2020 ITSM Trends with Stephen Mann / itsm.tools

In this episode Pasi interviews Stephen Mann, who is the principal and content director at ITSM Tools. ITSM Tools is a website dedicated for ITSM topics from ITSM.tools. Pasi and Stephen discuss the latest trends in the ITSM industry - what is currently working and what to look for in future.

In this episode Pasi interviews Stephen Mann, who is the principal and content director at ITSM Tools. ITSM Tools is a website dedicated for ITSM topics from ITSM.tools. Pasi and Stephen discuss the latest trends in the ITSM industry - what is currently working and what to look for in future.


Stephen recently conducted a new research article called 2020 ITSM Trends. This research has been created through conversations with a variety of different people giving their ideas and inputs on what they thought would be the most important things for their customers and organizations to address in 2020.

This research is a summary of the conversations that took place, involving 18 people from IT service management tool vendors, and two analysts from support professional membership organizations (SDI and HGI).

Apart from the expected subjects, such as AI and Digital Transformation, the research found that employee experience and focusing on value were key topics.

There can be some confusion on what employee experience actual means as the term becomes subjective depending on your position, for example whether you are a vendor, employee or customer. However, the key finding here is that the focus is on experience.

Something that was mentioned very little in the Trends report was XLAs. Stephen claims however, that this is due to there being very little information available on XLAs or even case studies for people to take example from.

Stephen says "While it pains me to say it, we do tend to be in a community or an industry that likes to see A) that it's worked somewhere else before and B) here are some examples that you can move along."

If there was more information available on XLAs, as well as more on how to determine what's valued within the organization, and how to measure it with suitable metrics or KPIs and targets, then there would be stronger conversations around XLAs, claims Stephen.

If you would like to find out more information on Stephen, ITSM.tools or the 2020 ITSM Trend article mentioned in this episode, then please find the relevant links below:

Pasi Nikkanen: Welcome to HappyToday Podcast. This is a podcast for those who want to improve service experience of internal services. If you use ServiceNow or other enterprise service management system, then this is for you.

Pasi Nikkanen: Hey, welcome to this episode of HappyToday Podcast. Today, I'm joined by Stephen Mann. Stephen is the principal and content director at ITSM Tools. ITSM Tools is a website dedicated for ITSM topics. Stephen is also independent IT and IT service management and marketing, content creator, blogger, writer, and presenter. I guess previously, Stephen was also working as IT researcher and analyst at Forrester, for example. You can find more at Stephens Twitter @StephenMann. We'll put that in the show notes anyway.

But, hi, Stephen. Nice to have you here today.

Stephen Mann: Yeah. Hi, Pasi. Thank you for having me.

Pasi Nikkanen: You just published an article, ITSM Trends in 2020, and it was a crowd sourced perspective. So, tell a little bit like what's behind the article.

Stephen Mann: Sure. I guess the first thing to say is that for a long time, I've been a firm believer that the providers of IT service management tools, or services, or anything related to IT service management know an awful lot about IT service management and where it's going, and we often don't tap into that enough, that at events, say we might go and pick up the free pens, or we might have a demo of something sexy related to reporting. But, we probably don't have those conversations that look forward a year, three years, or even further. So, for me, it was an opportunity to get a number of people to say what they thought was going to be the most important thing for their customers and organizations behind their customers, to address in 2020. Again, free reign, it was totally free form, no options. So, I did say two to three sentences. But, some were quite a bit longer. Some people very nicely stuck to two to three sentences. Some had to edit it down.

So, basically it's a summary of that. It's nearly verbatim. I had to do a little bit of editing. But, for me, the obvious thing was to just do a quick word cloud. I know I'm probably going back 10 years in doing that. But, it was just a way to quickly allow the most, hopefully, important topics to bubble to the surface.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah. So, there was around 20 respondents, right?

Stephen Mann: Yeah. There were 18 people from IT service management tool vendors, and then two analysts from support professional membership organizations, so SDI and HGI.

