Support Provision & the Changing Landscape of the Service Desk

Graph With Stacks Of CoinsService desk teams provide support and service to company employees, helping them to make the most of the IT assets that the company provides. At least, that was always the role that IT Service Management teams saw themselves providing. The overall goal may not have altered, but how this is fulfilled has been changing.

The traditional methods that service desk teams use to demonstrate their value don’t effectively capture all that the ITSM function can deliver. At the same time, new initiatives like Bring Your Own Device, cloud applications and self-service portals are entering business IT. This means that key performance indicators (KPIs) have to be changed. However, are we changing our approaches to keep up, or are we being forced into this? As the service desk landscape changes, how can we take back control and demonstrate more value?

 

Where are we today?

Many service desk teams will still use first-time fix as their number one demonstration of value. However, while this metric is still valid, it’s very quantitative, and only one step above looking at the overall volume of calls being handled. Service desks today have to deal with a larger number of channels than before, so how calls are categorised is a good place to start thinking differently.

The key questions to ask here are: “How do my customers want to interact with me? Are they happy with more traditional email and phone requests, or would they like more options such as chat?” For many teams, answering these questions can be difficult, as options are grafted on over time rather than being thought through strategically.

For a service desk manager looking at all the different traffic coming in, it can be difficult to assign weighting on the requests that come in. Should social media or chat interaction be counted in the same way as a phone request? A lot of this will depend on the process that customers go through as their incidents are handled. This will also affect how success is measured in the future as well.

 

Where do we go from here?

There are two avenues open to the service desk manager here – one is prescriptive, and one is to allow more freedom in how incidents are handled. The first approach would be based on mapping out all the most common problems that are encountered by users, and then looking at the workflow for those incidents across different communication methods.

This can work well when you have a large number of service desk operatives and need to get consistency on customer support experience. Putting this together would provide both guidance on how to handle requests that come through, and also ensure quality of service.

However, there is one issue with this approach, it takes away a lot of the flexibility that service desk professionals can have in solving problems and ensuring that the customer is happy at the end of the call or interaction. Now, for regulated industries where security and compliance are important, this is something that will just have to be accepted but for other businesses, allowing more leeway on how calls and requests are handled can be both better for the customer and for the service desk personnel. Allowing service desk staff to help customers in the way that best suits them – and the customers that make the request – can help to provide better service, both in terms of quality and service levels.

 

Looking at a bigger picture

Thinking about specific targets for the service desk team also involves looking at how ITSM is incorporated into the overall business or organisational goals. Is the service team delivery part of external-facing, “paying customer” work, or more around internal customer or employee satisfaction and keeping users productive? Building up metrics around customer retention and satisfaction leads to a very different set of KPIs compared to this internal service delivery, where efficiency is paramount.

Setting out new KPIs involves looking at what the customer expectations are around service, as well as what the company or organisation wants to deliver. This is a very different approach to the quantitative approach that many service desks are used to. Instead, it has to be more qualitative. Often, there will be larger company goals that will help frame KPIs in the right way.

As an example, your company may provide a product with premium branding. Service delivery around this should therefore match that perception. Creating a measurement KPI around delivering “five star service,” with personnel encouraged to go the extra mile, would be more effective than simply looking at how many calls or requests were handled. Conversely, companies that pride themselves in efficiency would want the same approach to be reflected in their service strategy.

For public sector organisations, efficiency and call handling will still be important metrics to track as well. However, the growth of online and digital service delivery means that requests that might previously have been calls can be answered either through information on websites or email/chat requests. This will leave more personal interaction time for staff, providing a better quality of care for those that really need it.

Alongside these changes in KPIs, the way that service desk teams manage themselves may have to change as well. For too long, the tiered service desk approach has been less about dealing with front line problems and more about managing how skilled professionals can provide support where it is needed. The change from solely supporting phone and email over to using multiple channels should be seen as an opportunity to increase skills for everyone.

