How to Advance Your IT Service Management Maturity

In a recent market study conducted by Information Week and TeamDynamix, we asked organizations to rank their level of IT maturity. According to the results, nearly half of the organizations surveyed state that they are on the low-end of the maturity scale, and only about 8% believe that they operate with a very high level of maturity where their ITSM software is fully optimized, and their IT group offers best-in-class service delivery through a formal program.

The good news is that a slim majority, 51%, report a decent level of maturity with automation and at least some best practices in place. And while that is good news, the results show there is a real opportunity for organizations to improve their IT service delivery and maturity.

IT Service Management (ITSM) maturity is typically broken out into five levels. There are plenty of different names for each level, but the idea behind each one remains the same. In this post, we will use the following terms for each level.

  1. Reactive – Responding to individual user challenges and requests as they occur.
  2. Efficient – Having a systematic approach to solving known issues and managing daily tasks.
  3. Proactive – Anticipating common issues and automating repetitive tasks as well as any appropriate remedial actions.
  4. Aligned – Tracking and meeting service level agreements or basic performance expectations.
  5. Strategic – Achieving IT operational excellence and taking a strategic role in driving business innovation.

How to Improve Low IT Maturity

We will begin by covering how to move from Level 1 – Reactive to Level 2 – Efficient. Typically, the most common barriers preventing organizations from moving beyond a reactive state are a lack of communication, knowledge, and process.

The first step to progress toward Level 2 is to speak with your end-users and learn what their biggest challenges are when it comes to engaging your service organization. You might be surprised at what you learn by having those conversations. However, it is important to keep in mind that communication does not always reach every part of the organization.

If there is dissatisfaction with the service provider, it is often communicated to those at higher levels within the organization. This is why you should talk to users at every level, including leadership, to find out what they are hearing.

It is incredibly difficult to run a service organization without having some understanding of issues that arise most often versus those that are uncommon or just one-off occurrences. Attaining this type of historical data provides the basis for generating some level of metrics.

Whichever way you go about gathering metrics, apply the 80/20 model to identify problems that are most common and therefore take up a majority of your team’s time. Once you learn which issues are most prevalent, map out a defined and repeatable process for resolving them. You do not need to have a fully polished and comprehensive process or one that tries to account for every possible variation. Just outline some basic steps. For example, define which group usually attends to a particular type of problem, then determine a way to communicate and enforce this as a standard process.

Going through the exercise of outlining steps to resolve the most common issues will put your team on the path to becoming much more efficient and far less reactive. With extra time and capacity resulting from your efforts, you can focus more on moving forward the initiative of moving up to the next level of IT Service Management maturity.

Improve IT Maturity with ITSM Best Practices

In addition to gathering feedback, you should examine your ITSM processes and make sure they align with best practices. The service management best practices are built around the 5 pillars of ITSM:

  1. Process control/ITIL adoption
  2. Self-service adoption
  3. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)©
  4. Change management
  5. Resource capacity planning

By centering your ITSM strategy around these pillars and using an ITSM solution that allows you to scale your service delivery as you grow and mature your organization, you can set yourself up for both short-term and long-term success.

Areas for Improvement: Self-Service Portals and Knowledge Base Design

We know from our study that automation and self-service functions remain areas for growth at most organizations, with 62% and 63% reporting low levels of maturity in these ITSM areas, respectively. The study shows that some of the heaviest burdens ITSM programs face come by way of poorly optimized ITSM technology

While management issues like a lack of resources or the inability to build a culture that drives self-service adoption plague at least a quarter to a third of organizations. Usually, self-service struggles are due to a complicated portal design or a knowledge base that’s hard to navigate.

Crowdsourcing knowledge can be a fast and accurate way to build an easy-to-use knowledge base, that’s why Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS®) can and should be part of your ITSM processes as a complementary strategy to self-service. The principals of KCS stipulate that the creation and maintenance of knowledge must be fully integrated into the most important support operations.

Here are a few reasons why Knowledge-Centered Service can be so powerful:

  • Helps to continually lower inbound call volume.
  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Provides customers with the answers they need now.
  • Crowdsourcing knowledge helps maintain accurate content.
  • Offers opportunities for professional development and career progression.

By adopting KCS, you can not only improve customer satisfaction but dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT (from about $22 for a level 1 support call to $2 for self-service); and reduce the volume of issues and requests coming to the help desk.

How Cornell University Upped Its IT Maturity

Adopting a more mature approach to IT service requires three key aspects working together in harmony: people, processes, and technology. Cornell University’s Central IT division had the first two elements in place, but the third was lacking. Central IT staff wanted to be able to move ahead with initiatives such as enabling self-service and using key performance indicators to improve operations, but the IT service management platform they were using was holding them back.

While the platform included detailed reporting capabilities, these features weren’t very accessible or easy to use.  

“Our old tool had very sophisticated reporting, but you almost needed programming experience to be able to use it,” says Todd Maniscalco, assistant director for customer service and support within Cornell’s Central IT division. As a result, team members had to spend a lot of time building and scheduling reports that provided the kind of insight that leaders wanted. 

The university also didn’t have an easy way to create self-service portals for students, faculty, and staff. Central IT maintained a knowledge base within Drupal, an open-source content management system, but there was no easy way to manage this information.  

 The university was looking for an IT and enterprise service management platform that was simple to use and included robust self-service capabilities that would allow IT staff to take customer service to a new level of maturity. They found that — and more — in TeamDynamix.

Using TeamDynamix, Cornell has been able to optimize the customer experience. And adopting a self-service approach to ITSM was a large part of that.

Using the client portal features of TeamDynamix, the university’s individual IT units have been able to set up a system of client portals organized by service categories that are dynamically linked to knowledge base articles related to those categories. 

If students or staff can’t find the information they need, they can initiate a service request directly from these portals, and their request is forwarded automatically to the appropriate service technician for a response.  

What’s more, the automated workflows built into the TeamDynamix platform will allow IT staff to manage knowledge base articles more systematically, ensuring that information remains relevant and up to date. 

The platform’s intuitive reporting capabilities make it much easier to glean operational insights that will help leaders improve IT service, such as the average time it takes to resolve various kinds of support tickets. Reporting that used to take hours now takes only a few minutes, and anyone who’s authorized can run reports without needing any specialized knowledge. 

“With TeamDynamix, we can teach people to fish, so to speak — and they can build whatever report they need,” Maniscalco observes. “We can also create and schedule a central set of reports that we know our leadership wants to see.” 

Although Central IT can’t mandate that other departments follow certain practices, the division is doing what it can to ensure that TeamDynamix is used effectively across the university.  

“We set up an advisory committee to share processes and practices that we have found to be effective,” Briggs says. “If there are any major incidents that affect multiple units, we coordinate our response to those incidents — and we have gained a lot of efficiencies from this.”  

TeamDynamix has quickly become an indispensable tool for driving greater IT maturity campus-wide, which was a major goal behind adopting the system.

This post was originally published in September 2019 and has been updated with new information. 

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