The Scourge of Jargon

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This article has been contributed by Chris Lee – currently working with Six Degrees Group who provide integrated managed data services linking people, places and clouds.

 

“Going forward, and with enough synergy, we can push the envelope on this project. We know it has social currency; we know it’s on brand. Let’s ship it by COP Friday.”

We all know someone who talks like this. Whether it’s your colleague, your boss, or even you! Nobody’s safe from the scourge of jargon and, what we like to call, “jargonistas” – the people who like nothing better than to throw some jargon into their sentences to both infuriate and isolate people out-of-the-know.

 

Of course, a world without jargon would be a peaceful, wonderful world, but it would also be a world where it would take much longer to explain concepts and tasks, and the office would be awash with people explaining things. Of course jargon isn’t tied to a specific industry, so who uses it the most?

A survey conducted by Six Degrees found that people perceive IT professionals as using more jargon than bankers, lawyers and politicians combined. This finding complimented by the fact that the meaning of the jargon is often unknown: 22% believed Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new philosophy in railway management, while 16% thought Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was a new road project.

 

The Internet is arguably the centre of the jargonista’s universe – for whatever reason, people online seem to use jargon whenever and wherever they can. We’ve had a look and found the following description of an every-day program that millions of people use daily, which was obviously written by a jargonista. Can you identify this service from the jargon-filled description?

[Service] is a cloud storage service that enables users to store files on remote cloud servers and the ability to share files within a synchronized format. [Service] provides an online storage solution powered by cloud computing service model of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). [Service] works by installing an application on client system, which immediately uploads the data to their own cloud storage servers. The uploaded data can be accessed from the installed application or through an online control panel. [Service] file sharing works in cohesion with file synchronization which keeps the file routinely updated across all shared nodes even if it’s shared among many people, therefore every single recipient will always receive the latest version of the file. [Service] is an example of a storage-as-a-service business model.

Got the answer? No? You may know it as as ‘Dropbox’ (definition source).

 

Jargon is hardly a new phenomenon, though it is a self-perpetuating one: an article from a 1987 issue of the Journal of Business and Technical Communication says “jargon persists because people think that business letters should use jargon and because using jargon enables authors to write or dictate quickly” (source).

Using the Six Degrees jargon buster we looked at which terms have the most use, and have given jargon-free definitions of the terms below. These illustrate how seemingly simple statements can be turned into tremendously tumultuous titles.

 

SaaS: 60,500 searches per month

“In a SaaS model, the cloud service provider is responsible for all technical elements from infrastructure, through platform, to the application itself. The customer will typically pay on a “per user, per month” model, e.g. if they wish to rent Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, this is delivery by the provider from their multi-tenant platform”

Example of this service: Gmail

 

PaaS: 3,600 searches per month

“A PaaS offering provides a suite of tools designed to provide the necessary database, management, development and deployment tools for the creation and delivery of business applications, mobile apps, social apps, microsites, websites, and other software-driven solution”

Example of this service: Google App Engine

 

IaaS: 1,900 searches per month

“The first few layers of the hosting value chain (see The Hosting Stack for more details) whereby cloud-based infrastructure (e.g. compute and storage) is provided as a Service for a time-based rental model (per minute, hour, day, week, month, etc)”

Example of this service: Amazon Web Services

 

Conclusion

Obviously jargon has its place (technical descriptions or emails where you’re trying to sound clever in front of your colleagues being the only two we can think of), however using it in your day-to-day speech isn’t always necessary.

Understanding which situations require language like the above, and then which terms to choose, is the hallmark of a successful communicator, whilst using terms like the above to communicate to anyone you meet is the hallmark of a jargonista. Feel free to deploy jargon in a situation where all involved will understand. Just be aware of the risk coming from when you use it to communicate with someone who isn’t clued-up on the terminology. Your colleague might understand what you’re referring to, but your mates at the pub? Probably not.

 


Chris Lee has 6 years’ experience in the online marketing and SEO space and has an interest in technology and cloud related projects. He is currently working with the Six Degrees Group to promote such projects in an interesting and accessible way.

 

Certification Spotlight: PMP or ITIL Expert?

4820274356_5e5db8f128_zI’ve seen various posts and conversations over the last year or so on certification where the recurring question is posed…

 

PMP or ITIL Expert?

Some may consider that the PMP certification is only useful for Project Managers or that the ITIL Expert certification only for ITSM professionals. This would be a limited view on the usefulness of both certifications. Either pursuit will certainly be more helpful than harmful to a career and if you can do both, it would be beneficial.

However, depending on where you are in your career, what you aspire to be, you may be more inclined to pick one over the other. Most of us are pressed for time and may not have the option of pursing both certifications, so we will have to choose.

So which one do I think is more useful and valuable? Let me take a minute to make my case…

 

Cost Containment versus Revenue Generation

There are two primary ways to increase profit – reduce your costs or increase your revenue. Which of these two aspects are you more interested in? Which of these two aspects are successful businesses more interested in pursuing? If we read “The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think” we know that successful companies tend to focus on being better before being cheaper and chase new revenue before cutting costs.

This would imply that a company is more likely to look favourably on and fund projects and efforts that generate revenue more so than they are on projects and efforts that look to contain costs. Take a moment to look up “CIO Revenue Generation” or “CIO Cost Containment” and you will find more articles about revenue and value creation than about pure cost containment.

Let’s take a moment and think about how this relates to ITIL and Project Management…

 

ITIL and Cost Containment

While ITIL does cover a wide range of subjects and aspects of IT Service Management, it is in practice primarily focused on IT Operations such as Process Management/Ownership and, more specifically, Service Desk processes and functions. This is evident by the number of job postings, discussions on social media  (it is interesting to note that here on The ITSM Review the top 10 searches are all related to process and Operations), and even Intermediary Certification results show a focus on Incident, Problem, Request and Change Management, with Service Operations and Operational Support and Analysis being the two most popular taken Intermediate Exams. At the same time there are very few jobs that require ITIL Expert certifications that have anything to do with Service Strategy or Service Design.

