Self-service – The value of Social

Stuart Power Mar 2014
Stuart Power, Matrix42

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.

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Create policies: You need to define the rules about acceptable usage, service levels, compliance and security – collaboration should not be chaotic!
  1. 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.

Conclusion

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.

This article has been contributed by Stuart Power, UK Sales Manager at Matrix42.

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The Avocado of Knowledge Management

Recently I’ve been talking to many servicedesk managers from different organisations to better understand the service delivery problems they solve with Knowledge Management.

Knowledge Management is a funny old thing – it certainly has a high level of awareness amongst servicedesk managers but isn’t considered as fundamental as Self-Service, Incident, Problem, Change or Config.

Most of the practitioners that I spoke acknowledged that they would like to do more with their implementations of Knowledge Management but – as we all know – sometimes it’s all people can do to keep services running and SLAs met.

We posed what we hoped was a probing question to servicedesk managers. “If we could prove that investing in Knowledge Management resulted in improved service to end users… would you do so”

Towards the end of this article I’ll provide some real life responses to this question.

Effective knowledge management certainly has the potential to both improve service and reduce costs for an IT organisation by encouraging shift left… shift down

shift-left-shift-down

This model – defined by Tim Cobben from KPN in the Netherlands – shows how incident resolution time and cost increases as the resolving engineer moves up and to the right, away from the customer.

As issues are escalated from the service desk to 2nd or 3rd line support groups, we are resolving the issue with more expensive engineering resources that are further removed from the customer.

The aim of the IT Manager should be to shift left… shift down. Where possible move the point of resolution towards self-service. How can we do this? With effective knowledge management tools and processes. And of course… content.

The HDI Support Center Practices & Salary report contains some interesting statistics about the costs of different forms of support.

  • Walk-up support costs an average of $20
  • Phone support costs $17
  • Email support costs $14
  • Peer support costs $7
  • Community support costs $2

The Peer support and Community support costs were predictions that we made rather than data from the HDI report.

You can clearly see that the model of shift left… shift down would lead to economic as well as customer satisfaction benefits. As an IT Manager you would want to move to a community support model based on a knowledge management strategy as the most economic way to scale your IT support operations.

Knowing that applying effective Knowledge Management to customer interactions such as incident and self-service, how do you get started?

Slicing up knowledge management

We looked at how customers are using knowledge today and how other products and tools are redefining the knowledge management landscape and defined this model.

We call it the “Avocado of Knowledge Management”

 Avocado

Engineered Knowledge

At the center of the model we have an activity called Engineered Knowledge. This will be familiar with anyone maintaining a knowledge base in their organisation today.

Characteristics of Engineered Knowledge practices are:

  • Structured content, normally in article format
  • Content is written by a small number of contributors, sometimes they are dedicated writers
  • Content has a formal approval and publishing workflow
  • Content is categorised and ordered

There are many examples to hand to demonstrate Engineered Knowledge. All big software vendors have a knowledge base containing many articles. You can imagine that these articles were written and reviewed by technical writers and had many rounds of reviews before being published.

Engineered Knowledge is an interesting case – it requires a formal process and good tooling to support the publishing and approval workflow. It also aims for completeness and accuracy.

Many customers that I have spoken to complained about the overhead involved in getting valuable content into their knowledge base.

Contributed Knowledge

Next in our graphical model we have an activity called Contributed Knowledge that surrounds Engineered Knowledge.

This activity is familiar to those of us that work in IT support today. Those that write contributed knowledge work amongst us on the service desk, network and database teams.

They are people who have a primary role but are able to contribute knowledge as a by-product of that work. For example as a network engineer figures out a gnarly configuration issue with his Cisco VPN router he can document it to help the next engineer that might find the same issue.

Contributed knowledge has a cheaper cost of production as it is created by non-dedicated authors. It also has a lower level of authority as the publishing process won’t have multiple levels of review and approval.

One theme throughout this model is the tradeoff between Cost, Authority and Immediacy of content. Although knowledge written by the network engineer might not have been triple-checked and re-edited for mistakes it did deliver value to its readers in a shorter amount of time.

We traded authority for immediacy.

Social Knowledge

Wrapping the layer of Engineered Knowledge we have a layer referred to as Social Knowledge.

This class of content is typically contributed by end-users, perhaps interacting with technical teams in a forum or Twitter style stream format.

chat

With Social Knowledge our primary characteristic is Immediacy. Users and technical staff can have a real-time conversation, often in a public or quasi-public setting and generate knowledge.

In the case above you can see knowledge being traded about a service impacting event (the WiFi in building 3) or about common application questions.

There is a danger associated with trading the Authority of the content however. We don’t know whether Lee Javens is a peer user that found a solution or someone in the IT department. The tradeoff is apparent.

