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CIO? You need to get radical, dude

By Donovan Jackson, Mon 4 Feb 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

It’s pretty hard to get excited about IT service management, mainly because it isn’t that thrilling in much the same way that the plumbing doesn’t generally grab our attention (unless it stops working).

However, to achieve ‘radical IT transformation’ you need the right tools to introduce business discipline to the tech department.

Those tools should not just be easy to use, they should also be kinda fun.

That’s according to ServiceNow founder and Chief Product Officer Fred Luddy, who tells IT Brief that tech departments often wind up being the cobbler’s children with no shoes.

“The issue is that there are no end-to-end processes to govern IT. We have [these things in place] for running the business, for the supply chain, we have ERP and MRP, but we don’t have something similar for IT.

"Radical transformation is about running the IT area like a business; from the time someone has an idea, to putting it into production, and retiring, it, a set of systems and processes to manage that entire lifecycle is necessary,” he explains.

Luddy is kind of a big deal; he was CTO of Peregrine Systems and Remedy Corporation, both substantial companies in the ITSM field, before starting ServiceNow in 2003.

Appreciating where his talents lie, after serving as CEO for a time, he stepped aside in favour of Frank Slootman, bringing his full focus back to product development.

But back to radical transformation. Luddy says this about breaking down the siloes inside the IT department and addressing the separation of the techies from the business.

“Companies depend on IT for day to day operations and it is the backbone of differentiation. Goldman Sachs brags that for every trader, it has four IT people; when Delphi designs a car dashboard or GE an airplane engine, it is all about IT.”

Managing that IT good, better, best, is therefore rather important. Mission critical, some might say.

Old school isn’t good enough

But why does Luddy think it’s not being done well enough by the old hands of ITSM? “We have to build something in this century to solve this century’s problems. [Old school vendors] have technology that is 20 or 30 years old; that stuff is impressive in the same way that looking into the cockpit a Soviet-era aircraft is if you aren’t even a pilot.”

What Luddy’s getting at is that IT administrators typically have tools that are so complex and which require such arcane skills to operate, that they very often end up as shelfware.

IT chugs along at its usual pace, reacting to problems, using point solutions to quick-fix one issue (which causes another to pop up elsewhere).

That’s not good enough when IT is strategically necessary. “Using tools has to be simple and engaging. Just like the iPhone is way easier to use than the Palm Pilot was, the complexity needs to be hidden under the hood," says Luddy.

"The consumerisation of IT is so powerful that professionals in the IT department want the same level of useability at the workplace as they enjoy when they book an online airline ticket at home. You don’t want complex and difficult."

People expect things to ‘just work’. They also expect self-service. Managing IT needs to feed into these realities, especially since service desks today are staffed by hundreds or even thousands of people serving even more end users.

But is service management ever going to be exciting? “It is a decidedly unsexy area,” agrees Luddy. “But, then, so is revenue collection.”

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