Focusing on IT Operations is generally about being more efficient, which essentially translates to cost reduction. There is also a strong case for ITIL helping the organisation be “better” – mostly through customer service interaction in Operations and continual service improvement (CSI) which is usually focused on Operations or Transition but is rarely done to improve something in Strategy or Design. Think about this, what is in your CSI Register right now? Is it “inside-out” (making IT run better) or “outside-in” (making a new product/service)?

These programs are often hampered by the difficulty in quantifying “soft costs”, they don’t generally create revenue and it is hard to measure how much money they will save the company. However, it is usually fairly easy to see how much the program cost. Ordinarily these types of efforts are not funded at all, not funded fully or brought to a premature end leaving everyone a bit unsatisfied with the results and a host of “lessons learned“. For example in his article 6 Barriers to Proactive Problem Management, Stephen Mann clearly states this is an internally focused, hard to quantify effort that is focused on cost savings not revenue generation.

 

Project Management and Revenue Generation

Project Management however is not primarily focused on IT operations but more likely to be involved in IT Strategy and Design on a more frequent basis than ITSM programs or efforts. Being part of IT Strategy and Design increases the opportunities you will have to be part of an effort to generate revenue not just opportunities to cut costs. Being a PM will more likely allow you to gain experience with a wider variety of IT Services and products and not just back-end IT (operation) processes. This type of experience will be much more useful as you manage your career and look for more leadership opportunities.

A PM will be involved in any new product or service being rolled out. These have a much higher probability of being “high profile” as they are much more likely to be tied to increased revenues or improving the company brand (making things better).

Keep in mind any major IT Operations effort (such as implementing an ITSM solution such as ServiceNow, BMC Remedy etc) will also likely be treated as a “project” and may come with a Project Manager. The ITIL Expert may be there as the Subject Matter Expert but may not be the one briefing senior leadership on the status – that is a job that is usually left to the PM.

 

Road Warrior or Career Ladder

So we can see that being a PM does not exclude you from ITSM efforts and is also more likely to include revenue or value creation projects. Being an ITSM professional is likely to be mainly focused on cost containment and nearly entirely within the ITSM space.  But what about the total number of job opportunities or types of opportunities?

Well, how many ITIL Experts does an organization need? At most maybe a half a dozen, but usually just one or two will suffice and quite often there are none. Organizations are much more likely to have several PMPs, maybe even 10 or 20 of them. It quite likely that the CIO or IT Director is a PMP as well whereas there are fewer that are also ITIL Experts.

Also, a job search will show that the majority of ITIL Expert jobs are for short term contracts (or Consulting Firms). You are more likely to find more long term employment opportunities as a Project Manager than you are as an ITIL Expert.

If you go down the ITIL Expert route, you are more likely going to find the majority of your opportunities on the road. You may have to start looking for new opportunities while still working the current one. This can be exciting for some, but for others, this can be a major source of concern. You can live that same kind of life as a Project Manager but if you want to land a more secure working life, you will find more opportunities to do so as a PM than as an ITIL Expert.

 

Higher Ceiling

As an ITIL Expert, because the majority of the focus is on back-end processing and more specifically on IT Operations (cost containment) you may find it difficult to make a transition to a leadership or management position that is not on a Service Desk or narrowly focused on process improvement.

As a Project Manager you will be leading people, and many projects are about new functionality, new service offerings, and may be more centered around new revenue streams. This is far more interesting to the business and as such far more impressive when looking to achieve a higher level leadership position within a company.

Also ITIL Expert is essentially as high as you will go in the field. Yes, there is the ITIL Master level, which there are approximately zero jobs for, and maybe…50 people in the world who have achieved this level. It is hard to know beyond an ego boost this certification would do for you and your career.

For the PMP you can go on to achieve the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification. Which there are hundreds of jobs postings for and have an average salary that is higher (as shown by this salary comparison) this certification is worthwhile and raises the ceiling on your income potential.

If you wish to become specialized then you can focus on Agile Project Management. There are several certifications you can achieve around this including ScrumMaster (CSM) and the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP). These open up more job opportunities especially as Agile and DevOps becomes more widely accepted and practiced.

In the broader ITSM world you also have options for other certifications such as COBIT or ISO/IEC 20000 certifications but neither quite have the job market demand to justify it. Neither will lead you to a higher salary but they may be just enough to make a difference on a bid or job interview for a specialized ITSM role.

 

Summary

While there is certainly value in getting an ITIL Expert certification I feel it is more limited and less applicable than the knowledge, skill and experience one gets as a PMP. If you absolutely love IT Operations, and process improvement and you don’t mind being a gun for hire (maybe you like being your own boss) then being an ITIL Expert is a great way to go. There is plenty of money in it, and plenty of opportunity out there.

However, if you career is more angled for long term career growth inside a company and you want to know more about the business aspect of IT then the PMP is the better bet. Being a PMP does not exclude you from ITSM efforts (as noted above) and in fact may make you better at pitching, managing, and implementing various ITSM efforts. It will also give you a better foundation to explore other aspects of IT.

 

Agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Five Ways to Power Up in Q1 (and make this year your strongest yet!)

Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian's JIRA Service Desk
Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk

This article has been contributed by Sid Suri, Vice President of Marketing for Atlassian’s JIRA Service Desk

 

Are you ready for 2015? January is behind us—already—and everyone is still scrambling to finish any leftover projects from 2014. Additionally, businesses are knee-deep in forecasting this year’s budgets and headcount. Being successful while maintaining your sanity requires internal team coordination, removing barriers, and working smart by avoiding inefficiencies, wait times, and bottlenecks.

Here are five ways to power up, get your internal teams working like clockwork and use the first quarter to set the tone for the whole year.

 

1. Organize Your Work

Information is in many places and requests for help are always streaming in. On a typical day, we receive requests from emails, texts, meetings, and even drop by conversations. How do we typically respond? By working harder. But is that always the best answer? Surely we’re entitled to the occasional lunch away from our desk!

It’s a good thing that a little organization can go a long way.

