is ITSM the best perspective on everything IT?

There is more to IT than services. Service Management may be the topic du jour but ITSM can't consider itself the primary gateway into governance, development, acquisition, architecture, projects or HR, to name just a few other IT functions. It may have a perspective on them but not the main one. Or then again, maybe it is it a sufficient model for managing all of IT.

This discussion came out of the same question asked on the Support Thought blog.

I think the ITSM link is tenuous in applications, operations, continuity, security, facilities and assets, to name a few. Of course you need to do everything well to do services well, and every function must have line-of-sight to the customer, but that does not mean that all those activities should be designed and managed from a service perspective.

If we dilute the definition of ITSM enough, as ITIL is doing, then yes everything becomes ITSM but I don't see that as useful. I'd prefer ITIL just admit it is about more than ITSM - I wouldn't think less of it.

On second thoughts, perhaps yes ITSM is truly a perspective on all of IT and anything to do with IT can be viewed through an ITSM lens. Is that the best way to approach IT management these days? Does Service provide the best framework for Governance of IT? For solution development? For application procurement? For enterprise architecture?

Personally I'm not sure. Much as I am passionate about service management, it still feels like a stretch. Like we are driving more than nails with the ITSM hammer.



Yes, you're right

The fundamental fact is that infrastructure is not really a service. The service model works for those who actually provide services but not all IT people do. Compare a ferry and a bridge. Both help people to cross the water but only one is a service. The bridge may need constant maintenance but that is not a service, it is infrastructure management. The infrastructure management must understand customer perspective by not letting the bridge collapse or by not blocking the bridge during rush hour but there is no service catalogue. A bus company may offer a service which needs the bridge but again the bridge maintenance is not a part of the bus service.

An end user needs a lot of infrastructure and some services but the service model does not fit to all. This was different when ITIL was originally written. In the 1980's the end-user had a dumb terminal with a direct line to the mainframe. Today, the IT has built an infrastructure which the business can use. Other IT service providers can offer services that use the infrastructure.


Training wheels

ITIL and ITSM are useful concepts on the looong way to IT service maturity. Both are tools to help IT people to understand what they are doing and they have done that. I agree with Support Thought that the time of just managing servers is gone. Actually I would say that the problem is NOT that they would not understand the customer point-of-view. A server admin with any experience has seen what happens when the server goes down. The point in ITIL is that it shows why and how they must cooperate. The server admin knows he is important to the customer, what he needs to get is that the service desk staff and other staff are also important.

You are quite right in that the ITIL approach is failing when it tries to cover too much. I believe I'm starting to hear more and more weariness in ITIL practitioners. Real life is complex. A simple model brings clarity and focus. A 2010 car if far more complex creature that the old jalopy you left in Autralia with tears in your eyes. But the user interface is about the same.

A complex model is hard to understand and difficult to fit. The second you start doubting it, it loses all meaning. We should remember that ITIL is (or was) about IT infrastructure management. IT infra produces the platform for business services. The attempt to cover everything from data center to business services is starting to look hopeless to me. One example: our local carrier Finnair has started to use Facebook!/Finnair?ref=ts and they say it is an important channel for the company. What about configuration and change management? Forget it, Finnair is just one zucker to Zuckerberg like all other Facebook users.

The same thought came to me when I was listening Rhett Glauser on cloud computing earlier this week. The message is clear; the service provider will update the service when they think is the time. You can only hope that they remembered also to update the integrations you are using. I'm sure that Rhett is pretty much right in his predictions but not at all sure about how ITSM models fit into that world.

From the business perspective business service is the only important thing. The business is not interested in processes. This does not mean that we should forget the processes as some commentator to the ST blog seemed to indicate. We should be honing the processes so that we can provide a flexible and stable platform for the business. We should not even dream that we can create our 5-year plans for the coming new services based on our impression of future business needs.


flexible and stable

Good point: "flexible and stable platform" - there's a dichotomy there. Traditional IT (and ITSM) has focused on the stable at the cost of the flexible. That's gonna change, but as you say that doesn't mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It doesn't mean - as the agilists and other new-web* cowboys seem to think - abandoning process. It means accelerating process and modifying process and (bah! humbug!) automating process.

*new-web is like new-age, only with clouds and SaaS and SOA instead of crystals and pyramids and aromatherapy.

New-web is here


I have not been interested in the Cloud. Yes, it sounds like new-age and there is not much new in it, but for one thing. It works. I was sitting in an ISACA monthly meeting and listening to a cloud security presentation when I realized that nearly all my data is in the cloud and I don't even know where the data centers are located.

My Outlook exchange and backups are in the hands of Nebula, somewhere in Helsinki, my customer relationship data is in the hands of WebCRM, somewhere in Denmark. Surveys and registrations are managed with eSurveysPro in Bucharest, Romania (of all places but it has been working fine for two years at fraction of the cost of the better known competition) and finally my website is done with Wordpress and I have no idea where they keep their servers. I pay a small fee to all and their processes seem to work.

I'm an one man business but this can apply to big corporations too. Take CRM. A lot of companies have failed with corporate CRM solutions. They have complicated and heavy solutions that nobody wants to use. (They tried to force me to use corporate CRM at Quint, argh). What if some rogue business units discovers, it's neat and easy, took me a couple of hours to convert my data and get going. (Get this, a CRM solution designed and implemented under 8 hours)

Some years ago I heard Larry Ellison speak at a HDI conference. He told how they wanted to centralize things at Oracle but local offices had their own servers running their own systems. To enforce corporate rule, he sent hit teams to physically remove the servers in the middle of the night! How would he stop a business unit from using a cloud solution, the small monthly bill can be hidden somewhere in expences?


cloud is real

I too want to get my desktop down to only a browser (Chrome). i can't find a web-based text editor as good as Word for writing my books. Google Docs spreadsheet has a ways to go but I use if for 80% of spreadsheets. And I'm too lazy/busy to learn a replacement to Visio. But this site and all the others have been in Utah since the beginning four years ago. My email is on GMail, and lots of my business and personal docs are on Google Docs. I write all my presentations on GDocs. When my financials package reaches end of life I'll probably go Xero.

I was inspired by a small client who will decommission all the servers on their LAN of 20-odd desktops soon.

So yes the cloud is real. i look at the stuff folk are doing with the Amazon thingy - amazing. Crystals are real too, but that doesn't mean they have the benefits ascribed to them by the drippy hippies of the new age.

Multiple lenses enrich (at a price)

While I think a "services perspective", and therefore an ITSM perspective, on IT is indeed (very) valuable, I will not for a moment suggest that it is a panacea. It is but one lens through which to view the world. I would venture as far as to say that a single lens would be, if not impossible to achieve, harmful to progression as it closes your eyes to innovation and might make one ignorant of change...

Of course, multiplicity in lenses introduce complexity, disagreement and, generally speaking, make life more difficult. But isn't that what distinguish true brilliance, true leadership and true innovation from being merely mediocre: the ability to embrace multiple views and choose the best... is that not what makes us human afterall?

I believe in standards, best/good practices, frameworks, and whatever other terms might crop up, but only insofar they serve as "thinking instruments", as they provide guidance and insights as opposed to being pedantically prescriptive.

Note, I am not suggesting one re-invents the wheel; but don't forget that somebody might need some wings...

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