Picture this: You are a medium-sized IT service management company. For project management, you have one application. For time tracking and payroll you use a separate program. Oh and for help desk ticketing and tracking you use something else, too.
That’s three different services you are paying for and having to flip back and forth between at any given time. Not to mention the fourth program you use to provide business insights and analytics. It’s a hassle to keep track of all your subscriptions and which program does what. Plus, none of your four solutions work very well together, causing headaches and makeshift, inefficient solutions. If only there were a better way.
There is, and it’s called Startly. But before we get into that, we are going to dig a little deeper on IT service management, where the common pain points are, and then how Startly fits into that picture as a whole. So without further ado, let’s talk IT service management.
IT Service Management Definition
In plain terms, IT service management (ITSM) is how IT teams manage the delivery of IT services to customers from end-to-end (or start to finish). It includes all of the activities and processes associated with designing, creating, delivering, and supporting IT services. ITSM is not just calling the IT department for support; it encompasses significantly more. While IT support, which is generally used to “fix” things, is a part of ITSM, ITSM is about more than just fixing things. It is responsible for an entire approach to technology.
Most in the ITSM industry agree that IT service management involves three steps (although the order of them is somewhat debated).
- Build and implement technology
- Apply and use the right processes
- Help people to learn the technology and utilize the processes
There are several benefits of ITSM. They include business alignment with IT, predictable IT performance and costs, and continued improvement in both IT effectiveness and capabilities. When IT processes are orderly and well-oiled, organizations can spend less time on worrying about IT and more time focusing on strategies for success.
IT Service Management Objectives
Like any initiative, ITSM has certain goals or objectives. Objectives for IT service management include:
- Analyzing and determining the present IT infrastructure, services, and processes
- Creating future-facing management practices
- Formulating roadmaps for elevating the overall condition of the business
- Creating the steps in that roadmap
Service Management Framework
Within ITSM, there is a predominant framework that most businesses will use, or at least reference, called Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL. ITIL is a set of detailed practices that can be used for IT service management (among other things). The point of ITIL is to articulate processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists which are applicable for any organization as they strategize, deliver value, and maintain a baseline level of competency.
ITIL’s roots go all the way back to the 1980s but the specifics of it have been updated as recently as 2019. You see, ITIL goes through an iterative process where it is updated or revised as deemed necessary by researchers or industry leaders. Currently it is on version 4. In fact, you can get an IT service management certification specifically for version 4.
Key to version 4 are seven guiding service management framework principles. The point of these principles is to provide a recommendation that offers enduring and universal guidance to an organization, regardless of changes in their goals, types of work, strategy, etc. (according to some ITIL service management pdfs). Let’s take a closer look at each of the IT service management principles outlined by ITIL.
Focus on Value
You may be familiar with the idea of “finding your why ” or in layman’s terms, honing in on your purpose. As a company, your why is value. Every single thing an organization does should in some way relate to value. That can be directly or indirectly; it can be value for the organization, its customers, or other stakeholders. When focusing on value, the initial step is to understand who the customers and stakeholders are and how they are being served. The next step is to define value in the eyes of the customers. You need to understand what really constitutes value to them. Finally, it is important to understand the entire customer experience with the service and the organization as a whole throughout the entirety of their interactions. As an ITSM provider, embracing this principle will help guide everything you do.
To properly employ this principle, consider the following:
- Know how service consumers are actually consuming service
- Emphasize a focus on value among the entire staff and organization
- Focus on value during the mundane day-to-day work, normal operations, as well as during improvement initiatives
- Include a focus on value in each step of any improvement initiative
Start Where You Are
This idea may seem straightforward, but might be a little sneakier than you think. When you want to take on an improvement initiative or seize an opportunity to get better, it might be tempting to start from scratch. In reality, it is actually better to acknowledge what has been done in the past and work to refine or refocus it. Starting something from scratch can cost major time and resources. Plus, in casting aside the old method, you lose the opportunity to leverage any of the existing things that work.
Instead, services and measures already implemented should be measured and observed to see what is working, what is salvageable, and ultimately what can be reused. Think about it like flipping a house. Knocking down the whole thing and starting from scratch is going to be time consuming and costly when you compare it to just taking out a few walls and adding some updates. For example, in ITSM it can be tempting to start a new ticket for a persistent issue, but it may be worth looking into notes from past Help-Desk deliveries to guide your thinking moving forward instead of starting from scratch every time.
