This time last year I wrote a blog entitled Top 10 IT Service Management Challenges For 2012: More Emphasis On The “Service” And The “Management,” which has racked up a healthy 10,000+ reads since. It spoke of three high-level challenges:

  1. Increased business scrutiny: the need for IT cost transparency and business-value demonstration.
  2. Increased business (and customer) expectations: around IT agility, availability, “personal hardware,” and support and customer service.
  3. Increased business and IT complexity: particularly cloud, mobility, and compliance.

We are another year older, but are we another year wiser?

What have you done to improve your IT service delivery and better meet business needs? I deliberately chose to use the phrase “IT service delivery” over “IT service management” (or “ITSM”), as one of my many epiphanies of 2012 is that ITSM seems to make many of us focus on the wrong things. A good example being that ITIL, the ITSM best practice framework, adoption continues to be overly focused on the mechanics of “best practice” processes such as incident and change management. Or when we talk of ITSM maturity, it’s about the number of ITIL-espoused processes that an organization operates. So an organization that is doing four processes really well is not as mature as one that is doing ten poorly. And stepping back further, does this ITSM-process-based view of maturity really help the parent business? I’m not so convinced. Surely looking at how we are able to support and adapt to changing business needs must be a better measure?

The analyst’s view of 2012

Forrester clients continued to ask me lots questions via our client inquiry process, but I’ve seen a few changes in what they are asking about:

  • ITSM tool inquiries are more popular than ever – people continue to blame their existing ITSM tools for a multitude of sins wherever possible. And you also can’t escape that these inquiries are virtually all related to SaaS (even if the client eventually chooses to go with an on-premise tool).
  • ITSM KPIs and benchmarks are still in high demand, but I continue to see a heavy bias towards operational performance (“what we do”) rather than “what we achieve” in IT.
  • IT asset management (particularly software asset management) has seen strong growth in the latter half of 2012 driven by a need to reduce costs. Interestingly there are now more questions about how to get started than about the differences between different ITAM or SAM tools.
  • Service catalog rose from the ashes of failed service catalog technology projects,  but I continued to see issues with organizations not knowing what their services are or what they actually wanted to accomplish with their service catalog initiative beyond buying a tool.

But there was also a new breed of inquiry, one that is slowly emerging from the large shadow cast by the enormity of an organization’s IT infrastructure. These are inquiries related to understanding what IT achieves rather than what it does, and they come in many forms:

  • “How can we better serve our customers?”
  • “How can we demonstrate the value we (in IT) deliver?”
  • “How do we evolve into an IT organization that’s fit for 2017 and the changing business needs and expectations?”
  • “How do we improve IT support based on actual business needs?”

So there is an emerging change in “IT people mindsets.” But don’t get me wrong; there are still many more minds to change (including those of the people that fund IT), and I can’t help but comment on the fact that I see geographical differences similar to what we have traditionally seen with ITIL adoption. Importantly though I am starting to speak with more people who see IT (and ITSM) as the means to an end rather than the end itself.

And so to the Top 10 ITSM challenges for 2013 …

… and yes I know I have continued to use “ITSM” here but it is a necessary evil if I want people to read this blog – phrases like “IT service delivery” just don’t sell virtual copy (yet).

  1. IT cost transparency. Something has still got to give in terms of what IT costs — IT is and will continue to be a sizable expense to the business. The IT organization is spending the business’ money, and so the business wants to know whether it is being spent wisely (and who can blame them). How many IT shops know if they are investing the business’ money wisely outside of projects?
  2. Value demonstration. Is IT still just a cost center or has your IT organization been able to translate IT investment into demonstrable business success? I still rather somewhat cheekily say that “if we could demonstrate the business value derived from IT, surely we would be being asked to spend more rather than having to respond to corporately mandated, quick fix, end-of-year budget cuts.”
  3. Agility. The speed of business change continues to dictate a rapid response from IT that many struggle with — as a simple example, yesterday my nephew told me of his five-week wait for a laptop at the bank he recently joined. Not only is it speed and flexibility, it is also “agility of mind.” A change in I&O mindset that asks “why not?” rather than “why?”
  4. Availability. Nothing new here (again). The business needs high quality, highly available IT (or business) services. The difference is in business expectations and available alternatives. For a number of reasons, the business continues to be less forgiving of IT failure and, again, who can blame them.
  5. “Personal hardware.”  End user devices will continue to be a big challenge for IT in 2013. Whether it is the fact that our “internal customers” are unhappy with their “outdated” corporate laptops or the fact that they can’t have corporate iPads or the whole “can of worms” that is BYOD (bring your own device), personal productivity hardware will again be a battleground of business discontent in 2013.
  6. Support and customer service. For me, support is one thing and customer service is another; ideally IT delivers both. That it is ultimately about supporting the consumption of IT services by people rather than just supporting the technology that delivers the IT services. And that service-centricity by frontline IT staff is not enough; it needs to be all IT staff. The same is true for customer-centricity.
  7. Cloud. As cloud adoption continues, are we looking at cloud as a technical or business solution, or both? Do we know enough about the status quo to make informed decisions about moving IT services to the cloud? Probably not; yet for many, cloud is the answer. But I still can’t help think that we haven’t really taken the time to fully understand the question.
  8. Mobility. BYOD comes into play here again, but I think that a bigger issue is at hand — that we are still technology-centric. We all hear talk about MDM (mobile device management) as “THE big issue.” IMO, however, this is old-skool-IT with the device a red herring and of little interest to the customer (unless IT is providing outdated devices). Your customers want (or at least we hope that they continue to want) to access your services any which way they can and need to. Mobility is about people.
  9. Compliance. Whether it’s internal or external regulatory compliance (or governance), most of the above will potentially have a negative knock on to compliance whether it be SOX, software compliance, or meeting internal requirements for “transparency and robustness.” With everything going on elsewhere, it is easy for me to imagine degradation in internal control, not reacting to new risks as a minimum.

The observant amongst you will have spotted that I’ve only mentioned nine challenges in the preamble and subsequent list (and that this is in part a poor cut-and-paste job from my 2012 blog), so what’s the tenth? Survival. All of the above challenges need to be addressed (as pieces in a larger jigsaw) and the failure to address the demands and issues across the full spectrum of challenges will put the internal IT organization at risk of extinction. I’m not talking about “the death of the internal IT organization” here, but rather that some parent organizations will decide that there are now better ways to source, manage, and deliver IT services having suffered for too long at the hands of a potentially less than business-focused internal IT organization.

Final thoughts

It pains me that I felt compelled to reuse last year’s ITSM challenges blog, but what else could I do? What have I seen that allows me to drop one or more of these challenges and replace them with new ones? Not enough unfortunately.

Last year I deliberately excluded “social” from my list. I’ve done the same for 2013, as I think trying to “do social” is like where we were in 2000 when we tried to “do knowledge management.” IMO social is important, but only in the context of everything else that we are doing to improve service delivery, such as improving collaboration within teams and across (or outside of) the organization, facilitating self-help and self-service (if helping to meet a corporate objective or customer needs), and adapting to our customers’ preferred interaction methods. I guess the cliché here would be “outcome-based social.”

And don’t start me on gamification. I love the principle, but how many service desks in particular will be gamified in 2013 without sight of the customer and improved business outcomes? Or will we allow the “wrong sort of person” to continue to fail at the customer interface, but at least they are earning badges while they do it. I await the IT scorecard that includes a “number of badges earned” metric.

Finally, my Christmas gift to you — sources of great ITSM (and IT) insight and information:

You might also be interested in: IT Service Management In 2013 – How Far Have We Come Since 2009?