The concept of using service management tools to manage other business functions isn’t new. Yet Enterprise Service Management (ESM) seems to be gaining momentum. Why has ESM become a viable strategy and how can your organisation take advantage of the cost savings and service improvements it promises?

Let’s start with a definition.  Everyone has a slightly different take on Enterprise Service Management, but in simple terms, it’s about using IT service management technology and methodologies to automate and improve the efficiency of non-IT business functions.

The logic behind ESM is sound. Consider a function such as HR, particularly the process of on-boarding new employees. This action is very process intensive and requires input from multiple parties at multiple stages. If one element fails, it negatively impacts everything else. It therefore makes sense to use service management tools to collect the data, manage the ongoing interaction, trigger key events and track tasks through to conclusion. 

ESM resonates with service management professionals because it’s another avenue helping them demonstrate their value to the business. By adapting their tools and processes to automate non-IT processes they improve the efficiency of these function. But they also show a willingness to reach beyond the boundaries of IT to help the business. This final point is vital to help break the perception that IT is a siloed business unit. 

The benefits of successful ESM are clear to see.  Not only does the department or business function enjoy massive efficiency gains, it also provides a more accurate and timely service to the business because every element of the process is tracked and accounted for.  It also means that the initial investment in the service management tool delivers more value.

However, for many organisations, ESM has been a largely theoretical exercise. In this article, we explain why the time has arrived for Enterprise Service Management and how your business can enjoy the value it offers.

What was previously stopping Enterprise Service Management?
Matthew Peeples, senior director Enterprise Service Management platform for Cherwell Software explains why it has taken time for ESM to become tangible.

Matthew Peebles says that the time for Enterprise Service Management is now

Matthew Peeples, Cherwell

“While the concept has been understood for many years, many of the service management tools advertising themselves as built for ESM simply weren’t flexible enough.  To effectively deliver ESM, the service management tool must be customisable, otherwise it won’t be suitable for the department or business function it’s being applied to. Most of the ITSM tools were adaptable, but only with a hefty amount of development resource behind them.  The products didn’t scale and it was very hard to customise services.  Attempts to experiment were therefore costly, failed to deliver the intended results and ultimately led to unsatisfied end-users.”

Since this first wave of ESM, significant progress has been made to improve the products. Service management tools that allow drag-and-drop workflow customisation mean that IT can build new business functions without expensive redevelopment costs.  Without tools such as these, ESM is not impossible, but it is very costly and difficult to realise.

Technological revolution
Running in parallel with these product improvements, a revolution has taken place which means the concept of ESM has become universally accepted: consumerisation.

“Today, our phone is the portal into our personal life.  If I take a trip, I book my flights and hotel, research my destination, check-in, book tickets for activities – everything happens through my mobile phone.  From an end user point of view, we have become used to accessing services through a single place,” says Matthew. 

In other words, consumerisaiton proves that when services are provided by different departments accessible through various sources, it is possible to knit them together in a seamless way. If we can use a phone to manage an entire trip, interactions with business services can also be simplified. By sharing a single platform and approach to processes, ESM means the delivery and accessibility of each business service improves.

Jarod Greene, VP of product marketing for Cherwell Software explains the key to creating the seamless customer experience we’ve become accustomed to when using consumer technology.

Jarod Greene says that Enterprise Service Management is now possible because of maturing tech - and attitudes

Jarod Greene, Cherwell

“Everything comes back to IT now. Almost every business process you can think of requires input from technology. Therefore, ESM needs to be an IT-driven initiative that looks at other business functions, removes paper and streamlines processes, and delivers services in an appropriate way.”

This is exactly what happened for Aberdeenshire Council. Having enjoyed success using the Cherwell® Service Management platform within ICT, it was able to demonstrate to other departments how the system could be adapted to run their activities.

For Aberdeenshire, this means it practices ESM across the organisation, using service management to run HR and user groups such as finance and social workers. The real time analytics, ease of use, highly customisable visual dashboards and ability to progressively help people means that other departments quickly ‘get it’ once they see ESM in action. This has a powerful transformative impact on both the business and the way that IT is perceived and valued. (You can see the impact of this at Aberdeenshire by viewing this video.)

Building a centralised customer portal
Once ESM principles have been introduced, it is then possible to move to the next level: creating a centralised customer portal. Borrowing the example of consumer services allowing entire trips to be researched, purchased and managed by a phone, ESM can follow the same approach.  This means building a single portal which customers use to access every business service.

Within such a portal, according to Jarod Greene, as well as the ‘IT support’ button, you have buttons for ordering equipment or requesting holiday, etc.   “You don’t want to go to six different sources to action something within the business. You want to go to one place and the portal acts as a bridge to all the systems which need to be engaged to access the request.”

As explained earlier, technological improvements make it possible for organisations to create such a portal in-house. The flexibility of the tools means that it can be adapted to run almost any process, while white-label customisation means the portal needn’t look anything like a typical service management tool, making the portal more accessible to users.

How can you benefit from ESM?
Now ESM is truly achievable and the tools are flexible enough to accommodate its aims, the next stage is understand what services to deliver and how. “ESM encourages IT to understand what systems and services are in use. Next, IT should remove the ones that are not used because they over-complicate the infrastructure. The fewer systems you have, the easier it is to automate the ones you do have. This is the perfect catalyst for IT to ask questions: what does the business need, where can we improve etc. Once you have this knowledge, you can start building,” says Jarod.

IT will have to drive such initiatives and should look for opportunities where it can help the business. “Say for example you use a tool to schedule the conference room. It might only cost $10 per month, but if you can build it into the ESM portal, you are making it easier for the business to find the services they need and you’re saving money.This sort of project can quickly help with buy-in from the business,” explains Jarod.

This kind of project is very powerful, as Matthew explains. “Because you can build functionality in days rather than weeks, and the resulting customer satisfaction is so impressive and immediate, it helps build a grass-roots fire for ESM, and this often bubbles up to the CIO.”

Jarod Greene says that ‘champions’ of ESM can quickly find themselves sought after and highly regarded within the business.  “Once the business sees how easy it can be to solve problems, improve service and realise efficiencies, they take note. My advice is to find a high-value business area that still uses spreadsheets, whiteboard the processes and solve it for them.”

The ultimate aim of ESM is to hide the complex mechanisms which deliver business services. It is the service, not the delivery, which is important to the business. “We have customers using Cherwell who don’t realise they are working with a service management tool.  They just know it as the way to request something from a department,” concludes Matthew. 

Author Bio:
James West

James West

Editor, SITS Insight

If you have service desk news to share or would like to become a SITS Insight blogger, please get in touch with James

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