Self-service – The value of Social

Stuart Power Mar 2014
Stuart Power, Matrix42

We’ve seen the future of IT service support – and it’s social!

An increasing number of corporate IT departments are evolving from fire-fighting cost centers, into service-delivering profit centers. Perhaps yours is one of them. But although this evolution is significant, it’s not the end of the story. In most cases, a centralized IT service delivery and workspace environment, with all its automation and self-service capabilities, is still run using linear processes and relationships. For example, a user creates a support ticket, and a service desk agent records and directs it to the right team. The team then addresses the issue on a first come, first served basis, and informs the user when it has been resolved. This isn’t really collaborative in the truest sense, and the support function doesn’t really ‘live’ as an ecosystem. For many of today’s employees, especially the ‘digital native’ generation, that means there’s something missing: the social element.

After all, the vast majority of employees use some form of social media in their personal and business lives already. That’s why introducing social ITSM can be the next logical step in creating a user-centric IT environment, after IT service delivery automation and implementing a corporate App Store with user self-service capabilities.

Typical use cases

There are several different ways in which social can be integrated into the ITSM and support processes, including:

Social walls: Users submit an issue to a support wall, just like you find on Twitter and Facebook, and other users with the same problem join the discussion, either to notify support or to provide tips and fixes. In some cases, this means a ticket never needs to be raised, reducing the overall support workload. In others, IT can see in real-time what and where current issues are, and then prioritize and address them more quickly than would otherwise be possible. Not only that, resolved issues can be added to a knowledgebase that improves users’ ability to resolve their IT incidents via self-service. As a result, the service provider (IT department) gets access to the big picture i.e what’s really going on in the organization from a support request perspective at any given moment.

Service desk chat: Chat functionality is integrated with a simplified incident report form that can be completed collaboratively. Users can see if someone is online and available for chat and, if their query has to be put in a queue, they are notified when a service agent is free. Alternatively, if a response takes too long, a standard incident ticket is created automatically.

Interactive incident reporting: A browser-based reporting function lets users create an incident via a mini-form that enables them to quickly capture error logs and screenshots, and submit them to IT with a short description of the issue.

More than just old wine in new bottles?

Of course, introducing social media capabilities does not fundamentally change how tickets are resolved in the back end. We’re not talking about throwing the ITIL baby out with the social bathwater. Nevertheless, using social elements in the ways described above creates a different relationship between users and the IT department. Support becomes faster, more responsive, collaborative and fun. IT becomes more closely integrated with the business, and can be seen more readily as a business enabler. And the user experience is transformed from being static and reactive, to dynamic and proactive.

The benefits outweigh the risks

You could argue that adding a social element to ITSM increases complexity and can reduce transparency, because it can bypass traditional processes and happens so quickly that managers find it hard to keep up with what is happening. Moreover, usage policies must be defined and policed, creating additional workload.

However, the risks of not embracing social within ITSM are significant. Without it, the IT department is likely to be seen as out of touch, especially by the digital native generation, and users are more likely to bypass official communication and support channels as a result. It may also become more difficult to attract and retain the best new talent if your competitors are offering a more socially–enabled working environment. The good news is, you should be able to measure the benefits it delivers quite easily in terms of faster ticket resolution and up to 50% fewer tickets overall.

Five steps to social ITSM success

While on the increase, the use of social media within ITSM is still immature and few best practices exist. At Matrix42, we recommend organizations focus on the following areas to maximize their chances of success.

 

  1. Define your goals: The biggest mistake you can make in social ITSM is to just do it because you think you should. Clear business objectives such as reducing support costs or improving employee retention figures should be the drivers.
  2. Choose your tools: Are you going to create user communities, leverage chat functionality, use existing internal platforms or invest in 3rd-party solutions? You need to find the best fit for your existing investments, ensure ease of integration and maximize process automation.
  3. Integrate your channels: Social media can become an information silo just as easily as any other communication channel. Social ITSM interactions must be easy to track and extract information from, in order to measure success and further support user self-service by adding the details of successfully resolved issues to the support knowledgebase.
  4. Create policies: You need to define the rules about acceptable usage, service levels, compliance and security – collaboration should not be chaotic!
  1. Measure the results. Social ITSM is an investment like any other – you need to be able to prove the business benefits. KPIs like monthly incident ticket creation, speed of incident resolution and user satisfaction indices, are all useful benchmarks.

Conclusion

As the proportion of digital natives in the workforce increases, the introduction of social channels into the IT service support environment will become increasingly essential for maximizing user satisfaction with IT. While new investments will be required, the benefits will outweigh the costs, as long as you use the five steps outlined above to guide the transformation.

