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ITSM: The Backbone of Cloud Computing

Jun 15, 2010 11:00:00 AM

IT Service Management (ITSM) and cloud computing don’t always appear in the same discussion – even though one can’t be done well without the other. Integrating the two is especially important as we move further into (what could be) the fundamental shift toward cloud computing.

First – since the phrase “cloud computing” has taken on ambiguity as a buzzword – a quick clarification is necessary. Cloud computing doesn’t change what’s being delivered to end users. It changes how services are delivered. End users should receive the same services from you whether your data’s stored on a server you manage yourself in-house or on a server that’s managed by a provider in Timbuktu.

That being said, IT needs to understand the services they deliver to end users – whether the end user is the employee or the customer. This is the core of ITSM.

Some primary benefits of the cloud include:

  • Pay-as-you-go server costs; planned capacity
  • Annual savings in hardware and man power
  • Instant “green” IT options without long-term transformation costs
  • Higher rate of connectivity that extends anywhere

Those perks are the driving forces behind the cloud’s popularity – and have already borne fruit in organizations who’ve incorporated the cloud as a platform for daily operations. Some, however, raise concern over the difficulty to align the cloud with ITSM, which regularly involves:

  • A slow rate of delivery of tangible business benefits
  • An inability to relate the consumption of IT resources to customer activities
  • A lack of stakeholder support
  • Trouble integrating facilities management, security, and business continuity
  • Scarce resources

These difficulties won’t surprise anyone in ITSM. They’re simply the nature of the beast. Every ITSM team has to deal with a lack of stakeholder support, pressure to produce tangible benefits in short amounts of time, etc. When news of a new business decision reaches IT’s desk after it’s already been decided on, however, these difficulties become even more difficult – and the alignment of IT investments and business continuity is disrupted. The business has moved along without IT, and IT is left to run after it.

The same is true for the alignment between ITSM and cloud computing. Companies may rightfully lust after cloud services and decide to begin moving toward a cloud platform. While the results for end users (employees and in turn customers) may be clear, how to deliver them may not be. If the ITSM team isn’t intimately involved, the business risks ambiguity on both sides.

Ideally, the business should work to ensure inter-operability between IT assets and cloud applications. That (like everything else) requires the business to understand IT’s responsibilities, and IT to understand cloud concepts. The software market’s shifting toward ease-of-access software/SaaS; ITSM software vendors are having to market their simplicity and cloud-usability to stay competitive. Because of this, inter-operability is becoming more of an issue since businesses may be tempted to consider ease of use and cloud integration more important than ITSM.

The alignment is essential. With business strategy and IT well-aligned, leveraging the cloud can expand your ability to be flexible in doing business and save you overhead costs while preserving what’s delivered to end users.

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