Nora Osman, Associate Vice President, IT Service Management, Montefiore Information Technology
Nowadays, a broad search on ITSM on the internet will yield this definition, “IT service management is the craft of implementing, managing, and delivering IT services to meet the needs of an organization. It ensures that the appropriate mix of people, processes, and technology are in place to provide value. In other words: ITSM is the art of making a business run.” My favorite piece of this is the “Art of making a business run.” So, what about IT service management is exclusive to IT, I ask? A lot, in fact, everything.
Before we begin, let’s first level set that just about every business (short of a lemonade stand) requires some form of technology to run. It’s beyond mechanics at this point, it’s data, about the customers and about the products…with an intersection in the middle, that makes for a true transaction. With that said, we’re clearly in the information era now, making managing information (yes, through technology) key to the success of businesses. So if the information is key, and technology is the enabler, then managing the services of IT is a very big deal. Seems simple, right? It is.
But why is IT Service Management one of those sought out objectives that still appears so elusive and maybe even mysterious? Why is it still somewhat vague? A very good question. Because sometimes the simplest things are the most and least obvious. At the heart of IT Service Management is the well-known concept of Customer Satisfaction (a key objective for most businesses), as well as the more recent objective of focus on Customer Experience. They are two unique items, which are very intertwined.
Simply put, if you focus on achieving Excellent ratings for Customer Satisfaction, you have to be aware that it’s all about creating an outstanding Customer Experience, most of the time. Customer satisfaction is the goal, which is achieved through very positive customer experience. Customer experience in IT goes beyond the initial phone or chat interaction…it starts with how the customer arrived at getting service, includes the entire interaction with the service provider, and goes to how the service was left and continued to function well beyond the end of the customer/technologist interaction. It measures things like simplicity and stability, and more importantly, empathy levels from the service provider during that experience. So when you circle back to what this has to do with IT Service Management, well, if ITSM is about managing the service, then the goal of ITSM is to instrument the most beneficial customer experience possible, to yield the best levels of customer satisfaction. ITSM is the mechanism by which organizations achieve that goal, developing processes that simplify the customer experience, measuring the reliability of the service, and reporting on changes in needs to delivery so service improvements can be made continuously. ITSM is needed in every business and all industries.
IT Service Management, in the end, is just a service engine to deliver an excellent customer experience
In my journey as an evolving service manager, through multiple organizations and roles/titles, I’ve learned from trying, failing, and eventually succeeding at implementing specific ITSM initiatives. What I learned the most is that organizations that get their business realize that the only true differentiator is the value they have with a great customer experience, which is what ultimately creates brand loyalty. Customers are willing to pay a higher cost and wait a long time for their service when they feel that it is of great value and have a consistently positive customer experience. When Apple was releasing its latest product, whether the newest iPhone or the iwatch, consumers waited hours and even days on long lines to be the first to buy and show off these new products. Amazon’s customers wait two days for products that they can buy in person elsewhere, because of their no fuss no muss order/delivery process. Best Buy customers still enjoy sampling products side-by-side and a worry-free try/buy/return process that keep them coming for more electronics and household products. Each of these examples has a unique customer experience, but they each have something in common, great overall customer experience for that type of customer who enjoys that channel of commodity purchase. Each has cultivated processes and workstreams to yield consistency in that experience, and it works for them and the consumer.
Looking at how this ties back to ITSM, the lessons I’ve learned can be boiled down to these three concepts:
1. Customers want the smile- on their faces and ours- meaning a great customer experience
2. Customers want it simple- easy processes and little to no instructions to get or use the service
3. Customers want it solid- it just works, all the time, as described, and if it doesn’t we fix what’s broken
That easy, right? Smile, simple, solid. Yes. ITSM is about keeping a smile while we simply deliver services, and making sure they remain solid. That’s what gives a great customer experience. But it is that easy?
Service Management, when focused on those objectives, looks at ensuring service delivery professionals (IT and those who are part of the delivery chain) are engaged and committed to delivering a high-quality service while smiling. They ensure they get the requirements/order right, set appropriate expectations with the customer (timeframe, product/service specifications), and finally, they give updates until the service is fully delivered. But they go beyond this too, they check for quality and make sure the customer is happy (smiling) when they’re done.
Around simple- who has time or wants to read any manuals or instructions these days? No one wants to, and no one has the time, so why bother with lengthy, painful instructions that no one uses? We’re in the era of Google and Youtube…first you Google the problem/product, which ultimately defines it (Wikipedia) and then gives you a Youtube video on “how to” follow along and do it yourself. In ITSM, the focus should always be on delivering very simple, easy to follow processes. Simplifying complex activities such as onboarding new employees, or requesting equipment, or even just getting something fixed should all be as simple as the tiny pamphlet that Apple includes with their many products. Even simpler, they should be able to figure it out themselves.
Finally, it needs to work. ITSM should look at why things that break often do, and what needs to be permanently changed to keep the service always working. Even if we create a simple return and repair process, it is still a time waster and an irritant when it doesn’t work. If we design products and services with a high degree of error avoidance, proper QA and durability testing, and work swiftly to fix what’s broken as soon as we see evidence of that, we ensure that the stability of the service is high.
IT Service Management, in the end, is just a service engine to deliver an excellent customer experience. Its real focus should be on engaging IT associates in understanding the customer needs, breaking down complexity, and building durability. Service should be delivered with a Smile, in a Simple way, and should remain Solid.