Why is it called the Avocado of Knowledge??

The idea of the avocado was to highlight the layered nature of the types of knowledge, especially regarding authority.

Engineering Knowledge is like the stone in the middle of the avocado – it’s formal process with review and approval makes it the firmest in terms of authority.

Contributed Knowledge has a lower level of authority. Although written by subject matter experts it won’t have the formal approval processes. Think about your wikis and HOWTO documents written by engineers in your organisation

Social Knowledge has the least authority. It isn’t easy to tell whether an answer is correct or approved. Answers from the peer community of users of a service are inter-mingled with those from technical experts.

A quick crib sheet of the Avocado of Knowledge

Cribsheet

Social interactions cut through the Avocado

We mentioned Social Knowledge as a class of knowledge imagining Twitter-style streams of updates and conversations.

There is another dimension to Social that applies to all three classes described above. These are social interactions that are equally as applicable and useful in Engineered or Contributed Knowledge.

There are 6 types of social interactions that can be applied to knowledge

  • Consume: Read the content, digest it and move on
  • Interact: Hit the “Like” button, Thumbs up or +1 to lend your vote of confidence to an article. Perhaps this should increase the Authority of an article
  • Curate: Add categories, tags or other data to improve an article. Making it more useful for others that will read it in the future. Perhaps adding a comment to an article is a form of curation
  • Create: Create new content based on the original work or build on top of existing content
  • Network: Find authors and contributors, follow them and reshare content into that network. Both LinkedIn and Twitter are create examples of content sharing networks
  • Build Reputation: Give thanks for correct answers in the form of points, awards, coins or kudos

There are some very interesting possibilities when you look at how users can interact with knowledge content using these social signals.

For example, we would expect that Engineered Knowledge – formal articles that have been checked and approved – would have an expiry date. All Knowledge must die at some point.

What if an article starts to receive lots of negative interactions in the form of a thumbs down. Should that article suddenly be flagged for review because the instructions it provides no longer works for users?

We consider Social Knowledge to have the least Authority because we can’t validate the solution that is offered. Perhaps the person that documented a solution didn’t properly test it.

Well could we build reputation – another social signal – to measure the authority of the knowledge? When a person has gained reputation through high quality content can we promote their contributed knowledge as a possible correct answer.

Why aren’t organisations diving into Knowledge Management today

Earlier in this article I promised to share some insights from people working in Service Management today.

We asked them a question that directly related to the shift left, shift down model described earlier and if they would use knowledge to deflect incidents and servicedesk calls

The question was “Would it result in an economic change or a change in how the organization is staffed and managed? How would this change your relationship with your users?”

The answers were interesting:

“If knowledge is positioned correctly it can definitely impact the organization. You would need less help desk technicians and users would have less down time thus increasing their productivity. If IT can spend less time reacting to issues they can focus on being strategic partners to the business.”

“IF this successfully reduced volumes of calls into the IT Service Desk and incidents being raised by them as a result of the call volumes then I would image that future growth within the IT Service Desk would be discussed or possibly re-organised into a structure that would be more beneficial to this way of working, perhaps have a small team of “Knowledge Editors” that owned and created the various articles that were publicly available”

“It would free up more time for high impact incidents, improve quality and throughput.”

“I think relationships are created between humans, not between humans and machines. The relationship between the service desk and customer would be minimized, but this would allow resources to be focused in other value-add areas.”

I find it interesting that we gave servicedesk managers an opportunity to think about Knowledge Management as an opportunity to handle the same volume of end-users with a smaller number of staff due to knowledge being used to resolve issues.

Almost all of them saw an opportunity to use Knowledge Management to reclaim engineering capacity to solve harder issues, be more strategic and to spend more time providing value to their users.

Surely this is a good thing! Every good blog post ends with a call to action and here is mine.

What next? Your call to action

Today please examine your self-service and incident management processes and identify where effective use of Knowledge Management could improve resolution times and autonomy amongst your users.

If users had the right solution presented to them could they fix their own issues? Are you doing enough to get knowledge in front of users when they need it.

And if pressures of time and resource are preventing you from building a great knowledge base could the avocado of knowledge help you understand about trading authority for immediacy and cost?

Thanks for reading!

Social IT in the enterprise: Getting past the hype

Caption goes here
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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Do you clog your social media channels with useless crap?

True value or ego massage? '64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour...'
True value or ego massage? ’64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour…’

Do you care what you share or clog your social media channels with useless crap?

In this article Tobias Nyberg explores why people share at all.

Sharing and caring

Is there a way to tell if what I’m sharing actually has any value to others? Do my followers, readers and community peers have any use for the information I share or am I guilty of clogging the social media channels with useless crap?

