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The Holy Trinity of IT Service Management

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People, technology and process are the compounds that construct the IT Service Management triumvirate. Having already identified the technology trends, and in particular how predictive analytics will impact incident management, what can we say about the other two members of this very exclusive club?

While process tends to lead the way, it needs people to champion it, and technology to support it. Technology, in the grand scheme of things, tends to be the easiest part to implement as long as it exists and is fit for purpose.

Low level detection

The ability to detect and avoid incidents isn’t something that’s included in the ITIL manual. We could spin it into something to do with Continual Service Improvement, but activities in this area tend to be run on a project basis. They are in effect more likely to be elements of a change programme.

So what can be done when dealing with information relating to the future at such a granular level on a daily basis? The simplest thing would be to treat predictive events as actual incidents, pop them into a team’s queue and let them deal with them alongside everything else.

But what priority should they be given? The predicted incident can’t be high as nothing is broken, and nobody is screaming. On the other hand, if they are treated as a low priority, the issue may never be dealt with in a timeframe that permits the incident to be avoided. Medium, then? Perhaps not, as if the resolution requires additional spend then you need to conform to a purchasing timeframe and once again the benefit of being able to avoid a failure, may be lost.

The answer, unsurprisingly, is that it depends. It will depend on the organisation and how mature its processes are, how stable its services are, and its attitude to risk.

A stitch in time?

How many organisations will zealously fund proactive remedial work? Securing the budget to keep things in a current and supported state is difficult and at times impossible. I’m sure every organisation has a server somewhere that has effectively been shrink wrapped as it is no longer supportable and needs to be kept as protected from change as much as possible, as the service it supports provides good, perhaps even essential value to the business.

It is unlikely that an IT department will be given a blank cheque book to allow it to respond to predicted events. Does this mean that that things will knowingly be left to fail?

Therein lies another people aspect. How are IT Service Management staff rewarded?

Fire fighter or keeper of the peace?

If services operate without issue the IT department becomes the focus of cost cutting.

If on the other hand systems fail, all thanks are given to those that worked tirelessly through the night, surviving only on pizzas and vending machine coffee. Like or lump it, the reality is that in these types of scenarios, those that are seen to be doing are those that progress.

IT has a very real culture of martyrdom embedded within it that will be difficult to change.

Of course there will still be unexpected incidents that can’t be predicted but in a world where we can now identify and avoid incident there needs to be a balance that encourages and rewards the proactive as much as the reactive.

Different thinking is needed together with a different reward structure. Pavlov discovered long ago that you have to reward the behaviours you want.

Are your service team keeping the peace or fighting fires? I’d suggest you want people calmly going about their business to let business go about business. Avoiding the avoidable helps them to do just that.

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This article was contributed by Stuart Higgins, Technical Evangelist at Sumerian

 

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1 Response to " The Holy Trinity of IT Service Management "

  1. I think you hot the nail on the head about ‘different thinking’ and different reward (consequence management) practices to stimulate desirable behavior. (Attitude, behavior, Culture (ABC)).
    It also requires creating a culture of risk. Understanding the business risks. Still a top scoring ABC card in workshops world-wide is ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’ – many in IT fail to understanding the business impact in ‘real terms’ of outages (potential) and explore these with the business.

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