The trend of educational entities adopting IT service management solutions has been on a steady rise. Educational organizations want to align operations with overall institutional strategies and goals. The IT organizations that service these educational entities play a major role in supporting educational functions by offering IT services to support the business and the mission of the institution.

These organizations that are taking these technology steps find that there are fewer break-and-fix issues, but more instances where they can be builders of things and integrators of things. This evolution of the commoditization of technology is transforming the education entity’s service desk to focus on delivering quality services.

Management of these evolved IT services throughout education continues to change to an increasingly innovative delivery of sustainable services, critical of launching new services and program offerings. This means IT leaders in educational entities have renewed their focus on the service cycles (for example: strategy, design, transition, operation and continual improvement).

What this means for non-IT education business leaders

In educational entities, IT is becoming more of a framework designed for service versus a support and delivery division. Service management in education is shifting to help IT departments address service goals and align with the business of the organization while also providing better experiences for users, who are teachers, administrators, facility employees, HR representatives and students.

IT service management dates back to ITIL, which is a series of books first published by the British government in the 1980s. Without getting too technical, ITIL is a framework led by service strategy, design, transition, operation and continual service improvement. Educators are showing more interest in ITSM as it directly corresponds with IT leaders wanting to enjoy the benefits of a share service desk, self-serve portals for users to address their own issues (commonly becoming more popular with consumers in nearly every sector), and centralized alignment of incident management and response.

Education-based IT leaders want the outcomes ITSM can offer. For example, IT professionals at the University of Edinburgh say the ease of logging calls through their service management portal has allowed them to become more focused on providing education to students.

University of Delft officials say they “used to work with different systems and now we only have one. That in itself improves customer experience, because communication on call status is more consistent.” Likewise, IT leaders at the District School Board of Niagara say communication to end-users has improved, and its service management technology streamlines services for them, ultimately improving education in the classroom and technology provided to students.

Officials at Rhodes College say its service management technology is designed to help people to facilitate success and enhance user experience. The technology allows the service desk to actually service people and be focused more wholly on the student.

School districts and colleges say that their use of ITSM shifts from being only a service desk approach — the break-and-fix IT departments — to focusing on improvement institution-wide so they can engage stakeholders — students, teachers and administrators — across their districts.

Being more than break-and-fix

Many IT departments perform IT service management processes within their IT departments, but incident management (fixing things when they break) and change management (changing IT services) efforts only go so far. With formal awareness and intentional integration of ITSM practices, schools can align the services they support.

Enterprise service management supports organizational shifts to a more central and pivotal role for IT organizations and helps to align IT operations to a school’s goals; move toward an efficient operation based on internal management of services across the entire organization (in other words, enterprise service management); increases reporting capabilities; allows for direct response from the responsible party (for example, facilities can respond when a ticket is placed requiring this department’s specific action); and allows for continuous improvement for the entire organization.

However, understanding the path to take to move to a service management approach can be difficult. Especially for school districts, which are primarily focused on educating students but not on building IT and technology organizations.

ITSM roles and assumptions

Much of the value of IT service management is helping identify the value and function of the IT department. In education, these siloed departments are likely better positioned as service departments, which bring together multiple departments in one desk to serve those who need assistance.

Multiple departments have a place at the table in these models, meaning service incidents are easy to report and route to the appropriate area of support. If HR needs assistance setting up an interview room, members of the facilities team can take the lead. If a problem with technology arises, IT can respond. If there’s a problem with a bus or other vehicle, fleet services can respond.

The wonder of an expanded ITSM-focused service desk means that this internal agency also supports services and the selection, design, implementation and improvement of service. This means that the scope of service management creates an organization-wide opportunity. There are several foundational ways of dealing with service management in education.

In education, a user of a service also is someone who makes decisions about the direction of a service, either with budget authority or executive authority. A user is entitled to consume one or more IT services. For example, those who decide which system to use throughout the district versus who gets access to said system. This means you’ve likely got to define your customer. Doing so defines who in the school should be included in service strategy and design.

Doing so helps develop the strongest possible user-service culture within the service desk. A first step in service management, then, is to figure out what it is that you do so you can effectively make this transition. The purpose of a service desk is to bring a benefit to our IT customers. ITSM encourages an approach that engages customers in decisions about which services to offer, how to improve those services, and how best to map them to the school’s business needs.

As one process improves, it can help other processes develop. In the end, ITSM is an ongoing activity especially in education, not a timed project. Projects have a start and end date. An ITSM program is not a one-and-done activity.