“Common sense isn’t exactly common.”

This is what the lead on my first formal consulting gig told me. “Most of what we advise people on is common sense, they’re just too busy fighting fires.”

People have been managing IT with varying degrees of success for decades now. We have multiple frameworks and approaches. Each claiming to be the next cure for what ails your IT team.

All of them have one thing in common: The lessons we’ve learned of what works and what doesn’t. We refer to the lessons as best practice, and each framework has its own way to use it and address the pain points we all experience at some point.

Pain points like service desks that add more red tape without actually helping anyone or software rollouts that fail and leave people unable to work for hours.

Frameworks try to give advice on many different areas or practices as they are sometimes referred to. Some focus on service desks, others on development and project management, while others try to integrate business and IT closer together.

“We’ve tried them all and they’re too fluffy. They don’t work in the Real World!” is the usual response from the team as they get back to fighting fires. The problem with fighting fires like any firefighter will tell you, is that you get burned. You get burned badly over and over again.

  • If you don’t take a step back and identify what is the actual cause of your pain points, nothing you try to implement will work. 
  • When you know what the problem is, if you expect everything to improve overnight and stay that way, it won’t work. 
  • If you think just grabbing a practice based on its definition from a site and sticking it in place, it won’t work.

The core of a practice is however a good place to start your journey. Other people have had similar problems in the past and there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. You need to see what works for your team, business, and customers. You need to look at what is important, for some it’s quick turnarounds, while others require regulatory compliance.

Start small, but create a foundation to build on. Steal ideas from different frameworks and methodologies. Use them as tools to build something that works for you. Use it and based on best practice refine it. Keep on using and refining it, don’t abandon it when you hit the first hurdle or two. Soon your practice will mature and you will start to see the results.

When you’re fighting fires it’s hard to take that step back and look at things objectively. Quite often the cause is not what you think it is. Sometimes the fire you keep on fighting on keeps on burning because something keeps on fueling it. Remove the fuel source and the fire dies down. The same applies to your IT environment, find what’s actually causing your pain and address that and your symptoms will improve and show you the next areas to tackle. 

I have seen clients who wanted to build capacity plans but did not have the monitoring in place to act as input into those plans. Service desk agents that escalated the majority of their tickets not because they were lazy, but because the knowledge of how to resolve the tickets sat in a senior engineer’s head.

A very important thing is to measure your progress. From your baseline and the impact of each step along the way. Use the stats to keep yourself objective and show everyone involved that you’re headed in the right way.

IT service management is the common sense management of your IT team. Things you miss while putting out fires, that can help get you out of the fire fighting and take you where you need to be. 

In the rest of this series, we’ll examine different practices and concepts related to IT service management.