Five Key Strategies to Modernize Your ITSM

June 23, 2020 | by Anjana Ramesh | Posted In Atlassian

IT service management is a constantly evolving approach that needs to adapt and grow in order to keep up with the rapid pace of digital transformation. A lean and robust ITSM strategy is important for organizations to ensure that service and support practices and processes continually align with transforming business needs. In this blog, we’ll discuss the various problems associated with traditional ITSM and the basic principles and strategies that can help modernize ITSM to drive your digital business goals.

The problems with traditional ITSM

According to a survey conducted by ITSM Tools, 27% of the respondents said they still continue to follow traditional ITSM practices, despite the availability of best practices frameworks such as ITIL 4, VeriSM, etc. A vast majority of non-best practice adopters also believe that they are the same or even better than general consumer-world organizations in terms of meeting service expectations. This shows that these organizations are so accustomed to the existing ITSM practices that they are oblivious to the associated problems. There are several issues associated with traditional ITSM that can have detrimental effects on your customer experience and business goals. Some of the main drawbacks in traditional IT service management are:

Hierarchy

Typically, organizations that follow a traditional ITSM approach have many levels in a service team. For example, if an incident is reported, the ticket escalates through multiple “tiers” before it can be resolved. This can make the process cumbersome and eventually frustrate your customers. The purpose of putting a support process in place is to resolve issues as quickly as possible and thereby deliver exceptional customer service. However, too many levels of hierarchy can work against the process.

Lack of collaboration

The modular approach of traditional ITSM teams delineates the roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority of each team. Though the demarcation of roles makes it easier for individuals to have enough clarity about their responsibilities, it often leads to overly siloed teams. This ends up thwarting cross-team collaboration between disparate teams. Due to the lack of collaboration, the teams may not have enough context to resolve the issues effectively.

Lack of effectiveness in resolving issues can notably frustrate your customers. This reinforces the importance of having a highly collaborative environment that helps teams get the complete context of the issue so they can resolve it more effectively.

Legacy ITSM tools

Legacy ITSM tools are heavy and rigid with little ability to customize, which makes them challenging to adapt to the ever-changing business needs. Besides, legacy ITSM tools typically are not integrated with the developer’s tools. This deprives the support teams of the ability to coordinate with the development teams. Also, since the tools are disparate, the teams cannot link support issues with the development backlog. They also have no or little visibility when the issues are escalated through the tiers.

Conventional knowledge management practices

Traditional ITSM toolchains offer a mere knowledge repository rather than fit-for-purpose knowledge management capabilities. This paves the way for immature knowledge management practices that focus on creating article dumps and documentation. Ultimately, such bloated articles may not prove useful to the teams, but would rather preclude the use and reuse of knowledge. It requires a mindset shift to realize that knowledge management is not only about verbose articles but also about a collaborative space that fosters peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and discussions.

Strategies to modernize your ITSM

To overcome the shortcomings of traditional ITSM, ITIL 4 has come up with these seven key guiding principles that help organizations revamp their ITSM practices.

  • Start where you are
  • Keep it simple and practical
  • Optimize and automate
  • Progress iteratively with feedback
  • Collaborate and promote visibility
  • Focus on value
  • Think and work holistically

Based on the ITIL 4 principles, we have derived five key strategies that combine ITIL 4 framework and modern IT service management tools to improve efficiency, collaboration, and customer satisfaction and deliver greater value in a digital world.

Shift left 

The “shift left” approach involves moving incidents and service requests closer to the lowest support tier possible rather than escalating the issues through multiple tiers to obtain a solution. Simply put, you share knowledge to empower each line of support, including the customers, to solve more challenging issues than they did before. This can preclude the tickets from being lost in the forest of issues and incidents.

 

Shift Left in ITSM

Figure 1: The shift left approach

Besides, when you deflect the simplest tickets closer to the end-users/customers, you have more time to work on the challenging ones. This also allows your customers to feel empowered as they will not have to depend on you for minor fixes. Therefore, this approach significantly reduces your Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) and improves customer satisfaction.

Change enablement

ITIL 4 has redefined ‘change management’ as ‘change enablement’ which is a critical practice in service management. This terminology shift is to accentuate the distinction between change management and change enablement. While change management manages the people aspects of changes to ensure that organizational transformation initiatives are implemented successfully, change enablement typically focuses on changes in products and services.

In ITIL, we have three types of change that are managed differently based on the risk associated with each of them:

  • Standard
  • Normal
  • Emergency

standard change is a low-risk, pre-authorized change that is well-defined, fully documented, and can be implemented without additional authorization. A normal change is a medium-risk change that needs to be scheduled, assessed, and authorized based on an established process. An emergency change is a high-risk change that must be implemented as soon as possible and can even sidestep the standard process. However, an emergency change requires a CAB (Change Advisory Board) approval on the fly to implement it.  Resolving an incident, implementing a security patch, rolling back an unsuccessful deployment, etc. are some common examples of an emergency change.

