ITSM Community: What Are We Trying to Achieve?


It’s a bright Autumn day and I’m walking around the neighbourhood that I know and care for like an old friend.

An exhausted scrap of Atlantic storm has trundled in overnight. No serious damage, just a scruffiness about the place, some minor debris, a few of the smaller branches of the old oaks littering the paths between the ordered, nicely kept houses.

As I walk, my mind scans the last eighteen months and what brought me here, idly surveying storm damage on a midweek morning when I would usually be in a client’s office, trying to understand how their work works.

What brought me to this idle gentleman’s existence was a quadruple whammy: an eye operation which was not a success; two frozen shoulders with injurious and painful complications; and a minor heart problem which was the scariest but also the least serious of these mini calamities.

The result: very little work in the last eighteen months. A day here and there, mostly working from home.


But like they say, when life hands you lemons, make a gin and tonic.

One way I’ve been spending my time is to look around the neighbourhood where I work. Like the place where I live, it’s basically in good shape, but bits are breaking off here and there, it’s somewhat scruffy and actually, the people there sometimes seem kind of fractious with one another.

The name of my work neighbourhood is ITSM.

And one of the roots of the fractiousness, I believe, is that we don’t distinguish between our private and public goals.

ITSM’s Private Goals

It seems perfectly reasonable for the ITSM community to discuss its internal aims, measures, methods and so on. After all, that’s exactly what I’m doing here.

But let’s adopt a slightly different perspective. What, of all the things we debate with each other, do you think that “business people” (as though we aren’t business people, but that’s the subject of another article) would find interesting, crucial to their concerns and plans, and deserving of a place on the business agenda? What are the things that would make the board of directors think: you know what, that new CIO should be on the board!

Here’s a few subjects that may well be fascinating and fun but won’t get you a seat on the board:

  • How do we adopt a Devops perspective in ITSM?
  • What would Agile Service Management be like?
  • What’s the best way to manage Major Incidents? As part of the overall incident management process, or as an entirely different process?

Viewed from a business perspective, these important issues are kind of irrelevant, kind of worrying, and slightly crazed. And actually quite funny, though that may just be the Co-codamol kicking in.

Of course, when I say “subjects that won’t get you a seat on the board,” I’m being light hearted.

What I really mean is, “subjects that are likely to get you the sack if you think they form part of a healthy relationship with your customers.”

We used to be accused of putting too much focus on technology. Maybe we need to put less focus on how we go about our work, at least until we have definitive answers to the momentous questions of the day, such as: should a process diagram be a CI?

ITSM’s Public Goals

When we are in our own communities – here, on LinkedIn or Twitter, or on YouTube with channels like The ITSM Crowd – I think it’s safe and productive to talk about things like root causes, and process KPIs, even though I’m poking a bit of fun at those discussions (and therefore at myself).

But here’s my serious point. The winds of change are howling through IT, and not all the wind is coming from vendors (if you’ll excuse my analogy) trying to lure us towards their bright shiny things.

By some accounts, IT is in crisis. A recent McKinsey report, IT’s Future Value Proposition (check out this analysis of the report), suggests for example that many businesses expect IT to take on radically new roles over the next few years – roles for which IT organisations and leaders are unprepared.

Keeping the lights on is necessary, but it hasn’t been sufficient for many years.

Technology led-innovation, flexible sourcing models, tighter engagement with the business, rapid responsiveness and the ubiquitous ‘digital transformation’ are where we seem to be at.

So we need to get very clear about our public goals – the ones we want to push to the top of our organisations’ agendas.

Here’s my list of what I think those goals should be:

Within the next three years, supported by IT Service Management, IT will:

  • Minimally, co-author the business strategy; ideally, lead its creation
  • Lead business innovation
  • Proactively lead the restructuring of businesses through Digital Transformation
  • Prioritise strategic business communications, transactions and interactions while continuing to manage the details and risks of technology
  • Structure itself based on principles of continual improvement, learning and organisational leadership
  • Continue to exploit technology-led economic models such as ‘cloud’ and refine the management of them
  • Be the chief advisor to organisations on potential and actual uses of technology to further the organisations’ aims

The Storm: a call to action

It right that a storm should be blowing through ITSM, and it’s understandable that there’s sometimes a bit of fractiousness (I read a LinkedIn comment the other day that said something ‘stinks of ITIL’). It’s ok that we focus on process detail, too, because that’s where the devil is.

But we need a clearer response to the issues raised by McKinsey. If our responses are mostly tactical, we will become mostly tactical or at worst irrelevant. IT Service Management inherently has all the processes and thinking that allow us to raise our discussions to a strategic level, and we urgently need to do that.

What do you think the ‘public goals’ for ITSM should be?

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Dan McCarthy

Dan McCarthy

Dan McCarthy helps IT leaders assess and improve their organizations and processes. He writes atVerax about improving working life, processes, and efficiency, with some left-field perspectives from his Anthropology background. Currently working on the launch of Zeno assessment software. Dan has also been sighted lurking near pianos and guitars as if to play them.