Enterprise Agility Isn’t Just About Speed

GettyImages-468796246When you hear the word agility, you think of track and field sprinters, or a running back darting through the defense at breakneck speed. Or what happens when you put jet fuel in your minivan. Well, maybe not that last one.

IT teams are learning the power of agility within their own environments and how that translates to better performance across the board.

Traditional IT service management (ITSM) is driven by stability and cost control. Detailed enterprise strategy and planning initiate requests for technical capabilities to support those plans in a waterfall style that is often slow-moving.

Although cost control remains important, the goal is now innovation and relationships with business users.

Enterprises today turn to IT as the primary means of help, and they expect IT to be at the forefront of strategy. From IT’s perspective, everything it does must be about creating business value and enabling greater enterprise agility.

What is enterprise agility?

Enterprise agility concerns the ability to react and adapt to expected and unexpected business changes and opportunities as they arise to gain leadership, market share, enter new markets, and operate in a competitive environment.

While agility encompasses numerous aspects, the constant is time. It’s the ability to identify new risks and opportunities and develop a strategic response quickly, with the flexibility to execute on the response.

The market leaders in today’s digital world are those who identify changes and respond to them with speed and agility. It’s an operational and competitive requirement for every successful enterprise. It should be no surprise that linking together IT execution and enterprise strategy within a flexible environment is the foundation of enterprise agility.

To accommodate this new operating environment, service management teams must be more responsive and adaptive to organizational changes.

IT teams must step outside the mind-set of merely supporting and maintaining email systems and such to become innovators who enable and shape business strategy. This requires changes in systems, processes, and the roles that people perform.

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Fostering Business Relationships: Beware of Your Shadow IT

GettyImages-157672511Successfully modernizing IT service management operations is directly connected to how you’re engaging with the users who come to you with problems.

The risk of lack of engagement is already apparent through Shadow IT implementations when a business group or department acquires, builds, or implements a technology without IT’s participation.

This poses a significant security risk and creates issues of scalability and supportability since the system is standalone, not integrated and not scaling well. All of this translates to an increased volume of incidents to the service desk.

When you develop trust and build relationships with business users, they know they can come to you with questions. By having the conversation, IT helps the business understand its needs, and the solution will most likely be better overall because everyone is involved from the outset.

You simply can’t achieve success without the support and engagement of the business users, business leaders, and influencers you serve. Once identified, meet with them regularly and have clear objectives, whether through travel or in-person business productivity teams.

You’re more likely to be included in departmental decisions about new services and less likely to be supporting a Shadow IT service implementation that places your team in firefighting mode and casts doubt within the organization whether the ITSM operation is valuable and relevant to the business.

Remember that every interaction with your users is an opportunity to develop and improve relationships. Put yourself in their shoes as you evaluate each interaction they experience with the ITSM team. What little extras would enable you to have a better experience? This includes not only how users work and the services and experiences you need to build into your self-service, but also how they would prefer to engage.

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Fostering Business Relationships: Courting Your ITSM Users

GettyImages-533932939The secret to modernizing your IT service management operation can be a lot like courtship, specifically that moment where you’re smitten to the point that you’re willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of the object of your affection.

For successful ITSM organizations, it boils down to showing the same level of affection to their users, the problems they need resolved, and the business environment they operate in. But many ITSM organizations fail to engage and add value to their business operations due to a lack of understanding beyond their own IT domain.

Old-style support is focused on solving specific technical challenges and problems as individual users bring them to the attention of the service desk. Modern ITSM incorporates the development of relationships with business units and their business users to ensure that service delivery and support meets users’ needs.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of building a service management environment that’s based on the internal workings of the IT department, its systems, and the structure of existing workflows. But the true value of the ITSM operation flows from enabling the business to meet its objectives quickly and completely. The business simply doesn’t care about nor understand the internal ITSM structure. Users only desire to stay productive and have any issues resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible.

