IT Service Management – the Lost Horizon

In the last few months I have spent some time on the topic of IT Service Management Assessments. The research I have done and all the materials I have reviewed made me write down some key questions to answer in future assignments (No worries, I have a dedicated post on ITSM Assessments as well – ITSM Assessment in 3 days). The most critical one was “What is IT Service Management and how can we measure our success on achieving it?”.

Why is this question important?

The ITIL CSI Approach teaches us that when we want to make an improvement we need to start with a Vision, then make a Baseline or see Where we are and then define Where we want to be in measurable terms. Sounds great, but… How can we apply this in terms of IT Service Management? The first answer that comes up is most probably related to measuring how well our ITIL processes are doing, right? As we all know ITIL and ITSM are not the same thing, so it will be hard to measure our success based on ITIL with regard to ITSM.

What is IT Service Management?

I dug into the available definitions and tried to tackle this topic from all perspectives. Here are the key ones:

  • The ITIL definition of IT Service Management is: “IT Service Management is the implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business.”
  • Another definition says, “IT service management (ITSM) refers to the entirety of activities – directed by policies, organized and structured in processes and supporting procedures – that are performed by an organization to plan, design, deliver, operate and control information technology (IT) services offered to customers.”
  • And finally, “Capability: The ability of an organization, person, Process, Application, Configuration Item or IT Service to carry out an Activity. Capabilities are intangible Assets of an Organization.”

To sum it up, IT Service Management is our capability to deliver IT services. How can you measure a capability? For me capability is like talent. How can you measure talent? If I like Picasso and you like van Gogh, how can we say who has more talent?

Shangri-La

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel “Lost Horizon” by British author James Hilton. A place that is close to Paradise on Earth.

Based on my current knowledge IT Service Management is a hard to measure and assess goal, because it is not very clear what needs to be achieved. Every organization can claim that it manages its IT Services optimally and thus, no further improvements need to be done.

How can we measure the unmeasurable?

I can give you two possible ways to approach this topic:

  1. Promote IT4IT standard or create a new Value Defining Framework for the purpose
  2. Work with ITSM and ITIL as Critical Success Factor (CSF) and Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

Let’s start with what we currently have: IT4IT. The IT4IT standard provides a vendor-neutral, technology-agnostic, and industry-agnostic reference architecture for managing the business of IT, enabling insight for continuous improvement. If you follow this standard, you will end up with a clear Value Chain and Delivery Architecture. Can you measure this? Yes, as the first defines the goal for the second.

If this does not work, then Axelos, for example, can step in and define a new Value Defining framework that focuses on IT Service Management with ITIL as implementation side-kick. I recently wrote an article for the Axelos blog called “What is Agile ITSM and what does it need to be successful?”. Maybe this is a good starting point.

To understand my point, think about Agile and Scrum. Agile is a simple to understand approach (The Agile Manifesto) for software development, where multiple implementation methodologies can be used and Scrum is just one of them. Main point here is that Agile as a goal is well defined and clear for all software developers. Now think back about ITSM, go to an IT engineer and ask him to shortly describe what is ITSM and how good we are at it. I bet he or she will be strongly confused.

CSF and KPI

Now, if you are still reading this and I did not confuse you enough, let’s go hyperloop. What if we say that IT Service Management is a CSF. “A CSF is something that must happen, if an IT service, process, plan, project or other activity is to succeed.” To simplify it, a goal that one should always strive for, but is impossible to be achieved on 100%. Example: Be a good person. Can you always be a bit better? Yes, you can 😊

Now we take ITIL as KPI. “KPI is a metric used to help manage an IT service, process, plan project or other activity. KPIs are used to measure the achievement of CSFs.” As we know from the ITIL Practitioner course, there are diverse types of KPIs: leading/trailing, inside-out/outside-in, etc. I have to say it will be some hard work, but in the end maybe you will have a list of KPIs, based on ITIL that can tell you how good you are doing with your CSF, e.g. ITSM. I am thinking right now, most of the companies go this way. Mark the “hard work” part.

Controlled OBjectives for IT 5 (COBIT 5)

I know that some of you will list COBIT 5 (by ISACA) as a way of measuring ITSM. COBIT 5 is a business framework for the governance and management of enterprise IT. Well, I have always thought of it as an auditing and risk management framework and not so much as a Value Defining and goal setting one. Prove me wrong!

ITSM is not ITIL

So, why should you think a bit more after you read this? Well, for me the main point here is that ITSM is not ITIL. If you want to have an ITSM assessment, then we need to set measurable success terms. The first and key step is to quantify IT Service Management and thus find our Lost Horizon!

nikola

Nikola Gaydarov

Director IT Service and Project Management

Nikola has been in the IT sector for almost 10 years. He started his career in HP Global Delivery Center back in 2007 and since then has been involved in many different roles: technical consultant, operational manager, transition manager and ITSM implementation consultant. During these years he has worked both domestically and in Western Europe.





Author: Nikola Gaydarov
Nikola has been in the IT sector for almost 10 years. He started his career in HP Global Delivery Center back in 2007 and since then has been involved in many different roles: technical consultant, operational manager, transition manager and ITSM implementation consultant. During these years he has worked both domestically and in Western Europe.