The A – Z of ITSM in 2019
As an IT service management (ITSM) professional, what’s going to be important to you in 2019? On a personal level, you might be thinking about: job security, maybe even a promotion or pay raise, or loving what you do in your role. But what I’m talking – OK, writing – about here are (hopefully) some of the most important drivers for providing better IT service delivery and support in 2019.
It’s my A – Z of ITSM in 2019 (and I’m already panicking about what I can use for the letter Z). Please take a leisurely read through all 26 points and then let me know what you agree with and what you don’t. I’ll see you on the other side…
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation
So I started off with a cheat here, using the letter A for both AI and automation. At least, you know what to expect from me going forward. In 2019, more and more ITSM tool vendors will introduce task-based AI capabilities for IT support in particular – from chatbots to the automated categorization, prioritization, and routing of tickets. These will make the AI hype of 2018 – or at least some of it – a reality. Such AI-enabled automation will be key to improving IT support across all three of “better, faster, cheaper.” The question is: are you ready for it?
In 2019, corporate IT organizations need to continue – or for some, to start – the move from focusing on, and measuring, IT-based outcomes to concentrating on positive business outcomes. With a simple way of viewing this being: a focus on what gets achieved through IT activities, at a business level, rather than merely focusing on IT-related achievements.
As always in such A – Z lists, there’s somehow an abundance of options for the letter C. So, I’ve passed over cloud, chatbots/cognitive assistants (included in AI), COBIT 2019, and culture (which I’ll hopefully cover in wellbeing) to call out customer experience (CX). There’s no doubt in my mind that the concept of CX (or employee experience – see later) is going to have a key part to play in driving and measuring IT’s success, value, and ongoing relevance.
In 2018, all the AI talk and speculation stole much of the IT industry’s attention, at least at an operational level, from digital transformation. Plus, there continued to be often-outdated statistics bandied around stating that the majority of digital transformation initiatives are failing (with these statistics usually relating to 2016 not 2018). There are many reasons for the earlier issues with digital transformation – from forgetting that digital transformation is a business and people change initiative not just technology change. Through to overlooking the fact that digital transformation is not just about new products and services (and associated revenue streams) and better customer engagement mechanisms, but also about the improvement of back-office operations. With the latter potentially being enterprise service management (ESM) – the use of ITSM thinking, good practices, and technology in other business units – by another name. Expect more back-office digital transformation in 2019.
I wondered about ESM (included in digital transformation above) for E but, in the end, employee experience won out. As already mentioned in customer experience, the need to meet employee expectations is now a critical element of ITSM, especially IT support. It makes so much sense that, with employees experiencing higher levels of service, customer service, and support in their personal lives (thanks to B2C company investments in CX strategies), that they’re going to bring these into the workplace as higher expectations of corporate service providers such as IT.
No, not the Apple video-calling capability but the amount of time we spend with our customers in human-to-human engagements (although not necessarily “face to face”) is liable to decrease. Because this is a big driver of, and a positive influence on, customer perception of IT as a whole not just IT support. My 2019-point here is that all of the investment in technology to date, and the anticipated push for AI related to automating IT support in particular, will reduce the level of human-to-human contact. And where there is human-to-human interaction, in the future, it will likely be in the more complex and time-consuming situations that don’t result in a quick resolution. Therefore, there are at least two issues to tackle here in 2019 and beyond: 1. finding alternative mechanisms to deliver meaningful and beneficial human interactions (that can positively affect customer perceptions) and 2. the need to ensure that the now-limited human-to-human interactions are consistently good experiences.
It’s time to finally realize that there’s a lot of gray in ITSM. And that it’s okay. For instance, that while the traditional black and white of IT support policies and processes might fit the majority of situations, it won’t fit them all. With it time to embrace a more empowered IT workforce that can use its own initiative in dealing with situations that don’t fully meet the criteria for the agreed policies. Rob England’s Standard+Case and Ivor Macfarlane’s Intelligent Disobedience (for ITSM) are both great sources of inspiration and help for this.
