When did you last review your management system?

If you’re running IT services then you need a management system, and you need to constantly monitor and review everything you do so that your management system keeps improving. The alternative to continual improvement is stagnation, or worse. If your competitors keep improving and you stand still then you will rapidly find yourself falling behind.

When I talk about a management system, some people think I mean an IT service management tool set. They are under the impression that you can buy an ITSM software solution, get a consultant to install and configure it, and then you’re done. Management system in place, what’s next? Unfortunately organizations that take this approach invariably find that it isn’t doing the job properly. It may take a couple of years, but they eventually discover that the ITSM software hasn’t delivered the return on investment that they were looking for. Sometimes they blame the tool or the vendor, so they select a new tool and try again, with similar results.

The reason that this approach fails is because an effective management system is much more than the ITSM software you use to record and track your incidents, problems and changes. A tool by itself will have very little value. You need to design an integrated solution that includes

  • Policies
  • Processes
  • Organization design
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • People and competencies
  • Metrics and reporting
  • And of course supporting tools and documentation.

It’s not even enough to design all of these things perfectly. The hardest part of creating a management system is organizational change management, actually integrating the management system you have designed with the people and organization that you already have. The best design will deliver no value if everybody ignores it and just carries on working the way they always have.

So how can you set about creating a management system? If you asked this question ten years ago then you would have been told that it needs a project that will last for many years, and involve dozens of ITSM consultants creating documentation and configuring tools. You wouldn’t get any value at all for the first year. Since then we have discovered the value of taking an Agile approach, where we create the solution we need in small steps, each of which creates incremental value.

The good news is that you’ve already got a management system. You might not call it a management system but you do already have many of the elements that I listed above. They may need to be improved, but I’d be very surprised if you don’t have at least some examples of each essential aspect. So given this, and the need to create value in an Agile way, the best way to implement a management system is to review what is already in place, compare it to what you really need, and then plan improvements that will take you on a journey towards where you want to be. Don’t try to change everything at once, identify blocks of work that you can complete in a few weeks and that will create real value for your organization.

Once you have taken the decision to review your management system you should start by looking at each of the areas listed above. Don’t restrict yourself to only looking at the things you are already doing. Use a framework like ITIL, COBIT 5, or ISO/IEC 20000 to identify things that other people value in an IT service management system and see whether (and how well) you’re doing them. You don’t need to make this a huge, expensive, many-week-long audit. Start with a quick overview. Identify the areas where you’re strong and those where you can see that improvement is urgently needed. Then drill down in just the most critical areas where you want to make your first improvements.

After you’ve identified a few improvements you want to make it’s a good idea to document these somewhere. Write them all down in one place and you’ve got a continual improvement register! There’s no need to make a big deal of ideas like a continual improvement register. I have seen organizations spend weeks designing one, but you just need to let it evolve as you discover new things you want to record.

Look out for my next blog on how to manage your continual improvement register, and start creating real value with your improved IT service management system.

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