IT service managers should be at the forefront of efforts to take IT into the boardroom. The present dearth of CEOs who come from an IT background in the UK is a major concern considering the increasing importance of IT infrastructure to delivering competitive advantage or organisational efficiency.
Sitting at the transition between IT and wider business development, commercial growth and business strategy, the 100,000 UK IT service managers represent a major source of hope. The IT profession should be seen less as the infrastructure that supports the day-to-day operations, and more as the tool to drive growth, reduce risk and improve customer service.
IT sector skills body e-Skills UK predicts that professional service management skills will be the most pressing learning need in the IT industry over the next decade. A report last year estimated that of the additional IT skills required by UK plc up to 2020, 40% will be in service management.
This represents both a need to bring more people into the profession and a requirement to address the lack of recognition of these skills in the wider environment. It’s this second element that gives rise to a new partnership between The Open University and Global Knowledge, one of the world largest IT trainers, and the creation of a new postgraduate certificate for the profession.
While some sections of the IT industry are starting to mature from a professional development point of view, service management has remained an area with little scope for practitioners to prove their worth through robust academic qualifications.
The primary source of IT service management accreditation comes from ITIL, the worldwide standard, owned by the UK Cabinet Office. ITIL is great in principle, providing robust methodology and the fundamental building blocks for best practice, but falls short when it comes to addressing real-life business issues like delivering commercial value. It also provides little opportunity for individuals to demonstrate they can apply what they have learnt in the workplace.
Critically the awareness of ITIL is low outside of service management. It’s very difficult for service managers to go to HR, budget holders or their executive board proposing new strategies or business plans on the back of an ITIL expert qualification - it’s just not recognised across the business. As a result people outside of IT fail to understand the value service managers provide, while those frustrated by a lack of proper recognition of their skills and contribution to the broader business have been left to start from scratch on an MBA.
A new approach was needed and that’s why The Open University partnered with Global Knowledge to develop a brand new Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Professional Practice in IT Service Management.
By incorporating such courses, and the recognition for previous work experience and ITIL qualifications offered by the certificate, into an instantly recognisable academic framework we can turn service management into something understood by the wider business and existing career development programmes.
The modern day IT service manager is expected to be a great communicator and strategic thinker. They are a key player in a wider push to expand the role of all IT professionals, taking them out from behind the help desk and into the boardroom.
Kevin Streater is head of IT industry engagement at The Open University
This was first published in May 2012