Running IT Like a Business: ITSM is a Challenging but Worthwhile Journey

For those of us in corporate IT, if we want to achieve our ITaaS aspirations, we need to become more professional in how we deliver services. In the past, we’ve had the luxury of being able to impose services on our captive clients and with little competitive imperative for us to “be the best we could be.” We delivered client experiences that would have resulted in market share loss had we been a commercial service provider.

With the cloud, everything has changed. Public cloud services are competing for our clients’ business and, in some cases, winning by providing better value than our clients perceive we’re capable of delivering. We now clearly understand that we must transform ourselves to operate more like a business and offer levels of quality, cost and service that differentiate our offerings from alternatives our business clients might have.  A core component of running our IT operation more like a business and becoming a more professional service provider is adopting a set of processes and enabling technologies supporting IT Service Management (ITSM).

ITSM is an industry standard term (much like ERP [Enterprise Resource Management] and CRM [Customer Relationship Management]) that defines a process framework describing an effective and efficient way of conducting IT’s business. Technologies that enable effective IT Service Management are referred to as ITSM Systems. As is the case with ERP and CRM systems, effective ITSM implementations rely on process and behavior change. The technology alone will do very little.

And herein is the challenge. Delivering ITaaS, or running IT more like a business requires making substantial changes to IT processes and our culture and behaviors. As someone who is sponsoring our ITaaS transformation and the implementation of a new ITSM at EMC, I can tell you that it’s not at all easy.

The good news is, done right, ITSM will not only help us operate more professionally, driving improvement in the quality, consistency and cost-effectiveness of services provided to our clients, but will also improve the lives of IT professionals by taking friction, inefficiency and frustration out of service delivery.

In the case of EMC IT, the starting point of our transformation was a  legacy operating model that was technology-silo-focused and sought to contain IT cost by rationing supply, a set of hodgepodge, un-integrated tools, and a culture that valued fire-fighting more than fire-prevention.

For the past two years, we have been working hard to transform ourselves to deliver IT-as-a-Service, and in the process become a more professional provider of IT services. A key element of our transformation is being delivered by our ITSM effort— which we internally code-named UnITy.

At the heart of UnITy is the need to be services-oriented, to operate professionally, and to compete for the business of our clients by demonstrating our value proposition and helping them optimize their consumption decisions. To do that, we need to have integrated IT business processes, governance to ensure those processes will facilitate desired customer outcomes and the organizational discipline to operate those processes effectively.

As the name implies, UnITy will unite IT behind a streamlined, effective and consistent set of IT business processes enabled through a standardized, state-of-the-art platform.

Too often in the past, our project mentality resulted in IT building and implementing technology components. Success was measured by traditional project KPI’s such as achieving a go-live schedule and completing a project on-budget. The business and user capabilities were merely a byproduct of the technology project.

UnITy will flip this on its head. Delivering business and user capabilities becomes the overriding objective, and projects are merely the means by which those new capabilities are delivered.  KPI’s will be ones that measure the user experience and how effectively the IT services deliver business value—whether it’s revenue generation, cost efficiency, time-to-market or user productivity.

Our prior IT-as-a-Service transformation experiences have reinforced the importance of empowering IT consumers with choice, information enabling them to optimize their consumption of IT, and fast self-service capabilities. UnITy will help us take a giant leap forward here by integrating a simple, automated way to allow users to become educated on and self-provision services they need, by integrating self-help and community support channels and by enabling responsive, transparent and consistent resolution of service issues.

A service request odyssey

Consider one small example of how our new ITSM will improve our clients’ experience from a service issue resolution perspective:

What happens today:

A client wants to add a new address to an email distribution list they own. The processes EMC IT uses to accomplish this type of task are not well-documented and not advertised to end users, and can take anywhere from just hours to several weeks, depending on the client’s luck when they call our IT Help Desk and how the request gets directed or misdirected.

–        If the caller reaches someone who knows the process for this particular request, they will be referred to Outlook to fill out an Information Services Exchange Maintenance form. (A lesser experienced Help Desk attendant may decide it’s an email incident as opposed to a request and send it on a more circuitous route.)

–        Without further guidance, there’s a good chance the user will not be familiar with how to access the sizable list of Outlook forms and unsure of which one to choose if they do get there. So maybe the user asks colleagues or calls the Help Desk again for further direction.

–        Once the user does get to the form, he or she may find the required questions confusing and unnecessarily complex. For one thing, the form requires users to fill in corporate identification information that the system already has and should be able to access automatically. For another, some questions on the form are totally superfluous based on outdated processes and can even send lesser experienced Help Desk attendants in a totally wrong direction for resolution.

–        Even if the request doesn’t get misdirected, its timely resolution is uncertain. That’s because under our existing service operation, such requests are classified as “incidents” along with the array of other, more urgent service problems. And since requests are deemed low severity, they can be passed over while service providers deal with more urgent calls. Compounding the problem is the fact that management lacks visibility into the status of such requests and no one currently takes ownership of their progress.

–        In yet another potential misdirection, if the user calls in to check on the status of their distribution list change request and doesn’t know the ticket number of the original service request, they could end up getting sent back to square one if the service provider decides to issue a new ticket.

With UnITy: One-stop shopping simplicity

In the UnITy user portal, the user will see a clear depiction of capabilities organized by a logical taxonomy.  In this case, the user would navigate through an intuitive path:  communication and conferencing solutions > email > distribution lists > modify existing distribution list.  This brings up a form with the user’s contact info pre-populated. The form will be routed automatically to the right group to address the request with no Help Desk involvement necessary.

IT will have clearly defined the process and timeframe (Service Level Agreement) for provisioning all requests. And if an issue isn’t addressed within the prescribed SLA, the system will automatically escalate the process to a manager for resolution.

And if a user wants to check on the status of their request, they can access a personalized log of all their past and current service request tickets, eliminating any frustration over forgotten ticket numbers.

This is just one example of how an effective ITSM solution leveraging industry standard processes, enabling technology, and organizational discipline can provide much more efficient and consistent support to internal customers.  But delivering better support is just one aspect.  ITSM benefits also accrue in other phases of the service lifecycle from design through testing into implementation and continual service improvement— enabling the professionalism necessary to operate more like a business in today’s competitive IT service world.

It’s lots of effort, but definitely worth all the heavy lifting…and I’d argue that it’s something we cannot afford NOT to do!

About the Author: Jon Peirce