When users contact the IT department, it's generally for one of three reasons: wanting something fixed, wanting another kind of help or wanting something new. As a result, the IT service management (ITSM) discipline has over the years become adept at putting in place processes to address enquiries with speed, efficiency and accountability. But look closely at other business departments, and you’ll find the reasons for interacting with them are no different from why you might interact with the IT department.
We contact HR or the facilities department for the same reasons: to fix something, for help with a question, or for something new. As such, it's time that ITSM got rid of the 'IT' and looked at service management as something that can be used far outside the IT department. At a time when IT departments are often the first to face cuts and the threat of 'efficiencies', demonstrating the value of holistic service management can protect IT's position and, more importantly, deliver cost benefits to the whole business.
The global ITIL success story
Over the last decade or so, we have seen the global adoption of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) as the guiding principles of the processes that underpin ITSM. This has been very successful – the combination of process consulting, technology and the huge success of cloud-based solutions have meant that there are a large number of customers who are successfully using these kinds of platforms for servicing and supporting IT functionality across the organisation.
However, the fundamentals that underpin such systems are now also driving a change in the way businesses thinking about what is possible when they take the IT out of ITSM. For several years, the ITIL community has postulated that the IT part of the name is a misnomer and the processes that are at the core of the library could be used outside IT. While in principle there has been nothing stopping that adoption, until recently the technology solutions on offer haven't presented a logical and simple way of translating the theory to the rest of the business.
New cloud platforms enable migration outside IT
This has now changed significantly as new cloud-based technologies become widely available. Those three interactions that IT consumers have with IT support - for something to be fixed, some help, or something new - can be addressed simply with modern cloud-platforms. The way that today's service management solutions are built include workflows, user experience elements, approvals, escalations, security and configuration management functionality that support these processes. The workflow sitting behind a request for a new device, for example, will provide the approvals, ordering process and tracking that will have the device delivered to the requestor, with full transparency and visibility.
If we disregard the IT 'content' of the request, it’s not too big a leap of imagination to apply these kinds of workflows to other functions. As a result, many organisations are delivering the same efficiency, transparency and user experience to other parts of the business by translating their IT service management processes into, simply, service management. Some examples include: business continuity planning, HR case management, facilities management, vendor management and projects and demand management.
Other functions are stealing a march on IT
There are a number of recent examples of organisations successfully translating service management technology into other business areas. The NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT) service, a special health authority, created a single 'point of contact' for its 6,000 staff known as HR Direct. This point of contact, for all staff to use to access HR advice and support from wherever they are located in the UK, was created using a cloud platform traditionally intended for ITSM processes (on this occasion, ServiceNow).
The NHSBT HR team has also automated the systems used for managing queries and HR cases, ranging from providing straightforward advice to more complex matters such as disciplinary or grievance cases. One benefit of this approach is that it gives the management team an up-to-date overview of all cases in progress, rather than relying on out of date spreadsheets.
Similarly, Waitrose has adapted ITSM technology to support its business continuity planning strategy. This solution helps the company manage the plans and procedures that would enable the company to 'recover to business as usual' in the case of a wide range of business interruption risks. This might be anything from bad weather impeding deliveries, to fuel shortages disrupting distribution, to a fire at head office in Bracknell.
Across the UK we see that in some organisations, non-IT functions are stealing a march on their IT colleagues by implementing service management solutions at the same time, or sometimes even before, they are applied to IT support. Isn't it time therefore that the industry grew up and shed the first two letters of its acronym?
- Paul Cash is Managing Director at Fruition Partners UK.