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Good AI Will Not Fix Bad ITSM

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If you google “AI ITSM,” you’ll receive almost a million results of various articles, predictions, and guides detailing how AI will transform ITSM.

The promises in every headline are exciting:

  • You can learn how AI can “make great things happen in ITSM”
  • There is a guide to how AI can “make your service desk great”
  • There’s an article on how AI-based ITSM apps deliver friction-less employee experiences

And that’s just a few of the hundreds of thousands of results!

As an ITSM consultant with decades of experience helping organizations implement healthy and effective ITSM practices, all of these articles make me feel confident and excited about the future of this industry.

But at the same time, they also raise deep concerns in me because I see history repeating itself. I’m concerned this initial excitement about the transformative power of AI will have IT organizations rushing to fix every problem they have – this time, it will be with AI.

And that just won’t work. It’s going to cause bigger problems down the line. AI is not a silver bullet. It won’t solve all of your problems and no matter how powerful your AI technology is, it simply won’t fix “bad ITSM”.

In order for AI to deliver the maximum benefits, you may need to clean up your ITSM act first.

What is Bad ITSM?

Before we get into everything AI can do for ITSM, let’s first take a look at bad ITSM. You might be wondering if you are suffering from bad ITSM.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Services are not defined. The IT organization has a list of applications, systems, and activities, but there is no discussion of how these things interact to add or enable business value.
  • There is no documentation describing the value of what IT is doing or how that value is measured.
  • Projects are not evaluated according to desired outcomes or opportunities for involvement. Instead projects are evaluated strictly by cost or resource requirements. Instead of doing the right things, IT is trying to do everything.
  • There is no business case for ITSM or a clear understanding of the return on investment on ITSM.
  • Solutions are “frankensteined” together with data from one area, tools from another, and whatever resources can be afforded. Or perhaps even worse, there are multiple systems (which means higher costs) that essentially deliver the same solutions.

Other symptoms of bad ITSM also include siloed departments, frustrated team members, and unexplainably long delivery times.

Many organizations notice bad ITSM, but they struggle to clearly diagnose the problem. They see the problem as an isolated one. But once you take a step back, you will be able to see that every symptom of bad ITSM is actually interrelated. This means that fixing bad ITSM requires a holistic approach.

What Role Will AI Play?

It’s important to note that while AI may not transform ITSM, AI can play an important role in ITSM. There are 3 common cases where AI can benefit ITSM:

  • Amplify IT resources
    • AI will enable IT staff to have more time to innovate, strategize, and focus on larger, more complex problems
  • Eliminate silos
    • The use of AI technologies will promote standardized approaches to processes and workflows.
  • Data drives actions
    • Effective use of AI requires good data and information. AI adoption can encourage IT organizations to develop good habits in capturing the data and information needed to make AI use effective. By capturing good data and information as part of ITSM activities enables the organization to take advantage of the introduction of AI.

Consider these roles if you have “Bad ITSM.” Can AI amplify resources if services are not defined or if the business value of those services is unclear? Will it eliminate silos if solutions are consistently “Frankensteined” together without any guiding process? Can AI take effective and appropriate actions when data and information cannot be trusted?

While AI can be extraordinarily powerful, it needs the right environment to thrive. Organizations with bad ITSM practices don’t have the right environment.

How can you cure “Bad ITSM”?

ITSM is not just about one process or one tool. There needs to be a bigger picture of how ITSM fits into the organization, drives business value and provides services to end users.

You can start to cure bad ITSM by using outside-in thinking. Look at your ITSM efforts from the business perspective. Define how IT contributes to the needs of the customer. Then work inwards defining the services, designing the processes, and implementing the tools needed to meet the needs of those customers.

Then ensure your organization has the skills necessary to exploit and maintain AI are available:

Process design
Do your ITSM processes consistently deliver expected results? Have you clearly articulated processes for frequent tasks? Do you periodically review these processes to ensure they remain relevant?

Value stream mapping
A value stream illustrates a process as part of the larger ecosystem and is made up of all the people, activities, and departments necessary to create and deliver value. Value stream maps establish a holistic look at the process and prevents tunnel vision.

Knowledge and data management
AI can only learn from the data you provide. If your knowledge is not properly captured or your data is not well maintained, AI will struggle.

Once you’ve cleaned up your bad ITSM, you’ll be in a better position to exploit the benefits of AI. You’ll have a solid grasp on the challenges AI can solve and you can predict the desired outcomes it can provide. Then you can make a compelling business case for implementing AI.

Remember AI isn’t a silver bullet. It’s only going to thrive in an environment that has built the right foundation, and that foundation includes good ITSM. So if you need to clean up some bad ITSM, do that work now, so your AI investment will pay off in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Good AI Will Not Fix Bad ITSM”

  1. Completely agree with you , Doug on this . I could give an example where BOTs are built with an existing poor design of Archiving files and that is due to bad ITSM . Now that BOTs are failing and because of that we should not be blaming that AI is not working properly . First need to correct the ITSM process , design and on top of that AI will work great for sure !!

    1. While AI will enable so many things for businesses, what it won’t do is fix poor ITSM practices of the past – in fact, AI will only expose and exasperate those poor decisions. Good ITSM builds that rock-solid foundation for organizations looking to exploit the capabilities that AI can bring to an organization. It truly is about doing the right things right first!

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