The early years of the 21st century saw rather too many ‘boom-bust’ stories of companies and the IT departments that served them. The explosion of opportunity brought on by Internet-based technologies led to the rapid creation of IT roles in companies eager to capitalise. When these businesses faltered they either went under or were forced to take cost out of their business, unload staff and look to outsource the functions that they had previously taken care of internally. All of a sudden, bourgeoning IT departments and their heads were part of the problem, and not the solution.
During this period of consolidation, it’s doubtful if many companies doing their acquisition due diligence stopped to consider whether the IT systems of both companies matched. This would turn out to be a huge enabling factor, and coincided with the emergence of the practice known as IT Services Management. This centres around ITIL, which came from Infrastructure technology Infrastructure Library, and is the accepted framework for delivering IT value.
Treating IT in service terms, rather than technology terms, better serves the business because it’s more strategic and is value-focused. It’s what I called ‘outward-in’ thinking, focusing on the customer perspective – internal or external – and covers the people, process and technologies that deliver business value, transform the company or organisation and drive it forward.
An example illustrates why we should measure IT in service terms. If a user has an email problem, tech support provides the help but may blame another part of the infrastructure for the problem. The end user doesn't care; they simply want their email to send and receive. Companies tend to organise their people in technical towers, yet something as pervasive and critical as email cuts across these towers. We need to think about processes overlapping organisational structure. This is because processes drive responsibilities, which in turn drive structure.
At PFH we provide managed services for companies and organisations of all sizes. Our size and our consultative approach make us a very relevant managed services provider for enterprises, and I spend a good amount of time talking and working with both existing and prospective customers. We apply IT service management principles to our own business too. You have to practice what you preach. In fact, I currently head up a 2-year transformation project for PFH itself to become more service-oriented.
We’re investing in people, process and technology platforms to take ourselves to the next level and further embed this service-oriented culture. We use portal-driven services and big data analysis. Best of breed, fully integrated service management tools give us real time dashboards and are customer oriented, with point and click drill-down into the detail of our customer’s networking, computing and storage performance. .Of course, this ongoing process of transforming ourselves also benefits our customers, especially from the innovation and improvement perspectives.
One final illustration may serve to best summarise the attraction of taking a service-driven approach to IT and choosing a managed service. Imagine you run a golf course or courses and have to continually invest in the latest grass cutting equipment. Everyone’s moving to a service-based economy. We’re fully accredited on all the leading lawnmowers and grass-cutting technologies. Stop investing in lawnmowers. Give us your golf course specs, we’ll do the cutting for you, and free up your grounds staff to focus on the areas that add value and really make your course special.
Karl Howley is the Chief Operations Officer of PFH. He is a founding officer of the IT Service Management Forum in Ireland, the benchmark for IT outsourcing, and has worked in the managed services business for almost twenty years in a career spanning three decades.