Out of the 239 twitter followers, 158 Facebook friends, 93 Google+ circlers, 343 LinkedIn connections I have, a very small percentage interact with me frequently when I share stuff with them. How can I tell that they and the ones that are silent find value in my contributions?

Is sharing caring or is it a way to feed my ego?

I asked myself, the Google+ Back2ITSM community and friends of mine this question some time ago since I wanted to try to understand if I bring any value to the community in these areas or if I should just stop spreading worthless information.

The answers were, of course, not simple or even all in the course of what I expected. And just to set some prerequisites straight, I wasn’t necessarily looking for hard fact metrics on value (even if it would be nice), a good feeling about the value takes me close enough.

There are some basic tell tails to see if you bring value through the social channels. If people follow you on twitter, have you in circles on Google+, friend or follow you on Facebook connect with you on LinkedIn they at least think that you at one point or another brought them value. The problem is of course that most people don’t un-follow, un-friend or un-circle you if you no longer bring any value. They’ll either ignore you or mute you from their streams.

Another thing is if your followers re-share your contributions, you would expect them to find your information valuable to them, and in some cases it probably is. But as it turns out, the main reason people share stuff from others, is to either look smart themselves or in other ways boost the image of them. (See also ‘Suffering with consumption‘)

An old study I found on how word of mouth advertising works is probably possible to apply on social media as well. At least for the sake of argument in this situation. That study shows that 64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour, etc.

There is of course value in that, maybe just not the kind of value I was hoping to bring to the community.

Writing and sharing for your own sake

Some of the people I’ve spoken to about this says that they aren’t that interested in what value to others they contribute with. They write, share and interact for their own sake. And I guess that’s a perfectly fine standpoint as well. It can be a way to collect and sort out thoughts and ideas and put it into structure for use, now or later on. And if someone happens to read it and find it valuable, well, good for them. But will they continue to create and share content if no one ever uses it or find value in it?

Some people believe that value from what you contribute with will come out eventually, for someone, and you won’t probably even know it. So their strategy is to keep sharing what comes to mind (and perhaps what make them look smarter) and then let the information be valuable, or not. I guess that would be sharing without caring.

I’ve also been told that it’s impossible to know if you bring any value if you don’t know what your followers want and find value in. And that is a bit tricky to say the least when you don’t know them at all, or even know who they are besides a screen name.

One method that I’ve found to be more used than others is a pragmatic approach of loosely collecting vibes on the channels on what kind of value you bring. Most of us probably do that but some even have methods of sorts to create an perception or understanding on what social media channels to use because they bring more value (as well as gain more value as it turns out) to their followers. Some people write it down to track changes and to see their “vibe-trends” over time.

In the end, it seem to be hard to measure the value of what you share on social media and it’s hard to even create a perception of the value of your contributions to others. I think it’s safe to say that much of what many people share is valuable for ego boosting though, may it be mine or your ego.

When I share things with the community I would like to think I care about what I share and what the information bring in form of value. But to be frank, sometimes I share value and sometimes I share crap. But even more importantly, sometimes, quite often, I don’t share at all. Because I care what I share.

Service desk collaboration: why Facebook walls and social streams are not the answer

Social updates firehose - why updating everyone with everything might not be the answer.
Social updates firehose – why updating everyone with everything might not be the answer.

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

Why was the IT service management and help desk function created?

Most likely, it stemmed from an idea to establish a task force of specialists capable of providing assistance in any complex technical issue.

Over the decades, the service desk function has evolved from elite efficiency artistry into first level issue resolution ranging from the basic resetting of a password, to the complex, cascading outages, which can involve all stakeholders and affect the most important services within the organisation.

However, all too often, the relevance of the function is underestimated. The perception is generally that the service management function is not as aligned or as strategic as it should be.

Proving the efficiency and value that the service desk provides to internal and external stakeholders can change that perception. But to do so, you have to begin by going back to the original objectives of the service desk.

It is easy to reconstruct how service management has become distracted with the issues of running an effective service desk. The goals of the help desk are a paradox. The range of tasks can be infinite and undefined, training is difficult, resources are scarce and customer’s expectations are growing at an increasing rate.  Too much information is being broadcast out to groups without taking into consideration how and why a person wants that information. The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to increase the relevance of service management.

