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Service Management Heros – Stuart Rance

Stuart Rance is an IT service management consultant, trainer and author with 40 years of experience. He was the receipient of the Paul Rappaport award for Outstanding Contribution to ITSM in 2013 and we’re thrilled that he has agreed to share some of his knowledge with us!

Tell us about your background and career– how did you start in service management?  Where are you today?

I started in IT as a hardware service engineer in the 1970’s. I progressed through various hardware and software support roles, and got into service management without even knowing that was what I was doing. My technical support role included work that I would now call availability management, capacity management, incident management, problem management, change evaluation, configuration management, etc., but at the time I just called it IT. In the 1990’s I discovered ITIL and realized that other people did the same things as I did, and had names for them. This was a revelation to me and most of my work since then has been IT service management of one type or another.

Today I work for my own company, Optimal Service Management, as an IT service management consultant, trainer and author.

How do you define service management? Why is it important?

Defining service management is really hard. I know what I mean when I use the term, but as a glossary author I also know how hard it is to define in a way that is clear, simple, and helpful. The definition I wrote for the ITIL glossary says that service management is “a set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services”. A less formal definition might be “Service management is an approach to the delivery of services that focuses on understanding how they create value for the service consumer”

Service management is important because almost everything that we do nowadays includes services. Even an act as simple as buying a book has been transformed from a simple product transaction into a service relationship.

Where do you see service management in the future? How have you seen it change?

I’ve seen lots of changes in service management since I first started in this area. At first I thought that service management was all about internal processes for the service provider. By investing in these processes we could become more efficient, and more effective, and reliably deliver the things we had defined in an SLA.  This was at a time that many IT departments were very technical, and were not working very efficiently. This kind of service management did result in some big improvements but it was a very “inside-out” way of working, based only on thinking about the service from the perspective of the service provider. It was quite possible for IT to meet all of its agreed targets while customers were completely dissatisfied with the service.

We progressed from there to thinking about services in terms of how they create value for customers and users. The release of ITIL V3 in 2007 included this concept, but many IT people weren’t able to take this on, they saw ITIL V3 as being just like V2 but with some extra processes, and they failed to make the changes needed to improve the way they created value for their customers.

I now see a big divide in the service management community. Some people take a very “outside-in” customer-centric view, while others still think that it is all about the processes that IT organizations use.  My personal preference is to take a more balanced view than either of these extremes. I think that the best approach is a balanced scorecard that gives equal weight to Financial, Customer, Internal, and Learning & Growth aspects.

Another change that I am seeing is for ever more complex supplier relationships. We used to have a simple choice between internal IT or outsourced IT. Now we have a situation where even the simplest service involves many different suppliers providing different components that have to work together to create value.  This is leading to a future where everyone will have to think about service integration and management (SIAM) for almost everything they do, and this in turn is moving some important aspects of service management from the service provider to the service consumer.  People using IT services can no longer just rely on service providers, they need to be actively involved in management of the services that they consume.

What advice would you give anyone who is just starting out in service management?

As you start out on your service management journey there will be lots to learn about processes, tools, metrics, reporting and other internal service management things. Do remember that these things are just a means to an end. Make you sure you focus on what is really important. Who are your customers? What do they need? How are you going to make sure they get value from the service you provide? You may think that these things aren’t your responsibility because you are only a service desk agent (or whatever your role is), but the reality is that everyone in the service provider organization must take responsibility for creating value. If you adopt this mindset then you will succeed, and you will delight your customers.

Where should an organisation start when they implement Service Management?  What are the common challenges?

Many organizations start with big projects, major tool implementations, creation of a service catalogue and so on. I think it is much better to start with talking to your customers about their needs and expectations, and reviewing your existing practices to see how you can make short term improvements. Then put in a formal process for tracking and managing these improvement opportunities.

The biggest challenge in implementing service management is changing the mind-set of the people. Most service management implementation projects spend only a tiny bit of their time and effort on the most important area, management of organizational change, but this is the one thing that can make the biggest difference.

Tell us a bit about your experience as an ITIL Author?

When I wrote the ITIL Glossary with Ashley Hanna, we lived 300 miles apart. I spent huge amounts of time on phone calls where we discussed definitions of terms. I had thought that I knew ITIL really well, but writing those definitions left me with a really profound understanding of ITIL and of IT service management, as well as enormous respect for Ashley’s intellect. Creating the updated glossary for the ITIL 2007 release was a real challenge as we had to read every draft of each publication to ensure we picked up on changes in how terms were used. This certainly meant that I knew what was in all the books when they were published.

The 2011 update to ITIL Service Transition was a very different experience. Although we worked in a team, I was personally responsible for updates to one publication. I was given a huge number of change requests and I had to understand them, and work out how to incorporate them into the text. We also had to reorganize many things to make the books more consistent.  I think the 2011 release of ITIL achieved what it set out to do, and that was to remove inconsistencies and make it easier to read.

What, if anything, would you like to see change within ITIL / the examinations?

I have written extensively about my vision for the future of ITIL, but here is a summary of what I’d like to see:

  • No significant changes at all for the next 2 to 3 years. People need some stability to let them create value from what they already have. Too many changes too soon would be disruptive
  • When there is a new release of ITIL it should be well publicised in advance, with wide public review – like we had for the exposure draft of COBIT 5 – and this review should allow sufficient time for the feedback to be properly considered
  • The next release of ITIL should be based on a formal, structured, architecture. Ideally I would like this to be derived from the work we are doing on the Adaptive Service Model. Then individual “chapters” can be written in a narrative style to fit with the architecture. This will provide a combination of ITIL’s great narrative approach with a much tighter integration between the parts
  • New exams should be created at the same time as new publications. The requirements for these exams should be based on the needs of a much wider variety of stakeholders than the current exams. The primary stakeholders are the managers of organizations that use IT service management. We should not allow the training organizations and exam institutes to drive the system, but should take their input along with that of the primary stakeholders.

And finally, you were recently awarded the Paul Rappaport award for Outstanding Contribution to ITSM. Many congratulations! What did this award mean to you?

It’s very hard to put my feelings about this in words. This recognition from the people that I most respect and value made me feel very proud and very humble at the same time. I wasn’t expecting to get this award and I spent the next few days wandering around the UK itSMF conference looking stunned and bemused.


Stuart can be contacted in the following ways –

eMail:                   StuartR@rances.net

Twitter:                @StuartRance

LinkedIn:             www.linkedin.com/in/stuartrance

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