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Modern ITSM Practices: Introduction

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New ITSM technology is changing our world. Leaders in ITSM processes are homing in on alternatives for manually completing simple tasks. We often view these developments through the prism of the job market, and with good reason. The long-term economic impact of IT automation is of concern to everyone, but for right now, this new wave of innovation is aiming a bit smaller. The current ideas free the IT service desk from simple, time-consuming tasks so they can focus on more important responsibilities (whether in their jobs or in their personal lives). Think of all the hands-free devices that have allowed you to multitask while driving or cooking dinner. Think of the calculations apps on your phone can execute, whether it’s travel time or problem-solving.

Today's solutions help organizational leaders think bigger, creating shortcuts for users and technicians to remove cumbersome tasks.

The modern IT service desk is leveraging all of this technology for a similar effect in IT tasks and organizational services. Today’s IT solutions help organizational leaders think bigger, creating shortcuts for users and technicians to remove cumbersome tasks. The goal of the IT service desk has always been to simplify workflows, and today, through the power of smart technology, organizational processes are more efficient than ever before.

Key Elements of the Modern IT Service Desk:

In this guide, you’ll learn about the specific functionality and advantages that these elements will bring to your organization. You’ll learn what to look for in an ITSM solution, and how to leverage these features to fit your organization.

The Benefits of Using Modern Technology in Your IT Service Desk:

Operational efficiency Users are finding their own simple solutions through self-service. Smart service desk solutions are pointing them in the right direction when they fill in data for a ticket. Automations are cutting out early steps in ticket routing and priority levels, so technicians are spending more time problem solving where it’s needed most. Updated and nuanced reporting gives your team a clear picture of where they need to deploy resources. Lower Costs Smart technology will help users create tickets with complete and accurate information, saving time on communication. It will cut out time wasting tickets including repetitive incidents and simple password resets. From a service agent perspective, tickets and requests are automatically routed and prioritized, saving wasted time at the start of the process. Time is money in IT service management. The quicker the service desk is, well, serving its customers, the lower the cost per ticket. Culture of Quality Users can now handle some of their own problems without opening a ticket, sending an email, or waiting for a response. And, when there are tickets or service requests, they are handled efficiently, which leads to satisfied customers. Culture of Success There are dedicated resources in the right areas, efficient automations, and so many shortcuts people don’t even notice them. Now, people throughout the organization can focus on what makes them valuable instead of splitting that time with tedious work and distractions from the business goals. It’s a positive experience for both users and service desk technicians, creating a better work environment.

1. The Customizable Service Catalog

What is a service catalog? Think about your organization from an internal service perspective. What are all of the things that any of the employees might need from the day they sign on until the day they depart? Yes, every little thing. They need access cards, asset licenses, installations, upgrades, or fixes. They need purchase orders, invoices, travel accommodations, and expense reports. They need loaner laptops, conference room reservations, and equipment upgrades for important meetings. They need to enroll in benefits, update personal information, exercise stock options, and update their company sponsored retirement plans. They need contracts reviewed by the legal team. They need new business cards. They lost their check and need it reissued (why don’t they just do direct deposit?!) Wow. That’s a wide variety, and it’s only a small sample size of employee requests that come through an organization. That’s not to mention any break/fix incidents that regularly occur when working with technology. So, back to the question: what is a service catalog? The service catalog is the organizational remedy to all of that chaos.

These decisions are made, not on a whim or a case-by-case basis, but by strategic planning that takes place while building out the service catalog.

It’s the place where your organization plans and executes the most efficient ways to handle all of these regular services that are bound to occur. It’s the place where workflows are simplified, notifications are customized, and data is shared and/or protected however the organization sees fit. It’s the place where all of that chaos is strategically organized according to business priority. It’s the place where your organization decides where the requests go, who is responsible for resolving them, how long they should take, and in what order they’ll be answered. These decisions are made, not on a whim or a case-by-case basis, but by strategic planning that takes place while building out the service catalog. To build an effective and comprehensive service catalog is to set up your organization for seamless, efficient service success.

2. Knowledge Management

When a break/fix occurs, what happens in your organization? The user emails the help desk and wait for the fix? On a case-by-case basis, that can work. However, it's an outdated and inefficient form of communication. Taking a little time and care for documentation on an incident can save a ton of time down the line. Document the problem and the solution. Make it easily searchable within a database with tags. Update it as you discover better solutions or as the organization changes its technology or processes. Users will have access to these articles prior to submitting tickets. If they ignore this knowledge base of resources, technicians can send articles for self-service rather than back-and-forth exchanges to solve repeat incidents. This is knowledge management in a nutshell. It’s so common to see different departments with different processes, different business tools, and different digital platforms. It creates a “silo” effect within the organization. Knowledge Centered Support (KCS) methodology is essential to maximizing the flow of business within an organization. The less time people spend finding solutions (especially to repeat problems), the more time they have to focus on driving business value. Knowledge management requires a cultural shift within the organization. Users should leverage the resources within the knowledge base for self-service. IT service desk technicians should refer to the knowledge base when resolving tickets, promoting its use to users throughout the organization. If information is unavailable, technicians should add to the knowledge base. The goal is to continuously grow the value of the knowledge base solidifying support level zero (self-service).

