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9 September 2009 | Ian Clayton Blog
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The IT 'IT' Factor
ITP is pleased to welcome Ian Clayton; many of you in the IT industry will already know Ian who is highly regarded as an authority on ITIL/ITSM practices. Ian will be bringing to you his thoughts and insights every Wednesday and would welcome any feedback to his new ITP weekly blog...

How Service Management Can Help IT Get its Groove Back

Marilyn Monroe had ‘it’.  Carla Bow was known as the ‘it’ girl of the silent screen.  James Bond, Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire, David Beckham, Clint Eastwood, and President Obama, all had, or have ‘it’.  You know, the ‘it’ factor, that magical, mysterious, often unfathomable, and yet magnetic capability, that through a combination of creativity and charm, gives your attention a ‘wedgy’ and makes your pulse race, for one reason or another.

Who among us computing professionals wouldn’t wish for a moment that our ‘IT’, the information technology organization we work within or for, had the ‘it’ factor.   An ‘accidental’ flash of the ankle, a subtle shimmy of the hips, a flicker of the eyebrows, or perhaps a blatant head-butt to the bottom-line, and our customers would swoon with admiration and satisfaction.

So what is the ‘it’ factor from an IT perspective? How do you know if you have ‘it’?  How do you get ‘it’?  And what if like Susan Boyle of Britain’s Got Talent fame, you feel need an extreme makeover?

What is the ‘it’ Factor for an IT Organization?
First, we need to understand the ‘it’ factor is in the eye of the beholder, the customer, representing how they view you.  The ‘it’ factor ingredients vary from one customer to another.  Although they can be influenced they tend to relate very closely to one or more ‘desired results’.

So, if you want to understand the elements of ‘it’ that matter to your IT organization, take the time to sit and spend a day with a customer.  Listen to them.  Ask them what they do, and how they feel you help or hinder their success.  Remember, that obtaining the ‘it’ factor begins with making this outside-in commitment.   Your value to them, your ‘it’ factor, is likely grounded in how you help them achieve their desired results, and at what cost or price.

How do you know if your IT organization has ‘it’?
Assume for a moment your customers have the choice of two t-shirts.  One reads “I Heart IT”, the same as those that shout “I Heart New York”.  The other has a simple logo of a multi-colored papier-mâché donkey hanging from the branch of a tree with “Proud Member of the IT Piñata Club” emblazoned around its perimeter.  Which t-shirt would they claim and proudly wear?

If your customers are continually asking to look behind the curtain of your IT operations, demanding transparency of how their investment in IT is spent, or perhaps questioning the ‘value’ you deliver to the enterprise bottom line, you’ve probably not got ‘it’.

Service Management – Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed…
In the early days of electricity, companies generated it themselves and based operations close to natural resources.  It was costly, complicated, cumbersome and inflexible. Driven by consumer demand, electricity, like many other vital resources, was productized, became more freely accessible and available, and evolved to be the service we now take for granted. 

Standardization and universal connectivity enabled flexibility and a cost effective way of opening up new markets and opportunities. Companies and society at large, began to consume electricity as a utility-styled service through a network of national and international grids.   The evolutionary path electricity followed is today commonly referred to a ‘product lifecycle’, plotted and navigated by a one profession – product management.

The Product Management profession morphed into two discrete, complimentary and sometimes-conflicting responsibilities: product marketing and product planning.  Together they created the ‘goods-service continuum’ concept to help describe the amount of service or ‘people power’ in a product.   Ranging from pure goods such as food items, to the subject matter expertise of a lawyer or teacher, a product was placed along this continuum by design

As the world’s economy shifted from the Henry Ford days of mass production, World War Two and subsequent manufactured products to services, service management was born as a necessary and specialized extension to product management.  The information upon which our society thrives and survives, and that sustains the hunger of the services industry, representing more than three quarters of the world economy, is following a similar evolutionary goods-service path.

The Web, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and ubiquitous connectivity have embedded information technology (IT) in the provisioning supply chain of almost every product and service consumed by modern society.  Whilst managing the service infrastructure is a necessity, IT is now expected to provide a service, linked to vital customer activities and desired results.

Information technology is enabling mass customization of products and a dramatic increase in the number of channels to market.  So much so, there is a quantum shift of society from a service, to a self-service economy, in which we are all given even more freedom of choice.    With this greater choice comes a proportional an increase in customer decision time, and a greater expectation by the customer of reduced service provider fulfillment times.

Service management and its concepts and methods are universally applicable across service industries, and can act as a transformation method for any organization wishing to change and operate as a service provider, including an information technology (IT) organization.  Service management gives the customer a voice, a voice to represent needs, wants and desired results, and to performance manage the provider organization based upon the stated personal, and organizational success.

A number of IT organizations have begun the journey to transform themselves into a customer focused service provider.  Those that have are following a blueprint suggested by the term ‘IT Service Management (ITSM)’, which you could be forgiven for thinking means they are applying the product management styled service management concepts to the IT environment.

You would most likely be wrong. 

Unsurprisingly, given the genetic disposition of IT professional’s, the scope and content of the ITSM toolkit has been the subject of insular (re)invention based upon a process improvement (read reengineer and replacement), or capability maturity led approach.  In fact many would raise their eyebrows at the news of service management existing outside of the IT realm. 

