itSMF India held their 2nd annual conference at the Vivanta Hotel in Bangalore on the 5th November. My quick video review is below.
Some thought provoking presentations, interactive panel sessions and great simulation exercise to finish the day. Congratulations to Suresh GP and the itSMF India team for an excellent conference and thanks for inviting us.
Unashamed commercial plug: Suresh GP (Our courteous host in India and all round good egg) has left the HP ITSM team to venture out in the world of independent consulting.
Social IT has generated a lot of hype over the last few years but many organizations have been left wondering how to turn the grand theory into practice – in a way that delivers tangible results for the business. People know what social media is; they just don’t know how to transfer the principles of social media into the world of IT operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase IT customer satisfaction.
Start at the top
The trick with social IT (as with any new technology) is to start with what you want to achieve. That means taking a top-down view of the challenges you are facing and examining how social IT principles and tools can help you face those challenges. You have to have a good understanding of the issues to begin with, as well as understanding the “toolbox” of social mechanisms that are available. If you start by looking at social IT technology, you won’t get the results you need. You’ll simply be implementing technology for technology’s sake. Focus effort by thinking about where social principles can help you to improve services, reduce costs and improve business satisfaction with IT.
Make it part of your strategic ITSM roadmap
Social IT isn’t something that you can do in isolation. Social IT should be implemented as part of your strategic ITSM roadmap, not as a separate IT initiative. It’s not something you can implement with a big-bang approach and then say “We do social IT.” Social IT isn’t something you can buy in a box (although you will need technology to make it work). Nor is it the answer to all of your problems. What social IT provides is some new ways to improve communication, problem-solving and decision-making across geographical and departmental boundaries. Better communication is something that most IT departments will benefit from. Social IT is already happening in your organization, in a limited way and at a local level. People frequently collaborate and share knowledge offline to solve problems. The challenge for IT is to “digitalize” this social behaviour and facilitate it on a global scale.
The “toolbox” of social mechanisms
Collaboration sessions/discussion boards – open forums that enable collaboration between groups around whatever issues, problems and projects they’re working on.
Follows – By letting staff follow the people, services, projects and devices that are relevant to them, they can stay informed without being overwhelmed with information.
Status updates – “Short-form” announcements that help people stay connected.
Wikis – User-generated knowledge bases that are maintained by the whole community to keep them in alignment with your live environment.
Likes – User-ratings for content, knowledge or services that indicate quality and usefulness
Hashtags – Tagging improves searchability by grouping different types of content with similar topics.
Social profiles – A who’s-who for your organization, helping people to pick suitable collaborators.
Scope of social IT
The scope of social IT isn’t restricted to within the IT department. There are two other angles you need to consider. There is a lot of value to be gained by harnessing social mechanisms to encourage and improve interaction between IT people and end users. Social IT can also be applied to the broader end user community by facilitating knowledge sharing and peer support (and empowering end users to take some of the day-to-day strain off the service desk). With all these new interactions going on, you will need to define policies to maintain a sensible level of control and set out which social mechanisms are appropriate in which situations. For example, a peer support forum is not the right place to report a critical application issue that is affecting an entire business unit. Sometimes it is still best to pick up the phone and call the service desk.
Mapping challenges to social solutions
Organizations can help ensure they gain business value from social IT by mapping business challenges to social solutions. Every organization is different, but there are many different ways in which social IT can help to improve efficiency, reduce costs and minimize risk. The way you map challenges to solutions will depend on your business structure and priorities, but here are some examples of how you can derive social IT tactics from strategic business drivers:
Resolve IT issues faster.
Support knowledge is locked up in departmental silos.
Facilitate collaborative discussions and the crowd-sourcing of solutions to issues.
Expose a searchable record of historic collaboration sessions to boost the knowledge base and helps support staff (and end users) to find more solutions more quickly.
Reduce negative impact of change.
Lack of transparency between IT and the business prevents proper understanding of business risk and impact.
Let end users follow the services and devices they use so that they are aware of planned changes and disruptions. Use microblog status updates to announce changes and linked blog posts or wiki articles to describe detail.
Use open collaboration sessions to consult with business stakeholders/end users to crowd-source a full impact analysis.
Drive continual improvement of services.
IT doesn’t understand current business needs, or how business needs are changing over time.
Social engagement between IT people and business people promotes better understanding of business demands and the issues that affect productivity. With collaboration tools, IT people and business people can discuss where and how improvement is needed to meet changing demand.
