There has been much talk throughout the IT Service Management (ITSM) industry about the value of the Service Management Office (SMO), so should you be hurrying to create one in your organization? Will a SMO deliver value for your business?
Of course, the answers depend on your starting position. There are likely to be some costs associated with establishing and operating the SMO. This is no different to any other aspect of ITSM. However, the costs of a well designed and implemented SMO can be easily exceeded by the savings that can be made. For example, if your ITSM implementation is immature or incomplete then establishing the SMO up front can help to avoid the extra costs and disruption associated with poor transitions from products into services. If you have a mature implementation then the SMO can help to reduce costs overall by centralizing and consolidating common activities.
Organizations of all sizes and shapes can benefit from the SMO. Organizations with a high number of employees engaged in ITSM are likely to see greater savings from introducing a central SMO function, but the same benefits can be enjoyed by smaller enterprises where the SMO could just be one individual.
It is however important that any organization embarking on establishing an SMO fully understands the likely costs, impacts to existing ways of working, identified cost savings, tangible benefits and intangible benefits before starting the journey. Introducing an SMO should be considered and managed as any other project that aims to change how a business operates.
The same discussion about value was held in many businesses many years ago when the idea of a Project Management Office (PMO) was first proposed. Few organizations would now argue against the value of having such a center of excellence for project management. The SMO should be seen in the same light as it acts in a very similar way to a PMO, but with the focus on services and service management instead of on projects and project management.
The SMO can help to embed ITSM in an organization, by consolidation of ITSM expertise into one function instead of being scattered in diverse IT teams. The SMO can then provide true ITSM value to the business by focusing on delivery of services rather than on individual products. This is becoming increasingly necessary as IT skills become more and more focused on specific technologies.
Using processes to manage IT services has been part of IT for decades, however many implementations of ITSM processes have failed to deliver the value that was promised. Despite repeated attempts to address the failures by introducing new versions of ITSM best practices, some businesses are starting to question the value of ITSM to them. A new SMO acting as a center of excellence in ITSM can help to recover the reputation of ITSM and start to add value back to the business in the form of available and high quality services.
Developing such a center of excellence may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. A good approach is to make a small start with the SMO then grow the activities and scope as confidence is gained.
IT departments in virtually every organization around the world have experts who are more than willing to share their service management knowledge and experience. Taking the first steps to establish the SMO can be as simple as allocating a few hours a week to harvest knowledge from the experts in order to establish a shared body of knowledge. You could also identify someone with the necessary SMO skills, and give them some time to start operating as the SMO. For small organizations resourcing the SMO part-time can be sufficient to make the desired improvements.
A larger enterprise may elect to build a complete enterprise-service-management capability in its SMO, providing ITSM for the business with toolsets, centralized service desks, knowledge management, and a pool of service management experts to help build processes and establish robust ITSM and SMO capabilities for the enterprise.
The SMO can bring value to individuals as well as to the wider enterprise. Moving routine and sometimes mundane tasks such as reporting into the SMO can free up the time of skilled ITSM practitioners to work on improvements in their process areas, accelerating an increase in the value delivered by ITSM. Some individuals prefer to work solely on routine tasks. The SMO can provide them with this opportunity, increasing their job satisfaction.
One size does not fit all. If you are interested in building a SMO for your organization, then you must first determine your goals, how quickly you want results, and the ultimate benefits that you want for your organization. The answers to these questions should help you set the scene and build a SMO that can provide a valuable service to your business, ITSM, and IT.