Service desk collaboration: why Facebook walls and social streams are not the answer

Social updates firehose - why updating everyone with everything might not be the answer.
Social updates firehose – why updating everyone with everything might not be the answer.

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters .

Why was the IT service management and help desk function created?

Most likely, it stemmed from an idea to establish a task force of specialists capable of providing assistance in any complex technical issue.

Over the decades, the service desk function has evolved from elite efficiency artistry into first level issue resolution ranging from the basic resetting of a password, to the complex, cascading outages, which can involve all stakeholders and affect the most important services within the organisation.

However, all too often, the relevance of the function is underestimated. The perception is generally that the service management function is not as aligned or as strategic as it should be.

Proving the efficiency and value that the service desk provides to internal and external stakeholders can change that perception. But to do so, you have to begin by going back to the original objectives of the service desk.

It is easy to reconstruct how service management has become distracted with the issues of running an effective service desk. The goals of the help desk are a paradox. The range of tasks can be infinite and undefined, training is difficult, resources are scarce and customer’s expectations are growing at an increasing rate.  Too much information is being broadcast out to groups without taking into consideration how and why a person wants that information. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to increase the relevance of service management.

Let’s examine some of the best practices to increase your business relevance:

  1. Automating mundane tasks – The ultimate goal of automation is to perform a required process in a streamlined, efficient and repeatable fashion. In order to automate a time consuming first-line task, you will need to create synergy between incident and dispatch assignment by combining industry leading service desk applications with a communication platform.  The platform you choose needs to allow each team to declare who is responsible, available, skilled and interested in any issue. When incidents take place, personnel are automatically located, dispatched and working on resolving those incidents without the need for the service desk to perform the slow, manual task of looking up who’s on call, who’s responsible, and what their contact information is.
  2. Optimising first call closure – Not all issues can be solved on the first call from the service desk. However, by automating the mundane tasks, we can reinvest time in our first-line resolution capability. The savings allow us to train first-line specialists and provide time for personnel to more accurately trouble shoot and resolve issues. In addition, it gives the service desk the ability to spend more time with customers during satisfaction-impacting issues.
  3. Enabling effective escalation – One of the challenges of effective service management, is knowing when and how to escalate an issue.  Finding the right person can be complicated and the odds of effective, accurate escalation feel like one in a million.  Effective escalation starts with enabling the team responsible for meeting the service level with the ability to control the information they require. By allowing each team leader or director to architect the process, it ensures that when escalations are required, the correct person is notified. Through the automated delivery of information to the person responsible, the time to dispatch and resolve is reduced, resulting in fewer escalations and eliminating non value-added tasks such as wait time for assignment, call out, and person-to-person escalations.
  4. Instant and frequent visibility – One of the largest challenges a service management organisation faces is to provide visibility to the consumers of the service. Business personnel require proactive notifications of service interruption; however, the process of manually calling 500 executives in 50 countries is not realistic without the help of a communication platform.  Additionally, using internal social media channels such as Facebook, Chatter and Jive requires information to be pushed out, rather than pulled in.  What’s required to provide meaningful, instant and frequent visibility and increase the perception of the quality of service? First, the organisation must have matured through the previous steps.  Before providing proactive alerts, the service management function must be operating effectively and efficiently. The second step is the integration of a communication system capable of supporting global operations, business personnel, business service oriented alerts and the ability to target content to each person based on their needs, role and requirements – it’s called personalised information.
  5. Champion transparency and accountability – Service management can provide an organisation with the tools necessary to increase efficiency and transparency. However, to reach this stage, organisations must become comfortable with publishing the results of their efforts.  In today’s world, IT services are all too visible, lags are noticed and incidents become known by your customer’s customer. Transparency and accountability are the key drivers in trust and assurance.

The key to increasing the relevance of the IT service management function is to streamline inefficient processes, and improve communication throughout the organisation.  Automating redundant, mundane tasks to improve efficiencies is critical.  Once you have an airtight process that ensures the service desk is running smoothly, you must then deliver proactive notifications to the people who care about specific situations.  While some may argue that social media channels are the perfect way to do this, it takes away the notion of personalised information.  Everyone is seeing the information posted there, and they have to actively seek it out.  IT service management should have a communication platform that delivers only the information internal and external customers care about, and need to know, directly to them.

