Top 10 IT service management challenges for 2012

It's been a tough year for IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals and unfortunately things aren't expected to get any easier.

This year has been a tough one for many IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals and the bad news is that 2012 isn’t going to be any easier. With the pressures of the continued mandate to “deliver more with less” now compounded by increased business demands on, and scrutiny of, IT service delivery; all against a backdrop of increased business and IT complexity.

The current environment is characterised by increased business scrutiny, increased expectations and increased complexity and these elements are all going to play a role next year as we tackle the top 10 challenges waiting in the wings.

IT cost transparency.

Something’s got to give in terms of “what IT costs.” IT is and will continue to be a sizable expense to the business. I&O is spending the business’s money and it naturally wants to know whether it is being spent wisely. Consequently, I&O organisations need to know what their services are and what they cost. It isn’t simple and in many ways is a great example of where I&O needs to “jump before it is pushed.” Think about having to answer the CEO’s off-the-cuff questions as to how the corporate email service compares to cloud services such as Gmail.

Value demonstration

In some ways, IT cost transparency is an onramp to the end game of value demonstration. How does IT positively impact the business? Which IT services deliver the greatest value, which deliver little or no value? Business will always examine whether they are making IT investment decisions based on value or a still too supply-focused (led by volumes and technology-related factors) viewpoint? If the business value derived from IT can be clearly demonstrated, then I&O teams would see more spend rather than having to respond to corporately-mandated, quick fix, end-of-year budget cuts.

Agility

Personally, I hate the “A” word these days. Like cloud, “agile” has been abused by vendors and practitioners alike of late. It is, however, appropriate for the business’s needs of I&O. The speed of business change dictates a rapid response from I&O. Not only is it speed and flexibility, it is also “agility of mind.” What we need to encourage is a change in I&O mindset that asks “why not?” rather than “why?”

Availability

Nothing new here really, after all businesses need high quality, highly available IT services. The difference lies in expectations and alternatives. For a number of reasons, businesses are becoming less forgiving of IT failure and, again, who can blame them? As with anything else that is procured either personally or corporately, organisations want to receive what they pay for (or more) and there are always alternative suppliers.

Hardware

Now, this is a funny term really and I use it somewhat “tongue in cheek” to poke fun at the language we use in IT. However, end user devices will be a big challenge for I&O in 2012. Whether it is the fact that our “internal customers” are unhappy with their “outdated” corporate laptops or the fact that they can’t have corporate iPads, or the whole “can of worms” that is BYOD (bring your own device). I think personal productivity hardware will be a battleground of business discontent in 2012.

Support and customer service

For me, support and customer service are two separate things and ideally I&O delivers both. I have previously pointed this out in my Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology blog that ultimately it comes down to supporting the consumption of IT services by people rather than supporting the technology that delivers the IT services. And that service-centricity by frontline staff is not enough, it needs to be all IT staff. The same is true for customer-centricity. Please let’s stop calling our internal customers “end users.” While we are at it, let’s not forget the challenges of supporting BYOD either.

Cloud

Issues abound in the cloud and do we really know what cloud is, particularly in light of what my colleague James Staten terms “cloud washing” ? Are we looking at cloud as a technical or business solution, or both? Do we know enough about the status quo to make informed decisions about moving IT services to the cloud? These are important questions but for many the cloud is the answer and I can’t help think that we still haven’t really taken the time to fully understand the questions.

Mobility

The BYOD trend really comes into play here again but I think that a bigger issue is at hand (which thankfully encompasses some of the BYOD challenges). One key fundamental is that we are still technology-centric. We all hear talk about MDM (mobile device management) as “THE big issue.” To me, however, this is old school IT. We are focused on securing access to the mobile device when I would prefer that we secured access to the IT service. The device is a red herring and of little interest to the customer. They want (or at least we hope that they continue to want) to access your services any which way they can and need to.

Compliance

Most of the points above will potentially have a negative knock on to compliance whether it be SOX, software compliance, or meeting internal requirements for “transparency and robustness.” With everything going on elsewhere, it is easy for me to imagine some degree of degradation in internal control, not reacting to new risks as a minimum.

The observant amongst you will have spotted that I’ve only mentioned nine challenges in the preamble and subsequent list, so what’s the tenth?

Survival

All of the above challenges need to be addressed, and the failure to address the demands and issues across the full spectrum of challenges will put the internal I&O organisation at risk of extinction. It is in many ways, a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” scenario, it’s time to “adapt or die.”

Stephen Mann is a senior analyst at Forrester Research.You can read his blog posts here.