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Do you need an IT Service Manager for ITIL/ISO 20000?

No matter whether you are implementing (some of) the ITIL processes/functions or an ISO 20000-based Service Management System (SMS), IT Service Management (ITSM) is a discipline that includes organizational capabilities that use available resources to deliver services to your customer(s). Maybe it sounds complex, but see it from a management point of view – you need to ensure that IT services are delivered as required by your customers.

But, those services will not deliver themselves. Someone needs to ensure that the services achieve set goals and that all resources (both human and non-human) are “going” in the same direction. The IT Service Manager is the company’s person who needs to ensure that.

Do you need one?

Usually – you do. But, it can depend on whether you implement ISO 20000 or ITIL. If you are implementing ISO 20000, then you will certainly need someone to run the SMS. The IT Service Manager would be your SMS Manager.

On the other side, if you are implementing ITIL – that will usually include many IT services, processes (partially or completely implemented), people, functions, and/or ITSM tools. Although there will be a person responsible for particular service(s) or process(es), practical experience has shown that there is a need for someone to coordinate all activities and services. That’s the IT Service Manager.

What does an IT Service manager do?

ITIL is less explicit in describing the IT Service Manager’s role. Quite the contrary, ITIL considers “IT Service Manager” to be a generic term that could be applied to any manager inside the (IT) organization. But, that also includes a person responsible for IT services overall. An ITSM based on ITIL can be complex – a large IT organization, many processes with related activities, many people involved, etc. So, in order to be aligned with the business of the organization, as well as focused on the customer and his requirements / expectations, there is a need for a management role that will harmonize all those things mentioned above. That’s why larger IT organizations have someone who is the IT Service Manager.

On the other side, ISO 20000 requires top management (e.g., Board of Management, CIO, IT director) to appoint a management representative with similar responsibilities as the above-mentioned IT Service Manager in ITIL implementation. The management representative (as required by the standard) corresponds to the role of IT Service Manager.

The standard, as such, sets clear requirements that organization must fulfill. So, let’s see what the job of the IT Service Manager is in order to fulfill ISO 20000 requirements:

  • Service requirements – these are the guidelines while delivering the services. The IT Service Manager ensures that service requirements are identified, documented, and fulfilled (once the service is in the live environment). And, they will dictate what and how the IT organization is doing.
  • Processes – The IT Service Manager ensures that (as the name implies) the processes required to deliver the services are managed. Therefore, the IT Service Manager needs to ensure that roles and responsibilities for the processes are defined and processes are designed, implemented, and improved.
  • Assets – there are a lot of assets needed to deliver the services. The IT Service Manager needs to ensure that they are properly managed in order to fulfill all set requirements (e.g., contractual obligations towards the customers). In real life, that means to deliver services as agreed in the SLA (Service Level Agreement, see the article What’s the content of an ITIL/ISO 20000 SLA? to learn more) by avoiding “firefighting” activities.
  • Reporting – that’s an important set of the IT Service Manager’s activities. Firstly, the IT Service Manager needs to know how the IT organization is performing. Secondly, top management wants to have an overview of the performance of the services. Additionally, they would also like to know which improvement possibilities, i.e., initiatives there are. The IT Service Manager needs to deliver reports to fulfill those requirements.

Although ISO 20000 sets direct requirements towards the IT Service Manager, they are pretty much applicable to the ITIL implementation as well. In addition to the above mentioned, the IT Service Manager will do the following:

  • Human Resources – those activities include defining and fulfilling staffing requirements, and ensuring that appropriate knowledge is identified and applied inside the ITSM organization. The IT Service Manager needs to increase awareness related to the services provided among the members of the organization’s management, as well as among other employees inside the organization.
  • Communication – An IT organization can increase in complexity (due to an increased number of supported services, and the resulting related technology and personnel involved). Therefore, communication inside the organization, as well as with the “rest of the world,” gains importance. The IT Service Manager needs to ensure that all relevant information is communicated (e.g., inputs needed to define or support the service, reports, escalations, etc.) as well as that appropriate communication tools are available.
  • Third parties – an IT organization can rarely do everything without the involvement of third parties (e.g., consultant(s) or suppliers of various hardware/software). Therefore, relationships with third parties need to be defined, managed, and monitored. That’s what the IT Service Manager needs to ensure.

Who should be the IT Service Manager?

In smaller organizations, the IT Service Manager is usually the head of IT, because that person has an excellent overview of all services and activities inside the IT organization, and interfaces to the top management.

The situation is bit different in bigger (or big) organizations. The IT Service Manager is usually not an expert in some particular technology. What is more important (than technical expertise) is that such person has a business view of IT services as well as managerial, i.e., leadership skills. In this way, the IT Service Manager will be capable of utilizing the IT organization’s technical and human resources in the best possible way.

Because most of your company’s activities or your customers’ activities have IT services in the background, it’s particularly important that the services are delivered in the best possible way. Considering the complexity of the organization and the technology supported, the IT Service Manager does not have an easy task to fulfill. But, once he does, his reward is a satisfied customer. And that should be worth the effort.

Use this free  ITIL/ISO 20000 Gap Analysis tools to see what the IT Service Manager should be doing in the next couple of years.

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.