What is SIAM - Service Integration and management?
Service Integration and Management or SIAM as it is most often referred to, is a long-standing approach to managing large ecosystems of IT services. Sometimes that can mean making services link up and play nicely across multiple parts of an IT department, other times it can be more around achieving the same but for external parties, vendors and suppliers.
Whatever SIAM looks like in a healthy, happy and well-functioning business environment, there are unfortunately countless examples out there of it not working. This is mostly due to those who are adopting or delivering SIAM have misunderstood its purpose and potential.
So...what is SIAM, really?
In short, it’s an approach. SIAM is designed to help complex services connect and align around the goal of the end customer. And this idea of putting the needs of the end customer first, is something IT has struggled with in general for many years.
As a company of experienced ITSM practitioners, we have obviously and thankfully seen this mature, but many IT functions still find it hard to separate and define their own needs, the needs of their business users and then the needs of the end customer.
"SIAM is designed to help complex services connect and align around the goal of the end customer."
Approaches like SIAM work so well, because in order for it to perform effectively, each and every decision around its implementation and management has to derive from the outcome it eventually creates for the most valuable person in the ecosystem… the customer.
In practical terms this looks like all of the IT functions, the suppliers, and the customer facing functions having an aligned set of processes and tools. In old fashion SIAM, this meant forcing people and teams to change what they use to fall in line with another team (often the people with the loudest voices and biggest budgets!).
Sadly, this is where where SIAM got its bad reputation. For years people played political games to keep ‘their way of doing things’ sacred. Eventually large consulting firms promised to hand-code custom software integrations, so that Company A using Remedy BMC, could effortlessly and automatically pass service requests to Company B using ServiceNow. But unsurprisingly, this method consistently undelivered and failed.
"SIAM has become the machine ‘humming’ in the background, keeping the integrations alive and allowing people to work however they want to work"
Fast forward to now, and we’re in a much better place. SIAM has been widely adopted by thousands of successful businesses as well as service providers and a thriving industry has grown the specialisms, knowledge and strategies required to make it such a valuable asset in the IT world. Teams, companies and customers can all work together harmoniously, using their own tools, managing their own processes and maintaining their own data.
SIAM has become the machine ‘humming’ in the background, keeping the integrations alive and allowing people to work however they want to work, whilst effortlessly leveraging the power of automation to connect up countless different business functions, all for the benefit of the customer. IT teams are finding ways around this and starting to succeed with Bi-modal IT.
What SIAM is NOT?
Let’s just quickly tidy this matter up too! It’s not an out the box framework (as much as the consultants and trainers might want you to think). It is also not a solution you can ‘buy’. You have to believe in the approach, understand the changes you want to create, then form the software decisions and investments required to make the whole thing happen.
SIAM used to mean a lot of changes – but these days it isn't really that either. Though it might still mean a few vital people changing their minds about how collaborative they are willing to be, SIAM is now more about coming together around an approach and subscribing to the tools and technologies you need to allow everyone to carry on working together – without the hassle of manually moving data, tickets and service information around from team to team.
Why is SIAM such a valuable approach?
People, time, data and experience. It makes ALL these things better for everyone. Modern SIAM gives skilled and specialist people the permission and freedom they need to pursue work in their own way. Without worry or intrusion from other tools or processes from other areas of the business.
"People, time, data and experience. It makes ALL these things better for everyone."
The customer support team can talk to customers how they need to gather information in tools such as Salesforce and focus on their own outcomes. When they need to pass on or bring IT on a matter, IT can interact with the customer team in their way, using their own tools such as ServiceNow or Zendesk.
And, the ticket, customer and application data will seamlessly flow from one tool to the next, adhering to any processes each team respectfully have. Further to that, if an issue goes from customer support, to IT to Development… again all the needed information and data just flows through to the dev tools such as Jira.
All that matters, is the quality of the conversation between the people, and then the tools and processes look after the tickets, actions and data in a simple and automated way.
When you have well-managed, highly visible and frictionless movement of information in the tools and services, this is when the end customer wins every time.
To make this easier to understand in terms of your own business, we can break down each function of SIAM into People, Process and Tools. This is important because most SIAM projects fail when one of these functions gets significantly more energy put into it than the others (which is normally tools!).
