When users and customers engage with IT, they expect a similar shopping experience to what they experience at home.  As organisations continue to hone their digital transformation strategies, a smooth process for handling services requests is critical to creating a great first impression. Steve Morgan of Synaid IT explains.

End users often feel that it’s really hard to get IT to deliver anything to them.  IT pros are great when there’s something to fix, or there’s a major incident to recover from, but they are poor at the basics such as provisioning a new user account, delivering some hardware or giving access to a new piece of software.

The digital transformation agenda
It’s surprising that these basic principles still haven’t been addressed by the plethora of best practices and tools at the disposal of today’s IT leaders.  And if we can’t do these “basics” well, how will we cope with the accelerated delivery cycles promised by agile development and the rapid deployment of services which will be possible as soon as cloud becomes more prevalent?  How can we possibly expect to achieve our digital transformation agenda without the basic building blocks in place?

The basic principles of service requests
I think it’s time to present some basic principles that we need to ensure we’re doing well, in order to support the delivery of more complex and time critical services in the future.

How does your IT department shape up against these maturity indicators?

  • There’s a SINGLE portal where all end users can go to interact with IT, to report an issue, check knowledge articles or request items?  Users seek simplicity, they want to engage with a simple portal through which they can quickly and easily engage with IT services.
  • End users are engaged with the process, they understand where they need to go, and they understand that circumventing the process is not in their interests.  This point attempts to address the risk of untraceable, poorly structured communication, such as verbal or email requests, coming into IT and simply not being logged.  This type of inbound work is impossible to track, trace and measure.
  • There’s a clear delineation of what constitutes an incident, versus a request, versus a system enhancement and an IT project.

I often envisage a good in-bound filtering process in the same way as an airport baggage handling system.  It shares a lot of common characteristics, as each “bag” will have a destination, a unique reference, some form of lifecycle tracking and an established path of reaching its destination.  Our end-user portals and systems should follow this route-based approach, routing incidents to resolver teams, requests to approval and fulfilment workflows, etc.  Each incident and request should follow an established workflow.  If these are understood and mapped, it’s easier to introduce efficient ways of recording, assigning, tracing and fulfilling them.

  • There’s an established workflow for common request types, which describes the approval processes, fulfilment tasks, who does what and eliminates the need for manual intervention.  These workflows can be codified within the service management toolset, allowing a degree of automation to the allocation of work.
  • Sometimes, approvals are sought where there is no justification for an approval to be required.  Where possible, seeking approval should be an automated workflow task.  Ask yourself whether the approval steps required for your various request types are really required, and if they are, whether they could be automated.
  • Are you exploiting workflow automation to the extent that approval and fulfilment tasks are sequenced automatically by the ITSM tool?  There should also be a degree of logic built in to determine the path that requests will follow where exceptions occur, such as conditional approvals or rejection.
  • The end-user receives updates on their request at key points during the process.  They’re so used to an Amazon or Dominoes-like order experience, they just won’t settle for anything less!

So, how did you do?

How many of the indicators above are incorporated into your processes, or within your improvement roadmaps?

Without these basic service requests principles in place, you will struggle to achieve digital transformation objectives.  Are you ready to act to address these deficiencies?

Guest post by:

Steve Morgan

Steve is Director of Syniad IT, an independent IT service management consulting firm which specialises in helping IT leaders to assess and optimise their IT organisations.

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