Tag Archives: Service Desk

The New Role of the Service Desk Agent

Share twitterlinkedinmail

What is the future service desk agent? Instead of fearing the future, it’s time to redefine the role.

AI is disrupting almost every part of IT and the service desk is no exception. In fact, service desk agents may be more impacted by AI than any other part of IT.

This has some service desk agents worried about losing their job to a bot. Some of them may even be resistant to incorporating AI into their organization because of this fear.

IT leaders who want to embrace AI must work with their service desk agents to identify opportunities for AI success. Bots are already here and service desk agents should embrace that because bots are ushering in a renaissance for the service desk. The service desk agent role isn’t being outsourced or replaced because of AI. The service desk agent role is being redefined – and this new role is a reason for excitement.

But, before we talk about this new role, let’s first address a common question.

What is the role of the service desk agent?

The service desk agent is typically the first point of contact for IT consumers who need help. Their role generally involves troubleshooting IT consumer issues and providing basic support while escalating complex or more advanced problems to others within IT. Their role involves executing the processes in place to escalate those problems and managing IT consumer expectations and needs. Providing excellent customer service is a critical part of this role.

That description looks good on paper, but what does a service agent actually do?

Historically, service desk agents are performing menial and tedious tasks (like resetting passwords), answering and routing calls and contacts, and strictly following predefined scripts.

But now, bots using AI and machine learning can do those menial tasks service desk agents have historically done – but they can do it faster. Unlike humans, bots are available 24/7, so they’ll never miss a call. Bots will follow those predefined procedures and can perform tedious tasks, like resetting passwords, faster than a human.

So, of course, some service desk agents are looking at this new technology and thinking they can’t compete, or that they are being replaced. But this is where the new opportunity begins.
Finally, with the help of AI, service desk agents can get out from underneath those time-consuming, yet easy-to-solve issues that dominate their days. They are freed from the monotonous tasks that take up their time but don’t utilize their unique skill sets. AI is not going to replace roles. It’s just replacing how low-level tasks are performed.

So what will the service desk agent do when bots and other AI-related technologies are performing those low-level tasks? Here are three opportunities for the future service desk agent.

AI and Automation Experts

You can’t just plug in an automation tool or “turn on AI” and expect it to work perfectly. AI technologies and automation tools only work if they have the proper setup and are managed correctly.
Service desk agents can become AI and automation experts by configuring and managing those technologies. They can be the architects of knowledge bases and automation procedures. Service desk agents can become the go-to experts in helping the organization identify automation opportunities, as well as what needs to be done to implement that automation. We’re just beginning to see how impactful AI and automation can be for organizations and someone will need to continue to lead the organization into the automation age as more technologies are introduced. The service desk agent is perfect for that role.

Problem Solvers

Not all user issues or requests can be addressed by automation or by a bot. There will always be bigger and more complex issues that need to be addressed. With service desk agents no longer bogged down performing menial tasks, they can tackle those bigger user issues that exist within the business.

IT often becomes so busy with small technical requests that they end up applying too many fixes that are only short-term solutions. With bots and AI-enabled technology dealing with those small requests, service desk agents can use their time to create those long-term solutions. They’ll have the bandwidth to innovate and think creatively to identify their solutions. As an added bonus, this work will contribute to the business in larger and more valuable ways and service desk agents will feel more rewarded and appreciated for their work.

IT Ambassadors

Finally, service desk agents will have more opportunities to collaborate with key users. Service desk agents will be able to invest the needed time to understand the business impact of incidents, educate users regarding technology, and identify ways the IT consumer and IT can work together to create a better overall experience.

Good service desk agents will leverage those outstanding soft skills to communicate with empathy and operate from a place of patience. They become ambassadors for the IT organization. If more IT consumers feel seen, heard, and understood by service desk agents, then users will start to see service desk agents as partners, instead of order-takers. This opens the door for IT to be included in bigger conversations around business objects, goals and strategies.

What Should Service Desk Agents Do Now?

The service desk renaissance is here! IT leaders and service desk agents can help usher it in within the organization by championing AI. Service desk agents should aim to become the experts in this new technology, educating themselves on what is available, and then identifying opportunities for using automation and AI technologies within the organization. Upon becoming knowledgeable about AI and how it can support the business, service desk agents should build the business case for implementing AI into the service desk (just be sure you’re avoiding these 5 signs before you start to do so!).

Disruption due to technology is a good thing. It has been happening since the dawn of time and the best way to protect yourself and your team is to embrace it and learn how to work with it. The sooner that service desk agents and IT teams are able to see that AI use will be an asset and not a threat, the sooner your renaissance will begin.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Future-Proofing Higher Education With Employee Experience

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Higher education is facing many obstacles. The entire industry has shifted over the last few years and many higher education institutions are having to adjust how they operate to meet those changes. This article will explore how employee experience and good service management can help higher education institutions overcome those obstacles.

