ITSM Views from a Vendor, with John Clark from Microsoft

What exactly is your job?

I am an IT Service Management Architect within the Microsoft ITSM practice.  My job is to assist in sharing the Microsoft IT Service Management message with customers externally as well as internally, assist with planning and scoping application or enablement of Service management with our customers, and promoting good Service Management practice in the implementation of Microsoft services or solutions.

My goal, like virtually everyone else in our practice (100+), is to lead and serve our customers and partners as they realize their full potential through end to end solutions focused on People, Process and Technology.  This is across but not limited to the entire Microsoft portfolio of services such as Office 365, and Azure, as well as solutions such as System Center, Dynamics, Exchange/Lync and SharePoint.

What is the best thing about working in IT Service Management?

There are so many opportunities to help customers see what’s possible, often leveraging what they already own.  IT Service Management allows me to incorporate Information Technology (including gadgets!), Business Acumen, Leadership and Management.  It’s an intersection as it were, of a number of different disciplines.  Working for a company such as Microsoft allows one to hone these skills and experiences and apply to customers almost immediately, especially in the new areas around cloud, automation, social and mobile.

I also very much enjoy teaching and sharing knowledge and experience with customers and colleagues that enable them to begin realizing improvements in areas such as cost management and reduction, automation, process and service improvement, and financial management.  Conducting and leading the McKinley Simulation (G2G3 simulation specific for Microsoft) is one of the most enjoyable experiences for me in ITSM.

What do you think is the most important element missing from traditional ITSM? And why?

I believe the most important element missing from traditional ITSM is the same thing missing from many IT trends in general; the lack of focus on the customer (the right customer) and lack of focus on business fundamentals.  This may sound heretical but if you look at the big trends of the past 15 years (ERP, Y2K, ITSM, SOX) there has been a fair amount of failure and I think it has resulted from a lack of focus on the customer, people and business fundamentals.

I have actually heard the phrase “we need to save money at any cost!”  Which tells me someone didn’t pay close attention in their business classes.  IT is no longer a monopoly and must now more than ever demonstrate value for money spent.  They need to represent the (paying) customer as the most important person in the room, not dictating to them, but participating with them in the achievement of the outcomes they wish to achieve.  This means understanding the business as well as how IT can make their business better, faster, easier, effective, etc.  Getting rid of the divide between “the business” and “the IT” is necessary – see the article originally published in 2010.

With a focus on customer and business fundamentals, IT can and should move beyond “streets and sewers IT”, which is easily outsourced, and really partner in the business of the business for which they belong.

What do you think is the biggest mistake that people can make in ITSM, and how can it be avoided?

I have written and blogged about this for years and still believe the biggest mistake in ITSM is in thinking that “implementing” a framework automatically results in “magic value”.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that IT Service Management saves money, when I think the truth is it ends up costing more – but the value and benefits, if done properly, far outweigh the costs.  But often there is no plan, or very long runway, to getting to the value added areas of IT Service Management.  Simply implementing Incident, Problem and Change management will not result in magic value.  Starting with the visible changes to the paying customer should be first and foremost the goal of IT Service Management.  Make it worth the money spent and not just another IT project that turned into a black hole sucking in resources and yielding nothing.  And then report on it!

What one piece of practical advice would you give to somebody working on the Service Desk?

I could say things like “Think Service First”, simplify your ITSM technology, etc – but Service Desk agents often don’t have the say to make those kind of changes.

So here is what I used to share to Service Desk agents when I used to manage a Service Desk;

  • Create avenues and opportunities to thrill your customer.  Which means making suggestions to management on how to improve customer relationship.
  • Stop using the term “Users” – I have read in the Twittersphere that only two industries use the term “User”; IT and Illegal Drugs.
  • Identify ways to reduce effort, down time, complexity, and most importantly, show your customer you care. The best advice I was given or gave to service desk agents was “People don’t care how much you know if they know you don’t care…”
  • I have seen great agents and poor agents and the great agents didn’t necessarily have skills, knowledge or experience.  The “great” agents were the ones customers loved despite having issues with their IT services.

What one piece of practical advice would you give to the CIO of a company with regards to ITSM?

