Greg Sanker and Joe the IT Guy

ITSM Views: Greg Sanker, from

What exactly is your job?

By day, I’m a mild mannered IT manager at a US state agency – managing enterprise services, which includes the service desk and the budding service management office. I specialize in adapting and adopting IT best practices in the pursuit of operational excellence.

In my spare time, I’m a blogger, speaker, and author on excellence in IT service management (ITSM). I also created as a free resource to help ITSM practitioners in their pursuance of excellence in service management.

What’s the best thing about working in ITSM?

When it’s all boiled down to it’s core, ITSM is simply the continual pursuit of excellence. I love that. It resonates with me. And the people I get to call my industry colleagues are some of the most passionate, intelligent people on the planet.

I love what I do.

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

I’m not even sure anymore what “traditional ITSM” is. I used to think of it as process-driven thinking, where the goal was to implement processes to improve operational effectiveness. But, like everything else in this industry, that era has passed and we’re now in a new era where business is moving way too fast and is quickly having less and less need for traditional IT with their processes.

I think, perhaps, that we ITSM people have spent so much of our time trying to convince people that they need to adopt ITSM best practices, that we sometimes think of it as a destination – a place at which we arrive, and oh, glorious day, we’ve made it.

Meanwhile, irreverent IT upstarts are doing DevOps and the like, and we ITSM’ers are caught flat-footed, looking wistfully over our shoulders wondering why we didn’t think of it.

What’s missing? The relentless drive for continual improvement and a bigger picture view. It’s not the business and IT. There’s only business, with a profound dependence on technology. IT needs to live or die on its ability to rapidly deliver value.

In a lot of cases, IT’s current processes and practices are no longer fit for purpose – the business needs results that IT just simply can’t deliver.

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

I think it’s the tendency to give the impression that everyone is doing everything wrong – that there’s some objective ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to deliver IT services.

The truth is, most IT organizations have been doing a good job of meeting their customers’ needs. We’d be wise to acknowledge what’s working well, and then focus on continual improvement.

What one piece of practical advice would you give to somebody working on the service desk?

The service desk is commonly an entry-level IT position, which can make it a young person’s job. And young people are “digital natives,” who have grown up with a smartphone in their hands, and are often more interested in what they could do with the service desk tool than the technology itself. Plus this highly-motivated and skilled staff might have new and innovative ideas that could radically improve service desk operations and the support they provide.

My advice to them is: Don’t get frustrated with the “old school’ service desk and the often infuriatingly technophobic end users. Instead, focus on the prime directive – serving IT customers and bringing value to the organization.

Understand the challenges the organization and your manager face, and push the limits of current thinking in meeting them. Don’t become the guy, or lady, who points out every problem – instead bring solutions that improve service and explain how your ideas will make life better for customers.

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

CIOs have often come up through the IT ranks and thus have some knowledge of ITSM. Unfortunately, however, many CIOs are relying on a rather antiquated understanding of what ITSM is. ITSM is now operating in a different business and IT world.

The business’ demands for speed, agility, cost containment, and governance have increased while, at the same time, the operational IT challenges have remained pretty much the same – adverse business impact from unmanaged change, late IT and business project delivery, out of control project and operational IT costs, and an aging IT infrastructure.

CIOs need to bring their understanding and knowledge of ITSM up to date. They need to expose themselves to other IT and ITSM frameworks in addition to ITIL – most notably COBIT, with its focus on the governance of enterprise IT including the intentional separation of management from governance.

CIOs need to embrace ITSM as how they’ll meet the demands of business, not something they do in addition. CIOs have neither the time, nor the resources, to reinvent core ITSM processes from scratch. They need to adopt and go.

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

Good question. Wow. One thing…

As an industry, we’re doing so much right – particularly in the areas of knowledge sharing and continual improvement. No offense intended to consultants, but I think the place to be right now is in the role of practitioner. There are far more practitioners than consultants out there doing this stuff day in, day out, many of whom are doing a lot of really great work. But there’s also those with very limited practical experience and understanding, and that’s a problem.

I love where AXELOS is going with the new ITIL Practitioner’s qualification. It’s a step in the right direction, but certifications, even skills-focused ones are no substitute for real-world experience.

So the one thing I’d change is more focus on empowering practitioners with a useful working knowledge of ITSM in the real world. That’s why I started – as a helpful resource for ITSM practitioners.

I guess this is less something I’d change, and more something I’m passionate about. It’s a great time to be in ITSM!

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

For me, that’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s all about DevOps. Whatever that is. Look, I’m not a DevOps guy. At least not yet. But it’s a major game changer that’s long overdue. I consider it a shot-across-the-bow to “traditional” ITSM.

In my simplistic view, DevOps is little more than change, release, and configuration management working perfectly in concert, as they always should have been.

I know it’s much more than that – it’s a whole mindset, complete with a manifesto. But when it comes down to it – when done well, DevOps meets all the core requirements of what have become some rather bureaucratic and bloated processes. To me, DevOps is proof positive that it’s possible to meet the essential (outcome) requirements of ITSM processes in non-traditional ways that better serve the business.

If you find yourself stamping your foot in protest to the wild eyed, irreverent DevOps people, then you’re beginning to register that change is coming, and you need to get on board, or get out of the way.

Where do you see the ITSM industry in 10 years’ time?

10 years is a long time in this industry. Here’s some things I foresee:

  • Completely new, game-changing technologies
  • Maturity of cloud and mobility
  • Significant changes in security and information protection architectures
  • Increased focus on business value maximization
  • Significant retirement of IT “founding fathers”
  • Middle and senior IT management transition to digital natives

Current ITSM practices are largely unchanged from the early days of mainframe and PC/client-server architectures and processes.

By way of analogy, if you want to win Formula 1, you don’t take a 1998 Honda Civic, cram in a bigger motor with turbo charger, lower it, add “racing shocks”, a wing, and low profile tires. You’d no doubt go faster and be more completive, but win? Hardly. You wouldn’t stand a chance.

Instead, what you would do is build a car from the ground up, with expert advice from experienced Formula 1 design engineers, using state-of-the- art components and practices. You’d design a racecar that’s fit for purpose.

I think that’s what the next 10 years will bring – ITSM practices and updated frameworks that are designed from the ground up to help IT organizations solve tomorrow’s problems (not yesterday’s).

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

  1. Network with peers outside your organization; develop relationships with others in ITSM.
  2. Expand your knowledge of various frameworks and practices (especially COBIT and DevOps).
  3. Broaden your experience in ITSM – get exposure to other process areas and approaches. Change companies if needed. Be committed to your career as an ITSM practitioner and invest in yourself.
  4. Give back to the ITSM community. Share your experience, especially your mistakes and failures – it makes us all better.
  5. Don’t take ITSM so seriously. At the end of the day, it’s about people, relationships, and delivering value.

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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