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Ultimately, IT teams and resources exist to support the business. If IT practices are all out of sync with business needs, IT may harm, rather than help, the company.
To help align business goals with IT practices, the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, defines a set of general management practices. Following is an overview of the most important IT general management practices and their role in ensuring the success of both the IT organization and the broader business.
What Are ITIL General Management Practices?
General management practices are the most business-focused set of IT practices that the ITIL defines. Whereas other categories of ITIL practices (like technical management and service management) focus on deploying and maintaining systems in a technical sense, the primary goal of ITIL general management is to ensure that IT activities and investments align with business needs.
Core ITIL General Management Practices
For the typical business, the most important ITIL general management practices include the following.
As part of strategic management, IT teams research industry standards to identify offerings relevant for their business, based on customer needs and the business's position in the market. They also evaluate technologies and services that their business currently uses in order to identify opportunities for improvement.
Further reading MSP Strategy: The Value of Data
Project management refers to the planning and implementation of IT projects. As defined in the ITIL, it involves two key components. One is planning projects by defining project scope, timeframe, budget needs, IT resource requirements and, if applicable, compliance requirements.
The second is keeping projects running smoothly once they are underway. For this task, teams rely on ITIL approaches and processes, such as change management and incident management.
KPIs and Reporting
As part of general management practices, IT teams identify KPIs that will help them measure the success of all of their IT practices and assess whether those practices are also driving business success. Then, they collect and analyze data continuously to maintain ongoing visibility into the effectiveness of IT operations.
Knowledge management is the process of gathering, categorizing and storing essential knowledge within the organization. Generally, this knowledge falls into two categories: First, technical procedures that require specific knowledge; and second, the knowledge possessed by specific employees, who might not otherwise think to share or record it.
Knowledge management helps ensure that businesses have the information they need in order to manage their systems effectively. It also encourages a culture of knowledge sharing within and between teams and enhances evidence-driven decision-making processes. At the same time, it reduces the risk that problems will arise because an employee with key technical knowledge is unavailable or leaves the company.
Further reading MSP Knowledge Management Guide
Internal Relationship Management
Building strong connections within teams and departments is the focus of internal relationship management. In turn, this general practice helps to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in making strategic decisions that require input from both the business side of the organization and the technical side. It also encourages communication between teams and business units, which can lead to faster problem resolution.
External Relationship Management
External relationship management helps IT organizations maintain stable and positive relations with customers and vendors. It keeps customers and vendors up to date about the business's IT plans and processes, while also ensuring that IT teams factor the priorities of external stakeholders into their decision-making. Ultimately, it drives customer and partner satisfaction, which is key to achieving overall business success.
Further reading MSPs: How to Communicate with Software and Hardware Vendors
Risk management focuses on answering five basic questions:
- How to avoid risk.
- How to prevent risk.
- Which steps will the business take if a problem arises?
- How will the business mitigate the impact of a problem?
- How will the business improve its risk management practices over time?
In these ways, risk management helps IT organizations monitor and control known risks, while also documenting and categorizing them.
Further reading Risk Management Guide for MSPs
By helping to integrate business goals with IT decision-making, ITIL general management practices play a pivotal role in aligning business goals with IT goals. By extension, they help to maximize the ROI on IT resources and avoid unforeseen conflicts between IT teams and other parts of the business.
No matter what your IT environment looks like, you need deep technical expertise to manage it. Ensuring that such technical expertise is available is the goal of the technical management practices that are defined in the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL.
Keep reading for a primer on ITIL technical management practices, including why they are important, where they fit within the broader ITIL framework and which specific technical management practices the ITIL defines.
What Is ITIL Technical Management?
Under the ITIL, technical management is a set of processes that govern how IT organizations set up and deploy the technological core of their systems.
ITIL distinguishes between technical management and general management, which focuses more on aligning IT goals with business goals. ITIL also has a service management category, which deals primarily with managing systems after they have been set up.
The ITIL defines technical management as a "function." Thus, when the ITIL refers to technical management practices, it's focusing specifically on the people and tools who will implement those processes. It's not about specific technologies; you could implement ITIL technical management practices using a variety of different tools or platforms.
The Importance of Technical Management
Technical management is important in any IT environment, because it lays the foundation for creating and validating complex systems. In turn, it ensures that businesses are able to deploy the technology they need in order to meet their goals, and that they have the tools in place to boost productivity and achieve innovation.
Technical management also plays a role in keeping systems up to date and upgrading to newer technologies when they become available.
Key ITIL Technical Management Practices
ITIL technical management involves several specific types of practices. Following are the most important examples of technical management processes for a typical business.
Infrastructure and Platform Management
Every type of IT resource or asset needs infrastructure to run on (not to mention to connect it to other resources). As part of technical management, IT teams assess the infrastructure and platforms that their organization currently uses, as well as new ones that may become available.
When they deem an existing solution to be outdated, they are responsible for planning and implementing an infrastructure or platform upgrade.
When a new platform, infrastructure component, application or other resource is ready for deployment, IT teams handle this process as part of technical management. Deployment management typically focuses on deploying new resources into production use, but it could also involve deployment into testing or staging environments.
Software Assessment and Development
ITIL technical management processes extend to software development as well. Teams must continuously assess their business's existing software resources to determine whether they are adequate. When software upgrades are needed, they define the requirements for the new software and oversee the development and deployment process.
Technical Knowledge Management
Given that assessing and updating systems is a core focus of technical management, it only makes sense that keeping track of the technical information associated with a business's systems also falls partly under the category of technical management. When they set up systems, teams must ensure that they document or otherwise record the knowledge needed to understand and maintain technical systems on an ongoing basis.
That said, knowledge management as a whole is defined by the ITIL as part of the general management function, rather than technical management. Still, it's a good idea to make technical information management a part of the technical practices that businesses use to plan and deploy new resources.
Under the ITIL, technical management practices play a leading role in ensuring that businesses can identify and implement the infrastructure and software they need in order to achieve their goals. In addition, technical management helps businesses manage the technical knowledge that allows them to assess and maintain their technologies.
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