In the face of major disruptive change, the organisations that succeed are those that do more than just react to new circumstances. They evolve. When it comes to addressing the unprecedented challenges that have emerged in 2020 and 2021, the most successful IT teams have risen and will continue to rise to the occasion by recognising the need for a proactive approach to the waves of disruption.
As any seasoned fire fighter will tell you, there are basically two ways to take on a fire. One is to direct your best knowledge, skills and tools at a fire that is underway and bring it under control. The other is to take steps ahead of time to prevent the fire from ever starting. The past year and a half have given IT teams the opportunity to evolve their approaches both to preventing and combating the “fires” brought about by the pandemic and our response to it.
To understand how, let’s start by taking a look at some of the major causes of these fires.
Spearheaded by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), the Digital Leaders Programme (DLP) is an industry wide initiative striving to aid local companies kick start their digital transformation journey by helping them incorporate digital technology into their key business strategy, to create new digital capabilities. This enables them to formulate innovative business models and gain new growth opportunities.
Although digital transformation has been an ongoing priority for businesses for years, the shift to remote working models exposed gaps in many organisations’ digital transformation initiatives. It quickly became clear that there was a lot of digital transformation that still needed to happen, and at an incredibly accelerated pace. This was especially true for business functions that were historically performed in-person or in a co-located manner.
Digital transformation and the shift to the everywhere workplace have created an explosion in the number and complexity of IT endpoints within the organisation. IT teams have faced a huge influx of personal devices and network connections as well as Internet of Things and self-service devices to replace one-to-one human interaction. The management and security considerations accompanying this growth produce a sharp uptick in complexity for environments that were already, in most instances, very complex.
Shift to product teams
At the same time that IT is trying to balance keeping the lights on with these other concerns, the business demand for IT projects is rising – particularly projects to develop and deploy applications. Industry analysts agree that this shift is driving a move from project orientation coordinated by IT to a more self-sufficient product team approach. In the emerging model, autonomous product teams own the entire application lifecycle, including the support for those applications after they are in production use. And while IT may not be part of every product team, they are considered accountable to the business for the quality of the employee experience of technology – so IT typically maintains a governance role even when not directly involved with the product team.
Business value orientation
Finally, while all of this is occurring, IT is being asked to justify the value of capital and operational expense investments to demonstrate ongoing alignment with the strategic business objectives.
In the face of all of these challenges, IT has gone above and beyond to keep the business moving. There have been long nights, lost weekends and high levels of stress as teams do more than they could ever have anticipated to keep pace with the changing technology environment. At the beginning of 2020, there were dire predictions about decreases in IT budgets, but since IT became the hero of 2020, we have in fact seen those investments increase slightly. Several analysts actually had to revise their estimates. However, that influx of funding (where it has occurred) did little to relieve the stress brought about by the fire starters listed above.
In the face of those disrupters, the reality is that business-as-usual IT practices are not sustainable. IT organisations must take a leading role in governing and guiding the business as they continue to accelerate digital transformation, as they increase complexity and as they make the move to a product team orientation. Otherwise, they can expect to face growing operational and strategic problems such as a rise in Shadow IT – with the IT team bypassed and its budget diverted – and a lack of IT relevance in line of business service management.
Service management maturity
IT needs to mature service management processes so they can serve as the example and governance model for the rest of the business.
If you look at some of the maturity models on the market from analyst firms, one thing becomes immediately clear – maturity of IT service management (ITSM) processes is well documented, but not well-adopted. There have been attempts to achieve greater levels of maturity through implementation of IT infrastructure library (ITIL) best practices and automation, but unfortunately – despite the best intentions for deployment of self-service capabilities, service catalogues, configuration management databases (CMDBs), workflows and more sophisticated processes like problem, release or configuration management – organisations have generally been unable to sustain ongoing management of these processes. Resources have been diverted and ITIL maturity projects have been relegated to the back burner – only to go stale and then have to be re-started again and again. On a 10-point scale, the average maturity of an IT organisation’s service management processes is about a 5.
While these projects have stopped and started, and the fires of disruption have been kindled, the path to maturity has changed in a big way.
Service management and fire prevention
Today’s IT teams must look outwards, not inwards, to enable the business to mature. IT has a key role to play in enabling every line of business and product team to adopt service management best practices – helping them to avoid the pitfalls that led IT to adopt ITIL principles in the first place. Enabling IT teams to scale to support this cross-functional governance role requires the introduction of new efficiencies. That’s where modern approaches like artificial intelligence and machine learning come in – using technology to self-heal, self-secure and self-service the enterprise with hyper-automation.
The measure of IT effectiveness must encompass more than the value that technology contributes to the business attainment of KPIs. The measure of value must also factor in the employee experience of working with technology. Employee experience is now recognised as a differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent at a time when remote working models have made the business world an employee’s market. IT is accountable for both.
The shift to a fire-prevention approach to service management facilitates companies in focusing on the employee experience, implementing both pre-and post-ticket automation and extending service management to the business.
Employees are looking for quick solutions wherever they happen to be in the world. They need automated, interactive solutions that enable them to self-serve. The best employee experience involves solutions that enable employees to self- heal, or better yet, that proactively eliminate the problem before the employee even observes that there is an issue. A quantitative measure of employee experience can demonstrate how effective automation is in driving better employee experiences.
A new class of intelligent service management solutions enable a ticketless experience by self-identifying, triaging and self-healing issues before they arise. Leveraging hyper-automation, these solutions make support teams more efficient and more effective, enabling them to focus resources on those issues that require human interaction.
These solutions also put new capabilities into the hands of the resources that are on the front lines fighting the fires. Embedded knowledge and automation enable support staff to leverage proven solutions to automatically resolve common issues. Machine learning enables them to triage issues in real time, to reduce the mean time to resolve issues that require individual attention.
Extending service management
A growing number of product teams, as well as groups such as HR, finance, legal, procurement, facilities and others are discovering that service management has become a critical factor for ensuring their operational success. By enabling service management as a set of consistent, automated and easily adopted services within the organisation, IT can help these groups avoid the same pitfalls that IT fell into in the days before ITIL. This enables IT teams to establish governance over product team delivery and to ensure the best possible employee experience.