Enterprise Service Management: Make Sure It’s Not About You


by Roy Atkinson
November 15, 2017

Enterprise service management (ESM) done right can be a large step on the journey of digital transformation—the term used to describe the fundamental shift to new ways of doing things.

In the previous post in this series, we discussed the cultural changes that are necessary to successfully achieve successful ESM. Now we’ll begin to focus in on what’s necessary to make the changes work in practice. Before we launch into more of how to expand service management, let’s follow Simon Sinek’s sage advice and start with why.

Our favorite definition of ESM comes from analyst Stephen Mann:

The use of ITSM principles and capabilities in other areas…to improve performance and service.

What this is all about, then, is improving business outcomes, not putting a feather in IT’s cap, or following a trend. (We’ll discuss more about how important it is for IT to have its own house in order in the next post in this series.) Showing leadership is not the same as saying, “Do it our way.”

Our past research has shown that IT is leading ESM efforts in more than half of organizations. One of the ways the shift to ESM can be hobbled from the start is making it seem as if IT is telling the rest of the business units how to do their jobs. ESM is not about how smart IT is. It is about enabling other parts of your business to do things in better ways, with better data, better processes, and in many cases, better tools than they currently have.

ESM is not about how smart IT is. It is about enabling other parts of your business.
Tweet: ESM is not about how smart IT is. It is about enabling other parts of your business. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #ITSM

Overcoming resistance to change is a major part of any organizational change management. One way to virtually guarantee high resistance is to begin by conveying that you know how to do things better than someone who is already doing it. Consider what happens if someone announces that they are going to “fix” how your work gets done; raised eyebrows and eye rolls ensue.

If, however, the approach to change comes from trusted colleagues, and if it is clearly an offer to share knowledge and tools, the reaction will very likely be different. Again, this all is on condition that you’re already doing the right things and have your service management act together.

In a SupportWorld article, Sarah Lahav listed what IT can bring to the table:

Each and every internal service provider that is being tasked with improving service delivery and service experience would benefit from:

  • IT’s years of service management experience and knowledge
  • Service management best practice, translated from the IT lexicon and scenarios to meet business function needs
  • Technology to support service management
  • Technology to enable consumer-world-like experiences, such as online portals, self-service, and mobile access

We can add a couple of specific items to the list:

  • Centralized data. Identity and access database (e.g., Active Directory), the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), and other enterprise data sources are already under the purview of IT and ITSM. Many organizations are maintaining disparate databases in silos: An HR database, a facilities database, and so on. Having the data “under one roof” reduces duplication, expense, errors, and rework.
  • Infrastructure. Whether based in on-premises data centers or in the cloud, IT is already delivering services to the organization. (Caveat: It’s very important to be honest with ourselves and our business colleagues about how well we are doing this.)

Almost every vendor of IT service management software will tell you that they are ready for ESM, and in most respects, they are. But are you? By this we mean, do you have the expertise on your team to configure the tools so that they properly enable ESM or the budget to get that configuration done if the expertise doesn’t reside in-house?

In our July 2017 Research Brief, The State of Technology in Technical Support, (HDI members only), we reported that 26 percent of organizations have an ITSM tool that requires a skilled programmer to make changes; 63 percent said that knowledge specific to the tool is needed.

As part of your due diligence before embarking on the ESM journey, you need to: 

  • Set specific goals for your technical capability to deliver ESM
  • Assess your current toolset for the capabilities you need
  • Do a gap analysis of both the tools and the skills required to modify them

This is a time of rapid technological change, so you should be “skilling up” your teams in any event, but when we are talking about broadening service management to the whole organization, we need to have the right things to offer.

Enterprise service management depends on IT, but is not all about IT. It is about moving your organization forward with both speed and agility to achieve the ambitious goals set by business leaders.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss why it’s important to have your own ITSM house in order before moving to ESM.


Roy Atkinson Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): supportworld, service management, ITSM, IT service management

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