The last few years in the ITSM toolset market have been somewhat dominated by the subject of cloud delivery. Businesess have, of course, rapidly embraced the cloud as an application consumption option. ITSM has been no exception: new entrants and established brands alike have invested either in fully SaaS offerings, or in diversification of their offering to provide a choice between on-premise and cloud delivery models.
However, for the users of those tools, or their customers in the wider organisation using SaaS software, the delivery method alone does not necessarily change much. This is hugely important to remember. If software is consumed via a URL, it does not particularly matter whether the screens and features are served from the company's own servers, or from a data centre halfway across the country or even the world. There are often points of benefit for the SaaS end user, of course. But the mechanism alone? It's a big deal for the buyer, or for the people managing the system. It has transformed ownership of the software, reducing complexity and costs. But for the users, it might be wholly or predominantly transparent.
It's important, therefore, to look at what the real differences are to those real-life users: the people whose jobs are constantly underpinned by the applications. Now that we have a solid set of SaaS platforms underpinning ITSM, it seems right to focus on where cloud has already created dramatic user benefits outside the ITSM space. These huge trends show us what is possible:
Autonomy: When an employee stores or shares files using a cloud storage provider like Dropbox, they are detaching them from the traditional corporate infrastructure of hard drives, email, and groupware. When they use their own smartphone or tablet at work, as more than 80% of knowledge workers are doing, they are making a conscious decision to augment their toolset with technology of their own choice, rather than their company's.
Collectivisation: Cloud applications have the potential to pull broad user groups together in a manner that no closed corporate system can ever hope to do. In the consumer space, this is the key difference between crowdsourced guidance and point expert advice (a battle in which the momentum is only going one way: as evidenced by numerous examples such as the disruption of the travel guide book market by Yelp and TripAdvisor). Aggregated information and real time interaction are new and powerful disruption to traditional tools and services, and Cloud is a huge enabler of these.
Communication: Facebook's impact on social communication has been to close down distances and seamlessly bring groups of people together in an effortless manner. In a similar manner, Cloud platforms give us new ways to link disparate ITSM actors (whether customers or deliverers) across multiple systems, locations and organizations, without the requirement to build and maintain multiple, expensive ad-hoc paths of communication, and without some of the drawbacks of traditional channels such as email. Service, at least when things get complicated, is a team effort, and slick communication underpins that effort.
Cross-Platformity: Cloud underpinnings have enabled a new generation of applications to work seamlessly across different devices. An employee on a customer visit can use a tool like Evernote to dictate stand-up notes using a smartphone, before editing them on the train home using a tablet, and retrieving them on the laptop in the office the next morning. Nothing needs to be transferred: there is no fiddling with SD Cards or emails.
These are the principles which will change the game for ITSM's front line service providers, and it's customers. Bringing some or all of them together opens up a huge range of possibilities:
- Integrated service platforms, connecting the customer in new ways to those serving them (think of the "two halves of Uber", for instance: separate applications for passenger and driver, with powerful linkage between the two for geolocation, payment and feedback).
- Fully mobilised ITSM, delivering a truly cross platform "Evernote" experience with persistent personal data such as field notes.
- Easy application linkages, driven by easy to use, powerful personal "if... then..." interaction tools, opening up powerful but controllable autonomy and user-driven innovation.
- Integrated community interaction beyond the bounds of the single company instance, enabling knowledge sharing and greater self-help.
- Highly contextual and assistive features, underpinned by broad learning of user needs and behaviours across large sets of users, and detailed analysis of individual patterns.
- Open marketplaces for granular services and quick "plug and play" supplier offerings, rapidly consumed and integrated through open cloud-driven toolsets.
- New collaboration spaces for disparate teams of stakeholders, bringing the right people together in a more effective way, to get the job done.
Autonomy, collectivisation, communication, cross-platformity: these are four key principles that are truly making a difference to ITSM. Cloud delivery is just the start. We can now properly harness the real frontline benefits of this technological revolution.