IT Service Management Practices – Discovery, Collaboration, and Comparison

As different organizations adopt and adapt IT Service Management to improve the IT services they deliver, the Kansas City Local Interest Group (KC LIG), a member of the itSMF USA organization, took the opportunity to examine the differences and similarities between Service Management in higher education and corporate America. This was a milestone meeting for the KC LIG, as representation from several interest groups was included: the Higher Education SIG, Academic SIG, and the COBIT SIG.  Dr. Suzanne Van Hove, a board member for itSMF USA, joined the meeting to lead the discussion.

The KC LIG identified several key aspects of managing Information Technology (IT) services in higher education that differ from managing services in a traditional business environment.  Those differences included: budget, technology standards, and the ability (and willingness) to share knowledge.

IT funding in the corporate world is generally centralized with an identified budget that follows each corporation’s technology standards and guidelines. This centralization may break down as organizations become larger and global. Higher education frequently has some central funding, but each school or department may also have its own IT funding that can be spent at their discretion. This decentralization of funding makes higher education IT more aligned with traditional business organizations of much greater size, but without the commensurate funding. With this funding, a department has the freedom to acquire technology that is not supported by central IT, which frequently causes unrealistic support expectations. Decentralized funding also results in higher costs for the university due to the lack of volume pricing for hardware and software purchases.

Free information sharing is more prevalent in higher education than it is in traditional corporate environments. Universities that have already adopted Service Management best practices are very willing to share their experiences and knowledge about the successes and challenges encountered with other universities that are just beginning down that path. This knowledge sharing can be of great benefit to new higher education adoptees.
Another key difference is the great diversity of services that need to be supported within a university environment.  Because a university is a microcosm of the greater world (all walks of life, all types of systems, all avenues of endeavor), an extensive array of highly complex IT solutions and services need to be supported even though the relative size of the user base may be quite small in comparison to a large global organization.

Unfortunately, the available funding to support the operation of those services is frequently also quite small.
One final difference is the flexibility and speed of the funding stream for IT.  While both types of organizations are subject to downward pressures on IT spend, corporate IT is more quickly able to adapt and adjust funding streams, Service portfolios, and staffing arrangements than higher education IT.  This difference exacerbates the challenge of having a large number of supported services and platforms because higher education IT is more often faced with the need to pull support “out of hide” which can reduce the overall quality of the support experience for customers.

While differences between these two groups were found, it is interesting to note that many similarities were also identified. The same fundamentals of Service Management are keys to success in both worlds:  understanding customers, delivering value, and maintaining consistency in processes. Both groups also frequently deal with reduced budgets, aging equipment, inadequate staff resources, lack of communication, and somewhat unrealistic expectations for the number of services they can maintain.  In short, the core benefits of a formal, and good-practice-aligned approach to IT Service Management are attainable to both types of organization, however the path to that end will vary significantly for each.

Looking Forward
This topic generated a lively discussion that was enlightening for both academic and corporate KC LIG members and other participants. We plan to continue exploring this comparison at future LIG meetings, and encourage other LIGs to discuss this topic with their members.  Emphasis in follow-on discussions will be on developing further discovery, collaboration, and comparison of IT Service Management adoption between corporations and higher education.
We invite anyone interested in participating in this discussion to join the itSMF Higher Ed SIG and/or itSMF Kansas City LIG groups on LinkedIn. You are also welcome to join us at an upcoming KC LIG meeting, or to email  the itSMF Higher Ed SIG at



Mark Thomas Escoute Consulting, LLCPresident KC LIG President, CobiT SIG President
Wil LeBlanc G2SF Principal KC LIG Member
Kelly Robertson Project Leader, IT Governance, Blue Cross Blue Shield
of Kansas
KC LIG Member, PSM
Thelma Simons Information Technology, The University of Kansas KC LIG Member, itSMF Higher Education SIG board member
Pat Yoder Assurant Employee BenefitsService Management Specialist KC LIG Membership, WebAdmin / Communication Chair, PSM