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For decades now, Service Desks and Service Management have waved the flag for IT all around the business. They are the frontline for any major change and represent IT to the rest of the business. However, for a long-time integration was not something they had much of a say in, but in recent years that has started to change. In this post, we'll discuss the current state of Service Integration – and what the future may look like.

Service Desk and ITSM tools have fast become the most commonly integrated tools across the business and its third parties and as a result, IT Services teams are very much on the leading end of integration projects and changes.

Unfortunately, some of the integration tools and methodologies they have inherited from ‘back-office IT’ are no longer fit for purpose. So, let’s look at the most modern, forward thinking and service management friendly approaches to Service Integration.

Table of contents:

  • What is Service Integration?
  • Why is integration important in ITSM?
  • How does service desk integration work?
  • How do you manage process integration?
  • Examples of Service Management integrations
  • How does integration improve incident management?
  • Ad-hoc integrations vs proactive integrations
  • What is a citizen integration?
  • An overview of Integration Automation Platform

How do ITSM and Service Desk teams benefit from modern Service integration?

Traditional integration technologies are proving to be far less useful to Service Desks and IT service teams. This is because the technology is unable to keep up with fast pace changes within in modern business. However, the emergence of Next Generation iPaaS and Integration Automation platforms is big leap forward in Service Integration for ITSM. 

“Service Desks are very much the heartbeat of any IT team. For many people and teams around the organisation, the Service Desk are the department who set the tone and culture of IT. They oversee more than 80% of the day-to-day interaction between IT and the business, thus become deeply responsible for the overall reputation of IT.
Because of this, integration is now being led more and more by the Service Desk. This is because Service Integration is fast becoming a business capability, over being a technical one. This is something that requires far greater relationship management to achieve, which the Service Desk tends to have in spades!” 

Juha Berghäll, CEO of ONEiO Cloud Ltd

What is Service Integration and Management - SIAM?

Service integration is the technology and methodology used to ensure two or more services can operate together in a truly united manner, collaborating over the delivery of services and seamlessly sharing data, information and knowledge.

In a very low-tech fashion; this looks like people working together sharing best practices, ideas and information. In wide scale and more high-tech fashion; this is about multiple instances of software synchronising data, tickets and tasks in real-time, so that a variety of teams can work together on the delivery of Service Desk requests and tickets, without having to gain or ‘borrow’ access to each other’s tools and datasets.

For example, you may have an internal Service Desk using ZenDesk, and a third party using ServiceNow. Without effective Service Integration, these two teams would need to manually pass information across to each other (perhaps by phone or email), then updates records in their own instances of software by hand (copy/paste).

This method can create large time delays, inconsistencies in data and even create further incidents when mistakes are made. Modern Service Integration (or business integration), provides a real-time and automated set of processes, which means any change made in one system, is immediately replicated in the other system, taking process, policy and context into account.

So, if a service request were to be created in ZenDesk, requesting new accounts and equipment required from the third-party, a ticket would be automatically opened in ServiceNow for those items. When the third party completes the tasks and closes the ticket, those updates are seen in ZenDesk right away. Thus, enabling the two teams to seamlessly work together, transparently and effectively.

A few reads on this topic:

Why is integration important in ITSM?

ITSM and Service Desk management are vital parts of the business. And as mentioned above, the Service Desk is all so often the most forward-facing part of the IT department. Not only this, but the tools selection of the Service Management team tends to sit at the heart of any integration project too. So, when we come to look at what integration platforms we want to use, that decision is now often led by which ITSM tools those platforms work well with.  

ITSM processes such as incident, problem and change management all come under close scrutiny during integration implementations too, as these are the most common processes that will then be mapped across from tool-to-tool and team-to-team.

Not only do Service teams need to have good quality processes in place in order to start opening these processes up to the other teams to engage with. But they also need to have a good working knowledge of those processes too.

These processes tend to underpin the success of integration, as the iPaaS or Integration technology alone, is not going to be useful, unless the rules by which each party play by, are fit for purpose and enable good outcomes.

When it comes to then pressing integration further out into the business for teams such as sales and marketing, we want to make sure that the advice and guidance for such an implementation is coming from people and teams they like and trust. And this is why the Service Desk are so important to business wide integration projects. Not just because of the technology, but because of their ability to engage and promote this practices and processes required for great integration too.

Read more:
ITSM Integrations Playbook

How does service desk integration work?

Service Desk integration is typically a process carried out by two or more corresponding Service Desk teams (often one internal and one external third party). The integration is quite often driven by the need to collaborate over service desk tickets and will begin as a technical integration. However, it has many other important moving parts around process and people too.

This is because just relying on software to manage outcomes and end-customer experiences isn’t enough. But many IT teams approaching integrations for the first time quickly forget this!

With modern and Next Generation iPaaS solutions, these application/technical integrations are actually the quickest and easiest bits.

You can get two ServiceDesk tools such as ServiceNow and BMC connected up and exchanging tickets within a few minutes. This is not only good thing for the sake of time and resources, but also because it creates far more room for getting the people and process bit right too!

How do you manage process integration?

Service Desks live and die by their ability to create good processes, then having their people buy-in to and follow those processes. This is because they are often managing 100+ service requests a day, many of which have similar tasks and functions involved in completing them.

In order for even the smallest team of people to successfully complete these tasks and tickets in an effective and consistent way, well-written, managed and utilized Service Desk processes are essential.

This is why having time and opportunity to effectively map processes across multiple Service Desk teams is important, because there will be both big and little nuances between each team, which the ITSM software itself will never be able to replicate within its own processes.

Modern integration platforms prioritize this in the way they enable you to create and manage rules and routing too. This is so that any service desk team can easily retain their processes without having to make big changes in the ways they work in order to have a working integration in place.