At the operational level, users connect with IT teams for problem resolution, information, or access to a service. This could involve:

  • Creating a new incident: Someone reports an issue or raises an issue on another’s behalf.
  • Raising a new request: Someone requires hardware, software, or another service.
  • Seeking help: Someone is searching for information to solve an issue or feels that the problem can’t be resolved with self-service and is seeking a knowledgeable human being for assistance.
  • Employee request: Someone requires an HR services request for a new or leaving employee, or other non-IT service.

A business user’s ultimate goal is fulfilling the objectives of their role to support the wider enterprise mission. Any interruption along the path is an unwelcome distraction that the user expects to be dealt with quickly.

To do so, it’s imperative that you understand the business and the industry your organization operates in, the processes your users employ, the regulations they must comply with that affect the data, and the services they need to access.

While it may not be love at first sight, successful service management teams become trusted partners.

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What’s the Difference Between ITIL and ITSM?

GettyImages-185895150Many years ago, I worked as an IT support analyst helping companies with a software product that managed their documents on the network.

When customers called for help, I used a software program to open an incident that described the issue, the identity of the caller, and the date and time the incident was opened. The IT department I worked for supported our organization and our customers with all their IT needs. This included helping customers with IT issues, creating knowledge articles, and providing assets to employees so they could do their jobs.

For those supporting IT, you often hear terms such as “ITIL” and “ITSM” when discussing IT service management. So what’s the difference between ITIL and ITSM?

ITIL

In the 1980s, IT Service Management best practices emerged as most organizations were migrating or planning to migrate to digital technology.

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) refers to a group of documents that provide a framework and best practices for building an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution. Organizations supporting an IT infrastructure can increase efficiency while reducing service management costs if they follow recommended ITIL processes.

In addition to best practices, ITIL provides common terminology, such as “Incident,” “Problem,” “Change,” “Configuration Item (CI),””Knowledge,” and “Configuration Management Database (CMDB),” all of which are examples of terms used by those who support IT. Education that focuses on ITIL best practices is available for people who wish to gain a better understanding of ITIL. Furthermore, ITIL certifications can be valuable to have on a resume.

ITSM

IT Service Management (ITSM) is sometimes mistaken as a software solution. In reality, ITSM is about process, people, and technology. Software is one component of an ITSM solution.

  • IT Service Management is a strategic approach for designing, delivering, managing, and improving the way information technology (IT) is used within an organization. The goal of IT Service Management is to ensure that the right processes, people, and technology are in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.

ITSM software tools usually come with several components such as a database, business objects (u, groups, roles, etc.), and a process engine. These software solutions that support ITSM are typically designed to align with ITIL best practice recommendations.

Organizations such as Pink Elephant provide ITIL certification services for ITSM software providers. They evaluate ITSM software solutions to verify they follow ITIL best practices. It is important to choose ITSM tools that are ITIL certified if your organization plans to implement ITIL best practices.

Summary

IT support departments that only provide Incident Management are often referred to as a Help Desk or ticketing solution. IT support organizations that follow the majority of ITIL best practices are typically referred to as a Service Desk solution. Although some ITIL recommendations might not be practical for every organization, when building an IT Service Management solution, ITIL best practices are a good place to start.

For organizations that are building or expanding their IT service management offerings, it is important to understand the difference between ITIL and ITSM. Furthermore, because ITIL and ITSM are constantly changing, it is critical to keep up with the latest technology. Be sure to subscribe to news feeds and forums that discuss ITSM technology in order to stay informed about the latest technology updates and trends regarding ITIL and ITSM.

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Taking ITSM Automation to the Next Level

GettyImages-611996156In a previous post, we mentioned the benefits of automating small, repetitive tasks in order to deal with the tidal wave of workflow created by those more common user IT requests.

But many IT teams are taking automation to the next level, experimenting to boost productivity and save time.

Advanced maturity steps 

As you and your team master the basics of automation, you should search for opportunities for more advanced automation activities across the wider enterprise systems and accelerate productivity.

