Shift left: empowerment as-a-service

Editor’s note: This is the first entry in a two part series on shift left strategies — stay tuned for more on how AI-driven automation accelerates shift left strategies in the coming weeks.

Having been a long distance runner, I’ve participated in many races over the years. What I’ve found is that more than anything else, (i.e., individual training, diet, rest, etc.), it’s having a great team at your side that ultimately gets you across the finish line.

Similarly, IT service management (ITSM) should be thought of as a team sport.

While the service desk has long been the entry point into IT, valuable knowledge and resources associated with IT processes and procedures are commonly confined within different IT groups inside and outside of the service desk. Without proper access to the resources it needs, the service desk often fails to reach the finish line when it comes to delivering prompt services.  

A siloed approach to IT service management has always had disadvantages in terms of delivering SLAs that match the demands of end users, etc. However, in today’s always on/always connected workplace, it is dramatically increasing complexity and cost as well as furthering the gap between IT service delivery timeframes and business user expectations.

Through a strategy called shift left, IT can pass on knowledge, insights and resources to accelerate the service delivery lifecycle and fully automate processes when appropriate. Shift left empowers each level of IT staff to perform higher-value tasks while reducing support costs and delivering business users with optimized service experiences.

What is “Shift Left”?

At a high level, shift left is about shortening the delivery lifecycle of IT services. The concept can be applied to a wide-range of IT disciplines. However, shift left has traditionally been associated with application development, testing, and integration.

In the context of IT service management (ITSM), the primary objective of shift left is to bring IT services closer to employees via lower touch, lower cost delivery channels. What’s more, shift left accelerates the dissemination of  organizational and tribal knowledge. This enables improved process continuity, operational cost savings, and productivity benefits for business users and IT staff.

According to a recent HDI study it costs about $12,000 on average to replace a single service desk FTE in North America (NA), when including the training and learning curve costs once the agent starts working on the desk. The study also found that the cost per service desk ticket went as high $49.69. Industry averages place the cost per ticket for Level 3 and 4 support staff in North America in the range of $80- $100+.

Shift left allows IT organizations to empower level 1 staff with procedural information and automation capabilities to handle a wide variety of level 2 tasks. Similarly, provided with the right knowledge, a subset of level 3 activities can be moved to level 2. Going a step further, by introducing self-service, many level 1 support tasks can be accomplished by the users themselves which is commonly referred to as level 0.

Each shift left provides significant benefits to IT departments in terms of shortening the service delivery lifecycle, improving operational performance, and reducing cost per ticket. And, equally, if not more importantly, shift left can dramatically improve end user satisfaction and service quality.

What ITSM processes can be shifted left?

Problem, incident and change management processes should all be considered when designing a shift left strategy. Many organizations start with automating level 1-2 incidents. Shifting these tasks to level 0 replaces manual/repetitive processes, such as having employees fill out forms and send emails, with more collaborative service experiences that incorporate live chat, remote access, and other advanced self-service capabilities.

As IT organizations gain confidence in their shift left strategies, they often discover opportunities to further align shift left with more customer use cases ( i.e. employee onboarding) involving application configurations and provisioning new devices and software, etc. Shifting to level 0 is ideal for cost reduction, content re-use, and 24×7 IT service availability.

Common shift left tasks include:

  • Resetting passwords
  • Requesting system access
  • Configuring applications
  • Scheduling service calls
  • Assigning tickets
  • Reporting service outages

Shift left can also be applied to tasks ranging from onboarding and offboarding employees, rebooting servers/firewalls, troubleshooting network issues, and provisioning and deprovisioning cloud resources. In some cases, these tasks can be fully automated – end to end – whereas in others IT users must intervene.  

There’s a saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” When it comes to long distance running and empowering employees, if you want to go fast and far, go together! 

Stay tuned for part two of this post about the impact of AI-driven automation on shift left strategies.

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