Should IT service management go back to basics?

Ovum is witnessing what is hopefully the start of an interesting go-to-market trend for IT service management (ITSM) software vendors – a change of product “markitecture”, from ITIL alignment to addressing key IT challenges in better meeting business needs and demonstrating IT-delivered value. While ITIL is still and will continue to be the de facto best-practice framework for ITSM, this change in vendor messaging is just what ITSM needs to solve the growing gap between ITIL theory and its real-world adoption.

ITIL has long driven the ITSM software market – will and should this continue?

In many ways, ITIL is now a technology blueprint for ITSM vendors. There are both pros and cons to this. The alignment with ITIL allows IT organizations to better understand a product’s capabilities and its use once deployed, and there is no doubt that the availability of fit-for-purpose technology has helped with the worldwide adoption of ITIL. On the downside, the parochial vendor and enterprise focus on ITIL has stifled ITSM innovation and limited the thinking of IT organizations.

However, recent briefings from CA Technologies and HP have provided us with food for thought on this. These vendors have crafted ITIL-light messaging that focuses more on business and IT organization need, than on the adoption of the best-practice framework. This is delivered in a markitecture that depicts the most commonly adopted ITIL v2 disciplines (of incident, problem, service level, and change management) with the ITIL v3 service catalog management process, supported by IT financial management, and asset and configuration management. Importantly, each element is targeted at pertinent enterprise pain points rather being elements of ITIL adoption. This is how ITIL was intended – “adopt and adapt” to business needs.

While ITIL will hopefully continue to change the thinking of IT organizations and be a critical part of their management toolkits, Ovum believes that such a focus on business-driven ITSM over “following the gospel according to ITIL” will benefit everyone, including the OGC and itSMF.

IT organizations would also benefit from a back-to-basics approach to ITSM

ITIL adoption has continued to gain a foothold in enterprise IT organizations worldwide, as more than 20,000 people per month gain the ITIL Foundation Certificate. The level of ITIL certification, however, belies the real level of ITSM capabilities within enterprises, with it being too easy for enterprises to overstate their position – stating that they “do” ITIL when in fact they only “do” a limited subset of the ITSM best-practice framework’s processes, mostly around the more reactive ITIL disciplines such as incident management. There is also often too heavy an emphasis on process. But just implementing an ITIL process is missing the point – IT organizations neglect the required change in mindset.

The service desk and incident management practices are a good example of this, as far too many IT organizations fail to understand the importance of service desk people on the business’s perception of IT performance. The service desk is the business’s “window into IT”. Service desk analysts are often the IT people that the business deals with most. Rightly or wrongly, their ability to efficiently and effectively resolve business stoppages caused by IT issues constitutes a large part of end-user opinion on IT as a whole. Consequently, an IT organization should take a second look at its service desk, understand its level of customer focus, and improve its ability to prioritize and solve end-user issues based on business impact – especially outside of the prescriptive following of “how-to” scripts. It should ask some difficult questions, such as:

  • Is our service desk only as good as its people? If so, how good are our people?
  • Where do our analysts sit in our IT hierarchy? How are they paid, educated, and trained?
  • How is their performance reviewed? How are they valued?
  • Do we prioritize the resolution of IT issues based on business impact?

Ultimately, service desk people can and should be the backbone of effective IT service management and IT organizations need to start treating them as such.

Originally published on


6 thoughts on “Should IT service management go back to basics?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Should IT service management go back to basics? « Stephen Mann's Non-Blog --

  2. Too many folks were attracted to the shiny object of ITIL waved around the room by vendors and consultants newly informed on all its snake-oil characteristics. In pursuit of a differentiator when selling their wares many ‘evangelists’ horribly positioned ITIL V3 as the savior of all failing IT organizations. Expectations were set – then thud… followed by silence.

    This has lured many away from the original goal of service management – (see USMBOK) to introduce a systematic method for managing the provision of service AND for managing the customer experience and satisfaction levels…..

    Its almost as though ITIL had to ‘fail’ for reality to kick back in – “its the customer stupid”

  3. Couldn’t agree more Ian, often organizations want to “Implement ITIL” yet the enterprise software they pay for is overkill and the general user doesn’t know where to start, it gets avoided and ITSM is back where it started.

    The KISS approach is best, add new features when they are needed.

  4. I’m intrigued by your statistic that 20,000 are getting ITIL certified monthly. What is your source for that statistic? I’d like to cite it, but I’m not sure how this would be calculated. Thanks.

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