If there was ever a critical time for IT and Business structures to work together, that time would surely be now. We live in a day when organization’s stakeholders – Business Units, employees, Partners – have diversified needs, which require complex technological solutions. It is no wonder that IT professionals can’t afford to position themselves as mere “order takers” anymore and need to become Strategic Partners. The fact is that companies evolve at such a high pace that they need their colleagues in charge of IT to keep up with them and understand and anticipate their needs. To do so, IT and Business need to speak the same language and to develop mature relationships, based on mutual trust and collaboration. How do you do that? The answer is simple: by ensuring that IT expands its traditional ITSM offering to deliver Service Management excellence, build solid credibility in the eyes of their Business Customers, get Business Units to open up about their needs and earn a seat at the Business decision-making table.
Even if your IT has an excellent Service Desk and smooth IT Services Delivery via traditional waterfall or Agile methods with the assistance of the Change and Release Management, even if you have a well-built CMDB, and even if you manage your IT availability, capacity, security and continuity in a consistent successful way – it is not enough. To bring your Service Management to the degree of excellence, you need to become strategic with well-implemented Service Portfolio Management, enhance and solidify Service Level Management, and adopt the culture of Continual Service Improvement by implementing CSI mechanisms and Service Reporting.
Service Portfolio Management is an element which is massively overlooked in the majority of IT organizations. Usually, once ITSM processes are implemented, the short-term results are so blinding that organizations start forgetting their issues and priorities and lose their appetite for further investments. What basically happens is that, although from an operational perspective, companies become more effective, the relationship between IT and Business Units remains the same. Even if it appears not immediately critical, the absence of Service Portfolio and its management will get in the way of the IT organization building trust with the Business. Regarding Service Portfolio, a top priority must not be overlooked, just keep momentum going and if there is no appetite in the organization for an enterprise-wide program of its implementation, be smart and start small. Prove the value of Service Portfolio by creating customer registries and identify the most receptive Business Units with which you can develop trial programs that will motivate other departments.
Service Level Management should, thus, cover Technical, Business and End-User services, but also so-called Professional Services, which include Project Management, Business Analysis, , to manage expectations of the Business Customers. The fact is that, to perform to ideal parameters, IT needs to turn collaborations with Business Units into well-oiled machines, which function on their own. In this case, Service Reviews, metrics and Service Catalogues are necessary. Still, there are many companies which fail to build and express comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs), not because they don’t know how, but because they fear they will not meet the customer’s expectations, as well as their own promises. This is why they choose to express their targets in ambiguous manners, risking their relationship with the customer. Ambiguity and lack of clarity in the Service Level targets will inevitably create an atmosphere of mistrust and mismanaged expectations. If you are not sure how to approach implementation or improvement of Service Level Management towards Service Excellence, start applying measurement criteria for the purpose of future benchmarking, even when it is too soon to set precise targets. After a couple of trial months where results are analyzed and dialogue with the customer is encouraged, you will be in a better position to set achievable Service Levels.
Last, but not least, Service Reporting is another key element, which ensures that Business Customers know what they get from their IT, and that are always aware of the progress and challenges the company is going through. What often fails is the communication between the IT Service Provider and Business Customer. IT professionals often use extremely technical language in reports, and sometimes this foreign language becomes handy to mask underlying IT problems, as they do not have time nor the desire to completely understand what the reports mean. This protection mechanism costs IT Service Providers the trust of their Business customer, being one of the causes why relationships fail. What I recommend is to talk openly with your customer and agree together on what the reports should look like, what they should contain and how to interpret them.
So if you are an IT professional who aims to gain a seat at the Business decision-making table, you need to ensure excellent IT Service Management and deliver the elements above.