It’s another new year and potentially a new IT service management (ITSM) budget for many. But what ITSM trends should your IT organisation be focusing on? The quick answer is “those that will help improve what matters most to employees and business outcomes”. However, this isn’t really what you came to this blog to read about. So, to help, here are some of the top ITSM trends that might apply to your IT organisation in 2024 and my thoughts on some of them. But first, here’s some quick insight into the state of ITSM trends over the last few years.
ITSM trends before 2024
There are numerous “ITSM trends for <<insert the year>>” blogs and articles available on the internet. If you take the time to (skim) read them, you’ll see that most ITSM trends have been around for a good while. For example, I first spoke to ITSM tool vendors about Enterprise Service Management (ESM) in 2008. I started to present and write about it in 2013. I presented on value in 2011. I first wrote about employee experience (EX) in 2013. I participated in an artificial intelligence (AI)-focused ITSM conference panel in 2016 (although my first workplace encounter was in a 1999 research planning document). I’ve also written about how long ITSM trends take to move from “the next big thing” to mainstream IT service delivery and support activities.
So, it’s unsurprising when these annual statements of next year’s ITSM trends cover similar territory each year. For example, all of the following ITSM trends have featured in the top six of the ITSM.tools ITSM content needs poll for the last three years:
- “Advanced ITSM”
- Enterprise service management
- Employee experience
Even if you ask ChatGPT for the top six ITSM trends for 2024, it offers up three of these (AI, ESM, and EX), along with sustainability, agility, and shifting from ITSM frameworks to principles. Not that I trust what ChatGPT tells me about ITSM.
For me, we need to understand where these ITSM trends are in their respective “trend lifecycles”. Such that organisations know where they are relative to other organisations and what the next steps could be (providing there’s a business need).
I wouldn’t bother Googling “trend lifecycles”; it’s just a term I’ve fabricated to express my thinking. For now, it only seems to relate to the fashion industry and how fashion trends move through the following states: introduction, rise, peak, decline, and obsolescence.
The “Artificial Intelligence” Trend Lifecycle
Again, using the ITSM.tools trend data, AI was in second place for 2018, disappeared in 2019, was in second place for 2020 and 2021, dropped to sixth place in 2022, rose to fifth place in 2023, and then jumped to first place for 2024 (the poll is still open though). While the reason for this movement is unknown, I think it can be logically explained as follows:
- 2018 – people were interested in how AI would affect ITSM, and them as individuals, in generic terms; this could have been the initial concerns about AI being an ITSM “job killer”.
- 2019 – other ITSM trends were of more interest to people.
- 2020-2021 – people wanted to know how AI was going to be used in ITSM scenarios.
- 2022-2023 – there was still less interest; people knew “the art of the AI possible”, ITSM tools vendors were adding AI-enabled capabilities, but organisations were still only testing the AI waters.
- 2024 – the 2024 poll is still open, but AI is the clear frontrunner of the 25 options; likely a sign that organisations are now trying “to use AI in anger” and requiring assistance with this.
So, while AI has long been an ITSM trend, the “AI trend” that organisations should focus on in 2024 is moving from the planning, experimentation, and piloting stages to production implementation. This is borne out in Gartner’s research with AI moving into “the trough of disillusionment” to reflect 2024 as the year IT organisations struggle to implement it.
The “Enterprise Service Management” Trend Lifecycle
Enterprise Service Management has been an ITSM trend for even longer than AI, with it likely that people know enough about what it is and how it helps. They’ve also probably dabbled with the sharing of ITSM capabilities with other lines of business, especially on the back of the digital enablement needs brought about by the global pandemic.
So, what does the continued presence of Enterprise Service Management in the top ITSM trends mean? It could mean that there are still a lot of organisations that still need to take their first steps with Enterprise Service Management. Or it could mean that organisations want to do more than they originally did. Plus, of course, it could mean something else.
In my opinion, Enterprise Service Management is still a valid ITSM trend, but it needs to be more than simply sharing ITSM capabilities with one or two lines of business. Instead, the “Enterprise Service Management trend” that organisations should be focusing on is one or both of the following:
- Truly making Enterprise Service Management a corporate capability (although it might be sensible to rename it to something like “digital enablement”).
- Factoring many of the other ITSM trends – including AI, EX, and value – into the Enterprise Service Management approach to ensure that the improvements made to ITSM capabilities are easily extended to other lines of business.
The “Value” Trend Lifecycle
Unlike AI and ESM, value is still a relatively young ITSM trend. IT organisations have spent three decades immune from the need to demonstrate value, and now it’s hard to articulate the value of the IT Service Desk, for example. However, the combination of business pressures and the change in focus of ITIL 4 to “value co-creation” has made “value” one of the most talked about areas in ITSM.
It might sound straightforward, but it isn’t easy to understand what this means to ITSM teams. If it was, everyone would already be able to communicate how their IT service delivery and support capabilities add value to business operations and outcomes.
The fact that “demonstrating value” is challenging might keep it (untouched) on IT to-do lists. However, there are various ways in which IT organisations can start to become more value-focused. For example:
- Mapping their IT services to business operations and outcomes (which also helps to identify the most critical IT services and those that could be cut back or even ceased).
- Reviewing existing ITSM metrics through a value lens. While these metrics are regularly reported to business stakeholders, they are likely showing operational performance, including efficiency, rather than demonstrating value.
- Using experience-focused metrics and targets to help. Because these are less insular and can be used to show how IT improvements have lifted employee productivity and business operations and outcomes as a result.
It would be great to have more guidance on how IT organisations can focus on, measure, and improve their business value. However, as with anything new, it will take increased customer demand to drive the related investments.
Benefitting from “ITSM trends in 2024” lists
Simply looking at a list of ITSM trends that haven’t changed over the last three years likely isn’t going to help your organisation much. Instead, there’s a need to understand not only whether each of the commonly-touted trends is relevant to your organisation (it might not be) but also where your organisation is on the trend lifecycle. Only by doing this can you ensure the trend relevance maps to related improvement actions.
Sadly, I’ve never seen a set of ITSM trend lifecycles plotting how the trends start to permeate the ITSM industry and how organisations start to adopt and progress with them. Surely this insight would be much better than seeing the same old ITSM trends appearing in annual ITSM trend lists?