Human-centered ITSM — a flexible backbone for agile digitization among regional BFSI entities

An opinion piece by Mark Ackerman, Area VP Middle East & Africa, ServiceNow

It is no secret that COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation; already a hot talking point across the Middle East, it became essential to business continuity overnight. The region’s banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) sector had already experimented with digital platforms to appease a growing contingent of digital natives among its prospective customer-base; Mashreq Neo being a prime example. But when lockdowns sequestered those prospects in their homes and made branch visits ever more unlikely, an emerging new reality was finally set in stone.

As quickly as COVID had struck, banks and other institutions were forced to act. They needed to revisit the customer experience and empower employees as never before. An efficient way to do so was to invest in ITSM (IT service management), which streamlined workflow through assembly and orchestration of people, business processes and technology tools, to add optimal value.

In fact, according to a recent ServiceNow and Forrester survey, some 82% of respondents said they intended to increase their investment in ITSM this year, with 72% specifically citing machine automation as a necessary capability. And of those using ITSM platforms, 93% said the technology had helped address the challenges inherent in change management workflow.

Beyond improving the employee experience by fine-tuning the management and delivery of change requests and incident resolution, ITSM is a way to speed up the development lifecycle for new customer experiences.

Always-on service

Regional BFSI companies are jockeying for customer attention. Their digital presence — the offering of any-channel, any-location, any-time engagement for millennials and their ilk — is one of the few remaining differentiators in the market. This digital offering extends to employees, as financial entities seek to attract and retain the best talent. In the right environment — one where IT teams concentrate on more creative endeavors, free of the daily grind of housekeeping chores — such a digital ideal can be more easily attained.

Comprehensive ITSM suites provide such flexibility, tightening the delivery standards — reliability, availability, security, compliance, latency, and others — of inhouse IT. Therefore, banks can be assured their core obligations are met, while the schedules of CIOs and their teams are cleared, allowing them to brainstorm their way towards that all-important digital feature — one that will excite customers, reduce acquisition costs, and increase retention ratios.

While shaping the new ITSM environment, however, stakeholders should remember that times have changed, and the goal should be the enhancement of human experiences. After all, the reason ITSM looked so attractive in the first place was its ability to empower BFSI corporations to put people — employees and customers — at the heart of their digital strategies. So, it only makes sense that decision-makers should implement human-centered ITSM.

People first

Consulting line of business about digital transformation amounts to finding technology solutions that fit an established use case. This is a departure from projects of old where flashy new tools were foisted upon a non-technical workforce that had not asked for them and barely understood them.

In the BFSI sector, for example, many advanced tools for financial projection, anti-money-laundering and automated investment advice exist. But if these technologies are adopted without due regard for who will use them and how, failure is a short step away. The people who deliver daily business operations for a bank or insurance broker are best placed to understand operational needs. While IT may initiate digital transformation projects, it is line of business that should suggest the use case along with the value proposition, in such terms as: “If we had a solution that did X, we could save Y per year.”

Creativity and productivity

That is why IT decision makers are drawn to the automation capabilities of ITSM in the large numbers we saw earlier. Humdrum tasks are error-prone by their nature and carry a morale premium that can be detrimental to productivity. ITSM removes operational friction and leads to more creative output, adding the capability to collaborate without time- or geography-related restrictions.

Such an environment is the ideal backdrop for change management, with people rather than technology being at the heart of each process and technology being a facilitator rather than a driver of change. With such a foundation in place, change comes quicker, and for regional BFSI entities, it cannot come quickly enough. All of this comes from a simple realization that technology does not bring change, people do. Technology is a powerful tool. It can reduce workloads on people. It can reduce risk to people. It can bring insights… to people.

ITSM can be a pivotal tool for successful digital transformation, but the processes behind it must be flexible enough to capture enterprise-wide operations and provide the services that will bring real value. Processes need to be connected, simple, and facilitate productive, flexible work that is auditable and complies with the relevant regulatory frameworks.

ITSM enables a bank’s technology function to provide incredible experiences from the back office to the marketplace. If handled correctly, with broad buy-in and transparency along delivery lifecycles, it can be the principal enabler of a modern, employee-empowering, customer-pleasing, digital business.