It’s no secret that today’s businesses rely on reliable, powerful IT solutions to run every aspect of their operations. This means top-notch IT service management (ITSM) is required to keep those systems, as well as their overall productivity, afloat.
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Conversely, poor ITSM can negatively impact any kind of business in areas like revenue generation, and growth and scalability. To minimize those detriments, IT professionals and managers alike must always keep an eye out for enhancements that, when implemented, will make their ITSM processes better.
In this blog post, I’m going to present 7 easy ITSM improvements that any organization can carry out, regardless of their size, industry, or overall business objectives. Consider it an antidote to broad, unachievable New Year’s Resolutions. These are optimizations that anyone can do.
1. Set Clear, Actionable ITSM Goals
To take your ITSM processes from mediocre to great, the first step involves infusing your ITSM strategy with clear, actionable goals.
To accomplish this, your IT team needs to take stock of the current state of your service management system. In other words, what are you doing well on the ITSM front and where is there room for improvement?
The best place to start your assessment is with data you already have, especially as it relates to public definitions of your customer experience. Service Level Agreements (SLA) and Operational Level Agreements (OLA) are a part of those expectations, as well as any customer feedback on your IT services.
There are also infrastructure and other technical elements to consider before setting your ITSM goals. Is the technology used by your organization to deliver your product or service outdated? Is there a more efficient, cost-effective method or tool that can be deployed? And, most importantly, do those changes properly underpin larger businesses objectives?
Finally, there is the company culture that surrounds and ultimately influences your ITSM as a whole. Taking the internal temperature of your ITSM strategy will tell you a lot, not just about where any problem areas are, but also how far you’ll be able to push a culture of change.
The latter isn’t an easy undertaking either. A recent Forbes study showed that 94% of executives “face significant challenges creating a culture of change.” This positions your personnel the most crucial factor in any digital transformation, successful or not. It also serves as a reminder that creating change just for change’s sake, with clear goals, is unwise.
Speaking of which, let’s turn our attention back to those ITSM objectives. The best ones take the shape of SMART goals, which turn broad, unclear, and unusable wants (“I want to be healthier”) into specific, time-bound, and achievable targets (“I want to lose 20 pounds in the next six months by doing X, Y, and Z workouts three to four times a week”).
Injecting lots of detail into your SMART ITSM objectives needn’t be difficult or confusing. If your assessment of your ITSM solution’s current state was exhaustive, you’ll have all the information you need to set well-defined goals that are both ambitious yet still doable.
2. Prioritize an Agile Approach to ITSM Processes
Agile, as a framework for task delegation and completion, continues to be a big part of ITSM best practices for successful organizations. The Standish Group’s 2018 Chaos Report states that “agile projects enjoy a 60% greater chance of success than non-agile projects,” whereas waterfall projects “are three times more likely to fail than agile projects.”
Why is this? A lot of it has to do with the core philosophy outlined in the Agile Manifesto, which places a higher value on:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Those prioritizations underscore the importance of the continuous improvement (CI) approach to ITSM, one that’s made up of smaller, iterative upgrades. However, CI doesn’t guarantee agile success. In fact, KPMG research shows that 70% of companies have suffered through at least one failed agile project in the last 12 months.
Competent agile project management can help you sidestep some common framework obstacles, but it’s far from the whole story. The mindset that agile promotes–one of flexibility, accountability, efficiency, and collaboration–is the secret sauce that transforms aimless ITSM processes into cogs that facilitate bold, precise execution.
At the end of the day, balance is the true practical translation of CI and agile. While too much documentation or too many “rules” can prove stifling and hinder productivity, so can an agile approach with no rules and therefore no structure, clear objectives, and, ultimately, any ambition.
As John Yorke put it in his LinkedIn post on the subject, “[agile] forces focus and prioritization and it limits work in progress [...] it is a very flexible way of planning a project. But the flexibility is controlled and structured.” In other words, not having a plan (or thinking you’re better off being allergic to one) is not the same as being truly agile.
Fixing any agility gaps when it comes to the structure and execution of your ITSM processes is a simple way to (re)position your organization for long-term growth.
3. Get The ITSM Tools You Need
In a business climate where daily usage of the latest technology extends far beyond IT departments, it’s imperative that your service management system benefits from the right kind of ITSM tools.
From cloud computing to various Software as a Service (SaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) options and beyond, the technological possibilities are seemingly endless. However, just because a certain app, software suite, or implementation is trendy doesn’t mean it’s the right move for your business.
Consider your two audiences that will interact with your ITSM tools on a daily basis: your staff and your customers. The former needs to be supported by technology that reduces costs and boosts productivity, while the latter expect reliable IT services that deliver an outstanding user experience.
The duality of this ideal can sound overwhelming to many managers and executives. That said, it’s important to keep CI’s principles of smaller, iterative upgrades in mind when taking the plunge with new ITSM tools.
Don’t look for a one-size-fits-all ITSM solution (ones that can truly do everything well don’t exist) or, worse still, eschew change because a handful of stakeholders are just fine manually manipulating data in spreadsheets or across multiple platforms that don’t talk to each other.
