Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

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ITSM14 Preview: Simon Durbin with "Don't let SIAM cloud your judgement"

Simon Durbin of Information Services Group
Simon Durbin of Information Services Group

In the run up this year’s itSMF UK conference ITSM14, I chatted with Simon Durbin about his upcoming session entitled “Don’t Let SIAM Cloud Your Judgement”.

Q. Hi Simon, can you give a quick intro to your session at ITSM14?

I am going to be demystifying some of the hype that surrounds SIAM. As with any new management or technology ‘trend’ there is always of lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt as people grapple to understand what is really new and unique and what is simply the re-badging of familiar tried and tested concepts.

If you peel away the layers SIAM is actually rooted in some very well established management disciplines, but with the continued evolution of sourcing and service delivery models (such as Cloud) we need to re-frame and adapt these techniques to the realities of our modern complex, multi-sourced, mixed-sourced world.

Q. What impact does SIAM have on an organisation?

One of the greatest impacts that SIAM can bring is control. This is achieved by focusing on robust processes, clearly delineated roles and responsibilities between internal customers, internal functions and service providers; strong governance, all underpinned with quality data and information flows. All too often service providers give clients the ‘run around’ because they know more about your business than you do. SIAM establishes the mechanism to manage the complex interactions between supply and demand for IT services.

Q. What are likely to be the potential pitfalls and/or benefits an organisation may experience with implementing SIAM as a framework?

One of the big pitfalls with SIAM is to try and bite off more than you can chew. As with any process or service improvement initiative, focus and prioritisation is essential. Identify where the biggest pain points are and the critical business drivers and objectives. Align your SIAM efforts to business goals and addressing the pain. Pick your battles and don’t try to boil the ocean (apologies for the overused clichés!)


Simon Durbin is a Director with Information Services Group (ISG) and leads the SIAM practice in the UK, working as a key member of the global ISG SIAM team. He has more than 25 years’ experience in IT service and supplier management working as both a practitioner and consultant. Simon advises both public and private sector clients, across many industry sectors, on Service Integration strategy, operating model design, sourcing strategies and transformational change management

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Simon’s session is on day two of ITSM14 and featured within the Managing Complexities track. To find out more or to book your conference place please visit itSMF UK

Connect with Simon via LinkedIn

Too much Shadow IT? Sunlight is the best disinfectant

"Sunlight is the best disinfectant”  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Could issues with Shadow IT be addressed by openness and communications?

A lot of people confuse the term Shadow IT for something more sinister, something straight out of a Tom Clancy cyber-espionage thriller.

If it were so, it’d be so much more cooler, of course, but on the contrary, Shadow IT is something far less sinister, something we have all been probably guilty of at some point in our careers. The act of purchasing or using technology for the workplace without the approval or knowledge of the IT department is called Shadow IT.

This could mean something as simple as someone using Dropbox to share company data or the DevOps team purchasing an instance of a caching server to increase performance of the website, all without the IT department’s knowledge or approval.

This phenomenon is commonplace thanks to a clear paradigm shift in enterprise buying patterns. Any manager armed with a credit card and access to the Internet can buy software thanks to vendors adopting the SaaS model, as long as it falls within the budget allocated to his department. With the consumerization of technology, it has only made things easier for credit card toting users. It is not only software that is gradually going beyond the scope of Shadow IT, but also hardware and gadgets. We live in an era where we can get a tablet delivered overnight from Amazon if the mobile testing team needs one immediately.

Gartner predicts that

By 2015, 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditures for most organizations will be managed outside the IT department’s budget.

Like any innovation or trend that emerges fast, there are two sides to this. The purchase of that SaaS marketing automation tool by the marketing department would definitely help the marketing team work efficiently towards the business goal of generating more leads, but that also means that there is an increased responsibility towards the IT department in making sure that there are no risks involved.

