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Enterprise Service Management: A New Solution for Transforming Knowledge Work and Modernizing Business Operations

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More companies than ever are undertaking digital transformation initiatives, or progressing further in their journey. While digital transformation is as much about people and practices as it is about technology and tools, technology plays a pivotal and foundational role. A survey from MuleSoft in collaboration with Deloitte Digital found that the average enterprise has 900 applications, but fewer than 30% of them are integrated. This lack of integration stymies productivity, limits the ability to identify data-driven insights that drive innovation and value, and creates friction in customer and employee experiences. For any enterprise undertaking a digital transformation journey, it is imperative to create a universal system of work, in which as much work as possible takes place in a single, integrated platform. And for any work that does not, information must still flow seamlessly between the main platform and external tools

As digital transformation initiatives mature, they are moving into the enterprise at large. Public- and private-sector industries as wide-ranging as healthcare, consumer goods, transportation, finance, and education are all embracing transformation. Initiatives are moving beyond IT departments, originating in often-underserved areas of the enterprise, including accounting, facilities, human resources, legal, marketing, and other business operations teams. These teams also stand to benefit from a universal system of connected work that improves the flow of work, increases predictability and the ability to measure work, decreases time to completion, simplifies scaling, and improves customer and employee experiences.

As part of their overarching digital transformation efforts, savvy organizations have begun leveraging IT service management (ITSM) expertise, as well as technology platforms, in other areas of their business that take in requests, serve internal and/or external customers, and manage repeatable workflows. This concept is called enterprise service management (ESM), which, simply put, means extending the value of IT across the enterprise by bringing ITSM practices and integrated technology platforms to every department in an organization.enterprise service management

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ESM: Solving Critical Issues for Underserved Areas of the Business

There are two critical issues that ESM solves for enterprises that we will explore in this whitepaper: the first is improving knowledge management, a necessity for innovation, and the second is modernizing business operations, which is necessary to improve both customer and employee experiences, gain efficiencies, and gather insights to inform decision-making.

These two challenges are tightly interwoven: knowledge is essential to innovation, but disruptive events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation mean enterprises are losing workers, who are taking their knowledge with them. Modernizing business operations results in a better employee experience, making it easier to retain knowledge workers, while also providing the infrastructure to capture and retain knowledge within the organization, should those workers leave anyway.

The shift toward enterprise service management was underway before COVID-19, due to demand for better customer experiences, the desire for companies to work more efficiently, and the need to be able to respond quickly to business changes, but the pandemic certainly accelerated it. Those organizations that were further along the digital transformation path, and had already begun embracing ESM, were better positioned to transition to a distributed workforce model and ride out the disruption. Those that were in earlier stages of transformation, or hadn’t even begun, were more likely to struggle and are now trying to catch up.

In the space of just a few short years, ESM has moved from an emerging market to a mainstream practice. A Forrester survey of 45 ESM customers showed that 78% were already using IT tools for non-IT purposes. The use cases for ESM have also grown. Today, it’s not just human resources teams that are embracing ITSM practices and technology, but accounting, facilities, legal, marketing, payroll—virtually any area of the business that takes in requests, serves internal or external customers, or needs to connect with partners and/or vendors.

For example, accounting teams can use ITSM practices and technology like a service desk portal for submission of invoices from external vendors, facilities teams can use them for remote employees to request office supplies and have them shipped directly to their homes, and HR teams can also use them for onboarding and offboarding employees. Legal teams can use them for managing requests to review contracts and other legal documents, marketing and creative services teams can use them for submission of requests for campaigns, collateral, and ads, and payroll teams can use them for submission of hours for remote employees.

Extending service desk practices and platforms to areas outside of IT makes good sense from both financial and logistical standpoints as well, particularly since investing in a new platform or tools can be costly and time-consuming. By leveraging technology that is already in place, enterprises can realize significant savings, reduce the time it would take to stand up a new system, and minimize the burden on IT to integrate and support those systems over time. In addition, it makes it easier for cross-functional teams to collaborate on shared work, and supports the need to account for and report on that work.

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Knowledge Management in the Age of Disruption

In his 1959 book, Landmarks of Tomorrow, Peter Drucker introduced the term “knowledge workers” to describe “high-level workers who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge, acquired through formal training, to develop products and services.” In the early 2000s, Drucker would add that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was the most important contribution management would need to make in the 21st century.