At the heart of an IT designed ITSM approach are more often than not the interests of IT, accidentally placed ahead of the customer it serves due to the focus on ‘implementing’ a specific framework or set of onerous processes.  The plain fact is, service management does not call for a process reengineering effort.  Nor does it insist on a march through progressive levels of capability until every fact of your operations has achieved perfection. 

No, service management was, and is, a systematic method for managing the provision of services to customers based upon a known quality, cost, desired results, and level of customer satisfaction.

So these facets need to be the focus.  It also requires the embedding of a service subscription, consumption and provision logic in the management approach, adjustments to the organizational culture and psyche, and the availability of a compendium of ‘best practices’ that can be tried and applied.

Reasonable though it might seem for the IT professional community to feel they have a say in the specification of the solution.  It’s a say, not a reinvention.  Based upon the frameworks traditionally referenced, and the scope and approach used, its clear IT’s view of service management – ITSM has gaps.  Serious deficiencies that introduce significant risk, sometimes delivering unwanted capabilities at a greater cost, and with less compelling results, especially from a customer perspective.

For IT to succeed, and to gain back the ‘it’ factor, it needs to better understand and leverage the concepts and methods found within the product management version of service management.    Sure, the IT organization does have some special needs addressed by a variety of ITSM ideas and concepts.  But what is needed is a combination of the two, a marriage of product management’s service management, and IT’s service management – a universally applicable service management framework.  

The Elements of a Universal Service Management Solution
So what should a universal service management framework contain?  Well, in recognizing and leveraging the heritage of both product management and the ITSM views of service management, it should include two fundamental components:

  1. A specification for a service management system, detailing as many of the elements required to operate a service provisioning model
  2. A description of the roles and responsibilities within a service provider organization, a major sub-component of the service management system it is especially important to ensure the roles clearly address the activities required to manage the customer relationship, service provision, and the service infrastructure

The description of the service management system should answer a number of fundamental questions that include:

  • How the service provider decides which customer communities to serve
  • What governance will be used to ensure the voices of the customer, provider and regulators is heard, and documented properly as service requirements
  • How services will be marketed to each community
  • How an existing or prospective customer can request service
  • How requests for service are fulfilled
  • How the design, development and provision of services is funded
  • What key roles are required to manage the provision of service
  • How performance will be measured and managed from a results achieved, and satisfaction level perspective
  • How the service provider plans will be aligned with those of customer
  • What transformation method will be used and how will the provider continuously improve
    And so on…

The roles defined for the service provider organization should form part of an overall taxonomy of responsibilities that is subject to change management controls and integrated into the overall governance, decision-making framework.  The roles should span the customer and infrastructure facing activities within the service management system and be supported by a commitment to continuous education.

The Susan Boyle Styled ITSM Project
Apart from sprinkling pixie dust on an IT organization, any effort to gain for the first time, or regain the ‘it’ factor through service management will require a transformation of the organization, its policies, practices, and governance framework.  For some that will involve a series of adjustments applied over time, for others it will be equivalent to the extreme makeover experienced by Susan Boyle.

For those who missed it, Susan Boyle, is a British church lady and spinster who, with due respect, lacked ‘it’ to the extent the audience laughed at her appearance as she walked onto the stage for the first time.  She wowed the audience at Britain’s reality Got Talent TV show with her performance and became an overnight sensation when her audition for the show was put on YouTube, with hundreds of millions logging on to watch her sing. 

Thrust in the public eye and instantly marketable her look was upgraded, her eyebrows separated, and she is now a lady transformed to the extent she was recently featured in a magical pictorial in Harper’s Bazaar magazine.  In some ways, what's happening with Boyle now is a classic case of being careful what you wish for.  It has not been an easy journey for her.  Her story is analogous to, and a reminder of, the experiences of many IT organizations starting their ITSM journey. 

The transformation of IT and establishment of the ‘it’ factor will result in the organization operating as a service provider focused on the customer, with all the visibility and accountability that comes with being a vital element in the customer thinking process.  It will also squarely position the customer’s desired results, satisfaction levels and changing needs in the decision-making processes of the service provider. 

The service management journey is a necessity in today’s challenging economic climate and extremely hazardous to the organization if not handled properly.  It is an evolutionary journey similar to the one taken by electricity, not revolutionary or an extreme makeover.  It should be approached as a continuous commitment, comprised of small incremental steps addressing issues that count, where the benefit of applying better policies, procedures and practices outweighs the cost of the effort.   The course needs careful plotting and regular checking.

Over the coming weeks and months through a series of regular follow up articles I hope to be able to provide additional insights and opinions into how to approach this journey safely, sharing lessons learned by myself and those I work with.  I look forward to you joining me on this journey.

For more information about universal service management approaches, best practice guidance, upcoming webinars, or to submit a question on any aspect of your service management initiative, please visit our complimentary service desk by clicking this link.

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!! 


16th September 2009

Hi Ian,

Congrats! It will be my pleasure read your blog. It is always good to have other points of view to share.

Rebeca (México)


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