Let’s examine some of the best practices to increase your business relevance:

  1. Automating mundane tasks – The ultimate goal of automation is to perform a required process in a streamlined, efficient and repeatable fashion. In order to automate a time consuming first-line task, you will need to create synergy between incident and dispatch assignment by combining industry leading service desk applications with a communication platform.  The platform you choose needs to allow each team to declare who is responsible, available, skilled and interested in any issue. When incidents take place, personnel are automatically located, dispatched and working on resolving those incidents without the need for the service desk to perform the slow, manual task of looking up who’s on call, who’s responsible, and what their contact information is.
  2. Optimising first call closure – Not all issues can be solved on the first call from the service desk. However, by automating the mundane tasks, we can reinvest time in our first-line resolution capability. The savings allow us to train first-line specialists and provide time for personnel to more accurately trouble shoot and resolve issues. In addition, it gives the service desk the ability to spend more time with customers during satisfaction-impacting issues.
  3. Enabling effective escalation – One of the challenges of effective service management, is knowing when and how to escalate an issue.  Finding the right person can be complicated and the odds of effective, accurate escalation feel like one in a million.  Effective escalation starts with enabling the team responsible for meeting the service level with the ability to control the information they require. By allowing each team leader or director to architect the process, it ensures that when escalations are required, the correct person is notified. Through the automated delivery of information to the person responsible, the time to dispatch and resolve is reduced, resulting in fewer escalations and eliminating non value-added tasks such as wait time for assignment, call out, and person-to-person escalations.
  4. Instant and frequent visibility – One of the largest challenges a service management organisation faces is to provide visibility to the consumers of the service. Business personnel require proactive notifications of service interruption; however, the process of manually calling 500 executives in 50 countries is not realistic without the help of a communication platform.  Additionally, using internal social media channels such as Facebook, Chatter and Jive requires information to be pushed out, rather than pulled in.  What’s required to provide meaningful, instant and frequent visibility and increase the perception of the quality of service? First, the organisation must have matured through the previous steps.  Before providing proactive alerts, the service management function must be operating effectively and efficiently. The second step is the integration of a communication system capable of supporting global operations, business personnel, business service oriented alerts and the ability to target content to each person based on their needs, role and requirements – it’s called personalised information.
  5. Champion transparency and accountability – Service management can provide an organisation with the tools necessary to increase efficiency and transparency. However, to reach this stage, organisations must become comfortable with publishing the results of their efforts.  In today’s world, IT services are all too visible, lags are noticed and incidents become known by your customer’s customer. Transparency and accountability are the key drivers in trust and assurance.

The key to increasing the relevance of the IT service management function is to streamline inefficient processes, and improve communication throughout the organisation.  Automating redundant, mundane tasks to improve efficiencies is critical.  Once you have an airtight process that ensures the service desk is running smoothly, you must then deliver proactive notifications to the people who care about specific situations.  While some may argue that social media channels are the perfect way to do this, it takes away the notion of personalised information.  Everyone is seeing the information posted there, and they have to actively seek it out.  IT service management should have a communication platform that delivers only the information internal and external customers care about, and need to know, directly to them.

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

Image credit

Top 10 Social Intranet Trends

Digital Watercooler Moments: The most popular activity inside social intranets are the activity stream, instant messaging, and comments

Some interesting stats have emerged from CMS provider Bitrix who claim demand for Social Intranet is ‘exploding’ among small businesses.

Their data is based on 40,000 signups of their social intranet platform and 5,000 Intranet installations ranging from 2 to 4,000+ users.

Top 10 Social Intranet Trends

  1. Social intranet is small, real small, and that’s good news. The median Bitrix24 intranet size is only 9.7 users. Small businesses are embracing social intranet when it’s offered as affordable SaaS that does not require deployment.
  2. Social intranet isn’t just for business. While 62% of social intranet users are companies, 10% are educational institutions, another 10% are healthcare providers, 9% are religious institutions (churches), 7% are non-profits, and  2% are non-traditional users that can’t be easily classified (kindergarten, musical group, Navy Seals endurance training, tantric sex coach).
  3. Social intranet is a mobile. As of Jan 2013, 18% of Bitrix24 users access corporate portals from smartphones and tablets, not PCs. We expect the trend to continue.
  4. The box is dying, but… While 70% of our clients prefer using cloud-based SaaS, 30% insist on having a box version for security and privacy reasons. Several countries, like Germany, have restrictive privacy and personal data use legislation, forcing companies to store data on their own or approved servers.
  5. Emerging markets are on fire. The top 10 social intranet users by country are as follows: US, Russia, India, Brazil, UK, Philippines, Germany, China, Indonesia, Canada.
  6. Skepticism about the social intranet concept isn’t over yet. While 87% like social intranet idea and believe it will increase employee productivity, the other 13% prefer a classic intranet concept and think that social features will either be misused or won’t add anything of value.
  7. Talk and work. The most popular activities inside social intranets are as follows: 73% – activity stream, instant messaging, and comments; 27% – document storage, sharing or collaboration; 21% – tasks and project management; 15% – scheduling, calendars and meetings; 14% – CRM; 10% – work reports; 4% – business processes.
  8. Social intranet is changing traditional work patterns. For example, 60% of Bitrix24 users access the corporate portal on weekends at least once and 12% of Bitrix24 users accessed their portal on Christmas Day.
  9. Social intranet is addictive – 13% of social intranet users use the extranet to work with clients, freelancers or service-providers, exposing it to a wider audience.
  10. CRM, Project Management and Collaboration software is being absorbed by wider social intranet solutions. Almost 8% of Bitrix24 users have stopped using at least one service or software because a similar tool was already available in their social intranet package. Most frequently dropped were CRM and project management.

