My IT Service Management predictions for 2019

With 2019 just commencing, I thought I'd share my predictions for IT Service Management (ITSM) this year.

The Digital Transformation parade will continue to march on.
This year I expect that we'll continue to see and hear much more advice, commentary and promise of how IT departments can lead/support their business peers with their digital transformation. The Holy Grail will be to deliver IT with as much prowess of the FANGS (Facebook, Apple, NetFlix, Google, Spotify). However the majority of IT departments will continue to struggle to achieve this for a number of reasons including:
a) Confusion on how the (business) senior leadership team will jointly define digital, manage the transformation and the related organisational change;
b) IT will continue to be perceived as a cost centre, back office function and not a business enabler; and
c) IT has a poor reputation with the business (e.g. a history of IT project overruns, lack of business engagement in past initiatives, weakly defined integration of customer facing business services to supporting IT services and vague definition of value streams). As a result, ITSM is perceived as an IT 'thing' and not perceived or positioned as an enabler.

Value Stream Management will increase in interest.
In 2019 I perceive increasing interest and adoption of value stream management underpinned by product/outcome management, and less focus on traditional project management. Project management won't disappear entirely but simply an increasing interest in persistent outcome (or product) management will see a shift in focus and investment.
Value stream management (VSM) will start to become the new Enterprise Service Management (ESM). ESM has been promoted for a few years now within the enterprise IT industry however for digital transformations, VSM has the business's attention so I'm expecting the concept of ESM to be consumed by VSM.
With VSM gradually increasing in interest, I am expecting only a handful of organisations to undertake the required operating model changes (across the business, IT and other corporate functions) to effectively implement VSM and derive the full intended benefits.

Most process automation will continue to be internally focused
Despite that the previously listed challenges of achieving true end to end digital transformation arise, the IT department will still be expected to drive innovation and cost efficiencies. This will place pressure on the IT department to restrict automation initiatives to just the segments of the end to end value chain that it controls and most likely to continue to be only IT service focused.
Examples of such initiatives I'm expecting to see in 2019 include process automation for request, incident and change/release management, Continuous Delivery/DevOps and IT operations automation. In parallel with this, I’m expecting Site Reliability Engineering and ChatOps to be topics of increasing interest.

ITIL v4 will launch but is late to the party
2019 will see the introduction of ITIL v4, the latest update to ITIL since 2011. During these past eight years the ITSM industry has already been learning, adopting and integrating other frameworks from software development and manufacturing (such as Agile, DevOps & Lean) into their ITSM.
Within this same timeframe, ITSM practitioners have developed their own guidance and approaches to adopt and integrate these frameworks to enhance end to end IT service delivery. In my opinion, the new guidance provided in ITIL v4 may be too late and not provide the return on investment from the training and re-certification costs.
Further to this, most organisations are hampered by the absence of process architecture and they do not define the agreed 'ways of working' across the business units and IT department. As a result, the same business units and IT teams are adopting practices from Agile, DevOps, ITIL and/or Lean in a siloed and inconsistent manner. A new version of ITIL will not address the inconsistent process architecture and lack of process integration that currently exists in most organisations.
Another challenge for ITIL v4 will be securing the investment required to retrain staff on this version as it will be overshadowed by the perceived greater business priority to invest in digital transformation activities. Agile, DevOps and Lean are generally perceived as the enabling practices for digital transformation whereas ITIL is not.

Chatbots – it’ll be the darkest before the dawn 
For the past few years, IT organisations have attempted to implement chatbots to improve IT self-service and reduce frontline IT support costs. These implementations have seen limited success with successful case studies being few and far between. Chatbots are an immature technology and with each implementation, the technology needs to be specifically developed and tuned for the specific customer base requiring considerable capability and expertise to implement. As a result, the customer experience has been poor (to date) and I anticipate that we'll see this trend continue for 2019. At best, successful implementations will be limited to quite specific use cases and scenarios.

Artificial intelligence will mature but not impress
Similar to chatbots, I expect to hear more announcements of innovation and potential efficiency gains but the actual benefits will be limited as this technology suite (and the industry capabilities to leverage it) slowly matures.

In summary, for ITSM in 2019 I expect to see steady, incremental improvements across the ITSM spectrum and not sweeping or dramatic changes. As a result, I anticipate that IT organisations this year could be categorised into one of two groups:
1) Digital partners: where the IT organisation and the business are working in unison on their digital transformation/change initiative and the concept of ITSM (and even ESM) is a subset of Value Stream Management
2) The classic IT silo: where (for any number of reasons) the IT organisation will simply conduct discreet improvement initiatives (potentially uncoordinated) that aim to improve IT service delivery or reduce IT operating costs.


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