IT Service Management communication according to ISO 20000

Whether you have an important decision for your employees, or you have to motivate employees to follow your ideas and principles, communication is a tool you could, or better to say – should, exploit to its maximum. Being prepared, i.e., having clear rules can be of great help.

ISO 20000 is not extensive in defining requirements for communication, but there are several elements of your SMS (Service Management System) where communication is required. Since some of the requirements are targeted to your top management, that makes communication even more important.

Who is who?

Let’s see, as I mentioned above, the ISO 20000 standard (in clause 4.1.3.b) requires that “Top management shall ensure that:

b) documented procedures for communication are established and implemented.”

So, one responsibility is clear – top management’s. But, are they the only ones included in communication, and is that all they need to do? Theoretically – yes, but not in real life. Namely, since you need to have a communication procedure, use the opportunity and make the most out of it. Define clear rules, roles and responsibilities, technological background, etc.

The roles, i.e., responsibilities related to the communication in the scope of the SMS, and the communication procedure as a guiding document, are:

  • Top management – basically, they are accountable for most of the activities related to the communication procedure (that it’s designed, implemented, and used). In real life, most of the operational activities will be delegated to lower levels (e.g., to create one, put it into place, maintain it, etc.), but responsibility for the procedure clearly remains with top management.
  • SMS Manager – what I found is that top management delegates the creation and initiation of the communication procedure (and related tools) to lower management, like the SMS Manager. So, the SMS Manager will be the one who creates the procedure, coordinates and gets approval from top management, takes care that the procedure is followed throughout the processes and related activities in the scope of the SMS, etc. In a bigger organization, it could happen that the SMS Manager delegates some activities to someone else (in the scope of the SMS).
  • The audience – That’s the audience for whom the procedure is intended, and includes in-house employees as well as external parties (e.g., customers, suppliers, partners, etc.). Depending on the target audience, the tools used for communication will be adapted. For example, if you need to communicate SMS personnel changes, your management will use internal announcements (or some similar method) to inform the people involved in the SMS; and, if you need to send a monthly report, you will use, e.g., a report that is created automatically by your IT Service Management (ITSM) tool.

Having various levels involved in the communication procedure (usually on a daily basis) requires a structural approach towards communication. That means that it should be crystal clear who is communicating what. For example, your management can communicate about high-level goals and objectives, operational management will communicate about issues related to daily activities, line management about issues related to the organization itself, etc.

How do you set it up?

As you can see, the communication procedure is, according to ISO 20000, mandatory. To help you decide about the structure of the procedure, let’s first clarify – Why do you need one? The purpose to communicate could be (one or several of these):

  • To inform – e.g., communicate organizational changes
  • To motivate – e.g., your own people to support the SMS
  • To clarify – e.g., communicate strategic issues, who is doing what and how
  • To report – e.g., results of measurement or internal audit

The standard itself is not specific about what such procedure should contain. From experience, communication shouldn’t be made too complex, but not too simple, either.  Therefore, define general guidelines (which could be in the form of, e.g., a policy) and a detailed procedure that goes into deep detail. Besides the aims and goals of the communication procedure, think about including the following elements:

  • Content – define topics you communicate (e.g., Change schedule), to whom you communicate, etc.
  • Delivery method – here you need to consider the technology that you have. E-mail is just one of the ways you can communicate. Do you have local intranet or some more comprehensive method?
  • Target audience – you will have different content communicated to different audiences (e.g., your internal employees or your customers). Here you need to think about security controls (e.g., confidentiality of information you communicate), delivery method, etc.

Some information is simple to communicate. Take, for example, SLA achievement results. Using the ITSM tool, reports will be sent once a month (e.g., on the 2nd for the previous month) to each customer individually. But, there are some situations where you can’t apply such a straight-forward model.

Take, for example, that according to the standard, top management needs to communicate the importance of the SMS and fulfillment of the requirements. That’s where communication procedure helps. Top management has to find a way to show their commitment and devotion to the SMS. Without it, a situation could happen where management (on various levels) makes decisions that are in conflict with the SMS. Methods of communicating this commitment can include issuing a policy, management meetings, personal check-ups (“official” meetings between top managers and their subordinates), including SMS goals (and results) when addressing employees regarding the company’s achievements, etc.

Use as much as you can

Without communication, an organization based on silos is built. That’s a nightmare for everyone in ITSM. Communication is essential to prevent that – on all levels and in all directions. Luckily, ISO 20000 demands that a communication policy be in place. And that’s the organization’s chance to realize maximum benefit.

The bottom line is not to create a communication procedure that meets the standard, and that’s all. Quite the contrary. The fact that you must have a communication procedure should be used to initiate an exchange of information (with the right content and in the right moment), convey information in a timely manner, and encompass all stakeholders. In this way, not only will your ITSM organization benefit, but so will your customers’ happiness. And, that’s what is it all about, isn’t it?

Download this free white paper: Checklist of Mandatory Documentation Required by ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011 to get a better idea of which documents you need for IT service management.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.