IT service management teams in state and local government agencies are experiencing increased demands in rapidly changing environments that are growing more complex. Without additional resources, job satisfaction and employee retention decline. At the same time, budget pressures and constrained resources can negatively impact service quality and an agency’s ability to deliver timely constituent services. MeriTalk recently sat down with Andrew Graf, chief product officer at TeamDynamix, to discuss the trends that have the greatest potential to overcome these IT service management challenges in 2024.

MeriTalk: The Center for Digital Government recently released the 2024 Outlook for Trends in IT Service Management (ITSM) report, which is based on a survey of state and local government IT professionals commissioned by TeamDynamix. What are some of the key takeaways from the survey?

Graf: The survey uncovered that while IT environments have become more complex due to factors like the proliferation of applications and more reliance on the cloud, there hasn’t been a commensurate increase in IT resources to manage and support those environments. IT service management teams are being asked to do more with less, and that just isn’t sustainable. Because budget increases to add more staffing resources are unlikely, IT leaders need to find other ways to manage their increasingly complex environments in order to retain their IT talent and offer a good customer service experience.

MeriTalk: Lack of automation was reported as a significant service management challenge. What are some common repetitive, manual tasks that can be automated? What barriers do IT teams face when pushing to automate these tasks?

Graf: Think about the things that you ask for from your IT service desk – things that you feel shouldn’t take too much time or things you can’t wait on. These include things like password resets, granting access to new software, and adding someone to a message group. These are simple, mundane tasks that IT staff perform every day. While they are doing those tasks, they aren’t able to perform other high-priority work. Those simple tasks are the low-hanging fruits for automation. This is where no-code becomes so critical. If you are living with an overly complex platform that requires development resources to create automation, you will find it harder and harder to keep up with the pace of change.

A great opportunity for automation is onboarding and offboarding employees, which usually involves a lot of different activities and departments. TeamDynamix found that on average, IT teams spend 35 hours to onboard a new employee without automation. Offboarding employees is arguably more important because it involves security risk, and it also takes a significant chunk of time. While agencies can’t automate all onboarding and offboarding tasks, automation could help reduce those 35 hours down to a handful of hours. That’s a big deal, especially with increased complexity and demand coupled with a stagnant resource pool. Automation is impactful.

As for barriers to automation, the word itself has a negative perception, as people may feel that automation will take their jobs. Agency leaders should work to change that perception because automation can improve service desk jobs. It removes mundane tasks from analysts’ day-to-day activities, allowing them to spend time performing high-priority tasks, work through requests that require person-to-person interaction, or find solutions to complex problems. All of those activities make jobs more interesting and improve job satisfaction, which helps with retention.

MeriTalk: Survey respondents indicated that staffing and budget constraints are their greatest ITSM challenges. How does TeamDynamix educate government IT teams and stakeholders about modern ITSM processes that can positively impact IT budgets and help relieve staffing constraints?

Graf: We work with so many government agencies that we get to see what works well, what doesn’t work well, and we can see how these organizations operate. We typically take a phased approach. In phase one, we help organizations identify the biggest pain points. We uncover what will generate the most momentum. We then help them implement the minimum amount of process and the right tools to fix those key pain points. Then, once everyone sees the benefits and improvements, we move to phase two and create a long-term roadmap. We ensure that we incorporate tools and processes in phase one that can mature through all phases to help agencies with budget constraints.

MeriTalk: Based on those survey takeaways and what you’re seeing among state and local government agencies, what are the biggest opportunities for these organizations as they work to modernize IT services?

Graf: One opportunity is to improve self-service, which can move more requests from tier 1 support, where an agent needs to get involved, to tier 0, which requires no human intervention. Citizens and agency employees can self-serve tier 0 requests. Knowledge bases, automation, and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) have contributed to the modernization and efficacy of self-service portals to increase opportunities for tier 0 support.

Another opportunity is IT service triage, which is similar to triage in emergency medicine. When service desk tickets are submitted, agents need to quickly assess the situation to determine the best course of action. There is a huge opportunity to use AI to triage service tickets. The technology can determine how to categorize tickets and assign a workflow, increasing service levels and saving time.

MeriTalk: Seventy-six percent of IT leaders in another recent survey reported regular customer frustration with chatbots. What’s the solution for state and local governments that have implemented automation with chatbots but aren’t satisfied with the results?

Graf: A year ago, chatbots weren’t necessarily that smart. They could answer a series of questions, but beyond that, they couldn’t do much. They mostly served as a search engine. The newer conversational AI platforms have far more capabilities and they’ve gotten a lot better at following conversations. If agencies are interested in implementing chatbots, they should use newer technologies that incorporate the latest conversational AI tools because the technology has changed so much in the last year.

MeriTalk: Only 38 percent of the survey respondents have or are in the process of adopting the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL framework) for IT service delivery. The framework has been around since the 1980s. How does it work, and why haven’t more state and local governments adopted it?

Graf: ITIL provides a standard set of terminology and processes for common types of requests to empower an organization’s employees to speak the same language about service. I think it is a great tool, but it is underutilized. People assume that it is rigid, but it really isn’t. It’s also not necessary to implement it all at once. Organizations can start by selecting the resources or processes that are going to be most beneficial to them from a service perspective and use them in appropriate situations. They can then expand library resources as needed over time.

MeriTalk: ITSM platforms often form the foundation for organizations’ service management processes, and many are seeking no-code platforms that allow for faster, more flexible deployment. How are low-code/no-code platforms impacting IT teams and other departments that provide citizen or employee services?

Graf: Everything we’ve talked about today from a pain perspective goes into this question. IT service environments are becoming increasingly complex and resource-constrained. No-code ITSM platforms are a gift because they don’t rely on developers to manage the platform. And the management of the platform can be distributed across a broader pool of resources, enabling departments, such as human resources or marketing, to manage their own applications.

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