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back to article Service management: A million jobs or a job with a million parts?

Not so long ago there was the stuff that IT folk did, and there was stuff that non-IT folk did. The business was run by business people, and the IT department was run by IT people. Of course it made sense for the two sides to interact. To the outsider, it may have looked like the IT folk needed some business sense to help them …

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ITSM

IT Service Management has most certainly changed in the organisations I have worked in over the past 10 years, it is more complex and has become a service line management function, rather than a simple job role. ITSM was all about numbers and agreements, targets and reporting, but the big change over the past three years has been relationships. In my personal view, with methodologies and good practises like ITIL, TOGAF, COBIT and ISO becoming more and more common, so is the need for relationships. ITSM is not about sending a report on calls and availability anymore, it is now also about managing the clients expectation related to various compliance and conformance factors.

I personally think that the is no use in an in-sourced/Outsourced company achieving their SLA/OLA and UA's, but the client hates them. We found that fostering a relationship and managing expectation is better than trying to achieve gold with the reports every month. I am not taking away from the fact that these agreements are needed and must be achieved constantly, but without that relationship, there is no trust and no bond, which could result in the contract renewal going to the lowest bidder or better known competitor.

In light of the recession and the after shock, companies are going to look at their consultants and service providers in a whole different light. They will want answers to questions not often asked and a True ITSM service provider needs to look beyond profit and long term relationship building in order to keep and maintain its customer base.

I see a whole new world of opportunity regarding service management, one that involves making do with what you have, yet still keeping up with trend not necessarily technology. This is the time for leaders, not followers and that, in conjunction with an aptitude for change, will be the deciding factor between signing new business and keeping existing contracts

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Too many stovepipes

Everyone's a specialist. Network specialists, storage management specialists, application specialists and so on. In large organisations today, no-one has the ability to consider the overall landscape and see the whole of IT as a single entity.

What this means is that while we have nice, well-defined and compartmentalised services, it's bloody difficult to get all these disparate teams to interact in a timely and efficient manner. Not only do teams have their own vocabularies, ways of doing things and performance related targets, but they frequently have a huge incentive to play cross-charging games for anything that's outside their "business as usual" activities.

For example, say you want to grow a production database, as one of the central tables is getting near to full. You can't just log into Oracle and do a quick ALTER TABLESPACE to add a few more gigabytes. Oh no. You have to submit a change request that needs sign off from the database team (not unreasonable), the operating systems people (as it's running on their platform), apps support (the database hosts their product), storage management (for the disk space), the backup guys (to ensure the new files get backed up), the network team (for networked storage), plus DR, maybe finance and then negotiate to test the change and then schedule a time when it can be promoted to the live environment. So a 1 minute fix involves approvals from, explanations to, decisions by and responsibility shared across 7, 8 or more teams - all of whom have a vested interest in preserving the status-quo and refusing to allow the change as it's not in their interests (and besides, you haven't got a cost code for the thousands of pounds at the internal charge rate that all these meetings, testing and sign-offs will require).

So, we have got away from the days where an enterprise had a single mainframe, that required 4 teams of 4 people each, running 24*7 shifts just to keep it up and running - plus more people to apply patches and ZAPs, and more to write, support, document, maintain, test, QA (ooops - missed that from the list above) and manage the O/S, database and applications. However, we've replaced this huge body of people with another even less flexible setup: all in the name of structure, ITIL, best practices and "cost saving". And if the whole mess is outsourced, it's even worse. While the management consuiltants reckon that all this is necessary for best practice, running "software as a service", having a "correctly architected" solution and every other Dilbert-esque buzz-phrase under the sun, it does nothing to help reduce costs, improve quality or simply to GET THINGS DONE. Maybe we need fewer Service Managers, who all think that their opinions count. A few less reviews meetings and control points and many less consultancies promoting their over-prices wares as "best practice" and a lot more JFDI by skilled individuals who know what needs to be done and can just get on and do it.

Now, what was the question again?

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@Pete 2

Good grief, it's the nightmare that is 'modern' IT management condensed into a few paragraphs.

The horror...the horror....

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@'Too many stovepipes'

Don't blame IT. Blame business and law. All this is very predictable.

IT can sometimes be accused of being an immature industry that sometimes skimps on best practice. Now the industry is more professional, people complain.

As systems increase in complexity, the end user (i.e. business) becomes less tolerant of problems and more insistent on tracking and documentation. Result : IT provides what's required, with the resultant increase in costs and slowdown in implementation time.

This is fundamentally about trust and everyone playing fair. If IT accepts that the requirements of the end user are basically sound (albeit possibly needing some refinement due to implementation details) and the end user accepts that IT's timescales and requirements are mostly accurate, things can be implemented somewhat faster and without acres of documentation.

Sadly, and to be rather blunt, this falls down when fuckwits are encountered. Because said fuckwits either won't accept their own responsibilities or mistakes or acknowledge that the price of IT taking care of end user fuckups is the occasional bit of leeway with IT, the management systems get put in place. This is then followed by The Fuckwits asking why things now take longer and cost more.. (the flipside is incompetent IT, where business forces monitoring on them).

Of course, some management systems are absolutely required, but there is a limit to what is actually necessary.

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@Pete 2

Its JFDI specialists like you making changes that fucked everyone over that has made IT Service Management what it is today.

Well that and the design by commitee bods at the BCS, ITSMF, OGC etc. and....

"While the management consuiltants reckon that all this is necessary for best practice, running "software as a service", having a "correctly architected" solution and every other Dilbert-esque buzz-phrase under the sun, it does nothing to help reduce costs, improve quality or simply to GET THINGS DONE"

Good Management Consultants don't, they will advise on the best approach that suits the needs of the business whilst faciltating an efficient and effective IT. Change your consultants.

