IT Service Management in the Digital Era

IT Service Management in the Digital Era

Unal Altay, CIO, V/line

IT service management (ITSM) came about as a best practice for organisations to manage the delivery of end to end IT services. The most popular framework within the industry is ITIL. Originally created in the 1980s by the UK Governments Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, ITIL struck an ideal balance between being widely applicable as well as being specific enough to be relevant to emerging challenges. While it has matured over the years, it does have some recurring shortcomings, especially with IT security and governance. Being a framework, ITIL provides information on what should be done, does not guarantee that implementation itself is completed most consistently and efficiently possible across a given portfolio.

"Overall, implementing the ITSM, business buy-in is critical"

The ISO 20000 and COBIT2019 (COBIT was released in 1996 and is currently on its sixth version) framework and standards are designed with ITIL in mind and complement each other very well.

So how do they work together and why does it matter in ICT today. Well in short ISO 20000 has requirements for process and management systems, and a key advantage is a definitive set of documents (which act as points of actions and governance, driving work to minimum standards of quality and alignment) are required, which ITIL describes as key documentation, but does not cover explicitly itself.

COBIT2019 has 40 processes and can be categorised under “Evaluate, Direct and Monitor” (EDM) which drives business alignment, evaluation, and selection of strategic devices and tactics, while monitoring delivery. “Align, Plan and Organise” (APO) drives the organising of the strategy and supporting activities. “Build, Acquire and Implement” (BAI) is about the definition, acquisition and implementation of IT services and solutions. “Deliver, Service and Support” (DSS) describes in detail the operational delivery and support of IT services and “Monitor, Evaluate and Assess” drives the continuous improvement. Note that ITIL has Continual Service Improvement which drives continual alignment and re-alignment of IT services to the changing business needs.

Overall, in implementing the ITSM, business buy-in is critical. I can’t overstate this. In many organisation’s ICT create and implement SLA’s and OLA’s from an IT perspective, with constraints in mind rather than customer or business drivers.

ITIL defines three levels of SLA’s, Service based, Customer based and Multi-level SLA’s; and encourages ICT and customer collaboration. In leading, planning, and adapting strategy, I’ve found it critical to understand what is important to the business, its goals and objectives, the organisations business plan and strategy in an ongoing way. This drives the development of ITSM. Ensure ITSM is aligned to the business, its objectives and strategy, saving scarce resources, which can be better utilised elsewhere in the process.

I reconciled the demands of the changing digital landscape and morphed traditional ITSM to keep it valuable and relevant by taking advantage of Cloud technologies such as containerisation, then using Application Synthetics to understand and record the end user experience as a means to find suitable targets for automation and orchestration to eliminate manual, repeatable tasks to release human capacity for more meaningful work, simultaneously enhancing end user experience. In this case, containerisation was deployed to allow high availability and cost efficiency. Automation of workloads would allow agility, enabling unprecedented scale to be achieved without exponential loss of human capacity at the same time by combining automation and orchestration within cloud workloads to deploy new containers, corresponding to increased application load you end up with a whole greater than the sum of its parts. For example, when a new employee is onboard, orchestration and automation can be utilised to create the domain user account, the workflow can automate the delivery of the end user device and provide all the applications needed to perform the role from day one.

In the Digital Transformation era where a large portion of IT Services are partially or fully outsourced, as a pre-requisite to developing creative and valuable ICT Strategy, it becomes critically important for agreements and contracts to be written in plain English making them easy to read and understand.

The agreements should encourage and drive a true partnership between the IT service provider and IT. Instead of focussing on service levels, key metrics and other lag measures, which while important, fail to allow evolution with a changing landscape. You may concentrate on how you will evolve Problem Management over the life of the agreement as this will drive innovation and value creation as things change. The main goal of Problem Management is to effectively respond to and eliminate recurring problems and resulting incidents. Good problem management, with continuous ITSM improvement results in an increase in customer satisfaction and a decrease in costs.

I can’t stress enough the benefit of ongoing contract management and evolution to keeping ICT Strategy business aligned, and ITSM valuable. This is where the contract manager and the ICT Service provider must have a mature relationship, recognising and founded upon mutual benefit.

I believe in the continuing value of ITSM in the Digital Transformation era and it’s the creative and bold CIO who can combine Business / ICT strategy, best practices, frameworks and standards, with strong and mutually beneficial business-to-business partnerships which will be able to derive value from ITSM as the landscape changes.

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