The Changes in Higher Education

One of the biggest changes in higher education is the shifting student demographic. Just a few years ago, student populations were made up of 18-22-year-olds, who lived on campus, went to school full-time, and were working toward a 4-year degree. Today, many students are adult learners, part-time students or taking classes completely online. Many individuals are questioning whether a traditional higher education degree is worth the financial burden and are opting out of traditional higher education altogether.

Additionally, students on campus are dealing with different struggles than past students. Many students are forced to balance multiple jobs while in school to make ends meet. This has resulted in students struggling with increased financial pressure and higher education has become plagued with mental health problems.

And on top of all of those changes, higher education is struggling with decreased funding, increased competition, and budget cuts. Higher education institutions must find innovative and cost-effective ways to engage current, prospective, and past students. The best, easiest and smartest way to do that is by engaging their employees.

The Need for Engaged Employees

Perhaps most worrisome among higher education institutions is that they are struggling with employee engagement. Simply stated – many higher education faculty and staff members are not engaged. Gallup performed a detailed study on employee engagement across several industries. After performing 258 million interviews including 75,000 with faculty and staff members, Gallup found that just 34% of faculty and staff within higher education are engaged at work. This engagement score is lower than most of the industries that Gallup measures.

Unengaged employees could be costing institutions at the bottom line. The faculty are often the institution’s frontline for their students. An engaged faculty can provide students with tools they need to overcome the obstacles they’re facing, which will not only help students stay at the institution, but can help create a dedicated and successful alumni network.

Also, engaged employees are more likely to stay at the institution. Studies have shown that focusing on employee engagement can result in better retention rates and cost savings over time. In fact, according to the American Council on Education, Iowa State University estimates an average savings of more than $83,000 per faculty member retained when engagement practices are applied. Employee turnover can be costly – so imagine how much that adds up over time when good faculty members are retained!

The Institution’s Role in Employee Experience

The question is what can the institution do to support employee experience? Mike Bollinger, global AVP of thought leadership and advisory services for Cornerstone OnDemand notes, “Faculty and staff members help create the student experience, and it’s up to the institution to provide their employees with the learning curriculum, professional development opportunities and recognition they deserve to help both higher education employees and their students succeed.”

Higher education institutions can leverage technology and services to create a better employee experience that includes professional development, learning opportunities, and better operational management.

Digital is an obvious choice for most of these experiences. Higher institutions are already successfully implementing digital-first experiences like digital workflows, online onboarding, training programs, and online learning management systems.

But future-proofing higher education with employee experience requires more than creating digital-first experiences. Technology alone won’t guarantee an exceptional employee experience. Good service management is necessary. The service management I’m referring to is not just IT service management. I’m referring to the holistic approach of delivering value through the use of services, based on the use of technology. Some refer to this as Enterprise Service Management. Whether you call it Enterprise Service Management, service management, or IT service management, one thing needs to remain the same: you must focus on how organizations can co-create value and then deliver that value using technology.

What can higher education leaders do to create exceptional employee experiences?

Institutions must acknowledge the silos that exist among their faculty and staff before they can begin to consider the technological needs. Silos are culturally embedded in higher education institutions. There are silos between faculty and staff. There are silos among adjuncts, full-time professors and tenured professors, as well as, silos among departments. Working to create open lines of communication and to empower the entire institution to collaborate to run higher education as a business. It’s important that both faculty and staff adapt their thinking and actions in terms of value and outcomes instead of activities and things.

This is where IT can take the lead within an institution. Higher education CIOs can work with the rest of the institution to understand the overall goals and determine how technology can help the institution meet those goals.

There are two steps a CIO can take to begin this process.

Identify, map, and manage value streams
When a CIO maps value streams across the institution and identifies where technology is used to support those value streams, they can begin to identify and eliminate redundant spending and waste. They can also begin to find process improvements that can support better employee experience.

Establish an experience center
An experience center is a little like an expanded IT service desk. It is a single point of contact for reporting and managing service issues. Successful experience centers have well-defined processes supporting defined value streams. The experience center can benefit both the student and the faculty and staff as it supports the entire engagement lifecycle of both the students and the faculty. It reduces any frustrations or problems using technology so they can be quickly solved.

Higher education is evolving and the evolution isn’t going to slow down any time soon. While there are many questions about the future of higher education, one thing that remains certain is that the time is now to engage employees and strengthen the brand, operations and bottom line of an institution. This approach of addressing and improving the employee experience of faculty and staff on the front line can create a ripple effect that will leave the end-users, the students, feeling satisfied, cared for and supported by their institutions.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

What Should Your Customer Experience Look Like & How Do You Get There?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Recently, I’ve been sharing about customer expectations and while understanding those expectations is important, you also have to have a plan for how to meet those expectations.

