Embracing Shift Left To Improve Service Delivery

It Is Time You Started Embracing The Left Shift To Get Things Done In Your Org, Here’s Why

More now than ever organizations are looking for any edge that can help them to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and improve service delivery. One area to take a closer look at is the concept of shift left.

So what is shift left?

In service management, shift left describes the ability to move IT support work and other activities as close as possible to the end user. By shifting left, these activities are moved to lower cost support channels, which optimizes costs and enables more expensive resources such as vendor support or level 2 specialists to focus on work that can’t be performed by frontline analysts.

Here’s a practical example: enabling self-service for an activity allows a subset of tasks currently provided by level 1 support to be performed by end users themselves via a self-service portal. Additionally, a subset of level 2 activities can be moved to level 1, level 3 activities moved to level 2, and so on.

Think about the way your organizations support currently works. When you have discussions with people in those teams or their leaders you might hear them say things like ‘we need to automate that’ or ‘do more with less’. When we read between the lines what we are hearing is that we need to right-size the work our teams are doing.

Today, many IT organizations face similar challenges that impede their efficiency and effectiveness. Here are a few of the main challenges organizations face. Think about how many of these apply to your organization?

Delayed Issue Resolution: Traditional IT models often involve a lengthy process for resolving issues. These cumbersome processes can lead to increased downtime and disrupt business operations when the original intent is only meant to support business objectives.

High Operational Costs: Extensive manual interventions and the need for specialized skills in late stages of the service lifecycle increase operational costs significantly. While your vendors are more than happy to cash a check, this cost could be better placed in the hands of your teams that should be doing the work.

Inadequate Knowledge Sharing: Siloed operations can lead to poor knowledge sharing across the team, resulting in inefficiencies and a lack of innovation. In some cases teams are working on initiatives that actually are working against each other.

Quality and Compliance Issues: Late detection of errors in the development cycle can lead to quality issues and non-compliance with standards, impacting the overall service delivery.

Poor Customer Experience: Slow response times and ineffective problem-solving can lead to dissatisfaction among end-users and customers.

Implementing a shift-left strategy can profoundly impact an organization’s ability to deliver services efficiently and realize value from IT investments, here are some of the benefits that can be realized after implementing a shift left strategy.

Enhanced Quality and Reduced Errors: By moving tasks such as testing and compliance checks to earlier phases, issues can be identified and resolved before they escalate, thereby enhancing the quality of deliverables and reducing the need for costly fixes later.

Cost Efficiency: Shift-left reduces the need for specialized interventions at advanced stages, which can be more costly and time-consuming. Early detection and resolution of issues streamline operations and lower costs.

Knowledge Sharing and Accessibility: By making detailed knowledge and resources available to front-line IT support staff, these teams can handle more complex issues that would traditionally have been escalated to higher levels of support. This approach often involves the development of self-service portals where users can access information and resolve issues on their own.

Faster Resolution Times: With problems being identified and addressed earlier, the time to resolve issues post-deployment is significantly reduced, leading to higher system uptime and better business continuity.

Superior Customer Experience: Quicker resolution times and proactive quality control lead to more reliable products and services, ultimately enhancing the end-user and customer experience.

So, where do we start?

To successfully implement a shift-left strategy, organizations should consider the following steps:

1. Understand the Concept of Shift-Left

Before implementation, it’s crucial to fully understand what shift-left means in the context of ITSM. Shift-left involves moving tasks traditionally handled by higher-tier support closer to the customer, enabling frontline or self-service solutions to handle more complex issues. This may include using technology to automate responses or empower users to resolve their issues through self-service tools.

2. Identify Opportunities for Shift-Left

Analyzing your current ITSM processes is a necessary first step. Identify which processes require expert intervention and consider how these can be simplified or automated. For example, routine password resets and software updates can often be handled through automated systems or provided as self-service options, thus shifting the resolution effort to the left.

3. Invest in Automation and Self-Service Technologies

Automation is a key component of a successful shift-left strategy. Invest in tools like chatbots, AI-driven helpdesk systems, and robust knowledge bases that can guide users to solve their own problems without escalating to human agents. Ensure these tools are integrated seamlessly into your ITSM software to provide a fluid user experience.