In the intervening years, knowledge work has continued to mature, and today, knowledge is unquestionably recognized as the underpinning of how enterprises innovate, drive customer value, and thrive in uncertain, even disruptive, times. Yet, in a recent Forrester report entitled “Knowledge Management Needs a Capacity Building Approach”, participants were asked to identify the primary challenges their organizations face in executing their digital transformation goals. Knowledge-related barriers were among the top responses: 30% of respondents identified a lack of technology-related skills or knowledge, and 21% identified a lack of non-technology-related skills or knowledge.

To close this knowledge gap, enterprises must both understand the causes behind it, recognize the long-term nature of the problem—ongoing disruption is a certainty—and put practices and technology in place to bridge the knowledge gap.

Global Trends Driving Disruption

There are several disruptive global trends in play that are driving the knowledge gap and reinforcing that lack of critical technical and non-technical knowledge, thereby inhibiting innovation. Most obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted how, when, and where we do work. While many organizations had begun embracing the distributed workforce model before the pandemic, overnight it became a necessity for millions of workers across the globe. Knowledge-sharing moved from in-office conversations to digital, and for many, the geographic distance between work and home grew greater as people migrated away from cities in search of space. Both the demands of daily life in the pandemic as well as differences in time zones meant more work was being done asynchronously. All this means knowledge and information must now be available on demand—when and where workers need it.

Additionally, the pandemic drove a workforce shortage, with workers nearing retirement ending their careers earlier, and families opting for one parent to leave the workforce for childcare and remote education purposes. Enterprises suffered deep losses as these experienced workers took their institutional knowledge and role-specific skills with them. While the workforce has rebounded and unemployment is currently low, competition for human capital remains fierce. As part of the Great Resignation, disenfranchised workers are departing for both more competitive salaries and better employee experiences, again taking their knowledge with them. This has created a need for systems and technology platforms to capture and codify knowledge and information so that it can be retained within the organization and accessed on demand.

Another relevant outcome of the Great Resignation is an increased focus on employee experience. To retain employees, enterprises now recognize that employees expect the same seamless digital experiences at work that they have in everyday life. Lack of timely access to the information knowledge workers need to do their jobs limits their ability to work autonomously and on their own timeline. This then decreases productivity and slows down internal processes, and ultimately, results in a poor employee experience. Equally important, and perhaps more so, lack of access to information creates a disconnect between work being done and business outcomes, which stymies innovation and customer satisfaction, and negatively impacts the bottom line.

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How an Integrated ESM/ITSM Platform Transforms Knowledge Work and Modernizes Business Operations

How, then, can an ESM/ITSM technology platform meet these challenges? How can business teams capture and retain critical institutional and domain-focused knowledge, support asynchronous and autonomous work, improve employee experiences, and gain the transparency and efficiencies that are hallmarks of modern business operations? To answer these questions, we’ll look at some of the high-level business operations and knowledge management practices that are common across both IT teams and business teams, as well as their related challenges. Then, we’ll explore the solution-native functionality built into ESM/ITSM technology.

The Challenge: Meeting the Needs of Enterprise-Wide Business Operations and Knowledge Management Practices

Ο Initiating Work

In any given organization, virtually every division, department, and team takes in requests or initiates work in some way. If this is done in email or Slack, as is often the case, the email may go to the wrong person or the request may get lost in the shuffle. The request may be incomplete—critical details about what is needed or when it is needed may be missing—setting off a chain of back-and-forth communications, resulting in confusion and delays.

The need here is for a portal where people can submit requests of different types, and all relevant information can be captured up front.

Ο Collaboratively Executing Work

Once work is initiated, it may take place in a domain-focused point solution that is disparate from other systems. If people from cross-functional teams or people outside the company need to collaborate, they may not have access. Perhaps the workflows are rigid and do not best serve the team or customers, or address all the required steps, so parts of the work take place outside of the point solution or in other systems. Alternatively, perhaps work is executed via email or in offline documents, in which case processes may be inconsistent or completely lacking.

The need here is for a comprehensive and connected system, in which people across the company and even outside of it can collaborate in real time or asynchronously.

Ο Keeping People Updated and Informed

Throughout the lifecycle of the project, stakeholders will need to be updated on how it is progressing, and may even be asked to contribute, but they may not need to be updated on everything and may not need access to all information about the project. Status updates or collecting feedback via in-person meetings or emails are time-consuming and inefficient.

