What does “digital” mean to service management? – A trilogy (part 3)

In this three-part blog Simon Dorst and Michelle Major-Goldsmith consider all things digital and how service management approaches are evolving in response.

In the 1st blog of this series we set the scene by considering the impacts of digital disruption and transformation. In the 2nd blog we considered some of the widely known and used ‘best practice’ approaches for service management and how they address this fourth industrial revolution.

In this final blog of the series we’ll discuss VeriSM™, with its strapline ‘service management for the digital age’, and consider how this practice might help tackle some of the challenges created by the growth in methodologies, frameworks and practices.

Our premise

In our first blog we looked at the wide sweeping impacts of digitisation on business. Digital transformation drives a change in focus and transforming the business of ‘doing business’. We wanted to consider what that means for the future of the best practices we know and love, those emerging and how each is evolving to respond to this changing business landscape.

We started this conversation (in the 2nd blog) by looking at ITIL®, and its most recent iteration ITIL 4 with its supposed direct reference to the 4th industrial revolution. ITIL has arguably been the ‘de-facto’ approach to IT service management for over thirty years and not really had much of a shake up since 2007, when ITIL v3 was released, so it’s certainly worthy of consideration. We also looked at the increasing popularity of Agile, DevOps, Lean and Service Integration and Management (or SIAM™).

The challenge is that most organisations are still trying to have a single practice fit every situation: operations, projects, improvement … And we know from experience that this doesn’t work.

The (f)law of average

In the early 1950s, the U.S. air force measured more than 4,000 pilots on 140 dimensions of size, in order to tailor cockpit design to the “average” pilot. The average of 10 physical dimensions was calculated, those believed to be most relevant for design, including height, chest circumference and sleeve length. These formed the dimensions of the “average pilot,” which were generously defined as someone whose measurements were within the middle 30 per cent of the range of values for each dimension. Next, scientists compared each individual pilot, one by one, to the average pilot.

How many pilots were ‘average’ on all 10 dimensions? … zero: out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fitted within the average range on all 10 dimensions. They either had longer arms, broader shoulders or something else that didn’t fit the mould. More info here.  

And the same goes for our service management practices: not one of them first every organisation, not even the modern, flexible and agile ones.

Best practice islands

These leaves us then with a ‘framework frenzy’ of ITIL, Agile, DevOps, Lean, SIAM and more. And this might lead to the question: Do we need more guidance? It appears that we have more than enough, but with all these practices, frameworks, standards, ethos and approaches, we run the risk of having lots of service management islands.
Each practice has their own tools, documentation and supporters in an organisation, with nothing necessarily connecting them. How do we navigate them? … what do we choose? … do we even need to make a choice?

We did see that ITIL 4 has embraced the Agile principles into its practices, as well as some of the LEAN & SIAM concepts. But, this is still limited, there is still for instance the DevOps culture, the SIAM structure of a service integrator or a project management methodology. And that is not even accounting for practices being used outside of the IT world, in other areas of the business, which would also need to be integrated to create digital consumer services. So, what should we be considering when trying to make sense of these modern service management practices?

Building bridges

Well, let’s look at more detail in VeriSM, which was introduced in 2018 and interestingly covers much of the same ground as the new ITIL 4 guidance (but was launched a full year earlier … make of that what you will). Certainly, as advocates for anything that will make service management people’s lives easier we would say that where (or when) the guidance was borne isn’t really a concern.

Verism, as a term, is the artistic preference of contemporary everyday subject matter instead of the heroic or legendary in art and literature; it is a form of realism. The word comes from Latin verus (true). As a service management approach, VeriSM is an acronym (Value-driven, Evolving, Responsive, Integrated Service Management) created by the International Foundation for Digital Competency, the IFDC. The key premise for VeriSM is that IT and business operations cannot afford to be separate in response to the digital revolution (i.e. not ‘alignment’, but ‘integration’), but also to find a way to utilise the very best of different service management frameworks, practices and concepts, to deliver the best outcomes for the consumer.

Before VeriSM was created, market research was undertaken, which clearly showed that people were not waiting for ‘the next best thing’, but rather for something that could help utilise their existing investments and practices and allow them to get more out of them!

Take a look at this diagram, which is the model for VeriSM. The item to consider here is the Management Mesh, in the middle, which ‘meshes’ or glues technologies and practices together

The mesh in this diagram provides the malleable details, based on governance, the associated service management principles and the business portfolio (or direction and strategy, …). But rather than the mesh being built ‘on top’ these three ‘towers’, it is influenced by them, and those three components are shaping and forming the mesh.

The magic glue

VeriSM encourages organisations to exploit a range of management practices, and not just limited to IT ones, and combine them with other aspects in a Management Mesh that can flex for different products and services (as circumstances demand) and easily adapt as new management practices or technologies emerge.

There are FOUR sides to the Mesh:

Resources (at the top) relate to things like Budget, Assets, People, Time and Knowledge.  These can be enablers or restrictors to what is possible (in an organisation, for a service, …).

As is the Environment-side (on the left).

