The Changing Service Manager Role

The Service Manager role was far simpler when I first joined IT, many years ago. The SM sat as an interface between technical IT people and users in the business community with the primary role of translating and managing communications. As users became more tech savvy the role changed.

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The Service manager role then became the primary point of escalation for disgruntled customers, with technology now pervading the home space, user expectation began to grow. Now the Service Manager had to do more than translate. The role was more focussed on the service relationship and reporting. Service availability and request fulfillment response times were the hot topics.

Outsourcing – the Game Changer

The next step change in the Service Manager role was outsourcing. No longer able to sit next to a technician and look at the server console, the SM had to become adept at managing a remote relationship. As the outsourcers moved offshore, the Service Manager also had to deal with cultural differences.

The focus of the role shifted again to performance management and SLA tracking. As margins got tighter for the outsourcer, contracts become more important and the Service Manager stepped more into the supplier management space.

Hot topics were Service Improvement and how to squeeze out more value with less cost.

Service Monitoring

As services were moving offshore, technology was becoming more complex with large systems coming off of the mainframe and into mid-range distributed systems. Synthetic transaction monitoring, real users session recordings and APM put more information in front of the Service Manager than ever before.

Now the focus shifted to prevention as much as fix on fail. A skilled Service Manager aimed with domain knowledge of the systems under their stewardship and detailed monitoring views could pre-empt and localise issues before the customer impact was reported and route incidents more effectively than ever.

The Future of the Service Manager Role

As I look to the future of the Service Manager role, I am mindful of where the technology journey is taking us. Cloud remains a hot topic long with microservices and serverless computing. Monitoring continues to evolve with deep code-level inspection and IT Ops automation capability for RPA type intervention without any human interaction.

The shift to multi-tenant, public cloud, digital enablement and omni-channel delivery also drives the cybersecurity agenda. Against which we are still asked to do more with less and yet deploy elastic load-balancing with the opportunity for server sprawl and spiralling uncontrolled cost.

For Service Managers to thrive we must continue to co-create value with IT operations and the delivery partners. We must be able to pull together application domain knowledge, deep business understanding and overlay the technology landscape to analyse data from technical monitoring systems. We must also pay attention to costs and security.

DevOps and Agile SDLC methodology will continue to challenge us. Service Managers must be seen as value creators and not blockers. ITIL processes need to evolve to meet the challenge of a ‘fail fast’ mentality and the more entrepreneurial approach to development that cloud brings.

I fear we will loose a few along the way, those old guard that still think the Service Manager role is to ask the user to raise a ticket and read the SLA. Those that still want to crank the handle on an ITIL process and say ‘I’m not technical’ are not going to cut it.

So to those that say the Service Manager is dead, I say long live the Service Manager.

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