Drive business innovation with new technology.
The IT department is bogged down with firefighting common issues relating to current technology.
Facilitate peer support by enabling the sharing of fixes and best practices within the end user community. Collaboration sessions, wikis and a searchable knowledge base empower end users to find information and solve problems without intervention from IT.
Improve IT process efficiency.
Geographical and departmental barriers restrict the flow of information.
Integrating social collaboration into ITSM processes means IT staff can tap into an enterprise-wide knowledge/resource pool.
Social IT helps you get the most out of your people by creating collaborative communities and transforming the way people communicate and share knowledge. Collaborative problem solving is both more efficient and effective – and translates into higher productivity, lower costs and lower risk for IT and the business.
Social IT doesn’t start with buying new technology, it starts with examining the challenges that IT faces and working out how social mechanisms can help improve productivity and efficiency. However, tools play a vital part in facilitating open collaboration on a global scale.
Social IT helps you bring offline collaboration and problem solving activities online – to create a system of engagement that will help you optimize the activities that make up your IT processes.
Social IT is a “fuzzy” way of working that IT isn’t very familiar with. The open nature of social media requires IT to embrace new ways of thinking and let go of the need for such strict control of data and interactions. However, some governance policies are required.
Social IT doesn’t require a big-bang approach. You can apply social mechanics to small corners of IT to test the water and demonstrate value before a larger roll-out.
A new inflection point was reached in the service desk technology market space this week.
A free service desk.
Whilst free and open source ITSM technology has been available for quite a while – this is the first supplier I’ve seen to offer a free service desk without limitation on number of analysts (please let me know if otherwise).
What is perhaps most significant is that the vendor, ManageEngine, already has a huge number of customers, is recognized on the Gartner ITSSM quadrant and has the resources to make a dent.
Techcrunch report today that Zoho/ManageEngine revenue is ‘9 figures USD’, growing at 30% per annum.
The entry level Service Desk offering from ManageEngine is now free. The previous ‘standard’ edition offered a Service Desk for up to five analysts for free – now it’s completely free for any size organization. Customers just pay for premium optional upgrades.
The new normal?
This sort of ‘Freemium’ business model is becoming increasingly popular in a world of very low cost or free apps and cloud-based delivery. Freemium is whereby the vast majority of users of a service can take advantage for free and the business can turn a profit from a small proportion that adopt premium upgrades.
For example Spotify the music streaming service has 6 million paying customers versus 20 million active monthly users and it is estimated that only around 10% of LinkedIn’s 200M users pay to use the service.
Will this kill the market?
No, I don’t think so.
Whilst it is disruptive and gutsy move at market share I don’t think it is necessarily going to kill the market. It will certainly mean existing competitors will have to seriously re-evaluate their value-add but it’s not the end of the world. Spiceworks (ad supported) is free and versions of OTRS (Open source) are free. Vendors have been competing against these for years and should know how to articulate their value. Great software supported by, rather aptly, great support.
If you compete on price alone, you can be beat on price alone. – RA
However I would say that more fragile competitors should be worried. We’re yet to dig into the finer details of the detailed differences between the free standard edition and professional but at first glance there seems to be a lot under the hood considering the price.
“It is certainly a brave and audacious move. I think there is no doubt that some core aspects of ITSM tool functionality is pretty much a commodity, so I guess ME are using this as a level to expand their client base and brand awareness, particularly into new markets and market areas.
ITSM still requires some levels of implementation and integration intelligence, along with organisational change etc., so there will need to be some recognition of the need to develop support mechanisms around the free product that safeguard the brand via successful implementation.
I’d expect ME will need to look at developing their support and professional service capability to support this, particularly for the enterprise market.
However this is still a brave and market shifting move – I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this in due course.”
ManageEngine can presumably offer this for free because:
a) The marginal costs of additional customers on a cloud based infrastructure is negligible – assuming the product works ok without hitch
b) ManageEngine are betting that a sufficient number of free customers explore paid upgrades and other products in the ManageEngine range.
c) The cost of acquiring new customers into the marketing pipeline just got a lot cheaper – albeit at the cost of forgone revenue. Customers can now be convinced with delivery, rather than a short trial or promises, before parting with their cash. Theoretically they might be free customers for years before parting with any paid upgrades. Meanwhile ManageEngine has the all-important resource in the Internet economy – the customer’s attention.
As ManageEngine state in their press release – if it wasn’t already, the basic service desk has just become commoditized.