 

Managing service interactions more efficiently

It’s also worth considering how sessions are handled. For requests that have a technical or specialist knowledge requirement, playing telephone tag and having the customer explain their issues multiple times can be a painful process. Instead, it should be possible to use those with specialist knowledge in a more efficient way through collaborative sessions.

This approach involves letting third parties join calls securely – particularly if there is a remote access session involved. Rather than depending on the third party and customer to get connected, the service desk can manage this themselves, cutting down on time taken and providing a better experience for the customer. Bringing together assets in this way does mean that the front-line staff have to be aware of what challenges they may face that are intricate or require outside help, but that does not mean that they have to hand a call straight over to someone else.

The growth of online support and services is only going to go up, as more people prefer to work directly through chat or social channels rather than more traditional phone systems. The make-up of the workforce is changing as well. In the higher education sector, research by the Service Desk Institute found that 76 per cent of students preferred using the web form for raising a request rather than picking up the phone or emailing directly, while 37 per cent were happy to use social media channels to contact the service desk.

As these students move from university and enter the workforce, their expectations of support will be very different to what has gone before. Maintaining a consistency of approach when trying to keep all these options open is a real challenge, but it can be delivered by thinking through the problems that are due to come up.

Rethinking your KPIs so they are more aligned with the needs of the business is a good first step. From this, you can then look at how to work more closely with line of business teams, too. Ultimately, the service desk can start to think about changing the perception it has within the organisation, from one of only being there when things go wrong to providing more guidance about how to make things go right in the first place.

There seem to be as many choices on how to manage interaction with customers as there are service desks, particularly as customers want to interact in new ways. However many channels you have to support, the important distinction is around customer service, not just IT support. ITSM teams have to look beyond their role as IT professionals and think about displaying their acumen around other areas, too.

Setting out KPIs is one way to achieve this aim. By linking the aim of the business to the quality of service that is delivered, ITSM teams can look to demonstrate more of the value that they create for the business every day.

 

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Podcast Episode 9 – SLM & the Currency of Business

In Episode 9 of the podcast, SLM and the Currency of Business, Barclay Rae and myself discuss Service Level Management with Clive Davey, IT Service Level Manager at a leading financial institution in the UK.

Topics include:

  • Business currency
  • Cost versus value
  • Collaboration
  • Real business risk and impact
  • ‘We the business’

View all our podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.

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2-Speed ITSM

5837174879_ce6a5e647c_z-2IT and ITSM are at a crossroads, where they are being pulled in several directions. On the one hand there is high demand to speed up, be innovative and engaging, yet they must also ‘keep the lights on’ and protect the IT assets of their organisations and customers.

With the spread and complexity of technology and searing the pace of change, most IT organisations need to wake up to the fact that they can’t do both of these things. They really can’t do it all, certainly not with old legacy organisations based around 80s and 90s technologies and structures.

So, how do we manage to solve the ‘2-speed’ dilemma? How can we deliver new innovations and speed up our delivery times, whilst still delivering value through accountable, sustainable and robust systems and processes? We need to respond more quickly and with ‘agility’, yet we also need to do the basics of e.g. ITSM well – and better than they ‘ve been done before.

How can IT departments re-invent themselves? Its difficult for many IT people in large or heavily process driven organisation to appreciate some of the ‘new’ concepts like ‘DevOps’ – since this has been effective and valuable to new thrusting and entrepreneurial companies – particularly in the technology sector. It’s a far cry from a cool Cloud start-up in the Bay area to a local council in Sheffield, or a long established insurance company in Merseyside.  Of course all organisations differ in terms of focus and maturity but at some point all companies and enterprises will face the challenge – that many are already facing – of how to balance safety and security with energy and speed. Those that don’t face the challenge will lose competitiveness, or cost effectiveness, or both. The 2-speed dilemma is here to stay.

Whilst there are many current challenges – there are also several opportunities that can tune 2-speed ITSM into win-win ITSM.

