BM. ITSM tools and strategies have been around for quite some time, yet they seem to have attracted unprecedented attention recently. What would you say are the drivers behind the recent rise of IT service management?
PB. There’s always a latest trend in the crossover between IT and business, and although it’s been around for a couple of decades, ITSM has started to gain a real following in the last five years or so. Early adopters sought to introduce uniform process methodology across all of IT to comply with best practice; only in the last couple of years can we now distinguish between the rise in noise around ITSM and the real drivers to its successful adoption. Factors such as corporate governance and IT accountability may have forced adoption, but in fact they also make the benefits of ITIL more apparent by providing visibility of the business value of effective IT service provision.
Adopters now better understand the framework and look to implement it successfully. As a result, process-based tools are capturing market interest. At Hornbill we have responded to the gap between the will and the way forward, providing tools founded on a structured approach, rather than paying lip service to practicality.
BM. Some have claimed that ITSM is as much a cultural change as it is a technological one. To what extent do you agree with this assessment, and why?
PB. I believe that culture – or adopting a ‘service ethos’ – is absolutely vital to successful ITSM, and recent research from the Service Futures Group supports this totally. Communication between IT and the business is key, yet can prove a vast cultural challenge due to the legacy mindset divide. IT and business have to work together and determine what is important for IT service provision, but IT people are generally pretty poor at communicating in business terms. Experience of ITIL adoption shows that those organizations that tackle the people aspect in depth – going further than just ITIL foundation training, to encouraging a service ethos – show far greater degrees of success. I call it adding the human touch. Technology should support development of this service ethos, helping IT support to know their customers better in terms of the services they need, their roles and even their technological ability and satisfaction with the services they require.
BM. While originally thought to involve finance departments only, the demands of regulations such as SOX have made their way to the desks of CIOs charged with the task of supporting compliance initiatives with technology. How can ITSM help support, drive and manage compliance requirements?
PB. If ITSM is approached in the correct manner – to support business goals – then compliance will be a by-product. IT management shouldn’t just think about the here-and-now and the latest compliance requirement. They can drive the adoption of ITSM principles to establish a framework to mitigate risk and ensure business service continuity objectives are met.
If the key to successful adoption of ITSM is the seamless translation of business goals via IT delivery, then the benefit lies in founding solid processes that reduce the risk associated with business operations. The value that software from a vendor like Hornbill can bring lies in providing the structure to help with that translation. Skills like risk management are normally found outside of the IT domain, but ITSM adoption bridges that gap between IT and business functions.
BM. How can companies quantify the business benefits of ITSM? Is it easy for them to measure ROI on such initiatives?
PB. Everyone does ITSM – it’s just a question of how well they do it. Following a best practice initiative simply sets the bar at a particular level. It’s difficult to determine ROI as a bottom line measurement, particularly in the short term, but everyone should have a return as a target. If ITSM goals are determined (as they should be) with line of business managers, then business goals must be the prime objective and service availability and user satisfaction are key measurements. KPIs in terms of customer satisfaction or cost reduction are the most frequent and measurable, but clarity and the setting of realistic business goals is paramount. Otherwise, we’re back in the domain of technology for technology’s sake: IT rules instead of ITSM. Collaboration between IT and business is required from the outset, otherwise it is simply another IT project with little perceived business benefit.
About the contributor
Patrick Bolger is VP Sales and Marketing at Hornbill Systems, a UK-headquartered organization that for over 12 years has specialized in the provision of Service service management software to government and commerce. Bolger is an experienced and popular speaker on service management related topics in both Europe and the US.