IT service management (ITSM) and IT operations management (ITOM) have never been more critical or more demanding, according to a new survey carried out by IDG on behalf of Freshworks. Servicing users with effective technology, in an increasingly distributed environment, whilst also ensuring that the technology itself is operating effectively, is essential for both ensuring stellar customer and employee experience.
However, whilst the use of AI to automate these functions and processes is increasing, the benefits being realized are still lacking for many - particularly as it relates to breaking down silos within an organization and increasing collaboration. Departmental silos will likely always exist in the enterprise, but ensuring services and data flows between the organizational ‘walls' is also crucial to delivering excellent experiences.
According to Simon Johnson, General Manager for UK&I at Freshworks, buyers need to realize that these ITSM/ITOM projects are enterprise-wide and shouldn't be focused solely on the IT department. Buy-in from across the company is crucial in ensuring success. Johnson says:
What we've seen is bigger investments in IT resource. We've gone from having 12 global offices to 3,500 global offices, basically. So we've got to find a way of solving all of those potential issues that have arisen - and it's the same with every organization. The pandemic has definitely accelerated a whole load of these things we are seeing in the market.
As noted above, IDG carried out a survey on behalf of Freshworks on these issues, where it asked 850 senior and mid level IT managers across large (34%), midsize (42%) and small (23%) organizations globally. The number of IT service inquiries received by the IT support desk each day ranged from an average of 44 for small companies to 725 for large organizations.
Rather tellingly, nearly 80% of the IT managers questioned said that modernizing their ITSM/ITOM capabilities is either critical or very important, with more than a quarter stating that they are poorly or only somewhat prepared to address future IT management demands. Johnson says:
The tooling is improving, it's very different to how it looked five or ten years ago. But the demands are different now. Nowadays it's very different, it's driven by interactions. How do you effectively and proactively go out and give the person the information that they're looking for?
The ideal situation is that you shouldn't have to raise a ticket, we want to proactively say there's an issue here, reach out and give information to this person. And all of this is driven by new technologies, such as AI, chatbots, the ability to do all this mobile, more modern interfaces. So the challenges have changed, but the technologies have developed and changed with the service desk too.
Using AI to automate many of these functions is obviously front of mind for buyers and nearly 70% of IT managers said AI will be either critical or very important in these efforts. Johnson notes that the use of AI should focus specifically on proactively dealing with issues before they arise. He comments:
Some of our customers have been very, very successful with this. But underpinning any kind of AI strategy is knowledge management, and also the understanding that this isn't a ‘build and they will come' approach. This is a continuous performance improvement approach.
First things first, organizations should understand what the major topics are. What are the major tickets that are being raised, week after week? Let's tackle that to start with. Let's build the right kind of communication channel behind it. Maybe it's video, but how do we make sure that that's apparent for each and every person that contacts the service desk? So when somebody raises a request, this is the number one likely reason, here's the video we're going to put behind it, this is the response from the chatbot. If that's not the correct approach, try this one.
So we're starting to proactively deal with inquiries as they come in. And the system should know it's me calling, know I've got a laptop that's two and a half years old, know i use an old monitor, therefore understand that it could be a problem with one of these technologies. It should be an immersive customer experience, it should not be ‘put a chatbot in place and expect it to solve a million problems'.
Enterprise-wide is key
Interestingly though, the IDG survey also questioned IT managers about the benefits expected and experienced from applying AI technologies to ITSM/ITOM systems - and the results were very varied.
On the one hand benefits are being realized for outcomes such as improving experiences, workflow automation, increasing productivity and reducing IT staff workload, but they don't appear to be being achieved for areas that include improving collaboration/integration of siloed systems and monitoring SLA compliance, governance and security.
See the figure below for the full breakdown:
Johnson says that where benefits aren't being achieved, it's likely because organizations are running these projects in isolation within the IT department. He notes:
The organizations that are the most successful have someone that is owning this process. It shouldn't be that someone in IT ‘owns the chatbot'. This is an organization-wide decision that they're going to deploy automation and AI technologies and someone should be owning that. And pollinating that information across the organization. The successful companies that we are seeing are also able to implement enterprise service management, they're able to then implement this for Legal, HR, or marketing. They've got experience and have seen what's happened across the organization.
I think some of [where this is going wrong] is IT purely operating as an IT department. And what we are talking about here is technology for the organization. We are seeing real traction across the organization. Organizations need to adopt these strategies thinking about the whole organization, rather than just IT working in isolation. It has to be ‘this is the technology, these are the problems we are going to solve, let's do the same thing for legal, the same thing for HR, the same thing for IT'.
That's an easier approach, rather than trying to persuade HR that they should be operating like an IT team. That's sometimes the problem with calling it IT service management, it's actually service management across the organization.
And as for measuring SLAs, Johnson also believes that organizations need to shift their traditional thinking from ‘how many tickets or incidents' towards monitoring these tools for how they improve experiences. He adds:
The classic measure is SLAs, but it's really not about SLAs so much. We're talking about CX, we're talking about experience level agreements, we're talking about NPS scores, we're talking about reducing tickets, we're talking about speed of resolution. There's many ways in which you can measure success, but it's not just about solving more tickets.
That's a very blunt instrument really. We should be talking about experience and customer centricity. These are our customers and how can we improve delivery to the customer? Rather than just implementing AI for the sake of it, that doesn't really mean anything, it's about improving the delivery of the service or the operation.