So what do we need to do? Here are some key points:

  • Focus has to be on business outcomes and customer experience, which can then help to define key IT elements and services that are needed to support these. In order to do this properly we need to engage with our customers and define and map our services in terms of supply chain and value chain – ie who does what, where are the costs and real ‘nuggets’ of IT value.
  • The discovery work required in defining these ‘services’ will also identify areas where there is the opportunity for cost reduction, automation and improved speed of service, via removal of administrative tasks – e.g. things like request management, equipment ordering , provisioning and procurement.
  • The key is how to prioritise – if we can’t do everything ourselves (and most IT organisations can’t) then we need to use automation, delegation and multi-sourcing to take care of commodity and time-consuming work in order to be able to focus on strategic and high-value work.
  • There are now many excellent tools that can provide this and which also meet the millennial generation’s requirements for more self-determination and automated interaction – e.g. self logging, self-healing. Many outdated, slow and costly processes and bottlenecks can be replaced with slick, automated ordering, approval and provisioning tools that run quickly and efficiently at a fraction of the current cost.
  • Also, many traditional ITSM tools have been transformed as collaboration tools using ‘social’ type interfaces. As a result there has been a significant increase in the use of these tools in back-office service areas beyond IT – e.g. HR, Finance, Marketing, Legal. There has been a consolidation of portals and catalogues for all of these areas into a single functional interface – which has been made possible by the improvement in User Interface and simple configurability of these tools.
  • Significantly this is enabling IT departments to become positive ‘can-do’ enablers and solution providers, rather than the isolated and non-communicative ‘guys in the basement’ from the past. The challenge to engage and the opportunity of new technology have combined to offer IT the change to re-invent itself…
  • Finally there is also a more mature and ‘joined up approach’ to managing the various lelves of outsourced or multi-sourced services that IT departments (and other teams through shadow IT) have evolved into managing. Multiple Service Integration and SIAM (Service Integration and Management) are emerging as new mantras for IT organisations to use to finally get control and also deliver business value.
  • This requires some re-thinking and refreshing os skills and roles – with more commercial focus and relationship management required.

IT is now effectively a supply chain business and part of its evolution involves growing pains – this is a great time of opportunity for IT and those that grasp this and see the future will definitely cement their place in it.

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Transforming User Experience – 6th March, London

The ITSM Review are holding a free seminar in central London this March entitled Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service, which will help to address this subject. For more information click here

Event Listing: Transforming User Experience

ITAM_ITSM_LOGOS_FINALFollowing the success of our recent IT Asset Management events program we are very pleased to announce our very own series of events here at The ITSM Review, beginning with ‘Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service’ Seminar at the BCS in central London.

In a nutshell: The Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service expert led seminar will highlight how the use of self service and automation can help IT departments to focus on key business priorities.

Helping Customer Help Themselves

Do you want to ensure your team or department is viewed as a valued provider and business enabler? This event focuses on how tools and techniques used in IT can be utilised across organisations and enterprises to build real collaboration, improve efficiency and quality of work.

This free* seminar, led by ITSM authority Barclay Rae, will provide practitioners with access to key knowledge and practical guidance on ITSM, networking/interaction and the opportunity to discuss issues with industry peers, together with access to recent ITSM Review Group Test content on Enterprise Service Management/Outside IT and Self Service.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to explore the current challenges of 2-speed ITSM together with practical examples of how to re-invent the IT department using self-service, automation, Enterprise Service Management and positive transformation from with one of ITSM’s leading professionals.

*Free to attend, however cancellations charges apply.

Event Summary

  • Who: The ITSM Review
  • What: Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management and Self Service
  • When:  6th March 2015
  • Where: BCS Offices, The Strand / Covent Garden, Central London
  • Cost: Free
  • How: Click here to book

 

Speaker Profile

SITS ITSM Contributor of the Year 2014 - Barclay Rae
SITS ITSM Contributor of the Year 2014 – Barclay Rae

SITS ITSM Contributor of the Year 2014, Barclay Rae is an experienced consultant, mentor and business manager. With over 25 years working in the industry & upwards of 500 ITSM projects under his belt, you can be sure that his latest seminar will be packed full of practical & proven tips & tricks.

