Service Management and fitted kitchens

everyone needs to be involved in Service Management planning

But you’ve done this before haven’t you?

Everyone who’s worked as an ITSM consultant – external or internal – is familiar with the ‘just do ITSM for me’ line. The customer has decided to ‘do’ ITIL (or COBIT or ISO2000, choose your framework). They expect to take processes drafted elsewhere and apply these to their own organisation. Just like they might buy some printers; this approach really doesn’t work for ITSM as a whole.

Firstly, every organization already has a fair degree of ITSM processes. They may not be documented, management may not even be aware of them, but they are there. Were they not, the organisation would have gone out of business years before. So there is always some degree of existing structure to incorporate, change or replace.

And secondly, improving ITSM needs some degree of bespoke process creation to fit the organization in question. That doesn’t mean inventing something totally different, it means making the processes fit the need. Just as a bespoke suit looks broadly like an off-the-peg one, but fits so much better, so appropriate service management processes stand a chance of fitting the business needs – and the constraints of the organization.

We should already understand this

This shouldn’t be surprising, we are used to this. Imagine (or remember) wanting a refurbished kitchen. It’s a pretty ordinary rectangular room, and the things that go in a kitchen are pretty standard stuff: sink, cooker, dishwasher, refrigerator and so on. All you need to do is call in a kitchen company and tell them to put in your standard kitchen. Right? Maybe not? Most families find themselves discussing and debating for days around what is wanted, what goes where and the apparently endless options available. Then, when you think you know what you want, it turns out there are some constraints, like where water, electricity and gas supplies enter, which are supporting and outside walls and much more. And then there’s the matter of making it affordable.

In fact, just about everyone with a refurbished kitchen has one matched to their specific situation. And that’s before we consider a kitchen matched to the way you plan to use it, the kind of meals you cook, whether you eat in the kitchen, local weather conditions and the rest.

So, now think IT Service Management departments. Hopefully you have the idea that it isn’t going to be a ‘one size fits all’ kind of situation. Not a single ITSM process is stand-alone; every one is shaped by a whole host of factors like:

  • The other processes. Each interacts with all the others, meaning you have to balance them all at once like spinning plates at the circus
  • ITSM is there to support the business, so it has to match what that business wants and needs
  • How ITSM works has to fit with local rules and customs. Not just the local law of the land, but industry good practices, staff customs and traditions and more
  • Money: you have to do it within the budget that someone sets down. Not just money either, there will be staffing levels, capital vs revenue requirements and so on
  • The skills you actually have available, compared to the ones you might wish you had.

Re-use and matching to need

Add all that together with a need to re-use what you already have (kitchens and ITSM alike, there is no need to throw away what is good and works well). In most families there won’t actually be just one view of what the new kitchen should do, look like and cost. Each family member has their own priorities and preferences. So too with ITSM, different people and divisions within the organization will want it done in different ways. Somehow a compromise needs to be reached, documented and then accurately interpreted by the kitchen fitters or the ITSM consultant. This requires active involvement from the customer throughout the improvement project.

Focusing on ITSM, of course there are things that help, starting with the common language that ITIL brought us – and which COBIT. ISO2000 and others broadly adopted too. At least that lets us communicate and establish what we need.

Many of the modern software products help too. You still can’t implement a tool and suddenly have perfect ITSM, but a good tool well installed will give you a starting point. Rather like your basic kitchen essentials that every installation will have. In our ITSM world we have some building blocks to start with – like call logging, configuration capture and more – that we are left to best arrange and plug into the external supporting service and match to the demands to be made upon them.

A kitchen supports a range of cooking methods and techniques, to produce a range of meals. So too, ITSM supports a range of customers, with different priorities at different times. Even in the smallish in-house IT department there will be range of users with potentially conflicting needs. Getting ITSM improvements for a multi-national diversified organization supported by a range of outsourced suppliers…well, that’s going to need some serious bespoke fitting to needs.

If you have a customer (or are a customer) who wonders why we can’t just get the ITSM right without asking you lots of questions and requiring your input, then just think about your kitchen, how much the family had to be involved in the design and layout. If getting an addition to your house is that complicated, we should appreciate the help that ITSM best practice actually does deliver, we should not expect miracles.



In 23 years working for the UK government, Ivor Macfarlane moved from forestry to ITSM via prison, stores and training. He has worked as a Service Management trainer, consultant and writer since going freelance in 1999 and then after a 7 year spell with IBM he is now independent again working through MacfPartners to deliver training and consultancy to customers. He was an author for ITIL (versions 1,2 & 3), ISO20000 and ITSM library and an ITIL examiner since 1991. He is well known at ITSM events having presented at many around the world (39 countries so far) and is an active contributor to social media.