Friday, 21 March 2014

The not-so-slow death of ITSM (or, Be a mammal)


It's easy to say it with hindsight, but I was only a real ITIL/ITSM fanboi for a short while. This was in the years between 1999 and 2007. Eight years was long enough to feel the pain of the major flaws. By the middle of the first decade of this century, I'd gone slightly cold on it, hence the focus on work psychology, data, and the softer side of IT service. I'll admit that I was hoping that ITSM could be fixed, but I wouldn't have bet my house on it.

As I say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but thankfully traces of my scepticism remain thanks to the wonders of the interweb. See that in 2010 I was ruminating about the death of ITIL, and in my 2013 presentation at the Service Desk and IT Show in London I was looking forward to the post-ITSM service desk.

Naturally, I wasn't taken very seriously by the powers that be, although it became obvious that others were detecting the same signals as I was. Now that cloud, BYOD and other shifts appear to be in the process of removing our clammy hands from the technological levers of power, it must be said that across the landscape of corporate IT, ITSM practitioners are beginning to look over their shoulders a little. We probably look a little bit like the dinosaurs did when that extinction event meteorite was on its way earthbound.

"What the fuck's that?"

Of course the end of ITSM may still be a little way off, but how do you read the trend? Will local infrastructure and applications make a comeback? With disruption as the industry's clarion call, and the love of the new that infuses tech heads everywhere, aren't you just a little afraid of what IT departments will look like in 5, 10 or 20 years time? If I were a gambler, I'd be putting my cash on cloud.

If I'm right, our role as gatekeepers, obsessed with the minutae of process and permissioning will fast become a historical footnote, and those embedded in the old ways of thinking no doubt will go the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex - once all-powerful, but lately to be encountered only as fossilised artefacts buried in various rare sites across the new landscape.

Except for the cloud providers themselves perhaps, the future may not be IT service management as we know it. That worldview is moribund and increasingly of low value to organisations. The bright young generation Z kids who very soon will be managers and CIOs will help themselves to cloud-based applications and infrastructure to deliver their business processes. 

No, for the bulk of us it will be all about service. Helping the business to crunch and analyse data, advising on providers, managing suppliers, and making business processes more efficient through bespoke internal (and customer facing) applications. Protect will be the job of the cloud providers, serve will be ours.

Our catch phrases will no longer be: "No you can't", "Is that an incident or a service request?" or "Have you tried switching it off and on again?". They will be we "Yes you can", "You don't need to do that manually, we can automate that for you" and "Yeah, let's have a meeting to discuss how we can make that happen in the most efficient way".

Don't get me wrong there were great things in ITSM and ITIL which will still be applicable in the brave new world - I'm certainly not suggesting that we also throw the baby down the gurgling drainhole. No it's particularly ITSM as a guiding philosophy for the provision of human-to-human technological service that's heading for the museum along with mainframe computing, cobol programmers and the like.

Maybe this heralds a change of focus from the technology part of the term information technology to the information bit. We need to know about the technology, but the useful bit, the bit the business really cares about is the information. Personally I've already made that shift, and it's scary. But I think it's the future. We'll need a new mindset, mind. One which is much more customer-centric. Someone in the ITSM community recently said to me that we need to evolve or die. That's exactly the existential choice that stands before ITSM at this point in time. Doing nothing and expecting the status quo to continue is certainly not an option.

So seriously, don't be like those scary overgrown lizards. Be a mammal. Look to the future, and survive.

1 comment:

  1. What worries me is that you seem to be using ITSM in a humpty dumpyish way that defines it very differently from the way that most ITSM thought leaders would. The whole point of an ITSM philosophy is the service centricity, The very first ITIL courses, for that matter, opened with an in depth session on what a service is.

    What you are actually arguing against is the mental construct of ITSM that organisations and individuals have inadvertently created for themselves. Especially those who come from a technical background.

    Incidentally Charlie Betz is having some great conversations around mental pictures in our world.

    If there is a change that I'm noticing, and it might be via the influence of Lean in the ITSM world, it is a definite shift to value delivery.

    As a full services supplier I do believe, however, that you are right that one of the biggest challenges is redefining and reskilling the role of the retained organisation in a world where suppliers can deliver not only the commoditised elements of the service, but also much of the value adding elements as well.