This article originally appeared in the January/February 2015 special edition of SupportWorld magazine.
Given the multitude of challenges that IT has faced over the years, there's a growing recognition that IT must grow, change, and clearly demonstrate the value it gives back to the organization. In fact, recent HDI research revealed that 86 percent of IT organizations are feeling pressured to prove their value to the business. While IT has had the luxury of being focused on infrastructure, it can no longer just “weed and feed” servers and other infrastructure. It must get more customer-centric and take the actions which will satisfy customers’ wants and needs.
This is not without its pressures or challenges, but there is an opening for a new perspective, a new opportunity to engage with customers on a meaningful basis. However, this change of focus will require a more thoughtful approach and realization that substantive organizational change is required to make it happen. In order to earn that trusted advisor role, the IT organization has to demonstrate tangible value to the customer.
This is the time and the opportunity for IT and technical support organizations to take the lead, and research highlights point the way.
Reason 1: The opportunity to showcase professional expertise and introduce innovation to enterprise colleagues
Research Fact: More than half of the organizations surveyed are either applying or planning to apply service management principles in areas outside of IT.
Based upon this new research, we now know that organizations—51 percent of them at least—have realized the value of expanding service management principles into non-IT areas, and that they have the tools to do it. The largest percentage is putting the tools and principles to work in customer service and support, applying incident and request management, knowledge management, and other processes. If they continue to adapt ITIL’s stated processes, they can move ahead as far as continual service improvement, which will create a clear way forward.
While non-IT areas may not think of the ITSM practices they are adopting from their IT counterparts in those precise terms, the conceptual structure that IT service management provides is the foundation for such non-IT use. The practice becomes, simply, service management, and the “IT” falls away. Service management is your domain expertise. Be proactive and get in the mix.
Reason 2: The opportunity to lead and become a trusted advisor
Research Fact: IT is the champion for this movement in 53 percent of organizations. In the other 47 percent of organizations, leaders from other business units, or other non-IT positions, have led the charge.
Using ITSM principles outside of IT is an opportunity for IT and technical support leaders to lead and be a trusted advisor. As IT organizations have been moving farther down the path of enhanced service delivery and demonstrated long-term success with ITSM best practices, other departments in their organizations have been taking notice.
Regardless of who leads the charge, IT/CIO or a non-IT leader, for most organizations that have expanded service management processes, IT is acting as a consultant to those other areas of the business more than half the time – it’s a natural partnership. Your success translates into faster ramp-up time in the other areas; your colleagues can learn from your mistakes and jump ahead with what your team has already proven works.
Reason 3: The opportunity to showcase process expertise and apply proven best practices to enterprise colleagues
Research fact: ITIL is the most common set of service management practices to be applied within non-IT areas. Incident management (75%) and knowledge management (52%) are the top two processes being applied in non-IT areas.
ITIL is the most likely framework to be adopted outside of IT, and sixty-four percent of those organizations are using it. ITIL has been around for several decades, and enjoys worldwide acceptance. That Knowledge-Centered Support is also among the top frameworks being applied (21%) validates that KCS as a methodology is natural complement to proven service management practices, and ITIL in particular.
Of the organizations that have implemented service management outside of IT, 75 percent of them are using incident/service request processes. This is where you sit in the catbird seat. Your organization is a master at incident management. Many of you are masters at knowledge management, number two on the list (52%), and have both practical experience and domain expertise. Problem management? Fourth on the list (43%). Tech support professionals know plenty about that, too.
Knowledge management (52%), change management (51%), customer relationship management (47%), problem management (43%), and asset management (38%) all speak to core skills and competencies required to be successful and increase operational rigor. With the customer support organization being the most common area where these principles are being applied, your team is a natural partner who can make a difference across the board.
Reason 4: The opportunity to showcase technical expertise, help maximize technology resources, and realize technology ROI
Research Fact: The expanding capabilities of the technology are the driving factor for 61 percent of the organizations that are applying service management outside of IT.
Across all organizations, 87 percent of respondents either currently have or are planning to have ITSM tools in place, only 13% do not. In today's IT organization, it is almost taken for granted that some sort of ITSM tool will be used in support of operations.
In fact, respondents reported that 73 percent of their ITSM tool solutions have the capability of being used outside of IT. Of those, 47 percent of organizations are actually using the tool in non-IT areas and 28 percent plan to. In this situation, given the experience they gain in owning and operating the ITSM tools, it's highly likely that adopting both ITSM principles and a supporting toolset will provide a more compelling benefit than either one alone.
Because of the general capability these tools provide—and seeing the results that they produce in the services IT provides for them—it makes sense that business unit leaders and non-IT executives would choose to use the ITSM tool. A key benefit to this approach is that the tool becomes a trusted capability for the organization, along with the trusted advice of the technical support organization. This translates into decreased risk during an implementation and a dedicated support staff to go along with it. In fact, IT supports the tools being used in other areas in 66% of the organizations.
Savvy business leaders would take notice and identify ways in which an existing technology investment could be leveraged across the entire business. This also satisfies a common business imperative: Get more value out of a resource that you already own. Your team’s expertise makes this goal attainable.
Reason 5: The opportunity to demonstrate business value and provide next generation service support
Research fact: IT has gained new recognition of their value to the business in 45 percent of organizations now applying service management to non-IT areas.
As a direct result of this enhanced relationship, 45 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations have expanded the scope of their services and support, and eighteen percent reported becoming a single point of contact for multiple services. We are already aware that support centers are adjusting to different ways of doing business. So, if today’s IT organization isn’t operate/configure (“weed and feed”) anymore, it follows that today’s service support organization is no longer just break/fix!
Against this backdrop, IT has to go beyond the traditional ways of engaging with customers in a way that demonstrates a sensitivity to what the organization is out to accomplish and how an individual contributors’ actions relate to those accomplishments. Customers are also demanding that their IT service providers operate in a time frame that is more consistent with how their business moves and in a manner which demonstrates that they understand and are responding to the business need. Next generation service support has arrived, and this research sets an agenda on how to get on board.
It is significant that 45 percent report that IT is being recognized for the value it provides to the business as a direct result of this trend. It is a tangible step towards a more proactive style of operations where the experience and perspective of IT can help drive business value now, not at some distant point in the future. This fact alone is a positive indication that the relationship between IT and the business is evolving, as the recognition potentially carries with it a higher degree of trust being granted and a deeper customer relationship.
Few areas in the modern organization are left untouched by IT. As a result, it should be anticipated that the build-out of new applications or changes to existing ones would be common requests. Ultimately, this means that IT needs to learn to “work smarter, not harder.”
All of these factors combined actively contribute to a revised, renewed relationship between IT and the organization it supports. Whether acting as an internal consultant to the business or an operator of enabling technology, using ITSM outside of IT is a reliable, relatively low cost, and high-impact way of becoming more customer-centric.
Given these results and the introduction of new technologies in the market over the next few years, it’s reasonable to expect that this trend will continue to grow. Indeed, for any organization that wishes to thrive (or, at minimum, remain relevant), this should prove to be one of the most important strategies the IT organization can pursue.
Cinda Daly is the CEO and chief content strategist for Focus Events, where she brings her career achievements as an impact player in content strategy, marketing, customer service, and events to her enterprise clients. Her current projects include a variety of initiatives in global event management, online media, and community building, all built on a foundation of high-quality editorial content, customer advocacy, and knowledge sharing.