ITIL Service Management: The Value Proposition of the OIT
By Leigh Wilkinson
A significant shift in the way Information Technology (IT) was delivered in state governments has occurred over the last few years. For many years most state IT organizations operated from an internally driven strategy and planning process to select services and offerings to their clients. IT organizations based their strategy and development primarily on technical design and current assets. IT organizations produced a menu of services which they then attempted to fit to their customers’ stated needs. In effect, if it wasn’t on the menu; the service was not available. The result was that sometimes customer’s needs went unmet because the IT offerings were not always a good match. This standard IT approach has sometimes been described as an inside–out approach meaning that strategic drivers for change and growth came from inside the IT department.
The shift to a customer based value proposition occurred when the State of Maine, Office of Information Technology (OIT) was formed 6 years ago. The decision was to shift the focus from offering services driven by IT-centric design to a more customer focused process. The strategic business needs of government partners, in effect, began to significantly influence the architecture and activity of IT services across the State of Maine. The drivers of IT change and growth are now strongly driven and influenced by the government partners outside of the IT organization. This is what is known as the value proposition. Simply put, the OIT continues to provide services valued by its government partners, contain or remove non-valued activities, and grow new services based on changing demands from customers.
The difference may seem to be a subtle one, but it is significant in that the OIT has actively and increasingly become a stronger business partner with the agencies it serves. Originally, Agency IT Directors were assigned to agencies; however, about eighteen months ago, the OIT created the position of a Technology Business Consultant (TBC) whose role is to serve as a liaison and intermediary between the OIT government partners and the functional groups within the OIT. These TBCs meet with the business leaders to determine their current and future business needs. The TBCs then meet with the OIT Service Director and discuss their partners’ business needs in terms of current offerings and determine any gaps or missing solutions. They also meet with directors of functional groups in applications, finance and operations to attempt to resolve any gaps, develop or refine new services to meet those business needs. This consolidation of individual agency level IT Directors to a smaller group of TBCs led to a more global view of needs while maintaining the close ties to government partners. The outcome has been an improved level of influence by the OIT’s customers on IT services. The TBC group, housed in the OIT Service Management section, is committed to driving best practices in IT while meeting evolving business demands.
The OIT strives to be in the business of providing solutions crafted to meet the business needs. It is done in concert with the need for carefully crafted IT strategy, architecture design, and support for existing systems. The goal is to provide value and to be the best partner possible in providing solutions to resolve business problems or to create cost savings processes to enhance existing services. The shift to a customer-centric value proposition has improved performance as government partners.
The challenge of keeping up with changing business needs has led to an increase in new services including, for example, conferencing options for audio and web based meeting platforms. The need to reduce cost of services to OIT partners has led to innovations such as virtual servers which reduce hardware costs and thereby reduce costs of purchasing or maintaining hardware. The OIT’s continuous improvement efforts have led to projects such as improving the quality of service (QoS) across the network. QoS is a process that manages traffic across the network to smooth out traffic and prioritize services based on need which significantly improves application performance. There are many other similar efforts in place to update or shift existing programs to meet new challenges defined by the OIT’s government partners.
For many end users of IT services, the shift to the service management value proposition may have been transparent, but most leaders within the OIT’s government partnerships have seen improvements to the range and quality of services they receive. Most importantly, through their relationships with the OIT TBCs, agency leaders have forged business partnerships focused on the agency business plans and needs. When agencies are faced with the rapidly changing demands of today, they have significant influence with the OIT solutions and services. The OIT is not only listening, but responding as quickly as possible to new demands. This is the truest definition of service management and the value proposition.