How can cloud and SaaS assist ITSM implementation (part 1)

ITSM (“Information Technology Service Management”) is generally defined as the shift from managing the technology stack inside an I.T. Department (or in the enterprise, in general) to addressing real-life business issues that generally come down to Customer Service. In other words, according to ITSM methodologies, I.T. must no longer focus on managing the technology; instead it must set its goals towards aligning with the rest of the business and be an equal player in the effort (design, contribute) towards generating value-added services both for the business users and directly for the customers.

In this post we discuss how “Software as a Service” can assist in setting and implementing such goals. To do this we shall enumerate some “attributes” or “dimensions” that a typical I.T. organization has to address and manage; show how these are transformed from a typical I.T. function to an ITSM delivery model and finally comment on each of them and explore how SaaS can “back them up”.

  • Technology focus vs Process focus: Traditional I.T. functions focus on managing the technology they use or deploy to the organization. A shift to ITSM dictates that the focus should shift to Process. SaaS can assist in this area in many ways: Firstly because SaaS is primarily a web-based piece of software which is accessible 24/7 inside and outside the premises. Therefore, by definition, it relaxes time and geographical constraints, which in turn result to more “liberal” and user/customer-centric processes. In addition, with SaaS modern technology infrastructure, we can assume that the software delivers openness (SOA, web services, connectivity – call it what you like) and integration that surely assists Process Design by the business; remember that Process may entail some interfacing with external organizations in which case modern SaaS apps may have something more to contribute).
  • Users become Customers: In an ITSM delivery model, I.T. does not see people as Users that simply need rights administration, technology support and training but rather as Customers that require a certain level of service. In addition, the word “customer” now also means the actual, end-customer of the organization. I.T. is asked to provide services to them too instead of staying “behind the scenes” and provide the ability just for “technology consumption”. In this context, SaaS has its “measurable nature” to contribute. By measuring usage, each user becomes a customer, probably an “I.T. cost center” which can be accounted for and charged for usage, at the end of the day. That way, I.T. can budget and track expenditure in a quite detailed level. This was also true in the first days of computing where mainframes where used as “time share computing engines” but back then measurements where only high-level: company A used machine X for 3 days and company B used machine Y for 6 days. And that was it. Now, SaaS (with the technological assistance of cloud services) can measure each user and each process separately; also measure variances in the “computing consumption” e.g. when more processors or disk space are allocated to a Process etc.
  • Centralized vs distributed: Traditional I.T. would typically install software on central servers and provide access to local or remote users. Usage could not be measured (other than network traffic per point/hub). SaaS can now be used for detailed measurements. Additionally and more importantly, SaaS is THE best way to achieve distributed computing, geographically dispersed and irrelevant of time-of-day and time-zone. When software is required where the customer is (on the road, on the customer premises, mobile etc.) SaaS can provide what traditional or mainframe computing could not.
  • Isolation or siloed computing vs integrated and mobile: In any SaaS implementation we can easily assume that the Business Application runs on one single instance and data are shared between users, departments and processes; no double data entry and no duplication of records. In traditional I.T. implementations where technology is the focus, there are dispersed servers and databases. Each user is using the server he/she is allowed to and data have to be transferred from one point to another and finally consolidated in a central database for M.I.S. and general reporting. Apart from the technology hassle that SaaS saves in this case, we should also consider how Integrated Customer Service is achieved with SaaS: Whenever a specific customer is present in the “corporate grid”, its data (financial, CRM, historical) are “there”, on-line for everybody to see and process. This has an undoubted advantage for any customer-facing Business Process the organization designs. Take the simple example of retail car customers: For them, it is only natural that when visiting any service shop in the manufacturer’s network, their personal history and that of their car is transparent to all members of the network: instead of the service manager asking “what did you do on your last service?” (a question that most customers would be unable to answer), it would be better to have them say “I see that the time has come for a new oil change, since on your last visit you…”. Now, try implementing that with siloed computing architecture!

In the next post, we shall discus more areas of ITSM that can be better served by a SaaS implementation rather than a “centralized computing” one or even a “distributed computing” of the pre-cloud era. Stay tuned…


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