Create processes in your team or department that help you organize and prioritize work. You may be able to leverage tools you already have, such as your help desk/service desk solution to automate those processes and collect all the information you need to be efficient.

There are many ways to get organized.

Some of the common methods we’ve seen are:

  • Create work queues: Organize your team workload into queues. Think of a queue as a place where work of a certain type, priority, or deadline goes. It’s similar to the way a call center agent might operate – it’s the next call coming in – in order, in priority, waiting for your action, when you’re ready. Queues take the guesswork out of what comes next. They make sure you always know where your attention is needed, and insures an important request doesn’t get buried in an email, and slip through the cracks.
  • Establish Process Steps: Take some time to define how works get done. What steps need to be followed for common tasks? Once they’re established, agreed upon, and communicated to your team, you’ll have an easier time getting through tasks in a consistent way, rather than reinventing the wheel every time.
  • Make the process work for you: Pick what you want to work on first. Every person, team and department works differently. So set up processes that help you be more efficient in the way you operate.

By organizing your work, you are not only eliminating stress and surprises, but most importantly you’re scaling the output of your team with the same headcount.

 

2. Encourage Self Service

We all self-serve when we pay bills, change a phone plan, or check the status of an e-commerce order. Why not apply this to the way we get our work done?

Self-service takes a little up front investment, but the payoffs can be huge. Recent research by Carmelon Digital Marketing found that 42% of customers were able to resolve their questions by going to a content resource. Think of how much time you could free up by not having to respond to simple commonly asked questions such as:

  • Where can I find our contract template?
  • How do I account for ad-hoc spend increases?
  • How do I onboard a contractor?

Don’t already have content that your co-workers can use to answer their own questions? Create it.

Identify the top five most commonly asked questions or tasks and create content that your co-workers can use to self-serve. You will likely save time not just for yourself but others as well.

Documenting processes, internal knowledge, and best practices should be an ongoing practice. In the next year, enforce habits of creating new content for new questions as they arise so you’ll only ever answer them once. Over time your company will have an entire knowledge base at their fingertips and you can focus on the important stuff.

 

3. Create a Culture of Accountability

Nobody wants to be the person that holds up everyone else. And nobody wants to hand in work late because someone else held him or her up. These are two recommended ways to build a culture of accountability.

  1. Communication: It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to want to jump into work with rolled up sleeves without asking the important questions. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what the required output is, what their expectations are, and if there are any additional resources needed.
  2. Service level agreements, or SLAs: They sound complicated, but they don’t have to be. Once a process is established for how work is requested and responded to, you can establish benchmarks for response times. For example, when Amazon promises to deliver something within two days they likely have benchmarks for each step of the delivery: when the item leaves the warehouse, when it’s loaded on the truck, and when it arrives at the sorting centre. By setting up processes, and then establishing acceptable response times, people and entire teams can ensure that they don’t hold up work for everyone else.

Getting work done on time is not easy. Slip ups and delays are common, if not inevitable. But reducing the amount of delays through smart planning is within our control.

 

4. Staff Up for the Busy Season

Many companies use the end of year for planning and budgeting headcount for the New Year.

Here are the top ways you can prepare to staff up in 2015:

  • Learn & Improve: Once you have processes and tools in place, a great by-product is reports on past performance. Look at past reports of work management such as the number of tasks performed in a given week, time taken to complete them, and how often you made and missed your desired times. Then identify the bottlenecks and work to remove them.
  • Ask with Confidence: Use metrics to show your value and your team’s value in the organization and use that to lobby for an increase in budget or headcount.

 

5. Reward Everyone for Their Hard Work

In the rush and bustle of getting things done, it’s easy to just chug through one hectic quarter to the next. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. Take some time to thank your coworkers and recognize when they pull through for the team. Take your team out for a meal, send a thank you note, or publicly recognize them in some way. These are great motivators for them to keep pushing throughout the rest of the year – and everyone feels good. Better yet, build systematic rewards when they meet benchmarks so everyone knows that they are playing as a team.

 

Congratulations. You’ve just read through these five ways to jump start 2015 and you can now begin to put them into practice!


 

Sid Suri is the Vice President of Marketing for JIRA Service Desk. Prior to Atlassian, he worked in various marketing roles at Salesforce.com, Oracle (CRM), InQuira (acquired by Oracle) and TIBCO Software. He has an MBA from the Haas School of Business.

 

The End (to-End) is Nigh!

14186949118_252cc35022_zThe way we consider, design and operate ‘End-to-End’ IT is about to end, or at least going to go through a fundamental change. There are plenty of evidence points; Shadow IT. Analyst organisational restructures. M&A transactions. Converging technologies. Current cost of I&O. The P&L’s of many organisations. New roles emerging in the enterprise such as the CDO – Chief Data Officer…The list goes on. We are all about to witness considerable convergence, or ‘Digitisation’ of our respective worlds.

There is a realisation that the world we operate in has radically changed. Our ultimate end customers and our own staff are now significantly more ‘savvy and demanding’ and the landscape we all operate in is significantly more competitive and ‘real-time’…. But we know this. However, have IT (or more importantly the business supporting and funding IT) reacted accordingly?

Welcome to the digital economy. An economy where cross-silo agility, integration, automation, data, mobility and compliance are key watchwords. An economy where we should revisit core questions like; ‘How are we doing the things we do?’ and perhaps more fundamentally, ‘Why are we doing the things we do?’

In fact one of the big questions IT should be asking is, ‘Does the organisation want IT to build and operate a basic IT platform where its users define competitive advantage from the data / services IT provides, or does the organisation want IT to build and operate a digital IT platform where competitive advantage comes from digital trends, analysis, automation and are real-time. For example, an advanced platform may empower and extend the ability for business units to build workflows and applications to remove tedious and costly manual processes without the involvement of IT, or perhaps IT themselves to ‘see’ trends and plan for eventualities across multiple silo’s of technology or process. Furthermore wouldn’t it be great if IT could effect change in one area and the implications in other areas are all taken care of. Not only joining up the data (which we typically do well), but also the processes, the management and admin.

