IT Service Management Trends and Hot Topics

The worldwide adoption of IT Service Management (ITSM) policies, processes and enabling tools has grown rapidly in recent years. IT organisations have, in particular, adopted IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practice to provide consistency of process and improve operational performance – propelled by the increasing business demand for IT, the growing enterprise-level reliance on high quality, business-critical IT services, and the increased complexity of the corporate IT infrastructure.

Whilst some IT organisations have still to face the inherent challenges of ITIL adoption, many are at a level of maturity where they could, and should be seeking to further improve their IT performance. However, from a hands-on ITSM Practitioner perspective, it is often difficult to step back from the rigours of day-to-day IT operations to see the improvement opportunities available; opportunities that include cutting costs or reducing wastage, complementing ITIL with other ITSM standards or best practices, reassessing the applicability and cost of existing ITSM-enabling tools, and adding to existing ITIL processes to deliver greater business value.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that the downturn in the economy has impacted IT Operations in many ways by increasing the pressures on CIOs and their teams and accelerating the need for IT organisations to change, to reduce IT costs and deliver more value. Thus, Butler Group is seeing far greater IT and business emphasis on what IT costs, what it delivers to the organisation, and where it can deliver competitive advantage.

Hence the first trend and hot topic is that of reducing ‘IT wastage’, the focusing on activities and solutions that facilitate effective cost management whilst not adversely affecting business service availability. Interestingly, ‘Lean’ has become a commonly used word in an IT context – ‘Lean IT’ – and from an Infrastructure Management perspective, greater corporate attention is being applied to Asset and Capacity Management effectiveness. Butler Group has also observed greater vendor and enterprise interaction in the areas of Application Portfolio Management, Service Portfolio Management, Process Automation, Employee Self-Service, and the use of remote resolution tools as organisations endeavour to optimise their scarce financial and people resources.

The second trend and hot topic is the growing emphasis on multiple IT management frameworks, with the previously posed question of ‘Do you use ITIL or COBIT?’ being replaced with ‘Do you use ITIL and COBIT?’ (Or ISO 20000 or other related standard/set of best practices). Organisations are realising that ITIL has never been (nor was intended to be) a complete, out-of-the-box solution and that it does not have to stand alone.

Whilst ITIL is widely regarded as the de facto standard for ITSM best practice (it’s not proof but the Googling of ‘ITIL’ retrieves 6.8m results compared to 1.3m for ‘ITSM’), organizations are beginning to understand that no one best practice framework can truly act as a ‘silver bullet’ for ITSM and that the optimisation of ITSM activities may need to involve the adoption of various complementary best practices in concert. Up to 40% of organizations say they are now using multiple frameworks, with the combination dependent on the size, nature, and maturity of the organisation and its business objectives.

The following list, whilst not exhaustive, gives an indication of what is currently being used in conjunction with ITIL to improve service delivery: ISO/IEC 20000 – Specification and Code of Practice for ITSM (); COBIT 4.1 (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology); Val IT – a framework for the governance of IT investments (both; Microsoft Operation Framework (MOF); ISO/IEC 27001/2 – Information Security Management Standard; Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI); Six Sigma; Application Service Library; and ISO/IEC 38500 – a Corporate Governance of IT Standard. Much of this ‘mixing and matching’ of standards and best practice frameworks is being driven by IT governance and, as with ITIL, unless an organisation is aiming for organizational certification it should be used on a ‘take what you need’ basis. Importantly, governance requirements will differ from organisation-toorganisation so there is a need to create a composite of existing best practice frameworks, methodologies, and standards that is organisationally fit-for-purpose.

The third trend and hot topic is the continuing rise of On Demand ITSM, particularly Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), with its profile being raised by the same drivers that are focusing CIOs on the need for effective IT Service Management (ITSM) and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) adoption. In Butler Group’s opinion, after the capability/functionality additions necessitated by the move from ITIL v2 to v3, this is the biggest change in the ITSM product landscape in the last five years.

SaaS-delivery is a good fit for ITSM given that, with phased implementation, it can be a relatively low risk environment for both SaaS and ITSM introduction within an organisation; and businesses are now more aware of the benefits and risks of SaaS – the latter of which was a real barrier to early adoption, with some SaaS-only vendors initially needing to start customers on an on-premises SaaS offering. The ITSM tool market is now being filled with SaaSdelivered solutions from both traditional ITSM vendors, with SaaS versions of existing ITSM offerings, and newer SaaS-only vendors.

