Establishing a strong IT Service Management (ITSM) system means outlining, implementing, and optimizing a powerful execution strategy. Using that plan to underpin your business goals with key ITSM concepts can mean the difference between efficient IT services or mediocre ones.
Jump to the main takeaways:
Having a strong ITSM knowledge foundation incredibly important to the growth and success of IT services that put consumers first. Regardless of what ITSM tools or platform your organization prefers, that conceptual backbone is the basis for any workable ITSM strategy.
Even as definition of both ITSM and ITIL, the framework it's most commonly associated with, continues to shift, the pressure to consistently deliver excellent IT services isn't about to ebb anytime soon. Here's more from a recent Forbes article on the subject:
"Consumers of IT services who are also consumers of the latest innovation in business-to-consumer (B2C) products expect a similar quality of 24/7 service from IT. These expectations place greater strain on IT service teams, which typically are asked to do more and more with the same or fewer resources -- all while dealing with increasing complexity. And the mandate to reduce downtime adds insult to injury. There is a desire to address enterprise needs beyond IT with a new kind of service management solution."
Failure to meet those consumer expectations, especially if that stems from preventable ITSM mistakes, will not only hurt the technical side of your operations and your marketplace reputation with consumers, but also put you behind the curve when it comes to future product or service innovation.
Understanding ITSM best practices is just the tip of the iceberg. It's building the best strategy for your organization around those concepts that will ensure bold, iterative execution of those deliverables over the long haul.
Today, I'm going to show you how to create that blueprint, step-by-step. Let's get started!
Get Stakeholder Buy-In With an Inspiring ITSM Vision Statement
Just like any other major business strategy, the viability of your ITSM game plan depends on your ability to get all your major stakeholders to buy into a common vision, set of goals, and execution workflows.
Your ITSM strategy will only reach its full potential when staff members associated with its execution are pulling in the same direction and (hopefully) with an equal understanding of the benefits of the overall vision.
To be clear, an understanding and general agreement on your ITSM vision and its value to your business doesn't mean that everyone has to love every aspect of it. The truth is that, the more inspiring and motivating your strategy is, the higher employee engagement will become.
Here's Joseph Folkman with more (emphasis mine):
"[...] Engaged employees are more likely to agree on the vision. We are not sure which comes first—the engagement or the agreement--but both sides create movement, we have found. Clearly, creating a vision that employees accept and value creates engagement, and engaged employees are more likely to resonate with the vision rather than fight against it."
Folkman goes on to say that getting to this point requires your organizational leaders to communicate your strategic vision in a way that they become more than just words:
"Read any vision statement and ask yourself, 'Is that inspiring to the employees?' It is not hard to tell [...] Effective vision statements tell a story of the benefit the organization creates, the impact the products and services have on others, and the kind of organization that is required to create that value."
Once you're able to do this with your ITSM strategy, you must maintain a high level of team-wide engagement by keeping everyone informed about major process-related changes. This includes clear, actionable descriptions or instructions for:
- Your IT service operations (this includes roles, ecosystem structure, workflows, etc.)
- Management functions and how they’ll drive value
- Cross-department business enablement that aligns with IT-related objectives
Getting buy-in from all stakeholders also establishes a uniform sense of IT governance. If that sense of collaboration and inclusion is missing, team members can resort to doing things their own way, which will erode productivity and result in simple resolutions being delayed or mishandled for preventable reasons.
In short, strong two-way communication about your ITSM strategy will go a long way to universal buy-in from everyone involved in the process. Once all team members are on the same page, refining or tweaking your roadmap over time is made that much easier.
Create a Solid ITSM Foundation with a CMDB
One of the most important parts of a great ITSM strategy is creating a solid informational foundation through data modeling techniques. This typically involves building a Configuration Management Database (CMDB).