3. Service Portal

The days of fumbling through emails and spreadsheets for IT support are over. Service agents need better ways to organize and delegate support issues. Users are tired of sending an email into the abyss and waiting indefinitely for a response. All parties are frustrated by issues that arise outside of normal office hours. Self-service portals have revolutionized the entire process, presenting solutions to all of these problems. Requester Experience Previously, users would wait blindly for support to answer a request. In the employee service portal, the requesters can access organized records of current and past incidents or service requests. They can track the status of their open requests throughout the process, and follow up with more information if necessary. In some cases, the request may not be the first of its kind. That’s where the “self-service” comes in. The portal eliminates the wasted time and resources on repeat incidents through knowledge base articles that are accessible to all requesters, at all times. Think of all the time saved through self-resolution! Plus, it’ll save the user a bit of pride -- no need to submit a simple request for a password change. The Service Agent Experience Knowledge base articles will cut the number of tickets significantly. Forgotten passwords, disconnected keyboards, and other common issues will be easily accessible to users from the portal, saving technicians valuable time previously spent on mundane tasks. Even solutions to problems would be only a few clicks away. This keeps the entire process cleaner, more organized, and more efficient for the support team. When tickets are submitted, they can be automatically routed to the correct agents based on data entered by the requester. Prioritizing and delegating tickets can be a daunting task, but data collection at the portal will automate much of that process for the service agents. The classic example is employee on-boarding. This typical service request might include a company phone, laptop, monitor, or any number of specialized items. The organization will already have this request form set to collect all of this data from the requester. What kind of laptop? iPhone or Android? How many monitors? The portal is setup to collect all the data it needs, and routes it to the appropriate parties, simplifying the process for everyone involved. Again, it’s worth noting the ability for all parties to track the status of open requests. Now that the requester can constantly check the status of open items, the service agent can peacefully drive the car without kids in the back asking, “are we there yet?” Extending Office Hours Many organizations aren’t equipped to handle support issues 24/7, but perhaps the best part of the self-service portal is the ability to provide support at all times. Outside of normal business hours, there is an entire database of knowledge on common problems, including break/fix incidents. If users can’t solve their issues given the available information, they can rest assured that their requests will be handled and prioritized correctly, even if no one is available to take a call or respond to an email on a weekend. In this section of the guide, we'll outline the modern service portal, including the ability to suggest solutions. There are numerous ways to condense the ticket workload for the service desk and help users receive faster resolutions.

4. ITSM & Automations

Some of the most important steps in ITSM occur right at the beginning. The IT service desk operates much more efficiently if users submit complete and correct information about incidents and service requests. Based on that information, tickets and requests are normally routed to the appropriate groups or technicians so that they can be resolved in a timely manner. It all sounds simple, but these early steps are cumbersome for the IT service desk. Without a modern solution, users don’t always include complete and accurate information. That could kick off an email back-and-forth so the service desk can correctly diagnose the request. Now that they have the information, they'll have to send it to the correct group of tech and prioritize it relative to other requests. After all of these steps to process the request, they still haven't even begun to resolve it. Automations can address these inefficiencies. Here are a few examples: Routing by Category – If your IT service management solution is worth its weight, it will help your users determine categories based on your organization’s history of tickets. So, since you’re receiving categorized tickets, don’t waste someone’s time manually routing them to the appropriate technician. Create automations that assign tickets to specific service agents for every category within your organization. Bob handles all the security tickets? Bob receives all the security tickets upon submission. VIP Automations – When a C-level executive submits an incident or service request, it’s critical priority. No need to make them check a box, or to make a service desk agent read it and decide where it goes. Set up an automation rule that says, “anything coming from the CEO is critical.” Many organizations want a specific technician to handle all of the boss’s tickets, which you can create a rule for as well. Routing by Site and/or Department – Global organizations have complicated ITSM needs. Users in Australia function on a different clock than users in the United States. You’ll want to get tickets from different locations or different departments routed to the correct technicians. You guessed it: You can set up automation rules for that. This section of the guide will explore some of the specific automations that your service desk can include, how to set them up, and how to use them to deliver value to the organization.

5. ITIL for Today

ITIL isn’t as outdated as many think. The modern functions of ITIL can keep up with the real-time urgency of the modern business landscape. The savviest companies compromise somewhere in between blindly sticking to tradition and completely redefining the laundry list of terms that give you the processes for exceptional service management. Let’s take a look at each step in the industry standard stages of ITIL and see if IT organizations can still benefit from the traditional definitions and implementations. Service Strategy This part of the ITIL process defines the market and customer needs. Companies also assess their ability to meet the needs of their customers based upon the available company resources. Contracts document the expected revenue as well as all chargebacks. Is service strategy still applicable? Regardless of technology, companies must assess the needs of their customers and their ability to fill those needs. However, technology provides better methods for aggregating that data and quantifying market niche. Service Design Service design has changed a great deal along with the manner in which people consume products. In short, the company must streamline its packaging, as well as its products, in order to remain competitive in the modern market. Service Transition Many experts believe that the transition phase is now the least important of the five stages of ITIL because of the immediacy of production changes and automation of risk, errors, and omission. However, a human element should still be present to ensure the productive operation of the machines and chosen systems model being used to manage the release. Garbage in, garbage out. Service Operations Most companies have the ability to outsource the quick diagnosis of IT failures, service, and cost reduction imperatives and the maintenance of the daily production status quo. Service operations is an area that every business can streamline, saving time and money. Continuous Service Improvement Analysis will always be an important part of service and production, and this step is even more important because of the shortened life cycle of product iteration. Modern technology greatly speeds up the process of continuous service improvement, and companies should take full advantage of the aggregation and statistical analysis tools provided for free on many platforms. In the next section of this guide, we’ll focus on ITIL and take a look at some best practices and how they apply to the modern organization. 
Chris McManus
Chris McManus is a multimedia content producer at SolarWinds. He works with Service Desk customers on case studies and video stories, and he’s the go-to…
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