Develop ITSM Cloud Strategies
How to develop ITSM strategy that extends all the way to the cloud and drives business objectives as well as technology advances.
If you are like most IT organizations, you probably already have some kind of IT service management (ITSM) in place. You may have a ticketing system for incident management, maybe even the beginnings of a configuration management database (CMDB). Your CIO might also have some cost management functions—it could be as simple as a spreadsheet he or she keeps up to date.
The good news is: you are not at square one. These are all valid pieces of ITSM. Too often, however, they are very disparate, depend on different toolsets that are not integrated, and, as a result, one hand is never really sure what the other is doing.
Basically, you’ve got the dots but not the big picture. If you want to be able to proceed along the IT transformation journey to cloud computing, you need to begin to connect the dots in some systematic way.
A Clear Vision
The first step in development of ITSM is a clear vision of where you want to go. ITSM can be your reliable GPS, but first you have to upload the data it needs to map your directions. A comprehensive ITSM strategy, as a result, needs to address:
1. IT operations and efficiencies that enable you to get the most from your current technology
2. Management functions that drive value with the organization; i.e., cost, finance and asset management.
3. Business enablement that aligns IT technology with business requirements and objectives.
I hasten to add: You don’t have to implement a comprehensive strategy all at once. In fact, defining a strategy allows you to address short-term pain points with the confidence that you are proceeding in the right long-term direction.
Once you have established a broad ITSM strategy, you need to select a toolset that offers the capabilities you will need to execute your strategy over time. Fortunately, there are many toolsets to choose from today that are comprehensive and fully integrated. Suffice to say: the days when adapting an ITSM tool meant fitting your business into the tool maker’s framework are at least a generation behind us. Toolsets have become so adaptable that they are being used in business units outside of IT as well. We recently helped a manufacturing client use ServiceNow to implement a supply chain operations application. They use it to manage their products and issues with their products the same way they would IT assets.
What Have you Done For Me Lately
A foundational component of an effective ITSM strategy is a service catalog which defines the IT services in enough detail to outline the technology and processes that are required to provide them. This, admittedly, is not a small task. In some organizations the service catalog can include upwards of 100 distinct IT services.
Describing all the services IT provides in a service catalog makes it possible to align IT services directly with the business services they support and has the additional advantage of helping IT show executive management all the valuable services IT provides the rest of the organization.
Development of a CMDB is also foundational. A CMDB allows the identification, management and tracking of the technology on which business services are built. A CMDB also allows you to determine what each service is costing you and identify the services — like service desk, select managed services, and cloud computing — that could be more efficiently handled by a qualified third party. Implementing an effective ITSM strategy, as a result, is both a requirement and an enabler of out-tasking and cloud computing. All the information a service provider needs to set up automation and orchestration parameters for a cloud solution is available in your service catalog and CMDB.
The service catalog is the primary interface between IT and business and allows business users to request specific services, everything from a new laptop, to servers and storage and a range of applications and services. Fully enabling this self-service capability is a major milestone on the IT transformation journey…
You Want What? When?
IT directors are justified in being skeptical of a typical business user’s ability to make appropriate technical choices. But, as scary as allowing business users to request technical services on their own might be, a scarier thought is the world of “shadow IT” that enterprising users have found outside the firewall that surrounds your secure and protected IT environment.
You have to know by now that turning the tide back on the consumerization of IT (bring-your-own-device) trend is not an option. A comprehensive service catalog can get you out ahead of your users in this regard. By providing the services users need in your service catalog, you can provide automation, workflow and orchestration and establish an approvals process that is consistent with your IT strategy. Orchestration could involve getting technologists involved as needed to make the right choices and ensure that their request fits your IT strategy. By giving users what they need in your managed IT environment, you keep them from going off and doing something risky with your data on the Internet.
You don’t have to be afraid of not knowing how to implement an ITSM strategy. There are many sources of proven best practices you can use to build one of your own. The two primary sources are Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) which focuses on aligning the needs of the business with IT services, and Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) which has been described as the ITIL of governance and cost management.
The most common place to start implementing an ITSM strategy is with the these three ITIL best practices:
- Incident Management, including help desk best practices to categorize issues and automate the workflow to resolve them.
- Problem Management, including processes for pattern analysis that will help you minimize the impact of problems.
- Change Management, to ensure that you have and can manage standards and procedures for making changes and supporting your end users.
These three best practices are a great place to start, but, a poor place to stop. Thinking you are done at this point would be similar to having the architectural blueprints and material to build a castle and then stopping after the foundation is completed. There are many layers of interdependent functions that need to be implemented to address the full scope of a comprehensive ITSM strategy.
I should add that the most common pitfall that organizations make is trying to design and implement their own unique ITSM processes. There are many established processes available that you can adapt to your specific requirements. It is not necessary to re-invent all those wheels.
Do I Know You?
Just as IT pros have misgivings about their business users’ ability to make appropriate technology choices, business users, in turn, are skeptical that IT is actually on their side. Many surveys have indicated that IT departments often simply do not know how to apply technical innovation to accomplish business objectives. It’s not in their traditional skill set. That’s going to have to change.
A key part of ITSM is enabling communication between IT and business, and IT needs to take the lead on this process. One way to do that is by training or hiring a business strategist – part technologist part business analyst – who possesses enough technical knowledge to work well with developers and bring business knowledge to IT projects. This is a new role for IT. It is not necessarily the CIO’s role to be the business analyst. It is the CIO’s role, however, to make sure that someone is working as a liaison between business and technology. As we move increasingly toward what’s being called a “service defined enterprise” (SDE), business leaders are going to participate increasingly in technology decisions. IT needs to anticipate business needs or risk getting run over or sidelined by the trend.
The Road Ahead
Many IT environments evolved over the years in response to the dictates of circumstance and short-term crises. Most IT organizations still spend more than 70 percent of the resources keeping the lights blinking and putting out fires. That’s not going to be good enough in the future. An effective ITSM strategy is the only way to know that the decisions you make this week aren’t going to lead to the next train wreck six months from now.
We are on the threshold of the day when the IT infrastructure can respond dynamically to change according to processes and parameters spelled out in advance in an effective ITSM strategy. As the pace of business and IT races faster and faster, the businesses that succeed are going to be those that use ITSM best practices to ensure that business and technology are pulling together in the same direction. Without an effective ITSM strategy in place, circumstance will continue to make your decisions for you.
By Mike Alley
Mike is the Director, IT Service Management at Logicalis for ITSM solutions and has nearly 30 years of experience in the technology industry. Mike joined Logicalis in 2006 through the acquisition of Carotek, a top HP partner in the Southeast. Prior to Carotek, Mike worked as a consulting manager at HP. He began his career as a hardware design engineer and software developer at Martin Marietta Energy Systems.