Building an ITSM Workflow – 4 Common Mistakes and 8 Tips

InvGate May 22, 2019
- 3 min read

Building a new IT service management (ITSM) workflow in your ITSM tool is a really exciting step. Stay with us here – it’s about seeing your optimized process all mapped out and ready to come to life! What’s not to love?

Workflow automation saves time, money, and effort, allowing your IT support teams, in particular, to focus on the day job of helping people. Here are eight tips for making sure your new workflow delivers value as well as four common workflow-building pitfalls to avoid.

ITSM Workflows – What Not to Do

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first by talking about things to avoid – the common ITSM workflow mistakes that people make:

  1. Overcomplicating your workflow – keep your process as simple and straightforward as possible. Think of it this way, if you’re tying yourself up in knots simply trying to put your workflow steps together, how are support teams and end users going to get on with it in real life?
  2. Lacking clarity on touchpoints - the chances are that your workflow will have to cross over to another one. For example, invoking the change process to resolve an incident or raising a problem record as a result of multiple incidents. Keep your touch points clear, well-labeled, and easy to understand to avoid any potential for confusion.
  3. Neglecting documentation – document things as you go. We’ve all heard horror stories of where a workflow has been designed in a specific way that’s difficult to use but things moved on and it’s now impossible to fix. Document as you go so that anyone else supporting the workflow understands why it’s been done in the way that it has – and enable them to make changes without breaking it.
  4. Lacking visibility – ensure that people can see the flow. Ask for feedback often and ensure that you have plenty of test runs so you can ensure that it’s fit for purpose.

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Building A Solid ITSM Workflow Process

OK, so we’ve got the negatives, gotchas, and pitfalls out of the way. Let's now look at how to build a really solid ITSM workflow through the following eight tips.

  1. Do your homework – make sure that the process you’re designing the workflow for is well documented and up to date, and that you understand all the steps and transfer points. It sounds simple we know, but if there’s confusion around the end-to-end process it’s much easier to fix it when you’re at the planning stage instead of trying to fix it retrospectively once you’ve committed it to your ITSM tool.
  2. Use consistent language and naming conventions – ensure that you use the language and naming conventions that are consistent with what your organization already uses to avoid confusion. Also, make sure your workflow has a name that makes it very clear what it is. For example, incident management, emergency change management, or service request management (it’s the new ITIL 4 name).
  3. Define your dependencies – document your workflow to ensure that all the appropriate resources and capabilities are captured in order for it to work effectively and correctly.
  4. Define your start, end, and transfer points – which activities or tasks will initiate your workflow? How will you know when the right outcome has been reached? How will your workflow manage handoffs to other process flows?
  5. Map out all tasks and put them in order – before you go anywhere near your ITSM tool, map out your workflow step-by-step to make sure it consists of a logical series of structured activities aimed at achieving the objectives of the underpinning process. Example tasks could include raise incident, approve change, or resolve problem. Identify the order your steps need to be carried out in. And does everything need to be done in sequence or can some tasks be done at the same time?
  6. Identify task roles and owners – some steps will be automated, but some will need human intervention. For example, escalating an incident after a complaint from the business or seeking a change exception during a freeze period. And make sure you have all the roles identified to keep everything on track.
  7. Review the new workflow – test your workflow to ensure that it works. Have you captured all the trigger points? Does everyone understand their role and the activities they’re expected to carry out? Are the right outcomes being accomplished?
  8. Review the new workflow again at a regular frequency – work with the process owner to build in regular reviews such that you can flex to changes in business needs and respond to any feedback or identified improvements.


What tips do you follow when creating a new ITSM workflow? Please let us know in the comments.

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