Business

ITSM in the age of digital transformation

Paula Sartini, founder and CEO of BrandQuantum.
Paula Sartini, founder and CEO of BrandQuantum.

There's a whole lot keeping modern CIOs awake at night. On a daily basis, the typical CIO is tasked with managing technology and IT. But they aren't only `managing' IT. These busy C-level execs also have to ensure that IT teams deliver world-class services that support business needs, while also keeping up with their competitors and handling the ever-increasing demands of their customers. And talking about keeping apace with things, today's CIOs must also stay up-to-date with the latest solutions and technologies so that they can develop and deliver the shiny new apps that support broader marketing and business objectives, all while managing, and making the most of, legacy systems.

Ultimately, all of these roles and responsibilities come down to one thing - handling, and being open to, change. And as we all know, the world of business is changing at a rapid pace.

This is where IT Service Management (ITSM) becomes every CIO's greatest asset. A set of policies, processes and procedures for managing the implementation, improvement and support of IT services to meet the needs of a business, ITSM doesn't focus on hardware, networks or systems; instead, it aims to improve IT services and align these improvements with broader business plans. Let's imagine a business wants to up customer satisfaction or decrease system downtime. ITSM offers a set of IT policies and procedures that can be followed to reach these desired outcomes.

When business meets IT

"Business and IT tend to speak different languages. ITSM creates a common tongue between the two for better understanding and collaboration," says Edward Carbutt, MD at Marval Africa.

The overall aim of ITSM is to improve the performance of a business, states Paula Sartini, founder and CEO of BrandQuantum. Getting this right means giving IT a strategic view of the organisation. IT needs to be aware of what pain points are holding the business back and identify ways to overcome these challenges, she continues. Once it has a view of this, the IT department can design, create, deliver, support and manage the IT services that will help the company achieve the desired results.

For Colin Thornton, MD of Dial a Nerd and Turrito Networks, when embracing ITSM, IT becomes a strategic enabler of business objectives. On the other hand, a non-ITSM approach sees IT operating with more of a 'break-fix' methodology - with the primary function being to react and repair things should an issue arise. In the past, IT just needed to keep systems online and was kept separate from business requirements, but with ITSM, business explains end goals to the IT department, which is then tasked with delivering, supporting and maintaining the systems needed to achieve these goals.

But ITSM isn't only about reaching your business objectives; it also provides a measurable standard that business can use to gauge how IT is performing, notes Nick Truran, CEO of Agile IT.With ITSM, a list of services and deliverables is agreed upon upfront so that the level of IT services delivered matches business expectations, which makes it easier for business to calculate IT costs accurately.

Digital transformation

Ilze Nel, TAC manager at NEC XON, describes transforming digitally as being a bit like changing the course of a large ship. You may be headed in the right direction, but the results aren't immediately evident. And let's face it, embracing digitalisation is not an overnight thing. Planning and deploying new projects can be tedious, time-consuming and also rather expensive. But with transparent ITSM processes in place, everyone's expectations are aligned - be it business or potential customers - and that makes your digital transformation journey easier.

Take artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, for example. These innovations are aimed at handling non-critical, repetitive tasks so that employees can focus attention on being strategic and delivering a greater service to the organisation, says Sartini. Using ITSM, an organisation is better equipped to decide which tasks can and should be automated to improve employee efficiencies. It can then develop simple solutions that these same employees are happy to use on a daily basis.

Transforming digitally as being a bit like changing the course of a large ship.

Ilze Nel, NEC XON

Says Muggie van Staden, MD at Obsidian Systems: "Automation of the mundane is the key to ITSM." But he cautions that businesses must focus on learning and continuous improvement. The service lifecycle defines all the processes and procedures an organisation uses to identify, create, deliver and manage IT services from birth through to archive. AI uses machine learning and real-time information to understand these processes and procedures better and, in turn, enable better service.

Section 2: Q&A Delving into ITSM

  1. ITSM in SA: are local businesses embracing these processes?

Edward Carbutt, MD at Marval Africa, believes that the South African ITSM market is still relatively immature. The reason for this is that the ITSM space is largely misunderstood. There is a lot of confusion in local markets about what ITSM really is, so the true value that it brings to business is not fully recognised or realised, he says. In addition to this, he highlights that many companies have the wrong idea about ITSM, assuming that it is merely a service desk or a workflow system. But this is not the case.