To be utilize this principle, consider the following:
- Look at existing things as objectively as possible, using the desired outcome or the customer as the measuring stick
- When you find successful practices or methods in the current state of operation, dive into them and see if they can be replicated or expanded upon
- Use your risk management skills
- Sometimes nothing from the existing state can or should be reused…that’s okay. It’s just as important to recognize that
Progress Iteratively with Feedback
It may be tempting to try doing everything at once. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic or sustainable. And truthfully, it might not be the best way to go about things even if it were possible. Instead, try organizing work into smaller, manageable chunks that can be completed well in a timely manner. That way, the effort and focus on each “chunk” will be better and easier to sustain. This approach mandates that the overall project, as well as each component iteration, must be continually subjected to evaluation and potential revision.
The focus here is ultimately related back to value, like we mentioned earlier, and using feedback to assess what value really means or where it can be created. That means seeking feedback before, during, and after a project or component iteration is complete to understand what opportunities, risks, and issues may arise.
Another benefit to iterative feedback is that it provides insights, regardless of a change in circumstances. For example, in 2020, if you only received feedback once a year and it was pre-COVID, that feedback might not be nearly as relevant as the feedback you could have received later in the year or even two years in. In ITSM specifically, this principle might look like creating one component of a service at a time, or even revising each component prior to an initial launch.
With all of this in mind, consider the following when employing this principle:
- Understand the whole, but act on part
- Visualize the destination, but embrace the journey
- The ecosystem is changing constantly, making feedback essential data
- Fast does not equal incomplete
Collaborate and Promote Visibility
If you are after long-term success, then you want to make sure you have the right people in the right roles. This will promote better buy-in, better information, better decision making, and ultimately, (you guessed it) better odds for long-term success.
Generally speaking, inclusion is a more effective approach than siloing activities. That is due in part to the fact that creative suggestions, helpful contributions, and important perspectives can come from unexpected sources. That means working together in a way that leads to meaningful accomplishments requires shared information, trust, and understanding. The first step in this process (which might sound familiar) is identifying and managing stakeholder groups within the organization. While the most obvious stakeholders are the customers, other examples include:
- developers working with internal teams
- suppliers working with the organization
- relationship managers (or customer success managers) working with consumers
- customers working with each other
- internal and external suppliers working together
Next, it is important to understand the ways each group can contribute to the improvement of the organization, and the most effective means of communicating with them. Depending on the service, and the relationship between the service provider and consumer, the type of collaboration can vary drastically. With that being said, involving stakeholders and addressing their needs at all levels is incredibly important. This means that figuring out the type, method, and frequency of communication is a high priority.
Another key element to this principle is that with high visibility, customers can understand exactly what steps are being taken to resolve their issue. Poor visibility may result in a sense that their issue is not being addressed or is not a priority of the service provider. The simplest way to think about high visibility is like a pizza tracker on a website. It will show you when your order has been confirmed, when it’s being made, when it’s in the oven, and when it’s out for delivery. That’s the kind of touch a consumer wants with any issue, so it could be helpful letting them know in the process where they stand.
What’s more, poor visibility can also deter a company internally and lead to poor-decision making. To avoid that, a company should understand the exact workflow of work in progress and be able to identify bottlenecks, excess capacity, and waste.
When using this principle, consider these pieces of advice:
- Collaboration does not mean consensus
- Communicate in a way that your audience can hear
- Decisions can only be made on visible data
Think and Work Holistically
There are no small jobs, and no one works alone. Once you realize this, you also realize that your product or service will suffer unless every service, practice, process, department, or supplier works together. That means acting as one integrated unit as opposed to separate parts to create and offer value.
Adopting a holistic approach to service management entails understanding how all the parts of an organization work together, including having end-to-end visibility of how demand is captured and turned into outcomes. In other words, how do you find out what the demand is, communicate with those who are demanding what you have to offer, and turn that into a sale or an action. In a complex ecosystem, the changes in one area can have profound implications on another. This is the butterfly effect in action. Wherever possible, it is important to identify, analyze and plan for these changes.
To maximize the effectiveness of this principle, consider the following:
- Identify, understand, and embrace the complexity of systems
- Collaboration is key to working and thinking in a holistic way
- Wherever possible, look for patterns in between systems elements and their needs and interactions
- Embracing automation can facilitate holistic working
Keep It Simple and Practical
You wouldn’t drive up and down every street in your neighborhood just to get back to your house. The same goes for ITSM. Always use the minimum number of steps required to successfully accomplish your objective.
Use outcome-based thinking to come up with practical solutions that deliver valuable results. If a process or method fails to yield valuable solutions, eliminate it from your practice. Similarly, don’t spend time trying to provide a solution for every single exception or outlier, as that can create unnecessary over-complication. Instead, design rules and solutions that can be used to handle exceptions in a general way.