For example, if a user requests to download Adobe Acrobat®, you can add steps to automate not only the request workflow routing, approvals, and communication stages, but also the fulfillment stages.

By instigating closed-loop automation across service management through client management systems capable of deploying software, you can create zero-touch fulfillment for certain requests that improve experiences and return time to your team.

“Connected to request management” is the management of assets used to fulfill requests. The discovery, import, reconciliation, and synchronization of your asset data from asset management databases into your ITSM environment benefits from an automation layer. Your ITSM Configuration Management Database (CMDB) depends on the accuracy of the shared data imported from other systems.

Workflow integration and automation that brings in that data, paints a more efficient and accurate picture of your assets and services. Once that data is available, it enables visibility over the assets that make up your business services, such as license usage or the cost of licenses, for a faster response to requests, incidents, changes, or other processes that affect business productivity.

Imagine the creation of an efficient, self-healing environment where you can turn data into actions automatically that positively impact your operations.

By using your event management capabilities integrated with service management systems, you can detect and then route, record, and potentially correct issues within your IT environment before the business is even aware through automatic self-healing loops. You minimize reactive firefighting by team members when business users report issues.

Once you’ve carefully reviewed your internal IT processes, consider looking deeper, such as delivering a similar benefit to other service management teams such as Human Resources.

Automating the HR on- boarding process ensures that new employees won’t be waiting for their equipment, email box setup, or other tasks on their first day that could hinder productivity and motivation. Wasted time following up on requests and emails is avoided, and you provide business value across other departments so they can be more effective.

By automating processes within service management, you can attain higher levels of consistency and execution. In addition, the review you conduct prior to automation ensures that, in the future, your processes meet user needs, are easy to maintain, and are scalable. IT administrators and service management teams retain more control over IT maintenance and operational process flows while working more smoothly. Teams benefit from faster problem resolution and lower problem frequency. Bottlenecks, duplicated work, poor links, and interaction experiences between departments disappear.

By freeing up time, you can support new business initiatives and still offer the experiences your business users demand.

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Dust off Your Atlas, It’s Time for an Automation Road Trip

GettyImages-74181378Many areas of your ITSM environment are ripe for automation, and like any part of your service management operation, taking a maturity path approach assists you on that journey. Each journey needs a road map, but where you start is equally important.

So where do you start? 

Einstein is widely attributed with saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Possibly channeling Einstein, analysts recommend IT organizations focus on moving redundant and repetitive tasks into automation processes. But before you start, understand that automated processes are only as effective as the planning that goes into their development.

Before automating processes, re-evaluate them

Too often ITSM teams consider the elements in closest proximity to their own environment but don’t incorporate considerations that affect the business at large. Automation requires user-centric planning.

To map out the current workflow and ensure its optimized and makes sense for the users it touches, you must keep engaging with business users directly or through business productivity teams. Only then should you review which optimized processes to automate.

Initial maturity steps 

Start by reviewing any routine, low-complexity, resource-intensive tasks, e.g., password resets. Employing automation to reduce call volumes will deliver immediate value to the operation and the business user experience.

Any repetitive request is an opportunity for automation

Enabling business users to access self service and reset passwords automatically reduces direct contact with your team, offers an enhanced experience, and saves administrative costs.

Business users that get locked out of systems are unproductive. Automating other components of your self-service function will help you manage a larger volume of requests more efficiently, plus you’ll decrease the time it takes a business user to receive the new services needed to be productive.

Consider a software request for example. Let’s say a business user wants Adobe Acrobat® and initiates a request in self service. Once the request is submitted, it triggers the start of a workflow. The software request requires approval from the requester’s manager. An approval-request email is sent automatically. No one needs to remember who these requests are routed to— the workflow goes from step to step without any intervention needed. The process is handled, recorded, and captured or escalated according to service levels automatically.

And let’s not forget the business user who requested the service. Nothing’s more frustrating than having to request information updates constantly. Ensure that status-update communications to users are part of the automated process.

