Service Management forum puts IT in its place

Technicians need to understand the business around them

When the IT Service Management Forum spells its abbreviation itSMF, technicians should be forewarned. Part of the forum’s mission is to cultivate respect for the importance of properly managing the services that use and surround IT, and to put the technology back in its proper subordinate place.

“The IT technicians’ attitude has historically been very much one of looking into the datacentre”, rather than outward at the efficient management of the services provided to the business inculcating disciplines and managing the risks of providing that service, says Paul Muller, HP Australia’s representative on the forum.

The year-old New Zealand chapter, itSMFnz, will hold a “launch event” — essentially a conference to explain what it’s all about — next week in Auckland on February 21, Wellington on February 23 and Christchurch on February 25.

Members of the forum have “a continuing desire and drive to progress best practice in service management”, Muller says, with the British-developed ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) as a crucial element. ITIL provides formalised processes for looking after such central service management tasks as managing routine changes, handling help requests and looking forward to the forthcoming improvements and new facets in the services provided by IT to the business.

“ITIL is quite simply good governance, says Muller. “It’s still amazing how many people have not heard of it; [knowledge of ITIL] should be a mandatory criterion for entering the IT business.”

Use of ITIL and other principles of best practice in service management has, he claims, resulted in as much as 50% reduction in the cost of operating and managing services, through streamlining development and maintenance, handling business requirements right first time, and reducing development rework and service outages.

“Most people graduate from university [in IT] with a very poor appreciation of the processes that surround it.” They’re apt to change things at an IT level without full consideration of the results of the change for the business.

One large Australian retailer, seeking to control this runaway change, has made unauthorised change to the IT system at a busy time of year for the business a sackable offence. IT staff must learn that IT-level responses to a problem — such as the classic ctrl-alt-delete reboot — have real effects in the business world, Muller says.

“There are two IT budgets,” he says. “Typically 75% of the budget is consumed in “application maintenance” — simply keeping the lights on, maintaining the status quo — and only 25% for innovation.

“We’ve been using itSM to flip the mix and achieve as much as 55% allocation to developing new services.”

Many of the companies involved in the forum, including HP, IBM, Computer Associates and BMC, produce their own tools to assist service management, but no set of tools is allowed to dominate; in fact the tools in general are put in their proper place as subservient to a necessary cultural change.

He compares introduction of good service management to quitting the smoking habit. “You can have all the nicotine patches and programmes and quit helplines you want, but they won’t do it by themselves; the only person who can achieve it is you.”

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