We are entering a world where we have to dramatically improve 3 areas:

  • Core Service / function of IT – What we do and the way we do it
  • Discovery / Detection and analytics – The ability to process business value data
  • Reaction & Change – The ability to respond in an agile way

So let’s consider how we achieve these goals. First we need to define who we are serving and what or perhaps why we are doing this. Then we should consider where does the raw compute, storage and application stack come from to serve our audience. Finally, we can consider what happens ‘in-between’ the supply and the demand.

 

PART 1. Who, Why & What are we serving?

Let’s start with the ‘What’ – What we ultimately deliver is a trading platform that optimises communication, competitive intelligence and competitive service. Regularly, it is not seen that way, more often than not, IT is seen as the providers of defined or ‘canned’ business services (i.e. mail, ERP, SFA, storage, kit, etc) and the managers of I&O (Infrastructure & Operations). i.e. we are told what the business needs, in short:

  1. Provide XYZ business applications to the BU’s and staff
  2. Provide information/data/reports (not intelligence)
  3. Manage, support and secure all of the above

Change is going to have a massive part to play in ‘What’ we do going forward. In the past, business change was positively ‘glacial’… we lived in an analog world. It took time for information to flow and be processed. Executive leadership, BU’s or staff took time to draw the conclusion that ‘change’ or a response was required… The majority of commercial Change requests come from outside of IT as the ‘intelligence’ was ultimately analogue, or a human connecting the dots between one set of data and another…. Or perhaps worse still, emotional.

This leads nicely onto the ‘Who and Why’. Who we serve can ultimately be divided into 5 categories:

  1. The ultimate end customer
  2. IT itself
  3. Staff
  4. Business Units
  5. Executive

aw diagram - 3

 

Each requires different services, information and tools. All need our security & compliance skills. All could benefit from our domain expertise in process and integrations and ultimately, all could do with ‘real-time’ cross data analysis to make informed ‘digital’ recommendations rather than decisions being made very slowly in the analog modus operandi.

 

  • The ultimate end user wants relevancy and respect
  • IT wants to know if some element of their ‘trading platform’ may be going AMBER and why…
  • Staff want intuitive tools, services and intelligence
  • Business Units want to remove the burdens, costs and improve agility
  • Executive want to see and measure and need value (ratio of investment to return)

The ‘why’ we do / or should do the things required in the new digital economy are fundamentally economic, whether your organization is commercial, government, charity, public or private, we all have bosses. We all have customers. Our role is to provide better services, products and financial performance that are secure and compliant.

 

PART 2. Where is IT coming from?

This has to be broken into three parts. The first is, where do the core applications, compute, storage, etc services come from, the second is where does the end user support for the disparate services come from for the ultimate end user, and third, where does the intelligence and ‘Change / React’ thinking come from.

The first area of ‘where core applications and services’ come from is quite straight forward, as they regularly come from a mix of on premise (physical or virtual), cloud (public and private), outsourced and of course the inevitable shadow IT conundrum.

The Second area of ‘Where does the end user service & support come from’ for the 5 types of customer is regularly a mess, primarily as the systems, processes and data is not joined up. In fact some of the applications and therefore its data do not even reside within IT’s domain.

And therefore, it’s a very similar story is the third area of ‘Where does the Intelligence and ability to Change / React’ reside…Its key to note that we are not talking about where the data or information resides, this is known, but where are the applications that use the data in order to make informed real-time decisions? They do exist in many organizations, but they are sporadic and isolated. Perhaps APM (Application Performance Management) technology is used for one customer type, and a marketing tool used for another customer type. This is an area where the ‘End-To –End’ thinking delivers optimum service, competitive advantage has its greatest effect.

 

PART 3. Joining the end to end dots.

In reality there are three roles for IT.

  1. Providing the core services
  2. Providing a service on those services
  3. Providing real-time and cross platform intelligence

And making all of these intuitive, agile, secure and efficient

Simple….no, but IT is in the most powerful and influential position to design, build and conduct the ‘New IT’ DNA. IT will place an increasingly pivotal role in the organisation, its strategy, its people, its technology platform. New ITOM platforms are going to revolutionise how we architect IT. Its no longer about whether its cloud / Saas or on premise… it’s about End-To-End IT. We will see significant convergence, from APM, PPM, Web CMS through to ITSM / ITAM and Analytics, CRM and AI…

IT is the business. We are now in the business transformation game. Embrace it.

 

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Transforming the User Experience

4813041825_072902db4e_zWe often hear that we need to do more to transform the ‘experience’ of our IT Customers. Transforming what? Why do we need to do this?

Well because so many IT customers and users complain about the quality and level of communications and feedback when dealing with IT departments. This can vary from simply being too slow to respond, or slow to run projects, being negative or resistant to change, (the department that likes to say no). Also there is the need to keep up with new technologies and it seems that our internal IT departments can’t keep up. In the past IT users didn’t have anything to compare this ‘experience’ with, but now everyone buys IT in some way and this has (justifiably) raised much higher expectations.

Here’s some points I regularly find mentioned by IT Customers and business people about their IT departments

 

  • Not easy to ‘do business with’
  • Too much senior focus on technical detail and components
  • Defensive, over protective ‘old IT’ approach
  • Lack of relationship – need to get out and talk/listen more
  • Poor communications across  management and teams
  • Lack of valuable Management Information – or clear targets/service criteria to measure
  • Clunky horrible old tools that we are expected to use

 

For me the case for transformation is absolutely clear and there is right now a great opportunity to do this and win back hearts and minds around the skills and value of IT. We can change from the ‘blocker’ to be the enabler and the solution provider, simply by

 

  1. Realising we can’t do everything ourselves – so we need to use more automation and shared sourcing to free up our time and resources
  2. Using freed up time to focus on customer and business priorities
  3. Using new tools and innovations to improve the experience of dealing with IT – and beyond

 

We can’t keep up with all the latest trends and new tech, particularly if we are constantly firefighting and chasing our tails with inefficient processes and tools. There are areas that can be automated like request management and provisioning, password maintenance, procurement and standard implementation that can free up significant technical resources. In addition its no longer acceptable to get users to use old menu based and confusing, non-user friendly portal and tools – particularly if this is sold as being ‘progress’. Its vital to get colleagues and customers on board by offering a seamless and enjoyable experience when ordering kit or requesting new services – and the tools on offer really can help here.

