IT service management, or ITSM, was formerly known as ITIL – a universal standard and best practice for IT service delivery. Most medium to large internal IT departments and most mature IT providers use this model for service delivery.
In this article I want to share some ideas to help you better understand the principles of ITSM so you can engage more effectively with your IT provider and hold them accountable for their services.
In the past, IT and IT processes were often unreliable because there were a lot of complexities and little structure to help IT providers deliver a reliable level of service. ITSM gives the IT provider (internal or external) the ability to implement reliability within their delivery framework so they can deliver that higher level of service.
Let’s look at four important principles of ITSM: incident management, problem management, change management and knowledge management.
1. Incident management
The incident management process is triggered when an isolated IT issue occurs. The goal for incident management is to get the user up and running as quickly as possible.
For example, imagine one of your colleagues calling the IT help desk about a problem they have with their computer. The quickest solution to get them up and running might be to reboot the computer. This is incident management. Most organisations follow a similar process that revolves around fixing the issue as quickly as possible.
2. Problem management
Problem management occurs when an incident happens more than once. In this scenario, a separate process needs to be triggered. Think of problem management as root cause analysis; in these situations the problem needs to be investigated at a root cause level.
Most IT companies have a problem management process that escalates reoccurring issues to senior members of the engineering team. For you – as the IT contact for your company – this is important to understand. You need to know when a problem is reoccurring so you can let your IT provider know that it is a problem management situation.
By understanding ITSM, you can make sure problem management issues aren’t treated with band-aid fixes and instead are treated with root cause analysis.
3. Change management
Change management is a process put in place to ensure that, whenever any IT provider or IT person makes a change to the environment, all the potential effects are considered. Change management involves having a plan so that, in the unlikely event that something bad happens, you have a rollback plan in place to revert the change quickly.
A change advisory board is often used for change management. The change advisory board is a group of people that are responsible for approving each change. For example, if you are working with an IT provider, there may be two people on the board: you as the non-technical IT contact, and a senior engineer within your IT provider’s team. For larger changes this may also involve an executive decision maker etc.
Written records of all changes are a must for change management. Generally, you need to record three things:
- What's going to change?
- What are the potential effects of the change?
- How will you revert any changes in the event that things don’t go according to plan?
As the IT contact at your organisation, you need to implement a form of change management – hopefully, your provider will already be familiar with change management processes.
This will ensure you stay on top of any significant changes and their potential impacts on your IT environment.
4. Knowledge management
Knowledge management is the one central process responsible for providing knowledge to ensure that your IT team can deliver consistent, reliable IT service. By storing this information, you relieve the need for tacit knowledge.
For example, in a scenario where a key staff member in your (or your IT provider’s) organisation leaves, appropriate knowledge management ensures that your company has the effective documentation, process information and checklists in place to make sure that a reliable level of service continues.
Typically, you’ll store the following information as part of knowledge management:
- ICT Strategic Plan
- Network diagrams
- ICT asset register
- Workstation/PC rebuild checklist
- New user checklist
- Router/firewall configurations
- Server maintenance checklist
- Application/vendor register
- Rules of engagement (ROE)
- Key contact list
Your internal or external IT provider should be keeping this information up to date. To ensure you have effective knowledge management in place, every year your should request and review documentation that your provider has on file.
By going through this process regularly, it keeps your IT “portable”. If you want to transfer your IT outsourcing relationship to another provider, or bring it back in house, you can do so with significantly less effort.