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IT Service Management

Monday 22 January, 2018

One of my first jobs fresh out of management training was as a service manager in a financial services organisation. I really enjoyed that role as it gave me the opportunity to work closely with and understand the business teams that used the services I managed. It also drove me to do lots of problem solving, working across numerous different IT teams to find the information I needed to propose a solution and then to influence and make it happen. The role allowed me to really understand how important close working relationships between the business and IT are, that understanding of what each other does and how that contributes to the success of the organisation as a whole is critical. That working together as a team was very important.

The traditional IT Service Manager role

However, those were the days when much of IT was provided onsite, mostly managed by internal teams with suppliers also onsite. IT was closely managed and controlled, spread over a few sites and as a result it was relatively easy for service managers such as me to build a clear picture of how the service was built and delivered, who the key support people were and how to get the information I needed. It allowed me to put together a detailed and achievable continuous improvement plan and above all it enabled me to answer all the questions and solve (almost) all of the problems raised by my business contacts. The Service Manager was the hub, with an understand of how all of the pieces fitted together to create and run the service. Detail was handled by the expert teams but almost the only person with the complete picture was me.

Are IT Service Managers still needed?

Now the world of IT has changed. Cloud, outsourcing, multiple small suppliers and mobile working have all impacted the Service Manager role. They all have clear benefits for both IT and the business but have also made the delivery of IT services more remote, more distributed. We see evidence for this in the focus on Service Integration and Management (SIAM) trend where organisations increasingly need help in managing and coordinating multiple IT suppliers to ensure that services are delivered coherently and consistently. The internal Service Manager needs ever longer arms to reach around all of the people and suppliers needed to understand and manage the IT service they are responsible for. Sometimes that is not possible and organisations start to question the need for the role. With the SIAM provider and increasingly adept supplier account managers why is the Service Manager needed?

Where next for ITIL?

I was recently at the ITSMF conference in Manchester (really useful 2 days, thanks ITSMF UK). One of the key themes was ‘Where next for ITIL?’. It was generally agreed that ITIL has become a little out of date, that trends like DevOps, SIAM and cloud have fundamentally changed IT and that the benchmark needs to be updated to ensure that Service Management is still relevant and that business and IT teams understand what the Service Manager does, why they are there and how best to use them. This is vital because Service Management is still a highly important role. For organisations to retain ownership of their own IT strategy a clear end-to-end view of about how IT meets the different needs of the business is vital. Outsourcing this strategic view risks destabilizing the link between business needs and IT services due to different internal / external motivations.

A newer version of ITIL is expected this year (ITIL 2018, ITIL v4….?) and an independent set of guidance, VeriSM has also been launched to try and fill this gap. With the new version of ITIL still in development and VeriSM only launching at the end of November 2017 it’s still unclear how these will work together and how organisations and individuals can evolve to use these. What is clear is that the community believes IT Service Management still has a big role to play and understands the need to evolve the framework to ensure that the right competencies are being developed. Business owners still need to understand what IT does and how it can help them, now even more so with the ever present threat of disruption and increasingly competitive landscape for absolutely all industries.

Service Managers can be that trusted friend that business users seek advice from, trust with their problems and ambitions. The friend who feels able to proactively offer advice as well as just respond. Hopefully new standards and support like ITIL and VeriSM will help shine a light on the changes needed as well as show the right path to make them.