People is the most often neglected - and thus, the most important to focus on first – aspect of SIAM. In fact, I would argue this is true across the whole of IT and ITSM. Most SIAM projects (and IT projects in general) that fail mostly do so because the people involved didn’t adopt the new ways of working.
This rarely has anything to do with the processes created or the new technology put in place and has everything to do with how the people felt about doing something new. If people feel unheard, misunderstood, neglected or not-consulted, they can quickly become rejecting and resentful of whatever the new idea is.
This is not a complex problem to solve, but to do so their leadership roles must be willing and ready to engage and listen with all the right people… and in some cases be ready to change their minds about the aspects of a project based on what they heard and learned.
In modern SIAM, this is also important because you want to be able to learn how people work best, then deliver your integrations in such a way that further enables them to consistently do their best work.
Documented or not, every part of service integration has a process around it. But sometimes you just don’t know that it is there or how it works. For every process that is written out and stored in a library somewhere, there are another 10 that live in people’s heads!
The job of SIAM in this scenario is finding out which processes matter most to the teams outside of it. For example; if IT has a new starter processes for creating accounts and preparing new hardware, HR and the departments receiving new staff need to know how to interact with that process. Better yet; if HR then have their own tools and processes in place for new starters, you need to ensure those two processes connect well. Using a SIAM approach allows the IT software to talk to the HR software and then facilitates the mapping of their processes too.
This is the last scene in the SIAM story, but it is also what everyone came to see! Getting people using the ‘same tools’ used to be a big part of enterprise integration. However, as explained above, modern SIAM aims to get people using the best tools for them and their skillsets. This might mean upgrading or might mean sticking with what you’ve got. SIAM should always be agnostic to this. Traditional SIAM would force a ‘one tool to rule them all’ or would try code up APIs to hold a variety of software together.
Modern SIAM uses an integration hub, which sits behind the scenes managing all the interactions, translations and transactions between software (and processes!).
These Hubs are now widely adopted and accepted as the right way to manage large scale and complex software ecosystems. These hubs are also called as Integration Automation Platforms.
How do you make it happen?
SIAM is no longer a 12-24 months project that requires consultants and managed service providers to rally around you and your teams to get things designed, tested, implemented and so on. The strategic parts focus on the management and communication parts of the project, which often work best when done internally (perhaps with external guidance).
We then recommend looking at the rest of the project using these four steps:
Be clear, aligned and public with your goals. These should be customer centric and understanding of what works well already with your teams and suppliers. Each goal should be seen as an improvement to what is already there, rather than an opportunity to rip and replace an existing service or solution.
Really all you want for your staff is to help them do their jobs better. You should want them to work closer together and to get closer to your customer. When you approach the people side of SIAM with this in mind, the technology and process sharing will usually follow suit. A consultative and learning-led approach to people management will be the ultimate ‘oil and grease’ in your SIAM machine!
Much like your goals, you’re aiming for iterative improvements. Each improvement should be managed as a change, and ITIL® and Agile are great mindsets to use when planning and managing change. Be sure to describe changes for what they are, don’t soften the language around a change, only to then force hard on people later on. Be transparent and make changes in manageable and logical sequences. The most important advice to follow here, is that change is something people make happen and not something you can just describe as the new way of doing things!
Finally, implement, upgrade, rationalise and integrate your tools. This not only the most labour-intensive part, but also the most expensive! This is why ensuring you’ve given yourselves a great foundation for success through well prepared people and processes is so important. It allows you to set clearer and more realistic goals around software and also helps you make big cost saving decisions around what not to change or replace.
However, the most important factor is to select software and applications that will support the success of the teams using them. Too frequently, software decisions are made based on industry expectations, trends or popular features. Whereas long lasting and valuable software investments come from researching the needs of users and assessing new software against those needs.
How to Get started with SIAM
SIAM is easier to get started with than you think. This is often because there is usually a little bit of it going on in every organisation already, it’s just not always obvious to spot. Look for where teams are beginning to find manual ways round of moving commonly used data between them, or where low-cost software integrations have been setup outside of the scope and visibility of IT.
These are good signs that there is a need for a greater level of service integration in your organisation. They are also opportunities to create improvements that will be recognisable and appreciated by the people both using and running the services.
Read more about Service Integration: The Now and Future of Service Integration
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