Service Catalogs, ERM…A Rose by Any Other Name?

As IT service catalogs have become the standard mechanism for enabling employee self-service with regard to reporting issues and requesting services, service-providing groups beyond IT have taken note.

In typical organizations, where each internal service group (HR, facilities, finance, logistics, etc.) has its own systems and processes in place for service requests, managers of these groups are noting the success and ease of use of service catalogs, and asking: how can I get that? Employees as well are asking why they can’t have one centralized portal for requesting any type of enterprise service (or anything else) needed to do their jobs.

Service management - not just for IT anymoreA research report produced jointly by HDI and itSMF USA last fall, Service Management: Not Just for IT Anymore found that “More than half of the organizations surveyed are either applying or planning to apply service management principles in business areas outside of IT.” (A more recent study from EMA Research suggests that figure may now be closer to 90%.)

But although the use of ITSM tools and processes—most notably extending the IT service catalog into a true business service catalog—is becoming more widespread, many organizations still aren’t quite sure what to call this initiative. And frameworks matter. Per the HDI/itSMF study:

“Most organizations have realized the value of extending service management principles into non-IT areas, and they have the tools to do it. The largest percentage of organizations is putting ITSM tools and principles to work in customer service and support, applying incident and request management (i.e., the service catalog), knowledge management, and other processes. While non-IT areas may not think of the ITSM principles they’re adopting in those precise terms, the conceptual structure that IT service management provides is the foundation for non-IT uses…

“When asked what they called their non-IT initiatives, 80 percent reported calling it ‘service management,’ while 25 percent still referred to it as ‘ITSM.’ The remaining organizations most often refer to their initiatives as ‘business service management,’ ‘processes management,’ or simply ITIL, if that’s what they were using…

“Frameworks not only establish a frame of reference for the area at hand, they also shape everything around it…Frameworks are valuable because they’re a resource for practitioners. Rather than force people to make mistakes over and over again, they capture important details, distill lessons learned about an area, and make them available to those who are interested. When constructed properly, they often reflect countless thousands of hours of collective effort towards their construction, refinement and promotion.”

The framework, in terms of a centralized self-service portal and accompanying back-end workflow process automation, is enterprise request management (ERM). It not only simplifies request management for employees by giving them one portal through which to submit any job-related request, but also for service process owners. The latter have one toolset, which can be used with minimal help from IT, with which to create, test, optimize and deploy their automated “service items” for employees.

This toolset can be used in conjunction with existing departmental and enterprise management and control systems (HRMS, ERP, supply chain, etc.) to simplify the learning curve for and use by business process owners. And using a single ERM toolset simplifies support efforts for IT.

Technology tools and business processes continually evolve, and as they do, new frameworks are introduced, with new names. Forrester Research has recently suggested, for example, that IT support (reactive) will be renamed “workforce enablement” (proactive) in coming years. The IT service catalog is a powerful tool for managing technology issues and service requests, but as it expands to encompass services across the enterprise, the ERM acronym best captures this evolution.

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