We’ve seen the future of IT service support – and it’s social!
An increasing number of corporate IT departments are evolving from fire-fighting cost centers, into service-delivering profit centers. Perhaps yours is one of them. But although this evolution is significant, it’s not the end of the story. In most cases, a centralized IT service delivery and workspace environment, with all its automation and self-service capabilities, is still run using linear processes and relationships. For example, a user creates a support ticket, and a service desk agent records and directs it to the right team. The team then addresses the issue on a first come, first served basis, and informs the user when it has been resolved. This isn’t really collaborative in the truest sense, and the support function doesn’t really ‘live’ as an ecosystem. For many of today’s employees, especially the ‘digital native’ generation, that means there’s something missing: the social element.
After all, the vast majority of employees use some form of social media in their personal and business lives already. That’s why introducing social ITSM can be the next logical step in creating a user-centric IT environment, after IT service delivery automation and implementing a corporate App Store with user self-service capabilities.
Typical use cases
There are several different ways in which social can be integrated into the ITSM and support processes, including:
Social walls: Users submit an issue to a support wall, just like you find on Twitter and Facebook, and other users with the same problem join the discussion, either to notify support or to provide tips and fixes. In some cases, this means a ticket never needs to be raised, reducing the overall support workload. In others, IT can see in real-time what and where current issues are, and then prioritize and address them more quickly than would otherwise be possible. Not only that, resolved issues can be added to a knowledgebase that improves users’ ability to resolve their IT incidents via self-service. As a result, the service provider (IT department) gets access to the big picture i.e what’s really going on in the organization from a support request perspective at any given moment.
Service desk chat: Chat functionality is integrated with a simplified incident report form that can be completed collaboratively. Users can see if someone is online and available for chat and, if their query has to be put in a queue, they are notified when a service agent is free. Alternatively, if a response takes too long, a standard incident ticket is created automatically.
Interactive incident reporting: A browser-based reporting function lets users create an incident via a mini-form that enables them to quickly capture error logs and screenshots, and submit them to IT with a short description of the issue.
More than just old wine in new bottles?
Of course, introducing social media capabilities does not fundamentally change how tickets are resolved in the back end. We’re not talking about throwing the ITIL baby out with the social bathwater. Nevertheless, using social elements in the ways described above creates a different relationship between users and the IT department. Support becomes faster, more responsive, collaborative and fun. IT becomes more closely integrated with the business, and can be seen more readily as a business enabler. And the user experience is transformed from being static and reactive, to dynamic and proactive.
The benefits outweigh the risks
You could argue that adding a social element to ITSM increases complexity and can reduce transparency, because it can bypass traditional processes and happens so quickly that managers find it hard to keep up with what is happening. Moreover, usage policies must be defined and policed, creating additional workload.
However, the risks of not embracing social within ITSM are significant. Without it, the IT department is likely to be seen as out of touch, especially by the digital native generation, and users are more likely to bypass official communication and support channels as a result. It may also become more difficult to attract and retain the best new talent if your competitors are offering a more socially–enabled working environment. The good news is, you should be able to measure the benefits it delivers quite easily in terms of faster ticket resolution and up to 50% fewer tickets overall.
Five steps to social ITSM success
While on the increase, the use of social media within ITSM is still immature and few best practices exist. At Matrix42, we recommend organizations focus on the following areas to maximize their chances of success.
- Define your goals: The biggest mistake you can make in social ITSM is to just do it because you think you should. Clear business objectives such as reducing support costs or improving employee retention figures should be the drivers.
- Choose your tools: Are you going to create user communities, leverage chat functionality, use existing internal platforms or invest in 3rd-party solutions? You need to find the best fit for your existing investments, ensure ease of integration and maximize process automation.
- Integrate your channels: Social media can become an information silo just as easily as any other communication channel. Social ITSM interactions must be easy to track and extract information from, in order to measure success and further support user self-service by adding the details of successfully resolved issues to the support knowledgebase.
- Create policies: You need to define the rules about acceptable usage, service levels, compliance and security – collaboration should not be chaotic!
- Measure the results. Social ITSM is an investment like any other – you need to be able to prove the business benefits. KPIs like monthly incident ticket creation, speed of incident resolution and user satisfaction indices, are all useful benchmarks.
As the proportion of digital natives in the workforce increases, the introduction of social channels into the IT service support environment will become increasingly essential for maximizing user satisfaction with IT. While new investments will be required, the benefits will outweigh the costs, as long as you use the five steps outlined above to guide the transformation.