His work as a consultant, mentor and ITSM analyst have put him in high demand at industry conferences globally with appearances at SITS, itSMF, Pink Elephant, Fusion, BCS etc & we are thrilled to have him leading this seminar.

Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service will draw from Barclay’s wealth of experience & recent market research, along with practical examples, to help delegates use strategic direction and recognise end-user opportunities to improve their ITSM.

Agenda

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Speakers & Sessions

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Sponsors

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Podcast Episode 8: ITSM Outside IT

ITSM Review Podcast Episode 8: ITSM Outside IT – Enterprise Service Management

In this episode Barclay Rae, Shane Carlson from Fruition Partners and Martin Thompson discuss using ITSM principles and technology outside the IT department – known as Enterprise Service Management.

Topics include:

  • Shane reports that 3/10 new Fruition projects are outside the IT department
  • HR is a leading area for ITSM improvement
  • The IT department needs to be credible before embarking on other areas of the business (Why should I get your help with my critical business processes when it takes you 4 hours to reset a password).

Links mentioned in the podcast and further reading:

ITSM Reader Analytics

ITAM Tools Day

Oracle Seminar

Outside IT Review by Barclay Rae

 

The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

 

This podcast was recorded at the end of October 2014.

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Renovating Your House of Change Management

No Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen probably won’t be paying your change process a visit, but he certainly won’t “thwart the juices and desires of the great interior design public (or change managers) at large” whilst undertaking your change renovation project
No Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen probably won’t be paying your change process a visit, but he certainly won’t “thwart the juices and desires of the great interior design public (or change managers) at large” whilst undertaking your change renovation project

In my inaugural article, I talked about how aligning the change management processes – from capturing customer demand at the beginning; through project delivery; and implementation to the production environment – is important for us to be able to understand, plan for, adapt to, and deliver our customers’ needs whilst balancing quality, control, and conduct effective operation of our services.

Quite a heavy opening paragraph especially given that doing all these things can be a challenge!

I also, suggested you might want to work with what you have, which in many cases, might be “change control” i.e. assessing, reviewing, approving and implementing changes to the production environment.

It is on this basis, that I would like to share with you my thoughts and experience surrounding production-related change including things like CAB (Change Advisory Board) and assessing and risk and impact.

If you recall, we undertook a complete re-launch of process to become the “change governance framework” which included significant alterations to the way change control worked in practice.

Using Your Existing Tools – No need to knock down the walls!

Our Service Management tool – like many I’ve heard anecdotally before – wasn’t fit for purpose and was the “bane of everyone’s existence” according to many people I spoke to.

The first thing I did was undertake the entire journey of raising, assessing and approving a change ticket in the tool. Using the Systems Thinking (Vanguard) check model approach to “flow” was particularly helpful for focusing on the end-to-end process objectively as well.

In all honesty, there were not many screens to follow and completing a ticket was reasonably quick and trivial to do. However, the challenges I discovered were

  • that the level of detail in the assessments ranged from copious text to practically nothing
  • it took ages to get approval from the relevant person
  • a copious amount of change tickets were open – in many cases for several months

As part of the workshop activities I mentioned in the previous article, we utilised the wider Systems Thinking (Vanguard) check model to identify a considerable amount of confusion, waste work and failure demand (the ability to do things right the first time).

What we identified was that the process and lack of understanding of the tool were largely to blame rather than tool itself. Sure, it wasn’t perfect but it was what we had.

Succinctly, the changes that took place involving the tool included:

  • introducing a series of questions for people to complete when creating a change request rather than guessing what to put down for their assessments
  • the agreement with all change approvers that the change manager would have day to day approval for minor i.e. non-CAB changes in order to speed up the approval process
  • publishing the change schedule via the existing digital signage and making it available to all IT staff on large plasma screens so they were aware of what was occurring on a given day
  • integration of a “risk and impact” calculator that scored the risk, impact and change category – particularly helpful when knowing whether a change needed to go to CAB or not – by popular demand, a template is below

Risk & Impact Calculator to download from OneDrive

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Questions to consider – pick a colour!

