Why Change Management is important and selecting the right automation tool for it matters
This blog from Santhosh Kumar Ramesh emphasises on the importance of change management and why it’s crucial to a business’ ITSM efforts and how intelligent automation of standard change requests via conversational bots might save the day.
Before we delve right into the what’s and why’s of Change Management, let me first clarify the terms ITSM, Service Desk, and Help Desk so that, if you’re new to this, you don’t have to go on a searching spree for an article that best explains these interrelated terms, in plain English.
ITSM – Information Technology Service Management (or ITSM) refers to the long-term planning, delivery, and continual improvement of Information Technology (IT) Services like Network Security, Backup and Disaster Recovery, etc.
Help Desk – Consider the help desk as a reactive component of ITSM in the early days. The main function of the help desk was to resolve IT issues like a desktop computer not working, etc., as and when they arise. The help desk and its agents were only concerned about resolving an issue as soon as they can and weren’t always bothered about the long-term implications of a recurring issue.
Service Desk – You can say that the modern-day service desk is an evolution of the help desk. The service desk came into existence mainly to tackle recurring issues proactively so that they don’t have any negative effects on the ITSM efforts of an organisation. The service desk, unlike the help desk, was mainly concerned with long term predictive analysis and planning and not about the short-term quick fixes.
There are many best practice frameworks for improving IT service desk operations, but for the sake of this article, let’s see about the most famous of them all, the ITIL framework.
ITIL 4 – the most recent edition of ITIL – was published by AXELOS in February 2019. ITIL 4 embraces the latest trends in technologies and service management and provides a flexible basis to support organisations as they undergo digital transformation and integrate digital technology into all areas of their business.
The service lifecycle and the 26 service lifecycle processes introduced with ITIL V3 have been dropped again in ITIL 4. This gives service providers more freedom to design tailor-made processes that work for the organisation.
ITIL 4 is not a minor upgrade of the ITIL framework but a completely revised body of knowledge.
For ITIL 4 or below key ITIL processes include Incident Management, Problem Management, Service Asset and Configuration Management, Change Management/Change Enablement and Release and Deployment Management.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive deeper into the process of change management/change enablement, what it is and why is it so important among all other ITIL processes.
Change Management – What it actually involves
To put it in simple terms, Change Management or Change Enablement is the ITIL process of adding, modifying/upgrading or retiring business hardware or software without disrupting normal business operations.
There are three types of change requests.
Standard changes: These change requests include unlocking accounts, password resets, etc. Businesses all over the world are now focusing on automating workflows for these change requests so that their service desk agents can focus on normal and emergency change requests.
Normal changes: Normal change requests usually include things like data migration from on-premises servers to cloud-based servers, etc.
Emergency changes: These change requests include critical security patch implementations or network isolations from attacks by hackers.
The Change Manager oversees seeing through the change enablement workflow and is advised by the Change Advisory Board (CAB). Standard Changes are pre-approved by the Change Manager, whereas normal and emergency changes have to go through the risk assessment and approval process by the CAB before the Change Manager gives his/her decision about the change execution based on the CAB’s findings.
A typical change request goes through:
1. Change request review
2. Change plan
3. Change approval
4. Change implementation
5. Change closure
Why Change Management is crucial for a business
Downtime costs money. Downtimes also impact other ITIL processes like Incident Management, Problem Management, and Service Asset and Configuration Management. To put things more into perspective:
- When there is a server outage, people might not be able to access the self-service portal for raising a ticket which leads to more calls to the service desk, with people reporting it as an “incident”. When different people report the same incident, it turns into a problem, a false alarm, hence affecting the incident and problem management workflows.
- A company rolls out a software update to its employees’ workstations. This software update renders the workstations unusable for employees. The employees of that company immediately contact service desk agents for resolving the issue. This leads to the Service Asset and Configuration Management taking a blow.
How intelligent automation might just save the day for you
To touch on a fact that we discussed earlier, businesses all over the world are now looking toward automating standard change requests like password resets, account unlocks, etc., at minimal costs. Automating standard change requests is great and all, but delivering the changes is another story. This is where AI-powered conversational bots with automated workflows come into play.
For example, when a user wants to raise a service desk ticket for replacing their faulty laptop, the user can initiate a conversation with the service desk chatbot on the self-service portal or on their business’ Slack or Microsoft Teams channel. Using NLP, the chatbot will recognise their request and raise a ticket itself.
As you can see from the above example, AI-powered conversational bots with automated workflows complement the change management process of a business.
Benefits of using AI-powered chatbots:
- Easy to customise
- Real-time tracking of the live conversation between the bot and user
- Multi-language support
- Conversational, helpful & accurate
- 24/7 Support
Therefore, choosing the right bot-building platform that offers Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) becomes even more essential. PaaS is currently the most popular model among SaaS and IaaS, hovering around 32% and expected to grow in 2020.
A PaaS solution provides the platform for IT Admins to create unique, customisable chatbots with automated workflows. This means IT Admins don’t need to start from scratch when creating chatbots, saving them a lot of time (and money) on writing extensive code as well as allowing them to focus on the creative side of app development, as opposed to menial tasks such as managing software updates or security patches. All their time and brainpower will go into creating, testing, and deploying the chatbot.
PaaS is a popular choice for businesses who want to create unique chatbots without spending a fortune or taking on all the responsibility.
It’s kind of like the difference between hiring a venue to put on a show vs. building a venue to put on a show. The venue stays the same, but what you create in that space is unique.
PaaS platforms are:
- Accessible by multiple users.
- Scalable – you can choose from various tiers of resources to suit the size of your business.
- Built on virtualisation technology.
- Easy to run without extensive system administration knowledge.
Things to consider before choosing an automation tool or a PaaS:
1. Intuitive User Interface
For building chatbots and setting up automated workflows for them, a good bot-building platform should have distinct sections or “builders” for
- Creating a chatbot by building a conversation/dialog flow
- Setting up automations and mapping them to dialogs
- Testing the created chatbot
- Deploying the chatbot on a self-service portal/collaboration hub like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
2. Conversational Self-Service
For a chatbot to deliver solutions to a user’s incident reports or service/change requests, the chatbot should be designed in a way it solves a user’s concern by getting the required details from the user in a conversational way. For this a bot-building platform should have:
1. Natural Language Processing (NLP) – For the bot to detect user intention and extract essential information for executing an automation.
2. Platform Intelligence – For the bot to make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to train itself to better understand users’ queries.
For example, with a bot-building platform, you should be able to build a conversational bot with automated workflows that can take care of Password Reset requests on its own and then deploy the bot on Slack or Microsoft Teams to let your employees reset their password from the comfort of your business’ communication channel.
3. Ease of integration with existing business applications
The platform should seamlessly integrate with your existing business applications and automate workflows for them.
It should also have ready-to-use automations in place to make it easier on your IT Admins.
4. Usecase-based Chatbots
Creating multiple chatbots based on a use case or specific to departments is vital to deliver the right services to them.
At the end of the day, choosing a platform based on your business’ needs instead of going blindly for feature-rich platforms is the only way you can complement your business’ ITSM efforts.
To know how you can transform your business’ Collaboration hub like Slack into an IT Service Desk for your employees, check out this blog today!