Service Management for Dummies

What is IT service management all about, really?

Tivoli Beat. A weekly IBM service management perspective.

Anyone following IT in recent years has noticed the popularity of the phrase "service management." For some, though, that phrase remains little more than a marketing buzzword.

This is unfortunate. Properly explained, service management is not just a new way of understanding IT services; it's also a way of improving them to deliver a better outcome, both for the organizations that create them and the customers who receive them.

That's why the best-regarded, most influential framework of IT best practices, ITIL, was updated recently, specifically with a service management perspective in mind. Once organizations have stopped asking, "How can we improve our various technical domains?" and started asking, "How can we improve the quality of service our users and customers receive?”, they can then learn from ITIL how best to create and execute a strategy of improvement.

If your organization happens to be at an earlier phase in the process, though, you might have more basic questions:

Anyone asking questions like that will probably be interested in Service Management for Dummies, a book that asks and answers these questions in a clear, intuitive, and useful manner—and also illustrates many of the pragmatic business benefits that service management can deliver.

Written by Judith Hurwitz with help from IBM experts, this book (now in its second edition) is far from an IBM sales pitch. In fact, there's not a single reference to the IBM Tivoli service management portfolio anywhere in it. Instead, it simply brings the reader up to speed on IT service management as a general topic, beginning with root concepts and then exploring how those concepts can best be implemented.

One more point to consider: this book is free and can be downloaded straight from the Web in PDF format. If you're looking for exceptional return on investment and ease of use, you can't do much better than that.

Shift the focus from IT nuts and bolts to the customer experience

A central point of service management theory, explored early, is the idea that everything an organization offers, including products, can be conceived of as a service—the service of creating new value that meets or exceeds customer expectations.

"The book discusses various service management standards and best practices, providing a bird's-eye view of the total landscape of information (including ITIL), to help the reader quickly zero in on the most useful information for any particular business scenario."

The question is: Does your organization really create that value, in that way? Or is your approach pursued in a more conventional manner, in which the focus is on IT domains (like applications, databases, and Web hosting)... and the overall quality of service, which involves them all, isn't really tracked?

Most IT divisions have historically developed in the second manner, based on ad hoc requirements, instead of in a holistic fashion with services in mind from the start. In such cases, a service management implementation can help by putting the focus back on the customer/user experience, and then improving that experience over time in ways that will yield a better outcome.

To illustrate how that might apply, the book uses a typical ATM service provided by banks, walking the reader through both what the customer sees (the ATM screen) and what's happening behind the scenes (the IT infrastructure). The fundamental goal of the bank should be to provide the most available, responsive, and accurate ATM service possible, to maximize customer satisfaction and keep customers from switching to a competitor. The more successful a bank is in pursuing that goal, the better the total business outcome it is likely to receive.

Subsequent chapters explore some of the best available insight into IT service management. Since many of the root challenges and their solutions have already been discovered and addressed by other organizations... why should yours have to reinvent the wheel?

For this reason, the book discusses various service management standards and best practices, providing a bird's-eye view of the total landscape of information (including ITIL), to help the reader quickly zero in on the most useful information for any particular business scenario.

Cloud and mobile: What's their impact on IT service management?

Few fields move as fast as IT. And the organizations that effectively leverage new technologies can also often optimize services in new ways.

This is why Service Management for Dummies devotes an entire chapter just to mobile and cloud computing. These two fields directly reflect the fundamental concepts described in the ATM scenario above: the end user's experience of a service (mobile), and the organization's method of delivering that service (cloud). Both represent significant opportunities for improvement at most organizations.

Cloud, for instance, is attractive because cloud-based services can typically be delivered faster, with higher availability and higher performance, than services rendered via traditional architectures. Because new virtual servers can be created automatically, in accordance with business policies, the cloud can scale to unpredictable demand levels with incredible speed. And because resources like storage and processing power are allocated when and where they're needed, in real time, service uptime climbs as well. Together, these benefits improve the odds of an outstanding customer experience—no matter how many customers may be using a cloud-based service at a given time.

Mobile computing is similarly compelling. If customers enjoy the convenience of mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, why not render IT services to those devices? The goal should be to do so in a way that doesn't compromise organizational security, violate the customer's privacy expectations, or burden the service provider with unacceptable costs and risks.

Typically, such a balanced strategy is indeed possible; in fact, once implemented, it can also provide organizations with extra insight into customer needs and interests, so that over time, services can be tweaked to satisfy those customers even more.

Tips for implementation

If you've found these ideas persuasive, your next question might be: "How can I get started?"

Naturally, that question will vary from case to case, based on your organization's specific business context—and for a complete discussion, ITIL v3 is probably the best available resource.

Service Management for Dummies does, however, provide an overview chapter on considerations to take into account. These include defining what service management can do for your organization; creating a service strategy; understanding and governing service management plans to achieve goals while minimizing risks and costs; discovering the service automation path and visualizing service management as it flows throughout the organization; and achieving the target end state.

Finally, the book concludes with a handy list of 10 simple tips almost any organization will find useful, in order to move from the abstract theory of IT service management to an up-and-running implementation.

Download Service Management for Dummies today!

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