Creating specialist skills in the service management office

20 Dec 2021 01:18 PM

Blog posted by: Kirandeep Singh Kalra – Continual Service Improvement (CSI) Lead, 17 December 2021.

Creating specialist roles in the service management office (SMO) is a more effective way to establish and improve customer experience. This is one of the key lessons I’ve taken away from ITIL® 4’s Managing Professional guidance.

This has become important because, generally, SMO roles have tended to be generic – making people a “jack of all trades, master of none”.

However, the capability-based model outlined in ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve defines a centre of excellence and developing specialist experts and teams who become the best resources for any specific service management issues that customers may experience. In other words, providing teams with specialized skills and competencies that an organization can rely on.

SMO – different areas of capability and ITIL 4 Practices

By considering the strategic, tactical and operational needs of the organization, the SMO can become more specialised and customer-focused by building in particular capabilities.

And these desired capabilities can map to the knowledge and techniques available in different ITIL 4 management practices. For example:

Strategic capabilities:

This can include strategy management, relationship, risk and portfolio management practices. The guidance supports direct contact with customers to understand their strategic requirements while looking at areas of risk.

Tactical capabilities:

This is covered by practices such as service level management, continual service improvement, knowledge management and supplier management. At this level of interaction, it involves activities such as service reports and reviews, ensuring compliance with service level agreements, maintaining documentation and having service manuals in place.

Operational capabilities:

Including incident, problem, measurement/reporting and service desk practices. This covers any kind of incident escalation, post incident reviews, root cause analysis, reporting trends and managing the operational level relationships with customers.

In addition, the ITIL 4 Specialist: Create, Deliver & Support (CDS) module within ITIL Managing Professional includes a competency model that focuses on ensuring the right people are in the right roles. For example, it prioritizes people with leadership qualities who are good at establishing stakeholder relationships for strategic interaction. 

SMO specialism – the benefits and risks

Why is it important to establish and develop this level of specialism within the SMO?

First, the customer gets specialized expertise for particular areas of need. That means they will get the support of one person, for example, with specialized skills in managing escalation and a different expert responsible for the operations manual, etc.

This approach creates more efficiency and allows people with specific capabilities to support multiple customers in their area of specialism.

However, creating a capability-based model might raise resistance among people, as they could feel it’s restrictive to be in a specialised role and are often averse to changing the way they’ve been working. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to deploy the ITIL 4 organizational change management (OCM) practice.

OCM looks holistically at the human aspect of large-scale changes – and especially across the four dimensions of service management: organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers and value streams and processes.

This structured way of implementing changes recognizes the possibility of staff resistance and the need for top management commitment to achieve change.

Harnessing ITIL higher-level modules

Having access to the knowledge and skills in ITIL 4’s higher-level modules contained in Managing Professional has worked well in our organization, especially the SMO, leading to higher customer satisfaction.

The competency model in CDS and stakeholder mapping in ITIL 4 Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value ensures you understand the levels of influence and interest among stakeholders, can map the complete end-to-end customer journey, recognize who is important to engage with and keep satisfied and have the right expertise at your disposal.