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Enterprise service management: 7 trends to watch in 2021

Christopher Null Freelance writer

Many of the core principles and best practices of IT service management (ITSM) have proved to have applicability beyond IT, and other departments within enterprises are now giving them a try. Some 87% of organizations say they're using enterprise service management (ESM) tools in some capacity, according to a recent Enterprise Management Associates research paper and related webinar.

What's more, ESM is proving as transformative as ITSM was before it. Over the last two years, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) has conducted field research with more than 600 IT leaders about the ESM-ITSM relationship, and it has yielded an unambiguous endorsement of ESM, said EMA research director Valerie O'Connell.

ITSM evolved over decades, and ESM is now capitalizing on that progress to mature at a much quicker rate. Here's what experts see in store for ESM in the new year.

1. Wider adoption is imminent

ESM is now at an inflection point: MetricNet managing partner Jeff Rumburg said it is experiencing "hockey-stick growth." The companies that have invested in ESM to date have been largely viewed as early adopters. Of the Forbes Global 2000, fewer than 10% have what Rumburg considers to be mature ESM disciplines in place.

That’s changing, though. Adoption of ESM principles is accelerating because there are now enough documented success stories to give enterprises the confidence to move forward. That could make ESM a requirement for organizations in the new year.

That's because the economic benefits, and not just the benefits to the customers of ESM, "are undeniable."

"The question is no longer 'When are we going to do it?' but 'Why haven't we done it yet?'"
Jeff Rumburg

2. Chat becomes an integral feature

Adoption of chat tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams has accelerated as companies have converted to remote workforces during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has ramifications for all internal tools and processes within companies, said atSpoke co-founder and CEO Jay Srinivasan.

Like water flowing down a hill, "employees will take the path of least resistance when seeking help from internal service functions," he said. And that has implications for ESM.

"Unless your tools integrate seamlessly with chat, they won't be used and will instead be bypassed."
Jay Srinivasan

3. AI takes on a major role

MetricNet's Rumburg believes artificial intelligence (AI) will play a critical role in ESM in 2021. Its ability to complete transactions without human interaction and reduce the cycle time makes it a particularly good fit for ESM.

Already, customers of some insurance companies can complete a claim without ever talking to a person, he said.

Those companies have smart scanning technology that looks at your claim. It knows the make and model of your car and the year of your car. It knows what the cost of repair is likely to be. It can find a body shop near you and send you to that body shop. "You can take a picture of the damage," said Rumburg. "You can text that in." All this is done without the intervention of a human being.

"I see AI starting to make inroads in ESM the way it has in IT service management."
—Jeff Rumburg

4. Hybrid customer servicing evolves

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely transform the workplace for some time, and those changes will be reflected in how ESM is delivered, said Jeff Roscher, co-founder and president of eWorkOrders, which sells a computerized maintenance management system.

Customers can now put service requests in using a web-based interface, he said. They can easily check the status of their requests and get notifications when the jobs have been completed.

"Less contact and less interaction with people are going to be the new way of doing things."
Jeff Roscher

5. Benefits are better quantified

MetricNet's Rumburg explained that ITSM is an almost 50-year-old discipline, and ESM can leverage those decades of experience to mature relatively quickly, often within a couple of years. As more companies reach that milestone, it will be critical to evaluate whether they're receiving the benefits from ESM they had initially projected.

"It’s time to quantify the benefit we're getting," he said. Among the key questions to answer:

  • What are the cost, quality, and cycle time benefits?
  • Are customers happier than they were before?
  • Is your cost per transaction lower than it was before you had transactions on a per-capita basis?
  • Is the total cost of managing this service, whether it's HR facilities, security, or any other enterprise service, really lower than it used to be?

There are some "fairly simple metrics" that allow you to figure out the benefits, he said. These metrics include mean time to resolve (MTTR), cost per transaction, and customer satisfaction. If ESM delivers as promised, Rumburg said, enterprises should see benefits in all these areas.

6. SaaS proliferates, causing some challenges

A fundamental change in workplaces over the last five to 10 years has been the proliferation of SaaS tools. As a result, the location of knowledge and services in a company is becoming increasingly fragmented, and employees are increasingly unable to help themselves, atSpoke's Srinivasan said.

"[ESM] needs to deal with this from a discoverability and integration perspective. Enterprises will need to implement tools that integrate with SaaS proliferation and allow for cross-tool workflows."
—Jay Srinivasan

7. Chief service officers are poised for entry

The title chief service officer (CSO) is a relative rarity right now, but MetricNet's Rumburg sees that changing in the coming year. When you consider all the services the enterprise provides to its employees, vendors, customers, and contractors—IT service management, purchasing, HR, facilities, sales, and payroll, to name a few—this role would require an uncommon breadth of skills.

ESM is all-encompassing, so Rumburg believes that many CSOs will emerge out of ITSM simply because qualified candidates will need a decade or more of experience servicing these areas. 

"You can almost demand a C-level executive to be responsible for everything in service management."
—Jeff Rumburg

Keep IT positive, people

EMA's O'Connell said that the writing is on the way for ESM in 2021 given the responses EMA has received, so understanding the key trends is imperative for enterprise IT teams. 

"The use of ITSM people, processes, and platforms in support of non-IT functions has almost universally positive outcomes," she said. "In a world where people will complain about the mustard at a free lunch, not even 1% chose a negative response regarding ESM's organizational impact."
—Valerie O'Connell

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