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Strategic vs Tactical Enterprise Service Management Explained

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) – “the use of IT service management (ITSM) principles and capabilities in other business areas to improve performance, service, and outcomes” – continues to grow in popularity. If we consider this in the context of how the adoption of ITSM best practice within IT can range from purely how best to manage issues (incident management) to the use of many more ITSM capabilities, then the same is true for ESM.

And in addition to the varying levels of best practice adoption, ESM adoption has another dimension to consider. In our webinar, “Enterprise Service Management 101”, adoption was split into two types – “tactical” and “strategic” – to represent this additional dimension that’s needed to allow people to better understand the state of enterprise service management (especially the related adoption statistics) and to help guide organizations in their own initiatives.

This blog takes a deeper look at what strategic ESM is.

“Tactical” Versus “Strategic” ESM

ESM started out as the singular use of the corporate ITSM tool by another business function, such as the facilities team, to help with the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. This still happens in 2019. With this being simply a reactive and piecemeal approach to sharing the ITSM tool and maybe some ITSM best practice, we call this “tactical” ESM.

However, with the visible service management successes and growing interest in the opportunities ESM can bring, a more proactive approach has developed. We can label this “strategic” ESM, whereby a business-level decision is made to systematically share ITSM best practice and technology across the organization. With the intention of sharing to as many business functions as beneficially possible.

“Clear as mud” I hear you say. Here’s a couple of examples that should simplify these two concepts.

A Tactical Enterprise Service Management Example

Think of this as a one-time hit of improvement.

An example would be the sharing of the corporate ITSM tool and practices with the Human Resources (HR) department to replace the currently-unstructured management of employee-related issues/cases – perhaps using a communal email inbox and personal productivity tools such as spreadsheets. With the ITSM tool’s proven workflow management, and wider work enhancement, capabilities making the previously-manual HR practices significantly “better, faster, and cheaper” – including the improvement of the employee experience can be achieved.

A Strategic Enterprise Service Management Example

With strategic ESM, the aim is to improve as much of the organization’s back-office capabilities as is economically possible.

An example would be the strategic decision to share the corporate ITSM tool and practices throughout the enterprise (when considered advantageous). Perhaps starting, after gaining business-level agreement, with HR, then progressing to facilities, then the customer service team, and so on. This reflects the fact that many business functions offer service and support but don’t have a formal technology that’s designed to manage the related work.

However, it’s not just the common corporate functions that can be helped. If educational institutions are considered, not only do these organizations have all the opportunities across HR, facilities, etc., but there are also opportunities to enable and better manage service and support in other areas including medical center and research department operations, for instance.

This Tactical Versus Strategic Split of Enterprise Service Management is Not Industry Recognized

It’s important to note that this terminology is not an industry standard – and one could argue the same is true of enterprise service management per se with other terms often used to denote the use of ITSM outside IT.

However, it is necessary to make the distinction between tactical and strategic ESM. Why? Imagine that 60% of organizations have adopted ESM. How many have simply used their ITSM tool in another business function and how many are strategically improving back-office operations? The answer is that we don’t know without some form of differentiation in the questioning. Plus, we need to ensure that we’re inclusive of those people and organizations that might call it something else (and consequently might say that they haven’t adopted ESM when they have).

Thus, we need to be careful when collecting ESM statistics, and even more careful when making decisions based on them. For example, if we know that 60% of ESM adopters have applied to it HR, say, then it’s important to know the relative split between tactical and strategic adoptions when making decisions related to your organization’s strategic initiative.

How is a Tactical Enterprise Service Management Adoption Extended Further?

Where an organization started with a tactical approach to ESM – maybe simply using their ITSM tool in facilities – and now want to share their ITSM capabilities more widely. Do they continue with another tactical adoption (and then another, etc.), or do they effectively start again with a fresh strategic approach to enterprise service management (that has learned from the initial adoption)?

There’s no definitive good practice but common sense can be applied. If the plan is for “just one more business function,” then it’s still a tactical need. However, if it’s a case of “one more business function, then another, then…,” it ideally requires a more strategic approach to ensure that decisions and activities are undertaken optimally. With a better impact on costs and – more importantly – business outcomes.

Ultimately, taking a strategic approach to enterprise service management is going to offer more opportunities for your organization to benefit, with each business function involved likely to achieve a better state of operations than with a simple ITSM tool use-case scenario.


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