Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (PART 5 of 5): Self Service

I’ve had to travel a lot throughout my career in technology. Years ago, I remember having to stand in line at the airport to get my boarding pass. Then, when the internet was adopted by the airlines, they provided the ability to check-in online and print your boarding pass, which eliminated the process of waiting in line. Now, I simply check into my flight using a smart device, and then I present an electronic boarding pass at the gate.

When we look around the world we live in today, it seems everything is moving to self-service portals. Grocery stores, airports, banks, gas stations, and fast food restaurants are examples of places we interact with a self-service portal instead of an actual person. Because of these technological advances, a new culture has emerged in the emerging generation which Gartner has named ‘Gen Z.’

“With consumers’ preference for using the Internet and mobile services to drive business efficiencies and optimize time management, every industry is striving to improve the customer experience and meet the demands of Gen Z by simplifying, automating and making more intelligent end-to-end processes, and minimizing manual interventions, enabling the consumer to self-serve.”

For IT service management organizations, I believe the most important project should be to either build or improve the self-service portal. For an ITSM self-service project, asset management (ITAM), along with process automation tools, will provide a solid foundation.

Remember, it is important that the tools selected are able to integrate with the ITSM solution. If choosing a cloud solution, be sure to understand integration capabilities or integration limitations.

What is ITSM Self Service?

An ITSM self-service portal should provide the following:

  1. IT technical support
  2. Service requests

IT Technical Support

When a user has an issue, a good self-service portal provides access to a knowledge base listing common issues or frequently asked questions, reducing the number of calls to an analyst. If an issue needs to be analyzed, the user should be able to open the incident using a simple form designed to route the incident to the appropriate support group.

Automated processes that can reset a password or update their device with the latest approved patches should be made available to the user. Personally, I have found that one of the most valuable features provided in a self-service portal is the ability of online chat with the analyst.

Service Requests

A large part of your self-service project will be the service catalog. It will be important to determine what services will be offered through the self-service portal. Once the services are determined, they will be added to the service catalog. Services should be designed so that they are only visible to the appropriate users.

For example, if an inside sales person is not allowed to have a company phone while an outside sales person is provided with a phone, the self-service portal should not make the ‘request phone’ service visible to the inside sales person.

A request process might need to reach beyond the traditional boundaries of an ITSM software solution. Integration into HR, sales, asset management, and accounting are just the beginning. The goal should be to build your solution with efficient B2B connections.

Gartner says, “Business to business (B2B) processes are also continuing to be streamlined to drive down costs by decreasing the number of redundant manual interventions. This is being accelerated by new technologies focused on providing more intelligent and predictive processes linked to the IoT to speed up and automate even skilled-people-based processes.”

As you design your self-service portal, follow the advice of Joe the IT Guy, an ITSM blogger, who says to “…think about self-service from an end user point of view. They shouldn’t have to worry about which part of the business supplies phones, or pensions, or paperclips. They shouldn’t have to go to multiple self-service facilities for different goods or services. So plan for the extension of the self-service capabilities at the outset rather than allowing it to be a belated addition when someone suggests that a HR employee portal is needed. Not only will this deliver a better employee experience, it will also allow the organization to benefit from increased efficiency and effectiveness, and economies of scale.”

Summary

ITSM projects require significant time and money. Projects need to be aligned with current needs as well as future technologies. Providing a self-service portal that can provide help in addition to fulfilling requests will help organizations reduce IT support costs. Furthermore, organizations will have an infrastructure in place that will be able to adapt to technology changes and demands expected in the near future.

On November 18th 2015, I gave a webcast for BrightTalk and discussed three key projects for ITSM. You can view the webcast by following this link.

BrightTALK

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw

Three ITSM Projects for Your Five-Year Plan (Part 4 of 5): Integration & Automation

Recently, I called a company because the heater in my house would continue to operate regardless of the temperature reading. They insisted on having their service technician come to my house to evaluate the problem and make a diagnosis. For several hours, I was concerned about how much this would cost because they could not tell me until the technician completed his investigation.

I have had this same experience when calling IT support; however, I am not as concerned about costs as I am about meeting a deadline. In any event, this is still a cost for IT support. Anytime IT has to investigate issues on the network, or in software for a solution, there are unknown costs associated with that process. The longer it takes to find the issue, the more it costs.

Historically, as IT organizations looked at the costs of supporting all their computers, they began looking at tools that could automate manual processes. The reason for automating processes was simple, automation reduces costs. Furthermore, integrating your IT solutions into your ITSM solution makes IT support easier, faster, and much more efficient.