If we also accept that we probably need to use some sort of shared sourcing model, then there is emerging experience and expertise in this areas – SIAM or Service Integration and Management provides the opportunity to really think through end-to-end service delivery and the associated supply and value-chain activities required. In the past it was too easy to simply outsource a problem, or an area that apparently wasn’t adding value –like a service desk. However it’s important to understand firstly the supply chain (i.e. what is done to deliver a service) and then the value chain (where the areas of value, cost and efficiency lie in this chain) – in order to identify what needs to be kept in-house and what can be outsourced, and still meet business objectives.

All of this requires IT organisations to get out and talk/listen to their customers, as well as building a clear model and understating of what they deliver and how it provides value – so service design and catalogue are key elements. However the real point is the need to first engage then deliver what is really needed by your customers. Sometimes this requires a first step of appreciating and accepting what the current ‘experience’ is like. It’s a good idea to try and use your own services and then listen to those that have to do this regularly – for feedback.

Overall we need to be able to ‘walk in our customer shoes’ and use this as input to drive the best possible experience when dealing with us. It’s easy to talk about doing this but a harder job actually getting out and doing it and also translating the feedback into something truly transformational and enjoyable for customers, and not just another IT-driven tool that is there to serve the IT departments way of working.  So, in order to transform the User Experience, we also need to transform the way that IT works and does business.

Ultimately we can use this approach to develop our service mantra beyond IT – and many are doing this, using portal and request management tools as a starting point to implement single tools and process across a number of internal and external departments – HR, Finance and marketing. As such many forward thinking IT organisations have managed to transform themselves as part of this into clear ‘value providers’ , rather than the guys who like to say ‘no.

 

So let’s say ‘YES’ to transformation – both the User/Customer experience and of course ourselves…

 


 

ITSM Review Transforming User Experience event – how can we help?

The event will focus on the underlying issues, opportunities and solutions available to help you make your transformation. The day will include expert guidance including output from recent ITSM review studies and the current ‘Self Service’ Review.

ITSM Vendors will be on hand to show how their solutions have been used in new and innovative ways to help their IT customers achieve success and value together with a selection of workshops facilitated by a mix of industry peers, practitioners, consultants and vendors to discuss and map out practical strategies to help make your transformation a success.

Click here for more information!

 

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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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An alternative source of talent for your service desk?

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Due to the advances in healthcare and longer life expectancy it is estimated that within 15 years of the date of this article almost a third of the UK workforce will be in the over 50-age bracket.

Do you have an apprentice working in your IT department? Perhaps on your Service Desk learning the ropes, planning their rise through the ranks to Database Administrator or Network Engineer? I of course am generalizing and there may well be many apprentices out there wanting to pursue a career purely as a Service Desk Analyst it’s just that I have never met one.

I did however once meet a man called Paul who started working with me, not in IT admittedly, but who, having been made redundant and failing for over 18 months to procure a similar role, decided to apply for an entry level position in a very different sector to one he had worked in before. Paul was 58 years old.

The Office of National Statistics estimates that in July of this year approximately 325,000 people in the UK age between 50-64 were unemployed. Although this is thought to be about half of the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds, the prospects for the 50+ demographic finding long-term employment are considerably bleaker with almost 50% of those over 50’s having been unemployed for one year or more or forced into underemployment working part-time or to zero hour contracts.

Paul was extremely able, had an excellent manner and was very patient with the callers on the end of the line. His customer service skills were exemplary and in contrast to others, including myself at the time, he did not see the role as a rung on a ladder to somewhere else. He just wanted to help people and do the job to the best of his ability.

Looking back I can see that Paul would have made an excellent Service Desk Analyst. I very much doubt though that at the time, when this particular IT Department contained only one person over the age of 50 who was widely regarded by his colleagues as a dinosaur treading water until retirement, that Paul would ever have been considered.

Despite possessing a healthy interest in IT and possessing good IT skills, pretty much all that can be hoped for when attempting to employ an apprentice, the suggestion that Paul could take on the apprentice role would have no doubt received much laughter.

Luckily things are changing…

Although traditionally apprenticeships have been for young people fresh from education, the 50+ demographic is moving in. In the last year more than 34,000 people over the age of 50 have started an apprenticeship, with many applying for a ‘professional’ apprenticeship in areas that would normally be dominated by graduates.

Please don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support helping young people into work, my own working life started out this way and I am forever grateful for the opportunity but I think that organisations are missing a trick!

I believe that this older age group is an excellent fit for the Service Desk. With more decision-making and problem solving experience older workers already have a lot of the skills that would need to be taught to a young person alongside technical skills. And then there’s the general life experience aspect. Website Customer Champions carried out a survey on below average customer service and found that people over 50 are the most dissatisfied. It stands to reason that if you have received poor customer service you will work hard to ensure that your customers do not receive a similar service.

Opening up apprenticeships to the 50+ demographic also helps to create a larger pool of suitable candidates, something which in my experience is greatly needed and, as I previously mentioned, with older workers more likely to see working on the service desk as a career rather than a stepping-stone to other things your return on your investment will be far higher.

So do yourself a favour when looking for an apprentice and actively encourage applications from the over 50’s…they have a lot to offer

Types of apprenticeships

Currently in the UK there are over 200 different types of apprenticeships in areas such as retail, education, manufacturing, engineering and of course Information and Communication Technology.

Specific ICT Apprenticeships:

  • IT Application Specialist – providing apprentices with the competence, skills and knowledge to work effectively and efficiently with IT systems, communication and productivity tools and software applications
  • IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals – with the choice of focusing on either telecoms or IT this apprenticeship covers work in a broad range of digital technologies that help to use and share information.