The need here is for the ability to automatically send and receive quick status updates or alerts, and for stakeholders to be able to log in when time permits, view dashboards, and explore issues in depth as needed.

Ο Capturing and Sharing Knowledge and Information

Again, each division, department, and team has institutional and domain knowledge, answers to both common and unusual questions, and insight into practices and processes. The challenge is that information typically lives in multiple places: disparate project management and domain-focused point solutions, file folder systems full of Word, Excel, and other documents (with endless versions!), and even in the minds of team members.

The need is for a knowledge base where institutional and domain-specific knowledge and processes can be documented, easily updated, and accessed by the entire team as needed. There is also a need for a wiki, where instead of submitting tickets to a portal, people can get help for common issues and answers to common questions with self-help documents and guides.

Ο Reporting and Metrics

Disparate point solutions that are not integrated, with data captured manually in spreadsheets, or not captured at all, make it harder for departments and teams to work effectively. They have difficulty getting a full understanding of what they are doing, how well they’re doing it to establish and track metrics, and reporting to upper management on roadblocks, progress, and success.

Top-level metrics might be both qualitative and quantitative, and include overall volume of work, types of requests, time to completion, and customer satisfaction. Departments can then use these metrics to identify common issues and resolve them before they occur, refine practices and processes, and even demonstrate the need for additional resources.

The need here is for a platform of integrated tools that offers a comprehensive suite of reporting capabilities so teams can easily establish metrics, get real-time insights into work in progress, and provide the right type of reporting to key stakeholders.

Ο Improving Scalability and Extensibility

Another challenge with disparate systems is integrating them so that they “talk” to one another and share information, and scaling them as enterprises inevitably grow. Building and maintaining integrations is complex and time-consuming work that places a significant burden on IT teams. Extending those individual systems, and continuing to integrate new systems as enterprises grow or add new business units through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), is even more work.

The need here is for a platform of core tools that are already integrated—a system that is designed to be extensible, with purpose-built integrations with key third-party systems, or a robust set of add-on applications. It should be straightforward to add new divisions, departments, and users as the company grows organically or through M&A.

The Solution: An Integrated Technology Platform for an End-to-End Digital Experience

Enterprise service management requires more than disparate point solutions or tools—it requires a single, integrated digital platform that serves the entire digital pipeline connecting IT, development, operations, and business teams, and even external consultants and vendors where necessary. For many organizations, an appropriate platform may already be in use by their IT, development, and/or operations teams, so it’s simply a matter of extending it to business operations.

As we mentioned earlier in this paper, there are significant advantages to leveraging the existing platform of record: it requires less of an upfront financial investment, the various tools within the platform will already be integrated, and these platforms are often designed to be integrated with other common, domain-specific point solutions. All this means there is less of a lift for IT teams to extend them to business operations teams and maintain them.

From ESM to ITSM with the Atlassian Platform

Since a large part of our consulting practice at Isos Technology is built around implementing and optimizing Atlassian tools, including using them to support enterprise agile transformation initiatives, we will speak specifically to the Atlassian platform in demonstrating how business teams can benefit from ESM/ITSM tools. The Atlassian platform is already in use in tens of thousands of IT, development, and operations teams, and is experiencing rapid adoption by business teams. A distinguishing factor of the Atlassian platform is its ability to connect the total value stream, including both the platform’s tools, and ancillary tools, and serve as a universal system of connected work. Further, its feature-rich system is capable of handling almost any use case, whether for accounting, facilities, human resources, legal, marketing, or any other business operations team.

While the Atlassian platform consists of well over a dozen solutions, and its native functionality, Marketplace apps, and integration partners continue to grow rapidly, we will primarily focus on these core products: Jira Service Management (JSM), Jira Software, Jira Work Management, and Confluence.

Following are some of the primary ways the Atlassian platform can bridge the knowledge gap and modernize business operations for teams throughout the enterprise.

Ο A Single Source of Truth Where Project Work Can Be Codified and Executed

The Atlassian platform is designed to serve as a single source of truth that connects internal and external stakeholders and enables them to collaborate and conduct work efficiently and effectively. Moving work out of emails, spreadsheets, and disparate point solutions, and into a holistic platform, means that each team can develop and codify processes, document information, execute work, and provide visibility into what they are doing to any stakeholders who need it. That information is retained in the system, so if disruption occurs, employees leave the company, or new employees join it, information continues to be accessible when and where it is needed.

