The most fundamental conflict in all phases of the ITSM Lifecycle is between the view of IT as a set of IT services (the external business view) and the view of IT as a set of technology components (internal IT view).
The external view of IT is the way in which services are experienced by its users and customers. They do not always understand, nor do they care about, the details of what technology is used to manage those services. All they are concerned about is that the services are delivered as required and agreed.
The internal view of IT is the way in which IT components and systems are managed to deliver the services. Since IT systems are complex and diverse, this often means that the technology is managed by several different teams or departments – each of which is focused on achieving good performance and availability of ‘its’ systems.
Both views are necessary when delivering services. The organization that focuses only on business requirements without thinking about how they are going to deliver will end up making promises that cannot be kept. The organization that focuses only on internal systems without thinking about what services they support will end up with expensive services that deliver little value.
The potential for role conflict between the external and internal views is the result of many variables, including the maturity of the organization, its management culture, its history, etc. This makes a balance difficult to achieve, and most organizations tend more towards one role than the other. Of course, no organization will be totally internally or externally focused, but will find itself in a position along a spectrum between the two. This is illustrated in Figure 3.1:
Figure 3.1 Achieving a balance between external and internal focus
Table 3.1 outlines some examples of the characteristics of positions at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The purpose of this table is to assist organizations in identifying to which extreme they are closer, not to identify real-life positions to which organizations should aspire.
Extreme internal focus
Extreme external focus
Performance and management of IT Infrastructure devices, systems and staff, with little regard to the end result on the IT service
Achieving high levels of IT service performance with little regard to how it is achieved
Focus on technical performance without showing what this means for services
Internal metrics (e.g. network uptime) reported to the business instead of service performance metrics.
Focus on External Metrics without showing internal staff how these are derived or how they can be improved
Internal staff are expected to devise their own metrics to measure internal performance.
High consistency of delivery, but only delivers a percentage of what the business needs.
Uses a ‘push’ approach to delivery, i.e. prefers to have a standard set of services for all business units.
Poor consistency of delivery
‘IT consists of good people with good intentions, but cannot always execute’
Reactive mode of operation.
Uses a ‘pull’ approach to delivery, i.e. prefers to deliver customized services upon request
Standard operations across the board
All new services need to fit into the current architecture and procedures.
Multiple delivery teams and multiple technologies
New technologies require new operations approaches and often new IT Operations teams.
Procedures and manual
Focus purely on how to manage the technology, not on how its performance relates to IT services
Focuses primarily on what needs to be done and when and less on how this should be achieved
Cost reduction achieved purely through technology consolidation
Optimization of operational procedures and resources
Business impact of cost cutting often only understood later
Return on Investment calculations are focused purely on cost savings or ‘payback periods’.
Budget allocated on the basis of which business unit is perceived to have the most need
Less articulate or vocal business units often have inferior services as there is not enough funding allocated to their services.
Training is conducted as an apprenticeship, where new Operations staff have to learn the way things have to be done, not why
Training is conducted on a project-by-project basis
There are no standard training courses since operationalprocedures and technology are constantly changing.
Specialized staff, organized according to technical specialty
Staff work on the false assumption that good technical achievement is the same as good customerservice.
Generalist staff, organized partly according to technical capability and partly according to their relationship with a business unit
Reliance on ‘heroics’, where staff go out of their way to resolve problems that could have been prevented by better internal processes.
Table 3.1 Examples of extreme internal and external focus
This does not mean that the external focus is unimportant. The whole point of Service Management is to provide services that meet the objectives of the organization as a whole. It is critical to structure services around customers. At the same time, it is possible to compromise the quality of services by not thinking about how they will be delivered.
Building Service Operation with a balance between internal and external focus requires a long-term, dedicated approach reflected in all phases of the ITSM Service Lifecycle. This will require the following:
An understanding of what services are used by the business and why.
An understanding of the relative importance and impact of those services on the business.
An understanding of how technology is used to provide IT services.
Involvement of Service Operation in Continual Service Improvementprojects that aim to identify ways of delivering more, increase service quality and lower cost.
Procedures and manuals that outline the role of IT Operations in both the management of technology and the delivery of IT services.
A clearly differentiated set of metrics to report to the business on the achievement of service objectives; and to report to IT managers on the efficiency and effectiveness of Service Operation.
All IT Operations staff understand exactly how the performance of the technology affects the delivery of IT services and in turn how these affect the business and the business goals.
A set of standard services delivered consistently to all Business Units and a set of non-standard (sometimes customized) services delivered to specific Business Units – together with a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that can meet both sets of requirements.
A coststrategy aimed at balancing the requirements of different business units with the cost savings available through optimization of existing technology or investment in new technology – and an understanding of the cost strategy by all involved IT resources.
A value-based, rather than cost-based, Return on Investment strategy.
Involvement of IT Operations staff in the Service Design and Service Transition phases of the ITSM Lifecycle.
Input from and feedback to Continual Service Improvement to identify areas where there is an imbalance and the means to identify and enforce improvement.
A clear communication and training plan for business. While many organizations are good at developing Communication Plans for projects, this often does not extend into their operational phase.