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Give Demand Management the Attention it Deserves

A few tips from ITSM Watch guest columnist Michael LaChance of The Travelers Companies on how to get demand management best-practices rolling in your organiziation.
Nov 14, 2007

Michael LaChance

IT organizations endeavoring to perform like service providers are faced with the constant struggle to do more with less. There is simply more requests for work than resources. Demand management is commonly proposed as a way to understand and throttle demand from customer.

But what is demand management and why doesn’t ITIL give it the attention it deserves?

ITIL defines demand management as “activities that understand and influence customer demand for services and the provision of capacity to meet these demands” and portrays demand management as a key activity of the capacity management process.

Yet, most organizations adopting ITSM initially focus on the service support processes such as incident and change management relegating capacity management and more “advanced” processes to the future. Meanwhile, in other areas of the IT organization, demand management is the hot topic as request for projects often outstrips the resource capabilities of service providers struggling just to keep the lights on.

IT leaders need some method, process, technique or silver bullet to help them get a handle on all the work entering the organization.

Every large IT organization is thinking about or implementing some form of demand management. But very few companies are thinking about the demand management discipline in the context of IT service management. ITIL’s capacity management process, which addresses demand management, is typically addressed much later in an ITSM implementation program initially focused on closing gaps in incident, problem and change management.

Meanwhile, many IT groups are forced to consider demand management to address short-term, tactical needs. However IT’s views of what demand management is and how it should work are heavily influenced by claims from vendors of IT portfolio management systems and the prognostications of research firms. Even if ITSM experts are engaged in the demand management conversation, they will quickly discover the paucity of practical ITIL guidance about demand management.

Closing This Gap

Ideally, the best place to begin is to partner with your customers on the development of a demand management process as it’s their demand you’ll be managing! Educate them on the benefits of an effective demand management process and what it will mean to them. It is important to gain their support early. On the other hand, and depending on your organizations maturity, there is so little best-practice guidance from ITIL, COBIT and ISO 20000 that your new demand management process will largely be crafted from scratch. It might advisable to begin with internal process development and capability assessments so you can help guide discussions with your customers while managing their expectations.

Demand management, with the introduction of ITIL v3, has received slightly more attention but not nearly enough for today’s fast moving organizations. Perhaps some complimentary guidance from the ITIL community will delve deeper into demand management. For now, you can, and probably should, treat demand management as a process separate from, but still highly interconnected with, capacity management.

The reason is most organizations have far more pain points with work intake, prioritization and planning of the people resources required to deliver and support their services than with hardware and software capacity issues.

Illustrate the demand management process using the same techniques and tools employed to define other ITIL processes. You’ll first need to describe the objectives, scope, policies of demand management. Demarcate the roles and responsibilities of the demand management process participants and specify which controls and metrics will be monitored to gauge effectiveness of the demand management process.

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