Enterprise service management: what’s in a name?

To get people onboard for the changes required of enterprise service management, you might want to consider using different terminology. The name of frameworks, principles or solutions matters more than we realize.

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I admit I don’t remember much from the English literature classes I’ve taken, but somehow the quote from Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, has always stayed at the top of my mind. “What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Working in an IT environment where things are constantly evolving, and frameworks or new software pop up like mushrooms, I believe that the way we name solutions and tools sometimes matters more than we realize. Let me explain, taking “enterprise service management” as an example.

Service management principles have evolved beyond just IT processes, as was their primary purpose in the past. Where other departments, such as HR and facilities, have always offered services, they were not so used to using frameworks or principles to manage that service delivery whereas in IT, that has been the case. We’ve started to see adoption of ITSM concepts or ITIL at other departments throughout organizations. Thus, the name “enterprise service management” was born.

The concept of enterprise service management was more of an evolution than a revolution, as a lot of the processes touch not only IT but also various other departments, as well. Let me give you an example: onboarding. To follow up the onboarding process, IT departments add tasks and approvals into their ITSM tool that must be performed by non-IT employees.

This natural evolution shows in the adoption rates of enterprise service management. Even though these rates depend very much per organization, the data clearly shows that enterprise service management is growing. In my recent presentation at the Fusion conference (an ITSM conference organized by ITSMF and HDI) in November 2017, about half of the audience indicated to having at least something going on regarding ESM. From my personal experience working with clients, at least 50 percent of implementations touch at least some points of ESM.

In the implementation of ESM, the key factor is collaboration on different levels through four stages. The starting point, or stage 0, is a silo approach, where nothing is shared between departments. Every department is internally focused. Stage 1 is moving to a shared tool, usually combined with aligning terminology for processes across the organization. Remember, an incident for IT is quite normal, whereas facilities and HR call in the troops when they hear that word – “incident.” There is a clear collaboration, as different departments need to align not just terminology but also the way the tool is being implemented. A clear ROI reason for companies to do this is the savings on the tool side.

Stage 2 of the ESM growth path is to have a shared service desk: Having one shared front office for customers. This can take on many forms both digitally and physically: Having a shared portal, a shared phone number, for instance. At my firm (TOPdesk), we actually created a space where service desk employees from IT, HR, facilities and finance actually sit together. In this stage, collaboration is more intensive as extra agreements on redirecting work to each other have to be made. According to a recent SDI study, around 55 percent of service desks receive on average between 3 percent and 12 percent of calls that are meant for another service desk. Working in one solution, sharing a front office and having these redirecting agreements really improves efficiency.

In stage 3, collaboration takes on yet another level as processes also are shared. This is the stage where the different service departments draw a common process for service delivery. For example, we no longer talk about one tool for multiple departments, but one tool and one shared process for the service department. Usually this stage starts with the more “natural” shared processes, such as onboarding. In this stage you will typically see a shared service catalog or what might be referred to as a “service app store” being implemented.

Again, the key factor is collaboration or sharing, whether that means processes, tools or even departments. So why use the term “enterprise service management” rather than something that might be more appropriate, like “shared service management?” Doesn’t the definition of “shared services” cover it all?

That definition is:

“The provision of a service by one part of an organization or group, where that service had previously been found in more than one part of the organization or group. Thus, the funding and resourcing of the service is shared and the providing department effectively becomes an internal service provider.”

In my experience with implementations of changes within organizations, whether it’s HR or IT related (for instance, a company reorganization, a merger, tool implementations, etc.), how you name things matters significantly when trying to convince people and have them on board for change. Every word has a connotation and there are various studies on the impact of words and on how positive words can stimulate the motivational centers of the brain (ref Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communications expert, have written together the book, Words Can Change Your Brain).

Where “enterprise service management” covers the idea of having a service management solution for the entire enterprise, using the term “shared service management” – while actually implementing ESM – might help get everyone on board a little easier.

So, we’re back to Shakespeare’s rose. Even if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, the connotation you may have with that other name might scare you away and stop you from finding out how sweet the rose actually smells.

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