ITSM Futures: Ambient Intelligence and Data Culture

Be warned, this blog looks to the future of IT service management (ITSM), ITSM tools, and ITSM data. You might need to click through on some of the links to understand some of the terms, as it’s not your usual ITSM terminology

In 2014, the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, talked about something called “ambient intelligence” stating that:

“The era of ambient intelligence has begun, and we are delivering a platform that allows companies of any size to create a data culture and ensure insights reach every individual in every organization.”

Why do I mention this and what’s it got to do with ITSM?

Well, as I see it, ITSM tools are, in part, data systems that users and management will, and should, seek insight from. So if any business system is going to benefit from ambient intelligence then why not your ITSM tool? More specifically, what can we do so that our ITSM and business operations can benefit from what the Open Data Institute terms “data as culture” (that’s open data, or data that anyone can access, use, and share)? 

Data from Your ITSM Tool – Open It Up and Let It Breathe

When Nadella spoke about ambient intelligence and data culture he was extending the now oft-quoted “cloud first, mobile first” strategy to data, to make it a first class citizen. In some ways, our ITSM activities are heavily reliant on the data our ITSM tools hold. It’s also the reason why so many ITSM tool vendors talk about the configuration management database (CMDB) being at the center of their (and your) ITSM universe; along with all the incident, service request, problem, and change data that forms the backbone of our transaction-based ITSM activities.

As ITSM and the enabling technology evolves to meet new IT and business challenges, the days of an ITSM system being maintained by users filling out 20th century forms (on their desktop) to update a 1980’s relational database are incompatible with ambient intelligence and data culture, and will eventually need to be relegated to the past.

For a modern ITSM to have a data culture it needs to make data ingress and egress as friction-free as possible, and it needs to be open to experimentation (on the data) using the latest data science tools.

Data Ingress and Egress Should Be as Friction-Free as Possible

It’s a sexy statement isn’t it? What this means is having great UIs for humans, and great APIs for non-humans, to be able to collect ambient data from systems. It means having a flexible data model using unstructured data, not just the relational databases of the past.

Following a platform strategy, using APIs and allowing third-parties to develop applications on top of your ITSM system will allow innovation when it comes to new ways to add data and to extract it. Importantly, in-house developers will be able to do this and will not be locked in to a proprietary API. By adding their own UIs and connecting their own back-end analysis tools, in-house developer will be able to use the data in ways that the tool originator never thought of. It’s a classic platform shift.

Data Analysis Should Leverage the Latest Innovations

There’s a lot of industry investment and effort going on in the field of databases, as seen by the open-source efforts of web-scale companies such as Google (Hadoop), Splunk, and the easy-to-use graph databases that are suited to hierarchical ITSM systems.

It’s now possible to use the same tools that data scientists use, but without the need to be a data scientist: it’s the democratization of data. So what, if anything, are ITSM professionals currently doing in this area? More importantly, what can you and your colleagues do?

How Can ITSM Embrace Data Culture?

The first step is having a mindset that believes data is at the heart of ITSM and that the best way to make use of the data is to open up ITSM, by reducing friction, and allowing or even encouraging experimentation. It’s a three-step plan for a data culture.

With this mindset and the second step – reducing friction – progress should soon be swift and very visible! As you, or your colleagues, start to reduce data friction in the interactions with ITSM tools, by having an API strategy, this will allow the in-house development of applications and front ends, and allow the technology users to impose their worldview on the data (instead of a single, centralized view). This isn’t just about people interacting with the ITSM system more easily. It’s also about the devices in the system: in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), as sensor-enabled devices become ubiquitous and connected, new insights into IT and business performance will no doubt emerge.

Once friction is reduced you should then allow and encourage experimentation – the third step – letting developers and data analysts run experiments on ITSM data, most likely using cloud systems. More often than not with a quick ramp up, test, ramp down – with optimized cost profiles.

So are you looking towards a data culture for ITSM? And I did hint that this blog might hurt your head a little.

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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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