6 Levels of Maturing ITSM for a DevOps World

What shape does IT Service Management take in a modern DevOps world?  For your IT department, they might not even know to ask the question.  They likely are stuck thinking of ITSM as ITIL and IT as a centralized function delivered to the business.  How does IT Service Management evolve as IT, or tech, becomes the business?  How does it deal with the commoditization that is happening in the organization.  To do so, let’s consider a IT Service Management maturity curve and ask yourself where YOU sit in the adoption of modern IT.

Maturity Level 1 – Reactive: Manual, or “Tickets”

The most basic maturity level for IT Service Management is one that considers itself handling “tickets”.  The work comes in from the business for end user devices, email, apps, or the like.  The IT team captures the request, queues it for work, and assigns a team to complete the tickets. This is often handled even without a “ticketing system”, such as an email inbox where request are queued.  A friend of mine coined the term “crush the inbox” to handle this sort of method.  In some organizations this is all you need… reactive and engaging support when you need it.  In slightly more sophisticated environments there is a basic tool implemented for similar ticket management.  Ironically, many “modern” environments in the DevOps world look somewhat like this in how they handle issues with software. 

Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • There is a “ticketing system”
  • Requests come to an inbox first
  • Closing the queue is the main goal of IT
  • Tech is reactive, serves the business

Maturity Level 2 – Reactive+:  Basic ITSM

The Reactive+ maturity level is where most ITSM implementations start and stay.  They are slightly more sophisticated than a “ticketing system”, in that there is a delineation between incidents and service requests.  There likely are Service Level Agreements setup on responding, queues, and assignment groups.  There is a light portal where the business can submit their requests which is marginally better than sending an email… if only anyone would ever use it.  There are rudimentary analytics and SLA metrics that are looked at, but mostly when there is a performance issue with the outsourced help desk or “run organization”.  The Reactive+ ITSM is what most IT organizations look like operationally when attempting to get a handle on their operations business.

Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • Incidents vs. Service Requests are differentiated
  • Light portal, but less than 50% are logged there
  • Basic SLA metrics on incident response/resolution
  • Potential “run organization” outsourced to third party

Maturity Level 3 – Active: Moderate ITSM

The Active traditional IT organization’s advancement tends to take on proactive qualities when concepts like self-service, service catalog, operations management, and configuration management come into the picture.  The lower sophistication implementations of this focus on aged concepts around Change Management and Problem Management, with few if any ever getting truly implemented.  The best companies position the proactive nature of the ITSM environment to ready the organization to move up the curve.  There is a “shift left” mentality where more is commoditized for the customer.  The focus is less on control and more on enablement of repeatable processes and automation of common tasks.  The best are looking at how IT can start to platform for the rest of the business and less about implementing change management boards.  The active environment is judged on how much they can automate and less on how much they can control.

Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • Self-Service is the norm for requests through a portal
  • Change Management and Problem Management are “things”
  • Focus on “shift left”, reducing requests to Service Desk is proactive and effective
  • Mostly still focused on IT ownership vs. governance, but starting to investigate
  • Leveraging CMDB, but not living up to the hype

Maturity Level 4 – Proactive: Customers Where They Are

The Proactive maturity level thinks of going out to meet the customers vs. the customers coming to it.  They don’t create a service catalog with the purpose of waiting for an ask.  The mature proactive IT Service Management is using mechanisms like chat, bots, and seamless device integration to meet the customers where they are.  This type of environment focuses on asynchronous communication with customers, rapid responses, and true commoditization of the IT function to the customer. 

Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • Chat based support is normative, further driving self-service requests
  • Support teams are trained on asynchronous support approach
  • Automation is the norm for problem resolution
  • Service mapping foundation is in place for application list, owner

Maturity Level 5 – Distributed Optimization

The Distributed Operations maturity level is focused on the major pivot of IT into an enablement and governance organization from being a delivery organization.  The goal of Distributed Optimization is to focus less on resolving incidents and move into enabling distributed teams that handle their own platforms.  The reality of IT is that more operational responsibility is shifting away from IT and into application owners that live in product development teams in the business.  The shift to product development teams leaves the IT organization thinking about how it stays relevant in the modern world.  With the commoditization of the end user computing ecosystem, applications moving to the cloud, and applications being owned by the business, the IT organization needs to re-define itself for the new future.  Distributed Optimization is the critical shift that moves IT into enablement and governance.  The modern IT org then moves into delivering value to the distributed teams with tooling, standards, policy, and optimization.  The best businesses create enablement organizations that dramatically accelerate usage of low/code, apps, cloud, and data as a tool within the business, but governed by IT


Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • Distributed configuration management is focused on DevOps, not just one CMDB
  • Application teams have full lifecycle ownership
  • Enablement organization that accelerates technology usage in the business for cloud, apps, or data
  • Teams excel at enabling modern DevOps practices in a consistent way
  • Application owners accelerating with financial ownership
  • Ring-based deployment is normative

Maturity Level 6 – Business Oriented Service Management

The Business Oriented Service Management maturity level is focused on enabling the business executives to leverage technology as a strategic investment across the business, with a comprehensive view of the use of technology, but with distributed ownership across the business.  These companies are experts at turning technology into business dollars.  They understand how to map an opportunity, the value, the investment, and the payoff.  This is handled not just fiscally, but as truly an investment engine across the organization.  In a similar fashion to a holding company, this maturity has metrics for each area of the business, tied to technology, and include the monetization, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

Here are a few “tells” that you are in this Maturity Level:

  • The business mission is truly technology integrated, not just in a single team
  • Executives can look at investment across the business, expected payoff, and actual payoff
  • Metrics like customer sat are visible to the top company executives
  • Distributed execution is managed by mature governance
  • Experimentation is accelerated while team maturity advances

The progression through each maturity level enables a business to simply become better at its core mission.  There are also appropriate levels of maturity for each business’s stage of growth. 

Nathan Lasnoski

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