It's all about customer-oriented service management

Blog
November 17 2014

A few years back, the point of contact for IT departments was the helpdesk or support center, which mostly responded to series of incidents. Gradually, a service-oriented approach has been implemented, a wider practice supporting a wider IT process, which has now been democratised and defined by ITIL v3. Service desks thus represent a SPOC (single point of contact) for end users and IT employees.

Although the helpdesk or support center remains unchanged in many working environments, a growing number of computer technology professionals and industry executives now prefer a user-oriented IT services management or Information Technology Service Management. The service desk, which still represents a fundamental IT service, increasingly integrates support operations within a business strategy, a comprehensive strategy based on the understanding of the critical needs of a company’s internal and external users. This approach is evolving, notably through the digitization of the workspace, and proposes targets that prioritize business needs and a company’s services.

Given that technology is a proven vector for growth and that corporate needs and objectives are increasingly demanding, IT services must absolutely follow the flow. As such, IT services must, among other things, participate in the improvement of customer relations, discovery of new revenue opportunities, and ultimately, the improvement of the quality of services.

IT departments are more than just cost centers, they are internal partners. Processes in the delivery of IT services are now part of a corporate value proposition. This valuation of a holistic approach to delivery of services to business units, Business Service Management, results in business alignment and customer-oriented IT services management. In order to promote such an approach, here are elements to keep in mind:

Establish proactive and transparent understanding of business needs

The first step in the alignment of IT services (or other technology-dependent services) is having a comprehensive understanding of business needs. Be it in the performance of applications, in connection with infrastructure, governance, availability management, capacity management or configuration management, IT services must be monitored and analyzed in order to ensure coherence with established corporate objectives. IT departments have no choice but to evolve their traditional vision towards a proactive approach for delivering its services. In light of this information, managers must establish a transparent way to improve the current services management framework by focusing more on business than on technology. In sum, they must respond to the following questions:

  • What are the required IT services for each business unit?
  • How should these services be delivered? What methods must be applied?
  • What is the level of criticality of the service? In other words, what are the value-added services and which ones represent additional expenses?
  • What should IT departments prioritize for end-users?

Manage the entire lifecycle of service delivery

It goes without saying that managers must also focus on understanding the whole lifecycle of services and align it with all business units. Managing the services strategy, their design, from transition to exploitation is part of a global and integrated vision. Let’s use as example, a query from an end user; first it must be determined whether or not the request is a priority. Then, with help of the development team, IT puts the service in production by adding to its catalogue. Once the service is produced, IT must manage availability and performance. Lastly, the service is updated to meet new criteria, and then taken out of production when there is no more need for it. The approach to business service management favours keeping in mind that each phase has a result, which then impacts the subsequent phase. As such, at each of these steps, through each process of the delivery of the service in question, organizational impacts may affect the performance of one or more business units. In order to manage this situation and to produce good results, it is best to measure:

  • The operational costs of the projects
  • The quality of service
  • Time needed to deliver newly implemented services

Measure effectiveness using indicators

In order to achieve or exceed objectives set by management, it is imperative for IT to implement performance indicators and to measure the performance of delivery of services.  The service-level agreement (SLA) allows managers to validate whether or not work is of quality and accomplished on time according to the SLA established with the client. In all cases it is important to know customer expectations and ensure that there is an established mutual understanding. Other key indicators can support you through implementation of such an approach:

  • Time needed to launch a new service
  • Number of services covered by the SLA
  • Number of services evaluated by SLA, where weaknesses and corrective measures are reported
  • Number of services in SLA that are reviewed regularly
  • Number of services/SLA in which the agreed service level is met
  • Number of issues in the provision of services that are identified and addressed in an improvement plan

In regards to incidents, several basic metrics can be used:

  • Number of incidents and service requests
  • Average response time
  • Rate of abandonment
  • Average time for resolving issue
  • Average time to execute a request
  • Rate of reopening of incident
  • Rate of resolution of first level incidents
  • Satisfaction rate for request

These measures can then be compared with points established beforehand (SLA) in the design of your services. Also, by categorizing the priorities of your service desk, you will be able to have a better overview of the department’s performance based on obligations and agreements established with your customers.

Collaborate by breaking down knowledge silos

The customer or end-user oriented approach also promotes greater internal collaboration and establishes communicational standards that improve all organizational processes. A good understanding of the processes involved and the previous control measures help identify gaps and to implement automated elements. Beyond the optimization of existing processes, automation also ensures, among other things:

  • Better control
  • Improved flexibility
  • Facilitated internal transformations

By acting as a consultant to the business, IT can use the business service management approach to collaborate in establishing use of contextualised information for the benefit of all. In the end, collaboration, transparency and understanding the importance of business needs not only serves to improve the quality of customer relations but also the quality of service offered to other company employees.

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