The Time Has Come for ITSM

With the tumult of the tech boom and bust behind us, analysts say IT managers now have the time and inclination to take stock of how they're running IT. It's time for ITSM.
After years of great expectations that repeatedly were met with slow growth, some industry observers say this finally may be the year that IT managers not only learn what IT Service Management (ITSM) is all about, but also start putting it into practice.

While ITSM has been around for more than a decade, it's failed to catch fire. Bring up ITSM -- or its accompanying set of best practices, ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) -- in a room crowded with techies and you're sure to be met with a few blank stares. That, though, is changing. IT professionals increasingly talk about becoming more 'business facing' -- in both their careers and their corporate IT shops. It's less about the inner workings of the wires and routers, and more about serving the customer and the company's specific business needs.

''Finally, ITSM's time has come,'' says Chip Gliedman, vice president of Forrester Research, an industry analyst firm based in Cambridge, Mass. ''It's the right time in the industry. We're past the bubble and we're past the slump so IT people now have the time and the capacity to sit back and look at what they're doing and how they can do it better... Now we're digesting a lot of what we purchased five years ago. It's a good point in time to take stock of how IT is delivering on their services and their infrastructure. There are no wholesale changes taking place right now. A few years from now, we'll be dealing with the next wave of technology, and we'll be back to trying to keep up and trying to figure it out. So this is the time to see if you can do it better.

''I think a year from now ITSM and ITIL will be closer to words that people know and use,'' he adds. ''It will become the way that people do things.''

As long as technology has been a part of business -- linking people together, storing and making sense of sales information, making sure the trucks run on time and products are delivered -- IT professionals have been enamored with the technology. And sometimes they've been more at ease dealing with downed servers than a roomful of business types unfamiliar with technical jargon. It was easier to stay in the server room or in a bare-bones back office than to stick a toe in the turbulent business waters.

Focus on the Customer

Today's IT professional is expected to know how to keep the network up and running at top speed while at the same time understanding where the business is heading and how technology can help it get there. What do the customers need? What is slowing down product delivery? Who are the company's competitors and what needs to be done to beat them to market? These all are questions that good (and marketable) IT workers need to be able to answer.

How does IT work together with the business side to focus on the customer and provide products or services in an efficient and timely manner to them? That's a question ITSM will help IT people answer, says Gerry Gebel, a senior analyst with the Burton Group, an industry analyst firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. And the ITIL set of rules and best practices will help them put ITSM into effect.

''It looks to be getting some legs here,'' says Gebel. ''It's starting to move forward. There's definitely more interest in it out there because it's a way to be more efficient -- more streamlined. IT budgets are still tight, business demands are increasing and there's a general climate of cost containment. It's all making for a huge push on this.''

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