I am referring to the customer experience, of course. The customer experience includes every touchpoint a customer has as they interact with a brand. Customer experience has always been important. But as the world grows increasingly digital, brands are tasked with understanding and mapping the multi-channel experience that customers go through with brands.

And there’s a reason companies spend time, money and effort on mapping and optimizing these experiences. In short: they matter. Forrester found that from 2011 to 2015, revenues for companies that scored near the top of the Forrester CX Index™ outgrew the group of companies that scored poorly by more than 5 to 1.

As brands become focused on the customer experience, they are turning to a new ally, who previously has not been involved in customer experience: the CIO.

The CIO & The Customer Experience

Historically, the CIO has had little to do with the customer experience. The business leaders like sales, marketing and business development would meet to map out the experience and then, they’d ask IT to build what they needed to create that experience. But times have changed.

In a recent KPMG Survey, more than half of the CIOs surveyed reported that enhancing the customer experience is the most important business issue that boards want IT to work on.

The fact is, the CIO needs to be involved with the customer experience these days. CIOs understand the technical limitations of new technologies as well as understand current in-house capabilities. Instead of the business guessing what is possible, IT needs to work with them to create solutions that are achievable.

What A Quality Customer Experience Looks Like?

The question is, of course, what does a quality customer experience look like? If we refer back to the emerging customer expectations that I discussed in this article, a few things become clear.

The first is that customers want a “contextual, intuitive and experiential engagement.” Another way to phrase this is to design a low-effort experience.

What’s a low effort experience? To answer that, let’s first look at a high effort experience.

A customer calls a customer service line. They have the option to wait on hold for an undetermined amount of time or to have the company call them back when it’s their turn. The customer chooses to wait on hold. They wait on hold for 17 minutes when a representative finally gets on the line, asking for the person’s information. The customer then waits another minute while the representative pulls up their information and asks what the problem is. The customer explains their issue. The representative provides a textbook response that doesn’t meet the customer’s needs. The customer asks for another resolution. The representative tells them they have to transfer them to a manager. The customer then waits another few minutes on hold. Once transferred, the manager again asks for the customer’s information and the customer again waits while the manager pulls up their file. The manager tries to provide the same answer the representative does but the customer asks for another resolution. After a few minutes of back and forth, the manager tells them they will try to find another solution and that they’ll email them with a solution within a few days after they have spoken to the appropriate department.

This may sound convoluted but it happens all of the time! I’m sure many of us have encountered similar experiences when dealing with customer service problems. Consider what the customer has to endure during this exchange: multiple wait times, hearing the same information repeated, resolution to be delivered in a different format than the initial exchange. In other words, it’s a high-effort experience for the customers. According to Gartner, 96% of customers who encounter this type of interaction will become disloyal to a company.

The trick to creating low-effort experiences is to lead with the benefits or solutions to customers’ problems over the technology.

For example, if your customers want faster issue resolution, then your organization should turn to real-time text or voice chatbot that is readily accessible for customers at scale.

If customers need more information prior to purchase, consider enhancing your mobile experience or incorporating augmented reality tools so customers can visualize products in their offices or homes.

If your customers want a more personalized experience, focusing on consumer data collection and organization will be your best priority.

There is no one size fits all to delivering exceptional customer experience. It’s about listening to your consumers, paying attention to their needs and then, creating services, incorporating technology and designing processes to fit those needs.

How To Get There?

To point you in the right direction of how to create exceptional customer experiences, I am going to end this article with a question:

How do you think employee experience shapes the customer experience?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Doug Tedder is a panelist on BrightTalk’s “ITSM in 2020: Experts’ Predictions” webinar

December 3, 2019:  Doug Tedder, principal consultant of Tedder Consulting LLC, will appear as a panelist on the December 12 BrightTalk webinar “ITSM in 2020:  Experts’ Predictions”.

Doug joins Claire Agutter,  Director of Scopism and ITSM Zone, and Roy Atkinson,  Senior Writer/Analyst for ICMI and HDI of InformaTech on the panel to discuss what 2020 will mean to ITSM.

The webcast airs at 11:00am ET on December 12. 2019.  To register for the webcast, visit https://tinyurl.com/v64ahf3 .

Does Your Service Desk Need a Tune Up?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

It happens to every CIO eventually. There’s a low grumbling across the organization. It gets mentioned at a few meetings. Other members of the organization take note of it. Then all of a sudden, the word on the street is…..

“The service desk isn’t performing.” (Okay, perhaps that is the family-friendly version…but you know what they’re saying.)

Whether it’s a lack of customer service, it’s taking too long to resolve issues, or there are slow response times, almost every CIO has heard complaints about the service desk.

Of course, no department in any organization runs flawlessly 100% of the time. And technology issues can be one of the most frustrating experiences for professionals (especially when they are not technologically-savvy people). So how can a CIO tell when there’s actually something wrong with the IT department?

