The 5 Habits of Successful ITSM Organizations
With the continued and exciting transformation of IT, we are challenged with the responsibility to mind the fundamentals of technology and data stewardship while at the same time launching new programs and new initiatives to meet the challenges emerging in the marketplace today. The new vectors of IT and IT Service Management will never slow and never stop—we will always be faced with new disruptive technologies and new business challenges and the ITSM organization must be ready to meet these new challenges because ITSM is so central to the daily work that occurs in IT.
The most successful ITSM organizations tend to follow a similar pattern with regards to how they think and operate. It is helpful to be reminded of these elements of success, and we will call them habits because good habits are a wonderful thing and a good reminder for all of us as we continue to improve the vital domain of ITSM.
Invest in Our People
As ITSM professionals, we all have a natural affection for technology and it is easy to focus our time on the precious infrastructure, technology and tools of IT. In the case of ITSM, our daily process work and automation relies increasingly on software applications and related technologies. As much as we all understand the importance of technology for ITSM today and into the future, our ability to elevate our performance and achieve what we can call World-Class ITSM performance, is all about our people. Great ITSM organizations understand this and the focus of these high performing teams on people has grown in the past five years. Mentoring, training, career development, mental health, and expanded compensation plans are all important to the continued development and nurturing of the talented people of ITSM and now more than ever. Another important element of our people investment are soft skills. These are more important than ever for ITSM and will include communications, creative skills, customer-facing skills, innovation skills and more. Technology expertise is important but it is not enough.
Although not always the focus of traditional IT and ITSM, our people hold the key to achieving the highest level of IT organizational performance in the future.
Just the Right Amount of Best Practices
We are fortunate to have access to a wealth of IT Best Practices and Frameworks today including ITIL, COBIT, Agile, DevOps, Lean, SIAM, VeriSM and much more. The key question becomes, ‘which one and how much…’. This goes right to the heart of the matter and reveals a key habit of successful ITSM organizations. The answer is all about finding the right balance. Never confuse a best practices model or framework for our IT or ITSM strategy. This is a critical point—each of these examples can help to enrich the strategy of IT and of ITSM, but they should never be seen as THE strategy, or THE operating model. Too much of a commitment to any single framework can dilute our efforts on the primary strategies for ITSM. For example, some elements of ITIL can help with the structure of how we operate ITSM processes including Change Management and Release Management, two of the more impactful processes, while DevOps offers good insights into the operations of IT and ITSM and helps improve our cultural discipline and improve our focus on measurable outcomes. However, neither should be taken as the full model for ITSM individually—but combining the best characteristics of both is a great approach.
Each of the most popular frameworks and best practice models offer specific strengths, and should be leveraged thoughtfully based on the current needs of the organization and in the right combination.
Connect to Business Outcomes
Everything we do each day in ITSM and IT must be directly connected to business outcomes. This connection provides the context and measurements we need when clarity might be lacking. Our ITSM teams must understand how the work we are doing in Service Management will bring improved business results, and drive happier customers. This is a cultural change, but a good one in that it naturally drives improved teamwork with key business owners, with senior management, and creates a new push to ask ‘Why’ about everything we do. If we are making an investment in ITSM and we can’t answer this important question with terms that connect to the business, the investment must be reevaluated. This also helps to shift our culture from Inside-Out to Outside-In and this drives a level of customer and market awareness that further advances our culture.
It is healthy for our culture to thinks in terms that are more Outside-In than Inside-Out.
Clear Process Owners
Processes are a natural and important part of the daily operations of Service Management. With this, there are a number of questions, clarifications, strategies and decisions that are necessary to keep our Incident, Problem, Change Management, Service Catalog and other related ITSM processes up to date and healthy. Strong ITSM organizations have strong process owners that can be the focus of these activities and ensure all team members have questions answered quickly, the right planning processes are occurring, process designs are updated, system upgrades are well planned and well executed and much more. These are key roles for the business and should be key leaders both within ITSM, but also across the IT organization and increasingly as liaisons with the business and our key business owners. The lack of clear process owners slows us down, makes even the most basic decisions more difficult and creates a leadership void in the daily work that is so vital to strong IT Service Management.
Process owners are vocal and visible advocates for the elements of ITSM and work across all the teams of IT to drive both ITSM and the key cross-functional processes that are the backbone of IT operations.
Commit to Communication
Communications are not often at the top of the traditional list of priorities for IT and for ITSM but we are beginning to understand just how important improved communications can be for ITSM. Look no further than the very best ITSM teams and we quickly recognize the commitment to a focus on communicating well across these teams of Service Management. A good model for communications is frequent, informal and fast. These frequent updates between teams and with the business keep our people synchronized, avoids surprises and encourages collaboration. Some strong teams use a 5-10 minute checkpoint at the beginning of each day to quickly review key initiatives and the status of key deliverables. The model works best when we make the process easy, frequent, convenient and informal. The focus should be on content, and key insights, and not on structure or process. Everybody benefits when we communicate better in ITSM because service management processes are often driving service delivery and multi-functional business process so the ITSM organization can be a role model for the broader organization with a commitment to improved communications. Remember, a little better goes a long way.
IT Service Management is a key element of IT and increasingly recognized as a key driver of both the IT organization and the broader business and we can all benefit from these proven Habits as displayed by ITSM organizations that are performing at the highest levels.
I hope one or two of these examples can benefit your team today.
Keep the faith my friends.