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Get started with ESM: 5 breakout projects to consider

Ericka Chickowski Freelance writer

As enterprises seek to improve how departments work with each other and fulfill requests for employees across the organization, enterprise service management (ESM) is becoming more popular. 

The main draw of ESM is that it provides a one-stop shop for employees who need to ask for help—whether it's help from legal to write up a contract or from a facilities manager to fix a desk—and a back-end set of integrations and tracking to make sure the requests are filled expeditiously.

ESM gives organizations the ability to design and deliver unified workflows without siloed borders, which delays operational resiliency, increase operational costs, and reduce overall business effectiveness, said Marilyn Nelson, global head of delivery for consulting firm DXC Technology.

"ESM is all about delivering better return on investments across IT, HR, finance, facilities, legal, and marketing through a single platform."
Marilyn Nelson

The idea seems simple enough, but to get it right ESM takes long-term planning and sound execution in terms of both process design and technology.

To help you start off on the right foot, here are five ESM projects for your team to consider.

1. Do employee onboarding as a pilot

Once organizations are ready to dip their toes in the ESM waters and move beyond ITSM, one of the most obvious use cases to start with is the onboarding and off-boarding of employees. Tedder Consulting's Doug Tedder said it is an obvious starter case for ESM to prove itself because there are so many organizational entities involved in servicing incoming and outgoing employees and their hiring managers.

"Not only do you have HR; you've got IT, you've got facilities, you've got corporate security. In some cases you may have legal, because you've got nondisclosure agreements and other kinds of things that you have to sign [when someone starts a new job]."
Doug Tedder

This is also a great starter project because it eliminates so many manual steps. Before ESM, the hiring manager is usually called upon to run down a myriad of different points of contact within various departments by email and by phone to get new accounts created, payroll started up, a desk assigned, a laptop issued, and so on.

With ESM, someone bringing on a new staffer can get all of that done with just a few button clicks and track progress or follow-up on tasks through the same centralized place. According to Tedder, it is one of the most visible ways for ESM to demonstrate value and prove itself for further use.

2. Establish a flexible self-service portal

Ultimately, ESM is a way to cut down on the email, phone calls, and bureaucratic red tape that employees have to contend with to ask their colleagues to help them out with repetitive, recurring tasks. On the front end, that means establishing a unified self-service portal from which requests can be made.

Valerie O'Connell, research director for Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), said in a recent EMA research report on ESM that not only will effective self-service offload service desks by as much as 85%, but it will become users' top choice for support if done properly (the research report requires a purchase, but you can also register for her free, on-demand webinar on the ESM revolution here).

"Self-service is ground-zero for ESM. User experience and satisfaction skyrocket, costs are slashed, and everybody wins."
Valerie O'Connell

Coming up with a flexible portal that can handle the various departmental processes that are usually dominated by email and phone calls is a good foundational project to kick off ESM work. Typically these portals are the front end of some kind of ITSM platform or tool that can handle the requests once they've been fielded, either through human effort or integrated automation.

3. Build out your service catalog

Just as ITSM is built around service catalogs that are offered to fulfill various request use cases, so too is ESM. Thus, another obvious break-out project is to systematically build up the non-IT service catalog, said Liz Evans, principal for KPMG. These can be "macro moments" such as setting up a new supplier that may only need help from a single functional area or department, such as procurement, or a process such as off-boarding that requires input from multiple groups, she said.

"We're talking about constructing moments that matter, experiences for the employee."
Liz Evans 

As a result, the first cluster of use cases may be organized by department or by business event. Either way, if the organization starts the groundwork with a usable and flexible portal, as well as a platform that orchestrates the input coming from it, it can usually start building momentum with lots of new catalog components fairly quickly.

"It turns out that ESM is a lot like potato chips—hardly anybody ever stops at one [use case.] ESM breeds more ESM. That's because it is almost universally successful as defined by both measurable outcomes and organizational gains. One win begets the next."
—Valerie O'Connell

4. Build your ESM-friendly support structure

A lot of the earliest gains that organizations make in ESM are about creating a frictionless, unified interface for employees to make their requests. But the services do need to be delivered well to call ESM a success. Experts explain that this means the organization also needs to think carefully about what the back-end processes look like to fulfill requests and orchestrate who is doing what to route the work appropriately.

