As chief architect of ITIL, the most widely-practised IT service management framework, Sharon Taylor shepherded it through the most recent major release, version 3 and further additions made to the framework this year.
However, she is also conscious of the under-appreciated wider relevance of service-management disciplines and has recently written two books -- and has more in the pipeline -- aimed at dispelling the impression that service management frameworks are relevant only to ICT.
The first book, Service Intelligence, published in August, is aimed at line managers and senior executives, an audience, she says, that has not previously been approached specifically with books on service management. "It's written in terms of 'how important is this to your business; how service management done well or badly by your service provider can have an impact on your bottom line.'"
This is the first book on service management actually written for a business audience, not for IT, she claims. "Part of its usefulness is for service providers in the IT field who want to educate their customers about getting the right kind of service. It gives advice on how to do that; the art of negotiating to get good service from the service provider.
"But it's more to educate business about why service management is so important to their success, from a business profit standpoint. Many businesses see service management as an IT thing; they don't think of it as having an impact for them, unless there's something clearly wrong with IT.
"The second book, Driving Service Excellence, is for an executive audience to understand why service management is important to them. It's a small vignette that the industry's been asking for for some time, so operational managers can take it to their CIOs and CEOs and say, "this is why you need to pay attention to service management and this is why we should be doing it."
"As I see it, service management has evolved with its grassroots in the operational mindset, and in the operation theory of organisations," she says. "I don't think we've always been as good within IT at communicating in business language the benefits of why we're doing what we're doing, and why service management should matter to [business executives].
"We've not had the capability or the knowledge, really, to articulate in terms of business profitability, return on investment, mitigating risk and increasing profit. We've not been able to measure service-management benefits that way, until recently."
One of the factors bringing about a recent change, Taylor says, was dubious business practice in the early 2000s, typified by the Enron collapse, and the subsequent putting in place of the Sarbanes-Oxley act and attendant compliance procedures.
"When Sarabanes-Oxley came into play, it started people thinking about how powerful technology could be as either an enabler or disabler; because that whole thing was around the management of financial information. That's when the conversation started to happen about how intrinsic IT is to every business decision that's made. Service management had a lot to do with how successful, secure and auditable that was and how open it was for scrutiny. And when that happened, people began to sit up and take notice that we have to pay more attention to this thing called IT service management.
"Because we have the power to crumble businesses or make them successful, depending on how reliable and measurable [services] are and how much we understand how what we're doing affects the business in a positive or negative way."
The exposure of IT processes to companies' customers and the general public through handheld technology and a growing number of customer-facing websites is also a factor, she says. The costs of service are sometimes hidden, she says and the trend towards bringing your own technology to the office is an example.
"On the surface, if all my staff bring their own iPhones, look at the money I'm saving. Yet when you add up the cost of supporting those devices, with their non-standard applications and how you introduce corporate applications to those devices and maintain security on them, the costs are hidden and they go way up. When you understand service management in relation to your business, you factor those things in."