In short, how can you tell that your service desk needs a tune-up? CIOs must have a plan to tackle service desk issues and they need to know the right way to do it.

service desk need a tune up

Collect the Right Metrics

No matter how annoying complaints can be, complaints alone may not be enough to initiate a service desk tune-up. CIOs need to obtain the data on their service desks.

The most popular metrics for measuring service desk basics are:

  • Speed to answer
  • Number of contacts logged
  • Average call abandon rate
  • First-contact resolution rate

However, there are many different metrics you can use (and that your service desk tool might track!) but don’t get bogged down in measuring every possible metric. Identify the right ones for your organization and gather the data to determine where the service desk may be struggling from an execution, whether that is a drop-in service levels, decreased user satisfaction, or long resolution times.

It’s also smart to survey end users. This will help identify specific issues that might be plaguing your service desk. These surveys don’t have to be lengthy or complicated. You can simply ask if the user is happy yes or no. If the answer is no, then you can ask the user to elaborate (in their words – an open text box works well for this) or you can follow up afterward.

Of course, metrics only tell you part of the story. Once you have those metrics, you have to dig into each one to understand what’s not working and see the full story of your service desk.

  • Is customer service lacking?
  • Are your processes and procedures out of date or not implemented?
  • Do you have insufficient staff to handle the volume of work?
  • Is there a lack of qualified staff?
  • Is there a lack of collaboration?
  • Is there a separation of roles and responsibilities for different service channels?
  • Are there proper escalation procedures?
  • Are there adequate contact handling procedures?
  • Is end-user support available when and how the end-user wants it?
  • What is the user experience when interacting with the service desk?

Your metrics should give you insight into where the gaps are in your service desk. If they don’t, then it’s time to reevaluate what metrics should be tracked.

Define goals

Once data has been gathered and it’s clear where the service desk currently stands, new goals can be set and communicated to the team. Be inclusive as these new goals are defined – include members of the service desk team as well as people from the user community to help define goals. Collaboratively set KPIs for each goal, establish timelines, milestones, and ideas for how each goal can be met.

Create a Service Catalog

If you don’t have a service catalog, now is the time to create one. Service catalogs can help organize resources, manage expectations, and identify inefficiencies. They also provide transparency between the IT organization and the rest of the business so that colleagues are better informed and equipped to take advantage of IT services.

It’s also important that someone owns the service catalog. Service catalogs are living documents. They are ever-evolving as new technology is purchased, new processes created, systems change, and business needs evolve. If you have an existing service catalog that is out-of-date, then take the time to review and update it.

Provide the Right Training

Often, the service desk technicians don’t know what they don’t know. They’re busy putting out fires or managing an issue until a more senior or skilled technician tech can jump in and resolve the issue. But how much time is this costing your organization? How much more could the organization accomplish if the senior staff was not having to assist as often they do?

Properly trained and enabled technicians to solve more issues without having to escalate up the chain. This results in faster resolution times and happier end users. According to MetricNet, companies that allocate more time to initial and ongoing training have higher first-contact resolution rates. Additionally, advanced or senior technicians can stay focused on larger initiatives.

Technicians can make or break a service desk. Invest in them by offering training courses and certifications.

Invest in Technology or Tools

Finally (and I do mean finally), after you’ve reviewed data, set goals, created or updated your service catalog and trained your team, you may want to consider upgrading your tools or technology. There is no shortage of fantastic service desk software out there and many of those tools can improve your service desk but only after you’ve diagnosed the problem and made adjustments to your team and your services.

Maintaining a service desk is not a one and done type of initiative. It requires consistent monitoring and improvements. While it’s not easy, giving your service desk a tune up is a worthy undertaking!

Share twitterlinkedinmail

The AI Playbook – 3 Key ITSM Plays to Make When Implementing AI

Share twitterlinkedinmail

AI is one of the fastest growing tech trends across all industries. 20% percent of business executives said their companies plan to implement AI across their enterprise in 2019, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

AI is the approach of using technologies like machine learning or bots to automate simple and repetitive tasks. The power of AI is clear. It allows for services to be delivered faster to the end user. It eases the burden of resource-strapped teams by automating simple tasks, allowing those teams to focus on larger or more strategic initiatives. It also keeps organizations competitive as new technology has created new consumer expectations that demand speed and agility.

While AI is making a splash for good reason, it is not a sole solution. Investing in AI won’t fix every issue in an organization. In fact, if implemented in the wrong environment, AI can slow down an organization and cause even more problems.

Before you jump and invest a chunk of your budget into an AI tool, you need to first review your ITSM environment. If you want to win at AI implementation, you need these plays in your playbook.

1. Clean up or create your processes

It’s simple: automation only works if you have a process to automate. If there’s no process, your AI tool has nothing to automate. AI will only master what it’s fed. You need to evaluate your current processes and workflows. Look for gaps where the process is slow due to human intervention, bandwidth issues or approval processes. Identify what is too convoluted, unclear or undocumented, too fluid or constantly shifting. This exercise will give you a clear view of what’s needed in your process and what is prime for automation.

