What Are Your ITSM Priorities for 2021?

ITSM Priorities for 2021

When sitting down to write about IT service management (ITSM) priorities for 2021, there’s so much that could be covered trend-wise. There’s definitely more to think about than in previous years, given that not only is there the usual list of “new thing” trends related to the ongoing advancement of service management best practice, but there’s also the growing expectations of stakeholders plus the need to proactively contribute to your organization’s survival post-pandemic.  

This makes it hard to juggle the potential trends and priorities such that maximum, or optimal, business value is realized from your IT service delivery and support capabilities. And as I said in the earlier “41 Pieces of Practical Advice for IT Leaders for 2021” article, “be careful not to overload the initiative or improvement pipelinerecognize that your priorities should be exactly that – your priorities.”  

Ultimately, it’s only by focusing on your most important priorities that you’ll be able to deliver to the best of your and your team’s abilities as you collectively contribute to business success. To help, this article walks through some areas that might sit atop your list of ITSM priorities for 2021. 

This article by @StephenMann walks through some areas that might sit atop your list of #ITSM priorities for 2021. Share on X

Think hard about your #1 ITSM priority  

Given all the change experienced in 2020 and the need for digital workflows across the organization – to remove the reliance on the manual operations that hinder the now dispersed people, processes, and technology – you might be thinking that digital transformation is the #1 priority for ITSM in 2021. It’s a great shout, but surely that #1 slot needs to be reserved for business survival. Perhaps with digital transformation positioned as a key facilitator of this.  

You might be questioning this point of view and I totally understand the logic that digital transformation is an absolute necessity in what’s somewhat of a “chicken and egg” situation. I like to think of this in terms of the importance of outcomes though. What’s most important between business survival and digital transformation? Even if you believe that survival is unobtainable without digital transformation, surely survival needs to be ahead of digital transformation in priority terms. After all, a digitally-transformed failed business is still a failed business. 

What’s most important between business survival and digital transformation? Asks @StephenMann #ITSM #digitaltransformation Share on X

No one can afford to ignore the changing operating environment 

Then there’s much to consider relative to the ongoing impact of the pandemic. For example, that homeworking will remain the norm for many organizations and their employees if they can successfully do what they need to do away from an office. This has its challenges for individual business functions, plus the required ITSM capabilities, but let’s not overlook the potential benefits of the now larger resource pool that’s available to recruit from.  

Depending on your country, things might still get worse before they get better. As I write this article in the UK, the current impact of the pandemic is worse than it was at “its height” in 2020, and what was predicted to be a “Spring of recovery” is going to be the “Summer of recovery” at best. Such that the return to “business as usual” is still a long way off. This might need to be borne in mind for your organization’s ITSM priorities for 2021. 

Digital transformation might not even be your #2 ITSM priority 

The need for ITSM teams to make as much difference as they can as quickly as possible is paramount for 2021. Looking both backward and forward at the adverse economic impact of the pandemic, the need for greater cost efficiency can be fulfilled through digital transformation and the associated reduction in manual-labor overheads. Meaning that digital transformation not only facilitates the new ways of working but also helps to optimize the costs of business operations.  

Digital transformation probably shouldn't be your number one priority in 2021 says @StephenMann. Heck, it might not even be your second #ITSM priority… So what should? Share on X

However, as with the need for a laser focus on survival that’s called out in the earlier section, all the digital transformation in the world isn’t going to help your organization if it’s not proactively investing in security-related prevention, protection, and remediation. 

Maybe security should be the #1 priority for your organization – again, I can understand the logic that says, “We’re not going to survive if we suffer a serious cyber-attack.” But, as before, I’d again argue that a secure failed business is still a failed business – with it highlighting the need to address your 2021 priorities collectively rather than in isolation. 

For some organizations, perhaps business survival needs to be the “uber priority” that’s delivered through digital transformation, security, and other investments. If only because I think it dangerous to assume that all of the other ITSM priorities will miraculously result in business survival – in the same way that a car driver needs to keep at least one eye on the road ahead while engaging with their car’s dashboard. 

All the digital transformation in the world isn’t going to help your organization if it’s not proactively investing in security-related prevention, protection, and remediation – @StephenMann #security #digitaltransformation Share on X

But digital transformation will inevitably be a key ITSM priority for 2021 

Most organizations will have digital transformation initiatives planned for 2021 that are, on the one hand, much-needed improvements but, on the other, are also mandated by the new ways of doing business post-pandemic. And while much of the early attention in digital transformation’s ten-year lifespan has been about creating new products and services and improving customer engagement mechanisms (through technology and data exploitation), digital transformation in 2021 will be spearheaded by the enterprise-wide automation of workflows to reduce manual dependencies (with enterprise service management and ITSM a likely platform).  

Associated with this priority are the opportunity to create greater value from data and the need to reskill IT staff to match both the new technology – which will include the inevitable rise in machine learning – and the business’ changing expectations of its IT personnel. Many organizations will need to ensure that they’re prepared for this people-related change to be one of the most difficult priorities of 2021. 

Many organizations will need to ensure that they’re prepared for people-related change to be one of the most difficult priorities of 2021 – @StephenMann #ITSM Share on X

That’s three ITSM priorities and I haven’t mentioned “resilience” yet 

While organizations will have had a spectrum of different business continuity plans and capabilities at the start of 2020, I’d be willing to bet that many involved some form of disaster recovery protocol that used a remote site to “get things back up and running.” After all, few of us could have predicted a world where we couldn’t safely work in an office together (or that governments would prevent this).  

The immediate technology changes made to allow employees to continue to work at home (or wherever they need to for that matter) were a first step in creating a more resilient organization. However, from an ITSM priorities perspective, there’s still more to be done though in 2021. Not only in enabling greater employee and business resilience but also in terms of service resilience. 

Plus, there’s more that needs to be considered and done about people 

So far, I’ve mentioned the growing expectations of stakeholders and the reskilling of IT staff. There’s a link here in terms of customer-centricity – both externally and internally – with employee experience an ITSM trend that will fight its way through the corporately mandated budget cuts of 2021 once management recognizes the connective tissue between employee experience, productivity, and better business outcomes. 

But let’s not overlook another key factor in employee productivity – wellbeing. Whether it’s the ability of an employee to perform at their best or the organization’s ability to keep its most-valued people (and to recruit new ones) over time. Employee wellbeing has to be an ITSM priority for 2021 – just look at these wellbeing stats from mid-2020

  • 76% of survey respondents think that working in IT is going to get harder in the next three years  
  • 76% of survey respondents feel undervalued in their jobs 
  • 52% of survey respondents state that working in IT has adversely affected their wellbeing to some extent 
  • 45% of survey respondents feel that their immediate manager is not suitably skilled to identify and deal with employee wellbeing issues.  
Employee wellbeing has to be an #ITSM priority for 2021 says @StephenMann. #wellbeing #mentalhealth Share on X

Now consider the impact of this not only on your business-as-usual ITSM operations and outcomes but also the many investments that will be made in delivering against your ITSM priorities for 2021. 

So, there are a lot of potential ITSM priority areas for 2021 including business survival, security, digital transformation, machine learning, resilience, employee experience, and wellbeing. I’ve tried to be brief too, with there likely other areas that could be woven into your organization’s mix of ITSM priorities for 2021. Hopefully though, I’ve done enough to help ensure that your ITSM organization is focused on the right things. 

Stephen Mann

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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