I've talked about the importance of organized data modeling practices on our blog before, but it's worth reiterating why it's so important to get a clear, actionable view of all your IT services, IT assets, and their intertwined dependencies. To do so, let's turn to Edward Carbutt's blog on the benefits of a strong CMDB:
"The CMDB is that all–important single version of the truth that not only shows what assets an organization has, but also defines relationships and interdependencies between assets. It is a map that adds direction to ITIL and service management improvement projects, and forms the foundation for IT management."
So, how do you build a CMDB that will stand the test of time? The honest answer is likely through trial-and-error.
With a seemingly endless amount of customization possibilities available in Jira (especially when you use the Insight app to create a CMDB), it’s not uncommon to fall short of optimal efficiency the first time you try and map one out. In fact, there’s a good chance that you won’t build the final version of your CMDB on the first go-round.
It’s the commitment to iterative improvement and working towards a fully-optimized version of it that will unlock the full power of your ITSM strategy through agile techniques.
In fact, many highlights from the Agile Manifesto apply to CMDB data modeling best practices, as outlined by AXELOS:
- Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
- Working Software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to Change over following a plan.
In other words, your CMDB should prioritize the interactions between those who will use the database, base-level functionality (even if it's deemed "incomplete"), informational transparency that's upheld in the spirit of collaboration, and proactively updating IT service details to reflect service changes or upgrades.
With that said, a bulletproof CMDB also means your organizational standards for asset discovery and data accuracy need to be established at the beginning of the strategic planning process. Automation triggers can help you meet those standards over time and ensure that everyone who interacts with the CMDB has up-to-date service information.
If you’re working with multiple teams and/or in a decentralized Jira environment, there needs to be a clear understanding of how everyone should merge, reconcile and import different batches of information into the CMDB. This goes back to the importance of having all major stakeholders on the same page about the maintenance concepts and more.
Optimize Your ITSM Strategy By Adapting ITIL Standards to Your Needs
Your ITSM strategy should be flexible in its adherence to agile practices, but there should still be some structure to the proceedings. That's where ITIL comes in.
The definition of ITIL has undergone its fair share of changes over the years. However, as a guiding force that can help shape how you execute tasks within your ITSM platform, its indispensability remains the same.
Whether your organization has implemented a help desk, service desk, or even a full-blown set of business-centric IT service practices that are intrinsically linked to your business' goals, formalized frameworks like ITIL will bring added depth and structure to your ITSM approach.
Though ITIL and ITSM are often seen as interchangeable, the latter is very different from the former. In fact, there's a strong case to be made that an ITSM strategy with any influence from ITIL established framework is a vehicle in serious need of a boost in horsepower.
This is especially true when you connect ITSM with the latest version of ITIL. In the official documentation, there's a distinct step away from high-level, process-related talk and a deeper focus on ITSM as a practical was to ensure that your IT resources are fulfilling their potential to co-create value with consumers through continued usage.
Regardless of whether you’re creating a new CMDB from scratch or refining an existing structural template, your organization should take ITIL's teachings and adapt it to your unique needs and goals. Again, focus on establishing a solid base instead of getting it perfect right away or in a short period of time.
If you’re just starting out with a new CMDB, you can refer to ITIL problem management, ITIL incident management, and ITIL change management - the trio of ITIL-influenced practices under the ITSM umbrella - to inform your initial setup.
Even you’ve already got a CMDB in place, it’s still a good idea to revisit these standards and make sure you're abiding by their combined strengths. Continuous improvement is the name of the game when it comes to the agile ITSM, so tweak your CMDB and overall approach to compliance to best suit your team’s long-term outlook.
For more information on what your business can learn from how ITIL intersects with ITSM practices like change management, check out our blog!
Build an Extensive Service Catalog to Reduce Friction with End Users
Another key part of a robust approach to ITSM is having an exhaustive service catalog. Without one, it can be difficult to reduce your IT costs and enhance service delivery.
An often overlooked component of successful ITSM processes is their use of an ITIL-compliant service catalog.
