The End of the Service Desk?

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It was the two words that caught my attention. It was the two words that I heard repeatedly over the course of the two days.

“Call deflection.”

I attended the 2017 HDI conference, which gave me an opportunity to visit several ITSM vendors in the expo hall. Nearly without exception, when I asked vendors about their tools and products, among the first words I heard during each visit were “call deflection”.

“Call deflection” is a nice, non-threatening way of saying that the service desk does not have to take a call from a consumer for support. In other words, the consumer is being provided with other ways to get technology support.

As I was walking around the expo floor, I had an epiphany.

It is the beginning of the end of the service desk — at least as we know it.

The challenges of the current service desk model

The current service desk model is too reactive, too cumbersome, and too vulnerable to subjectivity and interpretation. Often times, the service desk is the victim of inadequate enablement by the rest of the IT organization, which results in frustration, both for the service desk agent and the consumer. And while many companies have invested heavily in training service desk agents and implementing remote control tools and knowledge bases, it hasn’t been enough to overcome the frustration that many consumers have with service desk operations.[1]

By definition, the current service desk model is interrupt-driven. The actions of the service desk are triggered when a consumer reports an issue or makes a request. That trigger is also the exact moment when the service desk becomes vulnerable to subjectivity and interpretation – the consumer that relays their interpretation of their issue or request; and the service desk agent, who then interprets the consumer’s issue or request into technology terms. Further compounding the issue is a categorization scheme that is defined in technical, not consumer-friendly terms and cumbersome, linear processes that do not enable the service desk agent for success.

The new capabilities of ITSM tools

Can technology provide the solution? With most of the solutions now provided by ITSM vendors, there is little reason to actually call a service desk.

Integration of monitoring systems, along with the maturation of event management procedures, have enabled ITSM platforms to proactively identify and resolve incidents. With the information captured by monitoring, there is no need to ask the consumer about symptoms – the monitoring system and the (now) integrated ITSM tool already knows. Because of this integration, automated response can be invoked to prevent an outage from occurring. Integration of advanced automation technologies allow ITSM tools to take complex corrective actions for incidents than cannot be prevented.

ITSM tools have long collected a gold mine of user data and information, but that data was locked inside the tool. No more — many ITSM tools now feature data analytics capabilities, producing valuable insights as to how services and technologies are being used. This, in turn, enables proactive, data-driven decision-making that was not possible just a few years ago. With recent acquisitions by some ITSM tool vendors, machine learning-based actions using this data is not too far into the future.

Even if the technology cannot directly resolve a consumer issue, the technology can still deflect the call from the service desk. Chatbots and virtual agents facilitate a natural language, conversation-like interaction with a consumer regarding support issues, but without human intervention. Leveraging cognitive computing and a robust knowledge base, chatbots and virtual agents enable the consumer to make queries and get the exact help that is needed.

The technologies for deflecting calls away from the service desk are real and are available now.  What does this mean for the service desk?

The service desk of tomorrow

The service desk, as we know it today, will no longer exist.

Not only has technology enabled a new service desk concept, but other methodologies are redefining the concept as well. Methodologies like DevOps are redefining the support model, with the same team that developed a service also providing the support of that service. Swarming changes the management of incidents, replacing a linear, tier-based support approach with a collaboration-based approach wherein the incident moves directly to the person most likely to be able to solve it. That person may involve others if needed, but is ultimately responsible to ensure the issue is resolved.[2] Today’s service desk is not conducive to either of these approaches. So, what is the service desk of tomorrow?

The service desk of tomorrow is a multi-channel, multi-point-of-contact entity that provides direct, individual support to the consumer, exploiting the use of technology. The service desk will no longer be a self-contained unit. Rather, the service desk of tomorrow will be as a loosely-coupled team of specialists working in separate but interrelated functional and process areas. These specialists will share the same ITSM platform that is used by the consumer, but advanced technology along with multi-methodology enablement will result in a differentiated consumer experience. For example, cognitive computing based on business rules will determine the person or swarm group to address any issues that are unable to be resolved through automation or self-service.

Get ready for the service desk of tomorrow

To deploy the service desk of tomorrow requires preparation today. Here are four things IT organizations must do to prepare for the service desk of tomorrow.

Build the right knowledge – To be useful, knowledge must be captured and made available in the context of the consumer of that knowledge. This is no different than today. However, greater emphasis must be placed on usability of knowledge by the consumer. End-user-facing knowledge articles cannot read like technical documents. Making knowledge available in various formats, such as “how to” videos or short animations, augmented by smart keyword tagging to help optimize searching will be key for the service desk of tomorrow.

Design comprehensive processes and workflows – The service desk of tomorrow must be responsive and efficient. Comprehensive process and workflow designs promote effective automated response and well as enable cognitive systems, providing the responsiveness demanded by consumers.

Define and agree business rules – Like workflow design, defining and agreeing business rules establishes the foundation for cognitive computing, chatbots, and virtual agents. Additionally, defining and agreeing business rules for consumer support also enables the consumer and ITSM to meet business objectives or comply with company policies.

Focus on simplifying, while enriching the user experience – With the service desk of tomorrow, self-service portals cannot be busy, menu-based interfaces that overwhelm the consumer. Instead, involve current consumers to design a user experience that is intuitive and choice-driven, presenting the user only with the right options, based on the choices she has made and the applicable business rules.

Your company’s demand for the Service Desk of tomorrow is closer than you think .  Tedder Consulting can help you get ready with our Service Desk Optimization consulting offering.  Contact Tedder Consulting today to get started!

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[1] Drogseth, Dennis. “Introducing IT Service Management (ITSM) 2.0: A Cornerstone for Digital and IT Transformation”. Enterprise Management Associates. Sept 27, 2016. Web. Retrieved May 17, 2017.

[2] “Intelligent Swarming SM”, The Consortium for Service Innovation. www.serviceinnovation.org Retrieved May 26, 2017.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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2 thoughts on “The End of the Service Desk?”

  1. You’re absolutely right that knowledge capture is a big obstacle to eliminating the service desk. Most IT departments fail at writing things down for their colleagues, never mind developing references that are intuitive to consumers. It’s cultural more than anything, requiring extroverts that are curious about how communication is received. These qualities are absent in most career IT professionals. A creative team, looking to improve self-service on a strategic and long-term basis? Unfortunately, that’s a far-off future for most.

    1. Thanks Jace for your comments. Yes, capturing knowledge is a significant obstacle to realizing the service desk of the future. Having said that, to continually rediscover knowledge that we already know – only because someone isn’t taking the time to write it down – is such a waste of time and resources. And if an organization expects to be successful, especially in this digital era, knowledge management will be a key factor. The lack of knowledge or having to continually rediscover knowledge will be unacceptable from the consumer perspective. And consumers will and do vote with their feet (more correctly said – “money”). The same can be said of the service desk – and in the larger context of the IT organization – of the future.

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