Implement Enterprise Request Management in Five Straightforward Steps

 This article has been contributed by John Sundberg, Co-founder and President of Kinetic Data.

John Sundberg
John Sundberg

A new approach to service request management is gaining ground in companies around the globe. Called Enterprise Request Management, or ERM, this framework is finding favor with organizations because it allows them to take an incremental and evolutionary approach to centralizing and modifying business processes and service requests across the company.

ERM operates at the intersection of the three levels of IT service catalog maturity identified by Forrester Research:

  • Level one – organizations focused on “delivering IT services to consumers through a standard set of choices and/or requests”
  • Level two – service catalog automating enterprise services
  • Level three – service catalog acting as a “service broker”

Let’s take a look at five steps involved in implementing ERM:

  1. Design your business process;
  2. Involve your stakeholders;
  3. Identify gaps in technology;
  4. Test the processes; and
  5. Refine and build onto the processes.

Design Your Business Process

Every business has request fulfillment processes that employees would love to improve, whether it’s as simple as resetting a password or as complex as onboarding new employees. The first step is to identify and prioritize improvements in these processes in terms of what is both realistically achievable and what has the greatest impact on user satisfaction.

Next, break the process down into discrete tasks. What task is the easiest to improve in the shortest amount of time? Start there before proceeding to tackle the more vexing tasks.

Look at what types of phone calls are overburdening your IT service desk. Are most of them for password resets or are users having problems with software installs? Also, look at which other departments have common support request issues, like paid time off requests in the human resources department, or conference room reservations in the facilities department.

With a service request portal and a back-end process automation tool, ERM provides a simple solution to these types of calls. With an online self-service request portal, users can log and track common service requests themselves while the “back-end” system manages the approval and fulfillment workflow of the request.

It doesn’t stop there, however. The flexible and extensible design of ERM allows you to add more (and more complex) types of requests over time.

ERM is designed to automate most, if not all, of the tasks within the service request management lifecycle – including centralized request management, scheduling, approvals, analytics, Service Level Agreement (SLA) tracking, status, charge back, billing and reporting – by linking to and coordinating with the software systems enterprises already have in place (systems of record) to handle these tasks.

Involve Your Stakeholders

With ERM, fulfillment processes are customer-centric. In other words, they’re designed from the customer’s perspective rather than from what appears to be the most convenient or logical approach for internal service providers.

So, it’s important to involve the appropriate stakeholders by assembling a small project team consisting of a business analyst, a developer, the “owner” of the process, a representative from management, and, most importantly, the users themselves, who can articulate the desired outcome in their own terms.

Keeping the team relatively small is important, since larger teams are more bureaucratic and take longer to get things done.

By keeping an open dialogue, users will be accepting of — and possibly even eager for — the changes that ERM will facilitate in simplifying complicated or broken request fulfillment processes.

Identify Gaps in Technology

As with any project, it helps to take one step at a time. Don’t get mired in the current state of your technology or existing processes, which can be a recipe for inaction. Often you’ll find that if you “think small” by breaking processes down into realistically achievable goals and by building on the momentum from these small victories, your current technology may not be as inadequate as you first thought.

However, frequently new front-end “systems of engagement” and flexible process automation tools may be needed. But make sure they’re designed to interact with back-end systems of record with little or no modification.

Test the Processes

With the ERM approach, it’s easy to create and test processes with very little risk because the core programming code doesn’t get modified. Feel free to make changes as needed and then test again. Once the process is concrete, is can be cloned and modified for other similar needs.

Refine and Build Onto the Processes

With ERM, the best approach is an evolutionary one. Start with the low-hanging fruit — the broken processes that have the greatest impact on customers. Work from these successes and the experiences gained, and then expand efforts wider and deeper into other request fulfillment processes.

After making any desired adjustments, deploy a more efficient way of fulfilling requests by using ERM and determine the next processes that need to be fixed. By learning, iterating and improving, ERM can easily move out of IT and unify service request fulfillment across your organization.

As you can see, the benefits and ease of ERM simply are too good to pass up. After all, who wouldn’t want lower service delivery costs and happier customers? So, wait no longer – now is the time for your organization to join the ranks of those realizing the benefits of ERM:

  • An improved user experience
  • Centralization of business services
  • First-time and automated fulfillment
  • Leveraging of existing systems.

Regardless of your organization’s level of request management maturity, you’ll find that ERM is the “glue” that unifies service request fulfillment across your enterprise. You can learn more about ERM here. 


The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

The ABC of ITSM: Why Building The Right Process Matters

Attitude, Behaviour and Culture (ABC) - this sets out to ensure that the human aspect of ITSM and service delivery matches that of the IT implementation.

This article has been contributed by Ben Cody of Serena Software.

In my previous piece for The ITSM Review, I examined the state of general dissatisfaction with ITSM tools at the moment.

In doing so, I wanted to question why a positive dedication to “process” should be at the heart of how organisations solve complex (and simple for that matter) IT services challenges. This time around, I want to look at the human element of process.

The new ABC

ABC (for the purposes of our story here) stands for Attitude, Behaviour and Culture — basically, this sets out to ensure that the human aspect of ITSM and service delivery matches that of the IT implementation.

