To increase your business’ value and productivity through its information technology use, IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices must be used. They will help ensure that your IT services remain efficient, reliable, and scalable.
Jump to the main takeaways:
Put Users Before Your Processes
Go Beyond ITIL Compliance
Set Up Clear Data Modeling
Minimize Your Service Request Backlog
Learn From, But Don't Copy, DevOps
Don't Wait for the Perfect Implementation Moment
Find Your ITSM Blueprint
The value of strong ITSM processes in the business world has never been higher. With the value created by AI set to hit $3.9T by 2022, an organization's capacity to seamlessly integrate new ITSM tools into their operations will determine its overall productivity, as well as its ability to generate revenue.
Unfortunately, many companies still aren’t embracing this fact with open arms. A 2017 survey indicates that 82% of IT professionals believe working in the industry will only get harder in the coming years. On top of that, 75% think that their contributions to their organizations are not being recognized by their superiors.
Those statistics highlight the stark differences between old-school Enterprise IT models and newer, more innovative ways of thinking about ITSM practices. Mix in traditional, status-quo-obsessed management who actively devalue their IT services, and you have a recipe for disaster.
As you'll see in this blog post, the major pillars of modern ITSM success include:
- Digital product innovation
- Agile development practices
- Clear communication between different departments
- A resistance to siloed project execution and feedback
To successfully implement a strong, scalable TSM strategy, those components must work together to foster an environment that welcomes change and revels in the face of innovation instead of shrinking away from it.
Let's take a deep dive into ITSM and outline what your business needs to do in order to successfully invest in and manage IT services.
Optimize Your ITSM Approach By Focusing on Your Users Instead of Your Processes
Though the concept seems relatively straightforward, putting end users before internal ITSM processes is a concept that too many organizations still struggle with.
The most successful ITSM systems are those that are customer-centric from the very first stages of strategic planning. Organizations who put the IT-related needs of their customers first increase their capacity for digital innovation while simultaneously minimizing their exposure to business risk.
A truly customer-centric ITSM strategy also means putting aside any allergies to change and making an effort to evolve alongside the needs and preferences of consumers. If your organization fails to bring them the convenience or ease of access to IT tools that are now considered the minimum standard, trust me–another company will.
Investing time and resources into technological adoption and innovation comes with a certain amount of risk, no doubt. However, a refusal to evolve technologically leads to IT asset stagnation, which is arguably the biggest reason why Enterprise IT models usually fall short of their goal.
Also, don’t presume to know better than your customers in terms of what they really want or need. As SysAid remarked on their blog, dismissiveness can leave your staff blind to the real issues at hand:
“Don’t assume that your customers don’t know what they’re talking about because they don’t work in IT [...] Just because a process is working well from within the IT department doesn’t mean that it’s working as well for your end users. If they don’t like it, you’ll need to look at making it work for everyone. After all, that’s why you’re there remember – to serve and satisfy your customers.”
Ways to listen and respond to your customers include:
- Collecting feedback through short online surveys
- Asking them to rate the level of IT service once a ticket has been closed
- Arranging 1-on-1 sessions where partners or customers can share their thoughts about new features or improvements they’d like to see
- Responding to negative feedback in a transparent, personalized manner
By taking steps to make your ITSM strategy about your end users instead of your internal process, you’ll be setting your business up for long-term growth and success.
Broaden Your ITSM Approach By Going Beyond ITIL Framework Compliance
If you’re looking at ITSM through the lens of a strict ITIL framework, there’s a good chance there will be an emphasis on technical optimization and workflow efficiency.
This isn’t wrong either. In order to reduce ticket resolution time and boost overall performance, your IT services must be compliant with widely-used ITIL benchmarks. However, the human element is often left out of ITIL’s scope, as this article suggests:
“It’s no surprise that IT organizations often emphasize efficiency over customer-centric qualities like responsiveness, empathy and accessibility. In as much as customers always expect to be treated well, IT professionals often have their hands tied behind their backs when it comes to providing a good customer experience [...] IT professionals may not be equipped to manage customer satisfaction in a holistic manner.”
One way to bridge that gap is to understand the functions of ITIL and ITSM, as well as how they work together. Throughout ITIL’s history, its strength has been in providing the documentation that outlines concepts vital to improved decision-making. ITSM is the set of practices that gives you the tools you need to deploy those concepts in the real world.