This might seem an odd word to throw into my A – Z but be prepared – dare I say, be very prepared – to consider it from two angles in 2019. The obvious one of these is the aforementioned employee experience. With the providers of employee experience management offerings such as HappySignals measuring both employee happiness and lost productivity (when it comes to IT support). The second is the happiness of your staff which, in my opinion, is often overlooked. Service Desk Institute (SDI) research backs this, with only 34% of IT service desks regularly gauging employee satisfaction (and who’s to say how many of these proactively seek to improve based on the feedback they receive?). Concerned? Wait until we get to W!
To steal a quote from my boss, Sarah Lahav, because it usually gets me a good number of Brownie points: ITIL 4 has one shot to get it right in 2019. There’s a lot of competition for ITSM eyeballs, hearts, and wallets (when it comes to books, training, and consultancy spend) right now. Far more than ever before. Thus, and I’m sure there would still be some impact without these alternatives, if the ITIL 4 content is already “outdated,” difficult to consume, or doesn’t go far enough into the “how,” it will struggle both to maintain its market dominance and to win new customers.
Yes, January! Why have I included January in my A – Z list? Because it’s when 2019 starts! All too often I’ve seen new-year improvement activities kickoff in March or even as late as June. So, ensure that your new-year focus and efforts actually start in January not after a few months.
Now, this might seem odd for 2019. After all, knowledge management has been a sought-after organizational capability for three decades now. But we have to acknowledge two things with knowledge management and the associated need for focus in 2019. Firstly, that many organizations still struggle to get knowledge management right, because – while knowledge-sharing technologies have been introduced – their effective use still has much room for improvement. And secondly, knowledge has become even more important within ITSM thanks to its use across three use cases: service desk knowledge articles, self-service knowledge articles, and now as the fuel for AI technology.
With all the buzz around DevOps it’s easy for ITSM pros to overlook the benefits of lean thinking per se. Wikipedia describes lean thinking as: “…a business methodology that aims to provide a new way to think about how to organize human activities to deliver more benefits to society and value to individuals while eliminating waste.” Surely it sounds perfect for ITSM too. If you wish to read more about lean and ITSM, then I’ve published a lean blog here.
2019 is the time for us to revisit our traditional best-practice IT service desk metrics in particular. And there’s at least two good reasons why. Firstly, I’ve already mentioned employee experience and will talk to experience level agreements (XLAs) below, but what I didn’t mention is the concept of “watermelon SLAs” which are green on the outside but red on the inside. What do I mean by this? That the metrics are showing that everything is good – or even great – but business stakeholders and employees think that service and/or support is poor, i.e. the chosen metrics are wrong. Secondly, much of what gets measured and reported upon at the IT service desk relates to human efficiency. But now, with self-service, automation, and AI taking away the “easier work” from support people, traditional metrics such as first contact resolution (FCR) at 70% become an impossibility due to more complex issues hitting the service desk. And wellbeing-based metrics become more important because service desks will need to proactively work on providing a working environment that encourages the retention of key staff.
Now this term might seem a little dated, but there are still people – well, groups of people – who think that DevOps does away with the need for IT operations and ITSM. Whether they’re right or not, in 2019 the onus will be on us to prove that there’s still a need for IT operations and ITSM. With a focus on the value that our work delivers not just on what we collectively do (and cost).
Organizational Change Management (OCM)
I’ve written a whole blog on this if you’re interested. It’s also included in what now seems like a somewhat secret tome – the ITIL Practitioner Guidance book. It’s a shame because it’s a great book. Anyway, back to 2019. If ITSM pros wish to finally get capabilities such as knowledge management and self-service/help right, then they need to be using OCM tools and techniques. It will also be invaluable to the other technology-change initiatives that are really people-change initiatives. For instance, new ITSM tool implementations or the delivery of ESM strategies. And don’t worry, I’m going to keep calling OCM out until our industry starts to get people-change right!
Over the last three decades, so much of what hasn’t worked in ITSM has been related to people (including the continuing absence of OCM in change initiatives). In 2019, there’s even more to be concerned about, and focused on, though – remember that we still have to get to my letter W, and the wellbeing of IT employees. Plus, there’s the impact on people that will result from the growing use of automation, self-service, and AI. The numbers of people employed in ITSM roles will likely change, as will the required skills and capabilities (you can check out this Skills and Capabilities Required of a 2020 ITSM Professional paper to find out more) and the demands that are placed on them.