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.

Image credit

Top 10 Social Intranet Trends

Digital Watercooler Moments: The most popular activity inside social intranets are the activity stream, instant messaging, and comments

Some interesting stats have emerged from CMS provider Bitrix who claim demand for Social Intranet is ‘exploding’ among small businesses.

Their data is based on 40,000 signups of their social intranet platform and 5,000 Intranet installations ranging from 2 to 4,000+ users.

Top 10 Social Intranet Trends

  1. Social intranet is small, real small, and that’s good news. The median Bitrix24 intranet size is only 9.7 users. Small businesses are embracing social intranet when it’s offered as affordable SaaS that does not require deployment.
  2. Social intranet isn’t just for business. While 62% of social intranet users are companies, 10% are educational institutions, another 10% are healthcare providers, 9% are religious institutions (churches), 7% are non-profits, and  2% are non-traditional users that can’t be easily classified (kindergarten, musical group, Navy Seals endurance training, tantric sex coach).
  3. Social intranet is a mobile. As of Jan 2013, 18% of Bitrix24 users access corporate portals from smartphones and tablets, not PCs. We expect the trend to continue.
  4. The box is dying, but… While 70% of our clients prefer using cloud-based SaaS, 30% insist on having a box version for security and privacy reasons. Several countries, like Germany, have restrictive privacy and personal data use legislation, forcing companies to store data on their own or approved servers.
  5. Emerging markets are on fire. The top 10 social intranet users by country are as follows: US, Russia, India, Brazil, UK, Philippines, Germany, China, Indonesia, Canada.
  6. Skepticism about the social intranet concept isn’t over yet. While 87% like social intranet idea and believe it will increase employee productivity, the other 13% prefer a classic intranet concept and think that social features will either be misused or won’t add anything of value.
  7. Talk and work. The most popular activities inside social intranets are as follows: 73% – activity stream, instant messaging, and comments; 27% – document storage, sharing or collaboration; 21% – tasks and project management; 15% – scheduling, calendars and meetings; 14% – CRM; 10% – work reports; 4% – business processes.
  8. Social intranet is changing traditional work patterns. For example, 60% of Bitrix24 users access the corporate portal on weekends at least once and 12% of Bitrix24 users accessed their portal on Christmas Day.
  9. Social intranet is addictive – 13% of social intranet users use the extranet to work with clients, freelancers or service-providers, exposing it to a wider audience.
  10. CRM, Project Management and Collaboration software is being absorbed by wider social intranet solutions. Almost 8% of Bitrix24 users have stopped using at least one service or software because a similar tool was already available in their social intranet package. Most frequently dropped were CRM and project management.

Bring Your Own App

Social intranet is frequently adopted on a department level (sales, HR, marketing, IT), meaning it’s used inside one department and not the whole company. In several instances Bitrix24 was used inside a department because the company intranet lacked necessary features.

Several clients stated that they got introduced to social intranet by another company (Jive, Yammer, Podio, Chatter) but found it either too difficult to use, lacking features or not appropriately sized for their business, meaning there’s a large segment of enterprises that aren’t being serviced by traditional intranet providers. Law offices, health care providers, travel agencies and realtors seem to be particular hungry for industry specific solution.

Information supplied by Dmitry Davydov of Bitrix.

Getting started with social IT (Part 2 of 2)

Following on from Matthew Selheimer’s first installment on social IT, we are pleased to bring you the second and final part of his guide to getting started with social IT

Level 3 Maturity: Social Embedding

The saying, “Context is King!” has never been truer and this is the foundational characteristic for attaining Level 3 social IT maturity; Social Embedding.
This level of social IT maturity is achieved by establishing relevant context for social collaboration through three specific actions:

  1. The creation of a social object model
  2. The construction of a social knowledge management system that is both role-based and user-specific
  3. The enhancement of established IT processes with social collaboration functionality to improve process efficiency and effectiveness

The goal at Level 3 maturity is to leverage social embedding to improve IT key performance indicators (KPIs) such as mean-time-to-restore (MTTR) service or change success rate (additional examples are provided below). It is important that you select KPIs that are most meaningful to your organisation; KPIs that you have already baselined and can use to track progress as you increase your social IT maturity.