One of the biggest requests I had from people in response to their queries about how to improve their risk and impact assessment, was what questions did we expect people to complete. Whilst I can’t provide an exhaustive list, you might want to consider developing a script based upon the following question set:

  • What is this change?
  • What are the high level implementation steps and back out plan for this change?
  • When do you plan to implement this change?
  • What is/are the benefit(s) of doing this change?
  • Has this change been tested both technically and by the customer?
  • What resources are involved in the change?
  • Has this change been implemented previously?
  • Have you sought the relevant technical, service and customer authority for this change?
  • Has the relevant documentation been created or updated and handed over to the relevant support team?
  • Have you communicated the details of this change to the relevant people?

CAB – what do you mean it’s not a taxi?!

As glib as the section title sounds, in some cases a Change Advisory Board in my experience has ranged from being a thorough, technically detailed meeting for several hours to a mere minutes ‘tick box exercise’. From either extreme, I’ve seen people have their changes needlessly rejected for trivial details or have simply bypassed the process altogether as they feel it adds no value.

My tips for having an effective CAB include:

  • Make sure you have the right stakeholders (including your customers, if appropriate) in the meeting to make effective decisions
  • Consider having senior managerial presence in the meeting to give it credence – if management do not respect the meeting, you can’t expect others to.
  • Have a clear and precise agenda and stick to it. Getting bogged down in every detail suggests the change isn’t ready to be approved or that the meeting isn’t working effectively.
  • Consider having a companion technical authority meeting or process for change to be reviewed before CAB. It can help with the above point.
  • The Change Manager needs to be an effective chair to ensure process is being followed but more importantly keeps the meeting moving without becoming a “talking shop”
  • Ensure the right changes come to CAB – this is perhaps the most important point as adding additional bureaucracy and process will likely be counterproductive and you may miss the critical change that ends up causing a major incident!

Summing Up

The best way to renovate your existing change management process, is fundamentally to

  • Not be afraid to look at your process from a fresh/external perspective but not to simply ‘paper over the cracks’
  • Use what you can with your existing tool – remember, it’s cheaper to apply a new coat of paint than to knock down walls.
  • Make sure CAB is delivering and adding value
  • Make sure there is a change schedule available and people can see it – think of this as your “feature wall”

 

Image Credit – “Laurence Llewelyn Bowen” by Andy G from Hazlemere, United Kingdom

Enterprise Service Management – Enabling Value Delivery Outside IT

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The lines between departments are often blurred and requests can be passed around or come to a complete standstill

Enterprise Service Management – Enabling Value Delivery Outside IT is a guest post by Darroll Buytenhuys, Chief Operating Officer at Samanage

 

In IT we often forget this, but we aren’t the only department that provides internal services within an organization.

HR, facilities, legal, finance, purchasing, sales, marketing, administration and other departments all deliver services to other areas of the business outside IT. Business processes flow across these services, so anything that can be done to make the flow smoother can benefit business productivity. Anything that hinders these processes hinders business.

So what prevents people in the business from getting the help they need from other departments? It’s often quite simple. It’s in not knowing where to find the help they need.

Is it always clear who does what in the business? The lines between departments are often blurred and requests can be passed around for a while before they land on the right desk. The process stalls.

The second common problem is the “black hole”. You call Tony in facilities to request assistance with an office move. He says he’ll get back to you in the next hour. Nothing happens. The process stops dead.

We’ve all been there and it’s very frustrating. Having more clarity on which departments perform which specific functions (e.g. internal enterprise services) helps to optimize productivity.

Most departments are aware that they need to operate more efficiently, but few are aware that they also need to interact more efficiently (mainly because their internal metrics don’t tell the full story of their performance in the broader context of the business). No matter how well a department operates internally, there is usually plenty of room to improve the way it handles demand from other business units. Most departments don’t think of themselves as an enterprise service domain.

