As computing becomes more pervasive, and enterprises move to digitalisation, the need for good service management and governance is more pronounced than ever before. The IT Service Management Forum of South Africa (itSMFsa) held its annual conference, SMEXA 2015, to thrash out what we mean by service governance and how organisations should adopt it. Kathy Gibson reports

IT’s role in the digital enterprise

Smart machines, the Internet of Things (IoT0, big data, cloud computing and social media are all driving business to become more digital, while the way employees work is changing as well. In this environment, companies have to rethink the way they operate.

EY’s Manti Grobler tells delegates to the SMEXA 2015 conference that businesses are more interested in the digital trend now than ever before.

“Mobility is one of the biggest forces driving change in the business,” she says. “Cloud is also one of those things that is affecting the way we deal with service delivery and support.”

Social media is one of the trends that individuals are more comfortable with than organisations are, and Grobler points out that few companies have an active social media campaign – although some are now using it internally for employee communication.

Smart machines are one of the upcoming trends, where devices have the ability to augment human actions, with robotics now being used in applications outside of manufacturing, she says.

IoT is another technology trend that is becoming pervasive in everyday life.

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Big data adds value to the service desk

Using big data can help IT service desks save time and money while improving the service they offer their users.

According to Kevin Leslie, SPM director at HP Software EMEA, the concept of bimodal IT has fundamentally changed the nature of services.

“In the past, it was all about ITIL, ad we thought that companies could compete better if they implemented ITIL.

“Now, it’s possible that ITIL has had its day. In the past, there were users and there was a service desk. Nowadays the service desk might not even be involved in many service queries. A lot of assumptions are breaking down.

“ITIL is a framework, but it’s not necessarily the issue when you are implementing an IT service desk.”

Using big data in a service desk is a new concept that can offer a good return on investment that can save hours for people on the service desk while improving the mean time to repair (MTTR). “Users want their issues fixed quickly, so if you can reduce it that’s good.”

Customer satisfaction can also be improved, Leslie adds.

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New professional skills are in demand

The changing IT landscape means that a new set of skills is required by professional service providers – and the qualifications that used to be relevant might not be good enough today.

Get-It-Right’s Johann Botha, on behalf of APMG International, points out that professionalism talks about attitude, behaviour, learning and integrating with the audience

In the past, organisations like APMG focused on certifying skills for certain professions, and joined the plethora of training certification programmes in the market.

“Whenever there is a new certification, we want it,” says Botha. “But does it make us better at what we do?”

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ITIL and its role in service governance

To remain relevant in a changing world, service governance professionals need to optimise the value they offer, increasing value while lowering costs – in fact, effectively implementing ITIL.

People often ask why it’s important to have service governance in the first place,” says Peter Brooks, author of the book “Adopting Service Governance”. “I bet Volkswagen didn’t ask someone to cheat on their emissions tests – but it happened.

“If you are not in charge of what’s going on you could potentially be in a lot of trouble.”

In fact, service governance should be the concern of C-suite management, and not relegated to the IT department at all, he adds.

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What to do when disaster strikes

Organisations that don’t prepare for major incidents could end up having to deal with uncontrolled chaos.

This is the word from Thinking Dimensions’ Adriaan du Plessis, who thinks that incident management should be made a process within enterprises.

When service professionals think about incident management, they sometimes think too much about their processes – and forget about the unhappy customers.

“Think about the growth of online users, and the Internet of Things. You have more users using the outputs of IT,” says Du Plessis. “At the same time, the ability of the user to talk in IT terms is going down – so the gap between users and IT is getting bigger.

“The user doesn’t give a hoot about IT’s problems, So the pressure is not going to get better; it is going to get worse.”

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The cost of poor IT governance

The business could be the loser if companies fail to invest in service governance.

This is the word from Pink Elephant’s Marina le Roux, who stresses that poor governance could have numerous negative effects – and end up costing not only money.

The signs and symptoms of poor governance include failed projects, cost overruns and poorly scoped projects, she points out.

Unplanned changes is another symptom that should raise warning flags, as they can have unintended consequences, while system interrutions and downtime are sympomatics of poor planning.

Cost overruns are a dead giveaway, as are high call centre volumes, security threats and complex operating models.

Poor projects also have bad documentation and lack any cohesive knowledge management frameworks.

Le Roux explains that poor IT governance also impacts every area of the business, and has negative effects on people, process and technology throughout the organisation.

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The real goal of IT service governance

IT service management is not about whether you implement ITIL of CoBit – it’s about integrating people, processes and technology to increase business value and effective governance.

Marval’s Edward Carbutt points out that service governance is a subset of IT governance, which is itself an extension of corporate governance.

Service governance supports business processes by freeing reusable enterprise class services and monitoring their deployment,” he says. “The effort involved in getting this to work is what governance is about.”

One of the biggest pitfalls in any service implementation is lack of ownership and, where there are project owners, they don’t necessarily understand their roles, Carbutt says.

“And the service definitions need to set the boundaries for service ownership and appoint service owners.”

Carbutt adds that people expect service delivery to match their own standards. “Customer expect to get the right value form our services.

“We need to consider this in our service delivery framework. And we can’t do so if there isn’t a clear service framework.”

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Use best practice, but keep it simple

Finding the balance between regulatory compliance and sound governance on one hand, and the cost of governance is not easy.

Yes, it’s important to have control, says Get-It-Right’s Johann Botha. But it can also go too far and might even put companies out of business.

“Governance is about giving direction to the organisation and ensuring that it happens,” Botha says. “So we need to do the best possible job with the minimum resources and the least risk.”

The conventional approaches to governance, he adds, are generally to either stick their heads into the ground; or to build fortresses.

The problem with building walls, Botha says, is that they tend to get bigger and higher and more complex as time goes on. “And you can’t move, because you have walls.

“But, at the end of the day; the walls will be penetrated.”

It’s a fact that users also don’t like being told what to do, and so they revolt, Botha points out – and they will find a way to do what they want.

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