The truth is that all IT managers have more to do than they can do. While success comes from focusing on the most valuable things first (and in the correct order) most managers don’t know how to value the IT services they manage. Instead, they choose to do the easy or familiar.
Managing IT activities by the value the IT service brings to the enterprise is the next step in the evolution of IT service management. Called BSM (business service management), it is the only practical way for IT organizations to continue to meet the needs of the organization both now and in the future. BSM is also the only way business can afford the quality services it needs to compete.
In the BSM model what matters most is what the enterprise needs—not necessarily what business customers want or IT likes to do and is good at. BSM is not a product and does not come out of any box. BSM is a mindset, not a product set, and while you cannot purchase BSM, you can learn how achieve it.
In BSM it is critical to engage the business to help service owners differentiate between their needs and wants, and it is incumbent upon the IT organization to help the service owner understand the ramifications of their decisions. Simply put, IT service consumers must assume responsibility for their demand for, and consumption of, IT services.
The IT organization must also change. Traditionally IT tries to accomplish more than it can. This is evidenced by the abysmal IT project failure rate (>65%), the wasted money (~25% of all hardware and software purchased is never installed) and the fact that IT itself is responsible for most outages (>75%).
IT must learn how to choose the right projects, and then understand what really matters within that project.
Just as a software developer is probably not an expert in sales and marketing, typical customers and users of IT services are not technology professionals. However, customers and service owners are those that fund IT operations. This makes it very important to have an open and honest dialog between the two parties. The concept is to explain the impact of activities or decisions taken or not taken in business terms relevant to the service owner―or, better yet, allow business decision makers to determine this impact themselves.
ITSM, ITIL & BSM
IT service management (ITSM) consists of the manipulation of service assets. IT services empower consumers of the service to achieve some potential. This potential needs to be measured in terms of business outcomes. In many cases, the purpose for an IT service is to improve the enterprises performance within its marketplace, perhaps by offering functionality not found by competitors, or reducing costs. In either case, the goal is competitive advantage from IT investments.
From an IT perspective, many organizations have invested heavily in ITIL in an effort to achieve ITSM. However, in many cases, the benefits realized from these investments are not as expected. The issue is neither ITIL nor process. The most common reason for these failures is an inability to understand what is valuable to the enterprise, and not identifying when to stop improving (e.g., knowing when it’s “good enough”.)
It is very important to make every effort to have these questions answered in tangible business terms which connect directly to enterprise objectives, and which may be measured. Without such focus many IT decisions—even those carried out in conjunction with the business—can be politically motivated. While one can argue that it is personally desirable to please powerful individuals for which one works, the right reason for improving an IT service is because that service will improve business outcomes for the enterprise. This is a careful balancing act to ensure a smooth working relationship with peers, subordinates, and managers, and delivering value from IT investments.