A critical component to service management staying simple and practical is understanding exactly how each and every component creates value or aids value creation. For example, carrying out work to maintain compliance with regulatory standards might not seem important to customer success (CS) teams dealing with customer issues. However, compliance is a necessary process in order for CS to keep creating value. Therefore, it is paramount to establish and communicate a big picture view of how each team or groups’ work influences others and is influenced by others. In other words, everyone’s work is somehow enabled by the work of someone else in the company. It is important to acknowledge and articulate how.
Another key to keep in mind is that when designing management or operational practices, try to avoid and govern conflicting objectives. For example, some department managers may want lots of data, but service teams responsible for providing that data might have other more pressing priorities. It’s crucial that the institution agrees and governs the balance between conflicting objectives.
Some other things to consider when employing this principle are:
- Ensure value. If what you do is creating value then you are heading in the right direction
- Simplicity is the purest form of sophistication
- Do fewer things, but do them better
- Respect the time of all parties involved
- If something is easier to understand, it is more likely to be adopted by consumers and organizations
- Simplicity is the best formula for achieving wins in a swift manner
Optimize and Automate
Efficiency is and has been the name of the game in…well, in business since the beginning of time. Think back to Henry Ford’s automatic assembly line, or even the printing press. Leveraging ways to become more efficient is ultimately what separates the top performers from the rest. Nowadays, that efficiency mostly comes in the way of technology.
By harnessing the power of technology, organizations can maximize their human and technical resources. Automation technology can help organizations scale up and take on recurring and repetitive tasks, freeing up people to do more of the complex decision-making.
With new tools and platforms on the market (like Startly), automation capabilities continue to expand. However, it is not always the best idea to rely solely on technology without the possibility for human intervention. That’s right, the machines might attack! Okay not really, but automation for the sake of automation can increase costs and ultimately reduce the resilience and robustness of an organization.
The definition of optimization you should subscribe to is to make something as effective and useful as it needs to be. Optimization should occur within a set of constraints (i.e. time, financial, compliance, etc.) and take place prior to automation. While this can take many forms, it usually follows these high level steps:
- Understand and agree on the context in which the proposed optimized solution exists
- Assess the current state of the proposed optimization
- Come to consensus on what the desired future state and priorities will be for the organization while focusing on simplifying and creating value
- Achieve an appropriate level of engagement and commitment from stakeholders relevant to the optimization
- Implement the improvements using and interactive approach
- Constantly monitor the outcomes and impact of the optimization
As far as automation goes, ITIL defines it as “the use of technology to perform a step or series of steps correctly and consistently with limited or no human intervention.” Automation can be simplified even further though by implementing standardized and streamlined processes that lead to “automatic” decision making. If X happens then Y is the decision that follows. With either form of automation, efficiency can be greatly increased by reducing the need for human involvement and analysis at every step of the process. This in turn reduces organizational costs, human error, and increases overall employee experience. For ITSM specifically, this automation and optimization might look like using technology to do time tracking or data entry.
Other things to consider when using this principle include:
- Simplify and optimize before automating
- Use automation to reduce toil
- Define and understand your metrics
- Use the other guiding principles when employing this one
Service Management Examples
If some of those principles sounded familiar to you, that’s because they probably are. In fact, ITIL’s principles are the foundation for many different types of service management. These types of service management aren’t just limited to IT either, but are used in business as well.
“What is service management in business?” you ask. According to techopedia, business service management can refer to a defined methodology used to supervise and evaluate business information technology (IT) services. Let’s take a look at some of the methods and types that overlap with ITIL.
- Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT)
- Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC)
- Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify (DMADV)
- ISO/IEC 20000
- Microsoft Operations Framework
In addition, other project management methodologies, like Agile, LEAN, and DevOps all share roots with ITIL and ITSM.
IT Service Management Strategy
Now that we have fleshed out what IT service management is and how to go about doing it, we can talk a little more about common pain points for ITSM providers. Like we mentioned in the introduction, as a service provider, there’s a lot you have to keep track of, like payroll, timesheets, help desk tickets, project management, business insights and more.
Unfortunately, the common IT service strategy examples on the market involve using some combination of apps and software platforms to piece together a functioning dashboard. It can be time consuming, costly, ineffective, and straight up confusing at times. That’s why we founded Startly.
With Start.ly, there is finally an all-in-one ITSM and Professional Services Management solution that can track all of your needs and data in one place. We like to describe it as a self-sustaining ecosystem, where all the pieces fit together and work collaboratively. Not only that, but we are more affordable, robust, and easy to use.
We are passionate about what we do, committed to excellence, keeping it simple, and continuously improving. We won’t stop until we have empowered your organization to reach its full potential. To learn more about all of the solutions we can provide for any number of industries, head on over to our website or contact us today! After all, today is a great day to Startly.