Businesses are facing a faster pace of change than they ever have done before, due in no small part to the ever-shifting technology landscape. Over recent years there has been a plethora of new technologies, some of which have had a major impact on businesses. For example, cloud technology has delivered organisations a range of new options around hosting and outsourcing.
Initiatives such as Bring Your Own Device, in which employees are encouraged to use their own Smartphones and Tablets at work, provide greater choice and easier access to IT systems and services, but they also raise concerns around support and security. Similar issues are encountered with social media platforms including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, which have become a firm staple in the communications and marketing strategies of many businesses.
These examples demonstrate that when it comes to managing technology in business, the only guaranteed constant is change.
IT managers cannot afford to ignore new technologies or demands from the business to use them, but their adoption must be actively managed. To do this the IT function must be able to easily modify the services and support it offers, as well as its policies on security and usage. I firmly believe that the effective use of an IT Service Management platform is central to achieving this.
IT Service Management can enable businesses to unlock value from technology investments through aiding the planning, management and delivery of their IT function. What is critical however is that a business creates policies and services tailored to its own specific needs.
Far too often organisations build IT Service Management policies focused on the broader market, addressing needs and issues that are widely debated in industry circles and the IT press, but which are not core to their own business. Industry debates draw in participants from very different backgrounds and with very different needs – for example, delivering IT on site versus on the road, or accessing confidential data versus the public internet.
In addition, senior members of staff, who have the most influence over setting policies, often spend the majority of their time out of the office and communicating on mobile devices. Their needs often do not represent those of other areas within the business.
Care therefore needs to be taken that the specific intricacies of the organisation are considered. IT Service Management can provide businesses with factual data on service usage, access devices, and user problems which will enable solutions to be aligned to the specific organisational needs, rather than wider industry issues.
IT investment will then be made based on business-specific metrics, which are available from the IT Service Management platform.
The key however is for a business to not then rest on its laurels; effective IT Service Management can report trends and identify areas where processes can be continually improved. To ensure it remains competitive, a business must recognise this need for change.
All businesses want to progress, however the problem for many organisations is that Service Management technology is letting them down. Far too often, businesses find their IT Service Management tools can meet the requirements they had a few years ago, but cannot be adapted to address changing technologies and emerging business needs.
Perhaps this is why analysts report the average industry turnover rate of Service Management products to be just five years. This high churn rate needs to be reduced, as economic pressures mean that businesses are looking to get more from the investments they have made in areas like Service Management.
Agile businesses which can adapt with changing technologies, customer requirements and business opportunities, will gain competitive advantage and market share. The ability to modify processes to adopt and utilise emerging technologies is essential.
For businesses to become flexible, they must ensure their IT Service Management products are up to the job, and can deliver and support services both now and in the future. This means that the technology must have the ability to rapidly create or change services and processes and integrate with new systems and technologies.
An IT Service Management solution with this flexibility ultimately provides business with a platform to continue these adopted best practices into the organisation’s wider support services.
Creating a platform
For businesses to take full advantage of market opportunities, it is imperative that IT Service Management is part of a broader strategy to improve service delivery throughout the organisation.
Once process agility has been established within IT, the business can reap further rewards by taking this process driven-approach to other areas of the company. Areas such as facilities management, HR, finance and marketing deliver services that can be built on a suitably flexible Service Management platform used in IT. This will drive organisational efficiency in improving tasks, processes and decision making in these departments, while using the investment in an existing system to do it.
Research by Forrester has identified a new category of business solution, termed a Smart Process App#, which combines formal processes, collaboration capabilities, contextual awareness, data analytics and advanced information capture. Smart Process Apps change frequently and typically span multiple business functions.
These capabilities align with the evolution of the most advanced service management and business process management platforms. Selecting a platform that can deliver Smart Process Apps will maximise the scope for re-using the investment throughout the organisation, while ensuring the ability to meet new emerging business and market requirements.
Using a single service management platform across multiple business functions offers benefits beyond simple re-use of an asset. The services delivered to end users take on a common, consistent and more intuitive interface, improving the customer experience, regardless of which department is actually delivering them.
This approach also provides a system to realise the end-to-end automation of processes and services which span multiple departments; important, as many inefficiencies relate to processes crossing departmental borders. Finally, this approach encourages collaboration between departments and starts to break down the information silos that exist in many businesses.
A partner through change
IT Service Management vendors and consultants can provide best practice experience gained in the wider industry, but it is essential that these partners focus on the right solution for the needs of the individual business, and do not mandate solutions that simply reflect the capabilities of their product.
However, to be truly effective the partnership must also be a long term commitment from both parties. Setting strong processes and then adapting these within the IT department, across business units and subsequently across the organisation is a long-term vision. A partner that can support this business vision, and make it a reality, is imperative.