4. Enhance Training and Documentation

Shifting left requires not only technological investments but also a focus on training and documentation. Frontline IT staff and end-users need adequate training to handle more complex tasks that are shifted leftward. Comprehensive, easy-to-understand documentation should be available to support these efforts, enabling users to resolve issues independently.

5. Promote a Collaborative Culture

A successful shift-left implementation requires a cultural shift towards collaboration and continuous improvement. Encourage teams across different levels of IT support to collaborate and share knowledge. This culture shift helps ensure that insights gained at higher support tiers are transferred to lower tiers, continuously enriching the resource pool available at the front line.

6. Measure Impact and Iterate

Implementing a shift-left strategy should be a dynamic process. Regularly measure the impact of shift-left initiatives through metrics such as reduced ticket volumes at higher tiers, increased first call resolution rates, and user satisfaction scores. Use these insights to refine your approach, address any gaps, and enhance the effectiveness of the strategy.

7. Communicate Benefits and Solicit Feedback

Communicate the benefits of the shift-left strategy to all stakeholders, including IT staff and end-users, to ensure buy-in and cooperation. Regular feedback from users and IT staff will be invaluable in refining the process. Feedback mechanisms can include user satisfaction surveys, focus groups, and feedback forms within the ITSM system.


Measuring the Impact of Shift Left

Measuring the impact of a shift-left strategy is crucial for validating its effectiveness and identifying areas for further improvement. Here, we outline effective methods and key metrics to measure the success of shift-left initiatives in your ITSM operations.


1. Define Clear Objectives:

Before implementing a shift-left strategy, it’s essential to define what success looks like for your organization. Objectives might include improving first call resolution rates, reducing escalations, cutting support costs, or enhancing user satisfaction. Clear objectives will guide your measurement and help you focus on the most relevant metrics.

2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

To effectively measure the impact of a shift-left strategy, several KPIs can be monitored:


First Call Resolution (FCR): Track the percentage of issues resolved during the first interaction. An increase in FCR often indicates a successful shift-left implementation.

Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR): Monitor how quickly issues are resolved after they are reported. A decrease in MTTR suggests that problems are being solved faster, reflecting effective empowerment of front-line support.

Escalation Rates: Measure the percentage of issues escalated to higher support tiers. A decrease in escalation rates indicates that more problems are being resolved at the lower levels.

User Satisfaction Scores: Use surveys to gauge how satisfied users are with the support they receive. Improvements in these scores can reflect the success of shift-left strategies.

Cost Per Ticket: Analyze the cost associated with resolving each ticket. A reduction in cost per ticket can indicate that shift-left strategies are reducing the need for more expensive, specialized support interventions.

3. Implement Feedback Mechanisms:

Regular feedback from both customers and support staff is vital. This feedback can provide insights into the effectiveness of tools and training provided to front-line teams, and how well customers feel their issues are being resolved.

4. Analyze Support Channel Efficiency:

Examine the use and effectiveness of various support channels (e.g., self-service portals, chatbots, live chat). An increase in the use and effectiveness of lower-tier, automated solutions suggest a successful shift-left.

5. Track Training and Knowledge Sharing:

Monitor the effectiveness of training programs and how knowledge is shared within the team. Metrics such as the speed of information dissemination and the usage rate of knowledge base articles by front-line staff can indicate how well the shift-left strategy is being supported internally.

6. Use Continuous Improvement Feedback Loops:

Employ a continuous improvement process to regularly assess the outcomes of shift-left strategies. This involves revisiting KPIs, seeking new feedback, and making adjustments to strategies as needed. This loop helps in refining the approach and ensuring sustained success.

The shift left approach in IT operations is not just a trend but a strategic shift that addresses the core challenges of modern IT environments. By automating routine tasks, resolving issues at their inception, and empowering front-line staff, organizations can achieve significant operational improvements. With careful planning, robust measurement practices, and strategic investment in technologies, IT leaders can transform their operations, leading to substantial long-term benefits.

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