One area that can help ITSM professionals today is to look at their approach to ABC in a new light, based on understanding the wider processes that are in place.

Re-evaluating processes gives ITSM teams the opportunity to look at their own ABC successes and issues again. It also represents a chance to examine how these ABC milestones can be used to improve wider service within the organisation. Without the right elements in place, those individuals working on the service desk may not be able to deliver what the business expects and requires of them. More importantly, changes within the organisation won’t be successful.

ABC is equally important when it comes to inter-team communication, as the hand-off between teams can be affected by differences in approach and behaviour. If one team is performing well on its own terms, but its output goes through another group with motivational challenges or a different work method, then the initial team’s work may be viewed as not meeting the overall requirements of the business.

The release management black hole

This can be seen in the ITSM world when an application implementation is not completed successfully across to the complete scope and breadth of the organisation. The application itself has been written to specification, thoroughly tested and was ready to go — but the team responsible for managing help-desk calls may see a massive spike in users getting in touch. In this example, the release management process has not been completed successfully, which leads to issues getting raised with the help-desk team and poor perception of IT in general.

Nothing was wrong in the development phase and the ITSM function can provide a great level of service — however, what users remember is that there was a problem in the first place.

In the user’s mind, IT is seen as being one complete unit, yet this is not often the case. Most teams within large organisations are broken down into project and technology teams, depending on how they have evolved over time. Responsibility is split across these different teams and each can have its own approach to managing work based on how it is led.

Achieving some kind of level of “unity of approach” and getting each part of IT to buy into a common set of values is a significant challenge. The responsibility for this should sit with the CIO as part of their leadership role. As business requirements change and IT has to evolve to support new demands, so getting the right processes in place to complement the right ABC is therefore critical. Changing or amending behaviour at the individual level relies on how much people buy into what is being put in place at the process level, too.

Process and ABC: a two-way street?

On the individual attitude and behaviour front, there has to be an understanding across the IT team responsible for delivering a service of how their section fits into the wider business process. This can be as simple as letting each individual know how their work contributes towards a key performance indicator or meeting a service level. For organisations that already have some degree of joined-up processes, the information given back to people can be much more granular.

At the same time, this emphasis on process can be used to remove manual work where it is possible to take it out. In the example above, automating the release of an application that has been developed and tested properly, rather than relying on ad hoc scripting and manual labour, could remove the potential for things going wrong. Not only does this speed up the process overall, it also makes the whole IT team concerned with that installation appear to be part of a uniform and co-ordinated strategy to the business.

For organisations with ABC challenges, looking at “process hand-overs” between teams is the simplest way to evaluate where these problems start and why. Is this an issue with an individual, a team or with the wider IT function within the organisation? Depending on the level at which the problem is occurring, this will change how the ITSM team looks at their processes in a new light.

The attitude and culture that a company has in place will have an impact on the overall process that is being completed — if employees feel valued and trusted, then they are more likely to care that the results of their work are good. At the same time, design of a process can affect ABC as well — a well-designed process that is fit for purpose, automated where it needs to be, and running well should support employees in achieving job satisfaction.

The business-to-IT connection challenge

One of the most common complaints around IT is that it does not match up with the business. Traditionally, IT has been separate to business functions based on the availability of the skills that were required to understand and run the technology department. This is changing with the advent of cloud computing and the growing understanding of IT within the business itself. But whether organisations want to embrace a cloud computing approach or not, the fact is that ITSM professionals have to realise that their service delivery is being judged against a different yardstick. Whereas previously, IT operations and services would be based on what direct competitors are doing, now it is more likely that the business will look at what consumer websites and portals are able to deliver.

This change in emphasis and the need to keep pace with what the business expects from IT, makes looking at ABC more important than ever. Service providers have the mantra in place that “the customer is king” – even when they either don’t know what they want, or are actively looking at the wrong approach. For ITSM, this means looking again at their attitudes to managing users and where this may have to change in future. As cloud continues to attract interest, IT will have to learn lessons from the service provider world.

Ben Cody, Serena Software
Ben Cody, Serena Software

Managing ABC in this environment should theoretically be easier — after all, IT and the business are both part of the same company. However, there can be this barrier between the two that has to be broken down. If it is not, then IT risks either remaining as a support function with little value, or instead being replaced with outside tools and services instead. This would do ITSM a grave disservice, as it should be obvious that internal IT teams have not only the interest of the organisation at the front of their minds but also the most in-depth knowledge of what the business really requires. What does have to change is that understanding of service delivery from the business perspective.

Hand in hand with this ITSM imperative is the need to get the business function’s perception of IT to change. The attitude and behaviour of the business towards IT is just as important as IT’s own ABC i.e. without the willingness to embrace IT as a strategic part of the corporate decision making process, there can be no real change in approach across ITSM. IT can aim at being customer-centric as much as possible, but if the IT team is not involved in the decision-making process from the outset, then this will remain a largely unfulfilled ambition.

Analysing the role of IT across the business process is the best way to achieve the much-needed inclusion that we must achieve here, alongside aligning the culture of the IT team with that present across the wider organisation. By understanding how work goes through the business and the ITSM resources required to support that flow, IT can claim its place at the table.

This article has been contributed by Ben Cody of Serena Software.