How Can We Build for IT Service Efficiency and Automation?

Thought Leadership for
IT Service Management Professionals

How Can We Build for IT Service Efficiency and Automation?

Posted by Don Casson

Thu, Feb 08, 2018

The combination of self service, choice simplification and automation provides a solid foundation for effective IT services

In a business meeting, when the word “efficiency” is tossed into the agenda, the word “automation” soon follows. This is because the two words go together, especially when it comes to IT Service Efficiency and Automation, which can improve the impact your service has on your customers. While there are many ways to achieve service efficiency – examples include streamlining processes, getting rid of repetitive steps and boosting productivity – automation is increasingly the go-to method in a world reliant on technology to run effective IT services. 

How do we, as IT service professionals, then, build for efficiency and automation?

There are three essential components of a successful efficient, automated service: 
  1. Self-service
  2. Choice simplification (happy mealing)
  3. Automation (technology)

All three components working well together are required for successful IT service management.

Connecting the dots

In IT, we have a mindset that whatever the customer wants, we will provide. We believe this is good customer service, but it’s the opposite (bad customer service).

In the book, "The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less," American psychologist Barry Schwartz points out that giving consumers less choices is useful for reducing their anxieties when making buying decisions. I agree. As humans, we don’t want hundreds of choices. We don’t want to have to create our own solutions because it is confusing and too much work. We want less choices from our service providers – not more – and we want to be led to the best solution by the experts who are providing it.

Personally, I’d much prefer the beautiful experiences Amazon provides than a visit to the local shopping mall. And, I often express the fundamental benefits of providing Amazon-like experiences to Evergreen Systems clients in our face-to-face meetings and webinars.

When it comes to building for efficiency and automation, it is important to combine a beautiful, self-service experience (think about the Amazon-like experience) with choice simplification (less choices rather than more). Then, link that combination (self-service and choice simplification) to workflow and technical automation.

Simplicity is a key to maximizing results

Custom, or heavily customized requests by nature are complex, time consuming, error prone and inconsistent. Here's where choice simplification comes into the frame to add significant value to your IT service management operation – for both the customer and the providers. Choice simplification is the critical CONNECTOR between beautiful self service and lights out automation. Without choice simplification, it is impossible to succeed.

Foundation for Effective Automation in IT Service Management.png

Figure 1: The foundation for effective IT service that makes customers happy include 3 key components: self service, choice simplification and automation.

We want to provide customers with 3-5 happy meal / value meal choices in any given category, based on our knowledge of what they really need or should have (since we are the experts). Along with this, we still need to provide the option to go “a la carte” or custom, if they don’t see what they need.  Customers are happier with less choices not more, and providers get 80% of their work coming in 3-4 activities. The value of choice simplification is universal. You can see this human principle at work for yourself on value menu boards at your favorite fast-food restaurant – whether you’re in the U.S. or in Japan!

Finding a good mix for your menu of services

Creating and maintaining viable self service + automation-based services takes real work, so it should be worth the effort. Fortunately, the Pareto principle in IT services – that is 80% of the service volume can or could be found in 20% of the Services – seems to work very reliably. So, it’s that 20% of the services you want your focus to be on as you build your menu of service offerings.  

At Evergreen, we have worked with many clients who have 200 – 300 services and it is very common for us to find that as few as 20 – 30 services either do, or could ("happy mealing") make up 80% of the total volume.  Now the investment in self service + automation makes sense – for these 20-30 services, our goal should be to make them self service + “lights out” automation. In this way we can literally cut the workload in IT service management and IT delivery by as much as half!  Don’t think it’s possible?  Amazon Web Services sells servers, storage, security, databases and applications from the world’s largest data center (by a factor of 10,000) without ever talking to us – leveraging self service + lights out automation, TODAY.

As we review those 20-30 candidate services, we also want to apply a second tier for qualifying them. That is, we want to value more highly the ones that are also visible, manageable and measurable. A good approach for tackling this is what I call 1/10/10/10. Start with 1 service and build it to learn from it. Then tackle the next 10, the next 10, and so on.

Do some simple detective work to identify the right mix of services. Review the top 10 customer interaction drivers (incidents, requests and queries). If the volume isn’t clear, then interview the level 1 and level 2 providers for each area – they will know what customers most ask for.

Bringing it all together

Those embedded in the world of IT services may not clearly see that 4-5 different customer requests could be just one request. But if we think proactively about what the client really needs, then we’ll be in a better position to identify where things can be simplified or consolidated.

Here are some tips on how to bring it all together for efficiency and automation.

  1. Make it consumable in the service portal through a beautiful, self service experience.
  2. Streamline and simplify the process flow and number of choices, working with the providers from end to end.
  3. Build the streamlined process in forms based workflow, linking it to the customer-facing self-service offering.
  4. Apply technical automation such as orchestration or AI, for partial or full automation of work – in the steps where it is appropriate.

Of course, you can always count on the Evergreen team for guidance. Our Evergreen Evolve offering provides a modern, unique approach to ServiceNow services with senior expertise that’s fast, flexible and very affordable. Learn more about Evergreen Evolve. And, feel free to send any questions you have my way.

About the AuthorDon Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 50 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services

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Topics: Service Now, ServiceNow, Service Catalog Consultant, IT Service Catalog, ITSM, IT Service Management, ITSM Strategy, Employee Self-Service Portal, Service Taxonomy, Customer-Centric IT, ServiceNow Solutions, ServiceNow Partner, Service Design Processes, ITSM Consultants, Customer-Centric ITSM, IT Service Owner, Service Portal, Service Catalog Planning, ServiceNow Admin, ServiceNow Support, ServiceNow Service Portal, ITSM Platforms, IT Service Design

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