ITIL Processes: Managing Incidents, Requests and Changes  

Cireson - ITIL Processes: Managing Incidents, Requests and Changes

This blog was updated from its original version, Life Beyond Incident Management, published on January 24, 2019.

Feeling good about implementing IT incident management in your organization? Rightfully so—it’s an accomplishment to have set up processes and tools that resolve nearly any type of issue, help you spot trends and better allocate resources. You’re also in a better position now to capture, analyze and report on metrics and KPIs.

Incidents, however, are just one aspect of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). When you take time to distinguish and address request and change management disciplines as well, you lay sound groundwork for effective IT service delivery and support.

ITIL Disciplines

ITIL provides structure and best practices so that you can execute, plan and prioritize for:

  • Incidents: requests to the service desk about things that went wrong or are broken.
  • Request: a need for something, like a new laptop or onboarding an employee.
  • Change Management: managing a system change, like a migration or upgrade. One change can affect other applications and systems, so you need a way to track how systems are connected and what the impact of various changes will be.

Why Service Request Fulfillment and Change Management are Important

It’s easy to focus on incidents, because there is urgency to fix what is broken, restore order / momentum and help end users get back to work.

But service requests should be differentiated and reflected in ITSM reporting. Your ability to manage time and resources may depend on it. For example, it could take one or two analysts to resolve an incident, depending on the escalation process. A service request, like new employee onboarding, could involve three or four analysts in different departments. Without clear processes for different scenarios, there could be unnecessary delays and disruption.

What could make service request fulfillment more efficient? Pre-defining steps and responsibilities in a service request, so that analysts have a standard, agreed-upon guideline to follow. Standardization speeds things up.

So do Service Level Agreements (SLAs), because they set expectations, goals and team commitment to delivery, whether or not they are formally documented. Highly recommended: cite the expected completion time of service requests versus incidents so that expectations are level set.

Change management is an entirely different kind of flying from incident management and service request fulfillment. Change Management controls changes to IT services through standardized procedures. The goal is to control risk and minimize disruption to associated IT services and business operations during and/or as a result of the change process.

IT organizations tend to implement change management when IT infrastructure has grown and is unable to be managed by a single team. Change management is important because it coordinates and centralizes information about changes affecting infrastructure. This way issues can be avoided or resolved before they cause damage to the business (damage that can be measured in real dollars.)

Best Practices for Service and Change Requests

Best practices for implementing and maintaining service requests and change management are mostly common sense. Here are a few of each to get you started:

Service Requests

  • Identify and catalog IT services. Gather data on IT services you provide to the company. If you use a ticketing system, export the data into Excel. First separate out incidents, then use the remaining data to determine a simple catalog structure that can expand as needed. For example:
    • Hardware Request
      • New Desktop
      • New Laptop
      • New Mobile Device
    • Software Request
      • Application Install
      • Application Upgrade
      • Application Uninstall
  • Identify and document processes to fulfill different types of service requests. This can be done in Excel or workflow style using Visio diagrams. Be sure to cite analyst teams that are responsible specific workflow segments. When everything is documented, it is also easier to build out the workflow process in an ITSM solution. Eventually you can automate segments of the workflow as well.
  • Present service requests to end users in a Self-Service Portal (SSP). SSPs are the most efficient method for requesting services. They help IT standardize request information by asking key questions. In the short term, this saves time as analysts don’t have to reach out to the requestor for more information. In the long term, the standardized information is easier to data mine for reporting, supporting trend analysis and resource budgeting. As your SSP matures, the standardized information it contains can even be used for automation, which infuses more efficiency and reduces error.
  • Keep track of services. Create and run reports that reveal frequency of each service request in your Service Catalog. This will help you determine which services are most in demand—and which may require more resources. You will also be able to identify requests that are dropping off in demand and may need to be retired. The use of an “other” request in your Service Catalog will allow you to capture requests for services that are not currently part of your Service Catalog but are requested frequently enough to warrant being added and formalized.

Change Requests

  • Identify and categorize requested changes for the infrastructure.
  • Identify common changes that are requested more than once or twice and templatize them to make it easier to fill out the request. Also document the workflow process required to fulfill the change.
  • Prioritize risk mitigation by focusing on risk assessment, implementation plans, test plans and backout plans as part of the change request process.
  • Identify change requests by impact, priority and risk and distinguish which change requests can be approved by direct management and which require approval by a Change Advisory Board (CAB). Be sure to involve business units in this process.
  • Provide visibility into change requests so identifying possible change-related issues quickly can speed up troubleshooting and resolution.
  • Begin service dependency mapping (listing all components of infrastructure required to provide a service such as servers, databases, LAN WAN resources, applications, etc.) once infrastructure has grown. This way, potential impact points can be identified more easily during the change review process.

How Can SCSM & Cireson Help?

Microsoft System Center Service Manager (SCSM) is an ITSM solution designed around ITIL and Microsoft Operation Framework (MOF) methodology. It is a powerful tool to aid in maximizing all the above information and recommendations in your IT organization. Cireson helps you maximize Microsoft investments and leverage SCSM to enable efficient, accessible and intuitive IT service management.

Here are a few examples of how SCSM and Cireson can help you with service request and change management:

  • SCSM provides a powerful and scalable CMDB to store work item and configuration item data, which is also extensible to your organization’s needs.
  • SCSM provides separate but integrate-able work item classes for incidents, service requests, change requests; release records and supporting activities for request approval and process workflow.
  • SCSM provides an extensible workflow engine to process service and change request workflows, automated event notifications, service level object calculations and process automation.
  • Cireson provides a customizable, mobile adaptive web portal interface so that analysts and end users can access SCSM anywhere at any time.
  • Cireson provides advanced request offering tools to allow you to create dynamic and efficient request offering forms for business users to request services.
  • Cireson provides visibility into change management with calendar-based views of change requests and other scheduled work items both in the console and in the Cireson Analyst Portal.
  • Cireson helps simplify change risk assessment with a risk calculator tool.
  • Cireson enables rich web-based reporting and dashboards for tracking service and change requests. Reports and dashboards are available out of the box along with a dashboard/report building tool to make creating your own rich reports easier.

Please reach out to the Cireson Community to find out how to get even greater value from incident, request and change management.

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