ITSM Meets the Digital Business Model: Experts Speak

A highlight of the recent BrightTALK Summit online event was a panel discussion that featured four industry luminaries. The moderator was Ivanti Sales Engineer and popular blogger on all things IT Marcel Shaw. He was joined by Ivanti ITSM Evangelist Matt Hooper (aka @VigilantGuy), CIO, author, and blogger (and Interchange 17 presenter) Tom Catalini, and speaker, author, and trusted executive advisor Carlos Casanova.

Their primary topic of discussion: how a digital business model will impact ITSM. Herewith, a summary of some of their key points, interspersed with minimal commentary.

What does “digital business model” mean?

Uber is arguably the world’s largest fleet service, yet doesn’t own a single car. Airbnb may be the world’s largest lodging reservations service, yet owns no hotels. Skype is considered by many the world’s largest “phone company,” yet owns no traditional carrier infrastructure. And as Matt pointed out, they are all firms operating under digital business models. Such models focus on how these companies and others are taking products and services to market, and how they can digitize those processes, he added.

These organizations and others, such as Amazon.com, Etsy, and Netflix, are all digital firms. Netflix, Amazon, Etsy, and similar organizations, have been able to scale rapidly and become dominant players in their markets. This is largely because their digital business models enable them to avoid many of the limitations faced by more traditional brick-and-mortar companies, Matt added.

Under digital business models, the interactions connecting customers to products and services are very customer-focused. Isaac Sacolick is global CIO and a managing director at Greenwich Associates, financial services industry advisors. In a piece entitled “What Digital Transformation Really Means” published in InfoWorld on June 14, 2016 and cited during the panel, he said this. “Digitally transformed businesses typically develop an ecosystem that blur[s] the lines between supply chain, partner, customer, crowd, and employee, and both strategy and execution are heavily influenced by this ecosystem.”

Why is a digital business model important?

According to Tom Catalini, the key is the blurring of the lines mentioned by Isaac Sacolick. Traditional hierarchies and processes “just don’t play out anymore” in an increasingly digital world, Tom said. This is a large part of why brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling with digital transformation, he added. For many, development and adoption of a digital business model represent important first steps toward a more agile, digital future.

Who drives digital business model adoption?

Matt said that CEOs are increasingly trying to drive their enterprises to adopt digital business models, and that IT has a major role to play in that effort. However, he added that IT, which should be a primary driver of digital transformation, is often in fact a laggard in this process. This is because IT typically has some of the most manual processes and tools with some of the worst user interfaces in the enterprise, Matt said.

Tom agreed, pointing out that this creates both a tremendous challenge and a significant opportunity for many in IT. He said IT may be lagging in innovation, but likely understands “how the entire place works” better than those in other areas of the enterprise. He added that while much is said about “the business leading and IT following,” at many organizations with which he’s worked, IT is often better positioned to “break their own barriers” than other departments.

“Sometimes, you’ll find that the departmental blinders are on in other departments more than in IT. …We may not be anointed the leaders, but I think we can aspire to lead from within and to help our partners across the organization start to embrace a new way of thinking.”

Can a digital business model improve cybersecurity?

The worldwide WannaCrypt/WannaCry ransomware attacks spurred discussion of how a digital business model might affect enterprise cybersecurity. Matt pointed out that the agility and flexibility promised by a digital business model must be balanced against IT’s traditional “command and control” approach. IT and the business must forge a partnership that’s gonna help you approach [digital transformation] with the right level of agility and the right level of business risk.”

Tom added that events such as WannaCrypt/WannaCry might drive more discussions “at the board level” about “technical debt.” That term describes a focus on “quick and dirty” implementations that create the need for later “clean-up” work, rather than taking a longer-term approach based on best practices in the first place. “It’s very clear that the organizations that haven’t been good stewards in that regard were hit the worst.”

Why is a business-centric approach important?

Carlos pointed out that success with a digital business model requires that the business not lose sight of its primary purpose. Uber’s founding purpose was not to build a fleet, but to provide transportation. Skype’s purpose was to provide communications, not to distribute fiber throughout the world. IT needs to ask itself whether its purpose is to perform tasks such as change and incident management, or to enable the business to do what it does, Carlos added.

A business-centric approach is essential to IT’s success with digital transformation. IT people can “waste a lot of time and money” putting specific organizational structures or processes into place, instead of focusing on the primary task of business enablement, Carlos said.

How best can IT leaders succeed with digital business models?

Marcel then asked Tom how IT leaders can best position themselves to succeed in implementing and enabling digital business models. Tom said that the primary challenges are more cultural than technological. Relationship building, networking, and identifying opportunities for collaboration within and beyond are critical. IT leaders “need to be able to build relationships with people across the organization, without [relying upon] that traditional command-and-control,” Tom added.

Matt added that IT must also avoid a tool-centric focus. “The tools are there to enable a job to get done, not necessarily to do it for us. The tool gets you to the wrong destination faster if you haven’t first figured out what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it.” Shifting this focus is an essential task for IT leaders who want to succeed in enabling digital transformation at their enterprises.

How can ITSM support a digital business model?

The panelists agreed that IT service management (ITSM) can be both a solid starting point for digital transformation and an accurate measure of where an organization is in its journey. For example, if new hires must contact IT instead of accessing a self-service portal to gain network access, much work remains. In contrast, at companies that are succeeding with “digital first” strategies, IT leaders are using analytics, automation, and other technologies to deliver benefits across the enterprise. Simply helping users beyond IT to know more about what’s coming at them and who they’re waiting for can provide significant improvements in user productivity, agility, and satisfaction.

Matt said there are several specific ways in which modern ITSM strategies and solutions can be aligned with digital business models and digital transformation efforts. Better ITSM can help to increase competitive differentiation, and to create new service or revenue streams. It can also help the enterprise to make more and better data-driven decisions, and to improve collaboration, innovation, and risk management. Modern ITSM can also improve customer and user experiences, and reduce costs through increased operational efficiencies.

Ultimately, Matt asserted, more modern ITSM and adoption of a digital business model can help IT to change the conversations CIOs have with CFOs, COOs, and CEOs. IT can help the business to improve its understanding of what skills, people, and resources it has, how those are currently allocated, what changes might improve business operations, and how best to effect those changes.

The panel had lots more to say, about other overlaps between ITSM and digital transformation, the roles of regulations and practices standards, and the skills IT leaders and teams need to succeed. The panelists also discuss the risks of not modernizing legacy ITSM deployments, and the value of discovery, data analysis, and reporting. It’s definitely worth a listen to the complete hour-long discussion.

Ivanti: Your Digital Transformation Partner

After you’ve listened to the panel discussion, check out how Ivanti solutions can help your enterprise to improve IT service delivery, ransomware and malware defenses, and service management team performance. Contact Ivanti today, and let us help you to start or accelerate your enterprise’s digital transformation journey.