By Matt Schvimmer

Although small and mid-sized businesses do not have the IT expertise and budgets of larger enterprises, analyst firm Gartner expects SMB IT spending to grow at a faster rate than overall enterprise IT spending over the long term. Cloud and SaaS-based solutions and services, as well as the rising adoption of smartphones and other powerful mobile computing devices, now enable employees to work anytime, anywhere and with anyone. The productivity gains this cloud computing and mobility combination provides can be significant for employees, but it can also have the opposite effect on the SMB’s IT personnel.

The typically small IT team, which may even be just one or a handful of jack-of-all-trades type people, uses a laborious and inefficient combination of email, spreadsheets and homegrown solutions to track all network assets and manage help desk requests. SMBs are increasingly moving some applications and information stores to the cloud to make IT operations more efficient and cost-effective. Doing the same with IT service management can further reduce the strain on IT’s limited resources.

Cloud computing is not a trend that will fizzle out, and clearly SMBs recognize the benefits of using more agile, lower cost, cloud applications. Forbes magazine in June 2015 reported that 78 percent of U.S. small businesses will have fully adopted cloud computing by 2020, which will more than double the current 37 percent as of today. Forbes also points out that for an increasing number of SMBs, their cloud application and service providers are their own IT departments. Cloud-based systems are particularly valuable to small IT departments that are already overworked keeping key systems running.

It’s no coincidence that the adoption of cloud computing is rising in parallel to the rise in mobile computing. People can now use their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to access, manage and share information whether they’re at the office or working remotely.  Increasingly the concept of everyone working from the office is being replaced by the always-on, work anywhere mantra.  Combining the power of cloud and mobility, enables IT teams to improve collaboration and productivity for employees, while maintaining control over data because it resides in centralized locations, not on someone’s computer or a local storage resource. This means IT fields fewer requests to help find and recover information.

Analyst firm IDC states that mobility is no longer a luxury; it’s now “an indispensable requirement for a business of any size seeking to ensure an efficient operating structure, including SMBs.” IDC predicts that mobility will be a mainstay business process enabler, particularly for firms operating in the healthcare, retail, and service industries rather than viewed as a separate, unique function.

Employees will be able tap into cloud-based applications and services 24/7 on a wide range of devices and reap the resulting productivity benefits. However, when a problem arises and an employee reaches out to IT for help, those productivity gains can disappear because IT still manages the process locally and manually.

IT personnel typically receive and respond to helpdesk requests via email, track network assets with spreadsheets and other homebrew applications to create (post-it notes anyone?) and issue reports. Along with being inefficient and slow while working at the office, these resources are difficult, if not impossible, to use while traveling or working remotely. That means if the lone IT professional responsible for the company’s entire IT infrastructure is working off-site, problems go unresolved for too long.

Moving IT service management to the cloud can eliminate these delays and the resulting loss of productivity that translates directly to lost revenue by automating most tasks, including incident management, asset management and reporting. Here are three steps that SMB IT leaders and teams can take to more effectively grow their business with cloud-based service management:

  1. Automate the workflow – Move away from a reliance on email and spreadsheets. Personal productivity tools are no way to run an IT organization. Without visibility into IT requests and incidents, IT teams struggle to prioritize and assign work to the right expert, resolve bottlenecks and provide timely responses to employees. From my experience, just the act of quickly getting incident management running is a big win that can drive up to a 20 percent improvement in the time it takes to resolve open issues.
  1. Track all IT assets — A single system of record is critical to understanding what assets you have, where they are located, and who has access to them. Connecting assets to incidents, requests, problems, changes, etc., makes IT’s work more informed and efficient.  It also gives you the power of knowledge to better advise the business.
  1. Measure to improve – How many times has your boss asked for visibility into the work being done by IT? Whenever you are rolling out an IT Service Management process, you have to know what you want to measure.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.  Plus, your boss will just assume you don’t know, which is never a good thing.

Small yet powerful IT teams can get off the treadmill and escape the fire drills of everyday tasks. Cloud-based Service Management can manage, track, and measure these tasks quickly and consistently.  This is the next big step in going from reactive firefighter to active paratrooper, focusing on more strategic activities such as driving growth and revenue opportunities for the business.

Matt Schvimmer is the general manager, Express Business Unit, of ServiceNow. ServiceNow enables service management for every department in the enterprise including IT, human resources, facilities, field service and more. @servicenow.