IT Service Management and its value for the customers. (Part 1)

Being this my first article in the redtoo’s blog I will start writing about a subject I know very well: “IT Service Management”. This article is an introduction in a series about IT Service Management and is addressed mainly to those who don’t know what this is or to those who are curious about other views on the subject. Please be excited when it comes to the following parts: In my next article I will address the VALUE of an IT Service Manager as a counter part for the customer and his/her* business or activities…

Also, and in harmony with the actual redtoo’s  leading motto, I will make IT simple. Why this? Because I’m convinced that simple concepts can have simple explanations with no need of confusing high-sounding vocabulary, and also because I want to make for my readers a comfortable journey throughout the article.

One of the most difficult questions when talking about work that I use to come across is “what do you do?”.  What I do is a little bit of an uncommon or unheard activity in the everyday world of work even though it is a quite usual position in medium-large to large companies. I mean, if I’d say “accountant”, “engineer”, “chemist”, “CEO/Director”, “programmer”, “baker”, “bus driver”, “physician”, etc. almost everybody would see immediately what I do in my life for a living, but when I say  “IT Service Manager” or “Business Analyst” or  “IT Project Manager” or “IT Consultant” the people would hardly see it as quick and as clear as before.

This is for me a clear sign that this profession is a modern invention, even if it has been around during the last 30-40 years or maybe more.There are no specific careers at universities or higher education institutions but just offer as specialization courses of all levels (from awareness to expertize) like masters or advanced studies with this orientation.

The hard and soft skills (specific knowledge and personal capabilities) required by this profession and the labour market are quite clear and are already changing the view on education for the future work forces. The world is moving very fast into the future and you can expect seeing the changes soon in the offer of most mid or higher education institutions.

OK, but what now? How can I explain “IT service management”?

Let’s start with Information Technology (IT): it is the technology applied to the information, the means to store it and the channels of communication through which the information flows from one point to another. This also includes the processes, i.e. the concerted activities in all levels needed to achieve that.

For the laymen we could also define IT in a very elementary and plain way as “a set of interconnected electronic machines, programs and the work done to store and to circulate information of any kind”

The set of interconnected components is the so called “network”; the electronic machines and all the physical parts are the “hardware” (eg servers, switches, cables, routers, etc); the programs (operating systems like Windows or iOS, emails boxes, Word and Excel, video, etc) are the “software”, the information (words, numbers, colours, images, graphics, etc) is the “data”; and the whole group is an “(IT) system”. Depending on the point of view this may include or not the processes (eg control of running systems, of new softwares, change in requirements from the customers etc) to keep it running.

The name “IT” is sometimes extended to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) since it is clearly applied to the communications (telephony, internet networks, etc).

Now, the Service Management: as mentioned above there are processes to keep the whole IT system running in a harmonized and smooth way. Here we speak about the coordination between the different components of the system. IT is not only about connecting machines, typing on the keyboard, writing a program or switching on the computer. Besides the work done by every group of technical specialists (network and hardware engineers, software developers, etc) to keep the system up and running, there is a group of people that manages the processes of these systems and the data in them. The processes mentioned aim to maintain a good structured and articulated system that manages and makes data (information) available in an effective and efficient way, this includes the quality, availability and access to the information as well as the costs of the systems, the compliance with the internal or external requirements, the maintenance of software, the communication with users, the solution of problems, etc. Streamlined processes to support all that – and much more – become a “service” and a Service Manager manages it.

In all this story we are still missing the most important piece: THE CUSTOMER. An IT system is not out there just for fun. It is built and maintained to support the running of a business (also any not-for-profit activity) which is actually both the provider and consumer of the information stored in the IT system. As a short example, in old times an accountant kept his numbers in a book, somebody provided the blank books, and somebody else managed them, like a librarian. Nowadays the information is in computers (or servers – the books-) and IT is the Service Provider of the platform (the library..) the accountant needs to keep the information. The IT system will have to accomplish with the requirements of the customer in regards for example to availability or security of the information. The IT Service provider (or the Service Manager of the IT system, seen as a Service – the librarian-) will have to capture all customer requirements and forward to the inner Service Managers of the platform to implement them.

As you have probably already noticed a Service Manager has a mixed profile, in sense that he/she is not necessarily a technician to understand HW and SW specific matters nor a specialist in the business area of the customer but have to be able to understand both of them and effectively translate in both directions the messages of each one, since both speak “different languages” (profession’s jargon) and most probably will think and communicate in different ways. This capability of the Service Manager – added to the understanding of how the IT system he/she manages works – is a huge asset, not easy to acquire but of course not impossible neither.

Now that we have all pieces of the puzzle, we can build the complete picture:

An IT Service Manager manages the services provided to a customer by an Information Technology  platform and/or the services within it. The IT platform stores and makes available the data of the customer, supporting in this way his/her daily business or activity.

I hope the first part of this article has shed some light on the subject and that you have enjoyed it. The second part is coming soon.

Also if you wished to do so, you can leave your question or your feedback on this page. Thanks!

*he/she: even though I think this makes the reading more difficult, I do it to give support to groups like “girls in tech” where a friend of mine is and stimulate also women to join the wonderful and promising world of IT. (Girls in Tech and in FB Girls in Tech Switzerland  Girls in Tech Argentina)

 

written by Alejandro Izurdiaga

Alejandro Izurdiaga is a Senior Service Management Expert (ITIL v3), Project Manager (Prince 2) and Business Analyst at redtoo since 2009. After having completed his…

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