“Is it just me,” muses Arthur Fleck, “or is it getting crazier out there?”—the same sentiment as many an IT pro today. More demanding employees with less patience, more support requests in less time, and more technologies and complications with less room for error.
Their work has inspired comedy for decades, but for most IT pros there’s little cause to laugh about digital transformation’s pressures on service and support. And, like Joker’s titular character, we’re increasingly expected to wear a smile even as things worsen.
The solution may reside in the past. As IT transitions into the function of internal service provider—sourcing technology and support at the behest of both employees and customers—the relatively old-school discipline of IT Service Management (ITSM) carries more weight than ever before.
ITSM can help technology teams serve the rest of the business with far less friction and confusion. It can also relieve much of the day-to-day pressure on IT pros themselves. In fact, ITSM could be just what the doctor ordered for the average IT pro.
Stabilising IT’s Behaviour
As the name implies, ITSM provides structure and rigour to how IT manages the services it offers, from help desk functions to migrations and deployments. Specifically, it defines best-practices, policies, and checklists for IT to use to render actions more effective and user-friendly.
These various tools reside within ITIL (formerly Information Technology Infrastructure Library)—a framework that can guide how IT leaders and organisations build their digital strategies for less risk and greater productivity.
For example, the latest version (ITIL 4) offers clear principles on why and how to integrate new methodologies like DevOps, Agile, and Lean, so services deliver as much utility as possible.
Just like ISO and other globally defined standards, ITSM principles offers a rock of stability on which technology teams can build…well, a lot. ITSM provides strong clarity of vision when it comes to organisational value, as well as providing clear standardised approaches for how to do so.
It applies structure to many of the ad hoc and manual tasks that typically distract IT pros from more critical matters, replacing end-user pressure with reliable protocols to fall back on. Perhaps most importantly, it can direct how end users—customers, employees, and even IT pros themselves—manage tasks and access support in most scenarios. It’s order in a world of chaos, making it incredibly powerful.
CIOs won’t normally adopt every aspect of ITIL, or indeed abide by every ITSM rule in existence. Many IT teams already pick and choose best practices from ITIL, building them into “service catalogues” documenting and explaining every aspect of each service: how to use it, spin it up and down, troubleshoot it, and so on. But as a rule, ITSM can—and should—write the rules for how IT delivers services within and out from the organisation.
New Rules for a Brave New World
The faster IT teams start applying ITSM principles to their operations, the easier they’ll find it to simplify current scenarios and prepare themselves for future ones. Clear ITSM rules can help in-house tech integrate with other disciplines within and outside the organisation. This is particularly helpful when unravelling issues relating to hybrid infrastructure, cloud migration, and other intrinsically complex practices.
Service catalogues can guide how IT identifies the unique needs of emerging user groups—like those submitting tickets through mobile, versus internal users on desktop systems—and delivers a more personalised mode of support. This can go a long way to winning over end users in high-stress situations, particularly when rolling out unfamiliar technologies as part of digital transformation initiatives.
And the strategic use of the ITIL framework gives structure to ticket and service request data, which, in turn, makes it far easier for AI and machine learning to process, and greatly upping the potential effectiveness of self-service support channels like chatbots or other automated respondents.
However, applying ITSM shouldn’t be a one-off “initiative”—it should form the centre of a virtuous cycle constantly improving IT’s whole-of-business service quality. Certain processes for chatbots, for example, may not resonate particularly well for people with more complex queries—particularly if they aren’t escalated quickly enough.
Feedback should then update those processes governing chatbots—and maybe even other related fields, like AI and analytics—to make them more effective. Implement enough of these virtuous cycles, and soon the IT support function won’t just “break-fix” issues—it’ll begin to improve the organisation.
For an old practice, ITSM continues to remain practical and promising for today’s IT teams—not least because it forces a focus on what really matters for the broader organisation. The more non-IT processes CIOs can incorporate into their service desk solutions and ITSM rulebook, the more effectively they’ll be able to meet end users’ real needs—and secure meaningful results for the whole business.
From there comes greater automation, greater proactivity…greater power. Do ITSM right, and IT pros will find themselves significantly closer to a day when all they have are positive thoughts.