ITSM’s fundamental processes around request management, incident management, change management, and maintaining a CMDB all provide essential support services to enterprise business processes and employees. These are some of IT’s “run the business” functions that can consume 57% of IT’s resources by one benchmark and be a lot higher for organizations that aren’t investing heavily in digital transformation.

IT leaders should seek out opportunities to align operations teams to the strategic initiatives driving growth and transformation. In large enterprises, these programs, projects, and initiatives are often managed centrally by a Project Portfolio and Management (PPM) team. The PPM team’s primary goals include overseeing strategic initiatives, aligning people and resources to them, and managing their goals, milestones, and dependencies.

The "New Normal' Accelerates Digital Transformation

PPM and ITSM teams have responded to many urgent business needs and challenges during COVID. IT prioritized many tactical improvements, such as ensuring sufficient VPN capacity and helping employees do their jobs successfully while working remotely. But as organizations transition to a new normal, it’s led to an increase in digital transformation objectives, including digitizing workflows, improving usage of collaboration tools, automating steps in business processes, and democratizing access to data for decision making.

Shifting priorities and accelerating digital transformation has led to several challenges for PPM and ITSM leaders:

  • PPM program and project leaders want to assign and prioritize tasks from the strategic initiatives they oversee to all operational teams with subject matter expertise and specialized technical skills. This includes people in IT operating the service desk and support functions that have time, knowledge, and skills to contribute to strategic initiatives.
  • To accelerate digital transformation in newly prioritized areas, all organization areas, including PPM and ITSM, must reevaluate work in progress and projects in flight. Instituting this discipline of periodically validating projects for their strategic alignment is critical during volatile periods.
  • IT leaders must also ensure that their digital transformation initiatives and IT stewardship projects align with the enterprise roadmap and strategic goals. The people and funding required for major IT initiatives and programs should follow PPM prioritization policies and processes.
  • Digital transformation programs typically require aligning many groups and activities across the enterprise. IT, PPM, and other service teams should partner on creating schedules to avoid conflicts and communicate blackout dates when required.
  • Integration between an ITSM solution that enables custom workflows and a PPM tool that can manage traditional projects, lean-agile teams, scrum teams, and collaborative work. IT can benefit by partnering with PPM on project management and leveraging the agile and project management capabilities in PPM tools.

Aligning ITSM and PPM is a Force Multiplier in Digital Transformation

Aligning people’s time to the most strategic initiatives is complex, especially when programs extend over many business functions. It’s even more challenging when the required people are in operating and service roles, including ITSM, but also in enterprise services like human resources, facilities management, compliance, and security.

The one difference is that IT tasks are often prerequisites to getting projects started. The availability of infrastructure, applications, databases, and other IT services can improve the productivity, efficiency, and quality of work performed by people working on the project. These key IT services can be a force multiplier because as IT completes their project tasks on schedule and with high quality, it has a multiplying downstream impact on the project’s required work and business impact.

Managing work assignments and tasks efficiently between PPM and IT requires integrating ITSM and PPM platforms.

From PPM’s perspective, they understand and are empathetic to IT service management professionals that must respond to operational needs, including incidents, scheduled operational procedures, and requests. PPM’s goal is to tap into the 30-50% of available IT time to complete project tasks, and they want to assign tasks to the appropriate teams and people. Their ideal working environment is to schedule tasks and manage their status in their PPM tools.

From IT’s perspective, no one wants to bounce between different tools to determine prioritized work. Simplifying tools is even more important today, with more people in IT working remotely and expecting easy-to-use tools to know what to work on, who assigned the task, what requirements need fulfillment, and where to communicate task status.

Successful integration starts with sharing project visibility from the PPM tool into the ITSM platform, which provides context on why leadership prioritized the project, what sponsors expect teams to deliver, and who’s involved in the execution. From there, PPM leaders want to create tasks in the PPM tool, sync the IT tasks into the ITSM platform, and trigger automation that assigns them to the right team and people. The IT service desk employee sees PPM-generated tasks in the ITSM platform, updates the status, and there’s two-way synchronization of this information with the PPM tool.

Growing IT’s Strategic Role on Digital Transformation Initiatives

Digital transformation is not a 9-5 job, so organizations must manage, communicate, and collaborate on strategic priorities. These priorities are likely to shift in 2021 as health, financial, and market conditions evolve. We don’t want to burn out our best people, and we also want to prioritize work to learn and leverage new technology skills. To accomplish these goals at scale, and through multi-year digital transformation journeys, there needs to be greater transparency and forecasting around IT and enterprise service team capacities.

Understanding capacity has been a significant challenge for PPM and IT leaders. Even when work is managed centrally in a PPM tool, many tasks get fulfilled by people working in other platforms that don’t have two-way integration with PPM. Without this integration, machine learning or analytical models don’t have the complete data and context to forecast capacity accurately.

By IT taking steps to integrate ITSM and align service desk teams to strategic initiatives, it opens the door for getting more transformational work assigned to technologists who can implement automations, innovations, and configurations.

It also means that the organization can more easily forecast skill gaps, and there’s an incentive, process, and more likely funding to train IT on the required skills. That feedback loop is highly desirable to IT leaders who recognize that digital transformation is a journey.

But like all journeys, starting with the integrated tools and processes is a critical first step.

This blog was written by guest author Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.