It’s Time to Think Outside the Service Management Box
Posted by on July 15, 2019
Gordon R. Schonfeld
There’s a world out there in which service management achieves its holy grail of strategically aligning IT with business process. And there is a world where service management provides companies with a veritable gusher of benefits: work processes that flow seamlessly across the organization, better collaboration among departments, higher ROI, lower costs, greater employee engagement, improved customer and employee experiences—the list goes on.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t live in this world. The sad reality is that efforts to power services through technology often miss the mark.
A recent Lawless Research study of cross-functional work processes from the workers’ point of view at more than 1000 companies underscores how most organizations haven’t yet aligned their IT with their strategy. For example, the study, commissioned by Cherwell Software, found that just 30 percent of companies earned a high score for integrating their processes across functions and only 27 percent of respondents said that their apps were highly or completely integrated.
Survey data additionally shows that employees know that something is wrong and should be better:
- One-third of respondents found it difficult to use apps that involved multiple departments, apps, or data sources
- At least 69 percent said that a variety of processes were moderately to highly manual
- At least one-quarter of cross-functional team managers expressed frustration that different team members were using different apps
For companies and their service management solution providers, the message is clear: It’s time to think outside the box because the status quo isn’t working.
And we know there’s a better way because the study revealed that an integrated service management approach can achieve significantly stronger results:
- Companies that successfully integrated their processes were likely to be more productive, more collaborative, and much more advanced in their digital transformation efforts
- Their workforces tended to be more engaged, more enthusiastic, and more committed to getting the job done not just well, but better
Closing the Friction Gap
According to Josh Turpen, Cherwell’s chief product officer, the full potential of service management is realized only when companies can reduce the internal resistance—he calls it “friction”—that can prevent the integration of work processes.
“The biggest source of friction in companies today is between business units,” Turpen says. “These units focus almost exclusively on their own needs and purchase their technology without thinking about how the IT needs to fit together with the other business units’ IT. Employees get upset when they can’t get things done because business units don’t communicate with each other, which results in processes not communicating, either. And when employees are upset because of friction, their level of engagement drops and productivity along with it.”
Service management can close the friction gap, adds Turpen, by connecting different units and integrating their processes, systems, and—perhaps most crucially—mindsets. The goal should be to foster a company-first approach that strives to solve business problems by treating them as shared outcomes. Ideally, there should be a dedicated service management team led by the chief information officer, who’s uniquely positioned to understand the company’s IT needs across business units.
The Experience Disconnect
Outside of their jobs, employees are consumers just like everyone else. They navigate daily life with consumer-friendly technologies—smartphone apps and voice-activated digital assistants and the seamless experiences provided by companies like Amazon, Apple, Uber, and Netflix. Ease, seamlessness, and rapid gratification are their benchmarks for how things are supposed to be.
This is the level of expectation that employees bring with them when they come to work. When the employee experience (e.g., as represented by inefficient work processes) doesn’t meet the everyday standards of the consumer experience—let’s call it the experience disconnect—employees are bound to feel great frustration and could even choose to work elsewhere.
Companies that can’t provide employee experiences as satisfying as customer experiences are likely to suffer accordingly, says Josh Caid, Cherwell’s chief evangelist. “Companies commonly strive to design customer experiences that build long-term relationships and generate positive word of mouth,” he says. “But many don’t yet realize that they need to do the same thing for their own employees and that they must do whatever it takes IT-wise to maximize the employee experience. If they can’t solve the experience disconnect, they’ll be less competitive.”
Caid also points out that millennials—who are the most experience-aware generation—should overtake baby boomers as the biggest U.S. population demographic in the workforce in 2019, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center. Translation: The pressure on companies to provide employee experiences comparable to customer experiences will only grow.
The experience disconnect, in and of itself, might be enough to compel companies to streamline and integrate their work processes. In other words, it could be the catalyst for the next iteration of service management.
Best Practices for Better Service Management
What can companies do to practice better service management via integrating their work processes? Caid recommends these steps:
- Perform discovery. Act like a product manager to determine your process’s requirements. Analyze ROI and costs to prioritize the things you need to do. Above all, don’t let the old way of doing things keep you bogged down in the status quo.
- Build workflows around the customer. Instead of setting up workflows based on how your company sells its products or services, build them by focusing on how the customer buys. “If the ultimate goal is to sell more to your customers, then the logic of doing this speaks for itself,” says Caid.
- Use design thinking. Use agile methods and take an iterative scrum approach to designing processes. Be sure to get stakeholder buy-in and set realistic expectations along the way.
- Reduce risk. Emphasize risk management from the beginning and don’t cut corners. Pay special attention to risks related to governance, compliance, privacy, and security.
- Ensure involvement. Make sure that your team members are truly involved and committed to the mission.
- Plan for continuous improvement. Assume that the bar for success will always rise and build metrics into your process design to both track performance and learn lessons to incorporate going forward.
- Purchase only the IT you need. Avoid the temptation to buy the latest, shiniest must-have. Only get the systems, hardware, and software that will add value for your customers and employees.
Seize the Opportunity
In addition to its significant organizational benefits, upgrading a service management program offers a huge competitive advantage for a simple reason: Few companies have done so.
A study by Forbes and BMC Software, for instance, asked senior executives to describe the state of their company’s service management effort as it relates to the company’s business. The biggest portion of respondents (41 percent) said that their service management effort was aligned with their business units’ requirements, while the smallest portion (just 8 percent) said that it was aligned with the success of the company as a whole.
What’s more, respondents said that about one-third of their IT budget and staff time was spent on ongoing maintenance and management, and more than half (53 percent) said that the share of their IT budget allocated to maintenance and management had increased in the past three years. The result was a big jolt of pessimism: 75 percent said that the amount of resources spent this way inhibited their companies’ competitiveness.
These findings highlight how service management often doesn’t align with business strategy and thus has considerable room for improvement—which means there’s an opportunity waiting to be seized. Turpen sums it up this way: “Companies that think outside the service management box should find themselves not only with more—and more satisfied—customers, but also with employees more invested in shared success. Not to mention a less crowded field of competition and more effective IT spending.”
Want to learn more about our survey findings on work process integration and digital transformation efforts? Check out the infographics below or download our ebook today.
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