System overload: do you need to reset your IT?

Organisations typically use multiple IT systems.  But if the sprawl grows too large, it can have a dire impact on responsiveness, as well as causing a massive IT support headache.   It may be time to press the reset button.

- Do you oversee overlapping IT systems which conflict with each other?
- Are you reliant on legacy systems which can't keep up with demands?
- Do your staff spend more time switching between systems than helping customers?

Some organisations are using 160 IT systems 

Some organisations are using 160 IT systems 

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, you’re not alone.  But unless you work within the NHS, it may not be as bad as you think.

The DeepMind Health Independent Review Panel Annual Report says that IT chaos is commonplace within the NHS.  According to publictechnology.net, a single NHS trust may be using 160 different computer systems.  But despite this tangle of technology, there are still many processes which are not digitised.  This means reliance on paper is still high.  For this reason, the NHS is still the largest buyer of fax machines in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, this piecemeal system means that many staff have developed workarounds.  Some of these are successful, but as soon as that staff member leaves, the ad hoc process is lost.  But more importantly, why are staff finding ways to circumvent tools which are supposed to help them?

Common challenge
Although the NHS Trust example is extreme, many organisations are suffering from systems overload.  The service desk itself is often a victim of this problem.  We often encounter service desks which rely on 20 or more systems.  Multiple customer databases are common, as are instances of using asset management and inventory tools which are separate from the service management system.  Legacy service desk tools often hang around because a certain function hasn’t been reconfigured in the new tool.  We see third parties tools for self-service, an app for remote control, and myriad cloud services for delivering bespoke IT services. 

Service desks are often surprised about how many systems they rely on.  They are often equally surprised to learn how easily they could consolidate many of these systems using an integrated ITSM suite.

Opportunity for service desks
But the problem of systems overload extends much further than the service desk.  Although the direct impact may occur beyond its own walls, the service desk is well placed to understand the extent of the problem because it is asked to clean up the resulting mess.

So what can the service desk do to reduce the number of systems? Here are some steps you can take:

Study usage
Using any tools available, establish which systems are used.  Some may be redundant, or so infrequently used that they could be mothballed.  Eliminate these first.  

Then look at the systems with low to moderate use.  Do the other systems you use offer the same functionality? Because if they do, you may be able to consolidate further.  For example, if you’re using a third-party tool for self-service/remote support, or perhaps IT asset management, you may find your service desk tool can deliver both.  Switching off these redundant systems not only saves money, it will improve the customer experience because the service desk will be able to access crucial support information from the same source.

Ask users and business units
A system may appear to enjoy healthy usage, but it may overlap with another tool.  Speak to the people using these systems.  Do they experience conflicts between systems? Are they forced to use one because it’s connected to a certain database?

This kind of anecdotal evidence can quickly highlight areas to address and once again, may facilitate rapid consolidation.

Which systems are best?
By studying a combination of the usage data and feedback from the business, it’s possible to build a picture of which systems are most important.  Look at the most popular and well-used systems to see what else they offer, and continue to consolidate.  Technology rationalisation is an ongoing process.  Functionality is added regularly to the majority of tools, so keeping abreast of these changes can prove to be extremely valuable to the organisation.

A service desk was previously expected to fix IT.  Now it has become a technology hub, acting as a conduit between technology and the business.  Understanding and offering ways to overcome systems overload is now firmly within the remit of the service desk.  And the reward for reducing the number of systems used could prove cash savings, improved working efficiencies, and a better customer experience.  In other words, service desks that help reduce systems overload can provide massive business value.