Usually, it’s easy to detect when things just don’t fit anymore. Buttons refuse to fasten, belts need another notch, shoes leave irritating blisters. The signs are obvious and uncomfortable. When it comes to IT service management (ITSM), the signs may not be so apparent—yet the symptoms are still painful.
With ITSM, the growing pains can be slow and obscure, creeping up on you without warning. Many organizations waste time and resources before recognizing the issue and taking action. Even worse, some companies invest effort in solving the wrong problems, failing to ever realize the detrimental effects of a misaligned service management strategy.
So, how do you know if you’ve outgrown your ITSM system or perhaps your whole approach to service management? That’s what we’ll address in this blog series. We’ll review:
- What’s driving the requirements for a modern ITSM solution
- The challenges associated with ensuring solutions are relevant
- Early warning signs that indicate ongoing or imminent challenges
- Strategies to manage the panic that may accompany the discovery of major shortcomings
- Ways to make the case for change
You can look forward to a healthy dose of optimism, too. We’ll explore how customer service experts from various industries have transformed their organizations’ fortunes and how the ethics of the service they’ve cultivated can shape a successful ITSM approach.
The forces at play in 2012
The instant gratification generation: Most of us have grown accustomed to receiving service on our terms. We want service, and we want it now. Transactions are accomplished entirely online and are increasingly automated. Accordingly, we expect the same level of service when we’re at work: easy, rapid and highly interactive experiences. The reality is that most organizations lag well behind when it comes to taking care of their internal customers. Recognizing these gaps, IT leadership teams are moving self-service initiatives up their priority lists.
Social media: Facebook® has more than 900 million active users. Over 500 million people use Twitter® and more than 100 million are on LinkedIn®. Social networks are creating a complicated backdrop for IT. Employees are online, troubleshooting technology challenges with friends, like-minded peers, industry “experts” and virtual bystanders. Frequently, they’re resolving their problems in a fraction of the time it takes for the help desk to even respond to a ticket.
Blissfully unaware of these back-door practices, many organizations fail to recognize their impact:
- IT support staff are marginalized, losing visibility and control of critical issues.
- Users may receive poor or misaligned support, ultimately affecting their productivity.
By integrating social media tools into ITSM processes and applications, IT can become a partner in their customers’ successful outcomes.
The empowered customer: Just as social networking is forging new outlets for people to connect, mobile phones and associated devices are changing how they interact. In fact, research suggests that the number of global mobile-device contracts will soon surpass the world population. People can connect to all the information they want no matter where they are—at home, in the car, at the coffee shop or in the office. As organizations deliver an increasing number of business-critical applications in the cloud, requiring only a browser for access, employees have more options to access those services. That means a broader range of devices in the technology ecosystem.
Organizations must be prepared to establish boundaries around what IT will support, ensuring leadership teams and employees understand the risks associated with unsupported devices. Further, IT stakeholders can’t overlook the value that mobile technologies can bring to their own teams’ efficiency and effectiveness.
The Cloud and SaaS: If you’re one of many organizations that have moved their IT services to the cloud, you’re enjoying the significant cost savings associated with using other people’s infrastructure (OPI). You have a team of experts employed by your supplier who are paid to worry for you and to ensure the system’s running on the newest, fastest hardware. It’s obvious why businesses are rapidly adopting software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. But what about the teams that support them?
Moving to the cloud means moving to the role of service coordinator. It also means supporting environments where you no longer have direct control of the underlying infrastructure, yet will still be the first port of call when there’s an outage, request or problem. You and your staff will need to navigate a new network of dependencies, suppliers and integrations, which requires awareness of the following disciplines and processes:
- Service Awareness: A relatively new term in the SaaS universe, service awareness exposes a common weakness for many IT support functions. Its existence implies that the people, processes and technologies you use to manage your IT infrastructure are aware of and able to cope with some of your key applications being delivered as a service.
- Service Level Management (SLM): Your SLM process and its supporting software system should represent and enforce:
- — The service level agreements (SLAs) you have with your supporting SaaS vendor
- — The operational level agreements (OLAs) that define the relationship with your vendor
- — The underpinning contracts (UCs) that the vendor has to support that service
- Configuration Management: Your configuration management processes and underlying database must be able to model:
- — An application as an external service
- — The service dependencies and impacts of that application
- — Any integrations to other systems and services, both internal and external
- Service Request Management (SRM): The rapid installation process and time-to-value benefits of SaaS make it incredibly easy for organizations to sign on the dotted line and start buying capacity immediately. What they may overlook however is the criticality of controlling user interactions and vendor requests—processes requiring appropriate SRM mandates.
Next time – we’ll look at some of the warning signs that are associated with outgrowing your ITSM capabilities – a set of reliable indicators encompassing People, Process, Technology and Financial
 Carlson, Nicholas (24 April 2012). "Facebook Now Has 901 Million Monthly Users, With 526 Million Coming Back Every Day". San Francisco Times.