Where is the ITSM Industry Going?

Navvia, a company that helps organisations to design, improve, and manage their IT service management (ITSM) processes, revealed the results of its ninth annual ITSM Industry Survey earlier this month.


Navvia, a company that helps organisations to design, improve, and manage their IT service management (ITSM) processes, revealed the results of its ninth annual ITSM Industry Survey earlier this month. The 35-question survey covered:

  • Organising for ITSM
    ITSM processes
    ITSM governance
    ITSM tools
    Training and certification.

With respondents from 17 countries, 14 job functions, and 16 industry sectors.

So what did the respondents say? The results were released in a webinar, during which customer service luminary Roy Atkinson and I discussed their significance and meaning, which is now available on demand here. My thoughts are included after the data in each section below.

Organising for ITSM

  • 69% of the respondents report VP level or higher support for their ITSM program, with only 5% stating that they have no support.
    72% of the respondents have a dedicated ITSM organisation, with 9% stating that they have no resources allocated for ITSM.
    52% had conducted an ITSM assessment/benchmark within the last 18 months, with 43% of those that have using a third-party professional services firm to do so.
    63% of respondents have a documented ITSM roadmap.

ITSM needs investment so it’s unsurprising that such senior support is present, especially as approval-to-spend goes higher up the organisational stack post-2008 financial crisis. The 69% for VP level and above support is also very close to the 72% that have a dedicated ITSM organisation – I imagine that these two figures are connected – you get a dedicated ITSM organisation from obtaining and keeping higher-level support.

The 52% who have conducted an ITSM assessment or benchmark is a similar level to last year and I hope that it is done not as a snapshot (either “look how good we are” or to support calls for greater investment in ITSM) but instead as a platform for ongoing improvement. That 63% of respondents have a documented ITSM roadmap is extremely encouraging, it’s twice what I would have personally guestimated it to be.

ITSM Processes and Governance

  • 86% of respondents are using a recognised process framework for ITSM – 90% of these use ITIL (the ITSM best practice framework formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library) V3 or 2011, and another 5% ITIL V2.
  • Only 26% of respondents have defined, implemented, and enforce governance – down slightly from 29% in last year’s survey.
  • 45% of the respondents have actionable metrics, with 17% having no metrics at all.

No surprises with the high ITIL uptake, although I remain cautious about those that say they use V3 or 2011 – my gut tells me that, while employees may have taken newer exams, many IT organisations still focus on the core processes of ITIL V2 (and still miss the real reason for ITIL – delivering IT as a service).

The level of governance is a difficult area to discuss as, in my opinion, it’s something many people struggle to understand – at best there is often disparity in what is meant by the term “governance” across people let alone organisations.

The actionable metrics score doesn’t surprise me – in my experience metrics are often seen as the end rather than as a means to an end – improvement of some form. The 17% that lack metrics are a surprise though – that’s nearly one out of every five respondents working without insight into their performance. It seems crazy in 2014, and would have done so in 2004 too.

ITSM Tools

  • 72% of respondents are either using or investigating SaaS, up from 65% last year.
  • 38% have implemented a service catalog tool, with 38% planning on implementing one. And 24% have no plans to.
  • 38% of respondents have a CMDB, and 42% plan to have one.
  • 29% already use a tool for supporting service level management, 30% plan to, but 41% have no plans to.

The SaaS and service catalog stats are no surprise and are consistent with the results of other surveys. The CMDB and service level management results are both of interest but for different reasons.

The CMDB scores seem high and I wonder if this is because people are finally using CMDB not for configuration management per se but to support service catalog initiatives and the existing incident, problem, and change management activities that benefit from configuration information (and maybe other activities such as capacity management or financial management).

The service level management numbers are not a surprise – it’s an ITIL process/activity that often struggles to lend itself to the realities of IT operations. How many projects to implement an ITSM tool, or to add or improve ITSM process, include service level management but fail to deliver against the plan and expectations. Service level management often has a brief or less than fulfilling life in many IT organisations.

Training and Certification

  • 83% of respondents have some for of ITIL qualification.

Again no surprise, it’s an ITIL world for ITSM professionals despite the availability of alternatives (albeit complementary alternatives) such as COBIT, ISO 20000, and MOF. The statistic I would really like to see the level of improvement, both personally and operationally, that can be attributed to the ITIL training.

The Top 5 Reasons Why ITSM Initiatives Fail

In addition to sharing the results of the Navvia survey, CEO and co-founder David Mainville finished the webinar with what he sees as the most common reasons for ITSM initiatives failing:

  1. Lack of a plan
  2. Unrealistic expectations
  3. Skepticism (management and staff)
  4. Poor requirements definition (a lift-and-shift approach to ITSM)
  5. Poor governance and controls.

With the following lessons learned from experience, that:

  • Processes erode over time without governance
  • Organisations should focus on long term value not short term project success
  • ITSM needs a program not project
  • ITIL is only one of a number of best practice frameworks
  • Without training, people won’t understand the “why” of ITSM
  • It’s seldom the tool that’s the issue.

That’s my 1000 words on the survey. If you would like a full copy of the results, they can be downloaded from here (the home of the on demand webinar).

  Posted by Stephen Mann, a leading ITSM industry pundit