Re - Engineering IT Service Management in Changing Times
Application Management is not just about ‘Keeping The Lights On’. With vision and innovation, IT Operations can evolve into a strategic capability that provides competitive advantage to the organization.
We all remember the epic lines of Robert Frost “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” from his poem “The Road Not Taken”. In today’s fast changing times, these are not mere lines of inspiration, but the mantra for organizations to live by. In the world of Application Management Services (AMS) it is more pertinent than ever.
AMS had traditionally been looked upon as a ‘Keep the Lights On’ function. The aim of AMS teams in many organizations was to ensure uninterrupted provision of IT services to the Business by supporting the underlying Applications throughout their lifecycle. But to define it thus would be an over simplification. Applications are no longer mere platforms but enablers of business outcomes. The potential for Innovation is immense in this area. In this article we will highlight some of the key enablers that can drive this transformation to elevate AMS from an internal function into a strategic capability that provides competitive advantage for the Enterprise.
Step 1 – Tapping into the power of Data
The first step in the metamorphosis is to adopt a data-driven, results-oriented approach. Organizations should tap into their existing data sources like IT Service Management tools(incident management databases, problem management databases) documentation repositories, output from monitoring tools and so on, to analyze and arrive at current performance baselines. Some probable outputs of this exercise are –
• Efficiency of change and problem management processes
(This point especially can help optimize team structure and leverage teams better)
• Service performance indicators - availability, turnaround time for resolution
The most crucial insight to emerge should be- are services driven in silos or is there an integrated approach? As long as services are managed in silos, these metrics would remain pseudo business-performance indicators. The immediate need would be to look beyond the immediate ecosystem and approach service management in an integrated manner with end-to-end flavor. This also would set the ball rolling for structural changes to drive longer term results.
Step 2 –Left Shift
Among the various elements driving effectiveness of service management, one important department is the Application Helpdesk or the First Line Support (FLS)
"Applications are no longer mere platforms but enablers of business outcomes"
Based on data analysis, identify the percentage resolution of tickets by FLS. Any resolution figure close to or above 70 percent is a good start. If the numbers are lower, improvement of FLS resolution levels should be the immediate area of focus. This can happen in multiple ways - through effective knowledge creation and retention and close collaboration between FLS and Application support teams. Once the underlying processes and knowledge repositories are established, cognitive solutions to identify and address frequently asked questions can also be deployed (more on that in Step 4)
Step 3 – End-to-End Management
To further break silos of Service Management, and move away from System-Based support model to Value Driven Ownership model, the next step is an End-to-End view. A comprehensive end to end flow of Enterprise data needs to be drawn. Critical points along the path have to be identified and proactive monitoring needs to be implemented wherever needed to discover potential issues before they cascade and impact the Business. The data analysis done previously will once again come to the aid, to help discover these critical checkpoints. Detail-oriented, standardized guidelines (or Standard Operating Procedures, in other words) containing precise remediation and communication steps in the event of failure need to be established. This will not only ensure predictability of actions but also 100 percent automation-readiness, for future steps to come.
It is at this stage that the organization gets ready for true IT-managed Business KPIs. The effectiveness of this step has to be directly measured at the business level and unless business critical incidents are reduced by 70 percent, we cannot claim success. Other means of measuring effectiveness could also be certification from internal audits, NPS surveys done with direct business stakeholders etc.
Having brought in stability and predictability in operations, the next logical step is to optimize and automate.
Step4 – Optimize and Automation
The emphasis so far has been on organizing the teams in optimal ways, bringing in predictability and working better across ecosystems. The cost and capacity thus freed up can get invested in efforts such as automation of repetitive and time-consuming tasks through Robotic Process Automation(RPA) and Artificial Intelligence(AI) platforms. Chatbots can be introduced to enable self-help for users, to get application information and perform simple tasks on applications, wherever possible, without relying on manual support from teams, thus driving further optimization.
Automation, in fact, need not stop with IT Application Management. Implementation of chatbots and other solutions can spread to customer service, marketing and other areas for direct Business (and end-consumer) benefit
What next - The future Intelligent AMS
The evolution needs to continue. With a firm and strong foundation already in place, the next milestone in the AMS journey is already chalked out. As machines become part of the reimagined workforce, the time for AI-driven Service Management is ripe. The power of Machine Learning can be deployed to ensure stable systems that can detect anomalies and heal themselves without explicit programming. These very same algorithms can also help in correlating different factors that can impact Service performance and drive prediction and intelligent process execution based on findings.
Driven by this strategy, any AMS team can unlock its potential through agility and quick adoption of path breaking technologies. As Services run better and more value is delivered, IT can strongly and surely become the strategic arm of any organization and not a mere cost consuming function.