Some risks associated with Shadow IT

  • Acquisition of software from dubious sources – download sites, cloud services with poor security
  • Ill-researched information leading to bad tech choices
  • Bug infested software
  • Obvious data security risks
  • Risk of malware or virus infiltrating the corporate network

An important question is to be considered here is why do users bypass IT to make purchase decisions? A lot of people view the IT department as still stuck in the ‘80s or that the process of procurement is slow. With the market and competition moving at breakneck speed, businesses cannot afford to wait over a simple purchase that impacts business. With more and more businesses delegating decision making or opting for flat hierarchies, Shadow IT only makes more sense. In case of a sudden drop in performance, would the business rather have an engineer himself take the decision to purchase additional servers to balance load or an engineer who informs IT and waits for IT to supply the same, knowing it would take a few hours (or a few days?). IT would probably have to escalate to ask team leader, finance and a number of other stakeholders for approval resulting in unnecessary outage and hundreds and thousands of disgruntled customers. Phew!

Of course, such situations are not this black and white, but the challenge remains the same.

What can the IT department do to solve this deadlock?

  • Broad-minded CIO – The vision of the CEO is crucial in shaping the organisation; we know this. The same holds good for the IT department, for which the CIO needs to be open to innovation and new ideas. If that means getting rid of that legacy tool you have been using for the past decade, so be it.
  • Openness of the IT department – The IT department should not turn into a bureaucratic force in the organisation, slowing things down with a mindless adherence to the traditional way of doing things. It should act as a catalyst towards the ultimate goal of the organisation – to make more revenue and to be profitable. Understanding business needs and continuously reframing policies and processes is a given for a cutting edge IT department.
  • Communication – Business units must understand that it is good practice to keep the IT department involved in technology purchasing decisions, even ones which have to be taken fast. It becomes imperative for the IT department to reach out actively to business units and educate them about why they exist – not to slow them down, but to help them achieve their business goals. The IT department must use the announcements section of the service desk effectively, sending regular newsletters and engaging your users.
  • Protect and to serve – It is essential that business units and the IT department are on the same page when it comes to IT purchases. The IT team needs to be fully aware of the latest IT acquisition even if they are not directly involved in the purchase. At the end of the day, it is IT that are going to be firefighting if some security lapse arises. After all, you cannot really fight if you don’t know what exactly you are fighting. Step up on your internal training and empower your team to take decisions. Train your team on the latest IT technologies.

In conclusion…

Do not look at Shadow IT as something that will put the IT department out of a job – look at Shadow IT as a huge opportunity to take unnecessary burden off IT – why would you want to spend your time on a minor purchase when you can spend the same time thinking about the big picture – IT strategy?

Remember, Shadow IT is not a bad word. We cannot stop business units wanting to invest in new technology to grow the business. But what we can do is work with them to ensure a smooth and productive work environment.

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The Internet of Things, Big Data and ITSM

Science fiction becoming science fact
Science fiction becoming science fact

I have noticed recently during my travels with EasyVista, that Hotel staff have begun to offer two or three WIFI codes on check-in, in recognition of the fact that we are all carrying multiple devices. Like sheep and rats, devices connected to the Internet outnumber humans.

The number of objects connected to the Internet actually surpassed humans back in 2008. According to Cisco 12.5 billion devices were connected in 2010 and they predict 25BN devices by 2015 and 50BN by 2020. Nowadays the average professional might be connected via their phone, tablet and PC. In a few years time you might also add their home thermostat, fridge, home media centre, home surveillance system, health monitoring system and so on.

The Internet of Things

This growing trend of everyday objects sending and receiving data over the Internet is known as the Internet of things or industrialized Internet.

Sensors can be embedded everywhere and programmed to either communicate with us, or communicate with each other.

Machine-to-Machine Communications (M2M)

RFID chips have led the way in devices communicating data about themselves – but this has been surpassed by the incredibly low cost and ease of access of simply providing devices with WIFI connectivity and management control with a cheap smart phone app.

In the absence of a usable WIFI connection, many devices can use a simple mobile phone SIM card to communicate with the wider world. M2M is a huge growth area for the mobile telecommunications industry, especially as connected devices are growing at a faster rate than humans and can provide significant strategic advantage to businesses that analyze and act on their activity.