Bring Your Own App

Social intranet is frequently adopted on a department level (sales, HR, marketing, IT), meaning it’s used inside one department and not the whole company. In several instances Bitrix24 was used inside a department because the company intranet lacked necessary features.

Several clients stated that they got introduced to social intranet by another company (Jive, Yammer, Podio, Chatter) but found it either too difficult to use, lacking features or not appropriately sized for their business, meaning there’s a large segment of enterprises that aren’t being serviced by traditional intranet providers. Law offices, health care providers, travel agencies and realtors seem to be particular hungry for industry specific solution.

Information supplied by Dmitry Davydov of Bitrix.

Power to the People

How Social IT Rebalances the People Process Technology Equation

A remarkable transformation is taking place in the world of information technology today. It reflects a new generation of knowledge workers utilizing social media to improve problem-solving, foster collaboration and spark innovation.

However, despite the continued reference to the traditional triad of success encompassing people, process and technology, the IT world has typically focused more on the process and technology sides rather than emphasizing the ‘people’ component.

This has been particularly true of IT products, consultants, and executives who have emphasized a command and control approach to IT that tends to downplay and minimize the people factor.

While a highly industrialized, mechanistic view of IT over the last five plus years has led to enormous gains in automation and productivity, the IT industry has now reached a point where differentiation around process and technology has become smaller and smaller. At the same time, innovations such as tablets and smartphones have introduced a new era of enterprise IT consumerization that is dramatically changing workplace habits and forms of communication and collaboration within and between organizations worldwide.

Get on board the collaboration economy!

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, among others, has proclaimed a paradigm shift to a new “collaboration economy” that allows people, teams and companies to effectively organize and focus their activities on creating value and driving profitability. Thus, the traditional IT emphasis on process and technology is giving way to new ways of thinking that recognize the increasing importance of the social or people component in IT in order to unlock new sources of productivity and value through greater knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The following five key behavioral attributes are necessary to increase people engagement and rebalance the IT operations equation for success:

  1. Divide and Conquer – Overcome limitations of traditional mechanistic approaches to IT information discovery and share the knowledge and expertise of IT staff across the enterprise
  2. Feed and Engage – Facilitate new ways of engagement to break down traditional barriers to communication and collaboration among IT teams and stakeholders
  3. Assign and Trust – Foster accountability for knowledge, so that individuals take on responsibilities that go beyond traditional IT processes and systems and their peers trust in the knowledge captured
  4. Make it Second Nature – Use approaches that feel natural and interact intuitively to increase adoption and value
  5. Reinforce and Reward – Compel executives and IT managers to recognize and reward collaborative behavior among IT staff and stakeholders

Behavior #1: Divide and Conquer

Most IT organizations today conduct operations with a heavy emphasis on machine-driven automated discovery and monolithic configuration management databases (CMDBs) that attempt to capture all information about the IT environment. In many cases, these tools and databases are managed by a specialized team charged with keeping information current. However, these teams often have far less institutional knowledge and expertise than others within the IT organization. Those who do have the most knowledge are either blocked from directly accessing and updating these tools and databases, or they refuse to do so because they are already comfortable with their own personal spreadsheets, wikis, and other tools.

This results in a situation where IT departments all too frequently spend limited budget dollars to staff full- time resources to establish a “single source of truth” that is, in fact, either out of date, not trusted by many in their own organization, or both.

As a consequence, IT departments either do not use these tools and databases for their intended purposes, or IT professionals are forced to rely on inaccurate information to assess issues or problems and make decisions.

In contrast, social knowledge management gives everyone in IT a stake in contributing to and verifying the accuracy of the knowledge about the IT environment. The “burden” of maintenance doesn’t fall on any single person or team, but is the collective responsibility of everyone participating.

This is not to say there isn’t value in machine discovered knowledge. Instead, machine knowledge must be augmented by human knowledge and validated so that the organization can confidently make decisions. Stated another way, rather than trying to eliminate the human factor, as traditional approaches have done, social IT actually encourages all knowledgeable individuals to share their expertise and contribute to the knowledge pool by creating and following a new breed of “social objects” that leverage well-known principles from Wikipedia and Facebook-style news feeds.