Less obvious apprenticeships that may also be considered by an IT organisation:

  • Customer Service – teaching the apprentice the skills to provide excellent customer service as a customer facing employee
  • Contact Centre Operations – providing the apprentice skills in customer service, communication, problem solving and team working

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Hiring the right people for your Service Desk

276639499_f2b002ceaa_zHiring people for a service desk is a major challenge, but an important one. Without good people, even the best processes and tools will fail to deliver high quality services and support.

So where do you start?

Planning out a recruitment process is critical to helping you find the right person quickly. IT Recruitment is complex and requires good project management (although it is a process that rarely gets the attention it needs). You will need to set out clear stages and tasks, create supporting documentation, and involve people from across the organization, including IT, HR and perhaps even the marketing department.

Work out who you need

Recruiting for any part of an organization tends to fail when the business doesn’t have a clear understanding of what they need. Most often this is due to assumptions made. It might look like an easy option to recycle an existing Service Desk Analyst job specification but your requirements might have changed since it was used. In the end, you’ll get what you ask for, so if you’re asking for the wrong person, you’ll get the wrong person. It will pay dividends later in the process to start with a clear picture of what you need.

The service desk is the friendly face of IT, so an effective service desk analyst requires a mix of interpersonal, technical and problem-solving skills to succeed. In general, an analyst should be polite, considerate, patient, calm and respectful. The technical skills they require will depend on your own organization. What applications do your business people use? How do they communicate with the service desk? What tools do the service desk use? The technical problem-solving skills they will require will depend on where you draw the line between the service desk and 2nd line support e.g. which issues will they be expected to handle on the front line and which will they escalate to the technical support teams.

Work out what you need to pay

People cost money, so you’ll need to work out how much money is available to hire someone new for the service desk. You might already have a “default” salary range for analysts, but salaries change over time and you get what you pay for, so you might need to revise your budget.

If you are going to have to pay more to get somebody who is up to the job, you will probably need to justify this, so you might need to articulate the business case. What value do you need a new analyst to bring? The trigger for recruiting a new service desk analyst is usually one of two things: to replace somebody who is moving on, or to scale up support capacity to handle increased demand from the business. By presenting the case in terms the business can understand – such as an increase in the number of incidents/service requests logged per month, or an increase in the number of SLA breaches – it should become clear as to exactly why a new analyst is required, and the difference they will make.

Work out what they need and expect

Try as you might, if you’re paying under market value you won’t net the right people for your service desk – and support quality will suffer. But salary is just one component of the package. A prospective employee will also want to know about incentives, benefits package, training and career path. They might also check the reputation of the company using social sites like Glassdoor, so it pays to keep an eye on who is saying what about you so that you can respond to any negative comments. Talk to your HR department for guidance on expectations you need to meet as an employer, as well as any reputation issues you might need to counter.

Where do you find good service desk candidates?

The chances are, the best service desk analysts are currently working in a service desk elsewhere. Most service desk’s have a high turnover of staff (much higher than average across the organization)  but this is more reflective of the absence of a staff retention strategy, rather than down to the general calibre of people on the service desk. With analysts changing jobs frequently, they will eventually settle in to an organization that both recognizes and rewards their talents, so this is where you will find the star employees. Companies need to compete for the best staff, but the pay-off is outstanding IT support and happy end users. You’re going to have to pay to get them, and work hard to keep them. Remember, it’s not just about you finding the right employee. It’s also about the employee finding the right company.

In order to reach these star candidates, you’ll need to use a mix of channels. Consider how you can use your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, specialist forums, industry events and word of mouth – as well as outsourcing to recruitment agencies – to let people know you’re hiring. Wherever service desk people are hanging out, that’s where you need to get your message. Your marketing department may be able to help you spread the word across an array of digital and social channels.

It was highly possible that not paying the market rate was having a detrimental affect on service
It was highly possible that not paying the market rate was having a detrimental affect on service

Candidate Shortlisting

If you are offering a competitive package and you’re putting word out in the right places you can expect a flood of responses. With such a high turnover of staff happening across the service desk industry there are always plenty of people looking to move to an organization that provides better career prospects. Some people are just not good at writing a CV that really sells their potential value (particularly in IT where the focus is still very much on technical skill sets), so a short phone interview will help you get a clearer picture. Depending on your corporate vetting policy this might be done by HR, so make sure they have a clear list of criteria to work with and a set of poignant questions to ask.

After all of this, if you’re still not getting CVs of the calibre you require, it might be time to ask the HR department to headhunt candidates who are not actively/openly looking for a new role.

The interview process

Make sure you have a plan for a structured interview. Too often, organizations waste time talking through the candidate’s CV, instead of focusing on meeting their specific requirements. If you have spent the time documenting your requirements to begin with, interviews should be a simple process of “checking off” the skills of the candidate against what you need them to do. Going beyond the set of technical, interpersonal and problem-solving skills you have specified, you should also look at:

  • Qualifications: What qualifications do they have that support their application e.g. ITIL Foundation, the SDI Service Desk Qualification or one of the many more general customer service qualifications? Qualifications aren’t everything, although they will give you a quick indication of capability. Make sure you balance qualifications against real-world experience to ensure you will gain value within a reasonable timescale – without putting too heavy a burden on the rest of the service desk.
  • Culture: You will need to assess whether they will be able to operate effectively within your organisation’s own unique culture. Are they from a similar size of organisation in the same industry? You may favour hiring from similar organisations. A proven track record in the same area of business will be of value, but analysts who have spent time in a number of different types of organisation will have experienced a higher variety of support and are likely to be more adaptable. They may also bring more ideas for improvements with them, so if this is something you’re looking for, gaining some insight into their background will be important. By nature, large organisations tend to emphasis rigid processes and escalation paths to handle the challenges of scalability, whereas Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups foster greater flexibility and problem-solving. How much will a new analyst need to work within the constraints of your existing framework? And how much room is there for more creative approaches to problem-solving? Many large businesses are seeing the value in recruiting people with problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial attitudes that are bred by necessity within start-ups and SMEs.