While the value of Level 2 maturity can be significant in improving the perception of IT’s responsiveness to users, Level 3 social IT maturity is where the big breakthroughs in IT efficiency and quantifiable business value are created.

Focus on key performance indicators

Focus on the KPIs associated with the processes you are enhancing with social collaboration. An incident management KPI measurement, for example, could be to multiply your current mean-time-to-restore (MTTR) service by your cost per hour of downtime or cost of degraded service per application. This will give you a starting point for benefit projections and value measurement over time.

Focus on the KPIs associated with the processes you are enhancing with social collaboration. This will give you a foundation for benefit projections and value measurement over time.

For change management, you might use the number of outages or service degradations caused by changes and multiply that by your cost per hour of downtime and MTTR to arrive at a true dollars and cents measure that you can use to benchmark social IT impact over time. You might also consider other IT process metrics such as first call resolution rate, percentage of time incidents correctly assigned, change success rates, the percentage of outages caused by changes, the reduced backlog of problems, etc.

The point is to select IT process metrics that are meaningful for your organization and enable you to calculate a quantifiable impact or benefit. Decision makers may be skeptical about the value of social IT, so you will need to make your case that there is real quantifiable benefit to justifying the investment to achieve Level 3 maturity.

Relevant Context and Three Required Actions

Let’s now more fully consider the establishment of relevant context and the three actions characteristic of Level 3 maturity previously described: 1) creation of a social object model, 2) construction of a social knowledge management system, and 3) the enhancement of IT processes with social capabilities. We noted earlier that context is defined in terms of relevance to a specific audience. That audience could be a group of individuals, a role, or even a single individual. The most important thing is that context ensures your audience cares about the information being communicated.

How do you go about ensuring the right context? What is needed is a social foundation that can handle a wide variety of different perspectives based on the roles in IT and their experience. The most effective way to do this is to treat everything managed by IT as a social object.page7image27920 page7image28080

What is meant by a social object? Consider, for example, a Wikipedia entry and how that is kept up-to-date and becomes more complete over time through crowd sourcing of knowledge on the subject. The entry is a page on the Wikipedia website. Now imagine if everything that IT is managing—whether it’s a router, a server, an application, a user, a policy, an incident, a change, etc.—was treated along the same lines as a Wikipedia page. Take that further to assume that all the relationships which existed between those entries—such as the fact that this database runs on this physical server and is used by this application—were also social objects that could be created, modified, and crowd-sourced. In this manner, organizational knowledge about each object and its relationships with other objects can be enriched over time—just like a Wikipedia entry.

FIGURE 2: A Social Object Model as delivered in ITinvolve for Service Management™. Leveraging social collaboration principles

Define a taxonomy for your social objects

Knowledge comes from multiple sources. Existing IT knowledge may be scattered in different places such as Excel spreadsheets, Visio diagrams, Sharepoint sites, Wikis, CMDBs, automated discovery tools, etc. but it also resides in the minds of everyone working in IT, and even among your end users. To effectively capture this knowledge, you will need to define a taxonomy for your social objects. You can then begin to source or federate existing knowledge and associate it with your objects in order to accelerate the creation of your social knowledge management system.

With an initial foundation of knowledge objects in place, your next task is to make the system easy to use and relevant to your IT teams by defining perspectives on the objects. Establishing perspectives is critical to a well- functioning social knowledge management system, otherwise, you will fall into pitfall #2 discussed earlier. For example, you might define a Network Engineer’s perspective that includes network devices and the relationships they have to other objects like servers and policies. You might define a Security Administrator’s perspective that focuses on the policies that are defined and the objects they govern like network devices and servers. Without this perspective-based view, your teams will not have the relevant context necessary to efficiently and effectively leverage the knowledge management system in support of their day-to-day roles.

Enrich your knowledge and keep it current

Once you have initially populated your social objects and defined perspectives, you need to keep knowledge current and enrich it over time to ensure your IT staff finds it valuable. This is why defining your objects as social objects is so critical. Just like you might follow someone on Twitter or “friend” someone on Facebook, your teams can do the same thing with your objects. In fact, when you created your perspectives, you were establishing the initial baseline of what objects your teams would follow. In this manner, whenever anyone updates an object or its relationships, those who are following it will automatically be notified along with a dedicated “news feed” or activity stream for the object.

