ITSM Predictions for a Post COVID-19 World

ITSM Predictions

This article contains my IT service management or ITSM predictions for a post-COVID-19 world. It’s a cliché, of course, to now say “these are challenging times,” but this is simply a fact. Not just concerning and dangerous for us as people, but also destructive, game-changing, and existentially challenging for organizations, businesses, and existing ways of life and work.

For the last ten years, we’ve been discussing the new world of work, new ways of managing, being and living, how we’ll integrate with robots, how we need to change our approaches and models or die, etc. In many cases, these discussions and themes have included hyperbole and exaggeration, but now the challenges, threats, and opportunities are very real. Futurism reflects the possible and actual, regardless of whether or not we’re ready to embrace it.

COVID-19 is making a “new normal”, but what changes can we expect long-term for the #ITSM industry? Here @BarclayRae shares his views. #COVID19 Click To Tweet

ITSM predictions? The future is here already

In IT/technology, we’ve seen the world change and be turned upside down in just 3-4 weeks. Operations and support staff have enabled and released many millions of knowledge workers and others to move quickly from a traditional office to a home environment for work. This has required some considerable efforts to deploy hardware, software, security, networks, VPNs, licenses, etc. as well as increasing the support burden on IT service desks considerably with the inevitable influx of support requirements.

This has happened because it’s had to happen as a matter of public health, it’s a life or death scenario rather than following ITSM predictions. Decision-makers who may previously have been reticent to open up the spread of home and mobile working have had no choice, or little say, in the matter. Only in the most essential cases has this been restricted – or in some limited cases where organizations have shown little understanding or empathy with their people and stopped this happening – a fact that will doubtless not go unnoticed. Even the Queen (in the UK) remarked that we’ll want to look back on how we behaved during this time with pride, not shame.

COVID-19 is making a “new normal” (and not just for ITSM)

While we and many courageous people in healthcare, transport, and other essential services are engaged with the current problems and threats, we must try to look ahead and consider what the world will be like as and when it returns to some sort of “normality.” What’s clear, for many industries and organizations, and particularly within the technology industry, is that many things will never be the same or return to their former definitions of “normal.” It also makes ITSM predictions difficult.

@BarclayRae: What’s clear, for many industries and orgs, and particularly within the #tech industry, is that many things will never be the same or return to their former definitions of “normal.” #ITSM #COVID19 Click To Tweet

Sectors such as travel and aviation will be seriously wounded by the COVID-19 crisis, many activities such as concerts and sporting events will probably require significant changes. Plus, of course, many companies old and new will simply not survive the loss of trading and cash flow and, as a result, will go to the wall.

For the IT industry, and my ITSM predictions, much of the hand-wringing around agility and change, speed, time to market, sustainability, risk, and governance has been brutally replaced with summary inexorable change. The genie is out of the bottle, it’s difficult to imagine going back in terms of ITSM predictions.

What changes can we expect for the ITSM industry?

In terms of my ITSM predictions, I’m pleased that we’ve been embracing “new” ways of working and thinking in recent years – agile, DevOps, transparency, flexibility, servant leadership, customer focus, and employee satisfaction. While this has not been fully embraced, it’s helped many organizations to deal with the current situation more flexibly and to be able to prepare for the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Holistic and collaborative working has been a fact of life rather than a choice in this crisis. The need for flexibility and adaptability has thrown most of the residual service level agreement (SLA) culture out of the window, as service desks see three or four-fold increases in calls and requests overnight.

@BarclayRae: Much of the hand wringing around agility & change, speed, time to market, risk, & governance has been brutally replaced with summary inexorable change. The genie is out of the bottle. Click To Tweet

The ITIL 4 guiding principles are particularly useful here for ITSM predictions – “focus on value,” where value = human life or business survival. “Start where you are” is also relevant, i.e. we need to react to the current context, not an ideal abstract model.