Not only will a service catalog be a main optimization driver for your IT services but it will also empower you to form better connections with your end users through enhanced reporting and service request visibility, performance analytics and impact analysis.
As this blog post explains, using your service catalog to get a clear, actionable picture of your IT services and assets streamlines the management process in a big way:
"The service catalog is one of the most useful technology products in [ITSM]. Done well, it acts as a single, consistent source of information for all of the IT and business services that are available to the organization [...] along with the pipeline of future services and the details of retired services that are no longer in use."
The post also makes an important connection between a solid, organized service catalog and how easy your IT services are to use from a consumer perspective:
"One of the golden rules of ITSM is 'Always make it easy for people to use your services.' So, use your IT service catalog to signpost end users to self-help avenues and your IT service desk portal to log incidents and requests [...] Plus, the inclusion of additional service information such as availability, costs, and support commitments – and potentially the comparison between similar services – makes it easier for customers to not only know what’s available but also what’s best suited to their needs (and potentially budgets)."
It's clear that all road to reducing the obstacles that stand between where your operations sit currently–and all the costs and inefficiencies associated with that status–lead to the creation of a viable service catalog. With it, growing and scaling those services in the future is far more viable.
Building a service catalog adds to the transparent definition of the value that your IT services bring to the table on a daily basis. As a result, you’ll take the steps needed to demystify common external questions or concerns that may get raised on a regular basis and, in some cases, add to production slowdowns.
Finally, your service catalog should not only define your IT services but link them to your business processes as well. Connecting other departments to your IT team’s current slate of projects and ticket backlog will strengthen overall communication within your organization while minimizing workflow inefficiencies.
Grow Your ITSM Efficiency By Gathering Data-Driven Insights
Building the most comprehensive ITSM strategy for your organization takes time. Once you create your initial roadmap, it’s important to monitor your results and be methodical when making changes.
This process, which involves all of the steps I've gone over already, starts and ends with the data you collect. That intel, from how more (or less) efficient your service ticket response time becomes to how your ITSM is impacting overall customer satisfaction, will serve as your window into what’s working well and what isn’t.
Questions about changes to your overall ITSM strategy must always take the user experience into consideration too. If your IT services aren't as accessible, powerful or, at the end of the day, useful to consumers, interest will wane and your approach to service management will be obsolete before it has any chance to gain any real traction.
That said, the internal aspect of ITSM still means a great deal to your business' overall success. Those in decision-making roles need to keep both the benefits and potential roadblocks that stem from major tweaks to the system in mind, and respect how any changes will affect other team members.
As McKinsey notes, that notion brings us back to the idea of a clear vision for your ITSM strategy–one that inspires and gets everyone to buy in:
"[A] clear vision of the desired business impact must shape the integrated approach to data sourcing, model building, and organizational transformation. That helps you avoid the common trap of starting by asking what the data can do for you. Leaders should invest sufficient time and energy in aligning managers across the organization in support of the mission."
With everyone concentrating their efforts on the same common goals, the concept of building the perfect ITSM system for your company will feel like a doable project instead of an impossible mission.
It's true that certain conceptual lessons can be learned through trial and error during the execution phase, but it's in striving for continuous improvement that will allow you to maximize the value that your IT services and resources bring to your organization.
In the face of evolving ITSM technologies, having a flexible execution strategy is what separates the great IT services from the also-rans.
Getting your ITSM strategy right, even if it takes multiple trips to the plate, is an extremely valuable part of your company’s overall appeal moving forward. Reducing time spent bogged down with a huge service ticket backlog and internal miscommunication will only increase the quality of your organization’s services and, in turn, boost customer satisfaction.
Taking on a big project like building an ITSM strategy means you need capable apps to support your needs. Find out how Insight gives companies around the world the tools they need to succeed in areas like service management, asset management and more by clicking below.
Originally published Sep 11, 2019 12:00:00 PM