Having spent nearly eight years in the IT Service Management space, being ITIL V2 Foundations Certified, and being part of the Service Desk community for that long, I am convinced that the entire IT organization, including development and testing are deeply involved in Service Management. Is IT overall not a service to the business? Isn’t Software testing, software development and programming a service? So software testing and the quality process are part of Service Management, yes, no?
ITIL which stands for the Information Technology Infrastructure Library was developed to bring a common language to the IT organization to build a foundation of terms that were common amongst the professionals that use them. Speaking a common language is fundamental to communicating between departments. So when I say incident, problem, or change management, everyone that is involved in those processes knows what each term or process means. It is a framework to work within, not a detailed execution of how to get each of these things done. It allows the flexibility necessary to accommodate cultural, operational, and organizational uniqueness, but the framework outlines key considerations that are common to most IT organizations.
I am proud to have been influential in moving that conversation along at my past post at HDI (Help Desk Institute). When I first joined, ITIL was just getting legs in the US due to Pink Elephant, ITSMF, and at HDI we decided that ITIL was a great opportunity to help Service Desk Professionals become leaders in the IT organization by embracing the ITSM concept and promoting the concepts that ITIL developed. ITIL and ITSM helped define the importance of the role a Service Desk (SD) played in the delivery of effective IT services and support to the business. The SD played the role as the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for information about how IT was delivering the service to the business. Users and Customers communicated through the SD and the SD documented and communicated the information back to the IT organization. By embracing the idea of a common practice for IT, SD organizations within IT became key players and leaders in producing effective results for the businesses they served.
When I look at software testing and quality and the role it plays in ITSM, I wonder why the ITIL framework and ITSM principles have not caught on in the quality process. It could be that they have been considered and discounted but I am not sure being new to the discipline. But being familiar with a common framework in the IT organization gives each discipline accountability and credibility in the organization. By defining roles we increase the importance each role has in the ultimate goal of providing effective and efficient products and services to the businesses we support. And for those organizations that software is their business, organized frameworks and a common language are critical to the success of the organization.
A quick and simple example: The business needs a new website to support a recently developed service. The business meets with IT to talk requirements and wish list. These requirements are translated into code, the code is created, the code is tested, the code is released, the service is operational, the incidents are tracked, the changes are made, the problems are routed out, new releases are introduced, the incidents are recorded, and website is maintained until it is updated or retired. This outlines a “stick figure” example of how the IT organization delivers and supports a service for the business.
But simple is not what we do. The complexity of IT is not understood by the business in most cases and we are often strapped with the perception of creating things that seem easy but are often a complex maze of code, databases, networks, testing and support. The things IT has been able to do for the business have often been under a guise of “magic” and an attitude of “we can do that”. We have jumped through hoops and that is good but it often seems to the business that we can do anything, in record breaking time, with a quality result, at little or no cost. No one knows better the true cost of IT than IT. No matter what role you are talking about, testing or help desk, they cost money, but what is the value. Value is the true driver for what we do.
Software testing is a critical component of delivering value to the business we serve. That is a fact. By developing our business of software testing within accepted frameworks increases our credibility, accountability, as well as our effectiveness in delivering a quality IT service or product. We have data to back up what we know is true. By defining what we do, doing it effectively and consistently, measuring the results, and working within an accepted and understood framework we drive up our value within IT but more importantly with the business that depends on us. That is what ITSM is about, and the frameworks like ITIL help us do that.
I don’t think it is as important to choose any one specific framework or method, only that we have one that works for our organization. Having no common language or practices within an organization only hurts our ability to be effective at what we do and the perception of our discipline. There is no function in business that can afford to be a lone ranger. IT is seen by the business as providing one service. The business does not discern the silos necessary to deliver that service. When we act as a cohesive unit we not only become more effective, we meet the expectation of the business. And that is good for everyone in IT.
So as we work on testing another piece of software or application, are we working as part of a team delivering a cohesive product to the business or as a single focused department within IT doing tests to find the problems? Or both?
ITSM is simply delivering quality IT services and products based on the business needs. ITIL is simply a common language and a framework that helps the entire IT organization to deliver those services efficiently. Software testing is one of the key players in delivering on this goal. As members of the IT organization focused on a common goal, it would be helpful if we all speak a common language in our organizations, to have a better chance of delivering what is expected of us. And I think that is worthy of our consideration…