IT’s challenge is to meet user expectations despite the growing number and complexity of the services we deliver, the increasing number and mobility of users, and the diversity of user devices. To meet that challenge, I have found you must pay attention to both the front-end and the back-end architecture of the IT service management (ITSM) system.
The Front End: Easy, One-stop Service
Traditionally, users have had to scurry around to multiple places to find and request the IT services they need. They submit incident tickets to the helpdesk on one site, request a loaner laptop on another, and order software on yet another.
Users are getting more and more demanding. I think a lot of it has to do with the growing number of Generation Xers and Millennials in the workplace. These employees are intimately familiar with technology, and they want to do more on their own. They want a central location for everything, whether it’s ordering a notebook computer or getting a bulb replaced in a conference room projector. It’s what most people refer to as one-stop shopping.
But one-stop shopping is only part of the story. Easy navigation is a must. Users don’t want to wade through multiple, confusing forms to get what they need. They want the kind of experience Amazon.com offers. All they have to do is pick up a smartphone, log in, find what they need, use one-click ordering, and the item is on its way. Amazon.com recognizes each customer and has relevant information that streamlines the purchase. That’s the level of convenience and simplicity IT organizations like ours should aim for.
What’s more, the remote workforce has increased dramatically over the last few years. So in addition to expecting a consumer-style experience, users also expect to be able to work not only from anywhere but also from any device they choose. That makes access from mobile devices a must if we’re going to keep our users happy and productive.
The Back End: Fast, Reliable Service Delivery
Our challenge doesn’t end with ensuring ease and convenience on the front end. We also have to deliver on those requests, and do it quickly and accurately. If processes for addressing incidents and requests aren’t mature enough and aren’t working smoothly, then wrapping a nice front end around them is going to lead to chaos because we’re not going to be able to deliver what people request. Meeting expectations for fulfillment requires a combination of efficient processes, extensive automation, and tight system integration.
I think the majority of the foundational principles of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) are just as important today as they were yesterday, and I view ITIL as a strong foundation for best-practice processes. But keep in mind that ITIL was never positioned as an all-or-nothing prescription. Simply put, it’s a set of guidelines. When implementing ITIL, it isn’t mandatory that you adhere to all the strict enforcements. ITIL has a wealth of foundational pieces that you can select and tailor to control the chaos. The reality is that when most organizations “adopt” ITIL, it’s actually a version of the guidelines that they have tailored to meet their unique needs.
Once you have the right processes in place, automation is key to achieving fulfillment speed and accuracy. Repetitive requests are a good place to start. For example, developers frequently request virtual machines with specific amounts of RAM, processing power, and disk space. They want fast fulfillment, immediate notification, and a link to access the requested system. This kind of process lends itself to end-to-end automation, so it’s a great place to start implementing automation.
Request fulfillment usually involves interaction of the ITSM system with many different back-end systems. So integration of the ITSM system with the back end is a must. This integration should not require a large development effort but should be achievable through straightforward APIs in the ITSM system.
The Payoff: Happy, Productive Users
By paying attention to the ITSM system architecture, your organization can make great strides in meeting ever-increasing user expectations. We still have work to do, but we’re keeping the goal of one-stop shopping and near-instant fulfillment in our sights. I am excited about the role IT is playing in digital transformation and the positive impact we’re having on the business.