Shifting ITSM to a Platform Strategy

I must be mixing with the wrong crowd as some of my blogs have gone a little bit “out there” of late. This time I want to look at how we can better exploit IT service management (ITSM) tools and data.

I read recently that as part of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Professor Marshall van Alstyne, whose work focuses on the economics of information, conducted extensive research on platform shift and how new business models are changing the shape of the IT industry. His research predicts that IT platforms will ultimately trump IT products. So think: ITSM platform rather than ITSM tool. But what do I mean by ITSM platform?

Van Alstyne describes a “platform” as a system where:
“The system must provide a useful function or service and allow third-party access. Products have features, platforms have communities.”

When looking at platform strategy from an ITSM perspective, you can see how common, principally form-based issues with ITSM systems are the antithesis of the desired outcomes of such a platform strategy. Fixing these common issues would be part of a platform shift for ITSM. More on this below.

We Only Have Forms, and We Don’t Like Them

We’ve all filled out forms when using IT systems, ITSM or otherwise, and many of us don’t enjoy the experience. There are five common dislikes or issues with using system forms, which I’ve outlined below, and the user often feels helpless to change these issues. Ultimately this can cause disengagement between the user and the platform – again the antithesis of the desired outcome of a platform strategy.

Why people dislike formsWhat people dislike
I can only use forms to input data.Restricting the input methods to a desktop-based application: “Why can’t I use my tablet, why can’t I write my own interface?”
The form is irrelevant / someone else’s worldview.“Fields don’t match the data I need to input – too many/not enough/wrong fields.”
The form is dumb.Missing default options and/or the incorrect order of field processing.
The form is ugly.“It looks like a throwback to computing in the 80s, written by an engineer with no design capabilities.”
The data benefits someone else.“Once I’ve input the data, I don’t know how it’s used, and I find it hard to leverage data in the system.”

Finding better ways to interact with an ITSM system should provide more accurate, timely, and reliable data, which should in turn improve incident rates, reduce resolution times, and increases first-call resolution rates.

It should also makes users happier and encourage communities to emerge as those involved share what they’re doing (or have achieved), ask each other questions, or generally engage with each other about the art of the possible with ITSM systems and data.

How to Create an ITSM Platform

There’s a perfect storm of maturing technologies, and trends in IT, that an ITSM platform can employ to make the users’ work more enjoyable, improve the quality of data, and to increase engagement.

My simple, one-sentence description of the five ways in which to improve capturing and the use of data in ITSM, along with the data itself, is the following:
Transform your ITSM system into a consumer-driven platform – reduce the friction of use and allow users to generate their own value from it.

Friction of use? What on earth do I mean by that? The following should help, if only a little – my head hurts.

There are a number of possible strategies you can employ to accomplish this platform transformation; here are five concrete steps I recommend you take for improving user-data interactions and thus the quality and value of the data:

Why people dislike formsWhat people dislike
I can only use forms to input data.Create an API in front of the system and allow others to build UIs on top.
The form is irrelevant / someone else’s worldview.Allow users to customize their own views without modifying the underlying data structures.
Use non-structured databases inside the ITSM system to open it up to new ways of storing and processing data.
The form is dumb.Ensure that your process to iteratively improve forms is primarily driven by user feedback, i.e. pull changes from the users, and don’t push new formats on them. User experience (UX) is crucial.
The form is ugly.In general, people are drawn to and like beautiful things, as it makes them happy. Happy people are more productive. Colors, fonts, and layout: these are all important enough to have someone dedicated to the task of improving design and UX.
The data benefits someone else.Your API isn’t just for putting data in; it’s also for getting data out. Implement an API strategy such that you can do ITSM-as-a-platform – allow people to consume data in valuable ways, perhaps even in ways that the original designers never conceived.

Are You Ready to Benefit from an ITSM Platform?

The easier an ITSM system is to use or access, the more data it will ultimately contain – and most likely better quality data. The more, better-quality data an ITSM system contains, the more IT users and end users will want to use it (as it’s worth their while interacting and even potentially experimenting with the data). It’s classic platform behavior.

If such an ITSM platform can be created by reducing the friction of interaction, and creating the potential for community value, then it will not only improve ITSM performance – it will also have intangible benefits such as users recommending it to other users. You’ll benefit with greater end-user adoption and/or the use of the ITSM platform outside of IT, i.e. enterprise service management.

Are you and your organization ready to start your journey to an ITSM platform?

Wow my head really hurts, this “future of ITSM” stuff can be really hard work but someone has to do it.

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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