Posted by: Phil Clark Posted date: 31 January 2017

Can ITSM take the pain away from the IT department?


As a relatively seasoned IT professional, I have had a fair bit of exposure to IT Service Management (ITSM) principles.  I think ITIL is a rock solid platform to design your IT around, and am a firm believer that a well-managed ITSM framework is more important than the most geeky technology any day of the week.  Alignment between IT Services and Business Processes is critical to a successful IT operation.  However, if you are not a FTSE 250 organisation, you are unlikely to have the levels of resource to implement ITIL principles in full.

So it begs the question – how to instill ITSM best practice into your IT function without creating a management overhead that is unsustainable?  ITIL lite is a sensible concept (pick and choose the critical processes and apply those), but even this requires some training on ITIL that some organisations can’t afford.  And although good ITSM can drive service improvement and efficiency, the sheer process of deploying these processes is a time and resource hungry process that could break an IT team.  Also, ITSM requires a different skillset than the typical technology team – process thinking can be foreign to people who get excited about RAM and IP address ranges – so even establishing the basics needs a significant retraining process.

Now, you may have noticed that I used the word “process” 5 times in the previous paragraph. Grates a little doesn’t it? And that’s because while we all know that processes are important and when we get them right it makes a huge difference, we also all know that they are a pain. They’re a pain to write, they’re a pain to implement, and they’re a pain to maintain (and I’m not even going to get in to how much it hurts when you need sales people to follow them).

In this context, we have looked at alternative ways (the clue’s in the name) of ITSM best practice for our target clients without going bananas on process.  Designing for efficiency is the key. If the objective is to have a clear strategy around your end state that ensures any costs are covered by service improvements then that’s a good thing.  Working with Gartner, there is an interesting mantra that can give some excellent pointers to an improved state without a massive cultural ITSM transformation project.  Gartner call it the “5 A’s Framework”.

There are 5 things that Gartner believe should be focus areas for an improved ITSM service architecture.  These are Automation, Analytics, Aggregation, Agility and Auditability.  The full description of how these work is here, but simplistically implementing people, process and tools that support these 5 tenets is a sensible way of evaluating IT Service Management changes.  Once deployed, automation can both reduce overhead and improve accuracy, analytics can provide insight, aggregation can rationalise complexity, agility and auditability can deliver improved perception for key stakeholders.  All sensible directional concepts for an IT Service improvement project.

At Alternative, we have seen first-hand how this can benefit.  With post acquisition silo’d IT operations, we needed to improve and simplify service to our clients and internal stakeholders. 

  • Aggregation: We took all of the disparate feeds from monitoring tools and lumped them together into a central repository.
  • Analytics: We ran rule based analysis, correlation, across the feeds to spot patterns and create response plans, or Run Books
  • Automation: We then automated a number of these processes to deliver self-healing IT infrastructure (think Wolverine for IT availability metrics)
  • Auditability: The resulting service improvements are highly auditable as they underpin some commercial SLA’s with our clients, such as break/fix times or service availability.
  • Agility: As a result, we can fix problems automatically (and therefore quickly) without calling out engineers.  This means costly technical staff can do jobs they want to do, rather than firefighting the same problem over and over.  This additional resource has given us headroom to be innovative and automate more.  We’re on an upward spiral of productivity!

Now we have the 5 A’s foundation in place, we can add in additional service offerings with ease as all of the processes and people are organised to support these principles.

As a smaller IT organisation, life is hard.  You spend a lot of time fighting fires and struggle to cope with the ever changing landscape of available technologies, and evolution of business processes.  Squeezed budgets, Shadow IT, Skills Shortages all lend themselves to a need for better processes, but finding the time to get to a more streamlined organisation is impossible.  Adopting the 5 A’s can help with this.  If you want to discuss how we can help you achieve this, please let us know.

Phil Clark