BTW You whinge like the sandle and shorts wearing, pony tailed, real ale drinking IT of old, is this just tropophobia rearing its ugly head old man

Jimmy cos he could teach us all a few things eh!

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No such thing as a 'one minute fix'

@Pete2 as it should be, unless you're running a shop full of cowboys. There's no such thing as a 'one minute fix' when supporting production systems and environments. Whatever you change will always impact other teams, and because they're (presumably) more knowledgeable in their sphere that you are, they need to be allowed to provide an impact. In most cases that impact will be 'no problem' but when it is a problem, isn't it better to have caught it now, rather than suddenly finding your backups are failing because extending that tablespace meant it no longer fits onto one tape, or there was a staging area that also needed expanding that you weren't aware of...

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@Aquilus & Pete

"Cowboys" absolutely 100% correct - there's so many times my weekend has been shafted by the "skilled individuals" who think that they "know what needs to be done" that I personally welcome the layers of bureacracy that keeps these idiots in check. When you're dealing with environments supported by teams spread over three continents in five different timezones any person who claims they know the whole thing inside out and can guarantee that their change is a two minute job that won't impact on anything else should be put up against a wall and shot for being a pathological fantasist.

Service Management rocks for one simple reason - it keeps the cowboys in their place so I can have a life outside of work.

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Welcome

Only dinosaurs want to preserve the status quo.

@Pete 2. It looks as if you have an IT department stuck in a time warp. How is it in anyone's interest in IT to maintain the status quo? Are you still using punch cards?

For IT to be at the centre of business, the goals of IT much match the goals of the business, and the days of isolated back-office boffins has gone.

Service Management is not easy, and can be painful to introduce. However the discipline is necessary so that things are done right first time, and match the business needs.

It may give kudos to some techies to be forever rushing in on a white charger to rescue the business from their latest 1 minute cockups, and often they get all the accolades. How much better it would be if the business showed appreciation for those who police the processes of IT and ensure services are implemented correctly, and don't fail.

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Boffin

Cowboys exist...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Pete's right about a 10 min fix. But that doesn't mean that being a 'cowboy' is wrong.

There are many of us who've been in the IT industry far too long and have mastered multiple roles, including the business side of the shop. These are your IT cowboys. People who may not be 'expurts' in a specific role, but understand how the pieces go together and how to get things done, and when, if necessary, when to cut corners.

Not everyone who claims to be a cowboy is a cowboy. There's a lot of posers. I tend to say they suffer from SVS or Slicon Valley Syndrome. (You brits can find your equivalent ). The point is that there are some people who feel that the close their proximity to Silicon Valley, the better their skill sets are. Those are the posers you have to watch out for.

The true cowboy? He's the type who works hard, plays hard and no matter what role he wants to fill, he's always going to want to be technical.

He's the guy whom you don't always believe in what he says, even though over time, you're going to realize he's right more often than not.

He's the guy you want on your team, even if he's not the lead architect or developer.

The one skill he brings to the table that you want but don't realize it yet is that he can 'fill the gaps'. And that boys and girls will save your ass in the end.

The IT shops are very complex these days. Because its the one place where if the IT shop fails, it can impact the entire company in a very negative way.

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@Old Geezer

> How is it in anyone's interest in IT to maintain the status quo?

That is a very good question. It probably won't come as a complete shock that a lot of employees don't have their employers best interests at heart.

Some like to stay within their comfort zone - not having to learn new things, but just repeating their past experience, year after year after year.

Others don't want to be disturbed by inconvenient job requests, while they're spending their days surfing

A few like the feeling of power they get from being passive-aggressive and telling requesters how hard their request will be, how it's much more complicated than they thought, how it will take forever to do and cost so much more and even how it's not (really) the right solution anyway.

Quite a lot don't actually have very much work to do, so will drag out a job for as long as possible. if that means spending days attending meetings, rather than being productive - so much the better.

There are even one or two who are simply indolent. They'll come up with reasons why they have not done your job, why they are thwarted at every turn, how they want to help but are not getting vital information from others, how "the process" means they have to do things in the least efficient way possible and how it would be folly to make a start without considering all possible situations that could arise: no matter how ludicrous or unlikely.

To all these people, ITSM is a godsend. It hands them, on a plate, as many reasons for not working, delivering or innovating as anyone could hope for. These individuals have made a life's work of hiding behind processes, making up ridiculous resourcing demands, delaying, prevaricating and inhibiting every decision at every turn and finding ways to pad out their working life with as many make-work and non-tasks as humanly possible - while not actually ever achieving anything useful.

All I can say is that if a garage was run the same way, with all the overheads, meetings, sign-offs, buy-ins and reviews that some large organisations approach their IT processes, it would be quicker, cheaper and more reliable to buy a new car than to take it in to have a headlight replaced.

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Unhappy

indolence and obstruction?

@Pete2

Have you worked in Local Government too?

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Boffin

Why is it so complex to make IT simple?

Martin,

We indeed now have business people running business and IT people running IT. The question I would like to ask is: Could we not go back to a situation where we all focus on running the business (servicing the customer), of course each from our own discipline: the sales guy sells, the factory guy manufactures and the IT guy automates and administers the processes? IT alignment is basically a modern ailment (a prosperity disease). When I started, we did not worry about “aligning”, we worried about sales, production, customer commitments, etc..More and more people now see IT as “a factory of services”, and through approaches like Lean IT (adopted/adapted from Lean Manufacturing) they try to make it an efficient factory, focusing on maximizing value (customer value that is) and minimizing waste (like unneeded (IT) complexity). Interested in your view on this movement.

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