Mark Szkudlarek, Vice President Information Technology, Novelis
Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) is the “What”, the Governance, the Process to delivering IT value. It doesn’t matter what the organizational structure looks like, solid line or matrixed, insourced or outsourced, global or regional, hundreds of locations or just one. ITSM is the end-to-end, strategic process where we plan, design, deliver, run and manage the lifecycle of IT applications and services.
Typically, most organizations have the Runwell defined, using a framework like Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to define the “How”. There is a common understanding of Incidents, Service Requests, Problems, Changes, Service Catalog, and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB).
IT can Design and Deliver solutions, sometimes with the help of a partner or with the team around us. The “How” is defined by a project methodology. You might leverage a partner’s methodology or develop one specific to your organization. It may support Agile, Waterfall, or both to deliver solutions. Each has pros and cons based on the type of development, the solution, and the speed to market required.
A common pitfall is the handoff from the Project Team to Operations. If you hear comments like thrown over the fence, the Operations team was surprised or identify key items were missed, but only discovered after go live…you may have a problem. For the last decade, I have had an Architecture Review Board (ARB) to define IT standards and conduct design reviews. This was an opportunity for the architects to present their designs to a group of peers across IT. The group consisted of architects, application, database, hosting, network, security, end-user compute, and operations people. If you are a global company, the team needs to be global. This allows us to get as many eyes on the design, ask questions to validate key components, and challenge (in a positive way)to ensure we have the best design based on the IT standards before the build process begins.
This review, required by the project methodology and to pass a tollgate, created alignment and gave the organization visibility to the projects in the pipeline. It was an opportunity to grow the entire team of architects and gave operations a voice into the process early on. When new topics were discussed in the ARB, we incorporated them into the design document so the next project would receive the benefit. Yes, continuous improvement. My current company is much larger, so we have an Executive ARB that reviews and approves standards with the Global IT Leadership Team and a Technical ARB that reviews the project designs. Some companies have introduced DevOps or SecDevOps to create a culture or working practice to ensure the conversation between the project teams and operations happens.
The secret to ITSM is how to optimize the individual parts while ensuring they work well together
Let’s jump back to where it begins, with the Plan. Ideally, this starts with an IT Strategy that aligns to the company’s vision, mission, and strategy. At a minimum, it’s a list of priorities that align and support the business objectives. It’s implied, but IT is also responsible to optimize the cost to deliver IT services, ensure we meet or exceed service level agreements (SLAs) the business has agreed to fund and keep our employees and the company’s data safe. This last point is more relevant today as the landscape continues to evolve, threat actors have become more creative, attacking all industries and, most recently, the IT supply chain.
Fast forward to Manage the Lifecycle; this part is often forgotten, but I find myself spending more and more time here. Ensure you think about the solutions critical to the business that require attention: the 20-year-old ERP where the employees who support it and know the business processes are retiring in the next few years, the server or solution no longer supported by the vendor, self-service tools developed by the department but not formally supported by IT or the shop floor where you will find the most vulnerable systems.
The secret to ITSM is how to optimize the individual parts while ensuring they work well together. It’s an end-toend process that needs to be aligned across the organization, well-understood by IT employees and partners, but also by the business. Communication is a key ingredient to the success of ITSM. IT Leaders must speak the same language, share key messages, support and demonstrate they understand the process. I was fortunate early in my career to work in consulting and then at a very large global company which showed me how things can work and at scale. When you have seen it work and realized the benefits, it is much easier to know what you are building. As you introduce change, recognize most people will not have seen it before or understand the benefits.
Because of this challenge, the “Why” is more important than the “What”. If you really want to transform the organization, everyone needs to understand the Why, the reason they need to change. One approach is to solicit feedback from the people who work in the organization. It is important to understand what is working and leverage that as a strength, identify what should be stopped and stop it, and also identify what should start to understand what should be changed. Once you identify the Why, then ITSM can begin transforming the organization.