"No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise."
-- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Or, What is the Purpose of Service Management?
The IT Skeptic has a good (and dutifully skeptical) article on the benefits of ITIL® called The Emperor Has No Clothes. It is well worth a read to gain perspective on how to look at service management ROI.
For an industry focused on alignment and results, there is precious little information on what the outcomes of implementing service management are supposed to be. When consulting on ITSM, ITIL®, etc., I often ask what is the result you are looking for? Or, "What benefits do you hope to achieve from implementing ITSM?" Here's a guide to finding the right answer.
Pitfalls and Potholes
There are number of potholes in the road to service management. These are the bad outcomes of ESM and should be avoided (see There is No Finish Line).
Failing to Plan
Having a plan for ESM is important. This may be a sub-plan or addendum to another strategic document. Many fail to consider service management as part of their plan. This may be due to poor strategic vision at the executive level, but that doesn't prevent a division or department from planning. You don't have to believe in free love just because your parents are hippies.
Another objection is the time required, but really, it takes just a couple of days.
Without a (written) plan (see Road Mapping below) you will find it difficult to find objectives and measure progress.
The False Hope of Training
Many training providers sell their training based on the value of the training. This, in our opinion, is balderdash. A student driver does not go to driving school to learn how to drive. Pause for indignant objections. The student learns to drive so he or she may get a job, go out with friends, gain independence from their family.
There is an implicit and fallacious feeling that training will kick start an organization's progress toward new levels of greatness. Yet, the training is not the thing. It's the thing that the training is meant to enable -- that's the thing.
Lack of Consistency and Structure
It's good to have a plan, and training helps set the stage, but without a means of consistent progress, nothing good will be achieved. This is a pernicious cycle as the reason most organizations engage in service management is to improve their consistency, yet they fail at service management because they lack the consistency and structure to implement and improve the necessary processes.
There Is No Finish Line
We should at once acknowledge that any process-driven approach to service management cannot be "implemented". Aligning with the needs of the business, just as the business aligns with the greater needs of the marketplace, will require constant change and continual improvement.
There is no finish line, but there is a blueprint for progress.
Much of higher education has long focused on general studies rather than demonstrable skills. This is somewhat odd since pretty much everything we do from strategic planning to marketing must start with the end in mind.
The outcomes of service management depend upon where you want to go. It is impossible to align with the business unless you know what the business requires of you.
Furthermore, one cannot simply measure progress against an arbitrary maturity model in the hope that generic maturity will equate to specific benefits.
A Road Map is a document (you may call it whatever you like) that lays out where you are going and why you want to go there. This document is essential for two things:
- It provides a guide to everything you do from training to process improvement.
- It provides a measure of your progress.
It is hard to imagine proceeding with enterprise service management without some training. What this is depends upon your goals and your budget. It could be ITIL Foundation for all of your managers or for your entire staff. It could be training in COBIT® or CMMI®.
Whatever you do, you should tie training content and the training schedule to your Road Map.
The Road Map is done and you've completed the training -- now what? We hear this a lot. Defining services and getting control over processes will seem daunting to most organizations. The daily grind creeps in and suddenly it's a year after training and nothing substantial has been accomplished.
You need a system that helps you gain traction and maintain momentum. It should include a plan for on-the-job training, ongoing coaching and support, and regular reviews. All of these activities should be tied to your Road Map.
The payoff of well-executed service management is not self-evident. We all know a good service experience when we have one, but it is hard to describe.
Roles help the people in your organization know who is supposed to do what. Processes provide a clear understanding of when something should occur, what's next, and also when something is finished.
Processes make your purpose actionable. You'll see an overall increase in professionalism among your staff when processes are universally embraced.
This clarity will increase the quality of your services.
While processes and roles bring clarity to the work, models in service management divide the work by type and impact. For example:
- Incidents are an interruption or degradation of service. The objective is not to fix the cause, but to provide a work-around. A work-around gets customers and users working again, while staff may move on to other work, leaving the problem for another day.
- Problems are the underlying cause of one or more incidents. The objective is to identify the root cause and recommend a change. Note that the problem itself is not corrected here, and not all problems will be worth fixing.
- A Change focuses on adding, updating, or removing something. The process of change includes communication, approval, prioritization, and scheduling.
- Service Requests fulfill predefined requests from a menu of options. Because the request is predefined, we can know the process, timescale, and expected result in advance. This means we can predict and influence the workload.
As opposed to ad hoc work and constant interruptions, it should be easy to see how this division of work can equate to massive increases in productivity, which typically correspond to lower service costs.
Consistency, rather than perfection, should be the objective of all systems. We must recognize that even highly optimized systems are imperfect. Many processes and controls go into the making of automobiles, aircraft, and space vehicles, yet these things still fail from time to time.
We should also be guarded against "foolish consistency" which produces no value and causes an increase in waste.
With these things in mind, a significant payoff of enterprise service management is the consistency with which service is delivered. This is most clearly seen in the availability, reliability, and maintainability of services.
Consistently managed services will improve a service while reducing risks.
To date, we have never had a prospect or client ask us if service management is "worth it", though we believe it is a valid question to ask. We believe there are many benefits to be realized:
- Clarity increases service value.
- Productivity reduces service costs.
- Consistency reduces service risks.
If you will permit a shameless plug: Our services are structured around the critical milestones for enterprise service management. Road Mapping identifies the objectives. Training establishes baseline knowledge. Membership provides ongoing training, coaching, and consulting -- the consistency and structure -- you need to gain and sustain momentum.