Pasi Nikkanen: Cool. And I guess some of the normal things that popped up was like automation, IT, utilization that kind of things.

Stephen Mann: Yeah. There was no way you weren't going to get AI being mentioned, or digital transformation, or ITIL 4. But, what I'd hoped to see, and what we did see is that employee experience was very much in there, and also the focus on value or the focus on the business. I know we've been talking about this misalignment 10 plus years within IT service management. But, for me, I do feel as though we are turning a corner, in particular on the back of ITIL 4 and their co creation of value that I'm hopeful. But, in the same way we're there or thereabouts with the employee experience, the same is true with the value, too. But, in addition to automation and AI, in addition to digital transformation, that these, I would say, more important subjects are actually going to get their day in the sun.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah. It was a really interesting read because it's kind of what, with [Sammy 00:04:09], we have been talking so much about. The value that you create and how employee experience actually kind of brings through that value, and how can you use that to show the value. We've also people mentioning about customer experience, but I guess we talked about this before we started, that maybe people actually mean the same thing with customer experience and employee experience.

Stephen Mann: It's a strange one because we're also running a survey with our readership. And when you look at the results as they are now, you've got customer experience in thirds, and employee experience... I'm just doing a quick look here. In sevenths, [twice 00:04:48]. And you don't know without an additional level of detail as to whether there's some overlap there. When they say customer experience, are they meaning the external customer, the ultimate end customer for goods and services, or are they talking about the people who they serve within their support role or service and support role? I've got a feeling that if it were a vendor, I'd rather that there would be a very big overlap between the two.

I think if you were to add them together, just looking at the score so far, or even to take half the customer experience and add it on to employee experience, employee experience would be there at number one or join top three of the votes. So, it's definitely resonating, and in fact, if you jump back to a survey we ran, future of IT service management survey in quarter one, quarter two of this year, it was 75% of respondents felt that their organization already appreciated the need for employee experience, or would do by 2021. So, three out of every four organizations, I think are pointed in the right direction.

Having said that, and I'm probably teaching about [granny 00:06:06] subjects here by bringing this up, that the danger that we have, other than people managing to stay focused on it, and not to get digressed by a shiny object that appears in stage left and also park it to one side the fact that it does involve a level of investment to do it right. The thing I really worry about is whether people actually understand what it means, that yourself and the two Sammies, and everyone else that works at HappySignals has spent five years, even longer perhaps, refining what employee experience actually means to your customers and their employees.

And if you look at someone like Forrester who, again, if you go back 10 years, they were ahead of the curve with their age of the customer. And whether they'll go through age of the employee now, or something sexier, the fact that they've been looking at it for 18 plus months means to me it's going to happen. Like you, they're talking about employee experience, not just keeping or helping to make employees happy. But, also it being about giving employees a frictionless experience such as they can get the work done that they need to get done. So, when we look at the statistics that you very readily provide to everyone, it's around that lost productivity or lost work time. And that really is the thing that makes a difference from an employee perspective and not necessarily the pleases and thank yous.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah. And I think it's still like the word experience is the main thing there, whether it be customer, employee, or service experience, it's still the focus that people have now on the experience. And I think everybody kind of mean the same thing, even if they use those different words.

Stephen Mann: Yeah. I think it's a bit rambling there, and I probably think I got the point across. The thing that I'm worried is that people mix up customer satisfaction, and their customer's satisfaction, customers with employee experience, or even [UIs 00:08:21] and user experience with employee experience. So, I just think you have to be very careful of what people aren't' trying to improve upon the wrong things.

Pasi Nikkanen: That is correct. Yeah. What else? So, there was also mentioning more about business, the business value, that kind of things. What did you find around that topic? What kind of comments or views?

