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Your ITSM program on the second half of the chess board: Are you ready?

Your ITSM program needs to keep up with technology's extraordinary pace of change. Harvey Koeppel offers some pointers.

Information technology service management (ITSM) has certainly had its ups and downs. During the past 10 to 15 years, the segment grew in popularity as enterprises continued to focus upon cost savings, efficiencies, productivity and, ultimately, improved internal and external customer experience -- all admirable goals. The challenge for CIOs is that the ITSM program they deploy this morning cannot possibly meet the needs of ITSM this evening. Not unless, that is, their IT services are evolving at warp speed. Let's review.

Harvey KoeppelHarvey Koeppel

The key objectives of ITSM include the following:

  • Growth and value -- racking returns on IT investments and utilization
  • Budget adherence -- optimizing available IT budgets
  • Risk impact  -- monitoring, measuring and managing risks taken and avoided
  • Communication effectiveness --  monitoring, measuring and managing the customer understanding, utilization and satisfaction with IT services
ITIL service and support cycle
Figure 1. These are the five main areas of IT service and support addressed by the ITIL framework.

ITSM adoption often requires a transformation of the IT services model from one that is vertically focused on specific types of components (e.g., servers, networks, storage, etc.) to a more horizontally focused model that supports end-to-end higher level business processes (e.g., supply chain management, customer relationship management and loan servicing). [Source: SearchCIO, "ITSM (IT service management),"August 2006]

ITSM implementations are generally based upon industry-accepted best-practice frameworks such as the IT Infrastructure Services Library that address five main areas of IT service and support (shown in Figure 1).

Other best-practice frameworks that support ITSM include the following:

  • Microsoft Operations Framework
  • Framework for ICT Technical Support
  • ISO/IEC 20000 (previously BS15000)
  • Enhanced Telecom Operations Map (eTOM)
  • IBM Tivoli Unified Process (ITUP)

[Source: Wikipedia, "Information Technology Infrastructure Library"]

ITSM meets big data

In case these lists of objectives, domains, and somewhat complementary and somewhat competing frameworks are not encompassing enough, a Google search on the term "ITSM" yields about 3.8 million results.

Still not impressed? OK, consider that the objectives, domains and frameworks that support ITSM, by definition, are largely driven by the scope and complexity of the underlying technologies, capabilities and business processes being managed.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, then co-founder of Intel, published a paper in which he observed that the number of components contained within an integrated circuit had doubled every year since the IC was invented in 1958. Moore predicted that the trend would continue "for at least 10 years." Intel executive David House later extended Moore's observation and predicted that overall chip performance (a combination of the number of transistors and the speeds at which they operate) would double every 18 months. In fact, the trend has continued unabated for the past 55 years, and there is no clearly agreed-upon end in sight. Significantly, capacities of related electronic components such as processor and memory speed, data storage, and screen resolution (number of pixels) have expanded along the same trajectory.

No one would argue that the exponential (remember this word) expansion in the available power and performance, and the corresponding reduction in cost of these components, has enabled the design and delivery of increasingly more powerful and sophisticated commercial and consumer technologies. It is also obvious that these technologies have impacted and will continue to materially impact how we work and play and relate to each other on local and global levels.

For some perspective on what this really means, we need look no further than our pocket or pocket book at the smartphones we carry that have evolved from "What do I need that for?" to "How did I ever live without it?" at mind-numbing and ever-accelerating speed.

1974 Theodore G. Paraskevakos is granted a U.S. patent for an "apparatus for generating and transmitting digital information," considered by many to be the basis for the smartphone concept.
1994 IBM introduces the Simon Personal Communicator, one of the first generally available devices to combine a PDA and cell phone. The retail cost was $1,099.
1999 BlackBerry introduces the email device. It is essentially a two-way pager with email -- no cellphone. The retail cost was $399.
2000 Ericsson introduces the R380 mobile phone, and with it the term "smartphone" enters our mainstream vocabulary.
2007 Apple introduces the iPhone, which combines the cell phone with a mobile media center.
2008 Google introduces the Android OS.
2010 More Android devices are sold than Apple and Symbian combined.
2011 More than 491 million smartphones are sold worldwide.
2012 500 million Android devices are in use worldwide.
  • Five billion mobile phones are in use worldwide by 80% of the world's population. Almost 1.1 billion are smartphones. 
  • The number of smartphones in the U.S. is 91.4 million.
  • Eighty-nine percent of smartphone owners use their smartphone on any given day.
  • Smartphone users use their smartphones for much more than just making phone calls.

