Every year there’s a flurry of predictions for the coming year. This year, I decided to make my own list, from the neutral vantage point of an ITSM practitioner. I have no ulterior motive, or financial stake in these predictions – they’re simply my perspective at this point in time.

1 – Year of the ITSM Practitioner

First of all, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the ITSM practitioner. ITSM remains the gold standard for IT Operations and management and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. You’d be forgiven if you missed ISACA‘s quietly-release of COBIT . And while I’m thinking about it – in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a brand new practice in town – namely VeriSM – and it’s gaining traction.

That’s a lot of changes to digest, but perhaps more importantly – why all the updates, why now? My answer comes down to one theme – that IT continues to struggle to keep pace with modern business realities. It’s as simple as this: businesses need high performance IT, and they can no longer wait.

That’s why you hear so much about Agile, DevOps, Continuous Integration/Delivery. Don’t think for a minute that your business partners haven’t heard. The word’s out; modern, streamlined delivery methods have promise of higher velocity and higher value. From the perspective of the business, what’s not to like?

And, while that sounds foreboding, it makes it a great time to be a practitioner. We have new and updated tools. Time to get moving.

One word of caution. It’s not a time to feast on new training and get fat with certifications which, alone, mean nothing to your business. All this change makes for a level playing field. The successful practitioners will be those who can quickly turn these concepts into increased value to the business. Learn what’s new and get training and, yes, new certifications, but do so with the aim of creating business value.

2 – Do more with less

Gartner is projecting overall IT spend increase of a modest 3.2% over 2018 levels, but what’s really telling is where those investments are anticipated. No surprise, according to the report, on-premises data center investments will be down by almost half of 2018 levels, while investment in Enterprise Applications (particularly SaaS) remains high.

As organizations rapidly adapt their IT investment strategy to maximize stakeholder value, technology, to some degree, has lost its mystique. IT investments must be justified solely on its ability to produce business value. Technology for technology sake is a thing of the past.

And that’s a good thing. Every penny of IT spend must earn its keep. That includes keeping-the-lights-on activities. IT Operations. Managing legacy. Technical debt. All that is up for consideration.

IT is at a crossroads – we absolutely have to deliver more value to the business, and we’re simply not going to get a load of resources dropped on us.

Necessity being the mother of invention, we have to innovate our way to higher business value. Adopt better practices that have less wasted or redundant activity. Automate repetitive task. Focus your top people on solving difficult business problems, not fixing things that shouldn’t be breaking in the first place. 

Challenge the way IT works. Sadly, silos are alive and well in most IT organizations, and it’s a killer to efficiency and effectiveness. Unfortunately, it’s how many long-term IT people have done IT for decades, and to many, it’s self-evidently the right way, deeply rooted in culture, and very difficult to change.

Challenge unnecessary bureaucracy. Cumbersome processes were put into place at some point to address what was a significant problem. Make sure you still have that problem, and if the current practice is the best way.

The more time IT people spend wading through difficult processes to accomplish things the business cares about, the less value-adding work we can accomplish. 

It’s really not ‘more with less’, as much as doing less with less. Find ways to do more of what  your customers want by doing less wasteful, redundant and time consuming busy work. Less process, more outcomes!

3 – Need for speed

Time is of the essence. Businesses need IT that delivers at the rate they require. They’ve heard about this ‘cloud thing’ long enough and are not-so-patiently waiting for their IT to get cheaper, faster, better. They’ve been waiting, but, by-and-large, we’ve not delivered on that unspoken promise.

The challenge here isn’t just incremental improvement in throughput. I’m not talking about the same thing, only faster. That’s just not sustainable. As an industry, we’ve tried that. It didn’t work.

The need-for-speed I’m talking about is the kind that comes when the culture, processes, policies, tools and practices are built from the ground up to achieve the required results. Race cars win races because they’re engineered for the race track. My Prius, on the other hand…. 

4 – IT as a part of the business

We’ve been talking about alignment with the business for too long. 2019 is the year IT starts to think of itself as a part of the business, not simply as a service provider to the business. 

Doing so has far reaching implication, but let’s start with the cultural change in the IT ranks.

IT should share the same understanding of, and passion for the business objectives of the organization. We must start viewing every problem as a business problem, and IT as part of the solution.

As this thinking becomes part of the daily dialog in the IT ranks, we’ll begin to think differently. But it’s not something that will happen overnight, and not every business wants or would know what to do with an IT that’s part of the business.

That’s OK.

We’ll get there together, but it needs to start with us and how we view ourselves.

5 – Modernizing ITSM practices

Most IT organizations follow some form of ITSM (best) practices.  Many are still struggling to adopt and optimize processes and practices that date back nearly a decade. We’re still trying to get the culture to buy in to fully realize the benefits.

Meanwhile, the world around us has changed so rapidly, that it’s worth asking: “ are we trying to adopt practices that are holding the organization back?”. By the time we get there, will that party be over? It begs the question:

…is our ITSM direction in alignment with reality?

Do our practices for Incident, Change, Problem management scale as we move to cloud, continuous deployment, build automation and containerization? What are the implications of infrastructure as code?

Tough questions, no doubt, but ones that must be answered, and continually asked.

6 – Agile/DevOps comes home

And finally, DevOps.

The landmark book The Phoenix Project is now in it’s 5th anniversary edition. For many IT professionals in medium and smaller IT shops,  up to this point, DevOps has been more of a theory than a reality. Something you hear industry luminaries like Gene Kim, Dr. Forsgren and others talk about at conferences. The playground of unicorns who work in magical companies like Google and Amazon.

But the far-reaching implications of the mindset of delivery methodologies that are optimized for speed and agility have now reach even the Mom-and-Pop IT shops. Government agencies, school districts and dentists’ offices are ready for IT-in-the-fast-lane.

Practitioners must understand and begin adopting the elements of Agile/DevOps that can improve their service delivery, regardless of the size or purpose of your IT shop.

The Challenge

In all, 2019 brings a world of opportunities for the ITSM practitioner. Organizations need solutions to problems like never before, and, while they’re happy to get them from their IT shop, they’ve never been more open to whomever can help!

The challenge, of course, is the never ending work of daily Life In IT.

For that I have no magic answer.

For the practitioner, this means taking a fresh look, from fresh perspectives (like the business) at how IT can deliver at the rate the business wants. How can we harness new technology and new ways of working to accelerate time-to-value?

Let me suggest only that you dare to ask yourself:

“am I doing everything in my power to make my organization successful?”

The rest will fall into place.

Keep pushing for excellence ITSM Practitioners!