Conclusions

  • Upfront planning and analysis is critical to successful recruitment. Bring members of your service desk team in at an early stage to help you work out exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Finding the right person takes time, money and effort, but the legwork is essential to net somebody who will fulfil the requirements in the long term. You don’t want to have to go through the process all over again in six months.
  • IT recruitment doesn’t work well if it only involves IT people, nor if it only involves HR people. You need both to find and recruit the right person.
  • Once you have your team of service desk superstars, you’ll need to work hard to keep them. Work with the HR department to put together a staff retention strategy that sets out an ongoing process of evaluation, engagement and reward.

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The Top Five Worries for IT Service Managers

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What keeps you up at night?

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.

What keeps you up at night? People love to ask business leaders this question. You can find the worries for IT service managers in the headlines of your favorite news sources every day.

IT service managers have to contend with everything from routine service tickets to critical connectivity outages. However, IT service organisations are no longer just incident response customer service representatives. Today, they are strategic departments working closely with IT resolution teams and other business units.

What we believe to be the top five worries for IT Service Managers:

Alert Fatigue

When a major retailer suffered a data breach in 2013, more than one IT employee on the front lines saw alerts but nobody acted. Why? Large IT organisations can receive up to 150,000 alerts per day from their monitoring systems. How are IT employees supposed to sort through them all to pick out the one or two legitimate threats? They can’t, of course.

So many similar alerts come in, many of them routine notifications, that alert fatigue sets in and IT service workers move them to alternate folders or just delete them. Some 86% of data breach victims had the alerts in their logs at the time of attack, but didn’t act because they had too many alerts. Some IT organisations have backup call center employees. On-call employees sometimes take advantage and let calls and emails go through, and as a result no one takes action.

Your IT organisation can be more strategic by establishing rules and automating which alerts reach a threat threshold that requires review by IT resolution teams. Establish clear escalation processes to maintain open communication.

Another good strategy is to automate proactive communications. Often one event can cause hundreds of alerts and notifications from employees, partners and customers. If your service providers are too overwhelmed by inquiries to fix issues, proactive communications can limit these inquiries and enable more effective resolution.

BYOD

There is little value in resisting the BYOD movement. Embrace it so you can manage it. And it’s happening – most large enterprises now allow their employees to bring their own mobile devices to work.

The good news is that employees who bring their own devices are happy and productive. In fact, a study by CIO Magazine indicates that employees who use their own devices work an extra two hours and send 20 more emails every day. One-third of BYOD employees check work email before the workday between 6-7 am.

The downside is that IT departments can’t ensure that employee devices are one the same platform versions, are using only approved apps, and are visiting only approved websites. Mobile phones are no longer immune from malware and if you don’t know their own mobile landscape, you’ll have a difficult time maintaining a safe environment.

Trust your employees to use good judgment, but inform them of best practices and be vigilant about alerts. Calls to your IT service desk for mobile issues can be very time-consuming because your representatives might have to test issues and fixes on mobile phones in the office.

Job Changes

Business continuity and disaster recovery situations used to revolve around whether the building would still be standing after a storm or a fire. Today the building is just where the data happens to reside. And the data is what matters.

Major issues like data breaches or malware attacks can threaten the future of a business. For large global enterprises, the challenges can be enormous. Business continuity situations require issue resolution and communication, combined with the pressures of speed. Time, after all, is money, and downtime is frequently estimated at more than £5,000 per minute. So pressure is squarely on IT service providers to be prepared when critical incidents cause alerts and notifications. Gathering disparate information sources, assessing the causes and communicating with departments around the world requires technology, flexibility and strategy.

Conditions can change frequently, so be organised and prepared. If you and your front-line service representatives are calm, your company will likely stay calm, and eliminating panic could be the difference between disaster and recovery.

Your processes have to be agile as well just to deal with business change. Re-organisations happen all the time, and your people will have to learn new skills and work with new people. Make sure they can.

Finally, the cloud is changing the way IT departments provide services too. Cloud-based infrastructure was once an afterthought. As of September 2013, DMG Consulting estimates that more than 62% of organisations were using some cloud-based contact center application as part of their operations, and nearly half the hold-outs were planning to convert within the next year.

Will I Even Have a Job?

The role of the IT service desk continues to evolve. Just a few years ago, IT desks were very reactive. They fixed issues, implemented updates and prevented disasters. Today they must play a more strategic role, aligning with other business units to address fixers with clients in today’s more distributed workforces.

More and more clients expect to use self-service tools to resolve their issues. In its Q2 2014 Benchmark Report, Zendesk says 27% of customers have tried to resolve an issue using self-service tools in the last six months.

Looking a little further ahead, your clients might be expecting to use virtual agents in their attempts at issue resolution. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2015, 50% of online customer self-service search activities will be via a virtual assistant. ICMI research shows that 64% of contact center leaders feel that advanced self-service options such as virtual agents improve the overall customer experience.

If you’re going to provide virtual agents and self-service options, though, do it well. In 2013, Zendesk stated that 72% of customers were going online to serve themselves, but only 52% were finding the information they needed.

M2M (Machine-to-Machine)

Are you tired of hearing about the Internet of Things and connected devices? Are you tired of the #IoT and #M2M hashtags? Well, sorry. Just when you thought you had your world on a string, connected devices are creating a future you could never have imagined just a few years ago.

Your servers are monitoring appliances, devices and machines. Something as innocuous as a down printer can seriously impact the ability of sales or finance to do their jobs. Servers, laptops and mobile devices have obvious business productivity consequences. At hospitals, equipment and wearable devices have to be connected to monitor patient health.

It’s important that the machines are not separate from the IT departments. In other words, your IT service teams should have intimate knowledge of all the connected devices, and the ability to apply swift resolutions.

Conclusion

In today’s business and technology environment, there is always a lot to think about when it comes to managing IT departments. The above list of our suggested top five worries for IT Service Managers could go on for much longer. IT Service Managers have to contend with basic routine service tickets to business critical connectivity outages. Within that spectrum, the sheer volume of alerts, the increasing workforce demands of BYOD, job uncertainty along with M2M & IoT continue to challenge the Service Manager.