The major ITSM processes that are informed by ITIL’s documentation include:
- IT Service Support, which encompasses Change Management, Configuration Management, Incident Management, Release Management, Problem Management, and your Service Desk
- IT Service Delivery, which encompasses Availability Management, Capacity Management, IT Service Continuity, Service Level Management, and Financial Management
- ITSM Implementation, which encompasses Assessment, Design, Planning, Execution, and Support
Those processes all link together in service of common objectives shared across all departments that help manage your IT infrastructure. They also relate back to the customer-centric approach to ITSM I outlined, since attaining efficiency and consistency goals needs to be mutually satisfying for end users as well as your staff members.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to adopt an ITIL framework. Your organization’s unique strengths, needs, and performance targets will influence how this is accomplished. That said, a slavishness to ITIL alone will prevent you from incorporating the human element necessary for growing your technical capabilities and, in turn, your earning power.
Set Yourself Up for ITSM Success With Clear CMDB Data Modeling
When it comes to shaping ITSM processes that benefit both customers and internal team members, the conversation starts and ends with organized, flexible data modeling practices. This usually involves creating or refining a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) that gives you a clear handle on all your IT assets and the dependencies between them.
This is easier said than done though, with 85% of companies failing to create a usable, intelligible CMDB. Whether it’s because of a lack of forethought, complacency in its execution, or an overly manual approach to organizing your information, data modeling issues are the most common (and most preventable) forces that hinder ITSM strategies.
As Edward Carbutt notes, having a clear, functional CMDB at the heart of your ITSM practices has never been more valuable:
“Without a CMDB, organizations will not have a clear picture of their information assets and infrastructure, and will therefore be unable to adequately manage and maintain it to prove IT governance. Without IT governance, risk management becomes increasingly difficult, and service improvement cannot be measured. Without a CMDB, in other words, organizations cannot get a clear picture of their business and the relationships between various areas.”
Despite this, he says that many businesses are still reluctant to take the plunge with a CMDB, which makes it much harder for those organizations to improve their return on investment and really gain control of its IT assets.
Your CMDB data modeling should also sync up with your organization’s business goals and IT’s role in achieving them. Carbutt again:
“Ultimately, in a business world where knowledge is power, the more you know about your organization the better. The CMDB offers a centralized repository for information on business assets, IT infrastructure and more, highlighting the relationships between these aspects and ensuring that they can me managed to deliver the greatest benefit to the organization as a whole.”
How well your CMDB and, to a larger degree, your ITSM strategy meshes with those business objectives will determine how great your service quality can really be..
Rethink How You Resolve Service Desk Issues To Shrink Resolution Time
IT service ticket systems–they’re an integral part of any organization’s ITSM practices despite being maligned, in some circles anyways, as a waste of time. While I wouldn’t go that far, a recent study put forth some interesting numbers as they relate to service desk efficiency.
According to Zendesk, 69% of all tickets are resolved in a one-touch fashion, yet the average response time for all tickets more than 24 hours. This suggests that teams don’t have the bandwidth to respond to tickets in less than a day. Clearly, service ticket clutter is still an issue for many companies.
Here’s Jon Hall with more:
“Even high-quality customer service departments lack the technical sophistication to deal with incoming technical issues and transfer them to the right team in the correct way. IT service departments struggle to get visibility, particularly once tickets are thrown ‘over the wall’ to developers’ SDLC tools. And developers lack context on the customer, which makes prioritization difficult.”
One way out of this vicious cycle is through the consumerization of IT, with more and more companies are investing in mobile technology, typically for employee training to bridge knowledge or skill gaps. With those newfound capabilities, they’re better equipped to provide accurate support to customers.
Then there’s the automation angle, where custom fields and other software features can be deployed as a way for service tickets to instantly populate and update issue-related information. This way, service agents spend less time practicing reactive fire-fighting and more time responding to clients with purpose, confidence, and clarity.
Finally, there’s treating your IT support team as a collection of specialized units instead of one, “catch-all” group of agents. As a result, different teams receive much more targeted work and, eventually, be able to master one particular subdomain of your IT services, instead of worrying about all of them and mastering none.
