FitSM can be an alternative as well as a supplement to ITIL
Professor Böttcher, you have been dealing with IT Service Management topics for many years now – how do you assess the FitSM Approach?
What immediately struck me as interesting was, that experts from large European computer centres felt they needed to approach IT Service Management in a new way – to start with a clean slate, but based on experiences and best practices collected. Over last years, ITIL has established itself as a de-facto standard, driven in part by the commercial interests of specialized consulting firms.
The FitSM developers asked themselves: How would we define a standard today, if we could start from scratch? What I especially like about their approach: They intended to focus on the really important aspects and deliberately ignored all ballast. The result is a lean and open concept, designed primarily with creating good content and offering broad applicability in mind (rather than commercial concerns).
From your perspective, is it necessary to define further standards concerning IT Service Management?
ITIL is certainly widespread today and seen as the standard in many organizations. I do not believe that experts working in large corporations, those who have worked with ITIL for a long time and already hold advanced ITIL certificates, will be very interested in achieving FitSM certifications on top. I think however, there are two big niches in the ITSM market that can be addressed quite well with FitSM.
What would they be?
A target group not yet part of the ITIL user-circle are small and medium-sized enterprises. Even within larger medium-sized companies, IT managers often lead IT departments of maybe no more than 10 to 15 employees. Although these departments frequently have far-reaching responsibilities in supporting their company’s international business operations, ITIL-inspired structures have not yet been established. For these companies, FitSM makes an ideal starting point for adopting IT Service Management. Employees can be trained and certified with reasonable effort. While for ITIL, employees need about four weeks to learn the essential knowledge and skills, this same can be achieved for FitSM within five to seven days.
For me, it is still surprising to see to what little extent ITIL has been established in many small and medium-sized enterprises today and how ad hoc the approach towards IT Service Management often still is. FitSM can be a great alternative to ITIL for these organizations, since it lends itself to a pragmatic application, and enables quick and cost-efficient delivery of results.
What about the second target Group?
I see a second field of application in the training of IT operations staff. Companies are becoming ever more dependent on IT operations running smoothly. On the strategic end, ITSM specialists focus on the design of sophisticated IT service management processes and procedures. However, it often remains a challenge to convince system administrators, network administrators, support specialists – thus all the staff actually doing the work – about the benefits of the new processes and procedures. Quite often, these employees are simply confronted with new processes and procedures, but are completely unfamiliar with the underlying rationale and terminology.
Establishing ITSM processes and procedures brings radical changes to the way they conduct their work for many IT operations specialists. In the past, a system administrator might have solved a problem with a few clicks – now, all of a sudden, significant documentation effort is required. Staff needs to be convinced, on a professional and personal level, that the new processes and procedures make sense. In this regard, sending operational staff to ITIL foundation training courses is an absolute overkill given the complexity and all the framework related content – especially since the introduction of ITIL V3. We did an empirical study on this, interviewing nearly 300 IT operations staff members. We found that the major concern tends to be passing the exam, irrespective of being able to apply the acquired knowledge in practice. For this user group, we need a simpler training approach, one that does not try to impart all of the knowledge, that is of interest to IT service managers only. This is where I see a great opportunity for FitSM.
So FitSM would rather be a supplement to ITIL than a competitor?
Exactly. When I presented the FitSM training concept to service managers of large corporations, they started questioning their former approach: “Why did we explain all these complex processes to all our IT staff? Much of this stuff, we don’t need in daily operations. A more compact, easy to understand approach will aid our implementation much better.”
Is the FitSM content totally compatible with ITIL or is it necessary to “translate” from one to the other Standard?
I do not expect any communication problems. The developers of FitSM did not make the mistake to change the established terminology, just to deliberately differentiate FitSM from ITIL. They did not reinvent the wheel, but simplified and reduced things in a reasonable way.
So FitSM takes the position of an "ITIL light"?
You can say so, but I like to see it more as a kind of “ISO/IEC 20000 light” making it even more interesting for mid-sized companies. For many corporations of this size, it makes no sense to get a full certification according to ISO/IEC 20000. This would be akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. FitSM can help them to work towards systematic service management step by step – even if they start with only three processes. FitSM in its current form is already auditable, someday it may even become certifiable. The prerequisites are all there.
How do you see the future prospects of FitSM?
From my perspective, service management for IT organizations is a relatively mature discipline. Some IT managers might still struggle with the implementation, but they know – at least in theory – what it takes to achieve stable service processes. However, there are many other sectors where the average service organisation is far from mature operational delivery capabilities – for example, the healthcare sector. In my experience, not receiving wrong medications in a hospital depends a lot on the meticulous attention of the involved staff, and not on the maturity of the process Framework.
That means, FitSM could be transferred to fields we do not yet think of today?
Yes, I am convinced of that. Applying ITIL to a scenario like the aforementioned healthcare example would be an absolute no-go. You would introduce way too much overhead and unneeded complexity. FitSM, as a lightweight approach, would in contrast be quite suitable to optimize the management of any technical infrastructures and service processes. To stick with the example: The nurse, who has to give a modified medication, is in a similar situation as a system administrator. The change needs to be approved and its implementation documented, in a way that is not dependent on what person is on shift that day.
The idea to transfer the well-established body of knowledge on IT Service Management to other branches and sectors is exciting to me and an important reason to deal with FitSM. I believe, that various application areas are possible – for example nursing services, hospitals or facility Management.
What advice would you give to the FitSM developers concerning the future?
Regarding the content, they already did a great job. In the light of more and more complex data protection regulations, I can foresee demand more content regarding information security management. Apart from that, I would recommend to stick with the core approach of easy to handle tools, templates and best practices. A useful addition to the repository could be sector specific resources and templates. I hope that, as the standard becomes more popular, its open source philosophy will attract new ideas and contributions from the community.
How can training providers and certification institutes contribute to the success of FitSM?
I would like FitSM training material to be complemented with more explicit explanations and then published in a Wiki format. Also, there should be the possibility to take the exam online. Some of my students are interested in FitSM and they could get a certification very fast and easy through an online exam. As a university teacher, I consider FitSM as very well suited to introduce students to the field of IT Service Management.
About the expert
Prof. Dr. Roland Böttcher teaches IT-Management, Leadership and Project Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum. As founder and managing director of BuGaSi Labs, he develops serious games and simulations to be used for education and advanced training. This includes “Resort Paradiso”, an IT Service Management simulation for FitSM, ITIL® and ISO/IEC 20000 as part of his Portfolio.
Resort Paradiso allows experimental and self-directed learning and thus delivers knowledge and experiences that the participants can apply in their daily work. Several thousand participants have used this simulation to gain basic knowledge about IT Service Management in a playful way.
Prior to his appointment to the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Prof. Dr. Roland Böttcher was employed in an executive position within a leading IT service provider and worked as a freelancing Consultant.