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How ITIL 4 Guiding Principles Can Boost Communication in Our WFH Reality

ITIL has established itself as the gold standard of guidelines for service management over the years. And with so many employees working remotely this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the best practices and guiding principles of ITIL 4 are arguably more applicable than ever. The sudden shift to remote work for many organizations has forced teams to increasingly rely on technology and find new ways to convey important messages. As a driving force for organizational success, this blog will cover how ITIL 4's guiding principles can help improve communication processes for IT Pros, end users, and the business.

Reduce gaps and break down silos

For many employees, remote work presents new challenges with technology. They’re leaning on IT to help them navigate these challenges, so it’s important to give them something of value in every interaction—especially when it comes to IT incidents and requests. Consider the guiding principle “Focus on Value” when looking at how you’re communicating with stakeholders, employees, and customers. Are you asking the right questions? Are you following up with employees after a service has been delivered? Sending customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys, even a simple thumbs up/thumbs down, can be a quick way to gauge how employees feel about the service and support you’re providing. If their responses are less than satisfactory, use this as an opportunity to finesse existing processes before creating anew from scratch. Anticipating users’ wants and needs means communicating often with them. There’s value in communicating clearly and often with employees and other business stakeholders because it minimizes communication gaps and breaks down silos between teams.

Evolve with users as their needs and expectations do

With employees working in various locations, it can be easy to lose the feel for their user experience. When new tools, product features, and processes are introduced to a much more dispersed workforce, gathering feedback may not come as quickly as it did when teams were in person. “Start Where You Are” by getting feedback often from users before adding on to what’s already available. When pulling service desk reports, how are you communicating the results to the team, and are they understanding what’s working and what needs improvement? Reports may look different than they have prior to the pandemic, but it’s a necessary way to track key metrics and adjust according to business goals.

Keep up with the changes

Emergency changes happen, which is why you have a change management practice in place. When it does, be sure to notify all stakeholders impacted by the change. Because a change could be an emergency, it will most likely require approvals from the change advisory board (CAB) and change managers—which also means communication will need to happen quickly but efficiently. Think about the guiding principle “Collaborate and Promote Visibility.” A clear change plan can reduce questions that may arise from CAB members and other stakeholders, and provide transparency into each step of the process. Documentation throughout the process is a great way for IT pros to refer back to it in case something goes wrong or a similar emergency change is needed in the future.

Consider upstream and downstream impacts

Before making big changes in the organization, “Think Holistically” about the business; keep in mind the upstream and downstream implications the changes may have. Communicate them in multiple areas including the service portal, emails, and pop-up alerts. Most businesses can’t rely on grassroots awareness and internal promotion due to a remote workforce, so digital communication may be the most effective. Encourage teams to include reminders in their email signatures to remind other employees and partners about changes happening.

Simplify collaboration across departments

You can build the most detailed and comprehensive workflow or data-driven process, but if your employees don’t understand it, it won’t matter. Processes like onboarding and offboarding are common to organizations. Given how frequently these processes occur, HR staff, managers, and other stakeholders involved can benefit from the guiding principle “Optimize and Automate” by building service catalog workflows in the service desk. When building these workflows to power the service catalog, “Keep It Simple and Practical.” White board out the key steps in a given process and make sure key stakeholders are aligned—but don’t feel like you have to capture every potential “what-if” scenario. That’s the beauty of the guiding principle “Progress Iteratively with Feedback” if you need to make tweaks along the way.

Cut out the repetition

Think about some of the areas your teams might be repeating work. Try to identify gaps where critical information falls through the cracks. Where are some opportunities to connect those teams? “Optimize and Automate” can also apply to communication and data sharing in order to bridge these gaps within IT. Consider your IT alerts for network, systems, and database management. Shouldn’t your front line service desk technicians be aware of some of those issues? After all, many of those alerts will impact large groups of end users in the organization. For network outages, an alert should automatically trigger a service desk ticket. These alerts can connect IT teams and promote visibility into the service desk environment, as well as communicate issues to business stakeholders and impacted users. (And an added bonus is the ability to post a company-wide announcement on the homepage of the service portal to notify impacted users upfront that IT is on it.) Communication has always been a key factor for business success. Working remotely calls for new or revamped ways to keep employees engaged and informed. By applying the 7 guiding principles of ITIL 4, organizations can foster improved collaboration and seamless communication processes.
Chris Greer
Chris Greer serves as a Sr. System Engineer at SolarWinds, with more than 10 years of experience. Greer is an integral piece to SolarWinds systems…
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