Runbook Automation – If this, then that

Futurists have long predicted the fridge that can order it’s own food. But the Internet of Things is far from science fiction. Smart meters and apps on smart phones can already monitor and regulate heating in your home or remind you of tasks to be done based on location.

One of the most fascinating developments in the last couple of years is for devices and services to perform actions based on certain criteria. This is demonstrated perfectly via the free online service IFTTT (If this, then that). Simply connect your online services and use ‘recipes’ to automate tasks such as ‘Turn on the lights when I go into a room’. 16 years ago I travelled to Microsoft in Seattle. I had a meeting with Steve Ballmer, but while I was there, one of the execs showed me around ‘Microsoft house’. When you walked from the bedroom into the lounge, the building sensed nobody was in the bedroom, so the wall moved making the lounge bigger and the bedroom smaller. Perhaps a little too visionary, but it was clever.

It is only matter of time before these consumer-oriented services are standard in the enterprise; Zapier is an example of a corporate grade automation tool for joining together hundreds of different SaaS APIs. If the automation sounds too trivial for business consider that pharmaceuticals are building tablets that can signal when they’ve been swallowed or suitcases that can tell passengers their luggage has been loaded on the wrong flight.

Enterprise Automation

Early adopters for such automation are logistics companies using efficient freight routing or redirection based on real time congestion data to save fuel and time. Manufacturing plants are using sensors to adjust the position of component parts in the assembly process to improve efficiency and reduce errors.

The same logic can be applied to the delivery of IT Services:

  • Enterprise objects can have an online ‘information shadow’ similar to the additional reference material found on a Google map or an augmented reality. Printers have long been able to communicate their status over the network – this can be applied to all things a business owns.
  • Support can be provided in context. In an ideal world I only want to be reminded to buy batteries when I’m stood in the queue at the supermarket next to the batteries. The same filtering can be applied to support – for example knowledgebase information can be shown when customers are in a certain location, or using a certain process or device.
  • Devices can also create new knowledge or provide intelligent services. IBM’s Watson is already answering help desk calls.
  • Smart business equipment can report their own faults in real time, and use predictive analysis to prevent failures in the future.  Field service operations can be quicker and more efficient.

Automating a network of connected devices over the Internet is obviously not without risk. As with all IT Services, organizations need to be concerned with what happens with a system failure, or the ramifications of a vulnerability attack when business devices are automated and autonomous. Privacy of data and cultural shifts should also be considered, the UK retailer Tesco received complaints from packing staff for using armbands on staff to track worker productivity.

What this means for IT Service and support

What does this mean to those delivering and supporting IT services?

Ultimately businesses can harness data collected from the Internet of Things to provide better services and make better decisions based on real time data. All of these devices and online services create unprecedented volumes of data to analyze (known as Big Data). For IT Service Management professionals, new skills will be required to visualize these huge data sets, draw insights from the data exhaust and architect run book automation scenarios.

Traditionally IT support have used data from tickets or infrastructure to facilitate support – the great opportunity with the Internet of Things is to learn more about the users themselves and their behavior in order to provide exceptional support.

It also means that IT may just become BFF with marketing 😉

itSMF UK BIG4 Twitter Chat

twitteritSMF UK’s new initiative for 2014, ‘The Big 4 Agenda’ kicked off last week with the first of the five scheduled Twitter Chats taking place. The chat featured Big4 Agenda Speaker and itSMF UK Vice-Chair John Windebank and was moderated by Kathryn Howard the pioneer of the #leadit Twitter Chats for itSMF Australia.

The Twitter Chat Model

The Twitter Chat model shows that itSMF UK are taking strides to be more current (using social media to engage with the community) and give new and exciting ways for people to get involved. One of my uber pet hates is that Service Desk staff have limited ways to involve themselves in the industry, being able in most cases to only attend one event per year if they’re lucky and in some cases never being unchained from their desk.