If a CIO is concerned with ITSM then my advice would be to not be. That’s like a CEO worrying about shop floor workflows in manufacturing. The CIO is the ultimate customer and provider of IT Service Management and as a leader should be squarely focused on the outcomes and not the details.  That’s what managers should be focusing on.  I would also suggest to a CIO that they drive their organization to get out of comfort zones and think like business people first. This means letting go of fiefdoms and control as that’s not productive and is slipping away anyway.

Communicating IT value in unit costing and pricing should be the goal for any services delivered by the IT organization. ITSM is simply a means to that end and that’s what the CIO should be focused on.

My other advice would be if they truly want to behave like a Service Provider, organize like one.  Get out of the “silos of excellence” and organize around services.  According to Corporate Executive Board, Service based organizations have great impact and greater success with Service Management because the organizations goals and hierarchy is aligned with and not against good service delivery.

If you could change one thing about the ITSM industry as a whole, what would it be and why?

Reduce the focus on dogmatic certifications for people and technologies and focus energies on increasing and certifying business skills.  That’s usually something college is for which would result in the elimination of the ITSM training and certification industry, so unlikely to change.  IT people continue to gravitate towards frameworks, methodologies and technologies.  It’s 2014 people, time for a change in how we think about and approach Information Technology.  It is definitely not your father’s IT anymore.

What do you think the ITSM trend to watch will be over the next 12 month? And why?

2014 will continue the 2013 trend towards cloud computing – driven by economics and flexibility.  IT will continue to lose control of services if they don’t leverage all capabilities this new service represents.  Cloud in all forms necessitates automation and standardization and not all infrastructure will be cloud based.  But the level of automation and standardization that cloud providers use will make its way into the enterprise which I believe will see a lot of in 2014.

Finally I believe the financial aspect of IT will continue to grow in importance not from a macro level of budget and cost but micro level of consumption and unit price.  This is how IT value can be communicated as well as compared to comparable industry offerings.

Where do you see the IT Service Management industry in 10 years time?

IT Service Management in 10 years will look very different than it does today.  On-premise as well as cloud technology will continue to evolve, and those who use technology will continue to become more tech-savvy, rendering less and less demand for IT geeks and gurus.  There will still be a need for those in the data center, but client computing in various forms and form factors will continue to be easier for those who use them.  This means a fundamental change of IT Service Management that focuses on measureable business outcomes.  Other trends of today will either be gone or pervasive.  Wearable computers and devices, digital paper and walls, self-driving cars that perhaps fly even?  Will all require services to operate properly.  So I don’t see the need to manage services being less, but in fact, see the need to manage technology as a service much greater.

Finally, what would be your 5 tips for success in ITSM?

My five tips would be:

  1. Focus on the business – despite so many trends and waves in IT, this hasn’t changed since the dawn of information technology or commerce itself.  The more in-tune and synchronized IT is with the business, the more relevant IT becomes.  This means leading business outcomes that leverage IT solutions and reducing/eliminating low/no-value activities, infrastructure and services.
  2. Manage Services, Not Technology – As mentioned before, organizing and prioritizing around services will facilitate a move to service orientation.  Technology and Lifecycle silo based organizations aren’t as effective at managing services as accountability for services needs to transcend the organization.
  3. Think Customer, The Right Customer – Make sure the paying customer is pleased with the level and quality of service they have paid for.  This also requires being very transparent with service level expectations and managing services competitively and appropriately.
  4. Think for yourself – So many organizations have taken the word of analysts, vendors, and industry peers.  I am not saying this is bad, but first and foremost think for yourself.  Blaming a bad choice or decision on someone else doesn’t reduce the negative impact.
  5. Don’t Implement ITIL (or MOF, or ISO20k) – I continue to harp on this; You cannot “implement ITIL”.  You can make improvements to how IT operates based on ITIL practices but that doesn’t mean it is “best”.  Make your improvement project yours and after it is successful, if you used any guidance from ITIL, that’s the time to talk about it…

The answers in this post, responses and opinions reflected John’s own personal opinions and were not necessarily shared or supported by Microsoft and the Microsoft ITSM practice.

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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