What is an ITSM Program Office?
I’m sure you’ve heard many names for what we call the Program Office, e.g., ITSM Competency Center, ITSM Center of Excellence, Process Owners’ Council, Service Management Office, etc. Each of these names means something different, depending on your perspective. Regardless of what name you give it, it is important that you have such a group.
To understand the importance, we first need to put some context around this group. Note, however, the intent here is to describe the objective and importance of an ITSM Program Office and not to describe details about its structure or organization.
We use the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) best-practice framework to guide us in defining how IT Service Management will work. Within Service Management (defined in the ITIL manuals as “A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to Customers in the form of Services.”), IT Service Management talks about how IT works (defined in the ITIL manuals as “The implementation and management of Quality IT Services that meet the needs of the business.IT Service Management is performed by IT Service Providers through an appropriate mix of people, Process and Information Technology.”).
Within any IT organization, we need a group (or team) of people who will focus on the practice of Service Management and provide an oversight role in integrating processes and functions across the organization. It is also important for this group to be accountable for the management of capabilities and resources for continual service improvements related to the processes and functions.
Ownership, accountability, and communication are three key aspects of the Program Office. The Program Office therefore needs the right composition of people. Process Owners will provide ownership and accountability for each of their processes
Service Owners will provide ownership and accountability for their services. In addition, this group may include other key roles such as business representation (this may be in the form of Business Relationship Managers, if you have defined them in your organization), executive representation, ITSM subject matter experts, architecture subject matter experts, application development representation, and the operations representation.
This group will be mandated to define common direction and focus and to be able to communicate consistently across the organization, since many projects and groups fail due to lack of communication.
It is important that the Program Office:
- Ensure definition of common deliverables
- Ensure that roles and responsibilities are defined and applied across all processes consistently
- Ensure consistent use of the processes across the organization
- Ensure that mis-aligned processes are brought together
- Ensure controls are defined and maintained for the processes
- Ensure standards are applied across all ITSM processes
- Ensure that future improvement initiatives are goal-oriented and are in the best interest of the program
- Ensure that customers are satisfied
- Ensure that cross-process communication is being managed and controlled
- Ensure enterprise-wide communication regarding IT service management is consistent and agreed-upon
For those that are familiar with the concept of a Change Advisory Board (CAB), the CAB is a group of people from various parts of the organization brought together to review changes to the production environment. There is certainly a commonality of purpose for this group. The same has to be true for the Program Office group. For example, a Change Process Owner is accountable for the consistent application of Change Management across the organization.
That person is not accountable for the application of Incident Management as that’s the responsibility of the Incident Process Owner. However, together with the other process owners and service owners, they can make a difference in how IT Service Management as a whole is applied in the organization.
Whenever I think of a group like this I’m reminded of a book on leadership that I read. It talked to the concept that a group of individuals (each with their own instrument) being brought together as a band under the leadership of a band leader (the manager of the Program Office). Individually, they have their own expertise and responsibility (their process or service) and each may sound good on their own.
Together, they can make great music by performing both as individuals and as a group. In a Program Office, or CAB, we’re bringing together individuals who have their own responsibility and accountability for their instruments (their processes) to communicate to the organization in a common, consistent manner.
To summarize, a Program Office (or whatever you want to call it) is important to provide ownership, accountability, and communication across the IT Service Management organization. It takes representatives from multiple parts of the organization to provide consistency and standardization around all ITSM processes and functions. Think about how you can use this concept in your own organization.
Feel free to add your voice to the discussion!