11 February 2012

Reinvent IT Service Management and embrace Occupy IT

Demand-supply fetish

I'm afflicted with a congenital demand-supply fetish and obsessively try to determine whether people are fulfilling a demand (usually business) role or a supply role. Some people find this annoying but I just like to pinpoint responsibilities. Sort of helps if you know who's doing what for, with or to whom. Another distinction that I find useful is on de supply side. Has the supplier taken on the responsibility of fulfilling the client's needs or 'just' to supply the goods or services that the supplier has defined. In other words, as a client, is it just my responsibility to specify what I want (in the case of a 'custom supplier') or do I also have to establish whether the supplier is providing something that fulfils my needs ('standard supplier')?

Reinvent IT Service Management

As with all technology, IT passes through the standardization / commoditization stages of innovation, custom product, standard product and service. With applications, we're clearly well into the services stage. And there are a multitude of standard suppliers who do their thing. Not my thing. So it's up to me to 'agree & adapt' to their services and conditions. Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. Although these services (e.g. SalesForce.com) also need to be managed, we seem to use the term IT Service Management mostly to denote the organization that is responsible for providing the services (sometimes I prefer 'functionality') that the end-user organization needs. In other words the IT Department. And the added value of the IT Department is that it is a provider of custom services. They do my thing, not their thing. This is not to be taken lightly. Caveat vendit. Let the seller beware!

And if they don't do my thing, they should seriously reconsider their position in the ecosystem. Because no way can they compete with the specialized standard service providers in the marketplace. They should acknowledge, accept and even embrace the multitude of standard services that are available and reinvent themselves. In order to survive they have to move up the value chain towards the business and fulfill three roles: business partner, service integrator and broker.

Role 1: Business partner

First they're a business partner and even I must admit that my demand-supply fetish has to be revisited. The IT Department departs temporarily from the supply dimension and jumps though a time warp to the demand side, but in an advisory role – the business is still in charge. Closely collaborating with the business and thinking up how IT can be used to fulfill business needs. Understanding the IT related processes ('information management': check out the BiSL framework) that the business execute. All of this is more easily said than done. It needs not only business knowledge but also business empathy in order to tune into the business' wave length. Because business people ("normal people" as my wife calls them) differ in so many ways from IT people. Sorry. My paper IT is from Flatland, Business is from Spaceland goes into this topic in more detail and another paper, IT Spring, takes a look at commoditization and the democratization of the user community. More IT savvy and more demanding. Watch out for 'Occupy IT'.

Role 2: Service integrator

The next role refers back to the custom service provider, as opposed to the standard service provider. Custom service providers add value by ensuring that they provide me with services that fulfill my requirements and they realize this by assembling/integrating standard services and by creating custom services for the parts that aren't available as a standard service. Before they create a custom service they have of course given the business the option of an inferior but considerably cheaper standard service. Sometimes it's better to change the business to adapt to a standard service. The fact that it's an imperfect solution annoys IT people tremendously and, again, I refer you kindly to the Flatland/Spaceland paper. This new role need considerable collaboration skills to deal with an increasing number of third parties who usually deal with you on their conditions, not yours. Another skill is the ability to see creative combinations of services and to integrate these. And finally you need to have and maintain an overview of the complex ecosystem of services that are used plus an overview of what's available in the marketplace.

Role 3: Broker

The third and final role of this reinvented IT Service Management is the function of broker. Some standard services don't have to be integrated with other services in order to provide the required business functionality – they work well stand-alone. But there's added value in ensuring that they're acquired at the right conditions and that they're still the best option to use – things changing so quickly as they are. Procurement? Yes, but more than that.


So IT Service Management is on the move. Under pressure on the supply side from suppliers of standard services in the marketplace and on the demand side having to deal with increasingly IT savvy and demanding users. Reinventing itself to move from supplier to business partner. Moving up the value chain and embracing Occupy IT.

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