9 steps to ITSM success

IT service management initiatives are often daunting, resource-intensive, and costly undertakings. No one wants to fail. And yet initiatives often do fail, or at least fail to deliver the expected benefits. So, what can an IT organization do, beyond attending to the processes, people, and technology that come with most initiatives?

In my 11 years of ITSM consulting experience, I’ve found ITIL's nine guiding principles essential for success. Incorporate them into your IT service management initiative and you'll see greater adoption of new service-oriented practices across your organization—and higher levels of success overall.

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1. Focus on value

Everything an IT service provider does must in some way contribute to the value your customers expect. So having an ongoing dialog with your customers is essential to understanding the desired business outcomes that underpin your service value. Get to know your customers at a deeper level, beyond simply their technology needs, so that you truly understand what they value.

2. Design for experience

Step into customers' shoes and consider their end-to-end experience. This will form the basis of their overall satisfaction. To fully understand the customer experience, evaluate your touch points with customers and the experiences that establish their "moments of truth" with your service.

[ Special Coverage: Focus on IT Service Management at Pink18 ]

3. Start where you are

Rarely is it necessary to scratch all existing practices in favor of a complete overhaul. Look objectively at your current practices to determine what works, and leverage those as starting points to reduce the effort needed to reach your desired future state.

4. Work holistically

Consider the entire value chain. Working holistically means not just recognizing the different elements of IT service delivery—people, processes, products, and partners—but also understanding the associated relationships, dependencies, and interfaces. While your current focus may be a process or two, even those seemingly limited changes may affect many processes in different areas of the organization.

5. Progress iteratively

Don't try to tackle everything at once. Plan your initiative as a series of smaller improvements so that implementation and adoption are easier for your staff. By progressing iteratively, you'll be following the principles of lean IT, the agile methodology, and DevOps. All of these advocate smaller, incremental efforts to deliver value sooner and faster.

6. Observe directly

Supplement data-based measurements with firsthand observation to get the bigger picture. Observe what is happening as staffers execute processes and customers use your services, so that you better understand the current state and the impact of your improvements.

7. Be transparent

Avoid speculation, assumptions, and rumors by sharing information early and often. Let people know the what, why, and how of your initiative, and you'll lower resistance to your proposed changes. Plan ahead to address the needs of staff and management with appropriate, timely communications.

8. Collaborate

Engage the right people, in the right way, at the right time. Collaborating and having a set of shared goals will help ensure that you've considered different perspectives and insights. This will lead to better buy-in for your initiative and a greater likelihood of success.

9. Keep it simple

Strive for simplicity. If activities add no significant value, eliminate them. Streamline by removing unnecessary bureaucracy. Creative thinking and a willingness to challenge the old ways of doing things free you to pursue simpler ways to carry out your work.

Embrace and combine what you've learned

Following these nine guiding principles isn't difficult. You don't need new tools, more people, or more money—just keep these at the forefront during initiative planning. But you must combine these tenets with three other key elements if you want to increase your chances of success: managing the people side of the changes, providing strong communication, and having appropriate measurements in place.

Want to know more? For more about these principles and how to succeed at ITSM based on my own management consulting experience, come see my presentation at the Pink18 conference starting on February 18. I’ll go into more detail during my talk and offer up real-world stories of how organizations succeeded.