Hopefully your IT organization has now moved on from focusing on the “doing more with less,” that we seem to have been obsessed with since the financial crisis of 2008, to the newer mantra of “better, faster, cheaper.” To recognize the importance of quality over efficiency and cost cutting. Much of what will be important to IT service delivery and support in 2019, and beyond, will relate to quality improvements rather than efficiency and cost reductions.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
In all of the 2018 talk of AI, machine learning, and chatbots, the ITSM industry has somewhat overlooked RPA. If this is new to you, Wikipedia’s RPA definition is here. Please take the time to understand more about the current reality with RPA – you’ll potentially find it beneficial to your IT service delivery and support during 2019. You might also find much of what has been written on RPA by analyst firm Horses for Sources to be helpful, including this recent blog by Phil Fersht: RPA is the gateway drug. AI is the drug…
I’m still haunted by the 2017 SDI stat that only 12% of organizations have realized the anticipated return on investment from their self-service initiatives. And this is important. We need to learn from what has gone wrong. Because the drivers of self-service success underpin not only what many organizations have been trying to achieve with self-service portals but also, looking forward, the relative success of chatbots (or cognitive assistants). So, we as an industry finally need to get it right in 2019. From OCM, through automation, to employee experience.
I might be banging my little (okay, large) puppet head against a brick wall here. But IT departments need to finally get greater visibility and insight into what IT services cost and why. Pretending to “run IT like a business” when you have no idea what individual products and services cost at a unit level, or what drives those costs, is one thing. But, in 2019, knowing that IT is making optimal decisions with its investments in existing and future IT-delivered capabilities will be vital too.
Unified best practice
Do you see what I did there? It’s not so much that U is a hard letter to start an ITSM-related word with but more that I was toying with V for VeriSM until I realized that it just had to be V for value. VeriSM is helping out the ITSM – well, service management – industry by blending existing methods and approaches such that ITSM pros are no longer limited to following a single view of what ITSM best practice is (and the restrictions this brings). We’ll have to wait to see if a similar approach is taken by ITIL 4 in 2019.
My good friend Paul Wilkinson has been – technical term – “banging on about” the importance of value in ITSM for as long as I can remember. Thankfully the rest of the world is finally catching up (with him). So, expect to be pressed more and more about the business value of what you do and deliver. Also, appreciate that traditional ITSM metrics will likely need to be reimagined to offer up a value perspective of IT spend and activities.
Hopefully you’re seeing the signs of things changing in respect of employee wellbeing as we end 2018. And please keep these two statistics front of mind in 2019: a 2017 ITSM.tools survey found that “82% of respondents believe that working in IT will get harder over the next three years” (I’m told that this will be updated for the start of 2019) and “67% of IT professionals have health issues due to stress at the workplace” (sadly this is a 2015 stat). In 2019 it’s finally time to address IT’s working culture and to tackle the issues of mental health.
Okay, it’s another cheat on my part (as the X stands for experience). But hopefully you’ll agree that it’s a great use of the letter X. XLAs are an increasingly popular gauge of IT’s performance that focus on the quality of experience as well as the quality of service. Expect XLAs to be increasingly discussed and adopted in 2019, especially on the back of customer experience and employee experience strategies.
Not Sydney (if you get this, then you’re showing your age), but the focus we collectively place on bringing more highly-capable young people into ITSM. And the steps we can take to make them the IT, and perhaps business, leaders of the future. With some of them being recognized as industry thought leaders along the way. As to what this would take, it’s probably one of the hardest challenges to crack in ITSM. But hey, we have a whole, brand-new, year ahead of us to play with!
Zero Sum Game
Unlike many of the challenges we face in life, I don’t believe ITSM to be a zero sum game. We have a real opportunity in 2019 to make a difference to the quality of IT service delivery and support and the better business outcomes that come as a result. And investing time and resources in many of the above-mentioned areas will pay back far more than is put in.
So, that’s my 2019 ITSM alphabet. Which of these would you replace? And what with? Please let me know in the comments. Oh and if you liked this blog, here’s my earlier A – Zs of SIAM, enterprise service management, and artificial intelligence.
Posted by Joe the IT Guy