If you think your IT department delivers good service, think again. According to a recent paper by consultancy Macehiter Ward-Dutton, few organizations are able to run IT efficiently while being responsive to business needs.
Tight IT budgets have forced CIOs to do more with less, says the paper’s author, Jon Collins, principal analyst with the U.K.-based company. “But efficiency doesn’t actually benefit the business, apart from saving money on the IT budget,” Collins argues. Rather, he says, service delivery also has to be effective, meaning it must provide tangible business benefits.
The reason why it often doesn’t: There’s a divide between the application development side of the IT shop and the group responsible for operations and maintenance. Developers build new systems without much input from the systems administrators who later have to run them. A holistic view of IT service delivery would take into account the requirements of business processes on IT infrastructure and applications and incorporate that information into IT project decisions.
“I don’t believe there’s this kind of nirvana when everything will work beautifully together, but organizations can work a lot better,” Collins says.
He suggests a path to achieving IT service management maturity that is similar to models for good software development. As with software, the key to IT service maturity is establishing repeatable processes. Companies may begin without specific processes for managing IT service delivery. Along the path to maturity, IT organizations define formal processes and service-level agreements with business users. At the most sophisticated level, IT adjusts its service delivery continually, according to business demands.
For example, an IT shop at a bank might support a set of call center applications. If the bank wants to add mortgages to the products it supports through its call center, the IT department needs to be flexible enough to quickly update the call center applications and adjust how it supports those apps going forward.
To get started, Collins recommends CIOs build a business case for investing in the resources necessary to improve service delivery: CIOs will need to identify the most important services that IT provides the business, investigate how to improve these services, and determine the related costs for technology, staff resources and training.