Blog posted by: David Worley, IT Project Lead, Ft. Leonard Wood, 03 August 2023.
If continuous improvement and monitoring are paramount to success in IT service management, what does that mean exactly?
On the service desk, this means monitoring tickets, incidents, services and how continuous improvement will affect everything.
However, if the service desk hasn't already got an ITIL 4 focus - or the concepts haven't flowed down to the people on the front line - these ideas and terminology might be new.
To make this work in practice, team leads should be trained in the ITIL framework, which will put them on the same “page” as the organization's leadership and help them understand the organization's goals.
Team leads need to develop this expertise so they can accurately translate what they do to business benefits and explain the value it's delivering (which isn't always understood at the higher levels).
Value delivered by the service desk, from a continuous improvement standpoint, could include “time to close” (i.e., resolving a request) and resuming operations, which give a good indication of whether you achieved improvement. Also, you can think about uptime - especially in the case of the development/DevOps teams - which connects directly to dollars spent or lost on staff productivity.
Service desks “shifting left” to site reliability engineering (SRE) and DevOps
Most digital transformation in the past three years has been driven by Covid-19 and large organizations seeing a move to home/hybrid working.
For service desks, this means a greater focus on site reliability engineering (SRE) to ensure uptime, service availability, and effective working - as they are not being sent to solve user problems in users' own homes. In addition, service desk agents are now also providing knowledge and expertise across enterprises for non-technical demands. For example, a service desk agent may be familiar with the purchasing process for office supplies and the human resource process for onboarding. So, a new employee just starting out might contact the service desk when looking for information on office supplies or equipment provisioning. Think of the service desk as an organization's information and process fusion center.
In turn, development teams are running their work through the pipeline at lightning speed and need to perform optimally.
This has had an effect on the skills service desk professionals need: fewer low-skilled technicians and more tier 2/3 subject matter experts who can troubleshooting and have the ability to communicate what they've done.
And this means having certifications such as ITIL 4 Specialist: High-velocity IT, along with knowledge contained in Scrum Master/Product Owner certifications to help drive urgency and fast resolution.
It makes good business sense to cross-train and upskill employees; operationally, to have someone on the DevOps team familiar with the architecture of the SRE team means you have can different people responding to problems across silos.
But this also benefits individuals who want the opportunity to advance, grow and move around a company rather than remaining in a silo.
Overall, the benefits and value created by these retraining and upskilling developments and operational changes include companies and other organizations paying less rent on office space,
Security as a business enabler
Shifting left on the service desk opens up organizations to some security risks, namely social engineering which involves attackers tricking service desk agents into divulging access to systems and data.
The challenge is increased by the prevalence of staff using their own devices and connecting to corporate networks.
Yet, despite these risks, it's possible to “bake in” security at the software development stage and reassure security departments that they don't need to adopt the default position of “no” and can think more about what the business needs. Also, introducing automation to security - such as password resets - helps remove the vulnerability to social engineering when humans are manually responsible for the process.
ITIL 4's information security management practice provides a solid approach to help the service desk increase its awareness of security requirements while focusing on business empowerment and customer enablement.