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Fix these 2 things for service management that moves at the speed of cloud



Some people think that adopting cloud means you no longer need to do service management. Now this is truly wishful thinking, because all the things you did with service management still apply with cloud. It doesn’t just go away. But what I find is that many organisations don’t know how to adapt their ITSM practices to a cloud world.


This problem has its roots in a false premise about service management. Fundamentally the argument goes that in a modern, agile business things move too fast for ITIL and service management. There’s this perception that service management would stop the benefits of the cloud. Now, I don’t believe this at all. But I also recognize that in a cloud-enabled world, you can’t have a change management process that takes three weeks to decide to do something.


You still need service management with the cloud

Say your organisation has adopted a few cloud services. Who’s checking that things are working? Who do users call if something’s not working? Who do users call if they need additional services? If you do decide to change something, how do you decide to do it with good change management?


If you go through each of these basic concepts what you find that even with cloud you still have to do all these things. So, if ITIL is accepted as a best practice for doing exactly these things, why do we say we don’t need it with cloud services? Without service management, we’d have to go back and reinvent the wheel. So we need these processes, but how do we ensure they don’t bog us down?


The answer is making change management both effective and efficient. If change management is effective but takes three weeks, then no one likes it. Likewise if it takes one day but it causes outages and danger, it’s not worth doing. The important thing is to focus on the effectiveness of the process, and then concentrate on the efficiency. Here’s how to do both.


Fix No. 1: Manage change at the right level

Service management doesn’t need to be bureaucratic. At the core, it’s about ensuring you do the right thing. The problem that I see many organisations get into with cloud is that they think that any change to the environment must be managed through change management. So they envisage all these change boards and endless bureaucracy just to do something simple. Efficiency comes from realizing that simple changes need to be tracked but should go through without any overhead. The full bureaucracy of change management should only swing into action with major changes.


But what’s a change? And what level should you care about? These are apparently simple questions, but you’d be surprised at how few people can actually agree on the answers. One of the first things we do when meeting with customers is discuss with them how they define a change and what actually gets recorded into their CMDB. People often make the mistake of looking at their environment and thinking they have to record everything.


Here’s the guidance we give: Only manage change at the level you want to manage. It sounds trivial, but it really helps people focus. If you’re not going to go in and change items at a very low level, then don’t try and manage at that level. Of course, there are some areas where you have really critical business processes where you absolutely need to know every single item in the chain. But in most areas that level of detail is simply not necessary.


Fix No. 2: Change up your CAB

Scoping changes correctly is only one part of it. You also need to make sure your change advisory board doesn’t slow you down.


The important thing here is getting the right people together at each stage to have the right conversations. We recommend customers split up the CAB into subgroups, each with a distinct focus. For example, you might organise your CAB subgroups like this:


  • Planning: Looks at strategic alignment
  • Technical: Makes sure the solution is correct
  • Deployment: Ensures everything is built correctly, QA’d and ready to go
  • Emergency: Checks that everything needs to be done correctly for an emergency


I’ve seen these two fixes help customers become more agile. You DO need good change management practices when you move services to the cloud. But there’s a way to do it without sacrificing the very responsiveness and speed that caused you to move to the cloud in the first place.


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About the Author


I am the Global Lead of HP’s Service Management Profession with approximately 7,500 members. I gained my Managers Certificate in Service Management in 1998. I have continued to apply Service Management concepts in a number of roles.

George Whales

Thanks Dave, great post


I think the most important point is the speed at which Change can be executed. I think one of the issues is how an organization defines cloud. If we talk about cloud in the context of near real time provisioning of service, like CSA for example, then we are dealing with pre-defined services and therefore we could, arguably, have pre-defined and automated approvals.  Where an organization may have outsourced an entire service to a 3rd party cloud provider then it’s probably only the higher level changes you become interested in, low level change is the responsibility of the service provider. The CAB as we’ve all come to know it is still relevant when fragments of a service are cloud based, potentially with different providers, and need to be used as building blocks to construct a service. Put another way, when de-constructing a service from the top down you see multiple providers (internal/external/private/public) then what does the change process look like. It’s here the two fixes become highly relevant, especially who needs to be in the CAB and what sort of turnaround is expected.


The good news: ITIL was designed to empower true end-2-end service and some 20 years after its inception cloud now provides the technology opportunity to achieve this vision. It’s not ITIL that slows us down only the way we use it. They key to success is understand what the customer needs, for IT that means know what the business demands are. If IT can’t fulfill the business demand in an acceptable time frame then the business may well bypass IT altogether and procure service direct from cloud making the change process and potentially service management irrelevant, and that to me spells long term disaster.

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