Confusion in the Ranks: IT Service Management Practice and Terminology

Abstract: The Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) movement is gaining adopters throughout the world, expanding from the 2005 ratification of International Standards Organization (ISO) ISO/IEC 20000. However, this concept grew out of older frameworks such as Britain’s IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and U.S. service level management (SLM). To further confuse the landscape, there are also related terms such as business service management (BSM), the Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (CobiT), and IT governance.

There is a lack of descriptive academic literature currently published, which has mainly focused on prescriptive pieces. This paper gives a background on the several contributing frameworks mentioned above, and reports on a survey U.S. IT managers to determine the extent of understanding of these terms and frameworks. The findings indicate that ITSM adoption and knowledge may be lower than some studies have indicated. There is also conceptual confusion about what constitutes ITSM, with conflation of terms and practices.

Reference: Winniford, M., Conger, S., & Erickson-Harris, L. (2009, Spring2009). Confusion in the Ranks: IT Service Management Practice and Terminology. Information Systems Management, 26(2), 153-163.

Link: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all~content=a910451171

Comments: The authors used a third-party research firm to interview 364 American companies whether they are or are planning to manage IT from a services perspective, which may include ITSM, SLM, or BSM. They found that a little less than half are implementing service management, and another fifteen percent are planning to to do so. The most recognized services frameworks, in order, are SLM, ITSM and IT Governance, followed by CoBIT. Only two-thirds of organizations implementing service management recognized the term ITIL, versus one-third of those not implementing service management. An interesting finding was that even among those implementing service management frameworks, a majority could not correctly identify a service they offer (i.e. quality, which is actually a measurement of service effectiveness).

Among the reasons for not implementing service management included not enough information, costs, belief it isn’t needed, and lack of management support. Less than twenty percent admitted they didn’t want the accountability, though in my experience this number is really a great deal higher.

In my opinion this is one of the better academic studies performed in the area of IT service management. The authors identified lower support for ITSM than purported by other authors in the area. They also identified much greater confusion and much lower awareness of ITSM among practitioners and academic researchers. My own personal observations working with 50+ companies is consisent with the findings in this paper.