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ITSM: Connecting service desk operations to IT strategies

IT and communications technology strategy and the service desk are rarely discussed in the same conversation. Although most organizations understand that there is a connection between implementing a strategy and delivering help desk services, a hard line connecting strategy to the service desk is often not drawn. However, ITIL and Information Technology Service Management, or ITSM, is changing this.

ITSM is a subset of ITIL that defines how service management is applied within specific organizations. It manages all processes that co-operate to ensure quality of live IT services, according to the customer-agreed level of service.

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 Its best practices state that strategies are ultimately realized through service operations. As a result, the service strategy and service operation phase will co-depend on one another within the lifecycle.

As you go through ITIL, it's clear how the stages connect to one another and, in turn, affect the operations. There are two phases within ITIL that should be of interest to IT managers because there is a clear line drawn from strategy, through design and transition, to the service desk in the service operation stage. They are:

1. The service strategy phase: It establishes an overall strategy for information and communications technology services and ITSM. This phase focuses on the identification of market opportunities. From this, organizations develop services to meet a requirement on the part of internal or external customers.

2. The service operation stage: This is where the rubber meets the road in the IT and communications technology business. It focuses on the activities required to support customers' services, such as CRM, and maintain their functionality as defined in the service-level agreements with customers.

Service strategies that are not properly supported will fail as will operations that do not clearly define what's necessary to fulfill a particular strategy. And while most know they are supposed to align business goals with IT strategies, many organizations still create and position the service desk based on budget. For example, they may outsource the service desk for financial reasons void of the overall business strategy.

So, what should IT and communications technology managers do to ensure strategies are tied to the service desk? They can use one of the following three ITIL service operation activities:

1. Deployment: This approach deploys services into the live environment in such a way that existing services and all new services work effectively. Using this approach, service desk managers can better understand the environment, and they have the ability to deploy services at the right time to not only ensure a successful deployment but also ensure other services continue to provide value.

2. Contract portfolio:The contract portfolio lists all external and internal contracts and their associated obligations. Contracts that are under consideration must be assessed to ensure continued levels of agreed service.

3. Managing demand: In IT, business patterns change. As a result, managing demand of IT resources is critical to make sure the continual level of agreed service is met.

These activities help ensure that value is delivered throughout the service's lifecycle. The service desk can prepare to support these service operation activities by:

  • Defining a service desk organizational structure -- local, central and virtual -- that aligns with the business strategy.
  • Developing staff who align with the business strategy; education and training is paramount.
  • Identifying super users who align with the business strategy; local business experts are critical to keeping abreast of changing business patterns.

The bottom line is to stay vigilant. IT and communications technology organizations can do this by following the activities outlined above.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stuart D. Galup, is an associate professor of computer information systems at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Computing Professional and ITIL Service Manager. He has held a number of senior information technology positions and holds a U.S. patent. Galup has written more than 45 academic publications and two books.

This was first published in February 2009

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