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IT service automation: A global CIO learns from a millennial

In this expert column on IT service automation, a global CIO's encounter with an IT intern makes him realize it's time to ready the enterprise for the self-service generation.

Editor's note: This is the first installment in a series on IT service automation by Pink Elephant expert Jan-Willem...

Middelburg. The series follows the journey of a fictional global CIO as he realizes that his well-regarded IT organization must radically change the way it delivers IT services. The first chapter below, "Dear CIO, are you ready for the self-service generation?" describes the encounter that sets the CIO on his quest.

It is 9 p.m. and you are staring out the boardroom window across the millions of lights of the city. You are looking back on a day packed with meetings… again. In the morning, you met with the IT steering committee, the risk auditors and the CFO. Your afternoon was filled with your deputy CIOs, each fighting to receive a portion of next year's budget. It is that time of year again.

As you pack your briefcase and start toward the elevators, you notice the intern still working away. A typical millennial with the latest headphones and a million devices scattered across his desk. The guy was "lucky" to have been chosen out of hundreds of applicants for the summer internship at the CIO Office and, so far, he has been a tremendous asset to your team. The speed and agility with which he can complete complex analyses has frequently surprised you, and you have already decided that you will probably hire him after the summer. You look at your watch and decide it is time to send him home.

You walk over to his office and slowly tap against his screen. The intern lowers his headphones and immediately sits up straight, realizing the global CIO is addressing him. "Tomorrow's a new day, time to go home," you hear yourself mutter and the intern immediately looks at his watch, which lights up as he turns his wrist. The intern presses some last buttons on his machine and accompanies you to the elevators.

As you ride the elevator, the silence is uncomfortable, and you start some small talk: "Having a late dinner with your girlfriend tonight?" The intern quickly looks at his phone and replies with a smile: "Dinner should be at my friend's house in 28 minutes," he answers. "My girlfriend is staying at her parents this week to finish the paper for her online degree, so we decided it's better to Airbnb our place for the week." When the elevator door slides open, you keep wondering what the guy next to you just said.

Right there, at the parking lot in the pouring rain, you realize that you need to make your enterprise ready for the self-service generation. Not just for the young intern who grew up with technology, but for your customers who will also expect the services of your company to be available immediately and with the push of one button.

When you reach the main entrance, you see that it is raining cats and dogs. Your car is parked in one of the executive parking spaces only a few yards away, but you see that even the small distance will get your suit soaked. At the same moment, a small car pulls up at the entrance and the intern opens the door to the back seat. You suddenly realize that the guy already booked an Uber while he was closing his computer upstairs. There's no thunder as you run for your car, but you feel like you've been struck by lightning.

As the intern steps into the Uber, you ask one more question: "Do you still ever call anyone?"

The intern replies: "Just my parents; they are very traditional. Have a great night, boss!"

Right there, at the parking lot in the pouring rain, you realize that you need to make your enterprise ready for the self-service generation. Not just for the young intern who grew up with technology, but for your customers who will also expect the services of your company to be available immediately and with the push of one button.

From service management to IT service automation

The next morning you wake up energized. You order an Uber to take you to work, and whilst you are in the backseat of the car, you reflect on the situation with the intern from last night. Everywhere in the world, new service providers are popping out of the ground with "disruptive" business models. Spotify, Uber, Booking.com and Netflix are some of the main examples that everybody is talking about. They are able to attract massive groups of users and -- like the intern -- many people like to use these services, because they are instantly available with the click of one app or similar interface.

As you think about this a little more, you wonder what would happen if you could make the services in your organization available in a similar way with IT service automation. What if your employees could select their IT services by themselves and order them as easily as booking a rideshare service? Is provisioning a test server really so much different from booking a driver?

For years, you have worked really hard to achieve operational excellence of all global IT services. Your service catalogue is well-defined and you have consistently managed to reach the targets of your service level agreements (you became CIO for a reason…). You have a very effective and efficient Service Desk that delivers services all over the globe with high satisfaction levels. So, what is the difference between your organization's services and the services your intern likes to use?

Service model
In a traditional service model, the user interacts with the service provider at every step, from request and proposal through paying the invoice and sending feedback. In the automated service provider model, the self-service portal -- a technology layer -- automates many or all of the steps.

As your Uber drives into the parking lot of your office, and your driver swipes that he has completed his ride, you suddenly realize the difference: The services your organization offers are control-oriented and frequently include manual steps. The services Spotify, Uber, Booking.com and Netflix are offering are user-oriented and completely automated.

You pull out your phone and plan a new meeting for your executive team: 9 a.m., CIO Office: Service Automation Meeting. You decide to invite your intern as well.

This article is the first of a series of four about IT service automation. The next in the series is: "9 a.m., CIO Office: Service Automation Meeting."

Next Steps

What is 'digitally disruptive competition?'

The CIO quest for IT operational excellence

The bridge from legacy apps to new tech

This was last published in October 2017

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