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Enterprise Service Management Is Not Just for Service Requests

By | February 7, 2017 in General IT

Enterprise Service Management (ESM)

Enterprise service management (ESM) is the use of IT service management (ITSM) tools and processes to support other lines of business within an organization. It’s a term that’s generally used by IT people, who know and understand ITSM, but may be off-putting to those less familiar with IT.  In fact, I enjoyed a presentation by Elina Pirjanti at the itSMF conference in Estonia last year, where she asked us to stop calling it “enterprise service management” (in fact, she wrote a blog about it too). Everyone else in the organization thinks of this way of working as “digitalization” or “digital transformation” and we should use their language, rather than trying to force IT language on the rest of the organization.

And this is fair enough, at least up to a point; particularly when I know that all the articles I’ve read about ESM recently have a focus on using ITSM tools to help manage service requests from business units such as HR, legal, or facilities. This is certainly an important use case, and is something that almost every organization should be doing. ITSM tools are great for logging and tracking service requests, as well as supporting automation of request fulfilment, and providing reporting so that you know how well you’re doing.  Why would we not choose to take advantage of these capabilities that are already at hand?

Here are my thoughts on how you can take advantage of ITSM to help other areas of your organization…

Providing a Single Portal for All Service Requests

Today, we’re seeing cases of ESM that go a little bit beyond just managing service requests for different units within a business.

For example, in some organizations, ESM now provides a single portal for employees to access all the business services they need, whether it’s ordering a new laptop, notifying the reception desk that a visitor is expected, or requesting a pension statement from the finance department. This improves employee experience, as well as providing greater efficiency for internal business units, and increased transparency and understanding of what work is being done by each team. The most effective organizations extend this portal outside their own organization, providing a way to work more effectively with suppliers, and with external customers.

Using Incident and Problem Management Outside IT

When people think of ESM as “digital transformation”, they are only thinking about request fulfilment, and this is all that they include in their ESM project. The trouble is that if those of us familiar with the possibilities inherent in ITSM tools and processes just stick to request fulfilment, then we are needlessly limiting ourselves. There is a huge opportunity for ESM – or whatever we choose to call it – to exploit the value of other ITSM capabilities across the enterprise.

I have worked with organizations who are very good at managing their IT incidents and problems, but had never considered using the same approach for managing incidents and problems in other parts of their business. A few forward thinking organizations, however, have now started to consider this.

Recently I was talking to a friend who was working as a management coach for a transportation company. This company provides drivers to take trucks on single journeys. Their key business metric is the percentage of trucks that arrive at their destination at the correct time, and they typically manage to get about 98.5% of the trips to meet this target. The CEO wanted to improve, but realized that achieving a very ambitious 100% success rate would require much better, and more detailed, understanding of exactly what was happening with the failing trips. Failures might be caused by breakdowns, unexpected traffic, drivers falling ill, and many other causes too numerous to list; and without good data it would be impossible to devise an investment strategy that would lead to improvement.

The way forward is obvious, once you’ve thought of it. We suggested implementing processes based on IT incident and problem management – to help them deliver better service to their customers, and to supply the missing data.

The transport company already use tools and processes for managing IT incidents. By using the same tools to implement an incident management process focused on truck movement, the organization will be able to:

  • Understand the current status of all the trucks that have issues, providing management with transparency and enabling them to prioritize their resources where they will deliver the best value.
  • Provide clear and accurate data about incidents to people who are helping to resolve them, reducing communication errors and improving incident resolution times.
  • Access a knowledge base with information about how other similar incidents have been resolved in the past, allowing the organization to learn from experience, rather than depending on the knowledge of the person managing the specific incident.
  • Categorize incidents so that they can see trends, and prioritize problem management activity.

If the organization also implements a problem management process, they will also be able to:

  • Identify trends, based on incident management data, so that they know which incident types need a better way to resolve them.
  • Research and document the best way to deal with different incident categories, to enable their best people to influence what happens throughout the organization.
  • Understand the costs and benefits of different approaches to incident resolution, and make targeted investments that will improve business performance.

If you have been involved in IT incident and problem management, then I’m sure you can add to this list.

Design for Experience

But before you go off and implement ESM across your organization, I need to offer a warning. As I was writing this blog, I discussed the concept of using incident and problem management with a friend who doesn’t work in IT. Their immediate reaction was “I already waste too much time fighting my computer. I don’t want to waste even more time filling in forms for some IT manager when I could be getting on with my job.”

If you want the benefits of ESM, then you’ll need to think about how people in your organization already view IT, what their current experiences are telling them, and what training they might need. You will need co-operation to get people to change the way they work, and if you don’t design your solution so that it works well for them, then your project is never going to succeed. So make sure you talk to all the stakeholders before you do anything. Understand their concerns and make sure you work with them to design a solution that works for everyone.

So What’s Next?

In this blog, I have given only one example of how incident and problem management processes might be used outside of IT, but I have seen similar approaches in use in many different industries, and I am confident that there are many more I have never imagined.

So, have a think about your own organization. Perhaps you can see how an imaginative application of ITSM tools and processes outside of IT could benefit your organization?  If you can think of an ESM solution that will work well and give a great experience to all your stakeholders, don’t let the potential difficulties stop you.  You could end up providing your business with a real competitive advantage.

Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

2 thoughts on “Enterprise Service Management Is Not Just for Service Requests”

  1. Avatar Ajit Dsouza

    Hello Stuart,
    Very well written article. I loved this idea. I have seen this implemented in previous organization where supply chain team uses incident management dashboard to log, track and fix issues related to transportation and other activities involved in the overall process. However, as you mentioned we need to understand how users perceive IT in respective organization. They shouldn’t feel that it’s an additional work apart from their BAU work. It definitely needs OCM.

    We being IT professional can also be benefited by leveraging tools and technique used by other industries. For example, there are some good practices used by manufacturing Industries (industrial health and safety dept.) which helps them understand root cause of safety incidents in detail. This technique can be used in problem management.

    Looking forward for more on this topic.



    1. Stuart Rance Stuart Rance

      Thank you for your comment Adjit. I have read reports of investigations into rail and air accidents, and these people are VERY good at both major incident management and problem management. We certainly could learn a lot from them.


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