Monday, May 19, 2008

Creating an Actionable ITSM Roadmap

May 13, 2008
By Bob Simmons

Finally, an ITSMWatch article with accurate and practical information.

Read an excerpt:

It all starts with the 'Where', writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Robert Simmons of Forsythe.

The most common questions relating to implementation of ITIL-based IT service management initiatives tend to be: “Where do we start?" "Where would we like to be?" "How do we get there?" and "How do we know when we've arrived?” This is understandable, especially considering that the ITIL v3 library now contains 20+ processes spanning the five phases of the service lifecycle.

Organizations can quickly become overwhelmed by the task of coming to an understanding of ITIL concepts and how to implement them, let alone having the best and most efficient approach toward planning and managing a successful IT Service Management program. All too often, well-intended ITIL initiatives fall short of expectations due to skipping over initial assessment of the current organization's services, processes, people and tools. Basically, someone forgot to ask the all-important question, "Where are we now?" Only through such an assessment can critical gaps be identified and a roadmap can be developed to address those gaps in a logical and tactical manner.

Where are we now?
This is where every ITIL endeavor should begin. After all, when you plan a road trip with a particular destination in mind, not knowing your current location presents a bit of a challenge. So, the first step is to choose those areas upon which you wish to improve and then perform a thorough assessment of your current organization's capabilities within those areas.

At a minimum, the assessment should evaluate your Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Configuration Management processes as these are the most critical service transition and service operation disciplines. Ideally, the assessment should also evaluate Service Level, Availability, Capacity, IT Service Continuity and Financial Management processes to have a more complete picture of the organization's overall level of maturity.

Where do we start?
Based upon the gaps highlighted by the assessment, dive deeper into those areas causing the most pain in terms of quality, efficiency, cost and customer satisfaction. In many cases, there will be cultural, procedural and/or technological implications that, if not considered, can impede any effort to mitigate gaps. With all of the supporting detail, thoroughly document the gaps as well as what the impacts to the organization and business will be if the gaps are not addressed. Determine the criticality of each gap to help prioritize which ones should be addressed first.

One thing to keep in mind while scoping each project is to avoid trying to do too much, too quickly. A large project should be broken into phases wherein critical gaps and quick wins are addressed first. Later phases can then expand upon the successes of earlier phases. As time progresses, continue to review and evolve the roadmap based upon the current conditions, priorities and information at hand.

Implementing ITSM and ITIL and maturing the overall effectiveness of your organization is no easy task and will require significant personnel resources and funding. Be prepared for the long haul, but at the same time, ensure that incremental advances are made and publicized to keep the momentum going. As long as there are recognized value and benefits, especially in light of ongoing successes, there should be little resistance to continued ITSM and ITIL investments.

Where would we like to be?
Through the assessment, prioritization of gaps and eventual determination of recommended solutions, you have successfully answered the questions, “Where are we now?” and “Where do we start?” At this point, you will want to determine the desired state and a timeframe by which to achieve that state.

As an example, if the assessment shows that your Problem Management process is currently at a maturity level of 1.5 (between Performed and Managed), then you should set your desired state to be 3.0 (Defined). Level 3.0 is actually the sweet spot where most organizations like to be. At this level, the process is well documented and being practiced consistently throughout the entire organization.

How do we get there? Before you go anywhere, you’ll need senior leadership commitment and the funding to carry out ITSM initiatives and sustain an ongoing ITSM program. Without these prerequisites, your efforts—although well-intended—will be futile. Having solid evidence of your organization’s shortcomings, via the assessment, should certainly get management’s attention.

Having a strategy on how to overcome those shortcomings will be critical in gaining their support and getting the funding you will need. This strategy can be presented as a roadmap of related projects, each addressing specific gaps, all aimed at the following accomplishments: increasing organizational understanding and acceptance of ITSM; implementing and integrating highly effective infrastructure processes; enabling processes and increasing efficiency through automation; and increasing overall customer satisfaction through the delivery of high-quality and cost-effective services.

How do we know when we’ve arrived?
A better question might be, “How do we know our ITSM and ITIL investments are working?” You will need a way of measuring your actual effectiveness and comparing that to anticipated results. If possible, establish some baseline measurements in order to capture the before shot of the organization’s performance prior to any ITSM or ITIL engagement.

Then, after implementing new processes or improvements, trend and compare the new (after) results to the before results to see how performance has improved. Don’t be disillusioned if the delta is not as large as you would have anticipated. It will take time for the organization to become proficient with the new processes and improvements. Over time, the results should follow suit.

When deciding upon the appropriate metrics to measure your organization’s progress, categorize them into the following groups: quality, performance and compliance:

  • Quality metrics measure the degree to which products, services, deliverables and supporting documentation meet predetermined standards of excellence.
  • Performance metrics measure how efficiently and cost-effectively products and services can be provided or targets can be met without sacrificing quality.
  • Compliance metrics measure the organization’s ability to abide by established regulatory, organizational and process policies and requirements.

Having metrics in all these areas, and taking action when metrics trend adversely, will ensure that your ITSM and ITIL program remain strong and healthy.

Don’t Stop
Even when you’ve successfully attained and maintained your desired state, always look for new opportunities to improve and streamline your operations. Don’t know where to go from here? Maybe it’s time for your next actionable ITSM roadmap.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I once worked for a company that wanted to implement ITIL Management services and they too kept asking “where and how do we start”. For a company with a fairly competent IT staff I was surprised at how befuddled they were. In the end the company decided to outsource that portion of the automation project to a 3rd part. This turned out to be smart as the process was actually more complicated than we all had originally thought.