When cleaning up your processes, you’ll want to get your entire team involved. You want buy-in from every member and you need to see the big picture of how each member contributes to a process. Meet with your team to map out your processes. Work with them to understand what each step requires and where automation can play a role.

2. Enable cross-department collaboration

AI will not work well in a siloed organization. Many AI tools facilitate integration with multiple backend systems and work across departments to deliver solutions. If your marketing team has a completely different tool, process and system than the sales team and those two departments are unable to come together to create shared processes and systems that deliver an end result, then AI won’t be able to make it better.

Every department must work together to effectively implement AI. They have to create shared processes, enable communication and clearly understand what is needed from each department to deliver a service, product, or result. Handoffs have to be smooth for automation to be able to step in and handle it.

Where in your organization is there confusion over how departments interact with one another? Are there communication issues that need to be addressed? What are the expectations and outputs of each department? It’s absolutely required that every team be on the same page when it comes to processes, approvals, goals, communications, and expectations.

IT leaders should find buy-in from other leaders to help teams integrate successfully. The goal for every leader should be a successful AI implementation that actually speeds up results. When each leader understands that this is only successful with inter-department collaboration, they will be more willing to encourage their teams to work with IT.

3. Identify and map value streams

Mapping value streams evaluates the tools, people and processes in the lifecycle of a service. Mapping value streams gives you two important things: visualization and metrics. Value stream mapping helps organizations visualize of how value and information flow through an organization. By doing so, organizations can see if any steps can be eliminated, refined, consolidated or most, importantly — automated. These metrics and data will help you be able to pinpoint exactly where AI can work, how it should work and what metrics you should use to measure it.

Mapping value streams will make it clear how AI could drive business value. This makes it easier to prioritize future implementations and integrate more AI solutions within your organization.

There’s one last important note for every IT leader to address.

It’s the elephant in the room, so to speak. Staff often feels threatened by AI so every IT leader must be able to express to their teams how AI can fuel their success. There should be no worry that staff will automate their way out of a job.

Instead, focus on the opportunities this can create. What projects are you unable to accomplish because your team is stuck doing manual, tedious, and mundane tasks? What successes are you held back from due to the limitations of manual work? Successful use of automation does require a shift in organizational culture. To create an atmosphere of acceptance, you need to focus on the potential for new projects, more exciting initiatives and a larger role in contributing to business goals.

Lastly, recognize that AI implementation is not one big project. Start small automating something of use and value. Pay attention to your metrics and adjust as the organization needs. Keeping an open mind and flexible approach to these implementations will be key to keeping them successful.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

5 ways DevOps thinking can cure “Bad ITSM”

Share twitterlinkedinmail

The ITSM highway is littered with implementation efforts that failed to achieve their potential.

ITSM, done well, has proven to be great for business. Unfortunately, for many businesses, implementation efforts resulted in “bad ITSM”.

Many of these ITSM implementations were initiated by the IT operations team, and perhaps had some early successes managing incidents and service requests. But many of these implementations were too focused on tool implementations that didn’t quite hit the mark or process engineering efforts that resulted in unjustified bureaucracy.

IT Operations then tried to push ITSM onto the other parts of IT, with limited (if any) success. ITSM became the bottleneck rather than the enabler.

Can some DevOps thinking be the cure for “bad ITSM”?

What is DevOps?

First, let’s get clear on what DevOps actually is. The key objective of DevOps is getting the development and operations teams working better together. But what is “DevOps”?

The DevOps Handbook[1] defines it as “the outcome of applying the most trusted principles from the domain of physical manufacturing and leadership to the IT value stream. DevOps relies on bodies of knowledge from Lean, Theory of Constraints, the Toyota Production System, resilience engineering, learning organizations, safety culture, human factors, and many others”. DevOps is best thought of as “CALMS”[2] , a conceptual framework for integrating development and operations teams. CALMS is an acronym for:

  • Culture – A culture of shared responsibility
  • Automation – Automate as many tasks as possible
  • Lean – Visualization of work in progress, limit batch sizes, eliminate waste
  • Measurement – Data is collected on everything, with mechanisms for providing visibility into all systems
  • Sharing – User friendly channels for facilitating ongoing communications between development and operations

If CALMS is the foundation of DevOps, can CALMS be a way forward for ITSM?

How DevOps and ITSM are often described

Many ITSM implementations fell short because ITSM was viewed only as something done only by IT operations. In many cases, this perception was deserved because no one outside of IT operations was involved in the implementation.   ITSM was too focused on stability and “status quo”.  As a result, ITSM became a barrier, rather than a way for the operations and development teams to better collaborate.

