How to create an effective IT service management strategy

Sami Yalavac, Bupa's Chief Information Officer, writes about the integral role IT departments play within a business and the need for them to fully immerse themselves within a company. “We are here to deliver the company’s purpose, not deliver the technology.”

Written by Sami Yalavac, Chief Information Officer, Bupa AN&Z

There is a fundamental misconception that IT and the business are separate entities. There shouldn’t be a separation of business and IT - IT departments are part of the business and in today’s world there is no business without an IT department. We all have the same responsibility to make sure our organisation delivers the best service for our customers. We’re here to deliver the company’s purpose, not deliver the technology.

Service Management is generally seen as a support activity, and IT’s focus on service management often starts only after a project hands over to the support teams. So, most of the IT department’s actions around service management are reactive, technology focussed, completely detached from the business and the customer priorities, and are very inefficient. The absence of a foundational, effectively running IT service management strategy is the loss of opportunity, innovation, and successful outcomes.

Most of the projects within a company are being initiated by the business and IT is just an enabling function to deliver these changes.

However, if IT can see their role broader than just a support function, they can play a more active and driving role in these initiatives, and provide thought leadership. This requires significant mindset and operating model changes as most of the IT department has not been setup to operate at that level.

In reality, based on ITIL’s definition, service management is a non-stop journey covering Service Strategy, Design, Transition, Operations and Continual Service Improvement. IT should take a leading role in all these steps.

In my mind, there are a few key pillars that, when embraced fully, can lead to an effective IT service management strategy:

Define the services and own them

Firstly, you need to define the critical Services and allocate roles in IT as Service Owners. These are the people who will own the service from strategy to delivery, including running these services on an ongoing basis. The business facing roles in IT need to change from managing relationships through to managing services with end-to-end accountability.

Stay close to the business

Effective service management requires IT to work very closely with business. Understanding the customer needs and pain points, market trends, consumer preferences, and being aware of the technological developments are all must haves. Service strategy and design should be aligned with the business and customer needs. Without IT understanding the business, there is no chance for IT to contribute to strategy and design discussions, or the prioritisation conversations. Staying close to the business is the key behavioural change that will support a more proactive IT service management strategy and enable proactiveness.

Be proactive, not reactive

Not being close enough to business and not owning the service end-to-end positions IT to respond to changes reactively and minimises IT credibility as a forward thinking consultant for business. In today’s world, our businesses desperately need our leadership in this area as most services and business models rely on technology.

IT departments should reflect on how much they are interacting with business, and the role they play in these interactions. So, go outside of your department and immerse yourself in the business.


Innovation is the key differentiating factor in a successful IT service management strategy. Embed the process to allow you and your team to keep innovating. With anything, the most successful players are the ones that embrace innovation and continuously improve process. This needs to be embedded in your daily activities, however it is a challenge to develop this mindset in organisations. Organising hackathons and ‘inspire’ days are useful practices to start making time in businesses for innovation and creativity.

In the IT service management space, it’s also important to innovate around how to best monitor, identify and work through new opportunities and trends. Consider adoption of automation for certain tasks , freeing up our IT professionals for more value-add work and give them time to reflect and strategise.

Be agile and flexible

Imagine creating huge programs with hundreds of requirements and milestones that will take months, with nothing delivered until everything is perfectly ready. This generally ends up with delays, you go over budget, there are lots of frustrations, and when you finally deliver the program, it’s way too late and not what your customers are expecting from you. Sound familiar? You can change this story.

Kill all the big projects, keep regularly checking the priorities with business, identify what to deliver next, split your deliverables into small pieces and deliver them end-to-end with Agile methodologies, and keep repeating this process. This will allow continuous delivery of changes to market, experimentation of new ideas quickly, and allow an ability to adapt and respond to changing market conditions and customer expectations.

Project funding to service capacity

Based on the approaches previously mentioned, stop funding initiatives project by project. Instead, create your service strategy and allocate your funding for each service depending on the criticality. Allow the Service Manager and the function to define the road map for the service. The outcome of this will be a more strategic and effective service management strategy that is aligned with the business reality and changing customer needs.

Service management is much more than a support activity. It is linked to business strategy, market reality, customer needs and preferences, commercial reality, design, project delivery and off course support. IT departments that involve all these activities proactively will be in the best position to deliver exceptional results aligned to business expectations and goals. It’s time to think about our leadership role in business differently and take a much bolder approach to delivering great services.

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