Six Key Takeaways from the HDI – itSMF USA Service Management Report

IT service management (ITSM) principles are being embraced in shared service functions (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) in an increasing number of organizations. Whether applied within the enterprise or by service providers, ITSM tools and practices are helping to improve processes and reduce service costs. The results are better alignment between IT and business functions, faster service fulfillment, and happier end users.

ITSM isn't just for IT anymoreThese are among the findings in Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore, a new research report produced jointly by HDI and itSMF USA. This outstanding report contains a wealth of data and insight for organizations in the midst of or still considering the application of ITSM principles and technologies beyond the IT realm.

Here are half a dozen key findings from the report, along with our observations and commentary.

The iPhone started it.

“As the mobility revolution and the cloud have changed the landscape, disrupting the established flow of provisioning support services and technology, there has been a significant shift in the way support organizations are viewed…If we were to pick a date for when this shift began, it would be June 29, 2007: the date the iPhone was introduced. The desirability and the capabilities of this device were prime motivators for ‘the consumerization of IT.’… end users began asserting their desire to become more productive and agile by adopting technologies that were readily available, rather than waiting for IT departments to come up with less-than-satisfactory solutions after years of work and expense. The customer moved into the driver’s seat.”

The report makes an interesting case for 2007 as the beginning of the ITSM shift, though interest in BYOD didn’t really start to take off until late 2011 and the “consumerization of IT” was recognized as a once-in-a-generation epic change in the IT world. Clearly though, the confluence of cloud computing, smartphones, social media, and nearly frictionless ecommerce in the consumer world have fundamentally changed the expectations of employees for IT in the workplace.

Support is being forced to “shift left.”

“Given the budget, resource, and staffing pressures organizations are facing today, IT service providers, whether internal IT departments or external companies, have had to figure out how to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less.”

If not always “a whole lot less,” IT groups are at the least being asked to do a whole lot more with about the same. Simultaneously, the most tech-savvy generation in history is beginning to enter the workforce. The confluence of these trends has compelled IT to shift support to the left—even to level 0 (self-service) —through four strategies:

Self-service: at the front-end of the service request or incident reporting process, IT (and increasingly, other shared services groups across the enterprise) is providing users with an intuitive portal for submitting requests and checking on the status of pending requests. Dynamic questioning (asking for different information based on the answers to previous questions) assures the query reaches the right group. Eliminating phone calls, emails, and misrouted requests accelerates service delivery while reducing the workload for IT staff.

Automation: on the back-end of those request submissions, tasks and workflows (approvals, scheduling, fulfillment, charge-backs, etc.) are being automated using orchestration tools. Again, this increases the speed and accuracy of service delivery while reducing costs and manual efforts.

Simplicity: request portals, apps, and other systems of engagement are being designed using principles from sites like Facebook and Amazon.com: make them so easy to use that there is no need for user training or how-to type support. This reduces help desk call volume, delights users, and improves productivity.

User empowerment: rather than document requirements for non-IT service process automation and then go off and build it, IT groups are increasing giving business process owners easy-to-use graphical tools to design, test, optimize, and deploy their own automated task workflows. More service items are created, with more precision, in a shorter amount of time, while IT retains control over the underlying technology to assure data remains secure, corporate standards are adhered to, and the resulting automation can be supported.

IT comes out of the shadow.

“51 percent of organizations are applying or are planning to apply service management principles in areas outside of IT, which indicates that there is interest from non-IT business units. This interest presents IT with an opportunity to lead, demonstrate tangible value, and actually fulfill the role of the trusted adviser. One respondent articulated the impact around this business need:

“’I believe customer experience has improved now that the business is operating under the same processes/tools as IT. The collaboration between the business and IT has greatly improved, and we work better toward a customer-friendly solution.’”

The report also notes that while IT is “responsible for generating demand in just over half (53%) of the organizations that have implemented service management outside of IT,” leaders from other business units and non-IT areas have championed the change in nearly half of enterprises.

When business leaders and users truly attempt to use a “shadow IT” approach—circumventing IT to build their own applications and invest in their own tools—the results are suboptimal. This can lead to security and governance issues, redundant spending, and unsupported software.

The fact that so many organizations are embracing ITSM outside of IT,  and that in nearly half the cases the impetus comes from non-IT business groups, indicates that business users recognize the pitfalls of shadow IT and are seeking more productive paths. Tools and approaches like enterprise request management (ERM), systems of engagement, and graphical workflow automation software are enhancing the ability of IT to better align with business needs without massive new investments in technology or people.

Leveraging existing systems is vital.

“Few areas in the modern organization are left untouched by IT, and, as a result, support organizations should anticipate seeing increased requests for new applications or changes to existing ones. Ultimately, this means that IT needs to learn to ‘work smarter, not harder.'”

IT groups are determining, in many instances, that evolution beats revolution. Yes, requests for new capabilities are increasing as the report notes, but implementing new systems to meet every need is impractical, expensive and wasteful. In many cases, the capabilities and data required to meet these needs already exists in the legacy management and control platforms companies have already invested in. What’s needed is to create simple, web-and-mobile-friendly systems of engagement to give employees what they need—and nothing more complicated.

Suites aren’t always sweet.

Just because an ITSM vendor offers an excellent tool box doesn’t mean that every tool inside is optimal. Fortunately, modern software architectures enable organizations to take a best-of-breed approach, not just across departmental management platforms but even within the ITSM realm. Enterprises are free to choose the best ticketing system, remote access software, service catalog portal, workflow automation tool, and other components that best meet their needs.

If a company finds that certain applications within its ITSM suite don’t extend beyond IT, or don’t do it well, it may determine that swapping out specific pieces of the system is less disruptive and more cost-effective than a wholesale replacement.

Today’s business process automation (BPA) tools are just right.

Traditionally, BPA tools have been either too big or too small for automating many common service fulfillment tasks. At one end of the spectrum were powerful but complex tools designed to automate large operational processes in manufacturing, accounting, and supply chains. At the other were simple scripting tools.

But as this report points out, “Today’s ITSM tools are more robust, providing a variety of highly cus­tomizable scripting/automation capabilities. In a very real sense, they’re almost at the level of business process modeling (BPM) or enterprise workflow tools.”

The best of these tools are powerful enough to automate complex cross-functional processes like new employee onboarding, but provide intuitive graphical workflow mapping capabilities simple enough for non-technical business function managers to use with minimal IT assistance.

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