I’ve written about IT service management (ITSM) and the opportunities of business intelligence (BI) before, but that was four years ago, as an industry analyst. Since then, I’ve seen very few vendors shouting about the fact that they have upped their reporting, and potentially BI, game. It’s really odd, especially when you consider how the ITSM marketplace has embraced the Nexus of Forces, a concept (developed by global research and analysis firm Gartner) that describes “the convergence and mutual reinforcement of social, mobility, cloud and information patterns that drive new business scenarios.”

So while the ITSM world has dipped its toes into the first three of these forces (social, mobility, and cloud) with varying degrees of success, the latter (information patterns) continues to be largely overlooked.

Why do we continue to waste the BI opportunity that sits atop our wealth of ITSM data?

So What about Information and BI for ITSM?

ITSM solutions house a great deal of IT-related data. Whether it be in a configuration management database/system (CMDB/CMS), a service catalog, or within the more-transactional records for incidents, service requests, problems, and changes. But how many IT organizations are using this data to better understand their past and to influence their present and future?

We might look for incident trends for problem management purposes. And we often have a death-by-metrics approach to performance reporting, where it can take someone a week to pull together a monthly reporting pack that gets very little attention or reads. But beyond the number of incidents handled and level of first contact resolution, what could the wealth of ITSM data be telling the IT organization and business colleagues about the past and the future?

So What’s Stopping the ITSM Data Opportunity?

I’d like to think that few would argue with the saying that “good decisions are guided by good data” or the logic that great businesses are built on good decisions. So why aren’t IT professionals using all their ITSM data for greater insight and better decision making?

Maybe all the hype around “Big Data” has made people think that the ITSM data set isn’t big enough to pay attention to? Or maybe the cobbler’s children principle applies with IT folk, who are too busy dealing with other business information needs, resulting in no time to deal with its own needs?

Maybe it’s because we are not numbers people in IT? If the numbers have $ or £ signs in front of them then I could believe this, but when we are talking volumes and percentages, I think not. Pardon my stereotyping, but I can’t think of many other corporate groups that are as excited by the quoting of statistics as IT professionals.

Is it because we don’t see the need for planning and improvements? For most businesses, the IT and cloud-service infrastructure, and annual IT budget, are now so large (and potentially still growing) that the failure to plan and to continually seek out improvements in efficiency and quality of service is not an option. It happens, it has to happen, although one could question how much better it could be with more and better data or information to fuel decision making.

Finally, is it because ITSM solutions don’t give as much insight into the data they hold as they could? I think we are getting warmer. It’s a common complaint from ITSM tool customers – with the native reporting capabilities often seen as difficult to use, ineffective, or both.

The Case for Business Intelligence in ITSM

Many IT organizations will already be leveraging ITSM data to some degree; I’ve already mentioned incident trend analysis and performance reporting. But what could be achieved through easier, and more insightful, access to the data trapped within an ITSM solution?

I’d like to think that we are only limited by the available technology and the power of our imagination. And perhaps the courage to dig into the data not knowing what we will find. So consider being able to benefit from the following capabilities:

  • Understanding how the IT ecosystem works in reality to identify which service level targets can’t be (consistently) met, or conversely those that can never fail and are as such pretty useless as targets.
  • Demonstrating how upping or lowering service levels will increase or decrease IT costs versus the change in business performance. It could be an easy way to reduce IT costs with a minimal impact on business operations.
  • Using “predictive analytics” to understand the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.
  • Using ITSM data from various tool modules to create a real-world service taxonomy. This could be as part of a larger service portfolio management initiative.
  • Correlating service desk contact methods to issue type to understand how best to encourage and increase self-service adoption.
  • Improving service desk efficiency and effectiveness. It could be as simple as refining the incident classification hierarchy or as complex as understanding “flow” across a number of common service desk scenarios.
  • Improving the IT knowledge base and self-help facility, and consequently reducing service desk workload.

Then there are opportunities around other ITSM needs and activities such as more accurate availability and capacity management decisions, reducing change risk, improving governance, reducing financial “wastage,” and improving customer satisfaction.  And I’m only just scratching the surface in this blog.

I’m sure that there are many more opportunities that can present themselves when greater access to ITSM data is made available. What would you like to be able to do?

This blog was originally written for SysAid. You can check out the original version here.

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Principal Analyst and Content Director at

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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Dan McCarthy

Thanks Stephen. Sorry I’m a year late (and probably a dollar short) but I think this is a really important train of thought. I doubt that the basic situation has changed over the last year. I just wanted to add to your list if I may. I wonder how many IT Strategies and even ITSM strategies are formulated without reference to ITSM data? Almost all? In this case the understandable tendency is to focus on delivering or supporting the business plan… but aren’t we supposed to have specialised knowledge about the effectiveness of our own activities and past strategies? Closer… Read more »

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