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ITSM: what's in it for the business?

ITSM: What's in it for the business?

Phil Hearsum encourages ITSM professionals to celebrate success at every opportunity.


Even when the work of IT service management professionals is a success, they can be their own worst enemies when telling the rest of the world about it.

It might be in the nature of service management to simply get on with the job and not shout about it, but it’s important to celebrate success and demonstrate to the rest of an organisation what’s in it for them. Not only is service management about fixing IT problems, it is about applying best practice to support the introduction of new capabilities to the business. 

However, ITSM professionals often don’t explain to the organisation what they are doing or why a particular process or activity is required. To enable others to understand and buy into these processes, it might take examples of how ITSM is providing benefits to the individual and the wider organisation.


What does success look like for ITSM professionals?


In its most elemental form, success is about making a positive difference to the business in the way things are done; you need to understand what the business does, its needs, its constraints and how to improve the service it gets.

Communicating more effectively with customers means helping them understand what’s happening and what the results are. This includes explaining and forecasting upcoming events such as planned maintenance. However it is also about showing how faster incident resolution, taking a proactive approach to problem management and working towards continuous service improvement will assist users in their day to day job; how logging your call into the service desk’s incident management process feeds into recognising trends and recurring incidents, prompting the creation of effective workarounds to fix major problems in the short to medium term and sharing these benefits throughout the organisation.

All of the above benefits the organisation, but too often the IT team sits – both metaphorically and physically – in a darkened room, quietly doing the work while the rest of the business takes the benefits but remains unaware who is responsible for the solutions.


What does ITSM mean for the business?


The business wants a seamless, uninterrupted, on-demand IT service, in the same way that it wants an electricity and water supply. Therefore – whether recognising it or not – the business needs the service management approach.

Despite what might seem, at first sight, bureaucratic ITIL best practice methods, real business benefits can be demonstrated. But it’s vitally important to emphasise the partnership approach: it’s because the business has cooperated with the ITIL processes adopted by the ITSM team that a positive result and an improved service are achieved.

And though ITIL is designed for IT service management, it is moving into other areas such as enterprise service management. The service desk is, in some instances, becoming a single point of contact for other business areas as well as IT. When done well, it brings best practice to any environment which needs the combination of processes and communication. 

Naturally, as ITSM matures, the business may begin to understand the spread of benefits that are available and possible across the whole IT infrastructure. At that point ITSM has shifted from being a commodity to a real asset. But that doesn’t reduce the need to celebrate ITSM successes in the organisation.


What are the typical barriers to ITSM celebrating success?


While ITSM may try to meld with the business, it can at times persist with the IT mentality of fixing problems ‘under cover of night’ without demonstrating value. This, paradoxically, is often most visible when organisations are starting to implement service management; the time when they should be striving to take the business with them by showing the value that service management can deliver.  

Service management is underpinned with processes, but it’s also about the softer skills: discussion, building trust and relationships. That is where ITSM can fail if it introduces ITIL processes without the cultural change of taking the business on the journey too.

How can the business understand better the value of ITSM?


There’s no escaping it: helping the business understand ITSM value is about providing the value and showing the business how you provide it; this doesn’t require bunting and banners but explanation. It means reaching out and bringing users with you and – as with any change in perception and attitude – winning the hearts and minds of the people.

Simply, ITSM must communicate more and position itself as a value provider rather than a cost. Having a committed IT team that understands customer service and service management is essential in explaining value to the business. Having people understand how the partnership with IT works, what is expected from them and how that delivers value to them is also vital. If people at all levels in the business understand these things they are more likely to support and help you. This appreciation ranges from one person calling to log an issue through to having a non-IT ally among the senior management team who understands the value of your work and will help to build the momentum of showing value.

So, make the time and effort to celebrate your successes; find quick wins and publicise them. The power of introducing regular communication about what you’ve achieved should not be underestimated, especially in the less mature ITSM organisation where, frankly, ITSM needs all the help it can get!


Phil Hearsum is ITSM Portfolio Manager at AXELOS.

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