Much of the current effort to modernise IT service management is well intentioned, but doomed to failure.  Simon Kent explains the barrier which ITSM must overcome to deliver sustainable business value.

Agile, DevOps and IT4IT all share a common goal: making ITSM more responsive to business requirements.  But despite good intentions, these endeavours are in danger of falling short. Why? Simply put, although they represent a step in the right direction, they are still inward-facing activities. 

Take a look at the diagram below which in the most basic terms shows the relationship between ITSM and “the business”.

Biz diagram 1

The majority of the methodologies mentioned are trying to close this gap by removing that layer between the IT delivery mechanism (ITSM) and the business it serves.  This isn’t a newly identified problem, we’ve known about this divide for sometime and we used to talk about “business and IT alignment”.   But the problem remains unsolved because the methods to remove the divide still focus within the “ITSM” circle.

Take DevOps.  This a fantastic endeavour designed to improve communications between development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) to ensure the IT being built and deployed is suited to business requirements.  IT operations are by design more business-facing than the development team, so involving them in the project build stage makes sense, but this is still essentially an inward-looking practice.  IT operations may be more in tune with the business, but the people involved are still part of IT.  The “business” in this instance is still treated as a third party and so DevOps is only a half-measure. 

Agile is similarly internally focused.  Yes, it aims to make IT more responsive by rolling out projects in small, bite-sized chunks which can then be tweaked depending on feedback, but it is still very heavily focused on the nuts and bolts of projects and eliminating slowdowns in roll-out.

Even IT4IT, which is designed to help run the “business of IT”, is still very process and jargon-intensive which is of little interest to anyone outside the ITSM inner circle.  An IT Value Chain may make perfect sense to you an I, but drop it into a conversation down the pub or in the staff room and prepare for blank looks and stoney silence.

Removing the barrier
So, what needs to appear in the “gap” between ITSM and the business?

In simple terms, nothing! By nothing I mean it doesn’t need a new department or extra organisational layer because that will simply exacerbate the problem of each party being distant.  The trick is removing the layer altogether, and that’s where Business Relationship Management comes in. 

Business Relationship Management, as the name suggests, is about managing the business relationships which are crucial to the success or failure of the organisation.  BRM encompasses relationships throughout the business and beyond (such as suppliers), but for the purposes of this article, it relates to the gap we have identified.

The reason this invisible barrier exists between “the business” and ITSM is that neither speaks the other’s language.  Yes, we have common ground, some shared terminology and there is a growing level of technical awareness to work with.  But if you look at your average IT departmental report and the KPIs they track, then ask the sales director or fulfilment manager about how those number relate to them, you’ll quickly realise we have a long way to go.

If you want to remove the barrier that stops ITSM delivering value, you must introduce BRM thinking, and ideally individuals with a specific job titles – such as business relationship managers.  We are seeing this type of role far more frequently now.  Some are called business relationship managers, some have very different titles, but their goal is the same: remove the barrier between ITSM and the business.  ITSM should not be a separate entity because it IS already part of the business.  It needs someone to bridge the “gap” because the gap is not physical, it is a communications gap.

Business diagram 2

Where do you begin with BRM?
The BRM Institute is doing some great work championing this area and helping IT and business professionals bring clear communications and mutual understanding onto the corporate agenda.  If you want a simple intro to the concepts of BRM and how it could fit into your business, we have written a beginners guide to BRM which is free to view/download.  Finally, to help make BRM tangible, we have created a software suite which manages all the elements which comprise business relationships and how they connect with IT.  Think of it like CRM for business relationships, making it traceable, accountable and visual.  If you want a demo, feel free to get in touch – seeing BRM in action makes it much easier to understand and place within the context of your own business.

Conclusion
ITSM must find away to remove the barrier which stops it delivering value.  BRM is the key because it is about delivering clear communication, mutual understanding of business challenges, and a collaborative approach to harnessing technology.

Kevin Baker

About Kevin Baker

Kevin has been in the IT service management industry for over 12 years and has an extensive background in software development, professional services, and business management. He founded Sollertis in 2013 on the core belief that people working together can achieve anything and truly make a difference both in and out of the work environment. Today, under Kevin’s leadership, Sollertis is a leading IT and Business Convergence solution provider, that inspire, coach, develop and deliver success in ITSM, knowledge management, and business relationship management to organisations across multiple sectors world-wide.