A recent article[3] described the relationship between development and ITSM as represented in the diagram below:

 

 

 

 

 

The article focuses on the relationship between software engineering and the “IT help desk” (implying that ITSM is just the “help desk”). The article suggested ways to integrate the ITSM and engineering teams, such as providing some method for the “IT help desk” to provide enhancement requests to the engineering team.  Engineering should provide estimates to the help desk regarding planned releases, rather than include the help desk in those planning discussions.  If a help desk representative needs to talk to an engineer about a defect, the representative should not only track such defects in the ITSM tool, but also in the engineering tool….and let engineering know which defect it is within the engineering tool.

Well, doesn’t this sound familiar?

Doesn’t this sound just like the IT operations-centric approach to ITSM, but in reverse?  ITSM is seen as something being done in addition to software development.  Operations must jump through some hoops to talk to the development team.

When does the security team get involved?  Or the QA team?

Isn’t this just perpetuating the so-called “wall of confusion” between the parts of the IT organization?

Isn’t ITSM really this?

For whatever reason, there seems to be this irresistible tendency of looking at IT as a collection of parts:

  • Security – ensures the integrity and confidentiality of data assets; protect data assets from threat or harm
  • QA – provides cost justifiable quality and compliance with regulatory and other requirements
  • Operations – delivers stable, reliable, and consistent IT services
  • Development – encodes and delivers applications and software that solve business challenges

The fact is that it takes all parts of the IT organization – security, QA, operations, and development – working together to deliver viable and valuable services for the business.  No single part of IT can deliver business solutions by itself.

We must stop looking at IT – and therefore ITSM – as a collection of parts.  Shouldn’t we really think of ITSM like this?

 

 

 

 

 

ITSM should be a means of delivering valuable outcomes that businesses require from the use of technology.  It should be Strategy-Design-Transition-Operations as a single, frictionless flow, not a series of gates.  ITSM should be a way to collaboratively align the IT organization to meet shared goals and objectives. ITSM should be about continual improvement, finding ways for the business to improve how it does business, leveraging technology.

If your ITSM isn’t quite where it should be, DevOps can help.

5 ways DevOps thinking can cure “Bad ITSM”

Somehow, ITSM lost its way in many organizations.  But DevOps adoption doesn’t mean that you throw out all of the ITSM work you’ve done – you’re still going to need processes, you still must define services.  Having said that, DevOps can provide a means for organizations to hit the “reset” button on their “bad ITSM” implementations.

Here are five ways that DevOps thinking can cure a “Bad ITSM” implementation:

  • Change the Culture – Like ITSM, success with DevOps starts with cultural change. Cultural change must start from the senior management level and permeate through the organization.  What does this cultural change look like?   Leaders do not allow teams to form siloes.  When errors are found, the team stops work and fixes them, rather than trying to hide the issue or pass the error down the line.  An attitude of collaboration and shared responsibility between development, operations, security, and quality exists from the beginning.  Embed a “DevOps” culture in your ITSM implementation.
  • Drive to automate – Automation first requires effective, well-designed processes.  A symptom of many bad ITSM implementations are processes that are bloated, overly-engineered, and bureaucratic.  Take a DevOps approach and define, simplify, then automate processes. Automation will result in ITSM that is much more effective and efficient.  The more automation, the more responsive the IT organization can be to changes in business needs.
  • Work iteratively – ITSM implementations often suffer from “waterfall-ish” approaches. Take a DevOps approach and work iteratively with process designs, improvements, and solution delivery.  Shift from a “big bang” approach to delivering value in smaller, more manageable and predicable increments – then develop and implement those increments more frequently.  This means smaller release packages or smaller changes, but in return, business realizes value from technology use more quickly.
  • Standardize infrastructure configurations – Both DevOps and ITSM concepts are “technology agnostic”. Having said that, using technology in the best way makes utilizing DevOps and ITSM concepts much easier.  Take a page from DevOps and standardize infrastructure configurations. Define and use a standardized approach to provisioning infrastructure[4] – servers, storage, operating systems, and networks.  The same infrastructure configuration is then used across all environments – development, test, UAT, and production – simplifying testing and validation and improving reliability by removing any variation between environments.  An evolutionary next step would be Infrastructure as Code – which could be codified as a “standard change”!
  • Develop and document test scripts, then continually test – A key DevOps concept is automated testing. This approach allows testing to be done at any point along the development cycle.  Applying this concept to ITSM, develop standardized test and validation scripts and execute those scripts as part of any change, release, or deployment.  Not only will this improve service reliability and confidence in implementing changes, but it can become the foundation for automated testing, and allows for deployments to be decoupled from releases – another key DevOps concept.

DevOps can help organizations realize the promise of ITSM

If your organization is suffering from “bad ITSM”, adopting and adapting these DevOps concepts can help.  But “bad ITSM” cannot be cured overnight, so “start smart”.  Think evolution, not revolution – perhaps start with a service or a process that isn’t performing as needed.  Implement some of these concepts, be willing to experiment and learn, and watch ITSM improve!

