Editor’s note: This is the first entry in a series on shift left strategies — stay tuned for more posts on shifting left in the coming weeks.
IT service desk organizations are being challenged to move faster, be more agile, and to better align with changing business user expectations and demographics. At the same time, there is the continual quest to improve operational efficiency, ensure service quality, minimize risk, and manage compliance.
This is a tall order! Where does the service desk even begin?
There are several approaches the service desk can employ, including adopting leaner processes, automating common tasks, and enabling more self-service. A common theme among all these approaches relates to the idea of “shifting left.”
What Does It Mean to “Shift Left?”
The shift left concept can apply to a variety of activities such as application testing and integration. In this context, shifting left refers to testing software earlier (and as close to the delivery of code) as possible and, in fact, throughout the application development life cycle. The goal of doing so is to shorten development cycles, improve the quality of releases, and avoid situations where issues are discovered at the end of the development cycle, when they are harder and more costly to fix.
In the context of service management, shift left can be summarized as, where possible and appropriate, moving problem resolution and other activities as close as possible to the end user. By shifting left, these activities are moved to lower cost delivery channels, which optimizes costs and enables more expensive resources to focus on work that can’t be performed by less skilled labor. In practice, here’s how it works: Introducing self-service (if it doesn’t already exist) enables a subset of tasks currently provided by level 1 support to be performed by end users themselves via a self-service portal (level 0). Likewise, a subset of level 2 activities can be moved to level 1, level 3 activities moved to level 2, and so on.
In addition to reducing costs, doing this properly has the benefits of reducing both the time and total effort associated with handling requests and dealing with issues—in addition to improving both customer satisfaction and service quality.
How Do You Shift Left with Change Management?
Change Management is one of the critical processes enabling shift left and realizing the above benefits, especially the automation of Standard Changes as aptly defined by ITIL.*
ITIL defines a Standard Change (Service Transition) as a pre-authorized change that is low risk, relatively common, and follows a procedure or work instruction—for example, a password reset or provision of standard equipment to a new employee. Requests for change are not required to implement a Standard Change, and they are logged and tracked using different mechanisms, such as a service requests.
A password reset is an iconic example of a change request that can be presented to end users through a self-service portal. And while the physical setting up a new personal computer typically requires human involvement, ordering equipment and provisioning applications in support of new employee on-boarding can be pre-approved and largely automated. Further, requesting access to a new software application or computer resources could be presented in a self-service portal, pre-approved depending on the request and cost, with requests fulfilled or changes made automatically—including potentially passing the request to a cloud service management platform.
A server reboot is another candidate for a Standard Change (depending on what is running or dependent on the server) that could be pre-approved and automated. Increasing physical or virtual capacity from processors, to storage, to memory, to network bandwidth could all be potential Standard Changes that can be shifted left. These could be manually initiated or be automatically initiated as part of an incident or problem remediation process or supporting task.
How Do You Get Started?
A couple of quick thoughts on where to begin shifting Change Management left. Having a service management platform that is easy to configure is a great start. Change Management tends to be one of the most highly and frequently customized processes, as there is wide variance across organizations reflecting what is under change and configuration control and the change models employed. So, a service management tool that provides you with both the power and flexibility to automate these processes in a way that suits your needs will be central to your ability to successfully shift left.
Next, evaluate your change models to identify common changes that can be pre-approved. Often times change workflows can be split into a set of smaller “packages” that are great candidates for being pre-approved standard changes. Then, evaluate options for automating the execution of changes including supporting tasks. These approaches have the added benefit of aligning with Change Management principles that have emerged from the Agile and DevOps movements.
As you automate more change processes and start seeing the positive impact, you’ll get better and better at identifying shift left opportunities; and you’ll get better and better at applying shift left principles to the benefit of the business.
Take a look at the next post in our shift left series, on how to get started with IT self service. And, to see how IT service management technology can help your team shift left, get a live demo of Cherwell Service Management.
Next Up: Discover the 3 most important strategies for making Change Management “happen.”
*ITIL® glossary and abbreviations, 2011 https://www.axelos.com/Corporate/media/Files/Glossaries/ITIL_2011_Glossary_GB-v1-0.pdf