Consumerization trends hit IT service management

Attendees at ServiceNow’s Knowledge12 user conference here this week were abuzz about the promise of social collaboration and mobile enablement within their service-management tools. But many organizations are also still grappling with some very basic IT service management (ITSM) process issues.

ITSM is about automating, as much as possible, routine IT services including incident, asset and change management, project management, discovery and related areas. At many companies, the problem is that the processes behind these areas are immature or even chaotic, so throwing automation at a bug-ridden process will only yield more of the same.

ServiceNow, the vendor whose user conference is taking place this week, sells a SaaS-only offering that integrates multiple ITSM processes into a single console. The company claims around 1,200 customers; around 2,000 people are attending this week’s confab.

Service process maturity: What’s your level?

Gartner Inc. says most IT organizations are at one of three levels of maturity with regard to IT service management.

Level 1: IT is working on incident management problem management inventory management, knowledge management and basic reporting — basic ticketing and logging of issues. Most organizations have mastered this level.

Level 2: IT implements tools for change management, user self-service, service request management and service level agreements for incident and service requests. Most organizations are just getting started with this level. Gartner rates the average company at level 2.3.

Level 3: IT starts to tackle service visualization, release governance, analytics, reporting, and social IT management and. “To become mature you have to break down the silos within the infrastructure and operations groups and have truly integrated processes. You are gaining efficiencies in service quality through standardization, policy development, governance structures and the implementation of proactive cross-departmental processes such as change and release management,” says Gartner analyst Jeff Brooks.

Frank Wander, former CIO at The Guardian Life Insurance Co. (Wander recently left the firm and is now an independent IT management consultant), says his company adopted ServiceNow precisely because it needed to improve its own service processes. He says IT tends to do a good job with process automation for the rest of the business, but when it comes to its own operations the cobbler has no shoes.

Not only were internal IT service management processes not as robust as he wanted during his tenure, but the ITSM tools in use were too complex. So he began looking for an ITIL-compliant service management offering that was much simplified over what the business had done in previous attempts. ServiceNow met the requirements.

“What ServiceNow did was take the ITIL service model and automate it,” Wander says. “They have a very simple user interface that allows you to configure services.”

Tool integration, process evolution

Wende Wiles, director of IT project management for the office of the CIO at the US Department of Energy (DoE), just signed on as a ServiceNow customer. (Wende will be speaking here today.)

“We are in the same situation as Guardian,” she says. “The maturity of our processes could use improvement.” The DoE chose ServiceNow because it projected that using the cloud-based ITSM service would save 40% over the cost of upgrading its BMC Remedy ITSM software. Another attraction: ServiceNow offers an integrated project management module and a fully integrated suite of other services that have been developed from the ground up for its SaaS model. It plays together without a lot of integration work and consulting time, she says.

In contrast, some other vendors have adapted traditional software to cloud duty or acquired pieces and parts of their ITSM software offerings and stitched those together rather than engineering them from the git-go to be part of a holistic, well integrated, cloud-based service.

That was the problem for Adam Mason, the manager of client service at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Before moving to ServiceNow a year ago, the university was an Altiris customer. Mason planned to upgrade to the new version of Altiris and had hired consultants to work on two ITIL service catalog workflow processes. But after realizing that the process would take 18 months, he had second thoughts.

“We stopped because the cost was going to be insane,” he says. The fact that ServiceNow was a SaaS platform gave it a clear advantage in this regard, he says. “Instead of the 18 months I had scheduled for the two Altiris projects, in four months we implemented incident, problem, change and service request management and we started our knowledge management database.”

The incident management processes used in Altiris were mature and transferred over to ServiceNow, but change management procedures, developed for SharePoint Server, were not working well. “We rebuilt that in ServiceNow and it’s gong better,” he says.

Michael, Porco, manager of application development at Pacific Life Insurance Co., says the insurer migrated from BMC Remedy to ServiceNow for incident, change and configuration management in August 2011. “We took what we had and moved it over. But we didn’t just take incident management from Remedy and slap it into ServiceNow. We reviewed the processes before migrating them, and we didn’t take on additional modules or processes,” he says.

At the DoE, Wiles says that no IT service processes will be automated until she is satisfied that they are fully mature. “There are modules we will automate. Others we will not until we’re comfortable with our processes. Otherwise, you’re investing in something you’re just going to change.”

Frank Slootman, ServiceNow’s CEO, agrees with this strategy wholeheartedly. “Don’t implement your legacy processes on a new platforms,” he says. Rather, it’s a time to revisit, streamline and simplify those processes.

The tool is not the problem

“Most people believe that if they go buy a tool it will help them adopt best practice frameworks,” says Gartner Inc. analyst Jeff Brooks, in an interview prior to this week’s conference. But that’s not the case, he says.

By Gartner’s count, ServiceNow is one of more than 150 vendors that offer service-based tools and one of 50 that offer SaaS based ITSM tools. “All of these vendors provide the same best practices,” he argues. “It is a highly commoditized market, and there are no leaders.”

Slootman rankles at the idea that service management is a commodity. Commodities are staid, no-growth businesses, he says. “How did we get to 100% growth per year if service management is a no-growth commodity?” He’s positioning ServiceNow as a highly integrated, extremely flexible workflow management platform that happened to get started in IT but that is now expanding into other line of business areas, most notably facilities and HR service management. “‘We are a generic platform for workflow apps,” he says.

But IT service management within organizations can’t mature, Brooks says, until IT addresses the people and process aspects of the problem. “It’s all about organizations properly documenting how they want processes to run, and ensuring that they have appropriate governance in place.”

Loyola goes social, wants mobile

After experimenting with private social-networking service Yammer for communications within the IT group, Adam Mason, the manager of client service at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, began using the social IT newsfeed feature that comes with ServiceNow.

“Crowdsourcing in IT can be powerful because you get the benefit of that extra expertise,” he says. There was nothing wrong with Yammer, per se. It’s just that the social function was already built into the ServiceNow tool set, which the university has been using for about a year.

This summer the university will roll out a 126-item IT services catalog that will support user self-service, and it plans to integrate its ServiceNow ITSM suite with an Oracle-based procurement system. “That platform will interact with ServiceNow, which will be the storefront catalog, and it will talk back and forth throughout the process to update the user.”

For example, if a user wants to order a personal computer accessory, he or she can pick it from the service catalog, add it to the cart and send in the order. From there the order will go into an Oracle Application Express Web form that propagates it back into an Oracle database that holds the procurement order.

The purchasing agent can then add other details to finalize the order. The Oracle system will send a Web services call to ServiceNow to alert the user when the order is placed, when it’s received and when it’s scheduled for installation or delivery. “The systems will talk the whole way through,” Mason says.

Mason already uses the mobile-enabled Web user interface for ServiceNow, which can be customized so that users see only the fields they need. But he also wants to make the IT services catalog available to end users as a mobile app. “I have an idea or two about how we might roll that out,” he says, but first the university needs to rework its service portal, which doesn’t get much traction with users today.

He envisions a portal that he describes as half FaceBook, half iPhone/iTunes user interface. The social network half would support customer feedback, announcements and news, while the other half would look like a user’s iPhone display, allowing them to download things by clicking on easily recognizable icons. His vision, he says, is nothing less than “the consumerization of the portal.”

“Having a mobile strategy is highly important,” he says. But it helps if you can walk before you run. “We’re doing a lot of internal process reevaluation. It’s about getting the process right, and if you have a flexible tool you can get it right,” he says.

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