Getting your processes right around ITSM

IT Service Management or ITSM systems have become IT’s online face to the business. While an enterprise’s applications and services are the tools users have to get their jobs done, when those users have a problem or need additional support, they turn to the IT service system in order to be helped. However, these staff are often disappointed with the outcome of their experiences with IT when problems arise.

Feelings of dissatisfaction around IT can spread rapidly, and left unchecked, this unfriendly face can lead to greater frustration and problems. Examples here include increased costs for resolving problems, extended cycle times, and irritation within IT itself. This can leave end users convinced that IT isn’t meeting their requirements.

The issue for IT is that, as approaches that give users more control over their IT such as cloud computing and ‘bring your own PC’ begin to take off in the enterprise, there is the risk of a greater gulf developing between IT and user expectations. If user needs are not met by these internal IT services, then the business may consider outsourcing its IT, or relying more on cloud-based services provided by external services.

The onus therefore has to be on IT to start thinking in a more user-centric fashion, and around how services are put together and delivered in a more joined up and orchestrated fashion. As IT is held accountable for supporting the business in generating value, productivity and performance, user satisfaction becomes a critical measurement as well.

The ITSM function has to become more responsive in addressing user issues, as users themselves become more sophisticated consumers. Just like any service relationship, the ITSM team has to focus on surpassing expectations in order to continue receiving the user’s custom.

For IT, the importance of process around ITSM is therefore critical in meeting user needs. While ITIL succeeded in defining IT service management processes in standard fashion, it also pointed to the need for IT services to become process-based. For forward-looking organisations, activity-based approaches, ad hoc responses and disconnected silos of IT are now seen as not fit for purpose.

At the senior management level, there is an awareness that rigid ITSM frameworks and systems are not delivering what users really want from their IT. ITSM can also represent a disproportionately large part of IT spending compared to the amount of value that it creates. Expensive, unfriendly and rigid is hardly a formula for success, especially for a system that literally defines IT in the minds of the vast majority of IT’s customers.

To overcome these challenges, ITSM processes have to become more automated. This means pulling together better workflows around support and service management that can react to business requirements in a transparent, configurable and connected way. In an ideal world, processes follow a simple path from initial business demand through to the end requirement. However, the reality is that business processes have to be highly integrated and often involve manual intervention.

A good example here is around the link between human resources and IT. When new staff join the company, shift job roles, or leave the organisation, their IT requirements will change alongside their position in the business. However, responding to these changes is often based on human interaction across the HR and IT divide. This leads to longer time and increased effort spent on setting up or maintaining access to IT resources.

When looking at the workflow and business requirements here, what is needed is a more joined-up approach to these changes. Instead of relying on manual requests, sections of the workflow can be automated to pass information that is required between the different applications involved in managing human resources and IT access. This not only speeds up the process, it also makes it easier to track if anything goes wrong and fix the problems.

This “orchestration” of processes can deliver a dramatic improvement in the overall process due to the reduction in time spent on achieving the desired results. It also enables better compliance, adaptability and also accountability around the process itself.

Bringing together technology and process as part of a wider workflow involves understanding both the IT and the business sides involved. It also means integrating multiple different technologies together into the business process. Taking this approach offers a suitable alternative to straight rip and replace scenarios, where fully working tools may be removed so that a different solution can be implemented. By orchestrating technology and process together, organisations can reduce costs back to the business and ensure that existing benefits are retained.

As IT and technology continues to evolve, how services are delivered through to employees is also changing for the future. The rise of cloud computing is leading to internal IT teams looking at this model and how it can improve their own delivery of services to users. Under the ‘IT as a Service’ name, organisations can improve how applications and services are consumed by users across an organisation. However, to make this model work requires more automation and understanding of workflows than most ITSM teams currently have in place.

For the future, developing trends like internal IT as a Service or cloud computing will make the back-end infrastructure for deploying services invisible to the end-user. However, this will also put more pressure to get the workflows right around IT support and service management. Taking the route of orchestrating IT and putting full business processes in place is therefore the only route that can make these efforts successful. As IT continues to change, ITSM will have to evolve with it.

Kevin Parker is a 30 year industry veteran, holder of three technology patents and is VP and Chief Evangelist at Serena Software. He speaks and writes on application development methodologies, business analysis, quality assurance techniques, governance, open source issues, and tool interoperability, from the mainframe to distributed platforms to the web and mobile and embedded systems. Kevin was born and educated in the UK and currently lives on a boat on the San Francisco Bay.