Organizations planning service management for 2021 have a raft of unknowns to contend with. At the macro level we are currently presented with the biggest set of variables we’ve known in a generation.
Of course, Covid-19 is the stand-out – it means a 2021 business operating model not knowing where your people will be based – at home, in the office, a mix of the two?
In the UK and Europe, there is the prospect of potentially enormous changes to trading conditions and regulation. Many other countries are living through changes of governments and ideologies. So how do we stop just treading water and actually swim forwards?
In this volatile and uncertain context, the overriding concern of service management is to continue providing value to customers. Keeping a finger “on the customer pulse” is essential; what customers valued pre-Covid-19 might not apply now and has the propensity to change pretty quickly.
Meanwhile, the service organization might now be working from home or perhaps have fewer people to call on. In some ways this should hit the sweet spot for many good service managers. Service management has always been adaptable, even when – like the staircases at Hogwarts - the pieces are moving and changing constantly!
So, what are some of the tactics we know now that will make the difference between effective and ineffective service management in 2021?
Creating opportunities to collaborate
Bringing stakeholders together to collaborate was never as simple as booking a meeting room and hoping for the best.
Now, there is an overriding compulsion for people to collaborate virtually and often. This is driven by the knowledge that exchange of information is critical to effective service management and keeping services aligned to customer needs.
For example, one smaller digital healthcare organisation has everybody in IT support working from home. They are required to collaborate with colleagues in the UK and other countries, so they’ve chosen to keep the online channels open constantly to mimic a service desk type environment.
The key is finding ways to keep collaboration fresh – where teams see it makes their jobs easier, they will adopt it and it will work very well.
Increasing flexibility and decision making in the right place
In successful change management, moving the decision as close as possible to the people making the change will avoid various, often bureaucratic levels of management. So, having that level of flexibility in your governance will be in sharp focus in 2021.
This necessitates a level of trust that some organizations are either unwilling to countenance or where active regulation is used as an excuse for retaining a status quo that is a tangled mess of red tape.
The requirement to question procedures and processes and adapt governance is paramount. You cannot move all the pieces around and hope the process still works by just crossing your fingers and stroking a rabbit’s foot. However, retaining focus on required outcomes (starting with the end in mind) should help to allocate decision making to where it’s safe.
Organizations impacted by the experience of 2020 will, I believe, become more situational: a strategy which sees them better at reacting to changing scenarios with the people, tools and processes in place to respond quickly.
Trust and transition
When people move to new ways of working, there is always the risk they will prefer – and often revert to – comfortable, old methods.
Therefore, at a time of immense change, service managers need to actively involve stakeholders in the design and transition of new working practices through greater collaboration and more focused communication. This way, there is more chance stakeholders will trust that what lies beyond the transition can be as good or better than the current situation.
Despite the coming challenges for service management professionals and their customers, I believe 2021 offers grounds for optimism. Certainly, it doesn’t feel good for a lot of people at the moment but – despite the difficulties we’ve all been through – the human spirit ensures that people drive to make new things work. There is no doubt that service management best practices are a key to that door.