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6 steps to situational awareness in IT service management

Jessica Alfaro Senior Manager, Acuity, Inc.

Most businesses strive to create a view into the operating environment, services offered, customer base, service delivery impacts, cyber threats, and the causes and resolutions of problems. But most struggle to provide all the information needed to empower staff with the answers they need to quickly resolve issues, answer questions, and maintain or improve customer satisfaction.

IT is a major player, using a variety of software tools and enabling almost every business function. But all this information isn't centralized, organized, or easy to report. Businesses need an IT strategy that looks further into integrating and sharing information. That's where situational awareness comes in.

Raise your awareness

I first heard the term situational awareness in the early days of my career, when I worked in the federal government. The term is also common in aviation, the military, and law enforcement. To have situational awareness is to know your surroundings and to be able to anticipate your next move based on events that may happen around you. It's the ability to quickly react to friend or foe and respond accordingly.

You can apply this concept to business and IT by having awareness of overall business operations, the supporting IT environment, and the impact on customers during service disruptions.

So how do you achieve situational awareness? Think about the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the concept of the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS). The SKMS takes an enterprise architecture framework and aligns it with IT service management (ITSM).

Building a complete SKMS is like reaching ITIL utopia; it's the next level of maturity after you've established a configuration management system (CMS). The CMS is a collection of authoritative sources that provides your organization's configuration information—for example, services, applications, hardware, other software, networking, and all associated attributes and relationships among them.

Establishing a CMS is not an easy feat. In many cases, organizations have either given up, have said that whatever they have is good enough, or don't know how to take the next steps.

Why adopt an SKMS?

You may ask: Why implement an SKMS if you can't even get a CMS off the ground? The SKMS may be closer than you think. It may also provide the vision you need to regain momentum with your ITSM initiatives.

The concept can be used to sell a holistic view that can address many pain points and initiatives that are part of an overall strategic plan, such as a service catalog, IT operations, knowledge, analytics reporting, process governance, and asset and software license management.

Further, many businesses already have some, if not all, of the SKMS elements in place. The key to the SKMS is system integration and learning how to create knowledge.

A six-step process

Begin by gaining an understanding of the ITIL and SKMS concepts, do some research, reach out to colleagues, and see what others are doing. After that, I recommend a six-step approach to gaining buy-in and achieving a breakthrough to true situational awareness with an SKMS. 

1. Identify champions and stakeholders

Who will benefit and help support your cause?

2. Identify and commit to authoritative tools and data sources

What tools, databases, or repositories are considered authoritative sources of information in your business?

3. Identify methodologies and frameworks

What methodologies and frameworks are in use, and how can you achieve a collaborative sweet spot with integrated touchpoints?

4. Assess your level of maturity

What is your level of maturity and road map to the next step, and how do you know when you have arrived?

5. Gain organizational commitment

What are the considerations needed to gain organizational commitment, and how can you maintain momentum and keep interest up?

6. Measure and share successes

What are you measuring, is there a baseline and target, and how do you know you're improving and providing value?

The situational awareness initiative is important. The future of ITSM is changing as technology continues to mature with machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual service desk agents, chatbots, software as a service, and cloud subscription services. For businesses to stay relevant and compete in this ever-changing environment, they need to create a culture of innovation and knowledge sharing.

Three ingredients for success

Weighing the options between the benefits and challenges will be difficult. Many organizations may not see the value right away, will shy away from the heavy lifting necessary to achieve the goal, or will listen to every excuse not do it. A reactive environment will always be fighting fires.

But organizations that are committed to service excellence will find the ability to experiment, be creative, and create new growth opportunities.

You need three main ingredients for success: Have a positive attitude, do the best with what you have, and find champions who are committed to your success. 

For more on how to achieve situation awareness in service management and my six-step process, come see my presentation, "Achieving True Situational Awareness with the Service Knowledge Management System," at the Fusion18 conference in St. Louis. The conference runs from September 30 to October 3, 2018. TechBeacon readers receive a $200 discount by registering with promo code TECH18.

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