Behavior #2: Feed and Engage

IT organizations that emphasize process and technology at the expense of people often tend to erect boundaries between individuals and teams in an effort to strictly manage operations through a hierarchical command and control structure. This approach reinforces the traditional technology silos in IT and exacerbates them by creating new process silos. For example, if the network is up and running, why should the network group worry if an application is slow? “It’s not our problem” is a typical reaction when IT behavior is siloed and not collaborative.

Social IT-based crowdsourcing and peer review of knowledge, on the other hand, taps into the human instinct to fill in the gaps of known and unknown information. Then, when confronting incidents, problems, and changes, the organization can make better decisions by better coordinating team effort where individuals contribute to issues they feel connected to and care about based on their responsibilities, their expertise, or simply their individual interests. This can be accomplished by leveraging familiar social media principles and “following” the objects IT manages (such as servers, network devices, applications, etc.) and by automatically assigning experts to collaboration activities around incidents, problems, and changes. With this approach, individuals can also be alerted and fed new information as social objects are updated leading to an organization that is continually current on the latest IT environment reality.

With such an approach, rather than hoarding knowledge for job security, individuals are encouraged to take ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and responsibility, keep those objects updated with new knowledge, create new objects when performing daily tasks, and then automatically share their activities with others who are affected by or depend on them.

Behavior #3: Assign and Trust

If the people potential of IT is to be fully realized by pooling collective knowledge and continuous engagement via social media types of communication and collaboration, then individuals must be accountable to others for their contribution and actions. In other words, you can crowd source knowledge but all knowledge is not created equal. Even though multiple individuals can contribute knowledge, a single individual or role should have sole ownership of a “social object.” In this manner, the organization can increase its trust of the knowledge about that object, or, if it is not being accurately maintained, replace the individual who is responsible.

Behavior #4: Make it Second Nature

IT organizations and bookshelves are littered with the bones of projects that have tried to enforce processes that individuals pay lip service to and then promptly ignore in their daily operational activities. What’s more, IT professionals are usually some of the busiest employees in the organization, so adding on a new set of activities can easily be met with skepticism.

The real potential and promise of social IT stems from its ability to foster ways of communicating and working that feel natural and intuitive to human beings without adding more to the plates of those who already feel overworked. The fact is, IT organizations are inherently social already. IT teams just haven’t had tools that are designed to support collaboration and the capture of knowledge.

IT teams that use email or instant messaging, conduct daily SCRUM meetings, or hold regular Change Advisory Board reviews, are ripe for the benefits of Social IT. But to leverage social IT requires products that fit naturally into the work IT professionals are already doing, and that augment existing processes and practices without being seen as another thing that must be done in the course of a day.

By taking this approach, IT organizations will find that “offline” communication methods like email and instant messaging will be used less and less in favor of the social knowledge management system. They will also find that SCRUM meetings are more productive and CAB meetings focused more on the changes that have the biggest risk.

Behavior #5: Reinforce and Reward

As human beings, we pay close attention to the kinds of behavior that are actually valued and rewarded in the workplace by management. Therefore, it’s imperative that executive and IT management understand and reward social IT activities that contribute to the knowledge and collaboration necessary to improve problem-solving and decision-making among IT staff members.

IT leadership must create a culture of collaboration that encourages and rewards individuals who participate in social IT by assuming responsibility and ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and actively contributing on a daily basis. One IT organization that I know of set a goal for getting a specific number of social objects into their knowledge management system by a certain day, and then paid a bonus to those who contributed to meeting that objective. You might consider providing incentives through bonuses like this and/or as part of annual performance reviews for those who make decisions by consulting the social IT knowledge management system.

Finally: An unprecedented opportunity to improve IT productivity

The introduction of social technologies into the IT workplace presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve productivity and even job satisfaction of IT professionals. Taking advantage of that opportunity, however, requires that IT leaders rebalance the people, process, technology equation by driving behavioral change and equipping teams with the proper tools and incentives to achieve success.

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Getting started with social IT (Part 2 of 2)

Following on from Matthew Selheimer’s first installment on social IT, we are pleased to bring you the second and final part of his guide to getting started with social IT

Level 3 Maturity: Social Embedding

The saying, “Context is King!” has never been truer and this is the foundational characteristic for attaining Level 3 social IT maturity; Social Embedding.
This level of social IT maturity is achieved by establishing relevant context for social collaboration through three specific actions:

  1. The creation of a social object model
  2. The construction of a social knowledge management system that is both role-based and user-specific
  3. The enhancement of established IT processes with social collaboration functionality to improve process efficiency and effectiveness

The goal at Level 3 maturity is to leverage social embedding to improve IT key performance indicators (KPIs) such as mean-time-to-restore (MTTR) service or change success rate (additional examples are provided below). It is important that you select KPIs that are most meaningful to your organisation; KPIs that you have already baselined and can use to track progress as you increase your social IT maturity.