The purpose of the change enablement practice is to maximize the number of successful IT changes by ensuring that the change authority is clearly defined, the changes are communicated to all the stakeholders, and the change schedule is managed well.

The change authority is defined as a person or group who authorizes a change. This can be a team lead, manager, CEO, change advisory board, or customer depending on the type of the change as well as the organizational culture. The change schedule serves as a procedural plan to incorporate changes, communicate them to the stakeholders, avoid conflicts, and assign resources.

In many organizations, it is a common practice to decentralize change authority, making peer review the foremost source of change approval. Change enablement primarily aims at decreasing the IT workloads while tremendously increasing the speed of issue resolution. Therefore, it’s a win-win situation for the organization and the customers.

Automate where you can

Automation plays a key role in streamlining your IT service and support processes. Therefore, organizations should constantly focus on automating routine tasks. Some examples include routing the tickets to the right person, sending an alert to the team in case of a high-priority issue, or approving standard flow of changes.

For example, Jira Service Desk (JSD) by Atlassian offers various automation rules to automate repetitive tasks such as routing the tickets, sending an SLA breach alertreopening a comment when a customer comments on a resolved issue, and more. Additionally, JSD also provides smart automation rules to automatically assign a request type to an issue based on the keywords in the customer email, sending an automated reminder to the customers if they haven’t responded on the issue, etc.

With the advent of AI and machine learning, many organizations have already started automating their mundane tasks to reduce human errors, save significant time, and help the team focus on mission-critical tasks. If you are one of those organizations that are yet to automate, we have a tip for you. Once you decide to adopt automation, opting for a modern ITSM tool like Jira Service Desk with built-in automation rules is a lot easier than upgrading your traditional ITSM tools to support automation capabilities.

Foster cross-team collaboration

As discussed above, one of the key issues with traditional ITSM practices is the lack of collaboration. The more siloed your teams are, the lesser they collaborate. This precludes you from delivering great customer experience. To provide seamless customer service, your development, product, and customer service teams should be connected to each other in a highly collaborative space. Such a collaborative environment remarkably improves cross-team collaboration and helps the teams respond faster and more efficiently to customer issues.

Besides, open and collaborative space also increases the visibility of the whole process for the teams, thereby bringing a lot of valuable opinions to the table. However, with more voices and opinions, it will be important to reasonably accommodate everyone’s needs.

Establish a modern ITSM toolchain and workflow

Although you cannot replace your legacy applications immediately, it’s essential to replace them piecemeal with a modern ITSM toolchain. Besides, it is vital to pick the right toolchain for your processes, instead of choosing one and forcing it to work for your needs. Some of the key considerations to factor in when choosing the tools are:

  • The tools in the ITSM toolchain should be deeply integrable with each other and also with the developer tools
  • The tools should be cross-platform and easy to maintain
  • The tools should be customizable enough to augment their capabilities based on your unique needs
  • You should implement cost-savings monitoring even before you could get started with a tool since it is harder to do this later
  • The toolchain should also consist of tools that can monitor for security risks and alert the appropriate teams to resolve incidents faster

Let’s consider the ITSM toolchain offered by Atlassian as an example to understand how a modern ITSM environment works in incident management. The key ITSM tools offered by Atlassian are:

 

Modern ITSM Toolchain

Figure 2: Modern ITSM toolchain

  • Jira Service Desk
  • OpsGenie
  • Confluence
  • Status Page

OpsGenie, a modern incident management platform that is integrated with application monitoring systems, receives alerts about the various incidents, categorizes them based on importance and timing, and automatically creates an incident in Jira Service Desk.

Meanwhile, OpsGenie also notifies the right person across multiple devices through collaboration platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams (Note: Atlassian products are highly integrable with Slack and Microsoft Teams). Once the incident is reported, StatusPage communicates the status of the system to the customers through email, text message, in-app message, etc.

People from customer service, development, and product teams can share their knowledge, have discussions, or access runbooks through a collaborative knowledge management platform like Confluence. If a follow-up with the development team is required, the incident is created as an item in Jira Software, that is used by the development team to track their projects. Also, with the help of these tools, teams can easily define a workflow and automate tasks such as directing an on-call to the right person, approving a step with the help of built-in automation rules, and so on.

Organizations that have such modern ITSM environments can not only deliver exceptional customer service but also notably improve the experience of their employees, thereby improving customer satisfaction and increasing employee productivity. This goes back to the sixth guiding principle of ITIL 4 i.e. “focus on value”.

Though there are a host of strategies to modernize your ITSM, the five key strategies discussed above are indispensable to make the most of your efforts. Therefore, if you are contemplating an upgradation of your IT service management, the shift left approach, change enablement,  automation, collaboration, and establishing a modern toolchain can certainly be your three requisites for success.

Check out our latest white paper to learn how to combine ITSM with the principles of agile and DevOps to modernize your service desk.

Need help in modernizing your IT service management? Please feel free to talk to our experts today!