When you create your perspectives, you establish the initial baseline of what objects your teams will follow. In this manner, whenever anyone updates an object or its relationships, those who are following it will automatically be notified along with a dedicated “news feed” or activity stream for the object.

This does two important things. First, it keeps those who “need to know” current on the knowledge about your environment so that everyone has up-to-date information whenever there is an incident, change, or other activity related to the object. Instead of waiting until a crisis occurs and teams are interacting with out-of-date information, wasting valuable time trying to get each other up to speed, you can start to work on the issue immediately with the right information in the right context.

Provide a point of engagement for subject matter experts

Second, it provides a point of engagement for subject matter experts to collaborate around the object when they see that others are making updates or changes to the object and its relationships. This second point should not be underestimated because it taps into a basic human instinct to engage on things that matter to them and directly contributes to the crowd-sourcing motivation and improvement of knowledge accuracy over time.

Your third action is to embed your social knowledge management system into your core IT processes in order to enhance them. This is not simply an add-on, as described in Level 2 social IT maturity, but rather it is deep embedding of the social knowledge management system into your processes as the most trusted source of information about your environment. For example, imagine creating an incident record or change record, initially associating it with one or more impacted social objects, and then being able to automatically and immediately notify relevant stakeholders who are following any of those objects and then engage them in triaging the incident or planning the change. This is the power of social collaboration and why it can deliver new levels of efficiency and value for your IT organization.page10image25552

Create new knowledge objects

As an incident or change is worked using social IT, collaboration in activity streams creates a permanent and ongoing record of information, which at any point can be promoted to become a new knowledge object associated with any other object. For example, let’s say that a change record was created for a network switch replacement. Each of the individuals responsible for the switch and related objects like the server rack is immediately brought into a collaboration process to provide input on the change and contribute their expertise prior to the change going to the Change Advisory Board (CAB) for formal approval.

FIGURE 4: In-context collaboration and promotion to knowledge as supported by ITinvolve for Service Management™

This is just one example of the power of in-context collaboration. The same principles apply to incidents, problems, releases and other IT management processes.

To exit Level 3 and start to move to Level 4 on the maturity scale, you need to be able to provide your IT staff with in-context collaboration that is grounded in a social object model, utilizes a social knowledge management system that is easy to maintain and provides an up-to-date view of your objects and relationships, and enhances your existing IT management processes. But more importantly, you need to be able to show the quantifiable impact on one or more KPIs that matter to your organization.

Level 4 Maturity: Social-Driven

The final stage of social IT maturity is Level 4, the Social-Driven IT organization. The goal at this level is to leverage social collaboration for Continual Service Improvement (CSI).

The value of Level 4 social IT maturity comes in two forms. First, as your organization becomes more adept at leveraging social collaboration, you should benchmark your IT process KPIs against that of other organizations. Industry groups such as itSMF, the Help Desk Institute (HDI), as well as leading industry analyst firms, provide data that you can use. Getting involved in peer-to-peer networking activities with other organizations via industry groups are a great way to assess how you are doing in comparison to others. At this stage, you should be striving to outperform any organization that is not leveraging social collaboration principles across your KPIs, and you should be performing at or above the level of those organizations that have adopted social collaboration principles.

Measure the size of your community

Second, you should measure value in terms of behavioral change in your organization. At maturity Level 4, you should have established a self-sustaining community that is actively leveraging the social knowledge management system as part of its day-to-day work. Measure the size of your community and set goals for increasing the community size. Metcalf’s law applies directly to social collaboration: The “network effect” increases the value of the social knowledge management system exponentially as you add users to the community.

Measure the size of your community and set goals for increasing the community size. Metcalf’s law applies directly to social collaboration: The “network effect” increases the value of the social knowledge management system exponentially as you add users to the community.