While the value of Level 2 maturity can be significant in improving the perception of IT’s responsiveness to users, Level 3 social IT maturity is where the big breakthroughs in IT efficiency and quantifiable business value are created.

Focus on key performance indicators

Focus on the KPIs associated with the processes you are enhancing with social collaboration. An incident management KPI measurement, for example, could be to multiply your current mean-time-to-restore (MTTR) service by your cost per hour of downtime or cost of degraded service per application. This will give you a starting point for benefit projections and value measurement over time.

Focus on the KPIs associated with the processes you are enhancing with social collaboration. This will give you a foundation for benefit projections and value measurement over time.

For change management, you might use the number of outages or service degradations caused by changes and multiply that by your cost per hour of downtime and MTTR to arrive at a true dollars and cents measure that you can use to benchmark social IT impact over time. You might also consider other IT process metrics such as first call resolution rate, percentage of time incidents correctly assigned, change success rates, the percentage of outages caused by changes, the reduced backlog of problems, etc.

The point is to select IT process metrics that are meaningful for your organization and enable you to calculate a quantifiable impact or benefit. Decision makers may be skeptical about the value of social IT, so you will need to make your case that there is real quantifiable benefit to justifying the investment to achieve Level 3 maturity.

Relevant Context and Three Required Actions

Let’s now more fully consider the establishment of relevant context and the three actions characteristic of Level 3 maturity previously described: 1) creation of a social object model, 2) construction of a social knowledge management system, and 3) the enhancement of IT processes with social capabilities. We noted earlier that context is defined in terms of relevance to a specific audience. That audience could be a group of individuals, a role, or even a single individual. The most important thing is that context ensures your audience cares about the information being communicated.

How do you go about ensuring the right context? What is needed is a social foundation that can handle a wide variety of different perspectives based on the roles in IT and their experience. The most effective way to do this is to treat everything managed by IT as a social object.page7image27920 page7image28080

What is meant by a social object? Consider, for example, a Wikipedia entry and how that is kept up-to-date and becomes more complete over time through crowd sourcing of knowledge on the subject. The entry is a page on the Wikipedia website. Now imagine if everything that IT is managing—whether it’s a router, a server, an application, a user, a policy, an incident, a change, etc.—was treated along the same lines as a Wikipedia page. Take that further to assume that all the relationships which existed between those entries—such as the fact that this database runs on this physical server and is used by this application—were also social objects that could be created, modified, and crowd-sourced. In this manner, organizational knowledge about each object and its relationships with other objects can be enriched over time—just like a Wikipedia entry.

FIGURE 2: A Social Object Model as delivered in ITinvolve for Service Management™. Leveraging social collaboration principles

Define a taxonomy for your social objects

Knowledge comes from multiple sources. Existing IT knowledge may be scattered in different places such as Excel spreadsheets, Visio diagrams, Sharepoint sites, Wikis, CMDBs, automated discovery tools, etc. but it also resides in the minds of everyone working in IT, and even among your end users. To effectively capture this knowledge, you will need to define a taxonomy for your social objects. You can then begin to source or federate existing knowledge and associate it with your objects in order to accelerate the creation of your social knowledge management system.

With an initial foundation of knowledge objects in place, your next task is to make the system easy to use and relevant to your IT teams by defining perspectives on the objects. Establishing perspectives is critical to a well- functioning social knowledge management system, otherwise, you will fall into pitfall #2 discussed earlier. For example, you might define a Network Engineer’s perspective that includes network devices and the relationships they have to other objects like servers and policies. You might define a Security Administrator’s perspective that focuses on the policies that are defined and the objects they govern like network devices and servers. Without this perspective-based view, your teams will not have the relevant context necessary to efficiently and effectively leverage the knowledge management system in support of their day-to-day roles.

Enrich your knowledge and keep it current

Once you have initially populated your social objects and defined perspectives, you need to keep knowledge current and enrich it over time to ensure your IT staff finds it valuable. This is why defining your objects as social objects is so critical. Just like you might follow someone on Twitter or “friend” someone on Facebook, your teams can do the same thing with your objects. In fact, when you created your perspectives, you were establishing the initial baseline of what objects your teams would follow. In this manner, whenever anyone updates an object or its relationships, those who are following it will automatically be notified along with a dedicated “news feed” or activity stream for the object.

