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Is it Time for ITSM to be Counted as a Professional Discipline? Part 2

Posted By Barclay Rae, 16 June 2016
Updated: 15 June 2016


In Is it Time for ITSM to be Counted as a Professional Discipline - Part 1 I discussed how ITSM is still seen by many as purely ITIL-focused or relevant only to internal IT operations. In Part 2 I continue to explain why ITSM needs to grow up.


What Needs to Happen? - Continued

Here are some key areas for development:

The ITSM industry needs a broader definition of itself and the roles within – this needs to be supported with a wider range of education and training, plus ongoing professional development. The definition can also extend beyond IT – to include other ‘service’ areas, back office functions and departments such as HR, Finance, Marketing, Estates etc.

The industry must have a single, consistent approach that recognises people and organisations in competence and excellence. This should include organisational accreditation, career development in a number of areas and recognition of real experience as well as qualifications.

The ITSM world should work together to unify its various groups and organisations - otherwise it looks like an amateur ‘cottage industry’. There should ideally be a singular body who see themselves as a common community which spans technical, functional and process areas and also levels of management (including executives).

 ITSM needs to promote, explain and market itself as a distinct discipline much better and bring the different parts of the sector more together, with success stories amongst target markets with the active support of senior people.

The business case for delivering value from ITSM must also be clear to other parts of IT organisations, not just the ‘Service Management guys’. This is essential in order to achieve the value from collaboration and to really deliver ‘end-to-end’ service delivery.

The value of Service Management should be clearly articulated as (1) to manage delivery expectations for customers and (2) minimise risk for the service provider. It’s a win-win – or should be – for customer and provider.


What Skills are Needed Beyond ITIL? 

There are 2 main areas of expertise and knowledge required – these are some examples:

Market and industry-wide knowledge – awareness and skills in a variety of other frameworks, e.g

COBIT – this is a model for governance based around a wider set of processes than those in ITIL, although these are defined in a more systemised and integrated taxonomy. ITIL has more ‘stories and anecdotes for reference, whereas COBIT can be better measured and tracked.

DevOps/Agile – ITIL is often criticised as being too inflexible and slow. It is still couched in the 80s/90s IT world and agile methodologies speak to a younger audience, many of whom would not recognise a mainframe. DevOps is a fusion of Agile and a collaborative controlled approach and is gaining significant traction as a useful set of values rather than a rigid framework.

Lean/Kanban – these are additional alternative approaches to how to make change work – using principles for reducing waste and also for work management and prioritisation. These have been used for some time in ITSM projects and add significant value to the practical side of implementations. 

Prince2/PMP – ITSM requires change and this needs to be managed – there has always been a need for synergy with Prince2 and other Project Management models, although this has not been delivered with any formal structured integration. It’s essential however that anyone taking on an ITSM initiative must be able to manage a project and - ideally more than that – deliver organisational change.

IT4IT – this is a new initiative developed by strategic thought leaders in ITSM and service architecture, as well as being sponsored by some major blue chip organisations.  Like DevOps it recognises the need for an integrated and collaborative approach and sets out to look at transformation from a holistic perspective, based around business collaboration.

SDI/HDI – The Service Desk and Helpdesk Institutes in the UK and US provide a number of services and vocational standards for those involved in these teams. These organisations and their standards (individual and site based certification based on EFQM) have a defined audience (the wider ITSM world is more dispersed) and provide useful practical input to the industry – this could be further integrated.

SIAM – Service Integration and Management - this is a new concept, based on an old one – i.e. the need to co-ordinate and manage a number of IT suppliers in a single ‘supply chain’. The ‘new’ element is the idea that multiple outsourced suppliers need to be managed by one (SIAM) management layer, so that a single service view is managed and delivered across the supply chain. This uses ITSM concepts in a more commercially focussed way and is gaining credence and adoption.

ISO 20000 / 9000 / 38500 – these are various certification standards for organisations, with ISO/IEC 20000 being based on ITIL, plus some areas of management and control. ITIL is often confused as a standard which can be ‘implemented’ and ‘certified’, although this is not the case. ISO2000 has not achieved the levels of adoption that were expected although it remains the nearest any organisation can come to being ITIL ‘certified. The ISO 9000 series is centred on customer service and as such a useful starting point. ISO38500 is a governance model for organisation around IT and is a useful model for the integration and fusion of business and technology goals, as well as being an executive blueprint for the management of an IT function.


Personal and Management

Overall ITSM requires strong people skills in order to drive through change and make it sustainable – management, organisational skills, influencing skills, communications, project management, business understanding and focus.

ITIL has tended to define roles in operational terms rather than those required for the transformation, and often the change roles were given to those better suited to operational/business as usual functions – often not enough to really affect change.

Other key skills needed

Presentation and promotion – Organisational ITSM change requires a number of people to make e.g. small changes in the way they fill out forms, or communicate with customers. The best way to make this work is by presenting and motivating them to do it and not by bombarding them with directives, processes and documentation. ITSM projects also need to be well communicated across organisations with a good focus on message and target audience, not technical detail.

Sales and marketing – these key skills are needed to define benefits and ‘sell’ these to business leaders and users across organisations. Normally this is not a natural skill for IT people and many ITSM initiatives fail due to lack of clear focus on message and communication of expectations and results.

Business and Financial Management – there is a need to define business gaols and build these into business plans and budgets.  This can also be an area where projects fail, not because of lack of need but lack of presentation of need, risk, value etc. Good commercial skills are also needed for developing, negotiating and managing external suppliers and contracts to deliver a successful ‘joined up’ service, rather than a sum of parts.

Management, Relationship & Interpersonal skills – Influence and motivation are essential elements in successful ITSM – this can’t simply be based on autocratic management. Managing and developing people to want to deliver better service is the goal and this needs keen skills in team building, personal motivation, influencing and collaborative working 

Project Management – budgeting, planning & personal effectiveness skills are needed to make change happen, this also needs a strong sense of self-motivation, self-confidence, time management, leading by example, organisational skills etc.

Successful ITSM requires participants to have good understanding and knowledge of their own organisation, key contacts, stakeholders and sponsors, as well as having a good amount of ‘clout’ and respect across the organisation. They need to be experienced in perhaps more than one area to be able to really see how to deliver ITSM. 



Many organisations are using ITSM for work management beyond IT. In these cases the IT organisation is becoming the department that says ‘yes’ – a solution provider not a blocker.

In this way IT can further transform itself and add value – if this is not grasped then ITSM will become another obsolete museum piece.

ITSM is actually a potential game changer for IT, not an albatross around its neck…!

The challenge for individuals working in ITSM is to step up – develop their skills beyond ITIL and the ‘silo’-based department, stop seeing other teams, departments and industry areas as ‘them’ and start to engage and work together in positive collaboration as ‘us’.

The challenge for the industry is to unite and see the real potential for ITSM as a business enabler, not a best practice.

We need more practical and enlightened collaboration across frameworks, training organisations and established communities to support this move.

We need as an industry to move away from ‘them and us’ – IT and ‘the Business’, Operations and Development, Service Desk and other support teams.

If we must have ‘them and us’ – then let that involve natural selection. Let ‘them’ (competitors) have best practice, whilst ’we’ (our whole organisation) deliver business value.


Click here to find out more about our plans to develop and advance ITSM as a professional discipline.





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