There must now be a clear understanding of the need to build IT and business services that can be simply adapted to meet changing business needs, reflected in simple expectation levels for customer experience and business outcomes. IT departments and providers need to get out and engage with their customers to do this – the era of the IT-defined SLA has hopefully, and finally, been killed off by the coronavirus. Customer journey mapping and relevant value stream creation will now be a normal and expected activity.

@BarclayRae: The era of the IT-defined SLA has hopefully, and finally, been killed off by the coronavirus. #ITSM #COVID19 Click To Tweet

“Social continuity” has emerged as a clear area for development – while “business continuity” is, of course, an essential factor for systems and processes, many people have missed the natural interactions that happen around formal meetings and recognized the need to engage with colleagues and stakeholders at a social and personal level as well. The value of good employee relations and management has never been more clear and vital – the focus in the crisis has been on people, where everyone has to view not just their position and mortality, but also that of others. Collaboration and human empathy are strong factors in how we’re dealing with this situation and how we must also consider the future.

The obvious outcome of these factors for ITSM – and my ITSM predictions – must be the continued and resurgent interest in developing more quality and capability in IT service desks. With more and more virtual and home-based workers across organizations, the need for intelligent, fast, and people-focused support services will grow. While we may see new models for how the service desk practice is delivered – e.g. with virtual teams and swarmed support – there’ll still be the need for people who can support people quickly and effectively so that they can work effectively.

@BarclayRae: With more and more virtual and home-based workers across organizations, the need for intelligent, fast, and people-focused support services will grow. #ITSM #COVID19 Click To Tweet

What this means for ITSM operations

The challenges for this, of course, will be in managing more virtual teams and ensuring that people working in service desks are given suitable support. One clear advantage of a central physically located service desk team is the personal support that each team member can provide to each other. In terms of ITSM predictions, this will need some creativity to be replicated if the service desk analysts are all sitting at home. The impact of a bad call or difficult customer can be devastating, and the affected people will need extra support. As a result, there’ll be an upsurge in activity in the IT service management (ITSM) tools market and supporting services to build capabilities around this.

Then there’s the governance impact. Because, in light of the changes, there’s now a heightened requirement for organizations to manage their priorities and ensure that they are no longer spending and wasting time fixing old problems. There’s too much urgent dependency on maintaining BAU and the need to be flexible. Automation must be a priority. However, service management can really show the way by identifying the relative priority and value to the business of new work in progress, technical debt, and BAU.

@BarclayRae: There’s now a heightened requirement for orgs to manage their priorities & ensure that they are no longer spending & wasting time fixing old problems. #ITSM #COVID19 Click To Tweet

Too many bad decisions have been made, based on incomplete data over the years, on how to deliver on these priorities. Service management must be able to demonstrate cause and effect, business risk, and return on investment in simple terms to its business leaders in order to get the right things done. This is a moving target, there are always new demands for new services, and technical debt keeps growing and getting pushed back for priorities and resources. For many organizations, this may now be a fatal error, with teams unable to respond adequately to new demands in this crisis. It can be too late to say “we told you so” – but ITSM must be the catalyst that clarifies where these priorities are and gets decisions taken to do something to resolve the issues.

Again, new tools may be needed to support this and make the experience of data entry more palatable and effective for data quality. Good governance is needed to make all this happen.

It’s always impossible to predict the future – ITSM predictions or otherwise – and right now this means not the coming years but months and weeks. But based on recent events and future demands, here goes…

My ITSM predictions summary

  • More use of Agile and flexible ways of working
  • The end of the IT-led SLA
  • Customer engagement and experience/journey mapping
  • More focus on people and employee satisfaction – social continuity
  • More reliance on service desks – more demand for tools and quality
  • The need for better data to support business decisions on business priorities
  • An appreciation that good governance is needed to make all of this happen.

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You might also like this article on service availability or availability management.

Barclay Rae
Consultant/Author at Barclay Rae Consulting

Barclay has extensive experience as a consultant, analyst, and subject matter expert in IT service management. He also has considerable business and management experience in the industry, both as a consultancy vendor and also working with industry bodies and vendors such as SDI, AXELOS, APMG, and Axios.

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