 Is your organization suffering from “bad ITSM”? Invite Tedder Consulting to work with you to apply some “Next Generation ITSM” thinking and get back on track!  Contact Tedder Consulting today! 

For more pragmatic advice and service management insight, click here to subscribe to my newsletter!

Picture credit: Pexels.com

[1] Kim, Gene, et al. “The DevOps Handbook”, IT Revolution Press LLC, Portland, OR. 2016.

[2] http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/CALMS

[3] https://devops.com/bridging-gap-itsm-software-engineering/

[4] “Infrastructure as a Service”?

 

Share twitterlinkedinmail

The End of the Service Desk?

Share twitterlinkedinmail

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!

For more pragmatic advice and service management insight, click here to subscribe to my newsletter!

[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

Share twitterlinkedinmail

The First Contact Resolution Trap

Share twitterlinkedinmail

A popular metric for many Service Desks is FCR percentage.

What is FCR? FCR, or first contact resolution, represents the percentage of contacts when a consumer’s inquiry or issue is resolved in a single contact with the Service Desk. A high FCR percentage indicates the consumer did not have to contact the Service Desk a second time for an issue nor did anyone else from the IT organization have to follow up with the consumer regarding that issue. The rationale is that with a high FCR percentage, an IT organization is reducing costs while improving (or maintaining) high levels of customer satisfaction. A high FCR could also indicate a well-enabled Service Desk.

Is this really the case?

Does a high FCR result in cost savings? If so, where are the cost savings? I had a CFO once help me understand the difference between cost savings and cost avoidance. If we are saving costs, then that means that we can put money (the saved costs) into the hands of the CFO to do with whatever he pleases. Cost avoidance is when we make a choice about where and with whom we’re spending monies—but we still have cost. I would submit that with a high FCR percentage that we’re really not saving any costs. We have and will continue to have costs associated with having a Service Desk, so no cost savings there. We will continue to have costs for those L2 and L3 resources associated with designing, delivering, and supporting services, so no cost savings there. I suppose however, that we are avoiding the costs of escalating a call from the Service Desk to those L2 and L3 resources. But we’re not saving any costs.

Does a high FCR result in high levels of consumer satisfaction? Perhaps. But consider this – all the consumer really wants is issue resolution. Resolving the issue in the first contact is certainly desirable. But ultimately, what the consumer wants is that we get the issue resolved in the timeliest fashion. I understand that the consumer really doesn’t want to call, nor do we want the consumer to call a second (or third or…) time for the same issue. But are consumers truly “satisfied” just because an issue or inquiry gets resolved with a single contact? Why are consumers having to contact the Service Desk to begin with?

Herein lies the trap.

High FCR simply means that we’ve gotten really good at solving frequently occurring issues. If you think about it, it’s sort of like continually putting a bandage on a scratch that doesn’t heal. We’re covering up the issue, but we’re really not fixing it.  If we’re able to resolve the issue in a single contact, why not just address the underlying issue already? Really-if this issue is that easy to resolve, why wasn’t it caught and addressed during service design and transition? Shouldn’t the goal be zero percent FCR? Why zero? Because the consumer is not experiencing any issues to begin with, and therefore, doesn’t have to contact the Service Desk!

Okay, perhaps a FCR of zero is a stretch. But consider the negative impact of a high FCR percentage. While high FCR represents the ability of the Service Desk to return a consumer to productivity, it also represents lost productivity from the consumer perspective. The consumer had to call the Service Desk, and for the time that it took for the issue or inquiry to be resolved, the consumer is arguably not able to do her job function – the very definition of lost productivity. In fact, I could argue that business IT costs are doubled during that time. How? The cost of each contact not only includes the cost of the Service Desk responding to the contact, but also the cost incurred by the business in the form of the consumer having to do IT work rather that the work to which the consumer is assigned.

To be fair, a high FCR percentage may be good in some cases. For example, having a high FCR when resetting passwords or fulfilling a request for the distribution of a standard personal productivity software package may be a good thing. But even in these cases, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of driving high FCR just for the sake of having a high FCR.

It’s the same old trade off that we face constantly–the tradeoff between cost, quality, and speed. Everyone wants the highest quality at the lowest cost, delivered in the fastest possible way. But we can seemingly only have two of the three.

So, when is high FCR a good thing? When does high FCR indicate that we’re in the trap?

I would suggest that this is where Continual Service Improvement (CSI) comes in, and specifically, the CSI Register. By recording the opportunity in the CSI Register, CSI can consider the opportunity for improvement, considering costs, time, budget, and other factors. By applying CSI measurement techniques, such as ITIL®’s 7-step process[1], Lean IT’s Value Stream Mapping (VSM), or Six Sigma’s Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) approach, we can make an informed decision regarding FCR using the data derived from these techniques. Only then can we decide if a high FCR is a good thing, or if we’ve been caught in the trap.

