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  • Stijn Oomen

Service Management Office and the Quest for The Holy Grail

Updated: Jan 15, 2019



Is a Service Management Office the Holy Grail?

It is a well-known fact that while many IT organizations do a respectable job in providing their customers with suitable digital solutions, they somehow can’t get themselves organized to run their own shop like a business. A typical case of “The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes”.


As IT organizations grow and get more complex, more IT Service Management (ITSM)process is added and consequently more tools are introduced. The organic nature of it all leads to having these processes and (disconnected) tools usually being owned and managed by the towers that consume them the most. This works well up to a point, but eventually leads to a very fragmented process and sprawling tooling situation that somehow works, until it catches up and the cost of providing digital services turns out to be no longer competitive.


In my previous blog I wrote about How ITSM Became an Island in the IT Ocean. Still today ITIL is often seen as the domain of Operations and Infrastructure. “ITSM” implementations and upgrades are left with these towers, while in other parts of the IT organization other ITSM processes (e.g. Portfolio Management, Demand Management, Finance, Service Continuity etc.) and more specific domain tooling is being added. No holistic vision of a ‘single-source-of-truth” or at best a very complicated interface architecture. Add some human behavior combined with politics at the IT executive table, and you have a great recipe for a dysfunctional situation that increasingly starts to hinder effective E2E Service Management and delivering value to the business.


The introduction of a Service Management Office (SMO), or however you want to label it that best suites your needs, can be a great instrument to help Run IT Like A Business. So, what the heck is a SMO?


As CIOs shift the definition of IT service from technology to business outcomes, they need to consolidate the governance of service management and add business management practices. The SMO provides the organizational entity for addressing these evolving needs and supporting strategic IT services.” - Gartner

An SMO holds single point of accountability for the principles and the governance of all processes and functions in the IT organization. It has ownership of all the processes and enabling tooling to run IT like a business. It also assists to architect the Management Mesh ( VeriSM™; a flexible way to combine an organization’s resources, environment, emerging technologies and management practises as part of product and service creation and delivery). The SMO concept ensures optimal workflow collaboration between all internal and external IT parties and the pursuit of a single-source-of-truth from demand to delivery & support of the digital services provided by IT.


A properly structured SMO does not concern itself with day-to-day operations nor the operational management of the processes. That is left with the delivery towers that consume the process workflows. In other words, Process Management should ideally NOT be part of the SMO. Good collaboration between the SMO and the Process Managers is essential however to ensure processes and tooling have “good enough” warranty.


Establishing an effective SMO is far from easy though and fraught with risk to miss the mark. Done right however and IT truly earns the license to be the trusted business partner in the digital transformation. It may even set example for establishing Enterprise Service Management in the Business organization.


So, what is the secret recipe for establishing and resourcing a successful SMO? This is a relative very small (virtual?) team with proven ITSM competencies, extraordinary emotional intelligence and a boatload of broad IT business experience. Yeah, I know… a tall order and where do you even find the right talent?


With everything becoming a Service, it is even conceivable that you contract the required expertise. “Service Management Office as a Service”, although I’m not aware of this commercially being available yet. I predict a great future for those willing to go venture there.

Below table attempts to indicate what a SMO is versus what it is not. It is not intended to be complete or even 100% accurate. It merely intended to help project the concept.

So, when do you reach the point in considering to having a SMO? Well, perhaps there is no clear demarcation. When you’re a relative small IT shop and establishing a SMO seems daunting and expensive to resource, you can still make a start and adjust as you grow. There is no conventional wisdom as to how you resource the office, as this concept is relative new. It really depends on the ITSM talent available and the culture and maturity of your organization.


If you are a sizable IT organization and still have a traditional ITSM shop stuck somewhere under Operations or Infrastructure, and process ownership of Portfolio Management, Supplier Management, Demand Management etc. scattered elsewhere in the IT organization, you may want to consider bringing governance under the umbrella of the SMO as part of Continual Improvement.


If nothing else, please contemplate the concept of the SMO and determine what aspects you can prioritize and act on. What is your blueprint to run IT like a business?

Unlike the Holy Grail which is just a mythical legend, the SMO provides tangible business value and directly contributes to the bottom-line.


If you find this story intriguing, but you are not convinced yet of the business case or struggle on how to realize this for your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Orion Service Management for a conversation to explore options. Perhaps it simply starts with an assessment of your unique Service Management situation. The results may provide a compelling business case to establish a SMO as part of your blueprint.

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