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Want to Shift Left in ITSM? Focus on Self-Sufficiency

Posted by on July 19, 2017

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Editor’s note: Catch up on all the posts in our series on the "how" and the "why" of shifting left for ITSM.

Recently, my friend and colleague Chuck Darst wrote about how the concept of shift left applies to Change Management, possibly the most critical discipline in IT Service Management (ITSM). In his post, Chuck mentioned that shifting 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.

Today, I’d like to touch on IT self service, which represents one of the most clear and obvious opportunities to shift left, essentially empowering business users to resolve their own issues whenever possible. Per the 2016 Technical Support Practices and Salary Report, only ten percent of support organizations saw a decrease in ticket volume over the past year. But of those that did, 22 percent attribute the decrease in ticket volume to self service.

It’s no secret—when done well, self service can lower costs, improve efficiency, and increase IT customer satisfaction. The same survey shows that 64 percent of Level 1 support is spent on ticket handling, which means less time is spent on Problem Management, Knowledge Management, and training. For IT organizations that are both resource- and time-strapped, IT self service can be a solution—but only when applied properly.

How to Get Started with IT Self Service

I never met an organization that hasn’t understood the value of self service. The challenge is more rooted in the execution; organizations try to implement self service, but when it doesn't pay quick dividends, they're reluctant to get back on the horse. To those organizations, I say that there has never been a better time to start a self-service initiative than right now. There are many variables that play a role in self-service success, starting with user willingness to utilize self service and the IT organization’s ability to deliver a consistent experience from people, process, and technology perspectives.

Timing is everything, and here are the first three things to consider to make the case to reboot your IT self-service approach.

1. Start from the (business) user point of view.

It’s important to know where IT self service will have the most significant impact, so you can establish the right expectations with both your users and your IT organization. IT teams need to remember they are asking users to do things for themselves that you used to do for them. Always think from the user’s point of view and answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Will self service make your users' work lives easier, or just yours? That distinction is important.

Thinking through the value proposition of expanded availability and support hours and better transparency of incident and request status will help you prioritize areas of your IT self-service approach.

2. Understand the multiplicity of IT self service.

IT self service can mean different things to different people. If we start by considering the user’s point of view, we can think through what we would like to deliver early on so as to establish quick wins. For example, starting with self service might just entail offering basic information, notifications, and the ability to let users open their own tickets and track issues. This can be a quick win if basic information is hard to find and a decent amount of contacts to the service desk are basic questions and status requests.

An iterative approach might see an IT organization delivering automation for password resets and other service requests in a later phase, a service catalog in a phase after that, and Knowledge Management in a phase after that. You need not deliver all things at once. This approach allows you to continuously improve the experience, which will drive utilization.

3. Design for the user—not the techie.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and more often than not, the standard of a quality IT self-service portal is judged by the techie, and not the user. Remember, the portal isn’t for you—it’s for your user. And while your users are becoming younger and more technically savvy, from a UX perspective, your self-service portal is competing with Amazon, Facebook, and Uber. That’s a tall order!

 While your portal does not need to mirror those experiences precisely, there are elements you can borrow. This is where working with your marketing’s web development team would be of value—beyond just branding, they are experts on how to build a website that gets visitors to perform desired actions to achieve desired outcomes. Your marketing team can also help raise awareness of the portal within the organization. Users can’t embrace self service if they don’t know it exists and what value it can provide for them.

Shifting left for self service can be a challenge because you’re asking people who don’t work for you to change their behavior. However, making it easier for them to change will have a positive impact on your IT service support organization and set the stage for other shift left approaches you set out to implement.