Organizations should be not only thinking about optimizing services within and across functions, but also maximizing the employee experience no matter what kind of request they make. To do that they should be asking themselves some important questions about how to set up their help desks to move beyond simple IT support, said Mitch Kenfield, principal at KPMG.

"Can I look at combining support functions? Do I need a separate IT service desk than an HR service desk?" Instead, he explained, the answer may be to build out a centralized support structure with virtual agents and a company-wide knowledge base that supports employees with multiple corporate issues. 

5. Automate your task delivery

On the service delivery side, organizations should also try to maximize ESM gains by automating repetitive work wherever possible.

According to EMA, 61% of companies with high-benefiting, mature ESM deployments said that automation, as well as AI and analytics, are their highest priority for the next year. One example of this is the addition of robotic process automation (RPA) to the mix. RPA is often a natural next step project to build from ESM groundwork.

"I think RPA and ESM can go hand in hand," said Tedder. The thing that organizations have to do first, in either case, is to understand value streams within the organization.

"If we don't understand the value stream with RPA, all we are doing is being ineffective at the speed of light, because we don't understand what we're automating. If we don't understand our value streams with enterprise service management, we will fall very quickly into what I call 'enterprise silo management.'"
—Doug Tedder

So he suggests organizations map out processes in place and ensure that organizations are rationalizing the way work is done before they automate bad processes just because that's the way it's always been done.

Understand ESM's origins

ESM evolved from the discipline of IT service management (ITSM), which brings to bear formal methods, automation, and tracking for how employees request IT services. It also has an established process for how the IT department delivers these services and tracks its performance against service-level agreement (SLAs).

For its part, ESM extends the process framework and platform to support non-IT requests and workflows.

As such, many experts say that the obvious first step is to get ITSM practices and technology in place before venturing into ESM. ITSM is a well-established field with a broad class of professionals to draw upon to build out your team of experts.

"Many of our customers start with ITSM implementations, then move to providing portals, one-stop shops, and mobile solutions that connect HR, onboarding, off-boarding, finance and beyond in a single pane of glass as the organization moves forward on their transformational journey with ESM," said Nelson.

ESM mission development 

As organizations seek to extend the benefits of their ITSM work across the organization, they should first take the time to work on a fact-finding and coalition-building project that will inform their ESM strategies moving forward.

Tedder said organizations that identify the main goals for their ESM implementations are more likely to set themselves up for success over the long term.

The place to start, Tedder said, is to consider what business outcomes you want to derive from an enterprise service management adoption.

The areas of improvement that organizations might target could be employee satisfaction scores, customer satisfaction scores, or operational efficiency. Many times it is a blend, but priorities should be set, since this will determine the first use cases and which stakeholders need to be a part of the coalition that sets the vision for ESM success.

While ESM is a logical extension of ITSM, Tedder said that organizations can't depend solely on IT leaders to set the tone for ESM strategy. ESM is very frequently kicked off by an executive champion such as the chief operating officer or CIO, but direction should also be set from the bottom up via stakeholders in the departments that will be filling requests.

Depending on the desired business outcomes, there could be heavier emphasis on involvement from sales, operations, facilities, and so on. Ultimately, in the mission-development phase, they should be setting the "north star" that will guide future ESM work, Tedder said.

Experts believe that organizations seeking to reap the most benefits from ESM should start their journey with the breakout projects described below.

ESM breaks down silos

Wherever an organization starts its ESM journey, the benefits are becoming clearer as this new niche starts to mature.

ESM breaks down silos and drives employee engagement, streamlines work, and delivers customer service, said DXC's Nelson. This all happens while improving the overall experience and delivering employee and customer-centric services.

"ESM ensures business services are delivered in an easy-to-navigate platform of engagement."

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