Within far too many organizations, problem management can be considered somewhat of a “poor-relation” to its “sister” service desk and incident management activities. While the service desk and incident management processes often receive adequate investment in terms of staff, definition, training, and ongoing operation, problem management is often “something to be done later (when we have more time)”.
A common issue is that organizations think that they “do” problem management when in fact all they do is react to major incidents – they don’t do proactive problem management, that is investing in IT operations to prevent future issues, the proverbial “spending a penny to save a pound.” One possible cause of this all-too-common scenario is that problems are often confused with incidents (with the terminology often interchanged), or are seen as an incident state rather than a separate entity requiring a different type of response. However, of the major ITIL processes, truly effective problem management activity can provide some of the highest returns to an organization.
I recently participated in a BrightTalk problem management panel session with Barclay Rae (an independent management consultant with 25 years experience in the ITSM industry), Roger Bennett (MD of NGFF and winner of the itSMF USA Project of the Year award in 2008 while at Thomson Reuters), and Craig McDonogh (Director of Product Marketing for Service Now). Given my opening paragraph, we had a high attendance during what was a day filled with problem management-related webinars on BrightTalk … so maybe things are looking up for problem management. I hope so.
Oscar Wilde once said that "The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." I shudder to think what young Oscar would have said about I&O organizations that don’t know what it costs to deliver individual IT services let alone the value they deliver to the business. Just knowing that it costs “x” annually to “run IT” is no longer enough.
This might appear a little random at first but I was reminded of something I wrote two years ago when informed last week of a CIO fired because they couldn't articulate the value their IT team delivered to the business.
So ask yourself, “what value does IT deliver to the business?” Not in generic terms like business process-enablement and technology-supported efficiencies. What does the money we invest in IT each year actually deliver to the business in terms of value? More importantly, which IT services deliver the most value and which deliver little or no value?
Hold on a minute though. Do you actually know what “value” is from a business perspective? I’m not talking about the value I&O believes its IT services deliver; I’m talking about what the business thinks.
Am I moving too fast? Let’s take stock of the status quo.
“I remember when I lost my mind” … oops that’s Gnarls Barkley. I should have started with … I remember when software asset management (SAM) was on my radar as an IT service management (ITSM) practitioner. It was circa 2003, and my then employer was scared to death of the implications of non-compliance. We did some ground work but IMO it somewhat “died a death” when we realized that we had no idea where all the purchase records were – let’s assume they are all compliant now. Since then I have viewed SAM as just being on the to-do list for far too many organizations, never quite making it into the realms of actual “doing.” Sad but true.
Thankfully, however, my first three months at Forrester is changing this opinion – as 30% to 40% of my client inquiries relate to IT asset management (ITAM) and SAM (if you are interested the other 60% to 70% relate to ITIL adoption, process improvement, and ITSM tool selection – there’s a lot of tool replacement going on). SAM is rising from the ashes of its compliance era, in many ways this time “it’s all about the Benjamins.”