This blog has been contributed by Barclay Rae, an independent management consultant, and is the first of a new series of blogs written by IT service management (ITSM) thought leaders. Please read in Barclay's Scottish brogue …

ITSMers often need help

Much of the demand for knowledge and support that I see in my regular consulting work centers around a simple request: “what are the key things to be doing for successful IT Service Management?”

People tell me they’ve read ITSM books and been trained (and certified) in ITIL and other frameworks, but because there’s so much content, plus multiple processes and standards. They lack a clear understanding of where to start and how to focus on what is important and successful in practice.

Focus on the critical activities

For me there’s a critical set of activities and actions that need to be achieved in order to deliver quality and effective service delivery – customer engagement, service definition, service desk quality, problem management, reporting and metrics, organizational change, and marketing. For many years this is what I’ve provided via workshops and consulting, and now I’ve turned this into a simple, straightforward, and practical approach and portfolio of knowledge – ITSMGoodness.

I used the term “ITSMGoodness” as it was being used on Twitter by ITSM professionals to describe presentations or meetings at conferences and events, e.g. “lots of ITSMGoodness in the room today.” I like the fact that it’s warm and positive and refers to knowledge, wisdom, and practical advice – like the sort of chats you might have over coffee or a beer at a conference. I started to use Twitter as a media to get some simple practical messages:

  • Customers see ‘incidents’ as accidents, ‘servers’ as waiters and “architecture’ as buildings – talk to them in their language.
  • No-one cares about how many ‘incidents’ you’ve had or what your availability is – there and working when we need it is all that matters
  • Don’t write an SLA if you’re a frustrated lawyer, a novelist or a tech junkie…
  • SLAs should be about positive value delivered by IT services, not just how IT responds to failure
  • If you don’t have a clear definition of what you do in IT, how can you know if you’re doing a good job?
  • The service desk manager has to juggle three stakeholders – the service desk team, the business/customers, and the rest of IT
  • Metrics in isolation are dangerously misleading – it’s an eco-system which needs balance
  • Processes don’t happen or work by themselves – if there’s no governance then they’re a waste of time
  • Documentation is good – but engagement, empowerment and attitude are even better
  • Overcome customer indifference by producing useful and honest reports that mean something to them
  • Every minute that IT ping-pongs faults/incidents about is expensive lost business time
  • IT organizations must function as a service supply chain – not a group of great technical teams
  • No matter what anyone says, you can’t just buy ITIL/ITSM off the shelf and do it in a few weeks
  • Let’s not think of running IT “as” a business but “like” a business – as part of it

I’ve now pulled these and what I think are the key steps together into the “ITSMGoodness – 7-Steps.” It’s all available free at This includes guidance, tips, practical documents, and templates.  

ITSMGoodness – 7-Steps

I’ve identified 7 key steps that I think really make a difference and which, if an organization is doing these things, should lead to successful and value-added service management. It’s an approach I’ve used many times, I know that it delivers value.

  1. Engage and Listen to Customers – you need customer engagement (listening to them) – to give your services a clear mandate
  2. Build a structure of Services based on Business Outcomes – in simple terms the “how to” for defining your services and service catalog – before you tackle incident management
  3. Invest in the Service Desk – There’s lots of great advice and knowledge on service desk management, the key for me is to sell the benefits to management so that they invest in service desk
  4. Get Problem Management working – the game changer that few organizations really understand or do well – Is it more of a responsibility than a process?
  5. Report on Useful Stuff – Getting reporting and metrics right is a huge issue for IT organizations and people – steps 1 and 2 help here but what other areas should we look at to stop just reporting on what we do in IT rather than how we deliver value?
  6. Get all of IT working together – service is a supply chain and we need the whole team working as one – we might call this “culture or organizational change” or governance, but we need to make it happen in a way such that people follow new processes
  7. Change and sell the pitch – we may be successful but not great at communicating it – we need to use marketing and communications skills to ensure that expectations are set and met continually

It’s still a work in progress …

There may be questions on some of the omissions from the 7 steps. e.g. change management. But this is meant to be a summary approach, and as I generally find some sort of change management in place, for this I’ve considered problem management to be more of a game-changer. The 7-steps are not meant to replace ITIL or other models, but simply provide an accessible path through them.

To date I’ve also had some great feedback on this content – I do know it works because I’ve used this format for years, just not put it into a model – but what do you think? If you want to find out more, follow Barclay on Twitter or look out for #ITSMGoodness.

Stephen: As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.