 

The Enterprise Service Challenge

The IT end user community is not exclusive to IT. They’re also the end users of other departments’ services. It’s one big enterprise community, so from the end user’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense for each service department to have a different web portal. When you have a number of departments providing internal services to the same end user community, it makes more sense to create a centralized digital portal that exposes the services of all of these business units. A one-stop-shop for all of your enterprise service domains will reduce time spent looking for help and increase business productivity across the board.  

Think about the end user’s perspective. In a day, a member of your enterprise community might:

  • Request a password reset from IT.
  • Ask HR how many vacation days they have left, and book a day off for the following week.
  • Report an issue with the office air conditioning to Facilities.
  • Request the company’s annual accounts from Finance.
  • Ask Administration for help with booking a flight and hotel for a customer visit.

In most organizations, these requests will happen via phone or email, and the responses are probably dealt with on an ad-hoc basis, with no defined process, supporting automation or approval workflow. Even if the request doesn’t get lost, it certainly won’t happen efficiently and within a predictable timescale. Successful outcomes in these situations are underpinned by the work of a few individuals. By contrast, IT has a web-based request system, well defined execution processes and software tools to automate them. Everything is logged. Nothing gets lost. Responses are of a consistently high quality and happen within a predictable timeframe. Successful outcomes are underpinned by the quality of the system (a combination of people, processes and technology).

 

An Opportunity to Enable Value Outside IT

The IT department has an opportunity to show other service domains the way to a higher level of maturity – from ad-hoc manual processes that deliver “minimum viable service” to a streamlined service management system that communicates and operates in a more efficient manner.  In organizations where IT has got service provision right (implementing processes that actually get results for IT customers and creating a digital interface to streamline response to day-to-day demand), employees may be wondering why they can’t interact so easily with enterprise service domains outside IT. As a department that has been there and done that, there’s an opportunity for IT to help other departments by implementing the same principles that have worked for IT.  Unfortunately and all too often, IT is handicapped in its ability to assist in the enablement of improved service management by their legacy service desk technology.

The vast majority of service desk software products in use today date back 2-3 decades and require a heavy dose of professional services and IT support to build and maintain the required processes.  IT is reluctant to take on these additional responsibilities, knowing that all other departments will require substantial support to deliver benefits to their constituents.  IT also knows that if the support is not excellent, they will hurt rather than help these departments — and IT will be left with egg on their face.

The recent entry into the market of fleet-footed, agile SaaS companies, delivering service management solutions that are implemented in days, if not hours, by non-IT people, is allowing IT to become true champions of the service management cause.  This frees IT up to support these departments by sharing service best practices:

  • Thinking in a more customer-oriented and service-oriented manner.
  • Managing what the department does as a portfolio of services.
  • Monitoring changes in demand from the business – and responding accordingly with new solutions.
  • Focusing on the service user experience and how services generate optimized value with minimal friction for end users.
  • Defining and automating good processes which deliver the right outcomes efficiently and consistently.
  • Making it transparent: articulating what they do and how they do it. Keeping service consumers informed about progress.
  • Setting service-level agreements and providing feedback on performance.

IT has both the know-how and potentially the technology to support the implementation of service management best practices in other enterprise service domains within the business. By applying what they know about managing service portfolios, process automation and support outside IT they can help streamline the way other business units operate and interact. By improving operation internally, the business unit becomes more efficient. By improving interaction with other departments, business operations become more efficient.  And, with today’s SaaS applications, all of this can be built and maintained by the business units without costly professional services.

 

Darroll Buytenhuys is Chief Operating Officer of Samanage.  Darroll has over 30 years experience in sales, marketing and general management in the software industry. Most recently Darroll was a Senior Vice President and Officer of BMC Software (NYSE BMC). Darroll joined BMC as a result of the acquisition of New Dimension Software where he was the president of the North American operation and was also the company’s worldwide COO. New Dimension Software was an Israeli company (listed on NASDAQ) and its $800M acquisition by BMC was at the time the largest ever acquisition of an Israeli software company.