This single source of truth leads to visibility, accessibility, minimization of errors, reduction of missed work, relevant notifications, and automation of work in concert, which reduces friction, supports autonomy, and speeds time to successful completion. Ultimately, this results in a better experience for both knowledge workers and customers.

Ο A Unified Portal for Project Intake

With Atlassian Jira Service Management, enterprises can set up a single, unified portal where both internal employees and external vendors and partners can go to access a catalog of requests. On the back end, each business team can leverage pre-built templates for project intake or easily build their own, ensuring that all the relevant information for each request is captured up front. This streamlines the experience for both the requestors and the teams receiving the request, saving countless hours of back-and-forth communication, speeding time to resolution, and ensuring nothing gets overlooked. It’s a better experience all around and gives teams time back that they can spend focused on higher-level work.

Ο Flexible Workflows

The Atlassian platform is incredibly flexible, so business teams are empowered to own their own processes and work in ways that best suit their needs. The tools don’t dictate the process—instead, departments and teams can self-determine how best to get work done. Although tools like Jira Service Management, Jira Software, and Jira Work Management come with hundreds of pre-built templates designed specifically for business team project intake and workflow use cases, teams can leverage them, refine them, or build their own from scratch with easy low-code/no-code tools.

Ο A Knowledge Base for Documentation and Sharing Information

Atlassian Confluence is the knowledge base tool within the Atlassian platform, and it’s a key way that enterprises can bridge the knowledge gap. With Confluence, business operations teams can document processes, information, and knowledge, and manage versions so knowledge workers are always accessing the latest information. Confluence supports functionality that allows all necessary stakeholders to view and update information. That information can be accessed via a link, eliminating the need to go digging through emails for attachments or sorting through file trees for the right document.

Ο Self-Service Capabilities

Confluence can also be used to enable self-service. Business operations teams that serve internal and external customers can document frequently asked questions and answers within Confluence. And because Confluence is fully integrated with Jira Service Management, when users come to the portal with questions, they can search for answers and resolve issues on their own, without having to submit a ticket. This speeds time to resolution, reduces friction, and creates a better customer experience—all while freeing up the business operations team to focus on higher-level work.

Ο Reporting and Metrics

Key components of the Atlassian platform—Jira Service Management, Jira Software, Jira Work Management, and Confluence—as well as many other tools within the ecosystem, all offer robust dashboard, reporting, and metrics capabilities. With these tools, not only can business operations teams get their work done more efficiently and capture and retain critical knowledge, but they can also measure it, and with those measurements, they are better positioned for continuous improvement. The tools are flexible enough that both management and teams can determine what metrics they need to capture and track, and develop customized dashboards and reports that support their continuous improvement efforts.

This also introduces a new opportunity that business teams may not have had before, especially if they were previously relying on email—the ability to account for where their time and energy are being spent, and use that data to advocate for an increase in headcount or even a restructuring to minimize work that doesn’t add value.

Ο Scalability and Extensibility

The scalability and extensibility of the Atlassian platform goes well beyond the pre-built project intake, workflow, and reporting templates made specifically for business teams. The individual solutions that comprise the Atlassian platform are designed to be used together, so the burden on IT to build and maintain integrations is significantly reduced. In addition, the Atlassian platform integrates with many common third-party enterprise solutions, as well as hundreds of Atlassian Marketplace apps to amplify functionality for specific use cases.

The platform is also designed to be used at enterprise scale, supporting tens of thousands of users, and hundreds of teams. It offers robust and straightforward functionality for adding, deleting, and managing users and teams, access and asset management, and supporting security.


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How Isos Technology Can Help

As a premier Atlassian Platinum and Enterprise Solution Partner, we’re experts in business processes, software development, change management, and more. We’ve tackled some of the toughest problems companies face across DevOps, Agile, ITSM, and Cloud, and helped hundreds of organizations in both the private and public sector get the most value out of their technology investment. No matter where your organization is in its digital transformation journey, we have the expertise and services to get you where you want to go, with the least amount of disruption to your business.

Enterprise Service Management

Interested in learning more about how the Atlassian platform can supercharge your enterprise service management initiatives?

Read our companion whitepaper, The Definitive Guide to Transitioning from ITSM to ESM, which covers tactical applications for key Atlassian tools, business operations use cases, and tips for getting started.

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