Atlassian observed that the biggest obstacle they had in growing their service offerings wasn’t the volume of service tickets they received–it was the variety. By rethinking how you respond to service tickets and investing in either specialization or knowledge transfers, you’ll be able to streamline your issue resolution process in a big way.
For more on how operating with a single source of truth can be a game-changer for your company’s ITSM and development practices, check out our blog!
Learn from DevOps, Instead of Just Copying Their Processes
I’ve talked a lot about the technical side of ITSM, from apps to UX to other internal best practices, but we still haven’t touched on what is arguably the most overlooked part of a successful ITSM strategy: the people.
This is where DevOps comes in.
Conceptually, Amazon’s AWS platform describes DevOps as “the combination of cultural philosophies, practices, and tools that increases an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services at high velocity.”
While that’s relatively vague, their definition goes on to pinpoint the driving force behind the DevOps movement:
“Under a DevOps model, development and operations teams are no longer ‘siloed.’ [...] These teams use practices to automate processes that historically have been manual and slow. They use a technology stack and tooling which help them operate and evolve applications quickly and reliably.”
Despite the profound impact that DevOps optimization has had on the larger tech community, it feels like ITSM often falls just short of implementing similarly lasting change. Part of the reason may be that the ITSM framework hasn’t evolved in its own right.
Jon Hall explains:
“The ITSM community has itself embraced many of the learnings of the DevOps movement, often with enthusiasm. There has been wide acceptance of the need to be more agile (perhaps itself a new social construction!), to iterate and automate and break silos. Much of this will be beneficial. But in only going this far, ITSM is not developing its own new knowledge: it is merely applying the findings built on the acquired new capabilities of others.”
Discussions that encompass ITSM, ITIL and DevOps usually deteriorate into tribalistic “for us or against us” diatribes. However, similar to my earlier point, it’s not about favoring any of those concepts over another–it’s about how well all three can co-exist together.
Here’s Atlassian with more:
“Do we really need to pick a side? To the contrary, we need both. We’re talking about complementary, not competitive boxes. We need to be able to work smarter and quicker, but we also still need process and control. Modern, high performing teams and organizations are starting to realize this and use elements of both [...]”
If that can happen, your business will be far better positioned to achieve your short and long-term goals.
Don’t Wait for the Perfect Implementation Time
So far, I’ve outlined a slew of ITSM best practices and connected them directly to how well (or not) a company performs in their marketplace. At this point, the question becomes a simple one:
Why are so many organizations still sitting on the sidelines?
Perhaps it’s the safe, comforting feeling of waiting for the perfect opportunity to start thinking about or implementing a winning ITSM strategy. “One day, the stars will align, everything will line up, and our business will be okay.” Something like that, let’s say.
Well, I’m about to be the bearer of bad news, so hold on tight. There is, and I cannot stress this enough, no perfect implementation time for the next chapter of your ITSM practices.
Just like asking your crush out for the first time, moving in with a romantic interest, or proposing to your soulmate, there’s no magic bullet solution to any jitters or discomfort you may feel. Life is uncomfortable and unpredictable, just like the process of starting, maintaining, growing and scaling a business. If not now, when?
Whether it’s wholesale change to your IT management practices or investing the required resources in the project, there are plenty of ITSM aspects that can strike fear into the hearts of managers and IT professionals. However, the illusion that your business can keep up or even thrive without taking technological innovation seriously is one built on quicksand.
So, don’t wait. Don’t sit by the phone, waiting for the “right time” to kickstart your organization’s IT growth strategy. That moment won’t be coming around the bend to salvage anything related to how you manage your digital assets.
Instead, be proactive and be the change you want to see in the world. Your organization’s bottom line will definitely thank you later.
If your organization is looking for the secrets to ITSM success, following this best practices blueprint is a great place to start.
From organized data modeling to decluttered service ticket systems and more, using strategic thinking and bold, precise execution will help your business become a giant in your industry. Above all else, putting your end users and all related technological evolution ahead of their existing internal processes will set the tone needed to get the job done.
The old saying is true: Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, by implementing these guidelines, your organization will have the tools it needs to evolve with changing technology and become a leader in the global digital marketplace.
ITSM tools are everywhere online, but none are quite as feature-rich and customizable as Insight. For more information on how it can take your management practices to the next level, click below now!
Originally published Oct 10, 2019 3:30:00 PM