What’s Wrong with the Advice that “ITSM is a Journey, Not a Destination”?

Is ITSM a Journey and Not a Destination?

If you’ve worked in IT service management (ITSM) roles long enough, you’ve probably been told, “ITSM is a journey, not a destination” at some point (perhaps many times). It makes sense, especially when considered through a continual improvement lens – with ITSM considered a journey of improvement. But a journey is a series of destinations, whether you wish to call them “waypoints” or something else. For long journeys, these break up the route and maybe the monotony. They also provide a sense of direction and accomplishment as they are reached.

But what does this have to do with ITSM? Maybe more than you think. For example, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled capabilities to improve quality and speed and reduce costs can be considered the vehicle(s), route(s), and even waypoint destination(s) in an overall ITSM journey that’s focused on improving business operations and outcomes. But, importantly, they’re not the journey alone, and does the adopting organization fully understand their journey? Keep reading on how the “ITSM is a journey” analogy might not be great advice.

Where the “ITSM is a journey” analogy could break down

All ITSM trends hopefully lead to greater business value. However, they’re too often fractured and potentially mis-prioritized adoption can be considered similar to starting a journey without sufficient destination knowledge. We know that we want or need to get somewhere and might even know what that location is called. However, this is all that’s known, with the following all examples of what’s potentially unknown (at the outset of the journey):

'All #ITSM trends hopefully lead to greater business value. However, they're too often fractured & potentially mis-prioritized adoption can be considered similar to starting a journey without sufficient destination knowledge.' -… Share on X
  • Where the location actually is, including the distance, geographic region, terrain, and climate
  • How best to travel there, including the method of travel and route (or the pros and cons of the available options)
  • What you need to take with you – both for the journey and once you arrive
  • How much it will really cost (to get there)
  • How long it will take (to get there)
  • The journey risks and need for contingency
  • If you need to get there by or after a specific time
  • How to know if you have arrived
  • Whether it’s actually the location you needed or a misguided assumption!

I could go on, but hopefully, my point has been made – I’m questioning the clarity of ITSM improvement journeys and the thinking that “ITSM is a journey” when we know so little about what makes up that journey. I’m not saying that everything needs to be planned to “the nth degree” because an agile approach will better allow for necessary course correction, but surely we need to think more about what the overall journey entails, including the best vehicles and the necessary waypoints.

Back to “ITSM is a journey”

It might seem silly and unrealistic for anyone to start a journey to a destination they know so little about, but please bear with me because I think we still do this with ITSM trends and the “ITSM is a journey” analogy.

Consider the many #ITSM trends currently being touted. How much do we really know about the desired destination and the best route to get there (via possible waypoints)? Asks @StephenMann #ITSM #ServiceDesk Share on X

Consider the many ITSM trends currently being touted (including by me). How much do we really know about the desired destination and the best route to get there (via possible waypoints)? For example:

  • AI – while well-delivered AI capabilities will undoubtedly offer improvements across all three of “better, faster, cheaper,” how does your organization ensure that it’s applying AI to the most important business-value-increasing opportunities? The issues include being driven by the available technology, where it’s a case of buying a hammer first and then looking for a nail that needs hitting.
  • Employee experience improvement – for the organizations that have already started their experience management journey, the insights have identified previously hidden issues and allowed ITSM improvements and investments to focus on “what matters most.” For example, the opportunities of AI might need experience data to focus on the best investment areas and assess the improvement success. But what happens if your organization is “doing” AI first? Especially because – and I acknowledge it’s one of many gross generalizations in this article – we’re often more comfortable handling new technology introduction than managing people and their feedback.
  • Enterprise service management (ESM) – notwithstanding the likelihood that organizations are already sharing “ITSM capabilities that require improvement” with other business functions using ESM (and this might be okay in some scenarios), what about the impact of other ITSM trends on enterprise service management strategies? For example, how is the adoption of AI-enabled capabilities or experience management in ITSM being positioned for wider corporate success?

Rising above each example’s detail, what does each trend’s destination look like? And should we be thinking of these “destinations” as waypoints instead? Plus, surely it’s likely that success in one of these areas affects both the starting and finishing points of the others (although with continual improvement, we could argue that there’s no finishing point, just “the next location” in the ITSM journey).

My language in this article is likely a little confused – as I’ve tried to map ITSM improvement to a real-world logistical journey – but hopefully, my “ITSM is a journey” point has started to form. While we might talk of ITSM (or ITSM improvement) as a journey and not a destination, we still need to know more about what the journey involves including the best vehicles for travel (at different times) and the various waypoints along the way.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this “ITSM is a journey” article, then here are some other ITSM articles you may find useful:

Stephen Mann
Stephen Mann
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Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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