IT service management or ITSM is one of the most common words thrown around in the IT industry, but what does it actually mean? ITSM simply means a strategic approach directed by policies, processes and procedures that are aimed at designing, planning, operating, delivering, managing and controlling the way an organization delivers IT services to its clients and customers.
ITSM has a best practice framework known as IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which is a set of guidelines that companies can follow to help them improve their IT services and align them with needs of the business. So, what this means is that when companies follow the guidelines given in ITIL to improve their IT service management, the company will have a reference point while going through several, if not major, changes.
Undergoing any change for any company is not something simple, and the transition may not always be smooth and easy. For this reason, ITSM is closely related to change management, because in implementing ITSM, companies have to manage the change brought about by it if they want to reap the benefits later on. ITSM without effective change management will not bring about any positive impact for the organization.
What does change management mean?
Change management, as the name suggests, is a way to effectively manage the change related to IT services that an organization goes through without negatively impacting the quality of services delivered to customers. It is a discipline of IT service management. As mentioned before, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) provides a set of 25 processes (with several elements under them) that organizations can follow to manage their change, greatly facilitating the prioritization of change by IT professionals. This is especially important if companies want to stay competitive even while undergoing a change and guiding this change in a specific direction.
So, in simple words, what change management, in tandem with ITIL, does is that it helps companies make sure that they follow a set of standardized procedures and methods to manage changes related to IT services in order to avoid or at the least, minimize any negative side-effects of this change.
There is a fine line between the need for organizational change and the possible damaging effects of the change itself, and change management helps organizations to balance and walk this fine line without falling over.
Change management within the ITIL framework
Even though change management is often associated with IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), it has always been a disciple of IT service management long before ITIL, as published in the IBM article “A Management System for the Information Business”.
Before we go any further, it is important to note that ITIL proposes five different stages of a service lifecycle – Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. Change management comes under the third lifecycle, that is Service Transition. This is the stage where the change goes from the Service Design stage (where it is newly designed and developed for the organization) to the Service Operation stage (where it is fully implemented into their usual business service).
However, even though change management comes under the Service Transition stage of the service lifecycle, it is also closely related to the Service Strategy stage. This is because the change, before it is implemented, has to be approved by the management, and this is often a strategic decision. So, change management often works in close relation to the portfolio management process. Apart from going through these stages, the main aim is to ensure that all changes are handled and managed promptly and efficiently based on standardized procedures and methods.
Here, it is important to know exactly what change in this context means, if you are to grasp just how change management works in relation to ITSM and ITIL. Change is any organizational event that is implemented or adopted after approval from the management, after careful consideration of all the risks involved and planning the change in such a way that these risks are minimized. The change, through use of the new IT systems, should also result in value maximization not just for the IT department but for the entire business. Value maximization includes reduced cost, increased bottom line as well as improved service in terms of quality and quantity.
Why is change management required?
Why do companies invest so much in change management? Why do they take the risk of change management if there is a possibility of their services suffering? It’s quite simple – the need for adaptation if you want to survive.
Just like everything else, the IT industry too undergoes a lot of change as time passes. In fact, it is one of the fastest evolving industries in the world. The technology that was used ten years ago, even just five years ago, is outdated today, and newer, better, faster and more efficient technology that can help organizations improve their overall productivity has emerged. Along with this changing technological landscape, the demands from the industry are evolving too. It is imperative for organizations to be flexible, let go of the old ways and adapt to the new ways if they want to stay competitive and deliver valuable services.
When dealing with the services provided by technology, businesses usually have two major expectations – that the service must be reliable, stable and predictable, and that at the same time, the service should be flexible enough to quickly change so as to keep up with the ever-evolving demands and business requirements.
Now, the problem is that clearly, these two expectations are sharply contradicting each other. This is where ITSM and ITIL-enabled change management comes in. Using ITSM tools and ITSM software, the standardized methods and procedures bridge the gap between the two expectations, making it possible for companies all over the world to deliver reliable results quickly with minimal risks and disruptions.
Sometimes, change management, contrary to its very purpose, is seen as complicating the process of change by adding too much red tape. However, as long as any change management is implemented properly, there are numerous benefits it brings along. Some of these benefits are outlined below:
- It ensures that every proposed change, before it is approved and implemented, is carefully evaluated from all angles including its risks and benefits.
- It enables and efficient allocation of resources so that nothing is gone to waste but, rather every element of the change is prioritized.
- It requires that every arrangement has a back-out plan in place in case of failure. This way, the state of the environment can be restored in case anything happens.
- It makes sure that the organization’s configuration managements system is up-to-date so as to reflect the effects of the change.