This article has been contributed by Stuart Power, UK Sales Manager at Matrix42.

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Self Service IT: Not as Scary as it Sounds

Stuart Power Mar 2014This article has been contributed by Stuart Power, UK Sales Manager at Matrix42.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked for a number of companies at which, as a new employee, it has taken days or weeks to be given the technology I need to do my job. I’ve no doubt it’s still happening in many organisations today. But as the proportion of ‘digital natives’ in the workforce increases, that scenario is becoming less and less acceptable. More importantly, it is becoming a serious business risk, rather than just a temporary inconvenience. Why? Because today’s employees expect to be able to use technology at work in the same way as they do in their personal lives. That means switching between devices at will, and accessing software and services at their convenience, often through a central app store. If that’s not possible, they are more likely to look for employment elsewhere.

Giving employees this kind of control over technology is a scary prospect for many corporate IT departments. But with the right approach to enabling user self service, the reality can be more fulfilling than frightening.

 

Start with the User, Not the Technology

Enabling your employees with self service access to the technology tools they need requires a fundamental shift in the way you deliver IT to users. Rather than the IT department acting as a local supplier of heterogeneous hardware and software, it needs to become a provider of standardised services – all delivered and managed from a central IT service/workspace management system. The process starts with the definition of a service portfolio (the needs of the business that the IT department must fulfil) and a service catalog (the actions required in terms of technology delivery to meet the business need). Importantly, both the service portfolio and the service catalog must be built around the needs of your employees, not the established capabilities and processes of the IT department. Once these needs and services have been defined, they can be realised within your chosen ITSM/workspace management solution, which should ideally feature an app store interface that gives users a consumer-style experience when choosing and consuming corporate IT services. That solution should also automate every service-related process, from order to approval and delivery, right through to on-going maintenance and management.

 

Standardise Services, Establish Value

Automating processes is all well and good. But automating a bad process is often worse than leaving it alone, because in an integrated ITSM system, the consequences will automatically impact other processes. That’s why it’s so important to standardise the processes within each service as much as possible, and thereby minimise the potential for error.

Equally as important is ensuring that users understand the value of the service they receive. If no cost or value is attached to a service, users will consume it at will, creating additional and uncertain cost and workload for the IT department. Equally, if a price is attached to a service without defining every aspect of the service being provided, business users and managers will invariably see only the hardware or application they are consuming. The accompanying admin, networking, security, support, management and maintenance work will be invisible. As a result, they may try to circumvent the service catalog because they will perceive the service to be expensive and believe that they can get it cheaper elsewhere. Both of these scenarios can be avoided with a centralised service portfolio and catalog that provide clear price/performance definitions for each service.

 

Five Steps to Self Service Success

So, you’ve made the decision. You want to give business users the consumer-style IT experience they expect, and prove the value of IT to your business. At Matrix42, we believe there are 5 essential success factors to be aware of, however you choose to implement user self service.

1. Define and standardise services

Efficient self service in corporate IT requires every service to be standardised around particular usage scenarios, such as the onboarding of a new sales person, and automated at every stage of the service lifecycle. Once this has been achieved, it becomes easier to make small adjustments that may be necessary for specific locations, such as linking PC orders to a local hardware supplier.

2. Integrate all the necessary processes

Ideally, users, managers and IT departments should all be using one IT service delivery and workspace management system that integrates all the IT and business processes required to order, approve, deliver and manage an IT service. This ensures cost and status transparency for all, and maximises IT service management efficiency.

3. Give everything a value

Services without costs attached encourage users to consume them freely, regardless of whether they are actually necessary for their work. To avoid unnecessary expenditure and workload, every IT service must be clearly and realistically described and priced. This ensures the cost of service consumption and expected service quality are transparent and predictable for users and approvers.

4. Ensure compliance

Your ITSM system should enable you to create and manage the relevant license agreements for each service centrally. This requires that your service catalog is integrated with your compliance solution, which should proactively alert managers to any over or under licensing. This will enable them to avoid compliance failures and continuously optimise costs.

5. Make it accessible from any device

Many of your users don’t work in one place on one device, so they expect to be able to order and use a service from wherever they are, and on whichever device they are using at the time. A complete, centralised IT service and workspace management solution will ensure that each service only needs to be ordered once for it to be made available on multiple devices.

 

Conclusion

With device and software diversity increasing all the time, and an ever-more demanding and sophisticated user base, greater IT complexity within organisations is almost inevitable. Introducing user self service into ITSM is one of the most important tools at your disposal for simplifying the management of that complexity.