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ITSM - Marketing's Little Brother

Friday 07 July, 2017

It’s not often that you hear about large corporations publicising their IT Service Management Strategy, assuming of course, that they have one to begin with. Sales revenue, growth and EBITA quite rightly take the limelight, but ITSM Strategy also has its place amongst the greats.

So what’s the issue? We often talk about ITSM from an operational perspective; operational issues requiring tactical, operational responses. It all too often requires a critical incident to expose gaps in either customer specific, or companywide ITSM policies and processes.

And this problem is exacerbated when, like every little brother, operational teams tend to receive the hand-me-downs from a programme that isn’t guided by a companywide ITSM Strategy, or the standardisation of ITSM processes.   

And Digital is making things worse. Often driven by inflexible IT responses, the business is taking matters into its own hands, sourcing its own digital solutions that bypass SIAM – SaaS integrates itself, doesn’t it? IT service integration is rarely front-of-mind of the business, and requirements for such from IT or a service provider, sub-contractor or vendor is never going to take preference over a revenue opportunity, or the prospect of reducing costs to the business. This results in a parochial short-term gain, but can leave behind a fragmented service model that requires further medical assistance later down the line – often realised in the midst of a major incident when it’s too late.

Take an organisation’s ITSM tool as an example; an important aspect of running a holistic service model is the integration of a standardised ITSM tool across the full e2e service offering, but tooling is infrequently given the sourcing priority it deserves. Each stakeholder may well work effectively in isolation, with their own processes and ways of working built around their own tool. Each individual component of the service may well work as it should, but the end goal, be it the raising or tracking of a change or incident ticket, may fall through the cracks between different working groups and a variety of tools, providing a poor and potentially relationship damaging customer experience.

Getting Strategic About IT

IT needs to make a better case for ITSM, and a better case for investment in ITSM.  

Positively, we’re starting to see companies take back control of their ITSM capabilities, be it through the improvement of outsourcing or in many cases the insourcing of a SIAM function. We are also increasingly seeing the creation of what is being dubbed the ‘Service Management Office’ (SMO). Like the PMO, the SMO provides a centre of excellence within an organisation to drive efficiencies and effectiveness. Companies no longer deliver just technology solutions, but are instead having to view IT as a set of services which must be fully integrated with the strategic goals and objectives of the wider organisation. Improved SIAM controls let an organisation manage the service providers in a consistent and efficient way, making sure that performance across the portfolio of multi-sourced services meets user needs. Whilst at the same time, the SMO can effectively provide a mechanism for implanting IT governance across an organisation in conjunction with a formal IT Strategy.

All good so far, but still very operational. Why should the business care? IT needs to grasp the nettle, and start to truly transform from the cost centre (“I control, deliver, manage costs”) to the trusted commercial enterprise (“I partner and deliver innovative and great value solutions that help my customers achieve their goals”).

And in this new IT enterprise, ITSM is at its heart. It is, in fact, Marketing’s Little Brother. It understands its customers’ behaviours (“Demand Management”), it develops products and services based on customer needs (“Service Strategy”), it markets these services across the customer base and describes the value they bring to the customers (“Service Catalogue”),  it commissions production of services to the standards and costs it defines (“Service Level Management”), it understands exactly why services cost what they do and constructs pricing that allows the business to understand and influence their costs (“Financial Management”).

But more than that – it precisely controls and orchestrates changes to its services and communications to the business (“Service Transition”), and underwrites performance standards to its customers as it builds the brand (“Service Operation”). And this is the role of the traditional operational ITSM we all know and love – and is still as key as ever. 

What’s needed above all is to align the ITSM Strategy with the goals and objectives of the wider organisation.  The good news is that the process of creating a strategic plan is often more important than the plan itself, however this in itself can be challenging. The issue is deeper than simply involving Service Management early in projects, it needs senior business sponsorship that allows ITSM to be at the heart of the new IT Enterprise. Senior sponsorship may materialise from the creation of a board or committee dedicated to owning the ITSM Strategy, but any planning process needs to be tailored to the organisation’s environment and have substantial weight and authority to influence strategic decisions at C-level. Rushing blindly into integration or migration programmes that cannot be realistically implemented is all too common, only to be reversed  years later. This can be avoided with the correct ownership and governance around defining, implementing and managing an effective ITSM Strategy on a corporate scale.