ITSM Is About Managing Work, Not Executing Processes

The first thoughts that come to mind when thinking about IT Service Management are ITIL, service desks and the set of processes for managing incidents, problems and changes. While these are all part of the ITSM picture, they are actually just the tools and techniques that ITSM practitioners and their organizations use; they aren’t the essence of ITSM. Carpenters use hammers and saws (their tools), but it’s the houses and structures they build that are the essence of their work. Similarly, ITSM is about managing work, not executing processes. It’s about impact, not mechanics.

The focus of service management should be the services that your organization provides your users and constituent stakeholders – the technical capabilities, access to meaningful data, facilitation of business processes and resolving issues when they occur. Yes, you apply a set of tools and methods to perform the management function, but the services are where ITSM adds value.

What do I actually mean by “managing work”? Service management (not just in the IT function, but throughout your organization) is the managing of large volume of small (usually not very complex) tasks that must be performed, so your daily operations run effectively. Project and program management provide a structure to plan and execute the more complex change efforts, but once systems and processes are operating (or supporting active projects), there are a series of continuous activities that must be managed – that’s ITSM’s important contribution. Here are the specific points about how ITSM manages work:

  • Capturing the work that must be done – Providing a consistent engagement mechanism for stakeholders, so you understand their needs.
  • Involving the right people – Based on the need, identifying the right people or organizations to address and fulfill the need.
  • Ensuring work is tracked to resolution – Providing a consistent method to track the status of individual requests and ensuring they are resolved (or canceled).
  • Managing knowledge throughout the organization – As you learn how to work more effectively, that knowledge can be used to drive efficiency.
  • Tracking how various parts of your operations are configured – Each portion of work has a context (the processes, systems and people) for how it is performed.
  • Providing metrics to help assess how effective your operations are running – Helping management make more informed decisions.

Service management can be performed in many ways and with a varying degree of sophistication, depending on the needs of your organization and the nature of work you are managing. In a small organization or with a limited scope, ITSM can simply be an activity that is done part-time, which a notebook and perhaps a checklist or two supports. For large organizations with a variety of work (e.g., sales, IT, HR, etc.) and which service management supports, more complex organizational structures, automated workflows, formal processes and management systems may be appropriate. Formalized ITIL processes may be necessary in some situations, but considered overkill in others – the key is matching the level of process rigor to the work and having just the right amount to add value without unnecessary overhead.

Service Management isn’t the execution of a set of processes, it is managing work and keeping your company running efficiently. As you constantly review your organization, consider all the little pockets where work is taking place in support functions or activities outside of projects or the operations themselves. Should they be more formalized? Would there be value in centralizing them for economies of scale? Can service management processes and tools help you better manage the work?

Let me know what you think in the comments below