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31 August, 2022 Service Management ITSM Insight

The what and why of service management – and what it needs to be successful

In the first of a series examining what service management is and how it works to create organisational value, we start with the basics:

Why does an organisation need to understand what service management is, what it does and what it achieves when done well?

This has been a recurring question over the past 10 years, not least with the arrival of newer models such as DevOps and Agile  and the general  ‘digital’ revolution.

To get straight to the point, effective service management is about running technology in a business-focussed way – to  keep the organisation running and including managing business continuity, integrity, risk and efficiency.

Despite increasing use and promotion of automation, Service Management remains necessary and vital as a means of managing delivery of technology,  to guide, identify and review performance and value, and provide governance. Therefore, service management is still a critical business function; and although delivered primarily by IT, its governance needs to be a joint IT and organisational responsibility.

Of course service management (ITSM) can also be about wider enterprise management (ESM), whereby the discipline straddles the organisation; led by IT in many cases, but not restricted to the IT department.

What service management isn’t

A common misconception about service management is that it’s just a set of processes, revolving around the service desk and IT support: perceived as a response to failure rather than helping an organisation attain optimal business performance.

Any good engineer will tell you that – when building something new – the greatest value is created by understanding how people will use what you build and how it will be delivered day to day.

In service management, you need to consider how something will run once built and this involves much more than a service desk, an IT tool and processes.

Deriving value from service management

Above all, service management is focused on achieving what is expected of an IT product/service, which may include allowing an organisation to transact or a public sector service to deliver against its charter. So, if you’re spending 20% of turnover on IT, you want to know that it’s delivering what it should.

For the people at the receiving end of the product/service, that means an improved user or customer experience and more successful business outcomes. The emerging new and vital concept is experience management, which applies also to the people delivering the product or service – employee experience is becoming increasingly recognised as a key element.

And an emerging issue is innovation: this is about service management helping people to work better by, for example, the service desk moving from a basic ‘break-fix’ function to an enabler for people to improve their work environment, experience and performance.

In each facet of its role, service management is about bringing out and understanding the human element – something that, until the arrival of more recent models such as ITIL 4, hadn’t really been defined in the IT service management lexicon.

Service management in practice

 If service management is about seeing the “big picture”, this means viewing the whole, end-to-end delivery of a service or a particular delivery activity.

But how does that differ from the status quo?

Many organisations have created silos around processes, such as the service desk, incident management, problem, change, etc. Unfortunately for them, issues don’t happen according to siloed processes.

Instead, if the understanding of an organisation’s target operating model extends across the enterprise, then service management that operates throughout allows people to see their work in context: i.e., what’s coming towards you and what comes after you in the value stream.

This requires that people and organisations see service management as a collaborative venture, all being involved in design and build as well as run, operate and respond.

The capabilities for modern service managers

If you’re going to collaborate, you must be interested in what’s happening around you.

And that involves having good relationship management people bridging the gap between IT and its customers; managing demand and engaging with people to understand their technology needs now and in the future. The value is then derived from capturing feedback and any good/bad experience.

These relationship-driven people are good communicators, flexible and adaptable to working with different people/stakeholders across an organisation and with the ability to apply business skills, including sales; finding opportunities and working with people to build trust and offer solutions.

What does success look like in effective service management?

Service management is a creative activity and definitely something that should be noted for the value it delivers. Without undue exaggeration, it keeps the business world running; for that along it deserves kudos.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought home the way in which service desk and operations professionals support people’s work lives, especially when working from home.

And increasing collaboration between service management and development means that both disciplines can innovate and collectively decide what will work in the customer’s best interest.

Effective service management should be visible and understood among senior leadership. this requires good skill to translate operational and technical information into business contexts and simple messages – however this is a vital activity in order to garner support and increase visibility at the C-level.

Cultivating the right culture

Good service culture is about assembling the right, diverse mix of people to stand a better chance of meeting the needs of the diverse people they serve – understanding who your customers are and how to relate to them.

But culture also comes very much from the top. The tradition of senior leadership using a command and control approach has, mostly, had its day. Instead, the principle of servant leadership – in which management is there to enable people to be successful – has shown itself to be far more empowering.

Look out for the next instalment in the series, when we tackle the topic of problem management