On the cusp of change
Chris Pope, VP innovation at ServiceNow, talks about how the service desk has transformed in the digital era and the role of emerging technologies in this transformation.
How is ITSM evolving in the digital transformation era?
ITSM plays a key role in any organisation undergoing digital transformation as it improves business processes and makes the workforce more agile and alert to customer demands. In the ITSM space, digital transformation has enabled the modern workforce to digitalise all processes through collaboration tools. There are a number of things that can be done to digitalise a process – there are applications that can create a great user experience, or it can be in the manner you notify and communicate with the users. This essentially means that all the communication, whether it is scheduling work, managing work or answering risk-based questions, is being done in a collaborative way by following a set of processes without even realising it. Another big change is in the way the traditional service desk used to function and serve the end user. Today, consumers want information and support round the clock which has necessitated ITSM to evolve to be the next generation of service delivery.
How is automation helping to streamline IT support and are there any challenges to this automation?
Automation has allowed support teams to auto-generate high‑priority incidents for alerts based on severity, trigger service desk workflows and automated remediation. It also helps in providing consolidated real-time information about services and their status. This means that the support staff now has faster access to the right information for guidance on issue resolution, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity. With better insights into what people are doing and how they do it, IT has been freed from managing all the physical pieces of infrastructure and applications, to concentrate on business problems.
Automation depends on the integrity of two key things – data and processes. It is important to understand if the data is accurate and of high quality because you can only automate based on known and structured vectors. Also, if you automate a bad process, then the entire model is going to fail. Organisations also need to understand that there are no off-the-shelf automation routines that fit every customer’s needs perfectly.
How are you tapping AI and machine learning capabilities?
AI and machine learning are not new as concepts, and while the market is interested, it still views them as upcoming technologies. We have been working on AI and machine learning for almost a year and a half now, and we look at it in terms of how these technologies can help customers get better insights and solve problems. For example, we conducted a survey that shows that a significant amount of time was traditionally spent on deciding how important a customer’s call is, what kind of problem they are facing and who will be fixing it.
We are using machine learning to drive new levels of automation by pushing machines to get work done faster. Machine learning algorithms can accurately categorize and route tasks, identify patterns to prevent future issues, track the organisation’s performance against peers and use analytics to assess and predict performance. Hence, the service desk has evolved as new AI and machine learning capabilities continue to change the way employees interact with technology and devices. By using artificial intelligence and machine learning we are also able to reduce costs and time to reach a resolution.
How are you expanding your service management capabilities beyond IT to include HR, security and other departments?
After perfecting the service management framework within IT, we have expanded its capabilities to interact with other departments like HR, security, legal, finance, etc. Traditionally, IT service management solutions were not designed as enterprise-wide platforms. However, a lot of the same service management principles apply to these departments and this is a natural progression as IT already deals with several similar or related activities. As an example, a lot of times the things that are requested from IT, like a new phone or laptop are because of an event originating from the HR department, like onboarding a new employee. Similarly, other departments also need to interact with IT from time to time and vice versa. So, we have expanded into other departments using the same tried and tested principles as a natural extension to our service management product.
What can CIOs do to transform their IT help desks?
Considering the rate at which technology is evolving and the number of different solutions available in the market, today’s CIO needs to devise a comprehensive IT service management strategy to meet the challenges. This can be done by implementing a smart service desk to modernise operations and drive productivity. As the service desk is no longer a resource for IT alone, CIOs need to find a solution that can scale across different departments.
Since transforming the IT helpdesk is not necessarily a huge investment, CIOs can decide to start small and then scale over time. Ideally, they need to look for a specific problem they are trying to solve, like removing a legacy platform and decide on the solution to transform it.