One way to foster a larger and more active community is through recognition and rewards. For example, you might choose to publicly recognize and provide spot bonuses for the top contributors who have added the most to the social knowledge management system. Or, you may reward service desk personnel who consult the social knowledge management system before assigning the incident to level 2 personnel. You might also choose to acknowledge your staff with “levels” of social IT expertise, classifying those who participate occasionally as “junior contributors”, those who participate regularly as “influencers”, and those who are most active as “experts” or “highly involved.”page12image22344 page12image22504

What’s Beyond Level 4 Social IT Maturity?

One of the most exciting things about being engaged in advancing your social IT maturity is that we are all, as an industry, learning about and exploring its potential. In the future, we are likely to see new product enhancements from vendors that employ gamification principles that encourage even greater growth of our social collaboration communities.

We may see the integration of information from biometric devices that help us to more quickly assess end user frustration and initiate collaboration to resolve issues prior to the user even contacting the service desk. There are certainly going to be even more use cases for social collaboration than we can imagine today.

Getting Started with Social IT (Part 1 of 2)

Today’s post from Matthew Selheimer of ITinvolve is part one of a two-part feature on Social IT maturity, part 2 will follow soon. 

"Most of your customers, employees and stakeholders are actively using social media"

Today, 98 percent of the online population in the USA uses social media sites, and worldwide nearly 6 out of every 10 people use social networks and forums.

From a business perspective, this means a very large percentage of your customers, employees and other stakeholders are already participating in the social media universe where smartphones, tablets, video communication and collaboration are a part of daily life. It almost goes without saying that, if you want to connect with new audiences and marketplaces today, there is no other platform that compares to social media in reach and frequency.

In fact, a recent McKinsey & Company report suggests that the growth businesses of tomorrow will be those that harness the power of social media and its potential benefits not only externally but internally as well:

Most importantly, we find that social technologies, when used within and across enterprises, have the potential to raise the productivity of the high-skill knowledge workers that are critical to the performance and growth in the 21st century by 20 to 25 percent.’

We are social by nature

How might IT departments take advantage of this social media potential? IT organizations are, in fact, quite social by nature. Knowledge and expertise reside in different teams, and specialists must frequently come together and collaborate to plan for changes and resolve issues. These social interactions, however, are typically ad hoc and take place across a wide variety of methods from in-person conversations and meetings, to email, to phone calls, to instant messaging, to wiki sites, and more.

How can IT build upon its existing social culture to deliver new value for the broader organization?

To be considered as more than just a ‘nice to have,’ social media must provide tangible benefits. The good news is that social media principles do provide real benefits when applied to IT – and they do so in a big way. For example, IT organizations that are using social media principles are finding that their staff can interact with users and each other in new and more immediate ways. They are also finding that they can much more easily capture and share the collective knowledge residing across their systems and teams; and then armed with this knowledge, they are able to better understand their IT environment and the complex relationships that exist among their IT assets.

Being social brings risks and rewards

This, in turn, is leading to increases in staff productivity and is making day-to-day tasks like resolving incidents and planning for changes more efficient and more accurate. The results include faster time to restore service when outages or degradations occur, a higher success rate when executing changes, and a greater overall throughput of IT process management activities – just to name a few.

But the adoption of social media principles in IT also has the risk of certain pitfalls. In this article, we will explore a four-level model of social IT maturity, (See Figure 1) including how to avoid the most common pitfalls.

  • At Level 1, organizations begin to explore how social IT can contribute by defining a milestone-based plan with clearly established benefits as their social IT maturity increases.
  • At Level 2, IT takes specific actions to add on social capabilities to existing operations, and begins to realize projected benefits around user intimacy and satisfaction.
  • At Level 3, social IT becomes embedded into and enhances IT operational processes, providing relevant context to improve collaboration among IT professionals thereby making IT teams more efficient and accurate in their daily work.
  • Finally, at Level 4, IT evolves into a socially driven organization with a self-sustaining community, recognition and rewards systems that further incentivize the expansion of the community, and a culture that harnesses the power of social collaboration for continuous process improvement.

 

Figure 1 - A Proposed Social IT Maturity Model

Level 1 Maturity: Social Exploration

The first level of social IT maturity is Social Exploration. The goal of Social Exploration is to learn, and the value delivered comes from defining your plan to improve social IT maturity.