However, as we have outlined, you have to manage this workload and uncertainty, so take control, be organised, and continue to be a strategic partner to your business. Today, there are a number of strategic departments working closely with IT resolution teams and other business units, in harmony, to plan for and manage the burden. To do so will help you reduce the stress and worry that this challenging and exciting role brings.

This article has been contributed by Teon Rosandic, VP EMEA at xMatters.

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Social IT in the enterprise: Getting past the hype

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Can social IT crack open information stuck in departmental silos and improve IT department to business communications?

Social IT has generated a lot of hype over the last few years but many organizations have been left wondering how to turn the grand theory into practice – in a way that delivers tangible results for the business. People know what social media is; they just don’t know how to transfer the principles of social media into the world of IT operations to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase IT customer satisfaction.

Start at the top

The trick with social IT (as with any new technology) is to start with what you want to achieve. That means taking a top-down view of the challenges you are facing and examining how social IT principles and tools can help you face those challenges. You have to have a good understanding of the issues to begin with, as well as understanding the “toolbox” of social mechanisms that are available. If you start by looking at social IT technology, you won’t get the results you need. You’ll simply be implementing technology for technology’s sake. Focus effort by thinking about where social principles can help you to improve services, reduce costs and improve business satisfaction with IT.

Make it part of your strategic ITSM roadmap

Social IT isn’t something that you can do in isolation. Social IT should be implemented as part of your strategic ITSM roadmap, not as a separate IT initiative. It’s not something you can implement with a big-bang approach and then say “We do social IT.” Social IT isn’t something you can buy in a box (although you will need technology to make it work). Nor is it the answer to all of your problems. What social IT provides is some new ways to improve communication, problem-solving and decision-making across geographical and departmental boundaries. Better communication is something that most IT departments will benefit from. Social IT is already happening in your organization, in a limited way and at a local level. People frequently collaborate and share knowledge offline to solve problems. The challenge for IT is to “digitalize” this social behaviour and facilitate it on a global scale.

The “toolbox” of social mechanisms

  • Collaboration sessions/discussion boards – open forums that enable collaboration between groups around whatever issues, problems and projects they’re working on.
  • Follows – By letting staff follow the people, services, projects and devices that are relevant to them, they can stay informed without being overwhelmed with information.
  • Status updates – “Short-form” announcements that help people stay connected.
  • Wikis – User-generated knowledge bases that are maintained by the whole community to keep them in alignment with your live environment.
  • Likes – User-ratings for content, knowledge or services that indicate quality and usefulness
  • Hashtags – Tagging improves searchability by grouping different types of content with similar topics.
  • Social profiles – A who’s-who for your organization, helping people to pick suitable collaborators.

Scope of social IT

The scope of social IT isn’t restricted to within the IT department. There are two other angles you need to consider. There is a lot of value to be gained by harnessing social mechanisms to encourage and improve interaction between IT people and end users. Social IT can also be applied to the broader end user community by facilitating knowledge sharing and peer support (and empowering end users to take some of the day-to-day strain off the service desk). With all these new interactions going on, you will need to define policies to maintain a sensible level of control and set out which social mechanisms are appropriate in which situations. For example, a peer support forum is not the right place to report a critical application issue that is affecting an entire business unit. Sometimes it is still best to pick up the phone and call the service desk.

Mapping challenges to social solutions

Organizations can help ensure they gain business value from social IT by mapping business challenges to social solutions. Every organization is different, but there are many different ways in which social IT can help to improve efficiency, reduce costs and minimize risk. The way you map challenges to solutions will depend on your business structure and priorities, but here are some examples of how you can derive social IT tactics from strategic business drivers:

Challenge

Barrier

Social Solution

Resolve IT issues faster. Support knowledge is locked up in departmental silos. Facilitate collaborative discussions and the crowd-sourcing of solutions to issues.
Expose a searchable record of historic collaboration sessions to boost the knowledge base and helps support staff (and end users) to find more solutions more quickly.
Reduce negative impact of change. Lack of transparency between IT and the business prevents proper understanding of business risk and impact. Let end users follow the services and devices they use so that they are aware of planned changes and disruptions. Use microblog status updates to announce changes and linked blog posts or wiki articles to describe detail.
Use open collaboration sessions to consult with business stakeholders/end users to crowd-source a full impact analysis.
Drive continual improvement of services. IT doesn’t understand current business needs, or how business needs are changing over time. Social engagement between IT people and business people promotes better understanding of business demands and the issues that affect productivity. With collaboration tools, IT people and business people can discuss where and how improvement is needed to meet changing demand.
Drive business innovation with new technology. The IT department is bogged down with firefighting common issues relating to current technology. Facilitate peer support by enabling the sharing of fixes and best practices within the end user community. Collaboration sessions, wikis and a searchable knowledge base empower end users to find information and solve problems without intervention from IT.
Improve IT process efficiency. Geographical and departmental barriers restrict the flow of information. Integrating social collaboration into ITSM processes means IT staff can tap into an enterprise-wide knowledge/resource pool.

Conclusions

  • Social IT helps you get the most out of your people by creating collaborative communities and transforming the way people communicate and share knowledge. Collaborative problem solving is both more efficient and effective – and translates into higher productivity, lower costs and lower risk for IT and the business.
  • Social IT doesn’t start with buying new technology, it starts with examining the challenges that IT faces and working out how social mechanisms can help improve productivity and efficiency. However, tools play a vital part in facilitating open collaboration on a global scale.
  • Social IT helps you bring offline collaboration and problem solving activities online – to create a system of engagement that will help you optimize the activities that make up your IT processes.
  • Social IT is a “fuzzy” way of working that IT isn’t very familiar with. The open nature of social media requires IT to embrace new ways of thinking and let go of the need for such strict control of data and interactions. However, some governance policies are required.
  • Social IT doesn’t require a big-bang approach. You can apply social mechanics to small corners of IT to test the water and demonstrate value before a larger roll-out.

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