The direction itSMF UK is heading seems to be more inclusive and for that I am delighted. Now, if only we could get them to do something about their website!

The point of the Twitter Chats, in itSMF UK’s own words is ‘…firstly to identify the top four issues that you are facing in IT and then to provide discussion/help/expert opinion on each of these topics.’

People from all over joined in the chat, not just from the UK, suggesting that ITSM issues are the same regardless of where you connect to your WIFI.

The Twitter Chat itself

It started off with a few technical hitches and a lot of forgetting to add the hashtag #itSMBIG4, but once all were settled in comments started to flow, albeit with the slightly disjointed manner typical of many people discussing several things at the same time. The hour passed surprisingly fast and below is an overview of what I picked up as the main topics of the event:

Tweets from several contributors show that Problem Management is still a big issue in the industry with it being perceived as the Invisible Man to the Service Desks Superman…

And a general agreement that collectively we’re totally crap at defining the value that ITSM gives to the business

Then there was that ITIL discussion that never ends. Time to face it people, at the end of the world there will be cockroaches, Cher & ITIL.

Overall

I really like the way that itSMF UK are looking at new ways to engage and what’s more, not just with their members but with everyone in the industry and I hope that this will continue and at the next Twitter Chat and that more people will get involved.

Unfortunately a lot of the points raised were, as Claire Agutter said, just the same old issues that have been floating around for years.

Having said that I’m very interested to see the results of the Big 4 Survey (voting now closed) and hope that it’s given some new and exciting insights into the current and future struggles of ITSM.

The comments from the Twitter Chat together with the results of the Big 4 Survey will confirm the 6 key topics that itSMF UK will take to the itSMF UK conference and Exhibition (4-5 November, Birmingham). These 6 topics are due to be announced this week. Then at the event a series of roundtable discussions will take place to narrow down those 6 topics to the top 4 – i.e. the Big 4 that itSMF UK will concentrate on in 2014.

Once announced a Twitter Chat for each of the individual topics will be held as follows:

  • November 13 – Big4 Topic 1
  • December 11 – Big4 Topic 2
  • January 15 – Big4 Topic 3
  • February 12 – Big4 Topic 4

I hope to see you either at the conference, or involved in the Twitter Chats, preferably both!

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Is Darth Vadar in your ITSM project?

darthWhen I started my current role of Total Quality Manager, my CIO lovingly dubbed me “Darth Vader”.

In his view, Darth is the ultimate project manager and the CIO wanted the same qualities in me.

The CIO needed me to brutally prioritize tasks, make decisions based on data, honor commitments, manage risk, be persuasive, take on the big problems, and not be afraid to get my hands dirty.

Recently, the CIO asked me to morph out of Vader mode, so I thought I would take opportunity to reflect back on Vader moments in an ITSM project.

Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed

A lesson early on, an ITSM project is not about technology. The technology will only be as good as the process constructed. If your incident management process does not work when you execute it on paper, adding any technology is just going to accelerate the pain. Remember to include your stakeholder in the design and to put people first. Even if the process does not work, the people, if you have gained their trust, will quickly find a good workaround and help improve the next iteration.

Lesson Learned: Involve stakeholders and communicate intent. Use technology to accelerate good processes

Don’t underestimate the Force

As with any project, you will have your Jedi and Sith plus a lot of people simply trying to get through the rebellion. Dealing with Jedi and Sith is the easy part. The “political” alignment is easy to spot and understand. For me, the Jedi are teammates who help lead the “we’re not changing” attitude (i.e. the ITSM rebellion). While my Sith brethren actively and proudly helped build the “Death Star” (i.e ITSM processes).

