ITSM organizations adopt lean in a bid to break the firefighting loop, eliminating waste processes and focusing on innovation. In a pandemic crisis where most user interactions have shifted online, IT support and service desk operations are more critical than ever toward achieving these goals. Service channels have radically shifted online and added new constraints to service desk operations. The concept of Lean workflows has simply failed to deliver for many IT departments, despite ongoing investments into a variety of expensive ITSM solutions.
The effect is observed in the form of overwhelming support requests that leave the entire IT department into a frenzy and havoc, demanding all HR resources to be deployed for rescue and firefighting efforts. From the CIO perspective, most of these efforts are served to address the loop of waste processes and repetitive IT incidents that require deeper insights and innovative technologies to resolve.
In this blog, we will focus on understanding the IT firefighting loop and how intelligent ITSM technology capabilities can help to drive lean processes within IT Service Desk operations.
Let’s review the waste processes identified in the Toyota Production System (TPS), the precursor to the Lean Manufacturing methodology. These waste process scenarios are common in the SDLC pipeline, extend to solutions deployed for IT Service Desk operations and force IT to engage all resources in firefighting efforts:
Overproduction: Creating too many features and functions that never get consumed to their maximum potential. This is one of the most impactful waste processes that creates surplus inventory, often forcing users to integrate all complicated feature functions within their operational workflows.
Overprocessing: Doing more work than requested. This work doesn’t refer to fixing underlying problem root causes responsible for repetitive IT incidents, but the excess troubleshooting efforts spent independently on individual requests, just in case. This scenario is common when the underlying problem is hidden or difficult to trace.
Defects: Delivering imperfect solutions that return user requests to rework on the same IT issues. The service requests never reach a “Done Done” state, give a false sense of pending request volumes and are often preventable.
Overengineering: Operating an over-complicated operational workflow can help organizations prepare for every incident scenario imaginable. In practice, this defeats the very purpose of developing a process in the first place: to simplify and expedite resolution from an end-user and business standpoint. The engineering decisions are often made on flawed metrics instead of business impact and user satisfaction.
Inventory: The never-ending backlog of open tickets is the direct consequence of inadequate processes, failure to identify underlying issues, broken governance and approval process, unfinished solutions, and suboptimal resource utilization (and distribution), among others.
Transportation: Information silos, delays in approval, outdated governance protocols and inability to manage knowledge causes a bottleneck in resolving IT incidents. Additionally, service requests move across solution categories and teams due to incorrect ticket descriptions and suboptimal resolution workflows. The end result is a prevalent lag in connecting tickets to the correct resolution team and in a state where all necessary information, approvals and resources are available to execute an immediate fix.
Waiting: This process refers to the duration where a ticket spends time simply waiting to be assigned and fixed. The primary cause for excessive waiting is the lack of HR and technology resources that can get a ticket request moving through the resolution pipeline as soon as it’s produced.
Motion: This issue refers to the physical toll on HR and the business while it attempts to resolve incidents. Overburdened IT Service Desk staff struggles to find the productivity and motivation to fix mundane IT issues that occur repetitively directly impact end-users.
So what does it take to escape the IT firefighting loop?
For industry laggards, it takes ongoing investments to expand the Service Desk workforce and technologies that offer different features to reduce different types of waste processes.
These waste processes share a common theme and require all hands on deck to merely firefight operational issues and IT incidents. By taking advantage of intelligent technology capabilities, these issues can be addressed at scale — organizations can expand to new markets and enroll more internal users for online Service Desk support using existing tooling and HR capacity:
Make it easy to produce, share and consume knowledge from the historical ticket assets.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities help label tickets to reduce hops and accurate routing.
Integrate the people, processes and technologies by generating meaningful insights from data generated across the existing tooling.
The end-result of these capabilities is that IT organizations can engage more HR resources on innovation instead of simply firefighting issues that prevent lean operations and produce waste exponentially as operations scale.
Self-service, automated troubleshooting and proactive incident resolution help fix IT issues faster, prevent delays and reduce the ticketing burden.