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What IT Service Managers Should Do in Their First Six Months

The role of an IT service manager today is more challenging than it ever was. They are typically responsible for a group of related IT services that are used to carry out an important business task or process. For example, a service manager at an insurer may have responsibility for all the IT services that support claims processing.

Service managers will be fully accountable for providing the right levels of cost and quality, and thinking about the long-term requirements of those services. So they occupy quite a senior role in the IT hierarchy and have been referred to as a “mini CIO”.

But even if the job is staffed by experienced and talented people it still places a lot of demands on them. Business partners – service managers’ internal customers – are asking for more effortless and customized services. CIOs are leaning on IT infrastructure teams to make cost savings and help business partners bring ideas to market, or respond to risks and competitive threats more quickly.

IT infrastructure teams – who have the responsibility of managing all of a company’s hardware, software, network resources, and anything else goes into providing a service for internal clients – are also in the midst of restructuring, trying to reshape their teams to keep up with the adoption of cloud-based technologies and DevOps.

As the liaison between all the users of the firm’s IT infrastructure customers and those that provide and support it, the service manager should act, in effect, as a “product owner”, accountable for all service outcomes. This means their responsibilities need to include defining the service strategy, engaging stakeholders, managing the use of the service, understanding alternatives, and managing their own team.

Six Activities for the First Six Months

This forms a big long list of tasks for someone starting out in a service manager role. There are six activities in particular that service managers should focus on in the first 180 days, and that are more likely to make the service(s) they manage (and so their personal performance) a success.

1. Organize the service team: The new service manager should focus first on getting the right team in place. To do so, service managers must enhance their organizational IQ (see “Keys to a Successful Transition” in this post) and identify the team’s high performers who will be most critical to providing the right level of service.

2. Understand service business fundamentals: To make the shift from operating technologies to managing business services, the service manager must have a robust understanding of the service offering — why it is offered, to whom it is offered, and how it is offered.

He or she must ensure the service catalog clearly communicates this understanding to business partners so that they can make better service consumption decisions.

3. Understand stakeholder priorities and expectations: To align service initiatives with business needs, a service manager should talk frequently with stakeholders to understand their expectations and changing priorities.

In the first few months, service managers should identify and clarify any unstated demand assumptions that will affect how satisfied their internal customers are.

4. Review service delivery process and performance: Often IT services are delayed due to process bottlenecks and interdependencies. To speed things up, a service manager needs to have a clear view of service delivery process steps, including an understanding of the division of responsibilities between internal staff and vendors.

The best service managers track performance metrics that measure how useful the service is to stakeholders, such as the quality of the user experience and “speed to market.”

5. Renew the service business plan: With all the relevant information in hand, a new service manager should refresh the service plan to reprioritize the key activities and investments.

Since traditionally Infrastructure services are technology focused, the new service business plan may include updated service definitions and new business-focused service metrics.

6. Activate the new service business plan: To secure buy-in and prepare for the new service plan, service managers should communicate service goals for the coming year, plan for IT skills gaps in delivering on the objectives, and help stakeholders manage service change.


Mark Tonseticmark-tonsetic is the managing director for CEB’s Infrastructure Leadership Council and Applications Leadership Council. Read more CEB blogs here.

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