Table 1. The rise of the smartphone phone, from U.S. patent to global adoption.
[Source:, "Smartphone Past, Present and the Future"]

Computing on our smartphones
Figure 2. How 1.1 billion smartphone owners use their devices. [Source:, " Smartphone Users in the World "]

Now imagine the impact of all of this growth in volume and capability upon ITSM, and it's easy to see why many CIOs don't get much sleep. Now add other technologies to the plate, such as cloud, mobile computing, sensor-based technologies (the Internet of Things), social media, unstructured data, big data and cybersecurity, to name a few. It's now hard to see how CIOs get any sleep at all. And there is much, much more…

The second half of the chess board (big data meets bigger data)

Hopefully you followed instructions and remember the use of the term "exponential expansion" referenced above in connection with the description of the impact of Moore's Law.  For those of you who are too far removed from your 8th grade algebra lessons to remember specifically what that means, think about the cumulative effect over time of doubling performance every 18 months. Let's imagine, for example, that at the start of 1958, when the integrated circuit was invented, we had the equivalent of one unit of computing power.  Eighteen months later, by mid-1959, we would have had the equivalent of two units; by the end of 1960 we would have four units; by mid-1962 we would have eight units; and so on. In 2013, we are in the 36th 18-month cycle (remember this number) of exponential expansion.

Ray Kurzweil, noted innovator and futurist, helps us to visualize this overall effect in more down-to-earth terms. In his book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Viking Penguin Books, 1999), Kurzweil asks us to consider a chess board with 64 squares, where a single grain of rice is placed on the first square, two grains on the second, four grains on the third, and so on until all 64 squares have been covered with an exponentially expanding number of grains of rice.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil uses chess board, grains of rice to show accelerating expansion of compute power
Figure 3. The number and weight of rice grains analogous to the growth of compute power since 1958, if distributed on a 64-square chess board. [Source:Harvey Koeppel]

If you are adventurous enough to try this experiment at home and you have enough time, money and patience (and a large-enough home), Figure 3 shows what you would find out.

To put these numbers into an understandable perspective, consider the following:

  • The total amount of rice on the first half of the chess board (squares 1 to 32) is equal to approximately one-millionth of India's annual rice output.
  • The total amount of rice on the second half of the chess board (squares 33 to 64) is about 4.3 billion times the amount of rice on the first half.
  • The amount of rice on the 64th square alone is about 2.1 billion times the amount of rice on all the squares on the first half of the chess board.
  • The amount of rice on the entire chess board is about 1,000 times the world's entire output of rice in 2010 and would occupy a space larger than Mount Everest.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore...

Let's connect the dots. To expand upon our example of the smartphone evolution, here are a few more data points that bring us back in time to the origins of the telephone:

1876 Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1963 TouchTone replaces the rotary dial.
1970 Modular cords and jacks are introduced.
1973 The handheld cellular mobile phone is introduced.

[Source: Harvey Koeppel]

Clearly, many other things happened between 1876 and 1973. I have chosen just a few of the significant advances that illustrate progress made during the first 97 years of telephone technology development.

Now look back at the chart above that illustrates progress made during the 26-year period from 1974 through 2000, and look again at the progress made during the 13-year period from 2000 through 2013. The pattern is undeniable -- increasingly bigger changes within increasingly shorter periods of time.

I trust that you have, as instructed, remembered that in 2013, we are in the 36th 18-month cycle of the exponential expansion of technology performance -- clearly within the bounds of the second half of the chessboard (starting at square 33), where Ray Kurzweil shows us how rapidly and how dramatically things will advance.

'Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' -- Wayne Gretsky

Knowing what to do next is always a challenge, especially when the world around you is changing in unknowable and sometimes even unthinkable ways. I will leave you with some thoughts on how to adapt, sustain and mature your ITSM efforts in preparation for cycles 37 through 64:

  • Review your current ITSM capabilities and benchmark your ITSM maturity level. Here is an illustrative framework to serve as a starting point:
Maturity Level Description
1 - IT help desk tools

Incident problem inventory

Knowledge management and reporting

2 - IT service desk tools

Change management, self-service, service request management

Service-level agreement management

3 - Complete ITSM Service virtualization, release governance, social IT, mobility, analytics and Reporting

[Source: Frontrange/THINKstrategies, "The Impact of Cloud Technologies on ITSM," 2013]

  • Create an ITSM roadmap to increase your ITSM maturity level.
  • Socialize the criticality of ITSM across your organization and obtain high-level sponsorship and funding.
  • Partner with your internal customer community to ensure that your goals and objectives are aligned with theirs.
  • Partner with audit, risk management and compliance areas to ensure that your standards, policies, procedures, metrics and reporting meet internal and external requirements.
  • Partner with your chief information security officer to ensure that your ITSM tools and solutions are as well-protected as they can be.
  • Ensure that you have a good understanding of the TCO of your ITSM suite.
  • Remember that an effective ITSM program is a process and not a deliverable. Ensure that you have the right metrics and reporting in place to monitor and manage performance of critical functions, and continuously look for ways to improve the timeliness, quality and overall customer experience.

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

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