Many organisations embark on service management improvement programmes, particularly with regard to IT service management (ITSM), only for the projects to fail to deliver the anticipated benefits, says Edward Carbutt, executive director at Marval South Africa.

This leaves the business disillusioned and disappointed with the outcome of their investment. ITSM initiatives can be a costly and time-consuming exercise, and more often than not end up either abandoned or utilised in a limited manner, which negates the ultimate aim of these solutions – service improvement that delivers real business value.

What businesses fail to realise is that the success of an ITSM project is dependent on three connected areas: technology, education and consultancy.

Consultancy, software and education are cohesively linked, working together to deliver success, and more importantly, the end goal of continual service improvement.

While improving service management is critical to delivering more effective and efficient services to customers, ITSM projects, if not implemented correctly, can in fact have the opposite effect, actually weakening service management.
Weak service management in turn erodes business value, and also introduces elements of risk into the business. Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that sophisticated software, with perhaps some cursory training, is sufficient.

However, a business can have the best software in the world, but if the foundations for service improvement such as processes and procedures are not put into place, this software will not be able to function to its full potential, leaving organisations to feel as if their service improvement programme has failed.

One of the major points of failure for many organisations is a lack of understanding of their service portfolio. Before any service improvement project can be undertaken, it is vital to accurately define the active services offered, whether these are internal, external, operational or technical services.

Without this baseline, it is impossible to measure any improvements that may be made, or to understand areas where focus should be directed in order to affect improvements. The trouble with defining the service portfolio is often a result of a lack of unified vision – different areas have different understandings of what they offer and there is a mismatch between these various areas.

Another common challenge is that, when embarking on a service improvement program, organisations try and take on too much at once, without first addressing business processes, which overcomplicates the process. A more successful approach is to prioritise service improvements based on the needs of the business, and have a road map in place for achieving the full complement of service improvement over time.

Without first having the business processes in place, and defining the service catalogue accurately, relying on software to magically improve service will inevitably fail. If you are relying on poor information to support ITSM software, the insights gained will also be poor as a result, and will not provide the desired outcomes or service improvements.

Technology is an enabler to achieving value, but delivers no intrinsic value on its own if it is not part of the business, linked into the business’ goals, and supports the needs of business users.

Using the services of experienced consultants from the start can help to avoid many of these challenges. These skilled experts will be able to help organisations define service catalogues, understand business processes and how IT assists these, and work towards achieving value out of technology investment.

Consulting helps to lay the foundations, and from this strategy it is possible to develop a roadmap of the desired future state of the organisation. Technology can then be put into place to help achieve this roadmap, and consulting again fits in by assisting with the technology implementation, ensuring that it meets business requirements and goals.

Education and training
During and after software implementation, education and training are critical – if users cannot make use of the technology, it will be a wasted investment. Simply ‘sending people on ITIL training’ is not sufficient to help leverage business value.

Hands-on workshops and other training using expert consultants will help to ground the theoretical framework of ITIL in practicalities that can actually be used to help the organisation. This will help to build capabilities within people, who are then able to use the technology to support the goals of the business.

In conclusion
For ITSM, or any service management improvement project, to be successful, an organisation must first define their service strategy to support the business strategy. In order to implement this service strategy, the right people need to be trained to execute this strategy from a process perspective.

Software can then automate processes to assist with improving efficiency. Consulting, software and education work together to help organisations overcome the common challenges of service management projects, ensuring success and enabling businesses to leverage real value, and continual service improvement.