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Three implementation tips for ESM

Best practices from the folks behind ITIL

By Akshay Anand, ITSM Product Ambassador and Evangelist, AXELOS

The phrase “Enterprise Service Management” (ESM) seems to be on everyone’s minds these days. It’s gratifying to see the concepts of Service Management, usually associated with IT Service Management (ITSM), now gaining traction in non-IT functions and domains such as Human Resources and Facilities Management. 

That said, there are many transferable lessons from the decades of ITSM (be it practicing ITSM, implementing tools, training, consulting, or anything in between!) to the world of ESM. This article highlights a few of these lessons, drawn from personal experience and the research conducted by Axelos Global Best Practice while developing and maintaining IT Service Management (ITIL) or Project Management (PRINCE2 & PRINCE2Agile) bodies of knowledge. The latest iteration of ITIL (ITIL 4) contains a lot of IT-agnostic guidance. Many of these concepts apply to IT Service Management, Enterprise Service Management, or any other type of Service Management you can think of!

1. Value is subjective

ITIL, the world’s leading IT Service Management framework, has a set of guiding principles, which help practitioners understand how to create successful service organizations. One of these guiding principles is “Focus on Value.” It sounds simple enough, but there can be tremendous risks to applying it simplistically. 

Tool implementation projects typically involve users and developers (and maybe a project manager or product owner), and we can often understand and articulate each group’s values. But what many implementation teams miss are the other stakeholder groups who aren’t involved with the tool on a day-to-day basis, but for whom value creation is still important. Governance, Risk & Compliance (who need proper record-keeping for audits) and finance (who need to reconcile spending against budgets) are just two examples of such stakeholder groups. 

And what’s valuable for users might not be as valuable to these stakeholders. Consider designing a self-service solution (a portal, workflows, approvals, etc.) that allows users to request help with just a few easy steps. Suppose that the same workflow doesn’t capture enough data to demonstrate compliance to corporate or legal requirements. In that case, the solution is creating or amplifying risks that can damage the organization in the long term.

On the flip side, increasing the number of stakeholder groups can slow the project down to a crawl as teams wait for meetings to be set up and decisions to be made by other groups.

There are no easy answers here, except to find a practical and balanced way to get multiple stakeholder groups to collaborate. It might involve some automation, some delegation of authority, or even a deliberate decision NOT to get involved.

2. It's more than just the tools

I love the acronym G.A.S.! I learned about Gear Acquisition Syndrome from a photographer friend, who talked about how some photographers believed that the best tech produced the best photos. 

In our reality, putting the best product in the market in the hands of an immature organization (or vice-versa) isn’t likely to create the best outcomes. Yet, I’ve encountered so many teams who think that the next shiny tool can be a “silver bullet” that solves all their problems. And maybe it can. But they will then face a new set of challenges and problems that’ll require the next shiny tool. And so on, ab absurdum.

So, back to the earlier ITIL 4 guiding principle, “Focus on Value.” What outcome are we trying to create, and for whom? Having a cutting-edge tool (hardware or software) might be valuable and exciting to use, but does it appreciably move the needle for end-users? What about other stakeholder groups?

There’s another model in ITIL 4 called the “Four Dimensions of Service Management” (note, it’s not the four dimensions of IT service management!). The model explains that successful products and services require an appropriate level of investment into people, skills, roles and responsibilities, tools, processes, and “supplier” (be they internal or external) relationships.

Technology will undoubtedly play a critical role in your ESM journey. Just remember that successful ESM also requires investments in people, in ways of working, and in relationships with other teams and organizations. Don’t get G.A.S.!

3. Continual communication & multi-channel marketing

I’ve been on many tool implementations where the team is tasked with creating either a training video or a training document replete with screenshots (and in rare cases, a video AND accompanying document) on the eve of a major release. 

These artifacts are typically hosted on some sort of shared platform – an intranet or a shared folder – which is bookmarked at first, but over time, is forgotten about until the content is archived. The danger here is not only that information becomes harder to find, but also that we start off by assuming that everyone thinks and works in the same way. If the product team can use a new piece of technology after reading a document or watching the video, then everyone else should, right? It’s not that difficult, right?

Let’s take our cue from some of the products and services we use outside of the workplace. The teams behind those products invest in multiple communication channels, such as newsletters, webinars, YouTube livestreams, embedded videos, and chatbots. And it isn’t only when they’re about to release a new feature or upgrade – the communication is frequent and regular. They remind us of things we’ve forgotten about, highlight interesting case studies, and celebrate successes and awards.

But an emphasis on communication is met with raised eyebrows at work. And that’s often puzzled me – if my employer is signing a million-dollar contract to acquire, configure, and rollout a tool, surely they can spend a fraction of that on “continual communication.” Helping and encouraging greater use of the ITSM or ESM solutions not only leads to more feedback on how the solution can be improved; it also ultimately leads to greater return on investment and return on value!

Conclusion

As I said earlier, there are many lessons from the decades of ITSM tool implementations we can draw upon as we embark on ESM projects. I hope that the three highlighted above have given you some food for thought. What other lessons would you highlight from your past projects? Please drop me a note via Twitter or LinkedIn! For more information on ITIL 4, the guiding principles, and the four dimensions model, please visit axelos.com or look us up on YouTube!

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