Examples of Service Management integrations

ServiceNow and ZenDesk were mentioned earlier and this is a good example of a common integration. Another common integration in the ITSM space is ServiceNow to ServiceNow. This will often happen where you have two organisations using ServiceNow and they want to collaborate together, without making concessions on the use of their own platform.

Service and software integration is the go-to solution here as each party can continue using their version of ServiceNow, without having to handover external access, or indeed be expected to use two versions of the software in order to complete their work.

There are a number of scenarios beyond ITSM tools, where you may want to have more than two tools or applications working together. This is where modern, automated Next Generation iPaaS really comes into play, by using ‘Many-to-Many’ integrations.

For example, IT may want to use ServiceNow and Jira, a third party will be using Autotask and then your customer service team will be using ZenDesk and Salesforce. All these tools have different API’s and methods of integration, so in order to get them talking, you’d traditionally need to research and learn to use each API. 

You then get hit by the further challenge of create a single ‘point-to-point’ connection (or some might say eBonding) between each platform and coming up with a large amount of bespoke code, which would be used to manage and direct packages of data from each API.

Therefore, sending a single service request from Zendesk, across all the these platforms in order to have each team collaborate effectively over the delivery of service request is going to require a lot of work!

Read more:
Is ebonding a scalable solution? Definitely not. Here's why

Integration Automation tools such as ONEiO overcome this issue, by using pre-built integrations, centralized integration hubs and ‘many-to-many’ integration technology. There is no code, no APIs, you just join each application to the network, then the centralized integration platform routes everything as required to an unlimited number of end-points and destinations.

Read more:

How does integration improve incident management?

Incident Management is one of the most widely used processes in Service Management. This is often because the Service Desk is keenly relied upon by the businesses to resolve any outages and incidents. Even when those resolutions end up coming from a totally different place such as another team or third-party. It starts and finishes with the Service Desk.

Because most businesses do in fact need to lean on multiple teams and suppliers to resolve the majority of complex incidents, the integrations between those different teams and third-parties must be fast and effective too.

Integration underpins the different team’s abilities to communicate, collaborate, share data and measure success. In order to bring about a standard of incident management, which will enable this level of multi-team/vendor co-ordination and collaboration, service desks must see integration as a key capability in continually improving their ability to manage incidents.  

This of course transcends into other areas of ITSM and ITIL ® such as problem management, change management and most importantly continual service improvement (CSI).

However, as most of the basic ticketing functions within an ITSM tool are driven by the creating, management and resolution of incidents, it is really common that your journey towards integrating multiple service desks and IT service teams will begin in incident management. 

Pro-tip: Setting up cross-team/tool reporting for incidents is a great way of measuring and improving the way your integrations support incident management within your service ecosystem.

Ad-hoc integrations vs proactive integrations

Traditionally integration projects are seen as long, drawn out and expensive things to undertake. However, we are seeing a big shift in the way teams approach this kind of work, in such a way that removes the need for big heavy projects and replaces it with an ad-hoc vs proactive integration approach.

If you shift your way of thinking from one that says ‘integration is an IT project, with a start and finish’ to something more like ‘Integration is capability, which we nurture and mature over time’… this enables you to increase what integration can do for your business AND decrease how much it costs.

This is because you can do away with the long timelines, project meetings and integration milestones. And instead, focus on setting these up quickly and easily with as they are required (ad-hoc) or in planned fashion in order to help enable a longer-term business goal (pro-active).

Neither integration may well be perfect from day one. However, with the right tools and method in place, you can iteratively improve and mature each and every aspect of these integrations.

Organisations who work like this get far great results from their integration investments and from the people who they empower to own these integrations.  

What is a citizen integration?

Citizen integrations were mentioned earlier on this page, as a reference to other teams such as sales or marketing wanting to adopt similar integration solutions to those used on the service desk. But Citizen integrations can apply to other members of the IT team too. Typically, a ‘citizen integration’ is a software integration created by an end user, who would typically not have access to tools such as API’s or customizable code.  

This to some more technically-biased team members may seem less-preferable. However, more and more businesses are adopting this approach to integration, so that they may streamline their service improvements and place the betterment of collaboration in the hands of those actually doing it

For example, this might look like a Service Desk analyst creating their own integration between ZenDesk and Slack, in order to communicate with team’s members faster. Or perhaps a sales executive integrating their CRM to their Lead Generation tools, in order to remove the duplication of contact information.

Many tools offer this as a service from within the application, but this can present challenges to the wider organisation, especially those that value having a more uniform and transparent approach to integration.

As a result, more businesses are now investing in Integration Automation tools for the purpose of passing on integration opportunities to a wider range of non-technical people and teams.

Read more:
An introduction to citizen integrator

An overview of Integration Automation Platform

Integration Automation Platforms are replacing the way we integrate software and services, with a simple, fast and highly affordable method of bringing software together.

The most important change that Integration Automation Platform introduces, is that it focuses on improving business capabilities such as business-wide collaboration and operational efficiency. Whereas traditional iPaaS providers are far more focused on supporting the day-to-day running of specific IT functions.

This elevated way of thinking enables mature iPaaS users to leverage their investment in integrations to really improve the way their business acts and competes within its market place.

Integration Automation Platform also introduces a number of major benefits including; unlimited many-to-many connections, 100% subscription-based pricing and a ‘only pay for what you use’ commitments. This not only makes the technology the most fit-for-purpose in modern, fast-moving businesses, but aligns with the most forward-thinking business models and financing methods too.

Read More about Service Integration and Management:

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Juha Berghäll

Juha Berghäll is the CEO and Co-founder at ONEiO Cloud – a cloud-native integration service provider. He mostly writes about modern integration solutions and iPaaS trends from a strategic perspective.

15 min read
April 10, 2024

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