When you create your perspectives, you establish the initial baseline of what objects your teams will follow. In this manner, whenever anyone updates an object or its relationships, those who are following it will automatically be notified along with a dedicated “news feed” or activity stream for the object.

This does two important things. First, it keeps those who “need to know” current on the knowledge about your environment so that everyone has up-to-date information whenever there is an incident, change, or other activity related to the object. Instead of waiting until a crisis occurs and teams are interacting with out-of-date information, wasting valuable time trying to get each other up to speed, you can start to work on the issue immediately with the right information in the right context.

Provide a point of engagement for subject matter experts

Second, it provides a point of engagement for subject matter experts to collaborate around the object when they see that others are making updates or changes to the object and its relationships. This second point should not be underestimated because it taps into a basic human instinct to engage on things that matter to them and directly contributes to the crowd-sourcing motivation and improvement of knowledge accuracy over time.

Your third action is to embed your social knowledge management system into your core IT processes in order to enhance them. This is not simply an add-on, as described in Level 2 social IT maturity, but rather it is deep embedding of the social knowledge management system into your processes as the most trusted source of information about your environment. For example, imagine creating an incident record or change record, initially associating it with one or more impacted social objects, and then being able to automatically and immediately notify relevant stakeholders who are following any of those objects and then engage them in triaging the incident or planning the change. This is the power of social collaboration and why it can deliver new levels of efficiency and value for your IT organization.page10image25552

Create new knowledge objects

As an incident or change is worked using social IT, collaboration in activity streams creates a permanent and ongoing record of information, which at any point can be promoted to become a new knowledge object associated with any other object. For example, let’s say that a change record was created for a network switch replacement. Each of the individuals responsible for the switch and related objects like the server rack is immediately brought into a collaboration process to provide input on the change and contribute their expertise prior to the change going to the Change Advisory Board (CAB) for formal approval.

FIGURE 4: In-context collaboration and promotion to knowledge as supported by ITinvolve for Service Management™

This is just one example of the power of in-context collaboration. The same principles apply to incidents, problems, releases and other IT management processes.

To exit Level 3 and start to move to Level 4 on the maturity scale, you need to be able to provide your IT staff with in-context collaboration that is grounded in a social object model, utilizes a social knowledge management system that is easy to maintain and provides an up-to-date view of your objects and relationships, and enhances your existing IT management processes. But more importantly, you need to be able to show the quantifiable impact on one or more KPIs that matter to your organization.

Level 4 Maturity: Social-Driven

The final stage of social IT maturity is Level 4, the Social-Driven IT organization. The goal at this level is to leverage social collaboration for Continual Service Improvement (CSI).

The value of Level 4 social IT maturity comes in two forms. First, as your organization becomes more adept at leveraging social collaboration, you should benchmark your IT process KPIs against that of other organizations. Industry groups such as itSMF, the Help Desk Institute (HDI), as well as leading industry analyst firms, provide data that you can use. Getting involved in peer-to-peer networking activities with other organizations via industry groups are a great way to assess how you are doing in comparison to others. At this stage, you should be striving to outperform any organization that is not leveraging social collaboration principles across your KPIs, and you should be performing at or above the level of those organizations that have adopted social collaboration principles.

Measure the size of your community

Second, you should measure value in terms of behavioral change in your organization. At maturity Level 4, you should have established a self-sustaining community that is actively leveraging the social knowledge management system as part of its day-to-day work. Measure the size of your community and set goals for increasing the community size. Metcalf’s law applies directly to social collaboration: The “network effect” increases the value of the social knowledge management system exponentially as you add users to the community.

Measure the size of your community and set goals for increasing the community size. Metcalf’s law applies directly to social collaboration: The “network effect” increases the value of the social knowledge management system exponentially as you add users to the community.

One way to foster a larger and more active community is through recognition and rewards. For example, you might choose to publicly recognize and provide spot bonuses for the top contributors who have added the most to the social knowledge management system. Or, you may reward service desk personnel who consult the social knowledge management system before assigning the incident to level 2 personnel. You might also choose to acknowledge your staff with “levels” of social IT expertise, classifying those who participate occasionally as “junior contributors”, those who participate regularly as “influencers”, and those who are most active as “experts” or “highly involved.”page12image22344 page12image22504

What’s Beyond Level 4 Social IT Maturity?

One of the most exciting things about being engaged in advancing your social IT maturity is that we are all, as an industry, learning about and exploring its potential. In the future, we are likely to see new product enhancements from vendors that employ gamification principles that encourage even greater growth of our social collaboration communities.

We may see the integration of information from biometric devices that help us to more quickly assess end user frustration and initiate collaboration to resolve issues prior to the user even contacting the service desk. There are certainly going to be even more use cases for social collaboration than we can imagine today.

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