Introduction of a typical ITSM project - Part 1: Preliminary considerations

With this three-part blog series, we invite you to accompany us during the introduction of a typical ITSM project: The establishment of a service catalogue, and the identification and definition of suitable services.

Blog series - February 2022: What does a typical ITSM project entail? From initialization to project start to implementation – read all about preliminary considerations in part 1. 

There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. (Film: Matrix)

The basis for our blog contribution is a specific customer project, which we will highlight for you, from initialisation to project start to implementation. We will devote a separate article to each of these phases. In this first part of the series, we look at the initial situation and the necessary preliminary considerations for the successful introduction of a service catalogue.

Introduction to IT Service Management

Information technologies now encompass tasks from across the enterprise. Managing these services is an ongoing challenge. Customers expect companies to manage them successfully. A strategic IT management approach that meets this demand is IT Service Management (ITSM). It focuses on customer requirements and IT services rather than on IT systems. First and foremost, ITSM refers to IT delivery as a service, thus linking the IT professionals in an organisation with the end users of IT services.

The benefits of ITSM are well known, but effectively coordinating the myriad of tasks and processes presents many organisations with significant challenges. Our Softline consultants see holistic ITSM as a combination of methodology, which we use to structure project activities and package them into work packages that can be completed, and technology, which accompanies and supports this implementation path.

The benefit of positioning ITAM within the context of ITSM, is not just the use of a common context and language, but also the simple fact that ITAM is heavily reliant on ITSM processes reach its goals.

Preliminary considerations - What needs to be taken into account?

The first hurdle that often has to be taken in ITSM projects is the development of common goals based on already implemented IT processes and existing technologies. However, our project experience also shows that assets form an essential core for data-based and automatable processes. IT Asset Management (ITAM) helps to better understand the lifecycle of enterprise-wide assets and provides all required information in one system. This greatly improves the IT department's decision-making ability - not least in the area of service provision and management. Often, IT Service Management requires reliable data that is already available to IT Asset Management.

Therefore, data and information that we collect with an IT Asset Management system can be used for IT Service Management processes and thus increase the direct added value for the company.

In the past, many companies bought stand-alone solutions to solve a specific problem. As technological challenges increased, so did the number of stand-alone solutions used. This often results in a lack of company-wide transparency and control. Each solution has its own database and is managed by different teams, leading to silos in organisations. Most point solutions are not compatible with each other, require different user credentials, have different user interfaces, incur high costs and require more staff for maintenance.

Because of the need to integrate data, it makes sense to use a tool that supports the technology platform mindset and enables this seamless transition. As a ServiceNow Premier Partner, Softline relies on their market-leading, cloud-based platform for digital workflows, the Now Platform . This helps businesses work faster and be more scalable than ever before.

With ServiceNow, you consolidate all your ITSM systems (CMDB, ticketing, asset management, etc.) in one platform to automate business processes and achieve cost savings. In ServiceNow's central configuration management database (CMDB), information about IT assets and business services is managed in a standardised way to provide a common database for all ITSM disciplines involved. Complete information about all assets helps automate self-service functions; this is especially true for role-based IT profiles.

Who is allowed to order IT inventory in your company?
Do you know which systems are involved in this process and how certain services are channelled?

Answers to these and similar questions outline the maturity level of an IT organisation. For years, the focus has been expanding from IT asset-related processes to a holistic view of all request processes. The centralisation of asset management is just as much a key factor as the standardisation of request and provisioning processes based on a solid configuration management database (CMDB). To go on and address the need for services and a service catalogue, let us first ensure a common understanding of the terminology.

A service is that what is provided for a customer. A service can be either business or technically oriented, in which case it is referred to as a business or IT service.

Service providers deliver services for external or internal customers. In the latter case, the internal IT of a company acts as a service provider for other departments of the same company.

In a service catalogue, a collection of services is defined, oriented to the needs of the service recipients. It is transparently recorded which services are offered to which extent and for which groups of people.

So what are the benefits of using a service catalogue?

With the implementation of a service catalogue, the requirements and needs of the customers can be controlled, channelled and classified. It serves as an interface and communication tool between IT and the end users in the company. The goal of a need-based service should always be to facilitate the achievement of the results sought by the customer - in short, a service generates benefits. The service catalogue is the central element between the service provider and the service user. Services are often described by the service provider in a predominantly technical way. Therefore, make sure that you document your services in a way that is appropriate for your target group, in order to present the support potential and to create a common communication basis for the provider and the person requesting the service.

In our project, we are dealing with the provision of several service catalogues based on affiliations with organisational units. The source for this is the Active Directory (AD). This scenario is applied to provide differentiated service catalogues and correspondingly different products from the software portfolio to groups of people from different departments. This ensures, among other things, that the release for the use of software is specified by the respective employee profile.

Furthermore, the service portfolio is expanded to include the service catalogue for IT hardware assets. Depending on the employee‘s role, different asset classes are available for the end user. The value of assets increases accordingly with the hierarchy of the employee in the company. In addition to the integration of IT services, a business service that allows employees to independently book and use training and education is also to be implemented. Here too, the available services should depend on the employee's profile in order to be able to offer services that are as demand-oriented as possible.

What should be considered when introducing a service catalogue?

Start small

Start with a service that is simply structured, has few dependencies and is not business-critical. You will probably already encounter tasks and processes that provide experience for managing more complex services.

Know your stakeholders

Different stakeholders in an organisation have different perspectives on the service catalogue. For example, users will find information on available service requests, customers on service levels and technical teams on service configurations. First, identify the relevant stakeholders before starting the service creation process.

Start with the most important services

When building a service catalogue, start with so-called quick wins by introducing the most relevant services first, following the Pareto principle. These are the services that are often used by customers and generate a high benefit. The experience and knowledge gained from this should be incorporated into the creation of further services.

Use already existing information

Often, information already exists in various sources, which can be very helpful in the service description. Therefore, invest sufficient time in identifying and evaluating your existing data sources, such as a CMDB, and review existing documentation, such as the IT emergency manual.

Use customer-oriented terminology

For the outcome-oriented description of services, you need to layer both end-user expectations and the scope of services. It is advisable to ensure that the description is tailored to the end user. It is helpful to use familiar elements such as your own business processes. This increases usability enormously later on.

Customer-oriented billing for services
The billing of services can vary depending on the type, provider and customer - but it should be comprehensible at all times and be generated on the basis of an understandable quantity structure. Therefore, refrain from using technical service parameters that are difficult to understand for the customer or the using departments.

In the ensuing articles, we will discuss how the points mentioned above affected our project, which steps and approaches were already defined at the start of the project with the support of ServiceNow and how the implementation could be successfully realised.