Such a plan must include specific key performance measures that can be tied to financial or other tangible business benefits. Otherwise, your social IT plan is bound to be greeted skeptically by management.

Start by asking yourself simple questions like ‘How can social tools improve my ability to provide better IT service and support?’ and ‘What social IT capabilities are available in the market that I should know about and consider for my organization?’ If you’ve not started asking these types of questions, then you aren’t even on the social IT maturity scale yet. Exploring what social IT could mean for your IT organization is the critical first step.

To exit Level 1 and move to Level 2 on the maturity scale, you must have a documented plan for how you will improve your social IT maturity that incorporates specific key performance measures. The following sections will discuss a variety of elements and performance measures that you should consider.

Social IT Pitfall #1: Ungoverned Broadcasting

In your transition from Level 1 to Level 2 maturity, a common pitfall is to look for a ‘quick win’ such as broadcasting via Twitter or RSS. A number of IT management software vendors include this capability in their products today, so it seems like an easy way to ‘go social.’ However, if you haven’t taken the time to define your communications policies clearly, you could end up doing more harm than good. Posting IT service status to public feeds could leave your organization exposed or embarrassed. You wouldn’t want to see ‘My Company finance application unavailable due to network outage’ re-tweeted and publicly searchable on Google, would you?

You can do more harm than good if you try for a ‘quick win’ approach to social IT by broadcasting via Twitter or RSS. Posting IT service status to public feeds could leave your organization exposed or embarrassed.

Level 2 Maturity: Social Add-ons

The most important thing about getting to Level 2 maturity, Social Add-ons, is that you are now taking specific actions to leverage social capabilities as part of your overall IT management approach.

While some organizations may choose to move directly to Level 3 maturity, because of its greater value, a common next step in increasing social IT maturity is the adoption of one or more social capabilities as add-ons to your existing IT processes. The goals at this stage are typically to leverage social capabilities to improve communications with users and, to a lesser extent, within IT.

The value of Level 2 social IT maturity is defined in terms of metrics such as user satisfaction, the percentage of incidents or requests that have been acted upon within their prescribed SLAs, and the creation of formal social IT communications policies that clarify what should be communicated to whom and when.

A logical place to start is to evaluate the social add-on capabilities of your current IT management software. You may find that your current vendor offers some type of 1:1 chat (instant messaging, video-based, virtual chat agents, etc.), often with the ability to save or record that chat. You may also find support for news feeds and notifications (e.g. Twitter, RSS, Salesforce.com’s Chatter, Yammer, or Facebook integration). You might also consider using these approaches on a standalone basis outside of your current IT management software if your current provider does not offer these capabilities.

Define your communication policies

Remember the first social IT pitfall of broadcasting, though. Before you start communicating, you must define your formal communications policies. Most likely, you already have a policy that pertains to email or Intranet communications to users and employees. If you do, that’ll give you a head start to work from. In any case, here are a few good rules of thumb to follow:

  1. Only communicate externally what you are comfortable with the entire world knowing about. In most cases you will find there are very few things, if any, which fit into this category. For example, you might push out a tweet to a specific user’s twitter account that their incident has now been closed, but without any details about the nature of the incident.
  2. If you do want to communicate using social tools externally in a broader way, consider using private groups that are secure. For example Twitter, Chatter, and Facebook all support private groups, although there is administrative overhead for both users and IT departments to request to join them and to manage members over time.
  3. Make sure what you communicate is focused on a specific audience.Don’t broadcast status updates on every IT service to everyone. If you create too much noise, people will just tune out your communications defeating their entire purpose.

To exit Level 2 and start to move to Level 3 on the maturity scale, you need to shift both your thinking and your plans from social add-ons to how social capabilities can be embedded into the work IT does every day. This means expanding your social scope beyond IT and end user interactions, and working to improve collaboration within IT.

Social IT Pitfall #2: Feeds, Walls, and Noise – Oh My!

One critical success factor for social IT communications is to ensure you are targeting specific audiences. Some vendors offer a Facebook-like wall in addition to the ability to push updates out via Twitter or RSS. In addition to the exposure risk previously discussed, these approaches can also create a tremendous amount of noise, which will make it difficult for both business users and IT to identify useful information in the feed or on the wall.