Most local companies have adopted ITSM, but have not fully embedded it within the business operation, notes Nick Truran, CEO of Agile IT. This means that most local ITSM implementations are immature. He says too many IT departments are focused on the next new thing, when they should actually be coming up with strategies to build their technology investments into their existing IT infrastructures.

  1. What if I don't have the required IT capabilities in-house? Can I outsource my ITSM?

For Hannes Botes, CTO at MANXiT, the answer is yes. IT Management as a service (ITMaaS) is defined as outsourcing the management of a company's IT - a concept that can either strike fear into the heart of every CIO or be seen as a saviour for businesses struggling to deliver globally competitive services. By outsourcing the management of IT, companies no longer have to worry about managing their day-to-day IT operations and can, instead, focus on their core business issues, namely running and growing the organisation. ITMaaS service providers will offer all the management tools users need to access and view their IT environment, monitor and evaluate performance and, ultimately, improve the functionality of their IT environment via a cloud delivery model.

  1. What are your top ITSM dos and don'ts?

According to Marval Africa's Carbutt, ITSM can't just be left to the IT department. It requires the input, consideration and collaboration of all areas of the business. He stresses that businesses need to be wary of `technobabble' and keep processes, instructions and rationale simple to guarantee that everyone in the business understands it. Carbutt also advises that businesses avoid overcomplicating things. "ITSM is about simplification and streamlining. If you follow the basic steps and apply them to your unique requirements, the simplest way will reveal itself and should be adopted."

For NEC XON's Ilze Nel, end-users must be included in the ITSM implementation because they are the ones who will be using these processes every day. It requires internal marketing and communications that clearly outline ITSM's purpose and goals. People often see automation as a threat to their jobs, so you have to anticipate their need for reassurance. Another important consideration, notes Nel, is that businesses don't expect significant results immediately. There is no vanilla, out-of-the-box solution that perfectly fits every business and every scenario. And that should be factored into the timeline and cost estimates for the project.

Similarly, companies with limited knowledge about ITSM often select the most expensive ITSM products because they assume it will provide them with everything they need. Companies will purchase the Ferrari of all solutions and then only use a fraction of the capabilities. "It's important to remember that this is a time-consuming and labour-intensive process," says Nel. "But, done properly, it delivers undeniable results and is worth every effort for business, IT and customers."

Unpacking ITIL

IT Service Management (ITSM) is often used interchangeably with IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). But they are not the same. ITIL refers to a group of documents that provide various framework and best practices for building an ITSM solution and successfully delivering IT services. Think of ITIL as being a bit like a guidebook for ITSM. This systematic approach to ITSM contains close to 30 processes that help businesses manage risk, improve customer relationships, implement more cost-effective practices and build a stable IT environment that fosters growth, enables scale and is open to change. All of this is aimed at aligning IT services with the needs of the business.

Three golden rules for implementing ITSM

According to Obsidian Systems' Muggie van Staden, making your ITSM implementation a success is all about three key things: customisation, customer centricity and going beyond just IT.

Customise: With ITSM, one size most certainly does not fit all. Van Staden advises that businesses don't blindly follow best practice do's and dont's. Every customer, application and service management strategy is unique. "Following a trend and trying to copy and paste a case study as a solution won't work," he says. When adopting an ITSM solution, you need to ensure that it is tailored to your organisation's needs, culture and way of working, he adds.

Customer centricity: We all understand the importance of considering the customer when developing any user interface. And yet, Van Staden believes that most organisations still have a lot of work to do in this area. Something as simple as offering self-service facilities is a great way to give your customers options and improve the services you offer. Times have changed rapidly and with the democratisation of devices, mobility and the growth in the app market, there are now so many channels to communicate with your customers and receive real-time, direct feedback.

More than just technology: ITSM is not only an IT solution. ITSM is about the business and should be inclusive of all people. This means that the solution should speak to the entire organisation, from finance to human resources, sales through to customers.

This article was first published in the July 2018 edition of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine. To read more, go to the Brainstorm website.

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