What Is Shift Left and How Does It Work?

Arnon Yaffe | January 20, 2021
Standardization and automation – two key components of the IT Service Desk framework and strategy best practices that promise more than the delivered results. In the IT Service Management domain, service desk and support departments are seemingly riddled with productivity challenges and failed technology investments. And the repercussions extend beyond the negative impact to customer satisfaction. Especially for internal IT Service Desk use cases in large enterprises, the overwhelmed and unproductive support structure limits the ability of teams and individuals working on large-scale mission-critical projects, ultimately causing significant loss in business opportunity – a soft cost often overlooked by IT. Ultimately, ITSM tooling investments fail to deliver on the promised rewards and lead to a higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) instead.

What is Shift Left and How it Works?

An effective revamp of IT Service Desk has to focus on three key areas of your IT Service Desk improvements: the technology, the culture and the framework for your ITSM workflows. Obtaining the right mix of the three improvements can optimize the service desk operations, allowing organizations to identify and fix more IT issues faster — think MTTI and MTTR! — and proactively resolve the underlying problem root-cause to reduce the frequency of issues. This approach is often regarded as the Shift Left of service desk operations and can be defined as the following:

Shift Left refers to the practice of moving a resolution earlier during the support lifecycle or closer to the end-user where applicable. Here’s a simple example to show how it works across different levels of support: 

Introduce a mechanism that enables the end user to identify the problem category using a self-service support solution instead of engaging Level 0 staff. Similarly, use AI based technology solutions and intelligence to evaluate the true context of the problem and route the ticket to a resolution team that is most relevant and available to correctly address the issue (what we called at Swish.ai – “Shift Best”). This approach reduces the number of hops it takes for a support ticket to jump between support levels and teams before eventually reaching the right one.

NLP clustering technologies help us understand the broad contextual knowledge and forensics to identify the real problem root cause that leads to frequent and repetitive requests on individual technical issues – irrespective of their categorization in the ticketing tool. 

Collectively, these three improvements will shift the cumulative efforts that it takes to resolve a Service Desk problem as demonstrated in the graph below:

Source: Cherwell

How to Make Shift Left Work for your IT Service Desk?

Coming back to the original challenge in making technology solutions work for IT service desk improvements, standardization and automation doesn’t always work. In fact, many IT service desk technology investments not only fail to deliver on the intended promise: improving on widely adopted metrics such as First Contact Resolution (FCR), agent utilization and more; but also raising the business bottom line through employee productivity improvements, reliable IT services and fewer service disruptions that can quickly translate into tangible revenue losses.

When IT invests into a new technology with the goal of Shifting Left the service desk support operations, it needs to take care of the following key aspects:


Don’t Automate Waste: AI based technology can easily automate repetitive manual processes. If those processes contribute to a performance bottleneck however, technology will only automate the waste processes. This will cause further negative impact on the performance bottleneck and potential improvements that can be sought even after switching vendors and technology solutions.


Knowledge Sharing before Standardization: No two IT Service Desk organizations are the same. They differ not only in business operations, scale and culture, but also in the skills and knowledge base that can be effectively shared across teams to solve a known problem. Finding the unique contextual knowledge based on the vast pool of ticket data and providing a mechanism to leverage the insights effectively using an intelligent and standardized technology solution should be the first step. It’s also important to understand the importance of eliminating knowledge silos within the organization. 


Since the root cause of an IT incident or issue is not always tied with its symptoms and impact to the end-users, it’s important to gain deep understanding of the underlying technology issues and being able to spread the right information across all levels of the organization: a faulty network node may require a quick fix by the IT network staff but finding the right partnerships with network equipment suppliers is an organization-wide problem pertaining to IT, sales, finance as well as executive decision makers.


This is essentially a key ingredient of the standardization and waste elimination process (Lean IT approach) in the IT Service Desk pipeline, thereby introducing a productive and profitable Shift Left in IT Service Desk operations.

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