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ITSM: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Truth)

Feb 23, 2008

Rob England


Back When


In the past it was difficult to measure IT in meaningful terms. Mostly it was measured by dollars consumed, headcount, number of users no matter how disgruntled, or number of projects delivered. By measuring the service delivered in terms of the business requirements, we not only know what IT is delivering but more importantly we know if they improve.


Service management enables IT to look up (now I’m really worried about those IT guys’ necks, and I can’t imagine what they’ll see) and think about a plan for improvement that is meaningful to the organization as a whole and measurable from a baseline.


Service management has respectable antecedents in manufacturing, a good body of practical experience with 20 years of application to IT, and good alignment with the macro-level trends in society with the coming of the Information Age. It’s real. But does it work in IT? It may return dividends for car manufacturers but does that translate to data centers? Now there’s a question that begs to be answered.


Only now are we seeing some academic research on this question. In the past we have relied on “surveys” and “research” from vendors and their parasites, the analysts. Now I don’t think I am being harsh to suggest that these guys, with the best intentions, might struggle to be objective. It is also a safe bet that the majority of them have no training in the scientific method in order to ensure that objectivity.


The typical research on the ROI of ITIL consists of asking CIOs whether their multi-million dollar decision to implement service management had been a good one. Well duh! So, it is an open question as to whether all the investment required to move to service management provides a return.


There is anecdotal evidence that those paying for it—the customers—can be happy with the result, but there is little systematic investigation of this either. What is clear is that ITIL is the New Hope. The IT industry, and those paying for the IT industry, seem to believe that service management is going to cure the common cold and bring world peace.


The IT Service Management industry is now measured in billions of dollars per annum. Some negative research results now would be hard pressed to impact its unstoppable momentum.


Rob England is an IT consultant, writer and commentator, resident in a small house in a small village far away in a small country, New Zealand. Check out his blog at The IT Skeptic.