Why Does ITSM need to be Agile?

It is needless to stress out once more the importance of IT for businesses in all industries in this digital era. As an IT professional you certainly realize that now IT is the business.

With that said, let’s go deeper into what has happened to the overall IT in the last fifteen years; how did it come to be what it currently is.

The Reason behind Technological Advancements

In the mid and late 90s, everybody was expecting with awe the new millennium. Some people imagined flying cars, realistic virtual interpersonal communications, and futuristic personal devices for daily use. Not all of these things became a reality, but many of them did. But the change didn’t really happen in the technology available. The change occurred in the mindsets of the new generations—and the natural evolution of previous ones—that has led to the development of all these technological advancements. Year by year people have developed more ‘digital mindsets’, to the point that now many people prefer buying online rather than going to a store. We must admit it has its advantages!

The Early Stages: The Introduction of ITSM

The shift, however, was not radical. This change occurred in stages. It all started in the first decade of the new century, when businesses realized they had to make the best use of technology to support their business operations. This is where IT Service Management was formally adopted and embedded into IT’s business-as-usual. Formal processes for managing IT services were defined, and many organizations around the globe increased their ROI from IT through the adoption of a process approach. Two of the biggest benefits achieved through this new way of working were consistency and control, which normally lead to improvement. Up to this point processes seemed to be a good thing for almost everyone.

The Unexpected Increasing Demand for Digitalization

Out of a sudden, businesses found themselves in a situation where users—yes, those evolved generations we talked about earlier—were demanding more automated and digital services; the market had changed, and businesses which would not transform into digital would find their own fate, situation which is still current. This has caused the efforts of IT to be placed on another discipline different to ITSM: Development.

In an effort to meet the business’ increasing demands for new digital consumer services, Development areas started exploring ways of delivering services faster, and so Agile approaches became widely adopted by the beginning of the second decade in the 2000s. In the meantime, ITSM continued, in many cases, working as an isolated organization inside their own bubble of process practices, tending to a “process-management” approach, instead of actually doing service management.

The Disconnection within IT

The dark side of these facts is that Development and ITSM (where Operations belongs) have a very tight relationship, which many organizations still do not acknowledge. One cannot survive without the other, and everything that is created by Development, is later deployed and operated by IT Service Management teams. Anyone would expect that both areas were well coordinated and working in good collaboration, but the reality is that they aren’t. These two silos normally don’t like each other; not because they’re bad, but because they have different priorities. One is focused on innovation, while the other is striving for stability.

The problem, however, goes deeper. The lack of IT Governance and leadership in IT as a single organization pursuing alignment with business goals has fostered this misalignment, and also has the lack of agility in ITSM. Operational processes are perceived as bottlenecks by Development teams, and in fact many times business deliveries are slowed down due to bureaucratic processes on the operational side. The ITSM processes that once were implemented for improved control have lost their focus of creating value to the customer and have become the goal in themselves, instead of being just a means to achieve the goal.

What Should ITSM Do to Help?

Approaches such as Agile and DevOps, and moreover Lean, can certainly help ITSM teams—besides Development functions—to define the so called ‘just enough’ agile processes; and both sides should be held accountable for teaming up and working in collaboration for the sake of value creation. IT Service Managers and Process Owners should become agile, the same way that their counterparts in Development areas have done.

It is time therefore for ITSM to refocus on what’s really important: delivering value to the business and the end customer. What do ITSM teams need to do? They need to study their context, assess their current situation and realign their efforts with the business’ priorities; and when they do this, they will unavoidably realize that adopting agile practices is critical for the optimal performance of the whole value stream.

Do you consider your ITSM teams to be Agile? Do you know how IT Service Managers and Process Owners can actually become Agile?

Written by Manuel Garcia

IT consultant with experience mainly in training services and a wide focus on customer satisfaction and value creation.


Learn more about our Certified Agile Service Manager (CASM) and Certified Agile Process Owner (CAPO) training courses, both accredited by the DevOps Institute.

 

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