For example, many years ago, an analyst would often dispatch a tech to a person’s desk to troubleshoot a problem that could not be diagnosed over the phone. Many organizations found that implementing a tool that controlled the computer remotely from the analyst’s computer reduced the cost of the incident by up to 90 percent.

The only way to prepare for emerging technology, in addition to supporting your current ITSM requirements which are often operating with reduced budgets, is to implement automation tools that can integrate with all your network, database, and software solutions.

For example, when an account is locked because a customer forgot their password, the analyst might need to call the IT admin. However, if the analyst has the appropriate rights, they could unlock the account by accessing the required network tools. If an automated process is implemented, the analyst could trigger the account to be unlocked by simply pressing a button from the incident page. Ultimately, the best way to handle this example would be through a self-service process; however, I will discuss this in more detail in part 5 of this series.

When examining costs, an incident can fall into one of three categories:

  • Instant Resolution
    • Known cost
  • Resolution Pending Action
    • Known cost
  • Resolution Pending Investigation
    • Unknown cost pending investigation
    • Most expensive
    • Troubleshooting required

Instant Resolution

Integration Projects 1

When an incident can be instantly resolved by the technician, the cost of the incident is easily determined. Some examples of instant resolution would be a password reset, a “how-to” question, or a known issue with resolution instructions available in the knowledge base. Any incident that is opened and resolved during a call falls into this category.

Resolution Pending Action

Integration Projects 2

When an incident can be resolved by the technician pending an action, the cost of the incident is also easy to determine. For example, if it is determined that a customer needs a software update or a replacement phone or laptop. The analyst would determine if the item is under warranty and initiate an automated process to replace the device. The analyst would mark the incident as ‘resolved’ when the customer receives the replacement device or software update. The incident cost is easily determined, even if there is an outstanding action item that needs to happen prior to closing the support incident.

Resolution Pending Investigation

Integration Projects 3

Anytime an incident needs further investigation to determine the cause of an issue it is placed in this category. For example, if the analyst has to dispatch a technician or escalate an incident, the cost of the incident will be unknown until a diagnosis and resolution is determined.

In some cases, these types of issues are moved to the Problem Management team. To reduce the costs of IT support, organizations are focusing on incidents that require investigation. This is accomplished using smarter technology.

When I called about the problem with my heating system, a technician was dispatched to my house.

Integration Projects 4

In the near future, embedded technology such as (IoT) will eliminate the need to have someone investigate an issue.

The ideal solution would be to know about an issue before the customer realizes there is an issue.

Integration Projects 5

When technology can self-evaluate and determine the cause and resolution without manual intervention, the cost of the incident can immediately be determined.

With embedded technology, my heating system could have reported back to a central system with the diagnosis. As a result, a person or an automated system could contact me and notify me of the impending problem and recommended resolution.

Forbes quoted Gartner regarding future technology trends stating that “to an increasing extent, technologies will be able to not only collect information, but learn based upon it. In the process, much of the initial analysis that has typically required a human can be done by machines, elevating the analysis in the process. People will need to engage at a higher level as a result.”

We can expect this type of technology to rapidly expand over the next several years for IT support. The demand for problem notification from network and software solutions continues to increase as budgets for IT support shrink.

Process Automation

It is important that organizations have tools in place to support automation. This can be done using a business process manager (BPM).

Integration Projects 7

Automation tools can eliminate redundant manual tasks. For an ITSM solution, automated tools can trigger a new incident.

ITSM Integration

Be sure to choose process automation tools that are easily integrated into a wide variety of network solutions, including your ITSM solution.

Integration Projects 6

Process automation tools should be able to listen for changes in other databases. Tools should be capable of triggering a process based on a change. Also, automation tools need to have the ability to move data from one system to another. For example, if a person is terminated from an organization, an automated process should be able to cancel all accounts that have been setup through the IT department, such as a mobile telephone account.

Be sure that automation tools can execute programs or run scripts. Finally, automated tools should be able to integrate with database standards such as ODBC or web services in order to integrate the different network solutions.

Summary

Building automation and ITSM Integration into your network architecture will reduce the cost to support redundant manual tasks that could introduce human error. The tools used need to have the ability to integrate with different solutions on the network. With this type of architecture in place, your ITSM solution will be prepared to handle the smart technology that is evolving which can notify the ITSM solution of impending issues, thus reducing the time and costs required to investigate and diagnose a problem.

In Part 5, I will discuss Self Service as an ITSM project.

-follow me on Twitter @marcelshaw