ITSM Best Practices for Implementation and Measuring Success

Posted by on September 19, 2019

ITSM Best Practices

The process of getting a new IT service management (ITSM) tool can seem simple—first, you establish your ITSM tool requirements, then look for ITSM tool vendors and begin the RFP process. Once those RFPs come through, you review the features and functions available in various options, choose one, and implement it. Simple, right? 

Not so fast. 

On average, IT organizations replace their ITSM tools once every five years. That’s a rapid clip to update such an essential solution (and a churn rate that far exceeds other enterprise software, such as CRM or ESP tools). 

What’s behind that attrition rate? There are a few factors, but a major one is missteps during the implementation process. Another factor is a tool that fails to deliver the metrics-tracking functionality that’s essential for IT departments to flourish and demonstrate their value. As well, when upgrades and updates are not applied, organizations can get frustrated with outdated capabilities. 

If you’re in the market for a new ITSM tool, you’ll want to take a look at our guide to proper implementation, along with tips for how your solution can help you provide value to the business (and show that IT is a contributor to the bottom line, not a cost center) by measuring meaningful metrics. 

7 Steps to a Successful ITSM Tool Implementation 

Shortly after the ink on the licensing agreement is dry, you might for a moment believe your ITSM project is complete. Nothing could be further from the truth—this step is just the beginning. For the next three to six months, the blocking and tackling begins as you establish tool requirements and laythe foundation for IT service management excellence. 

To ensure that your ITSM tool remains helpful (and doesn’t need to be replaced), you’ll want to keep your end goals related to improved customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and the enablement of business outcomes at the forefront of your project. 

Here are seven steps to follow for a smooth ITSM tool implementation—one that will pay dividends for your organization well into the future. 

Step 1: Engage and Listen to Your Users 

The individuals with the most influence on the success of your project are the people who will spend the most time with your ITSM tool. So keep those lines of communication open! Aim to develop a thorough understanding of what users expect to get out of the tool, so that you can understand their goals and incorporate their feedback into the tool’s rollout. 

Typically, users will want layouts and capabilities similar to the previous tool. While a like-for-like with your new tool isn’t always possible, you can convey preferences to your vendor implementation team, and often find a happy medium.

Step 2: Build a Service Structure Based on Business Outcomes

Your team doesn’t exist to support trouble tickets. When users submit tickets, it’s because they cannot use the technology that’s essential to their work. A support team doesn’t simple triage and fix problems—they’re the first line of defense in the battle for broken productivity. 

One user’s issue with a print server may seem low priority, but what if that single user is the CFO at the end of the quarter? Context matters. Your ITSM tool and implementation project should help understand a service-based view of the IT environment. That is, strong internal service is deeply connected to positive business outcomes. 

Step 3: Invest in the Service Desk

Because your primary users are IT service desk analysts who need a full understanding of the services the IT organization supports, it’s critical to make an investment to ensure they have the tools necessary to perform this service at scale. 

Training on how to use the new tool is a given, but providing techniques and approaches that empower service desk analysts to perform their roles more effectively and efficiently is too often an afterthought. Investments in ITIL training, IT self-service, and knowledge management can reap benefits down the road and should be connected with the ITSM implementation—these activities will lead to high performing IT service desks with greater support capacity. Specifically, your ability to activate IT self-service can reduce contact volume by as much as 40 percent, and effective knowledge management can help your service desk analysts better handle the remaining volume. The results: higher levels of customer satisfaction and user productivity.

Related: Why Is ITIL Knowledge Management Vitally Important in an Organization?

Step 4: Solve the Problem with Problem Management 

Problem Management is also another afterthought in ITSM implementations, primarily because the people resources are not in place and the processes are not established. Use this time—while you wait for the tool to be fully implemented—to begin understanding the fundamentals of Problem Management, which will reduce recurring incidents and improve change success rates. You need not be an expert to get started—a pilot of a problem advisory board and the means to identify workarounds is a solid set of first steps you can build on to minimize the impact of problems later on. 

Related: 5 Best Practices for Problem Management

Step 5: Develop Meaningful Metrics

Your previous ITSM solution has a healthy amount of valuable data around how IT worked before. However, rather than extracting this data to serve as a baseline for your improvement efforts, start instead to report on metrics that matter in your new reality. After all, if one goal of your ITSM project is process improvement, these baselines for your existing processes might not be meaningful. As you mature, what you measure changes, so rather than just build reports and dashboards because the old system had them, think through what you will need to measure moving forward and focus on those data points.

Step 6: Get All of IT Working Together 

Your ITSM tool is primarily in place for your service desk analysts, but you’ll need all team members responsible for the delivery and support of IT services to buy into the ITSM vision and the ITSM tool. Although this buy-in is required well before your implementation team shows up, early indicators that all teams are not on the same page should be addressed early. Tier 2 and 3 groups might not be heavy users of the system, but they will need to interact with it to support processes, consume information and insights, and engage in collaboration with the team. Make sure they are part of the rollout, particularly the leaders of those teams. Without buy in at all levels of your IT team, an ITSM tool will not prosper.