Relying on a solitary Facebook-like wall for social IT, as well as pushing updates out via Twitter or RSS, can create a tremendous amount of noise, making it difficult for both business users and IT to identify useful information in the feed or on the wall.

There is a simple analogy to illustrate this point. Imagine you are invited to a dinner party and arrive as one of twenty guests. As you enter, you hear many conversations taking place at once, music playing, clinking of glasses behind the bar, the smell of food cooking. What’s the first thing you do? If you’re like most people, you look around the room to find someone else you know, someone who appears interesting, or maybe you head toward the bar or the kitchen. What you’ve just done is to establish context for the party you’re attending. A single IT news feed or wall doesn’t provide useful context. It’s like listening to random sentences from each of the conversations at the party and contains a lot of noise that a business or IT user just doesn’t care about.

While news feeds and walls typically have a keyword search capability, both users and IT users will end up spending too much time trying to locate relevant information. As a result, they will likely over time start avoiding going to the feed or wall because it contains far too much information they don’t care about. What’s more, the feed can grow so long that it needs to be truncated periodically causing useful information that was posted a long time ago to become lost to the organization.

Stay away from one-size fits all walls or feeds. They’re not useful and will hurt the credibility of your social IT project.

This is part one of a two-part feature on Social IT maturity, part 2 will follow soon.

University of Exeter Students Choose Twitter for IT Support

Given the choice, University of Exeter Students Opted to Receive IT Support Updates via Twitter

The itSMF held their UK South West & South Wales Regional meeting at the University of Exeter this week.

The theme of the day was processes and toolsets with a big emphasis on member interaction and discussion.

In a nutshell: A good day. Recommended.

Two presentations really stood out for me during the day. Firstly Deborah Pitt, Configuration Manager at Land Registry Information Systems in Plymouth, gave a compelling talk on how she managed to convince various IT teams within Land Registry to buy-in to their CMDB. In short, Deborah recalled her strategy of badgering, evangelising and more badgering.

Winning Friends and Implementing CMDBs

Deborah shared with us that she increased engagement and adoption with the CMDB by farming out responsibility for configuration items to various IT teams. For example, the team responsible for management of blackberry devices were assigned ownership of Blackberry data within the CMDB, a great strategy for building confidence in the system and getting users to let go of their precious excel sheets.

“Although process and tools have both been important in getting buy in from consumers and owners of the data that goes into the CMDB, another, often overlooked factor has been a major plank of getting the message across.   This is building successful, communicative relationships with both consumers and owners.  Through selectively targeting the audience and tailoring the message, Land Registry have been able to build enthusiasm for CMDB, such that there is now a widespread take up of CI use and ownership.” Deborah Pitt, Land Registry.

Bring Your Own Pot Noodle?

However, for me the most interesting talk of the day came from the hosts: Zach Nashed who runs the IT Helpdesk at the University of Exeter.

Zach shared how the IT support team at the University were coping with the changing demands of students. It was interesting to hear of the changing attitudes towards IT support since tuition fees were abolished. Since students will be paying £9K per annum out of their own pocket from 2012, this was beginning to translate into higher expectations and demands of IT support (e.g. If I’m paying £9K a year to study here I’m not paying extra for printing).

The IT team are also under increasing pressure to provide 24/7/365 IT services for multiple devices per student. For example students are arriving on campus with a laptop, tablet and phone with all flavours of platforms and expecting instant compatibility and high-speed ubiquitous WIFI access.

Fish Where The Fish Are

To provide higher levels of support at the University and align closely with current requirements Zach and his team hold focus groups with students. As a result the University has begun to explore Twitter as an IT support communication channel. When given the option, students at the University chose Twitter as their preferred update mechanism.

I think this is an important point for anyone considering implementing social channels into their support infrastructure. When considering implementation with a particular channel we need to consider:

  1. Do our customers actually use this social media channel?
  2. And do they want to hear from us when they are using it? (Zach noted that although students spent a great deal of time on Facebook their preferred update mechanism was Twitter)

If students of today are recruits of tomorrow then this initiative paints a picture of IT Support in 2015.

The University of Exeter are a long term Hornbill customer and are exploring a module from Hornbill specifically for twitter integration. Want to know how they get on? Follow them here.