And Now . . . Presenting The 2018 ESM Forrester Wave™!

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“The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Service Management, Q3 2018” is live! Take IT service management, add the age of the customer, stir in some employee experience (EX) and a healthy dose of low-/no-code platform, and voilà! Enterprise service management (ESM)!

Or, if you prefer a more traditional description, we define ESM as:

Extending IT service management capabilities beyond technology services to address business-centric use cases; managing service demand and supply through a common platform, portal, and service catalog; and speeding up innovation and workflow automation through PaaS/low-code development tooling.

Why should you care about ESM? The age of digital transformation is also the age of the knowledge worker. The 20th century was a world of repeatable, predictable “best practice” processes centered on visible, physical work in progress, optimized via Six Sigma. The 21st century is a world of more variable, higher-touch services work, often invisible as it progresses. ESM helps you manage this transition.

Our previous work on ESM includes this initial report, a Now Tech surveying the market (which also served as the Wave screener), and my previous blog post. I won’t reiterate much of that but instead will share some highlights of the research:

  • ESM is an organic, bottom-up, evolving market. I was skeptical at first, but after many customer interviews, I’ve changed my mind. To paraphrase hockey great Wayne Gretzky, vendors seem to have “skated to where the puck was going to be,” not through any elaborate strategic marketing plan but rather pulled there by clear customer demand.
  • EX (Employee eXperience) is a primary driver for ESM. Support employees’ needs, cut down on confusion, and improve their productivity through a fully integrated service portal providing frictionless access to your organization’s services and resources. For example, see the public CERN Service Portal, platformed on ServiceNow. Only a minority of the services are IT.
  • ESM expands ITSM to a broader vision of managing knowledge work in general. ESM can provide management visibility into often-obscured services work in progress. Leading organizations and vendors are just beginning to exploit the opportunities here; stay tuned for more on this topic!
  • ESM is a fast-moving, competitive space with much innovation. Many vendors continue to invest in R&D to further enhance their EX and knowledge work capabilities with UI and chatbot expansions, intelligent search, fast-advancing analytics, improved mobile support, and a wide variety of other initiatives. Advanced analytics (e.g., machine learning) is currently the top R&D priority, and vendors are applying these capabilities to seemingly “mature” ITSM processes such as request, change, and incident, as well as their new ESM workflows. Micro Focus distinguished itself along these lines this year.
  • Low-/no-code platforms’ underlying ESM tools are getting stronger and stronger. All of the solutions we analyzed have some level of general-purpose low-/no-code platform/PaaS capabilities; this was one of the selection criteria for the Wave. Cherwell Software and ServiceNow distinguished themselves in this regard. To this point, ServiceNow is even covered in “The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms For AD&D Pros, Q4 2017.”
  • ESM’s value awareness needs to spread beyond the CIO. The fact that the central, CIO-led IT organization is currently the most frequent buyer for ESM vendor products is both a strength and a weakness. This CIO alignment is an important “moat” that helps these providers defend their market. Defensible markets are in short supply nowadays! But correspondingly, the CIO and ESM vendors have challenges in positioning to the rest of the C-suite. (Again, see my previous blog post for a discussion of what is and isn’t in scope for ESM tools.).
  • ESM vendor approaches to business (non-IT) service and workflow modules vary. Some vendors (e.g., Atlassian) are focusing on providing business service through their ecosystems. Others (e.g., SunView) are building an increasingly diverse array of business service modules. Some (e.g., CA Technologies) aren’t building business service modules as go-to-market products but rather supporting non-IT workloads through lower-level, finer-grained, reusable workflows.

Together, users and vendors are advancing their vision of what the ESM market should ultimately look like. We continue to hear stories of users moving to ESM strategies, along with ongoing, creative responses from vendors. What does the future hold? Beyond the tactical advantages of unified service portals, I predict that the value of ESM will become more and more apparent to the C-suite. Operational leaders will realize the benefits of comprehensive visibility into services work in progress. And ultimately, ESM’s improvement of employee experience means staff who are more engaged and effective in serving customers, the most critical activity for any digital business.


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