Click here to subscribe to my newsletter!

[1] ITIL is a trademark of AXELOS Limited.

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Effective tomorrow, the Service Desk no longer takes Calls

Share twitterlinkedinmail

Internal Company Announcement – For Immediate Distribution
We heard you. And we’re taking action.

After years of complaints regarding the “black hole of IT” and users having to call the “helpless” desk, we are pleased to announce that effective tomorrow, the Service Desk will no longer take calls.
Several factors were considered in making this decision, including the Service Desk’s:

  • Lack of instant response for every call
  • Inability to read minds
  • Inability to always compensate for your lack of planning or communication

Senior management would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their valuable input to this decision.  We trust that as a result of no longer having to call the Service Desk, our overall productivity and effectiveness will improve dramatically.

What if your company shut down the Service Desk tomorrow?

As with any disruptive change, there could be a number of positive outcomes from such a move.

  • Opportunity to Innovate – The organization could setup “genius” bars or a personalized support approach (like Amazon’s “Mayday” service).  This approach will allow IT to get out “from behind the wall” and facilitate opportunities to build better business relationships with the service consumer community.
  • Improve Service Quality from the beginning — The organization could invest more into self-healing services, improved processes and approaches for design, development, and deployment of services, and improved system monitoring and self-correcting systems.  Building a higher level of service quality from the beginning would address many of the reasons why consumers call the Service Desk.
  • Enable Consumer Self-Service — This approach would help consumers feel more in control of their service experience.  By leveraging knowledge bases and search engines that identify the most-relevant solutions to issues, consumers can work at their own pace and access support anytime they need it.
  • Direct Consumers to L2/L3 Support Personnel — L2 and L3 resources are the subject-matter experts within an IT organization and could provide faster incident resolutions and request fulfillment for the service consumer.

Let’s also consider the potential negative outcomes.

  • The investment of time and resources to enable “genius” bars and personalized support; this is infrastructure that likely is not in place at most organizations.  Additionally, some consumers may be put off by all of the noise and lack of personalized attention of a “genius” bar.  Some consumers may not feel comfortable being seen “live” on camera as part of the personalized support offering.
  • Like the setup of a “genius” bar or personalized support, improving quality from the beginning also represents a significant investment of time and resources. Make no mistake – having quality IT services is always a top goal of any organization. However, organizations always have to balance the cost of quality with speed to delivery.
  • Self-service may seem like an attractive option, but what about consumers that really don’t want self-service? What about those consumers that are not comfortable with searching knowledge bases and would rather have someone to talk with regarding IT Service issues?
  • Any time an L2 or L3 resource is assisting service consumers with *any* issue represents time those resources are *not* working on innovation or business projects.

So what is value of a good Service Desk? We all know that the Service Desk acts as the single point of contact for consumers for any IT issue or concern. We also know that every call to the Service Desk is logged so that we can maintain a record of interactions with consumers. While both of these activities are very valuable, the value of a good Service Desk is something more. A good Service Desk:

  • Advocates for and acts as an ombudsman for the IT Service Consumer
  • Ensures that the Consumer feels valued by the IT Organization
  • Facilitates the “human connection” between the Service Consumer and the IT Organization
  • Ensures traceability of support efforts, from initiation to conclusion
  • Acts as an early warning system regarding larger issues; for example, when the Service Desk receives a lot of calls, with many of those calls having similar symptoms
  • Diffuses contentious or difficult situations with consumers using strong communication skills and exercising emotional intelligence

A good Service Desk can and does do all of these things….if it has been properly enabled. What do I mean by “enabled”?
How would you feel if you were being asked to do a job, expected to perform at a high level, but were given little to no training regarding your job? How would you feel if you were being excluded from daily discussions and decisions that directly impact your ability to do your job? Welcome to the happens-far-too-much world of the Service Desk agent.
What I often find is while the Service Desk is expected to take every call about every possible IT issue or request, many IT organizations spend little to no time ensuring that their Service Desk is being enabled. Even fewer IT organizations are ensuring that the Service Desk is being included in overall design or transition activities.
What can you do to enable your Service Desk?

  • Define services and name service owners – this helps the Service Desk speak the language of the business and identify points of escalation
  • Provide training to Service Desk Agents before the implementation of major Changes or deployments of Releases
  • Provide the Service Desk with good, relevant documentation as part of a formal operational handover procedure for a new or changed Service
  • Include Service Desk representation in Change Advisory Board meetings
  • Develop request models that can be used to quickly, effectively, and repeatedly fulfill service requests

Are you enabling your Service Desk? Or shall we have the Service Desk stop taking calls?

Click here to subscribe to my newsletter!

Share twitterlinkedinmail