The Changing Face of Service Management

What the new IT Service Management professional needs to know?

Technology is evolving at a pace that is truly remarkable. Along with advancements in the tools we use, the way we interact with them is also experiencing rapid change. That means that today’s ITSM professional needs a whole new range of skills in order to succeed and make a difference in their chosen field of endeavour.

There is no time for complacency.  Unless today’s ITSM specialist learns how to function in this new world, they will be as obsolete as a punch-card, a 512 MB hard drive or a dot matrix printer. The face of service management has changed and a new set of skills must be added to your toolset.

1. Governance is key

With an increasing number of services being hosted offsite, the internal ITSM specialist has become a conduit between the business and multiple third party vendors. This does not stop the role of managing services, it just changes it and makes it more complex, with many more facets to keep track of.

Doing this well relies on good governance of IT. There will always be the traditional internal ITSM tasks that need to be taken care of, but it takes a new set of skills to hold everyone accountable for the promises they have made.

Governance and accountability go hand-in-hand and good governance is critical to the success in ITSM. When you are successful in this you will be able to:

  • Get people involved and vested in ITSM
  • Get a consensus and hold people accountable for what they agreed to
  • Produce evidence that the ITSM program is working and meeting the needs of the stakeholders
  • Communicate success in terms that are meaningful to your stakeholders

2. Broaden your horizons

Ten years ago, all you needed to get into a good role in ITSM was a piece of paper that said you knew all about ITIL®.  Well, life has changed. Today’s successful ITSM professional understands that frameworks are just that, a frame to hang your own best practice on.

Gone are the days when you were expected to pick up the ITIL books and follow them from cover to cover ‘implementing’ each and every process, regardless of whether or not they were relevant to your situation. ITSM is no longer all about implementing ITIL, it is about understanding the place that the plethora of best practice advice that is out there has in your business.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution in service management, you will now be judged on the results that you are able to deliver to business effectiveness rather than what your ‘spiderweb’ assessment result looks like. No one wants to know what your maturity level is for ITIL incident management, they want to know that incidents are not impacting the bottom line of the business.

3. Know what your ‘Why?’ is

Simon Sinek’s seminal TED talk – ‘How great leaders inspire action’ – made many people sit up and listen. It is a very simple concept, but one that is often ignored as it is so much easier to start with the ‘what’.

The concept behind this is that you need to tell people why you exist, not what you do…start with why you are there, then move to how you do things and finally tell people what it is that you deliver. The idea is that if people know why you exist they will be much more likely to understand and buy into what you are delivering.

No-one wants to know WHAT IT does, what they need to hear is WHY we do it. Telling the ‘why’ story is where IT starts to demonstrate its value to the business.

You need to be able to demonstrate the success of your ITSM initiatives…the end results will clearly show why you are doing what you are doing.

4. Re-focus

IT struggles with the concept of value…to ensure that you and the internal IT organization, remain relevant to the business you need to focus on business outcomes, not technology. Business requirements come first; technology is simply an enabler for these requirements.

Being the best ITSM practitioner you can be now means taking a genuine interest in the business you are working in. In the past 10 years, we have evolved from supporting the business, through to aligning with it, and on to enabling. Now we need to be innovating. IT has the opportunity to push the business to new heights through a proactive use of new and emerging technologies.

IT proves its value to the organization when it uses technology to give the business an edge in the market. Astute use of technology can move your products and services to the lead, leaving competitors to play catch up.

5. Become a leader

The most important skill today’s ITSM professional can acquire is that of leadership. Leaders can be found at any level of the organisation…remember that management and leadership are not necessarily the same thing, there are many great leaders who are not managers and far too many managers out there who are not good leaders.

The top attributes of a real leader are:

  • Authenticity
  • Honesty
  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Decisiveness
  • Ability to inspire

Use these leadership skills to ensure good governance.  If you are unable to do this then it is very unlikely that your ITSM program will succeed, your processes will fail and ITSM will get the blame.

6. Keep IT Relevant

As technology-based services become commodities that the business can purchase from external sources it becomes more and more critical that today’s ITSM experts bring added value, over and above the supply of an IT infrastructure. If they do not, then the internal IT capability will become irrelevant and the business will look elsewhere.

To maintain relevancy, ITSM needs to add value to the business over and above what they can receive from external service providers. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved:

  • Actively manage the vendor relationship, tracking and reporting on SLA performance
  • Develop application expertise to cement the internal organisation’s place as the first line of support
  • Ensure that IT is a part of every service acquisition negotiation, building a reputation as a critical player in this process
  • The business needs to understand and believe that they cannot do this alone!

7. Keep your knowledge current

Do not underestimate the importance of keeping up to date. In this age of instant information, it is essential that you keep abreast of technological advances that may affect the business.

Research and development are critical roles for IT. You need to make sure you are one step ahead so that, when the business comes to you with a question about something they heard about that they think may benefit them, you know what they are talking about and can give them the answers they are looking for.

To keep current you can:

  • Use social media to follow the thought leaders in your industry…read the articles they post
  • Attend webinars focusing on advances that are applicable to the business you are in
  • Attend physical conferences and other events, talk to others and find out what new technologies they are using or considering

You should not underestimate the value of social media.  Valuable information and relationships can come from these outlets. Another good source of knowledge is the content that is put out by vendors in the space you are working in.  Many companies distribute high quality non-marketing material that is freely available for download.

8. Never stop learning

A good employer will encourage professional development of their workforce and will offer opportunities for this to happen.

Within ITSM there are many different paths that will lead to improved understanding and higher value to the business

  • ITIL
  • COBIT
  • PRINCE2
  • ISO training and certification
  • KCS (Knowledge Centered Support)
  • And many more…

Outside of ITSM look for skills that help you to relate to the business

  • Negotiation
  • Project Management
  • Leadership
  • Meeting facilitation
  • And more…

9. Collaboration breeds success

IT cannot, and must not try to, operate in isolation. Collaborating with the business at large is essential to success. Collaboration will happen when you get a few key points right:

  • A Business understanding that ITSM success is critical to sustainability
  • Recognizing who your customer is – this will get you a long way when you need to get their consensus and buy-in
  • Building key metrics and reporting into everything you do…understanding grows collaboration
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate…and when you have finished, communicate some more

In conclusion

IT Service Management cannot afford to sit back and rely on past success to hold its place in the world. Cloud computing has created a landscape where a focus on governance, leadership and collaboration are essential for cementing the place of ITSM as a key partner contributing to business success.

David Mainville

David Mainville


David Mainville, CEO and co-founder of Navvia, is a passionate advocate of Service Management and a frequent presenter, blogger and well known member of the ITSM community. With over 35 years of experience, David has held progressively senior technical and management roles allowing him to "connect the dots" between the Business and IT. At Navvia, David leads the charge to bring innovative ITSM solutions to market focusing on Product Development, Marketing and Operations.


• Posted by David Mainville on Nov 20, 2014
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