Stephen Mann: You have to be careful with this because sometimes it can be a bit of an echo chamber that people tell you what they think they ought to be saying. I mean the same is true with any survey, really, that people might tell you what they think they should say rather than what they are actually thinking. But, I am reasonably confident that customers are driving IT Central vendors, and in fact, IT Central vendors are probably helping to drive customers to actually think about what they achieve through what they do rather than just what they do and how they do it. Even something as core as IT service management or even IT service desk metrics, when you look at what has been popular over the last 10 years, maybe even longer, it's very much around how many, how quickly, how much did it cost us, and how much can we save.

You might have a customer satisfaction questionnaire in there as well, maybe even en employee satisfaction questionnaire for those people that work in the IT department. But, for me, there's very little in there that can be translated to how the IT department or the IT service desk made a difference to their organization, and within that to the employees that they serve and support.

Pasi Nikkanen: So, related to that was there anything like... Because we have seen now a little bit of we feel a trend might be for 2020 be this experience level agreement type of things.

Stephen Mann: It wasn't mentioned as much as I thought it might be. And I think half of the issue, or even more of the issue than half, is that people haven't really seen anything definitive by way of good practice or examples or templates. While it pains me to say it, we do tend to be in a community or an industry that likes to see a., that it's worked somewhere else before and b., here are some examples that you can move along. And then, either lift and drop off or at least, hopefully, change to better suit your organization. So, one of our most popular blogs, and it was written in 2018 by a lady called Hannah Price, is related to XLAs. And I think the reason we get so much traffic on it is that it's... Well, I think it's either number one or number two when you search for XLA and IT [matches 00:11:36] on Google. But, there's so little that has been written about it, in the same way there's a Stuart Rance blog on measuring availability. And again, there's not really anything out there that's practical, that people can pick up and run with.

So, had we had more on XLAs, and even had we had more on how to quite simply determine what is valued within the organization and how to measure it with suitable metrics or KPIs and targets and all of that stuff, then I think we'd actually be seeing and hearing even more about it. In some ways, we're coming back to what I've just said with employee experience, that unless there is something that is almost: this is how you do employee experience in a box, which obviously we probably don't like as rational human beings. But, we have to accept that that's how things work, and it's why ITIL has been so dominant in terms of a best practice scenario, or good practice scenario, that there's a lot in there that people can just pick up and use straight away. So, more needs to be done, and it's just a shameless plug here. It's why we try to encourage people to write stuff for us, to share their experiences, to share their learnings, and hopefully share the things that, if they do work for a service provider, to say this is what we've done in 20, 30, 50, 100 organizations. And it works. You have to tailor it to your organization, but if you do something like this, you'll end up with something that actually meets your needs and objectives, whether it be employee experience or value or XLAs or anything else.

Pasi Nikkanen: All right. Hey, thank you, Stephen. I think people can now go... I'll put it in the show notes, the full article. Is there also possibility to subscribe to a newsletter if they want to get all this content that you're generating?

Stephen Mann: Yeah. There is. You can subscribe to a monthly newsletter. We just send it once per month. There are no adverts in it, per se. It might highlight something that we wrote for a vendor or a webinar that we're having, so technically, they are advertisements for content that we've been party to. But, hopefully, there's nothing nasty in there that people will think is invading their inbox. And the same as the website, too. We don't have any banner ads, or we don't abuse anybody's email addresses. Too much detail, but [crosstalk 00:14:12] unfortunate.

Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah. That's why I like your site because it's very neutral, and kind of like doesn't takes sides in a way. It's just giving good content around the ITSM topic.

Stephen Mann: Thanks.

Pasi Nikkanen: All right. Thank you, Stephen. It was a pleasure to have you here. Maybe we need to do this more regularly, pick a topic and talk around it because I think you are so exposed to all the vendors. And then, you hear about all the trends and what people are talking.

Stephen Mann: Thanks.

Pasi Nikkanen: Thank you. And as we say in the Podcast, stay happy.

Stephen Mann: I will try too. Thank you very much. Have a good day.

Pasi Nikkanen: Thank you.

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