Step 7: Change and Sell the Pitch

You’re well aware that implemented and used properly, an ITSM tool can automate the processes necessary to deliver quality IT services at a competitive price. Bottom line: an ITSM tool helps solve business problems on a day-to-day basis. As you speak to stakeholders, modify your pitch about the ITSM project to target each stakeholder’s priority—your finance department, for instance, may only care about ITSM if you present it as ensuring technical issues don’t prevent accounting from closing the books each quarter. The sales team may only care about ITSM if it means the CRM system stops timing out so frequently. Your ability to sell the value of ITSM is critical, so know your audience and change and sell the pitch accordingly.

How to Measure Success with an ITSM Tool 

Once your ITSM tool is in place, you want to make sure that it’s more than just an “IT cost.” The metrics available in the tool can provide a real advantage—not just to the IT department, but to the organization as a whole. 

To achieve real improvement, you have to set measurable goals—that’s why the “M” is there in SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goals. But how can you know which metrics to measure? 

That answer depends on your particular organization—every IT department will have a different strategy when it comes to supporting their business. Legacy ITSM tools may boast about tracking thousands of metrics, but most likely, they’re not the ones that are meaningful to your organization. You need to translate measurements into language that’s relevant to business leaders; otherwise, you’ll lose their interest. 

Below are three ways to use your ITSM tool to track metrics that are meaningful to leaders in your organization, help the IT department show its worth, and bolster the business. 

1. Understand how your IT organization adds value to the business. 

Determine the goals and objectives of the IT organization and then work to identify the key performance indicators and metrics that support those. If a current metric can't be tied back to business performance, stop measuring it.

2. Report to the right people. 

You must understand who you are communicating what metrics to, and when. Metrics you report up are to business leaders and executives. Metrics you report down are for day-to-day operations. If you mix those up, you're wasting time and failing to effectively demonstrate the value of IT. Additionally, use multi-dimensional performance metrics in your reporting. Looking at one metric without understanding its impact on another can lead to poor decision support. 

3. Stop reporting. Start dashboarding. 

There’s a big difference between dashboards and reports. Reports are static. Dashboards are dynamic and provide context of what you're doing against what you should be doing. Plus, the best ITSM tools have dashboards that update in real time, so you always know where you stand in terms of performance metrics. 

Thinking of Switching to a New ITSM Tool?

Understanding all the things that a new solution can do for you is easy. As you’ve seen, if properly implemented an ITSM solution can help your organization work better (and, along the way, showcase the value IT provides beyond fixing the printer or resetting a password). 

But keep in mind that this is a major project—not a simple technology swap. Making the right choice is just as important as delivering the solution on time, within budget, and with a high level of quality. 

Discuss the following key points with stakeholders as you deliberate:

1. ITSM Basics: How are we doing? — Your response will help you scope your ITSM requirements and ensure your solution can scale to enable additional capacities and integrations as your organization matures.

2. The Business Case: Why do we need a new ITSM tool? — Here’s where you need to determine if your current tool can support your future state. That’s not an easy task, but this exercise will help you assess the short- and long-term benefits of a new ITSM tool. 

3. ITSM Scope & Objectives: What are we trying to accomplish? — Knowing and documenting what is (and what is not) in scope for various phases of the project is critical, as deviation from the project plan will cause significant overruns. Identify the teams and processes that are in scope, and provide clear documentation on roles and responsibilities. 

4. ITSM Budget: What is the budget for this project? — If the project is funded, know to what degree, and establish a range to encapsulate licensing, services, and any additional training or support resources that may be necessary for a new solution.

5. ITSM Outcomes: What will a successful project look like in 18 months? — Measured against your current baseline, define what success will look like in the not-so distant future, in terms of performance metrics and business results.

6. Proposal Review: Who is ultimately accountable for selection of the ITSM tool? — Determine who has the ability and authority to add requirements and begin to map your “must haves, should haves, could haves, won’t haves” (MoSCoWs). Outline the members of the team who will see vendor presentations and demos, and know if you intend on meeting with and contacting customer references. These activities can be time consuming later—plan for them early.

Ultimately, your ITSM project will succeed or fail based on the steps you take before a single vendor demo takes place or proposal be evaluated.

Does Your ITSM Tool Give You the Reporting You Need to Measure Success? 

Once the tool has been selected, and implementation is complete, next comes the essential work of tracking successes—as well as areas that require improvement—using your ITSM tool. The best solutions help you uplift your department, showing how it is essential and provides business value. 

You’ll want to use the tips shared earlier to identify the key metrics that you need to track. Next, track—and share—results. That’s where Cherwell can help. 

Cherwell Service Management has flexible dashboards and reports that make behind-the-scenes work both visible and easy to share. Dashboards provide real-time results, and new ones can be created in mere moments. In response to a question during a meeting, for instance, you can create an on-the-fly report with more information. Equally doable is to create a more formal report, which can be run on-demand or scheduled to run in set time increments. Once you’ve identified the KPIs that matter most to your organization, you can easily track them—and distribute results. For IT leaders, Cherwell puts information at their fingertips, and also makes it easy to broadcast big accomplishments and outcomes throughout the wider organization. 

Learn more about Cherwell Service Management with a personalized demo.

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