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How human-centered design yields better ITSM experiences

By Paul Hong

Today’s employees and customers expect modern, frictionless IT service management (ITSM) experiences that incorporate digital workflows. But how do enterprise IT leaders deliver on this expectation? The answer is simple: human-centered IT service management.

Human-centered ITSM means incorporating human-centered design to simplify IT technology and make it easy for people to use. It’s not a completely new concept, but it’s more critical today than ever. Here’s why.

Creating enterprise IT workflows

Enterprise technology buying decisions are no longer made in isolation by high-level folks who won’t be day-to-day users of those products. Positive reception and adoption of any enterprise tool and workflow by the direct users are now critical.

The consumer technology space is a great model. Companies have to compete on user experience as a key factor—particularly the emotional and human element. Take mobile phones, for example. Phone makers have to constantly innovate and compete to retain their customers because, at any given time, those customers can switch to another phone maker.

Apple product launches focus on the human element of all the cool things Apple is releasing. The value proposition isn’t pure technical innovation; it’s technical innovation delivered as compelling human experiences.

Similarly, the market is changing for enterprise software companies. Cost and business disruption, while certainly not trivial, are continually lessening as barriers to change. Startups proliferate, always touting their user experience as a key differentiator. Enterprise companies know they need to compete on user experience. That’s why at ServiceNow, we’re always driving to up our game.

The human-centered ITSM imperative

One, perhaps underappreciated, reason why human-centered ITSM is important is retention, plain and simple. People are the most vital asset for any company. They’re your greatest business advantage.

If you consider demographics and the workforce today, your employees are used to high-quality experiences in their personal lives, from iPhones to Amazon to Netflix. When they’re forced to use systems and processes at work that feel like the worst, clunky accounting software from before the 2000s, they’ll leave at the first opportunity. You don’t retain the best people when they’re fed up with the systems they have to work with every day.

Getting started with human-centered ITSM

There’s a fairly straightforward starting point to put people at the center of your ITSM initiatives. Without bias or defensiveness, ask the people who are really using your systems how those systems are working for them—but don’t ask as their boss, because they'll say the experience is great for fear of offending you or hurting someone’s feelings. Find a way to get honest feedback, such as through an anonymous survey.

Then, do ride-alongs to observe key people actually using a system or product. Shadow them and watch a day in their lives. You’ll directly witness all the ways systems aren’t meeting their needs, even if they no longer see it themselves.

There are also lots of books that provide good guidance around human-centered design and usability. Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug offers some great ways to assess how easy your system is to understand and use.

This exercise isn’t just for user experience professionals, by the way. A lot of IT folks don't know they're already doing human-centered design, but they are. An IT manager who thinks about fixing a process that doesn’t work for people because it doesn’t deliver the information they need in the way they need it, well, that’s human-centered design. The manager is putting humans first and making sure everything works for them.

The next evolution: Human-scale design

We think a lot about human-scale design. It’s where we look at how to simplify amazing but complicated technology that may have been science fiction 30 years ago. There’s immense complexity and scale to modern systems that are often beyond human ability to directly comprehend.

So, how do we scale these systems to the human level? How do we abstract, distill, and harness their power so people can know exactly what’s going on and provide ways for them to direct and use that power?

One way is through artificial intelligence (AI). For example, ServiceNow ITSM Professional has an amazing new feature called Predictive Intelligence Workbench that uses AI to successfully deflect service tickets. We focus on showing the outcomes and how to tailor the outcomes rather than all the technical details of the AI itself.

We also consider the ethics of AI. There are issues of privacy, consent, bias, and empowerment. AI is not meant to replace people. We find ways for it to empower and elevate people.

Human-centered ITSM is all about people. That’s why we’re always thinking, “How do we automate the mundane to free people to do the more meaningful, higher-value stuff?”

Learn more about human-centered ITSM in our ebook, “The human experience of IT service management.”

You can also register for our April 7, 2021, ServiceNow webinar about human-centered IT service management.

© 2021 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names, and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.

Tags: customer experience, automation, ServiceNow, ServiceNow Cloud Platform, ITSM, Workflow