How ITIL Principles Can Make Support Services Better
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework has become the standard in IT Service Management across the globe. ITIL helps organizations provide their IT services using the most efficient and economical methods. The framework focuses on IT Service Management best practices and efficient operations, and can be applied almost by every role in IT.
In this article, I’ll tell you how support engineers can use ITIL guiding principles to improve the quality and efficiency of the support service provided.
The Sigma Software Support Team is driven by the guiding principles of the ITIL 4 edition. Over the years, we have tested every principle in our live operation. We proved that they are able to improve the work of a support engineer and have a positive effect on the results for all affected parties.
Let’s look closer at each of the seven guiding principles of ITIL 4, and how they can be applied to support desk operation:
1. Focus on value
The first thing we want to highlight is that ITIL 4 emphasizes the importance of value creation, rather than just delivering services.
The support team cares about value for different stakeholders: end-users, customer, management, development team, etc. Each of them has their own “value” and we balance to co-deliver it to all. Always track if you have an answer to the question – Does our service help to co-create value?
2. Start where you are
If you build something new without considering what is already available, you risk losing time, wasting resources, and reducing value.
Do not throw everything away and dictate your “effective experienced view” – check out how the existing setup can help you achieve more with less effort. For example, we use this principle in our daily interactions with users – first, check how they have already tried to fix the problem and then analyze and advise further. Speaking of internal team processes: when you want to grow your team’s skills, first you ask team members what they think about their future and what they consider to be their strong and weak points. Then you start development from where you are – based on people’s needs in connection to the service value system.
3. Progress iteratively with feedback
Do not attempt to do everything at once. We use this principle when setting up support services from scratch, implementing improvements, migrating to another system, etc. Likewise, support engineers can use the same principle when planning their personal development. Do not wait for someone to push you to grow, but plan your development steps and implement them one after the other. Also, it is important to collect feedback before, during, and after each step to ensure that the actions you take or are going to take are still relevant, even if certain circumstances have changed.
4. Collaborate and promote visibility
Working together across boundaries produces results that have greater buy-in, more relevance to objectives, and an increased likelihood of long-term success. We cooperate in a collaborative manner with all people involved in a project. Supporting the project (technically or dealing with customers), we stay in contact and build efficient workflows to deliver quality service together with project managers, development team, customer success managers, etc. While each of these parties works to achieve their own value, we all co-create value for the project.
5. Think and work holistically
No service, or element used to provide a service, stands alone - think about the whole value chain, not just one process or activity you’re currently involved in.
The support team not only deals with questions and issues users ask us about, or only performs the tasks the customer wants us to, etc. We add a forward-thinking view and try to have a holistic vision, thinking what influence this or that solution would have on the project, what deeper issue the user might have, and how our service might help them then.
6. Keep it simple and practical
Work should deliver results, not create more work. For the support team, this means: give clear and simple but informative answers to your users, build time-effective communication channels, set up tracking systems with practical and useful functionality, which will help you escalate, analyze, and operate incoming messages.
7. Optimize and automate
Optimization is what you should do every time you see that something has lost the needed effectiveness. According to the previous principles, you analyze iteratively, think holistically, add a practical approach, and then you can see what is optimal and what is not. Can we automate this process to save time and people resources or is human attention possibly needed to improve the result?
What Happened to Our Support Team with ITIL Principles
After we started applying these ITIL principles in providing support service, we noticed that the whole team benefits – both technical engineers and customer support agents.
These are several main improvements that occur in our software development team when using the principles:
- Every involved stakeholder receives his or her part of the work with a clear description, so they don’t spend time clarifying the information
- We cope with incoming requests according to service level agreements, so we always take care of the most critical things first
- Issues are resolved quicker, so our customers are satisfied
- We receive great feedback, which accumulates the values for us internally and externally, for each person and for the whole team inside the company
- Automated processes allow us to be sure of systems’ stability and information consistency. We know that actions will be taken in a timely manner if needed
- Using ITIL principles helps us work with different types of projects – starting from scratch, being partially involved on-demand, optimizing the current flow, and/or helping as an extended team.