  • What is the competition doing?
  • What are the regulatory or legislative concerns?
  • Are there any cultural considerations?
  • As well as what we call service stabilisers, which are the
    • Processes
    • Tools
    • Metrics in place (and their maturity, effectiveness, efficiency etc.)

Then there are the Emerging Technologies (to the right), which provide opportunity (currently this would be things like Cloud, Automation, IoT, Big Data … but this can change with future technologies, if and when they emerge)

And as mentioned the Management practices (down the bottom), such as ITIL, DevOps, SIAM but also non-IT practices, for instance for the HR or Finance capability, if-and-when needed for a particular service or outcome.  And again, this can change over time with new practices incorporated, as needed.

VeriSM’s Management Mesh combines these elements to provide the optimum service model, either at an organisational level, or service or product specific.

It is a bit of the magic glue, and the initial VeriSM publication does a great job in explaining what the Management Mesh looks like, and why it is important to have it (as well as important to maintain it and continuously adept it to retain relevance).  In the subsequent publication, ‘Unwrapped and applied’, there is a much more detailed insight in how to actually achieve this, with examples of various organisations.

Service management for the enterprise

Let’s extend this VeriSM thinking and look at another C-suite favourite: ‘Enterprise service management’. Of course, service management practices not only can, but in fact have to be applied outside of the IT department, in order to truly deliver end to end, consumer-centric, digital services. As said, this not only involves new, updated practices, like ITIL 4 or VeriSM, but also closer alignment or rather collaboration with other areas in the business, like HR or finance.

This also means that those areas will have to adopt service management concepts, which in itself means that we (from the IT side of the business) can’t be too prescriptive and bureaucratic but instead need an inclusive approach that is highly adaptable to fit with the ways of working of the other business units.
The 4 dimensions and guiding principles of ITIL 4 form a great ‘framework’ within which we can work, building a DevOps culture. More specific are the Agile and LEAN techniques and the ITIL practices which eventually will lead to procedures. And then there is the structure that SIAM offers, especially around the service integrator function (which concepts can be expanded to integrate services from IT with HR and finance and …).

Combining all these, as well as possibly other practices and various technologies, into the VeriSM Management Mesh, gives us a new model for service management in an organisation. No longer limited to infrastructure operations and optimisation, but focused on the consumer experience, truly providing end to end value in a flexible and constantly changing way.

The ‘T’ shaped professional

It doesn’t stop there as the adoption of an enterprise service management approach, and the application of new practices or emerging technologies, is as much a people issue … if not more! This makes organisational capability, organisational behaviour management and organisational change management hugely important factors in digital environments.

Of course, ITIL 4, VeriSM, SIAM and other modern practices all pay attention to these aspects, without re-inventing the wheel. There are various other practices, frameworks and approaches for this that can be applied (or integrated into the Management Mesh) such as ADKAR for organisational change.

VeriSM also provides extensive information on areas such as leadership and management, culture and developing teams as well as other challenges, like teams, silos and tribalism. Again, these are nothing new in the service management space, but perhaps have not always fully addressed and will potentially be amplified with a digital approach.

Whilst we are talking people and capabilities we’d like to highlight the professional development of modern IT and service management professionals. Gone are the days where you could be an expert in a field and work within your (technical) silo.

Modern practitioners are ‘T-shaped’ professionals that have a deep knowledge combined with a broad scope so that they apply their knowledge across different situations. There are also A-shaped professionals, with 2 specialisms, and other variants.

This means for instance combining a technical skill, with service management capabilities (including a working knowledge of the various practices mentioned) and various soft-skills as part of cross-functional service delivery.

Responsiveness to change

So, lets finish where we started in our first blog, with this well know quote, widely (but wrongly) attributed to Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!”

The quote suggests that we’re not necessarily looking for the strongest or the best (service management practice, toolset, service provider …), but for something that is agile, flexible and adaptable to deal with all the challenges ahead. Let us not pretend that this change or challenge is a choice … or that it can be solved by a single silver bullet. It will require judicious application of various best practices, methodologies, techniques and technologies, combing them to leverage the benefits and enable cross-functional collaboration across the organisation.

Having said that, the modern service management practices seem to be up for this challenge and open to flexible merging and agile improvement … the question is, are you?

About the authors 

Simon Dorst
Michelle Major-Goldsmith

With a combined experience of over 50 years in service management, Michelle Major-Goldsmith and Simon Dorst are well known in the industry. They are Lead Architects for the Scopism Service Integration and Management Professional Body of Knowledge (BoK) and founder members of the SIAM Foundation BoK architect team, as well as Subject Matter Experts for both EXIN and BCS in developing the accreditation around this. The team was awarded Thought Leaders of the Year at the Professional Service Management Awards by the itSMF UK (in 2017). Both have been an active committee member of various service management groups and forums for many years, including the itSMF in WA. They shared the award of ITSM Thought Leader of the Year in 2018 and were both the Service Management Champion of the Year (Michelle in 2017, Simon in 2018) from itSMF Australia. Michelle was also awarded HDIs Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management for 2020.

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