Written by Stephen Mann, Principal and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools
We probably don’t often stop to think about the technology we use in IT service management (ITSM) and service desk operations. Yes, there’s often negative technology talk, for example that there continues to be a high level of ITSM tool churn or that IT organizations still struggle with some tool capabilities, e.g. analytics and reporting, and self-service usability. However, rising above these specific points, the ITSM industry, and the professionals that work within it, have benefited significantly from the use of technology in the last few decades.
Process workflow and automation capabilities have been the backbone of both tools and customer operations for as long as I can remember. Then we’ve seen the addition of email, telephony integrations, data integrations to business systems and other IT management tools, graphical workflow engines, orchestration-style automation, visual CMDBs, remote control, self-service portals, social media, APIs, chat, mobile, gamification capabilities, and other things that I’m sure I’ve forgotten while I focus too much on my fat fingers hitting the keyboard. Hopefully though, it’s a good marriage of people and technology working together to benefit business operations.
Recognizing ITSM’s Reliance on Technology
So, if we stop to think about it – ITSM practitioners have benefitted more from ITSM tools and other IT management technologies than perhaps they realize. The technology, in particular the automation of previously manual activities, has not only made the lives of practitioners easier, it has also:
Sped up issue resolution, change, and service request fulfillment
Improved the quality of IT service delivery and support
Reduced costs – through less manual labor, greater efficiency, and fewer errors/less rework
Increased customer satisfaction and, more recently, improved the customer experience
Provided greater insight into operational and service performance.
This is in no way my push to value technology over people – after all, good people with poor technology can still get things done (they find a way). Whereas poor people with good technology will probably struggle.
Instead it’s recognition of the importance of technology to modern ITSM and wider IT operations, and a launch pad to question whether there’s still more than can be done to marry people and technology (and process) to further improve IT service delivery and support.
Exploiting Automation Even More in 2017 and Beyond
The top answer was automation capabilities at 62% of respondents (who could choose their top five influences from a list) – this was up from 20% when the survey was run four years earlier. With automation capabilities now ahead of product features, ease of use, self-service capabilities, customizability, integrations, and other customer wants and needs.
More recently, an October 2016 AXELOS survey, that examined how the ITSM industry will look in 2030 , identified that:
ITSM practitioners welcome the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – with 77% believing that “these trends would have a profound impact on the IT workforce, liberating ITSM professionals from routine tasks and freeing up time for responding to demands for more creativity and ‘human’ input.”
89% of respondents think that “an increase in automation will take over the repetitive tasks of IT, creating more time for service managers to focus on delivering more value to their organizations.”
Thus, the use of more automation, including AI and machine learning, is firmly on the ITSM practitioner agenda for 2017 and beyond – further marrying people and technology to improve business performance.
But Where Will We See AI and Machine Learning Helping Most?
There are so many potential, and currently used, ITSM applications for the technology, many of which fall under the umbrella of working smarter, not harder. For example:
Automating IT operations to reduce resolution time and increase service availability – it’s the ITSM Holy Grail of improved service quality and customer satisfaction, AND reduced costs. With both orchestration and machine learning employed to speed things up.
Turning ITSM data into information, knowledge, and wisdom – this can range from the automated creation of knowledge articles from incident tickets through to discovering aspects of operational and service performance that were previously hidden due to a lack of suitable analytics capabilities and/or data “snow blindness.” Plus of course machine-learning-based “recommendation” capabilities like those we already see in consumer services such as Netflix.
Supplementing and/or enhancing people with the technology – on the one hand, operational analytics can feel like having another expert in your team. On the other, machine learning and orchestration can be used to provide intelligent responses to end-user emails that not only provide the most-likely solution, but also allow the ticket to be closed at the end user’s request. All without human interaction (on the service desk side).
Increasing proactivity through machine learning – this might be predicting incidents and problems. It might be predicting things such as change risk, future demand for services, or the impact on customer satisfaction caused by a planned changed to services or support.
While the media focus is often on the “cool” technology, the real benefits are to be had through the better marriage of people and technology. So it’s not so much a Skynet scenario, more like Wall-E . Well at least for now.
How do you feel about using more automation, including AI and machine learning, and the part it will play in the future of ITSM? If you can spare a few minutes, please let me know in the comments section.