Don’t Overcomplicate ITSM
IT support can be complicated. Here are a few tips on how to simplify ITSM in your company.
“Your incident ticket about a laptop issue, with high urgency and medium impact, has been moved to the Problem Management team since the RCA is unknown to us. We will implement a new change with minimum risk and fix the current state of your CI and also update the CMDB.”
That’s a typical example of how NOT to explain an IT issue to an end user.
Here’s an end-user-friendly alternative instead — “We are analyzing the root cause of your laptop issue. We will let you know as soon as we deploy a fix.”
IT is full of jargon, and IT support is no exception. As we all know, the objective of IT Service Management (ITSM) is to ensure smooth business operations and higher employee satisfaction. However, we often fall into the trap of blindly following complex frameworks and processes, missing the bigger picture. While these frameworks do provide better control mechanisms, companies ultimately fail in execution. The solution is to – “Simplify ITSM”.
Service desk implementation is comparable to a NASA rocket launch.
We have heard analogies like this one far too often — because as humans, we tend to overcomplicate things. So, what can we do to keep ‘IT’ simple instead? Here are a few small pointers that can have a huge impact on our day-to-day work.
- Follow what suits your customer
- Redefine the definitions
- Apply theory to practice
- Nurture a great culture
Follow what suits your customer
Global brands like Apple, Google, and Amazon are successful today because they have made it a priority to understand the needs of their customers. For example, the way a research business operates is totally different from a customer support business in terms of goals, processes and environment.
The customer support business relies on smooth network operations to connect seamlessly with customers, and its primary objective is to solve customer queries. On the other hand, the research business focuses on analyses and development. Therefore, we must understand our customers and aim to match process goals to our business goals when setting processes. Sometimes, sticking to the basics helps more than following complex processes.
Let us consider a scenario in service desk daily operations:
Telephonic conversation between an agent and an employee:
Employee – “My laptop crashed in the middle of an important presentation. Need help ASAP.”
IT agent – “Sure. Please provide more information. What is your employee ID and job title?”
Employee – “A102, Sales Executive.”
IT agent – “Thanks. What is your laptop serial number?”
Employee – “Err.. I don’t know. Where do I find it?”
IT agent – “No problem. Please submit an incident for this and don’t forget to CC your reporting manager. We will fix it soon.”
Employee – “Why should I? I need a fix now, ASAP.”
IT agent – “Sorry. That’s the process we follow. Please submit a ticket.”
Employee – “Incident or ticket? I’m confused!”
Unsatisfied employee hangs up
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? You and your colleagues may have experienced something similar, and it’s definitely not pleasant. The goal is to simplify ITSM, not fill it with jargon that makes little sense to end users.
ITIL is not magic that makes things automatically work. Choose a framework that suits your customer.
Redefine the definitions
Employee – “I need to report a problem with my laptop.”
IT agent – “Sorry! Problem tickets can be reported only by agents.”
Exchanges like this one just lead to confused and frustrated employees.
It is important to align industry definitions to internal definitions. We need to ensure the right message is conveyed, irrespective of the process followed. The above conversation clearly confuses the end user due to its complex jargon, in this case the term ‘problem’.
Consistency and simplicity are important in terms of the language that we use across the board. Communicate with your end users in simple, understandable language. Let us look at some of the definitions used in ITSM with real time examples.
Your end users aren’t interested in jargon and details, just results. Stick to layman’s language and relevant information.
Incident vs. Problem
An ‘incident’ is an unexpected interruption while a ‘problem’ is repeated incidents with unknown root cause. Problem management aims for a permanent fix.
Incident – Replacing a flat tire with a spare one
Problem – Repairing the flat tire
Asset management vs. CMDB
Asset management software records the entire lifecycle of an asset, along with cost, warranty and contract related information. CMDB records relationships between assets, asset owners and asset history, thus providing complete context.
Every asset is a configuration item, but not every configuration item is an asset. Also read
CMDB – Neural network
Asset management – Nodes within the neural network
Change vs. Release
It is vital to differentiate the roles and responsibilities of these two teams as they frequently overlap. Change management includes the evaluation, planning and approval of a change, whereas release management deals with the final execution of the approved change.
Change – Pre-launch activities at a rocket launchpad
Release – Actual launch
Simplify ITSM – Make an internal glossary of terms for your organization, and ensure stakeholders use it.
Apply theory to practice
It is important to learn theory, but even more important to implement theory into practice. This especially applies to the implementation of ITIL in your organization. Conventionally, theory suggests that IT support teams be divided into tiered teams (L1, L2) and handle tickets based on complexity. But today, methodologies such as Agile and DevOps simplify ITSM and promote a more collaborative approach are gaining traction. These result in quicker resolution and improve efficiency, as members from various teams can collaborate to solve issues.
Similarly, theory may suggest certain KPIs for individual processes such as incident management and change management. But, in practice, KPIs must be decided based on company goals. For example, certain businesses emphasise quality over speed. In their case, a CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) score is a more relevant KPI than FCR (First Call Resolution). The adoption of ITIL processes requires the proper training of end users and agents. Training should cover practical use cases and real-time examples to be successful.
ITIL is not the solution; ITIL is a catalyst for effective ITSM.
Nurture a great culture
Organizational culture plays a significant role in the success of any process, and the same applies to ITIL. ITSM has laid the foundation for cultural transformation in many organizations.
- Develop a mindset that embraces new changes
- Follow an open work culture – employees can attempt new innovations and practices
- Collect continuous feedback and revisit your existing processes accordingly
- Start small and grow big — follow a phased approach when implementing new processes to simplify ITSM
- Develop a collaborative work environment that lets agents collaborate with each other through swarming, the Agile approach, etc.
Culture may be the least-considered factor for a new process, but good ITSM starts with cultural change.
TL;DR – Simplify ITSM
The next time you start something new or revisit existing processes in your organization, try keeping these points in mind. Don’t obsess over processes — everything centers around your customers, which means that process alignment with business users is crucial to achieve true success in ITSM. Feel free to share your learnings from implementing a new process (such as ITIL) in the comments!
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