Customers rightly expect to be digitally connected with organisations at all times.

By Michelle Slabbert, IT service management at Standard Bank Group

Advances in technology have enabled businesses to provide services to people at their convenience and not based on business hours and opportunities for organisations to use IT-enabled solutions for competitive advantage and to create increased value for customers.

It has become increasingly business critical for organisations to be operationally agile and respond quickly to changes, while ensuring that their service delivery remains stable and predictable.

Organisations exist because they create value for their customers through the provisioning of goods and services. Without effective service management capabilities, organisations will be left out in the cold, falling behind on customer and employee expectations. The adage “location, location, location” as the cornerstone of running and effective and profitable business no longer rings true, it is fast becoming platform and technology that needs to be enabled effectively to build a successful enterprise.

Without effective service management processes, consumers will soon leave you behind.

Service management should be considered throughout the entire service lifecycle, whether the service is aimed at customers or employees, especially when designing and defining services.

Business and IT partner in considering the following when it comes to designing and building the components of the service value stream, and the value stream as a whole:

* What purpose does the service serve?

* What are the service level objectives – how do we know that the service is meeting expectations in terms of service availability, speed of performance, customer complaints and customer surveys.

* Which measures can be used to determine if the service meets this purpose?

* What is the acceptable service availability?

* What is the expected performance of the applications and systems used to deliver the service?

At Standard Bank IT and business work very closely to understand and define these service parameters.

It is imperative that service objectives defined in this process are understood and broken down into agreed measures. These measures, and the mechanisms to achieve them, are designed into the solution. They form the basis of Service Level Agreements and should be discussed and reviewed regularly during service operations to ensure that the service continues to meet the desired expectations of our customers and employees.

For example, when we designed our Mobile Banking App as a whole and the various components within the App, we started by defining service objectives such as: The App must be available for 99,9% of the time (44 minutes of unplanned downtime per month) and achieving an NPS Score > 50 (Excellent Range is 50 – 69) with an aspiration to get to 70 (World Class is >= 70). We also measure customers’ ability to achieve their purpose for using the app, and overall experience rating.

The objectives were broken down into the measures that are reviewed monthly to assess the service and highlight areas for continuous improvement.

One of the frameworks that organisations can use to improve their service management capability is ITIL ( IT Infrastructure Library). This framework provides the most widely adopted guidance on IT Service Management globally for the governance and management of IT-enabled services.

The ITIL framework has significantly evolved since it was established as a guideline for government for IT operations in the UK in 1989. As IT grew, a process approach was applied to ITIL . This was in line with general structure of IT at that time, where specialist IT areas were set up and processes were used to manage hand-offs between areas. However, this contributed to a perception that ITIL was rigid and restrictive. ITIL v4 brings ITIL up to date by reshaping the established Service Management practices in a wider context of customer experience, value streams and digital transformation and embracing new agile and lean ways of working.

ITIL v4 is relevant for all roles across the IT lifecycle and not only for specific service management roles. It should be used as a set of principles that are applied within specific organisational contexts to enable consistent service delivery. It represents how the organisation works together to deliver IT-enabled services as a value system, with associated guiding principles, governance guidelines and focus on continual improvement. Also, it doesn’t only focus on service management practices but incorporates a set of general management and technical practices too, making it more relevant than previous versions of ITIL.

Previously functions and practices within an organisation were siloed. This limited visibility and opportunities for information sharing and collaboration. Siloes can be resistant to change. ITIL 4 architects a Service Value System (see below diagram) that specifically enables flexibility. Practices and service value chain activities can be combined in multiple value streams to address the specific need of any organisation. These are continually improved on or redefined as required. Guiding principles create a shared culture throughout the organisation, supporting collaboration.

At Standard Bank, we adopted ITIL as our service management framework many years ago and it has shaped some key practices, for example:

* The Incident Management practice ensures that key frameworks and processes are in place to respond effectively and efficiently to any service disruptions that may occur. It also guides the collection of data related to these disruptions to allow for trending and investigation to learn from disruptions and prevent any reoccurrence.

* Our Problem Management practice focuses on understanding the causes of service disruptions and delving deeper to under the root causes and rectifying these. Using a medical analogy, incident management is about stabilising a patient and recovering from an illness/injury, while problem management is about understanding underlying factors and treating the issue holistically to prevent any reoccurrence of the illness or injury.

* The Change Management practice ensures that all IT changes are visible, assessed, and approved for deployment into our production environment. It is also used to schedule changes to avoid contention and to prevent impact on services when these changes are deployed. ITIL v4 now refers to Change Enablement. This is indicative of the evolution of Service Management and ITIL where the emphasis is moving away from control towards enablement. We want to be able to build and deploy changes rapidly, without compromising quality or introducing risks. This practice is crucial in an organisation the size of Standard Bank.

ITIL v4 provides practical and valuable guidance for organisations to successfully take advantage of new technologies and address new service management challenges, positioning IT Service Management as a key strategic capability. This forms a solid foundation for us to transform into a future ready organisation where we’ll be a platform provider and ecosystem curator for financial and related services.