Published on January 20th, 20111
My adventures as an IT services manager – by Matt John
Joining the pool of expert writers at ServiceDesk360 is Matt John, an IT services manager with a wealth of front line experience working with ITIL and the day-to-day challenges of running effective service management. In his first column, Matt describes his career so far, why the tide of negative opinion against ITIL is overblown and the areas he will explore in later articles.
I’m Matt John, an IT services manager working within the managed services industry, ex DJ, ex newspaper columnist and proud university of life student. I hope to be writing for you on a fairly regular basis with a ‘Day in Life of an IT Service Manager’. Over the coming months, I hope to give you a broad, non-biased, satirical report into the world of service management.
I entered the wonderful world of IT in the mid-90’s in the middle of the summer of love, my employment to that point giving me little more than a collection of hair-nets and name tags. Starting into the new and wonderful world of IT life pre-Google, I was sent down into what could only be described as a modern day dungeon, and one that scarily still exists today in many businesses: A darkened room full of PC’s, spare motherboards, old monitors and scary man called ‘Basil’ who spoke only in binary code. Thankfully I worked my way through the ranks of many companies as a contractor and so saw many forms of IT in over 20 separate companies and within seven years, until I was hit by the market collapse in 2001. So taking this amazing opportunity I had a fantastic time travelling the world and enjoying life just a little too much.
On my return I started to move my career at one of Europe’s largest managed services providers. Back then, IT service management was a fairly new term to me, but one I have to say intrigued me greatly and one that has never ceased to amaze me. So I started learning more about managing service desks, projects, the people, the processes, (creating a few of my own along the way) and delivering excellent service. I then moved away from the safety of the large corporate environment (which I will always remember with fond memories) and got involved in digital media and broadcast technologies before returning to the IT managed services world in the SME sector.
I first came across ITIL in 2004 in the guise of Version 2. In fact, I first referred to ‘ITIL’ as a dictionary and thought that you had to say ‘incident’ in a very sarcastic way. However, I was forced to do the foundation course as I was about to be the dummy in a new line of service contracts all based on the ITIL framework. It was on this course that I think my life was changed. Maybe I just got it, or my trainer was excellent (and she was -Gillian from ILX Group). This amazing piece of best practice, that you could pick and choose from to use to manage IT services. To say I was sold, was an understatement (some might say brainwashed).
It was a few years later that V3 was introduced and I was ambitious to learn more. So after my foundation bridge I started to understand all the new aspects and how it could start to integrate with the high level strategy of the business. It was here that I made a move to start the path to an ITIL expert. Trying to get the grey matter churning, I have now gone on most of the required courses to take the MALC (Managing Across the Lifecycle) ITIL certification and hopefully get to the desired goal of ITIL expert.
I’m not here to say that ITIL is the answer to all prayers, or the guidebook to a peaceful and happy life. Even the ITIL authors themselves refute this idea and instead point you to places like Prince 2, Cobit, CMMI to use in conjunction with ITIL. I have read many blogs trashing ITIL and can understand some of the points being raised: that it’s not for the people on the ground, it doesn’t help IT professionals, and it’s not management because it doesn’t talk about managing the people. I respect all of these viewpoints, but ITIL in my books has only one flaw: it makes the assumption that ‘people’ are all the same and will interpret things correctly. Fortunately, as in any business type, there are professionals that do understand, interpret things with finesse and focus on the best practice framework part. And this is where ITIL makes its money. Sift through what you need and choose what will work for your business and utilise your own experience to fill in the gaps (a bit like Jurassic Park).
There will always be cowboys in any profession, they will exploit the masses for their own gain, and if someone lets that happen, well, that is a bad business decision. I hope that this blog goes some way in reaching out to those who make the decisions, to investigate and get second opinions.
So why did I choose ITIL?
In my time within service management I have taken what feels like a million training courses based around management of people, performance, law etc. But none of them can in anyway train you for what your IT business can look like. This is the crux of the matter – ITIL gives you the building blocks for how a management framework can be put together. Use what you want to, and implement it to fit your business, not the other way round, which I have seen many people try to do and need a six figure sum to do it. If you’re looking to implement a service management framework, this is the one piece of advice I can give you: ‘keep it simple’.
Next time, I will look at ways to review a business strategy and make that an integral part of IT.
You can talk to Matt in the comment boxes below or view his LinkedIn profile here.