The Total Beginner’s Guide to becoming an ITSM Professional

If this headline caught your eye, you’re probably thinking about your role in ITIL and ITSM. With overwhelming global adoption, you’re smart to be thinking about it. This article is about  your development as an ITSM professional.

ITSM Professional Journey

The Accidental Tourist

Like a lot of ITSM people, I came into this kicking screaming. I was skeptical. Kind of embarrassing to admit.  I was involved with Network Operations at a large company, and we were (as I put it at the time) “way too busy doing real work for our customers for this silly stuff”.

Sound familiar?

There was a lot of new terminology, and it all seemed too ‘big picture’ to be of any practical use. I’d been in IT for many years, and pretty successful at it, thank you very much.

At the time, we were logging staff time as either proactive or reactive. We were somewhere around 80% reactive. A little more than a year into the ITSM program we had inverted to almost 80% PROactive. I don’t recall the exact numbers. But the point is it caught my attention, and I started wondering what this ITSM thing was all about.

I started ‘getting it’.

And thus began my journey…

Here are 5 things I learned along the way to get you started on your journey as an ITSM Professional.

1. Start with ITIL

ITIL is by far the most popular and commonly adopted ITSM framework. (Check here for A Simple Explanation of ITIL). ITIL is a great place to start because it is structured as best-practices, not a heavy-handed must-do structure.

Start by taking an ITIL Foundation course. It gives a great overview of ITIL and how all the parts fit together. There are lots of really good trainers out there (and some really lousy ones!) Here’s How to Select a Great ITIL Trainer.

Next, take an intermediate ITIL course that most closely aligns with what you do. The ITIL Qualification Scheme at the Official ITIL® Site will help you know which to consider.

Can’t decide? Service Operations is a good all-around first Intermediate course.

Take the classes, but don’t become theory-only. There are lots of certification junkies who become certified ITIL Experts, but have little or no real world experience. Don’t become one of those.

Take what you learn and apply it to your company’s challenges. Do the work, and become a real ITSM Professional.

2. Start Small

It’s probably just me, but as I started understanding ITSM, I wanted to change the world. Set everything right.

Don’t try to do too much.

Service Management really can help IT organizations be excellent. But you have to start where you’re at. And you can’t do it all at once, even with the best funding and management support.

Look for delivery areas that aren’t working well, and adapt Service Management principles to make it better. The key is to get a basic process in place, and then incrementally improve it over time. (See How to use CSI to adopt ITIL processes quickly)

You get hands-on experience, and the organization gets tangible value. Score!

3. Think like the business you serve

ITSM is all about Value to the Business. It’s not about process engineering or optimization. The business needs IT to be in the game helping them achieve their goals.

Over the years I’ve learned that you can tell where people are at in their Service Management journey by their “ITSM accent”.

Quick check: talking more about processes, implementation, and efficiency means you’re early in your journey. Which isn’t bad. But as you move down the road, you’ll find yourself talking more and more about business value and outcomes.

Remember, I came in kicking and screaming? I had a very strong newbie accent for quite a while.

Yikes! I was probably annoying.

But you don’t need to be. Learn early and often to think like the business.

Ian Clayton talks about this in A Very Short Introduction to Outside-In Thinking. Good read. Don’t do ITSM without it!

4. Learn the Language

IT Service Management has a well defined set of terminology. I fought this at first. I mean, who’s ever heard of a Configuration Item? Why can’t we just call it what it is?

It’s important to have a shared understanding. The terms have specific meaning. They have been carefully chosen for reasons that aren’t clear when you’re new to it.

I’m reminded of the Brit and American discussing what to call the glass in front as you drive a car.

American: It’s a windshield
Brit: It’s a windscreen
American: It’s a windshield; I should know, we invented the car
Brit: It’s a windscreen; I should know, we invented the language

Learn the language, and use it consistently. Loose and inconsistent use of ITSM terms is an ITSM accent you want to quickly shed. Trust me.

5. Get involved in the ITSM Professional Community

Back when I started (I sound like an old man!), twitter was the sound birds made. No one had heard of social media.

Now there is a friendly international ITSM community out there, and we’re just a follow away. There’s ITSM forums on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

There are conferences, both physical, and virtual that are excellent ways to network with people and get involved in the community.

Connecting with others makes us all better. We all grow and learn together. Read Confessions of an ITSM Practitioner.

Ready to Get Going?

There’s never been a better time to be an ITSM Professional. The convergence of Cloud, consumerized IT, mobility, and extreme pressures on organizations for Operational Excellence makes IT Service Management critical for success.

  • Get some ITIL training, learn the language,  and start small
  • Think like the business
  • Get involved in the ITSM Community

Welcome aboard! Let’s hear about your journey. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or to share how you’re doing.

Photo Credit: mksystem via Compfight cc

  • s33d3r

    Dear Greg, My organization is going up for the ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011 Certification. I have a query as in what is the difference between IT Service Continuity and Availability Plan and the Business Continuity Plan.

    • Thanks for stopping by – and a great question. My experience is primarily with ITIL (and to a lesser degree COBIT) – but from a high level BCP is a business strategy document – focusing on maintaining the critical core business functions in the wake of a disaster. The core business functions don’t necessarily map directly to IT Services, and generally require coordinated services of other organizational functions (e.g. Facilities) It lays out the priorities of the business. From there, Service Continuity and Availability planning can build a IT Services plan to support the BCP plan as laid out by the business.

      An example – say a bank ‘s BCP describes that having the building open to the public and able to handle cash transactions (deposit/withdraws) is top priority.

      The IT SC plans include prioritizing cash transaction systems and infrastructure to support teller operations.

      Facilities’ plans include building operations, public safety and the like.

      Hope that helps! Good luck with ISO 20000. It should be a great journey!

      • s33d3r

        Thank you so much Greg… i totally got what you have explained to me… Thank You Very Much