The ITSM Review are holding a series of seminars this year headed by ITSM superstar Barclay Rae. We will be starting in March with Transforming User Experience – Enterprise Service Management & Self Service. For more information click here

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Practical Ways to Eliminate Alert Fatigue

Tips to avoid Alert Fatigue

In March 2014, US Retailer, Target revealed that its security software had detected its now infamous data breach five

months earlier, and that at least eight IT employees had seen the threat alert but decided not to act on it.  Some commentators jumped on the firm for its apparent incompetence, but security experts say its reaction was pretty normal.

So how and why do data breaches, equipment failures and disasters go undetected by humans when the monitoring systems are doing their jobs? The constant stream of alerts can cause engineers to check out, a syndrome that some refer to as ‘alert fatigue’.

Reacting to this influx of alerts uses your engineers’ time and resources, costs money, and can prevent your IT department from playing a more strategic role at your company.  This article will explore four actions that you can perform now to address alert fatigue.

Here are the four recommended actions.

Action One: Plan

You could think of a notification model in four levels of maturity, listed here from least to most mature:

  • Level 1 – reactive
  • Level 2 – tactical
  • Level 3 – integrated
  • Level 4 – strategic

IT is complicated enough.  Your IT tech people and engineers receive a stream of notifications that range from innocuous (someone has accessed an asset or logged into a system) to important but only to certain people (a project has achieved a milestone) to urgent (a server is down or security has been breached). Responding – or even reacting – every time a notification comes up can be time-consuming and irritating.

Do the work on the front end: Plan for alerts, escalations and automated processes for different scenarios to make sure your intelligent communications work well.  The system must have every stakeholder’s contact information, device preference, schedule and commitment to be available. You must build this in advance of an emergency.

 

Action Two: Automate

Suppose your business experiences a power outage.  A full-scale emergency will require a series of manual instructions and emails to the IT team, engineering and everyone whose business and safety may be affected.  However, you can still automate some important features, alerting first responders, letting purchasing know you need new servers, and even cutting off power to the server room.

What about more limited incidents, such as an employee laptop failure? Once the incident is recorded, the engineering tech replacing laptops receives an alert, a step that can be automated, and the employee can receive an automated notification that a fix is in progress. What if the employee reports the issue after hours?  Do you alert the tech on a mobile device, or can it wait until morning? If you plan your processes well, you can automate every step based on the urgency of the incident.

Time is critical, especially if you are servicing employees in global offices, as some employees are losing valuable work time. That could mean sales opportunities missed or incomplete timesheets.  Based on urgency, location, time, each person’s preferred device and work schedule, you can automate whether to alert engineers right away or wait until the morning. Depending on the rules in place, the message can be sent two ways: automatically triggered by the event, or at the push of a button, usually by the IT lead.

 

Action Three: Be Proactive

Another important function for efficiency is the enablement of easy status updates. IT techs frequently experience disruptions from answering queries on the status of an open ticket. Whilst it’s understandable that customers want to know the status of outstanding events, IT techs would rather be resolving issues than answering enquiries. Status updates send automatic messages to clients with expected time to resolution.

Proactive communications don’t have to be just for incidents. They can let employees know of impending software updates, let customers know of enhancements, or let an employee know a new laptop has been ordered and is on its way. The proactive alerts can ease the minds of the recipients, whilst freeing IT leaders from such enquiries.

 

Action Four: Target

A good way to enable your engineers to avoid alert fatigue is through targeted alerts, as alerts go to the subset of employees who need to know either to take action or to simply be in the know.  You should also target alerts by preferred device, so IT techs receive notifications where they’ll see them and respond. A good way of doing this is with subscriptions, enabling stakeholders to subscribe to relevant alerts and unsubscribe from others. When you combine automation, targeted alerts and subscriptions, you create more efficient alerting processes to help support IT Service Managers and IT departments.

 

With these recommended actions you should be able to drastically reduce the number of alerts received and help to restore some energy into your alerting.

 

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