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Keeping it real - Some blogs don't help!

I am an avid reader of blogs that criticize ITSM as an approach to managing IT. They fall into three main categories.

First are the blogs that criticize ITSM based on some theoretical point of contention.  These arguments are based on the blogger’s understanding of a term, and the fact that ITIL uses it differently.  These are the subject of heated online debates, and make for some amusing reading, but rarely have any real practical value.  Further examination often reveals that the original blogger has their own publication or framework and is using ITIL to establish their credentials.

Second are the blogs that see ITSM as a passing phase that will be replaced by some new technology-based approach, like Cloud.  “ITIL is too old-fashioned for these new approaches and they solve all the problems that ITSM was trying to solve – just quicker and better”, the argument goes.  Really?  So which parts of ITSM are no longer going to be relevant in the emerging technologies?  Will incidents no longer occur?  We won’t need to manage changes?  Capacity becomes limitless?  Service Levels are automatically discerned and delivered?  I don’t think so!  Here’s what I believe:  Innovation and new approaches bring a huge amount of value, but they also bring a number of new management challenges.  We shouldn’t throw out everything we’ve learned from the past every time something new comes along.  ITSM will have to evolve to deal with the challenges of every innovation, but that doesn’t mean that ITSM is not a valid approach.

Third are the blogs that focus on actual failures and successes of organizations who have used ITSM / ITIL.  These are the most important and relevant blogs to me, because this is where we can learn about how to make ITSM work.  It is only in the real world that we can make something actually work, and where we can learn from failure.  So what have these experiences taught me?

·         Best practice is not a framework.  It’s not necessary to implement the whole of ITSM in order to get value from it.  A successful project should be measured by whether IT gets better at enabling the business to meet its objectives, not by whether the whole of ITIL has been implemented.  Some of the most successful ITSM projects only focused on one or two key processes or services.  Best practice is a set of guidelines based on previous experience.  The fact that it has been documented in ITIL doesn’t mean that it’s compulsory – it just means that it has been made accessible.  Each organization can choose what applies to them and how to implement it

·         Don’t take everything in ITIL literally.  Many projects have been derailed by arguments about the “correct” interpretation of something in ITIL.  In many cases somebody has taken an example or a guideline as an absolute rule, and then there is no way to deal with variations or exceptions.  In these cases, it is important to keep the overall objective of the project in mind, and figure out what will work for that particular organization.  Often, it can be helpful to ask other organizations how they dealt with the issue – the it Service Management Forum (itSMF) can be very helpful here

·         The world of service and the world of technology are not two worlds.  They’re both part of the same world.  It’s not possible to provide services without infrastructure and applications.  Many ITSM activities are performed by technical groups.  Successful ITSM projects focus on both the business and technology, and involve both groups in every phase of the project – and many of the deliverables of the project should be owned and delivered by the technical groups

·         Governance is key.  A successful ITSM project will change the way the organization works.  Having a good project plan and executive sponsorship are necessary, but not enough.  Good project governance will ensure that changes needed for decision-making, reporting, management behavior and execution are properly communicated and cascaded to the appropriate levels of the organization.  Too many projects have failed because the team went off on their own and built a great solution for one part of the organization, but never integrated or coordinated it with other key players

Watch this space for some practical advice on how to get ITSM to work for you no matter who you are!

| ‎03-05-2010 11:57 AM

Very good article.  From my experience, most critical factor was upper IT management not understanding the need for these processes and just doing it as a 'me too' strategy.  Sr. IT management passes on the task to implement ITSM to middle manager who struggle with politics since such a project touches other areas outside their authority.  Also, middle managers a lot of the times focus on the tools and are not sure why they are doing this.  

A number of workshops are needed to educate all the areas/people affected by these processes, analysis of the current processes and a very thorough design on paper that should be reviewed and agreed before going for implementation and tools.  However, top IT management needs to support this effort and help push back people who oppose such projects, for whatever reason, and also enforce the use of the processes and tools by everyone interacting with IT.  CIO/CTO needs to make sure rest of his/hers managers are aligned with this initiative and have a stake in this project in order for it to be successful.

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