Why is IT and - consequently ITSM - under pressures that can pull it in two different directions?
Leading research company, Gartner, calls it "bimodal IT" and depicts it as “rocks in a river”: solid IT operational excellence standing against the fast-moving flow of digital.
And as Gartner has asserted, “in digital business, IT leaders must be part-solid and part-fluid to succeed”.
Businesses are now demanding that IT does things simply and quickly, using new tools and techniques to be responsive and hasten new products to market while, simultaneously, managing, controlling and protecting their estate.
But within the world of bimodal IT, we have ended up with (what I call) 'two-speed ITSM'. This is about the challenge of IT service management (ITSM) trying to modernize, innovate and be more responsive while still getting ITSM professionals to do the basics well.
The perception of ITSM is also an issue: even people working in IT tend to think about ITSM as being only service and support; in fact, it’s much more about service and value than just help or break/fix.
But beyond the IT/ITSM divide, the more critical problem is what the customers think: end user comments suggest that IT organizations are seen as difficult to deal with, looking at things from a technical rather than customer perspective. The component parts of IT, including networks, applications, servers and PCs are not important without the context of what they can deliver to the user.
ITSM and business priorities
For a business to get what it needs from IT and ITSM, it needs to get to the core of what its priorities are.
ITSM forces an organization to challenge its priorities and define more exactly the services it requires. That also entails an understanding of how well IT/ITSM is set up to manage those services. With so many demands, it’s unlikely that any internal IT organization can handle it alone and two-speed ITSM happens when it tries to retain control of everything, rather than concentrating on areas where it can deliver real value.
Part of this means addressing the skills of the people involved. Focusing only on the technical elements is a last-century approach; delivering IT and ITSM in the round now requires commercial, financial and contractual nous as well as excellent communications and relationship management.
Grasping the problem
IT/ITSM need to make the business case for good service management and proper leadership from those who can see where the issues lie.
This involves understanding the level of maturity and risk assessment in the organization to get a clear picture of where the gaps are and what needs to change. Usually this will result in some sort of change in the sourcing of IT - potentially outsourcing or delegating areas that are commodities which can be managed discretely, whilst also focusing on areas of IT that add value and quality to customers.
Ultimately, it means engaging with the C-level decision makers who are running - or are recipients of - IT. Certainly, everybody has a responsibility but at some point the CIO needs to grasp it at the executive level and make sure the business case is supported.
What are the vital steps to take?
- Engage with the business in order to understand its requirements. IT can’t do that alone; it needs collaboration in order to be clear on business needs. In short - engage, define, review.
- Do an audit/benchmark of where the organization is and identify the potential issues across IT and ITSM.
- Consider the best sourcing option, which is probably a combination of in-house and outsourcing. The current ‘SIAM’ (Service Integration and Management) models are also interesting here.
- Define clearly the services and associated value to be delivered by IT: agreeing some common definitions of services and the outcomes they are expected to deliver will provide the framework for effective collaboration.
The ideal outcome
Tackling two-speed IT is about achieving relevance, success and proving the value of IT within an organization, which comes down to understanding your customers, identifying priorities and risk and ensuring you’re delivering the right things.
At the moment, the focus is on doing things quickly, therefore, engaging with the business, having a benchmark and engaging the C-level to make things happen are critical.
Excellent IT service management supports all of the above. This can succeed only with an organizational change programme to make sure it actually happens, rather than just training that is just ticking a box.
The change programme doesn’t need to be massive and onerous - these can be quick and effective using some of the ‘new’ techniques like agile and DevOps - so the opportunity is there to meet the two-speed challenge with two-speed (‘traditional and new’) thinking.
Read Barclay Rae's previous AXELOS Blog post, What should IT Leaders be focusing on in 2015?