Service Management is real
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the Y2K spending overhang drove new attitudes to transparency and justification. This led to new techniques (or rather new adoption of established techniques) for business alignment: service management.
Post-Y2K, organisations are demanding greater maturity from their IT departments – they want to see them run like a business, and they want to see disciplines and formalisms as if it were engineering . The current thinking in response to this can broadly be labelled as Service Management, which represents a real paradigm shift (a much-abused term that is used correctly here).
This is part of a much larger philosophical shift in society that we cannot cover here: from a product-centric industrial age to a service-centric information age. See Peter Drucker and Alvin Toffler for the broader social implications, and John Zachman for the implications for computing. This shift takes a generation or more and is in progress now (the end of the 20th Century and the start of the 21st).
The shift caused by Service Management is to base all IT planning and management on the business and the IT services it needs, i.e. to the users of the services, instead of starting from underlying technology, from the stuff we have to build services with. This is a “customer centric” approach, which is very much in vogue in areas other than Service Management as well as part of the rise of the Information Age.
Service Management applies the TQM concepts of customer-defined quality, continuous improvement, and measurement-based management. Services are defined in the terms of the people who use them. So are the levels at which the services are to be delivered. The starting points are the strategy and goals of the business, and how computing needs to support them. Services and service levels are agreed formally with the customers (those who pay for them).
Processes and roles are structured around these services, not around the technology. For example: problem, change, availability, service levels; not servers, networks, applications, desktop. Suppliers’ contracts must support the service level agreements.
The technology comes last: what is required to fulfil the services now and in the forecasted future. If it doesn’t make sense in terms of services and processes, we don’t need it.
The focus is on maintaining and continuously improving quality of service. Service levels are measured. Processes are refined to improve them. This is an example of how ideas from the manufacturing industries have been showing up in the service industries as we move from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.
Service Management has respectable antecedents, a good body of practical experience and good alignment with the macro-level trends in society. It’s real. But that doesn’t automatically mean we should all rush out and do ITIL.