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To Err Is Human: Making the Case for Automation

ITSM servise conceptAlexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Pope was talking about sin, but this principle applies to a key gap in many ITSM structures.

In the race to stay competitive, many corporations are finding creative ways to do more with less. The result: service management teams must confront increased demands with a limited headcount.

Automation enables key IT and business processes through new business initiatives such as digitization to serve business users who demand exceptional experiences and who don’t tolerate IT failure.

What’s more, automation offers a predictable and repeatable sequence of steps from start to finish and takes the same route each time. It reduces risk and eliminates ambiguity by following a tested path consistently.

In a service management environment, a workflow passes from one person to the next as it progresses through different stages. It’s at these handoff points where tasks can fall through the cracks or workflow is interrupted, resulting in a breach.

Imagine automating that workflow. Your processes can run faster and more efficiently while lessening the risks of human error.

What once took weeks can be accomplished in hours or days or minutes, maximizing the productivity of all involved.

There’s been a growing requirement recently for ITSM teams to “shift left” for cost and efficiency reasons, but without the necessary injection of resources at the front end. Talk about challenging.

Whether you’re aiming to work faster, maintain consistency, or reduce costs, automation can help.

Automated service management processes let you refocus your time and resources on strategic activities that support business initiatives and goals.

It’s often assumed that automation means delivering more of the same. However, effective automation also provides opportunities to mature and unify individual workflows into a continuous set of processes and capabilities that work collectively.

Automation enables a better quality of support and user satisfaction through faster response times, improved quality, and a broader range of services delivered. In addition, automation helps streamline communication and minimize costs.

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Think You’re Awesome? Let Your Users Be the Judge

GettyImages-484925160When you’ve spent hours developing and designing your ITSM self-service, chat, or walk-up experience, it’s easy to be biased because you’re so close to the project and forget whether it truly satisfies your business users’ needs.

But what do those users think about your operation? Are they satisfied?

Measure to improve and show value

Measuring the performance and publishing the results of successful new initiatives in business-impact terms lets you demonstrate the value ITSM brings to the business.

Referenced in a recent article by LinkedIn, Gartner’s 2015 CIO Survey revealed that only 54 percent of respondents reported that internal customer satisfaction is a major metric. Yet the Society of Information Management Survey 2016 finds that one of the most common metrics of CIO performance value is IT user/customer satisfaction, according to a recent trends study from Business Wire.

Implementations of new initiatives are never one-and-done activities. That is why ongoing user feedback is a necessary component.

Consider providers of feedback as mentors helping you improve. Perhaps the self service channel isn’t being used as much as anticipated. Maybe your business users aren’t booking appointments for 1:1 face-to-face support, but continue interrupting your team at will.

Use feedback to capture and analyze data that, for example, will help improve adoption and deflection rates from other channels such as the phone, or that will help you understand which groups of users fail to or embrace each channel.

Numerous methods exist for gathering valuable user feedback—user satisfaction surveys, web analytics, interviews, and focus groups.

There’s no single right way to understand your business users. Information may come from a variety of sources.

Organizations that continually measure and improve their experiences based on user input are the ones most likely to achieve their goals. This means incorporating processes for regular review and revision in response to shifting business-user behaviors.

By understanding the perceptions and attitudes of your business users and catering to their needs, you can offer experiences that are more engaging, consistent, and memorable.

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Face-To-Face vs. Instant Messenger: Why You Need Both in Business

Colored Speech Bubbles GroupChat clients like AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ revolutionized the way we communicate with others. Since then, we’ve sacrificed a little old-fashioned social interaction in the name of convenience and connectivity.

This being the customer service environment, your business users will expect to engage in an office experience similar to how they talk to people outside the workplace.

Corporations use instant messaging services such as Skype for Business to help connect employees across globe. Users gravitate toward IM when they need a response or information from another staff member quickly.

