ITSM for high-velocity teams
What is IT operations management (ITOM)?
IT Operations Management is the practice of managing IT operations to ensure the efficient and cost-effective operations of the business. ITOM often goes unnoticed, acting as the unseen hand that keeps software and services running throughout your business. When incidents do occur, ITOM teams are the first to respond and ITOM practices are used to get things up and running quickly. Learning more about IT Operations Management will help you understand what happens behind the scenes to keep your business running smoothly.
ITOM is an essential component of any business. It is used to ensure that IT systems are secure, reliable, and compliant with industry regulations and best practices. ITOM also helps to streamline processes and reduce manual labor, allowing businesses to focus on more productive tasks. By optimizing ITOM, businesses can ensure that their IT systems are running efficiently and cost-effectively, providing a foundation for growth.
In this article, we’ll define ITOM and learn how it’s done. We’ll discuss ITOM benefits and challenges and establish a framework for how to get started.
Common ITOM functions
Identifying which functions fall under ITOM is the first step in building an ITOM process that streamlines your IT team's most costly activities. Generally, ITOM is responsible for all devices, services, infrastructure, and applications and ensuring that all are stable and secure. Common ITOM functions include the following:
- IT Help Desk
- Incident management
- Laptop provisioning
- Device management
- Network infrastructure management
- Server management
- SaaS/PaaS management
- Data security
- Access management
How to get started with ITOM
IT professionals spend most of their time in operations. If you have an IT help desk with SLAs, you've laid the groundwork for efficient IT Ops. Understanding some core principles will help your team grow your capabilities and effectiveness.
Delivering IT services efficiently is best aided by determining your team's capacity to deliver work and not exceeding that capacity. Capacity planning is a team exercise where folks can share past performance data and use that to arrive at total team bandwidth. Teams can agree on a capacity that leaves room for unforeseen events or aim for full utilization across the team. Capacity planning creates confidence that IT teams can rise to the challenges a business might present and be able to sustain a high quality of work week over week.
Problem management is the process of identifying and managing the causes of incidents on an IT service. Problem management isn’t just about finding and fixing incidents, but identifying and understanding the underlying causes of an incident and identifying the best method to eliminate that root cause. Creating a process for problem management creates a confident feeling that even the most unforeseen issues can be broken down into root causes and addressed accordingly.
A change can be defined as adding, modifying, or removing anything that could have a direct or indirect effect on IT services. Change management practices ensure efficient and prompt handling of changes to IT infrastructure and code. Whether you’re rolling out new services, managing existing ones, or resolving problems in code, modern change management approaches break down silos, provide context and transparency, avoid bottlenecks, and minimize risk.
ITOM vs ITSM key differences
ITOM is a subset of IT Service Management, or ITSM. Think of ITSM as the entire suite of activities that an organization performs to manage IT services. ITOM is a useful container for day-to-day activities focused on maintaining infrastructure, devices, components, and applications. If all these acronyms are feeling overwhelming, adding one more might help!
ITIL, or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a framework to unify our understanding of IT services. ITIL creates a shared lexicon for the selection, planning, delivery, maintenance and overall lifecycle of IT services within a business. ITOM falls under the "Service Operation" stage of the IT service life cycle, as defined by ITIL.
Benefits of IT operations management
Running an IT org without investing in ITOM is like running a marathon without training. Sure, you might be able to brute force your way to the finish line but at what cost? IT orgs that optimize run like the pros. A pacer keeps you on time, the feed zones keep you fueled up, and the training you’ve done results in your best times yet. Here are some of the benefits you can expect ITOM can unlock in your business:
1. Reduces costs
The cost of an incident can be staggering. By managing capacity, eliminating the root causes of problems, and responding to change, ITOM keeps services running and employees productive while limiting the businesses exposure to costly incidents. When incidents do happen, ITOM teams use software and systems to get the right work to the right teammate at the right time. Additionally, a focus on IT infrastructure and operations leads to less overhead costs for the business as a whole.
2. Improves compliance
Some things you just have to do. Compliance often falls into that category. Let’s say all new laptops need two factor identification and your team is just starting this work. Rather than charge ahead, ITOM practices would encourage the documentation of the full 2FA workflow and the use of an IT service management tool that ensures everything gets done. ITOM helps teammates do both the work they have to do, like compliance, and the work that they want to do, like setting up new employees for success.
3. Increases security
We don’t pretend to know your security protocols but we can certainly get excited about meeting and exceeding them. In a world where your IT professionals have well documented processes, available capacity, and efficient tools, a focus on security can flourish. The best teams create escalation paths, fast-track root cause analysis, and record workarounds to minimize the impact of a security breach.
4. Increases productivity
One of the miracles of capacity management is that by reducing the amount of work in progress, work gets done faster. Imagine if someone tossed a whole bucket of ping pong balls at you. You might get lucky and catch two. Now imagine that only three balls are tossed. You’ll often surprise yourself and catch all three. ITOM teams generally find that their productivity increases as their ITOM processes mature.
5. Improves customer service
We’ve arrived at a great moment where our service desk tools can create the right expectation for our customers. By investing in ITOM, we are able to more reliably hit our SLAs and delight our customers. Many will take it a step further and publish their workflows which creates even more transparency about what work needs to be done and in what order.
Challenges in IT operations management
It’d be tempting to say that the biggest challenge in IT ops is the ever-growing backlog of work to be done. Many seasoned IT professionals would say that their challenges came not from the size of the backlog but from the shortcuts that got taken thanks to a looming backlog. ITOM helps teammates feel secure in spending extra time to follow a workflow that helps avoid common pitfalls, including:
Teams focused on provisioning devices, networks, and software will eventually run into data security issues. Fortunately, your team won't be the first to do so. Most teams will break down sensitive work into a workflow that targets those vulnerabilities and secures them step by step. Documenting that workflow and using a work management tool can ensure that your team takes the steps needed to secure your most valuable assets.
Many teams look to automation to improve the efficiency of their workflows. The question quickly becomes what level of effort justifies the costly work of creating an automation? Processes that are overly automated leave little room for nuance and issues that are under-automated take too much time and effort. Many strategies start with a focus on task frequency, automating things that a teammate needs to do more than once per day.
It’s often unclear which services might need to rapidly scale to meet business needs. ITOM teams are often scrambling to scale infrastructure that was not initially built to scale. ITOM teams can better prepare for rapid scaling by standardizing the setup of new systems. While not all systems will eventually scale, establishing a process ahead of time will help avoid potential security and downtime issues.
Is your team full of generalists or specialists? Are you all similarly skilled? What time zones are y’all in? All these considerations will shape how your ITOM systems make the most of what resources are available. Fortunately, you’ll have a few ways to check in. A tool like Jira Service Management will empower you with the data you need to understand how your team is performing. We can also look to our friends in agile! A monthly retrospective as you build out your process can help everybody understand how things are moving.
IT Ops teams need ITOM tools and Software Solutions
We hinted at it earlier. Remember the humble ticket? ITOM is almost always built on the bedrock of tools and software solutions. Tools will range from extremely flexible and open-ended to purpose built ITOM solutions. A purpose-built tool, like Jira Service Management, comes with automation built in and common workflows ready for use in your IT organization. These automations will help you supercharge your incident, problem, change, asset and configuration management efforts while getting performance data for your next round of optimization.