In short, a tolerance for outdated technology or inefficient operations is the dagger to every ITSM process’ heart.
The right ITSM tools can also do much more than simply reduce the average ticket resolution time or shrink your service request backlog. They’re also invaluable for setting up consistent policies, as well as building a stronger customer feedback loop. If they know they’ll get a faster, more thoughtful response to their query, customers will interact more.
And, if your team can use your ITSM tools to build a centralized data hub that transforms those customer interactions into actionable data points, you’ll have the outstanding customer experience part covered too.
4. Invest In ITSM Automation Technology
Shelling out for ITSM software, related hardware, or hybrid solutions is one thing, but you must ensure that those investments can also bring a high level of ITSM automation to the table.
If your organization has yet to investigate or implement sweeping automation options, it’s never been a better time to start. Emerging forces like robotic process automation (RPA), improved AI, and the increasing popularity of DevOps will disrupt the established IT norms in the coming decade, bringing with them profound impacts on all organizational sectors
Ignoring ITSM automation opportunities will also actively hurt your business’ earning potential. Forrester says the RPA industry alone will be worth nearly $2.9 billion in 2021, a major jump from just $250 million in 2016. The reason? Incredible efficiency.
Well, more than that, actually. It’s incredible efficiency that can be attained in a short period of time. This leads to huge ROIs for organizations that take a chance on the tech.
But at what cost? There continues to be a widespread fear among both IT and non-IT professionals that automation equals job elimination and, worse still, formerly valued employees being rendered obsolete. It’s a parable that can border on fear mongering.
Luckily, there’s another side to that story.
As Tim Jobling, CTO of Imagen, put it in this CIO blog post (emphasis mine):
“We’re not buying into the vision that machines are going to take all human jobs just yet, but we are seeing a bit of a revolution similar to when computers first became mainstream. Today we’re seeing a wave of problems being tackled by AI and ML [machine learning] approaches and this mainly takes away some of the boring workload or enables new processing at a scale not possible when the work needs to be done by people. For example, AI enables our customers to create searchable metadata from audio that can then be used and scaled at a large volume. Without AI, this process would be done manually, or not at all.”
Jobling’s quote cut right to the biggest, most important reason to invest in ITSM automation: It opens up a world of possibilities that your organization wouldn’t benefit from otherwise. It’s unharvested productivity and revenue that you can’t tap into with humans alone.
5. Assemble (and Keep) The Right ITSM Team
Despite that segue, the human element of your ITSM system is vital to your organization’s success. With that in mind, let’s end off on perhaps the most undervalued part of bettering your ITSM processes: assembling and keeping a strong IT service team.
Every organization on the face of the planet wants to hire the same archetype: young talent that can grow with the company moving forward. However, the single-minded nature of that goal makes great talent scarce. To attract those individuals, your business culture needs to be top-notch, devoid of common characteristics that make many workplaces unsavory.
“I think it’s easy for people at many companies to become cynical, which then leads to politics, which can create a cancer that can topple even the greatest companies,” said Kathy Savitt, Managing Director at the consulting firm Perch Partners. Clearly, a totally hands-off team building, a process that involves lots of finger-crossing, is, at the very least, inefficient.
Instead, establishing shared guidelines can mean the difference between an ITSM team that can function well as a (nearly) autonomous unit or not. Whether those parameters are disseminated from the top down or grown from the ground up, buy-in has to be universal–and stay that way.
Assembling a high-performing team also takes time. Open communication, consistent collaboration, and being (gasp!) accepting of failure are just a few of the pillars that help the best work squads mesh. Being open to adding new skills to each team member’s tool belt will also plug various expertise holes as they become closer knit as a unit.
Next is the harder part: keeping your talent. The vast majority of the millennial workforce doesn’t expect to stay at their current employer for more than three years. As a result, the average workplace feels more transactional and, in some cases, evolves into a turnover machine that’s very difficult to slow down.
To counteract this trend, organizations need to take time out and have honest discussions with their staff about how they’re functioning in their roles day-to-day and what their long-term career goals are. You can then form a two-to-three-year plan that includes their wants and management performance expectations.
As this Forbes blog post notes, if you can’t see where various team members will be within your organization in the next three years or more, they’ll likely be working elsewhere. Keeping your talent is more than just a bigger salary. It’s about helping them get what they want out of both their present and their future.
Enhancing your ITSM processes doesn’t have to be a headache for your business. With a bounty of online resources and new, ever-improving technology assets at your fingertips, there’s no reason you can’t set your organization up for success.
From setting clear, actionable ITSM goals to prioritizing an agile approach to projects to investing in both ITSM tools and automation, the coming decade will bring about big changes to the IT industry. Are you ready to take your IT services and, in so doing, your customer experience to the next level?
If you’re looking for the platform and product suite that can be your rock amid big ITSM changes or even bigger digital transformation, I’m happy to suggest Insight for Jira. With a powerful feature set that can tackle everything from database building to data modeling to reporting and beyond, it’s already changed the lives of organizations in more than 90 countries.
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Originally published Dec 30, 2019 3:00:00 AM