IT Service Manager – position shrouded in mystery?

It appears that’s true, especially for people who have nothing to do with the IT industry and service management. “I’m a Service Manager” – reactions to this statement vary, from astonishment to associating with services such as mobile repair. Interestingly, even the insiders of the IT industry mysteries often cannot define what a Service Manager does and what a Service Delivery Manager. It also results from the fact that these two roles are frequently combined or performed interchangeably.

The role of a Service Delivery Manager will be the subject of other articles series; let’s focus on the responsibilities of a Service Manager. In a simplified way: a Service Manager is for a maintenance/service someone like a Project Manager for a project.


IT Service Manager – one role, many interpretations

It’s one of those positions for which there is no single standard scope of responsibilities, relevant for each service and company (although there are some repetitive elements such as taking care of the specialists’ team who deliver an IT solution or cooperating with a customer in terms of their needs regarding provided service). Also, in the case of services operating in the same organization, expectations towards a Service Manager can vary, depending on the customer’s needs and the needs of an organization in a given area.

For example, in managing a particular service, calculating broadly understood indicators (KPI) and other arrangements from the service agreement (SLA) are the most important for a customer. A Service Manager is primarily oriented toward the appropriate measuring such indicators and optimizing an IT service delivery process.

In another case, in the center of the Service Manager’s attention is the management of an agreement concluded with a provider – its enforcement, verification of its substantial scope in relation to assigned tasks and its current realization, and adding new annexes.

Sometimes, the crucial thing in Service Manager’s work is coping with escalations, the so-called catchball, when things get out of hand. This happens when a high level of variability characterizes a service or an organization, or there is a need to build a dynamic and organized team of specialists who can deliver customer value. Although a customer may have different expectations, a good Service Manager understands them and knows how to maintain the balance to build around an IT service, possibly the most optimal service that provides a customer with the highest value.


IT Service Manager responsibilities – what defines them?

Many factors influence the duties of a Service Manager, for example, the size of a company. For big organizations, the structure handling service provision is more complex. Operating a service in such a situation is one of the elements of a mechanism called “the service management.” The mechanism also includes other elements/areas. That is why there are roles such as a Project Manager, Product Owner, and when it comes to more extensive services – Incident Manager, Release Manager, and so on.

In smaller companies, the Service Manager’s (and manager’s of particular processes) duties are more often a matter of determining: who takes care of what. Optionally, it is modified on an ongoing basis – with the service growth.

Of course, the scope of the Service Manager’s responsibilities also depends on the size of the service itself and its maturity. And whether the service will focus on operations or service development.

But mostly, the responsibilities of a Service Manager are determined by the customer needs and provisions included in the agreement. Therefore, what is the level of authority given to a Service Manager? A good example: financial information – not always customers are that opened to share an insight into the budget. Besides, responsibilities may change throughout an agreement. If both sides are satisfied with the cooperation, there is a chance a customer gives the Service Manager greater responsibility and more freedom in making decisions.


IT Service Manager – their own boss?

The scope of provided services changes with the product for which it is created and modifications can be made fast. Managing that dynamic environment requires flexibility, fast response to changes, and communication skills to get along with a customer. That’s why Service Manager’s duties are not repetitive and set once for good. We may even risk saying that building the scope of responsibilities rests with a Service Manager.

What does it mean? A customer (understood as services recipient) communicated the needs, “now we go left, and then right.” The Service Manager’s job is to address this need, meaning building certain structures, working out solutions and processes – sometimes from scratch, when there are no ready patterns. Meeting those needs depends on various factors such as formal regulations, budget, relations with and inside the team. Thereby, the prospect is quite complex, and a Service Manager must find themselves in it, and there are no clear rules.


No more than ITIL

As it seems, in specific situations, the exact definition of a Service Manager’s role is complicated. It doesn’t mean the number of potential tasks associated with this position is unlimited and may grow endlessly. Let’s remember, we are talking about the IT environment here. And the best reference point is ITIL, that is, a set of good practices in IT service management.

Following the rules included in ITIL is very helpful, but it also important to remember that ITIL is, in a way, a perfect world. And the everyday-life service is based on adapting selected rules and ideas of ITIL to reality. It’s good to know the direction of operations, then ITIL – thanks to defining good practices – sets this direction. But it doesn’t provide answers to all the questions or ready solutions such as “in this service, a particular operation works best.” What a Service Manger takes from ITIL for themselves and service is just a piece of such a framework. The framework that, with the subsequent editions, is also adapted to changes following managing IT organizations.

What skills are required for this position? Does an IT Service Manager really know everything about the service? How does their working day look like? We will get back to the subject soon.

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  • Agnieszka Ziarkiewicz
  • Service Manager
  • Since 2013 in the IT industry, since 2017 holding managerial positions. Responsible for optimizing IT work, defining, measuring, and monitoring KPIs for the IT team, implementing, modeling, and supporting ITIL processes, managing internal and external IT contracts (including legal, financial, and compliance aspects). She has been working at Craftware since August 2020. Deeply convinced that the only constant in the IT (and not only) is the change, and effective communication can save lives. In her free time, she runs an informal board game club and participates in 17th-century historical reconstructions.

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