Project management and IT Service Management (ITSM) are evolving and, as a result, are becoming more interlinked.
The reason for their entwinement is simple: it’s part of a move from ‘traditional’ project management approaches that focus on producing a deliverable to a more agile approach that acknowledges that services are created and continue to evolve through the lifecycle.
Historically, there have been some misconceptions around ITSM within senior IT management, with many stakeholders feeling that ‘it’s just for operations’. At the same time, traditional project-based thinking is very insular and focuses on creating deliverables, not necessarily long-term service value.
Now businesses and, critically, senior management, are beginning to realize that most of the money and value isn’t in creating project outputs, but in the use of the service through its life. The project itself isn’t the value proposition, it’s the service that it helps deliver. Previously, businesses have spent close to 100% of their management energy and time on 30% of the money (projects and their deliverables) but, fortunately, this is starting to change.
Thinking in terms of the service lifecycle
Awareness and understanding of the service lifecycle is emerging in organizations and has now entered the consciousness of senior management.
A service design approach forces the entire business to ask questions: do we have right scope and the right deliverables? How are we going to monitor this and what are the end-to-end metrics? How is this service specifically delivering value and supporting the outcomes the business needs? How do we build a platform not only to instantiate the service, but to prepare for the hundreds or thousands of changes to the service that will be needed to sustain value in the long run? Organizations need to get to this total cost of ownership view of the world so they can ensure they are making more informed and strategic decisions about service investments and commitments.
The challenges of evolution
While this approach makes a lot of sense, unfortunately thinking in terms of a true end-to-end service design is still somewhat revolutionary and, conceptually, in its infancy. Most organizations are very comfortable with application design, or infrastructure design, but struggle to work collaboratively to build truly end-to-end service-oriented designs. One of the barriers to its adoption is the challenge of embedding this holistic way of thinking within a business and an organization’s culture.
Within many businesses different teams, roles and activities are at odds: whether that’s operations versus development, or projects versus day-to-day. I often find that shortcuts made in design are most felt in operations, which isn’t good for the customer and further widens the organizational divide.
When I explain this approach to my students I tell them that what they’re deploying is going to change: no matter if it’s perfect for right now, it will change in practice. Instead, what they are actually deploying is a platform for change.
Where to begin
So for businesses wanting to transition to a more service-led approach where should they start?
Fundamentally, it begins with exploring total cost and total value and changing how IT investment is considered within the organization. Many firms focus on the return on a specific investment rather than the true return (and cost) over the lifecycle; as an industry, we need to start having more meaningful conversations about costs and benefits.
To achieve this new perspective, professionals should consider best practice guidance like PRINCE2® and ITIL®. With PRINCE2, for instance, the guidance gives users structure and a method that helps them standardize and consider the business case and value of a project from end-to-end. With ITIL, the guidance encourages a shift in focus and conversation away from technology to service and customer outcome-centred approaches to thinking.
When poorly understood IT is considered a utility and, with that viewpoint, the goal is often lowest price. When IT is viewed as an enabler, the decisions made are very different, with a focus on value optimization and real potential for competitive advantage.
By embedding new principles and thinking – and incorporating the service-based principles of ITSM alongside traditional project management techniques – our industry can get to a point where investments and change are evaluated on genuine long-term value.
See our ITIL and PRINCE2 sections for more information.
Read Patrick's previous blog for AXELOS, PRINCE2® and PMBOK® – a meeting of project management minds?.