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ITSM and multi-sourcing – taking a joined-up approach

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"Multisourcing is the disciplined provisioning and blending of business and IT services from the optimal set of internal and external providers in the pursuit of business goals." ~ Wikipedia

Behind the intricacies of ITIL and the various strategies that can support ITSM, the overall aim is to improve service delivery and make the whole organisation more productive. By making sure that processes and teams are aware of what they have to deliver, ITSM can offer better service to end-users and greater efficiency overall.

Well, this is the theory. However, IT within organisations may not be organised in a way that makes this a simple proposition. The growth in outsourcing and cloud services has led to IT often becoming a fractured estate, with different areas of infrastructure, applications and support being handled by teams both inside and outside the organisation. While this doesn’t stop ITSM programmes from being successful, it does make them more challenging.

This trend – often referred to as multi-sourcing – occurs because CIOs are being asked to reduce costs within IT. Cutting out internal resources and using outside services can be an effective route to achieving this, but it can come at the expense of a joined-up IT approach. ITIL gives guidelines on how to manage this kind of environment, but reflecting theory in practice can be difficult to achieve.

Taking a Joined-Up Approach

To combat this, going back to first principles and establishing where services and responsibilities link together is essential. Knowing where suppliers are responsible for providing service, meeting Service Level Agreements and delivering what is asked of them should be at the bedrock of ITSM projects of this kind, but the reality is that many organisations are not as effective at tracking this as they should be.

This can be due to simple human error – from individual tickets being created in the wrong way and therefore not going to the right team in the first place – through to more systemic issues around holding suppliers accountable and making sure that they are delivering on their promises. Whatever problem is being faced, clearing the lines of communication and establishing that processes are being followed is the first step to take.

This is also critical to getting accurate numbers on support and service requests and how they are being handled. This may also require a back-to-basics approach, so that suppliers and internal teams can be compared properly in an “apples to apples” way. Getting this information from suppliers is essential, as otherwise there is no way to prove that the ITSM programme itself is successful.

Following on from this is looking at processes again – are there ways that these can be more automated from the start? This provides an opportunity to speed up service delivery and support requests, while also potentially reducing costs on both the customer and the supplier side. For the customer, greater productivity and lower bills should be the aim, while suppliers should see benefit from reduced cost to serve each transaction and less opportunity for tickets to be lost or mis-allocated.

In order to achieve this level of automation, there are two things to consider:

1. ACCURATE REQUEST ALLOCATION

The first is how users can log requests for support and these tickets are handled through to the right support team, whether this is internal or external to the organisation. This involves more diagnosis at the beginning so that the problem is tracked properly. Users don’t care if their problem is caused by the application itself, the infrastructure supporting that app or the new upgrade that was not released out to production properly; however, the responsibility for assessing the issue and routing it through to the right support team does have a big impact on service speed and quality.

Implementing self-service portals for requests can help here by removing some of the day-to-day issues and automating their fulfilment. For example, a request for a new app to be installed can be automated if the sign-off level of the manager at a certain budget is approved automatically. This does not make the job of diagnosing problems easier for cross-team issues, but it does free up time so that more resource can be dedicated to those more difficult issues in the first place.

2. HOW TO AUTOMATE?

The second challenge is how to automate: most organisations will have a mix of systems themselves, while their service providers may have their own service desks and support tools as well. Passing tickets between systems automatically as well as managing approvals is therefore a big potential hurdle. For companies that are yet to make their choice on suppliers, establishing which systems are in place to check compatibility and integration levels is an option. For those with existing relationships in place, this is not an option to consider, so a different approach will be necessary.

Orchestration

Instead of thinking about tools, the emphasis has to be on workflows instead. Orchestrating processes between different platforms so that information is handled in the right way is the ultimate aim here, so that customers and suppliers can carry on using their tools of choice rather than being restricted or having to rely on manual labour to achieve results.

In a multi-sourcing world where cloud services, infrastructure and support can be managed in so many different ways, there is no one strategy that will achieve success. Each company or public body will have its own situation to consider, as well as that of its external suppliers. However, this makes orchestration and analysis of workflows more important – without this, the job of managing and delivering services is more difficult to achieve.

As multi-sourcing gets taken up by more enterprises and public sector organisations in their efforts to reduce costs, so taking a more joined- up and orchestrated approach to managing workflows will be critical to meeting their user needs as well.

Ben Cody

Ben Cody is the Vice President responsible for Serena’s ITSM business. Ben has almost 20 years’ experience with IT Service Management. Prior to joining Serena Ben held senior technical and managerial positions at BMC Software and Peregrine Systems.

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