The difficulty in my ITSM project was dealing with the “just trying to get through” crowd. We had:

  • Uncle Owen – wanted nothing to do with the rebellion (“just leave things alone”)
  • Greedo and Boba Fett (bounty hunters) –  worked to “take out” new process and changes
  • Droids (but not C-3PO or R2-D2) – folks you really could not communicate with and simply seemed to be focused on doing the next programmed task
  • Lando Calrissian – people who seemed to be on your side but you still are unsure of their motives
  • Admiral Ackbar – people who kept reminding others the project is “a trap”

This group is easily swayed by the Force and Jedi mind tricks from the Jedi and Sith. As we all know, the Force in our organizations is culture, and this is what binds everything together. Small shifts in the Force can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Need an example? Ever brought up an idea, just as a concept, with no intent of doing anything more than creating a discussion and suddenly you are fielding questions/comments/concerns about this idea? “When are we doing this?” “Nobody discussed this with me!” “You just can’t decide on your own to change my job” If you dig a little, you find members of the Jedi used the Force and Jedi mind tricks to build FUD and sometimes to derail the work.

Lesson Learned: There is a fine balance of culture in an organization. Little things (changes, ideas) may not upset the balance but a buildup of little things can cause a great disturbance. A lot of change can happen, sometimes quickly. Keep communication channels open. Let people express their concerns and take each concern seriously. Work to displace FUD.

And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base…

I knew we had “shadow systems” running in our support environment. Proving it, along with the issues caused, was difficult. We got to a point where we started asking, “If a shadow system works (really) well, should you disrupt it just because you are adopting a service management framework?”

We tackled this issue by talking to our Service Owners and finding out why the system was in place. In several cases, it was simply old design and the system worked so well, nobody felt there was an issue to address. We used the ISO/IEC 20000 standards to help determine if the system met the level of quality we desired. If it did, we worked to formalize the process. If not, we worked to transition to an appropriate process. Along the way, we continued to build trust and fight Jedi.

Lesson Learned: If something works well, meets your goals, and satisfies customers, stick with it.

You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor!

Confronting those who actively worked to disrupt the project is one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of the job. In any project, you must understand the FUD statements. Determine why your colleague(s) feel this way. It is important to listen carefully. Find out why they perceive the project as a “threat” to their job/career/lifestyle. Make sure you address why they feel they way they do.

Lesson Learned: LISTEN. Use crucial conversations. Remember, we’re all in this together.

What is thy bidding, my master?

You will receive many opinions while managing an ITSM adoption project. Keep in mind two things:

  • You are charged with getting the project to completion
  • Know who charged you to get this done.

Comedian Jerry Clower tells a story where he was hired to perform at a show. When Jerry walked into the theater, the lighting director walked up and asked “Mr. Clower, how would you like the lights tonight?” Jerry thinks for a moment and then responds, “Son, I don’t know. You’re a professional. Just make everything look as good as you can.”

Next, the makeup artist asks Jerry, “How would you like your makeup done?” Jerry responds with “You know, you ain’t got a lot to work with…just make me look as good as possible. I trust you”.

Finally, the manager of the theater asks, “Mr. Clower, would you mind coming through the audience and shaking hands as you come on stage?” Jerry responds with “Sir, it would be my pleasure to do so!” The manager pauses for a moment and then says “Mr. Clower, I’ve been talking with my staff. All of them tell me you are so friendly and trusting of their abilities. We get a lot of artists in here who just are not that way. Why are you so different?”

Jerry looks the manger dead in the eye and responds, “Son, did you forget? You hired me.”

The point of the story – don’t forget who you work for. The CIO wants this project done. Know the reasons why. Also, know and understand the level of support from the executive team, the service owners, and process owners. Everyone has to be on the same page for this to work.

Lesson Learned: It takes a village to adopt ITSM. Know the key reasons for the project. Know the stakeholders and their expectations. Remember who you work for. 

May the Force be with you

Finally, here are some additional thoughts:

  • You may be Darth Vader in your project. Just remember to stay true to people first then the project. Don’t give into the Dark Side.
  • Search your feelings – Always use as much data as you can but don’t forget to use intuition and the counsel of others to help make decisions.
  • “I’m altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further” – Remember, it’s a project. It’s not a recipe, cookbook or set of instructions. Know the scope of your efforts and be flexible as possible without compromising the quality of the project.

Can you relate to this? Which Star Wars character are you when it comes to your ITSM project?

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