spend," said Craig Symons, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "This gives them a much better idea of what to maintain, where to invest and what to cut."

If the frameworks really are such a dynamic duo, why aren't they more widely adopted together? Because it is a lot of work, Symons said. "Many organizations haven't made investments in these areas over the years because they tend to be more ad hoc, reacting to issues to problems," he said. "Trying to find the bandwidth, the people, the resources, the dollars to do it at this point is a big undertaking."

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