There are many benefits to be realized through the adoption of SaaS ITSM tool delivery. Given that it should only require a browser and an Internet connection to function – no client to install, no hardware to support, and nothing to upgrade locally – scarce IT resources can be redirected away from ITinternal systems to focus on the delivery of business-critical IT services. SaaS’s simple, subscription-based pricing model – usually a cost per month per user that covers everything needed to operate – provides a lower and consistent level of expenditure that is OPEX rather than a CAPEX investment. The SaaS vendor focus on security (one of the early barriers to adoption), reduced time to deploy (and associated value realisation), effortless upgrades (at least on the customer’s part), and high scalability all make the SaaS-delivery of ITSM-supporting functionality a tempting proposition.

The fourth and final trend and hot topic is the greater attention on, and traction for, three specific ITIL v3 processes within enterprise-level organisations. Vendors and many organizations that have long since put a tick in the proverbial box against traditional ITIL processes are now applying focus to Service Catalogue Management, IT Financial Management, and Service Portfolio Management. In Butler Group’s opinion, this is firmly driven by the need to increase IT-to-business alignment, reduce the cost of ongoing service provision, and improve IT governance. These three ITIL processes are closely linked, with their real value derived from ‘getting under the skin’ of IT services to determine the business value that they deliver relative to the resources (people and financial) they consume.

Service Catalogue Management, fed by the Service Level Management process, facilitates the creation and publication of both business and technical services, and can be a key tool for the improvement of Service Management. In particular, Service Managers can use the Service Catalogue Management process (and enabling technology) to easily define the service lifecycle for each service including service terms, entitlements, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), resource requirements, workflow procedures, and retirement activities. An effective Service Catalogue can raise IT service awareness (within the business) and can reduce the labour overhead involved in handling service requests when made available, with appropriate authority levels and workflow, as part of an IT organisation’s Employee Self-Service facility.

The current focus on IT Financial Management is a no-brainer in the current financial climate, with vendors adding or beefing up products in this area. ITIL has long espoused the benefits of IT Financial Management: Budgeting, Accounting, and Charging or Chargeback (even if notional). There is obvious value in understanding what IT Services cost and their associated cost drivers, using financially-based demand management techniques to smooth out usage peaks and troughs, and providing customers with information on, and the ‘pain’ of paying for, the IT services they consume.

However, in Butler Group’s opinion real business benefits start to emerge when IT services are subject to Service Portfolio Management, as cost of provision is compared to delivered business value. There are, however, at least two possible interpretations of the term ‘Service Portfolio Management’. ‘Service Portfolio’ Management and ‘Service’ Portfolio Management, i.e. managing the Service Portfolio versus applying Portfolio Management tools and techniques to Services and unfortunately, it is all too easy for IT organisations to consider delivering against the former definition as sufficient.

ITIL v3 defines Service Portfolio Management as ‘a dynamic method for governing investments in Service Management across the enterprise and managing them for value’. However, in Butler Group’s opinion the ITIL v3 Service Strategy book falls short of practically explaining Portfolio Management, in the context of the capabilities of powerful Portfolio Management tools, to the reader. What ITIL terms the ‘Analyse’ work method requires an organisation to ‘maximise portfolio value, align and prioritise, and balance supply and demand’ is true, but the complexity involved is not apparent.

Butler Group is a strong advocate of Portfolio Management per se, and a framework of Portfolio Management policies, processes, and enabling technology can help to prioritise and manage the utilisation of scarce corporate resources against organisational need and provide an essential element of IT governance – helping to minimise risk and maximise ROI in the selection of the right blend and balance of investment. Unfortunately for ITIL practitioners, however, the capabilities required to effectively deliver Service Portfolio Management are probably best delivered via a Project & Portfolio Management solution, or niche Service Portfolio Management solution, rather than an all-encompassing ITSM solution.

In summary, the trends and hot topics offered within this article are not exhaustive but Butler Group hopes that they provide valuable food for thought and improvement activity for the overstretched ITSM professionals in Enterprise ITland.

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