You should give your team this option to communicate with each other and with business users, but it’s vital to ensure these moments of communication are captured in your ITSM system as part of your team’s natural service management routine, and as a part of their use of service management best practices. Take care not to change the standard user experience your business users expect with a chat service.

These valuable exchanges enable fast, efficient knowledge sharing and improve the user experience without breaking productivity. This quick exchange can deflect the need to call your team and reduce lengthy call queues. It enables your team to identify a point of information required to resolve an issue or request quickly.

Face-to-face

When business users and the service management team are in the same office, or for highly mobile users who visit the office infrequently, it’s not uncommon to experience “walk-ups” where a user demands immediate attention, often at a time not suitable to your team. If support isn’t provided when the user wants to engage, the relationship is fractured.

In other situations, it’s your ITSM team that attempts to track down a business user for a desk-side visit, only to discover the user is in a meeting. To alleviate these time-sapping situations, consider offering a “genius bar” style of walk-up service to make this a win-win scenario. Work with your team to set aside time for face-to-face appointments, possibly incorporating gamification to encourage adoption.

Enable your business users to book appointments with your team through the self- service portal that publishes a calendar of dates and times your team is available and block out times it isn’t.

Mobilize your team 

Too often, service management teams are hidden away from the rest of the business. Set aside time for your team to walk the floors of the business to assist and progress relationships with users.

Issue your team iPads connected to your service management system. They’re able to work as if at their desks, logging or updating issues and requests in real time.

Make your team easy to identify with ‘here to help’ T-shirts.

Business users better understand technologies that are available to them and are reminded that your team is there to help in the future, reducing potential Shadow IT challenges.

This continual presence builds relationships with end users and offers your team insights into how the business interacts with systems and services.

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Simplifying Self Service Is the Secret to Success

GettyImages-611788978Say that three times fast! Unlike this tongue twister, self service use is infrequent and likely not memorable for the user in the course of an average workweek.

For adoption to succeed, self service must be simple to use without instructions. Business users don’t want to re-learn how to use your self service site every time they access it.

You can gain significant immediate and short-term benefits by following a few best practices that empower your business users to gain the most from self service. Get it right and user adoption will increase. You’ll also benefit from enhanced user loyalty, less Shadow IT, and word-of-mouth endorsements for the self service portal.

Consider these best practices:

  • Focus on design simplicity

Simplicity doesn’t equal usability, but simple designs are typically easier to use. The 80/20 rule often applies to self service.

Eighty percent of visitors are seeking only about 20 percent of the content. Remove what isn’t used or doesn’t add anything meaningful. Once deployed, go back and track what is used. Move things used less frequently to an “out-of-the-way place,” but make them easy to find when needed. It may sound counterintuitive, but, rather than risk the whole experience being abandoned, provide fewer options to improve the chance that any one option will be chosen. Each additional option adds complexity to your business user’s decision-making process.

  • Engaging content

Ensure content is written plainly without jargon, especially knowledge articles intended for business users and your ITSM team. This also makes it easier to translate content if you’re serving a multilingual customer base. The more complex the language in your content, the more likely it will be poorly translated or misinterpreted.

  • Group-displayed items

Place things into logical groups—like all hardware or all software available for a Mac—so they’re easier to find. In the service catalog, highlight featured services or recommended services so they stand out.

  • Guide users

Enriching your content with product images or icons a user will recognize, videos, and bolded text can increase user engagement and help them select an option quickly.

  • Think white space

Too much information will overwhelm users and they’ll abandon self service. Create plenty of white space around items, and then use techniques to expand items so more information is revealed if required.

  • Offer optimal viewing

Craft your self service for optimal viewing and interaction across a range of devices (from desktop computers to mobile phones). Check each device view to ensure the reading, navigation, and interaction can be accomplished with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling. Make sure the user experience is consistent no matter the device that’s used.

Those companies that achieve the best self service success rates are the ones that make their business users feel self-confident, self-reliant, and empowered. Every self service experience, every interaction opportunity, every process, and every technology chosen for deployment must reflect the requirements of the users it serves.