How to Transition from a Reactive to Proactive Support Center

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

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

For years, support centers have focused on reacting to problems. According to research from SDI (Service Desk Institute), 67% of of a service desk’s time is spent firefighting. This reactive approach often leads to burnout and a lack of processes that can scale. On top of that, support centers are faced with the ever present challenge of scaling their services, decreasing costs and showing value to their business constituents.

We’d all prefer a situation where IT teams didn’t have to wait for their queue to fill up with angry tickets before they looked into a problem. What if a failing machine knew it was failing and sent out an SOS? Imagine seeing several of those SOSs as things got worse, so that all the right experts could spring into action, saving the poor server before it collapses completely. Sounds like science fiction? It’s not. It’s a new wave of IT and DevOps that aims to take a proactive approach to IT.

Here are four ways you can get started:

1) Set up server alerts

Often, support teams find out about problems after customers do. When it comes to servers, problems like high load, outages, or full disk space can be fixed before they snowball. Smart IT teams set up CPU or memory alerts to notify the team when things are heading towards a bad place, either by watching the server or running smoketests at regular intervals. This lets them correct an issue before it actually becomes a problem.

2) Monitoring automation

Along with setting up alerts, you might want the machine to do “something” according to every response. Proactive support means automating monitoring with the right combination of tools (application monitoring, service desk, chat and more). Here’s how you might automate the escalation process for a server issue:

  • Whenever servers hit a low threshold, send a chat message to the service desk room to notify all team members.
  • If it hits a second threshold, then open a service desk ticket and add a history log to the ticket.
  • If it hits a third threshold, then automatically contact the on-call engineer directly by phone or SMS.

3) Get smart with ChatOps

When urgent issues come in, they need fast answers. Often, managers aren’t notified right away, resulting in lost time. Other times, domain experts need to get involved and aren’t quickly reachable. Many chat applications help overcome these challenges with real-time messaging. This means you can collaborate and solve problems in real-time, involving all the right experts instantly.

More than just chatting, what the DevOps community is now calling ChatOps, is about integrating bots and plugins to a standard chat application to automate tasks. With a chat bot, you can get notified of any critical tickets that need to be assigned right away. Mentioned previously, you can also set up server monitoring bots that send out notifications if there’s ever a problem, so you stay ahead of issues. More advanced chat bots let you type commands that fetch information, execute deployments and more.

4) Deflect repetitive issues with self-service

Taking a break from bots and automation, an IT team can also be proactive when it comes to repetitive incidents (and there is no shortage of those).

Here are the costs of support, according to industry standard:

  • Level 3 support is around $100 per contact.
  • Level 2 costs are $45-$75 per contact
  • Level 1 is $12-27.50 per contact.
  • Self-service, or Level 0, is 10 cents or less.

As organizations grow, self-service reduces cost per incident whereas manned incidents will rise in costs with company growth. If growth and costs are concerns for your support team, implementing self-service is a great way to proactively solve repetitive issues. This means developing a knowledge base for customers to access and self-serve answers to their problems.

The transition from reactive to proactive IT support is happening now, and it’s more than just getting the right tools – it’s a cultural transformation. It’s about taking traditionally separate functions and encouraging cross-team collaboration – like passing information between IT and development teams. These two sides combined, tools and culture, help break down silos across the organization.

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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Review: Cased Dimensions SCSM Self-Service Portal

This independent review is part of our Self Service Market Review.

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor Cased Dimensions
Product SCSM Self-Service Portal
Version reviewed 2.2
Date of version Release December 2014
Year Founded 2009
Customers 40+
Pricing Structure Number of employees in a company (priced per user).

Review

Elevator Pitch Portal and request management capability for ITSM and beyond.
 
Aimed only at Microsoft Customers with MS system center.
Industry areas MS clients wanting to build on System Centre and SD – building automation.
Unique points HTML5 compliant (BYO and varied hardware devices are supported such as Microsoft and Apple tablets)
Single Sign on (AD integration).
Chat integration.
Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and System Center integration
Target market SME to enterprise – MS clients only. 500 employees to 30,000+ employee.
Solutions/ issues solved Integrated with Asset Management. Single CMBD with auto discovery ensuring data is in one place to aid Process Efficiency.
 
Integration with MS – canned from vendor.
Product/vendor gaps Lacks a bit of user friendliness – presentation shown looks a bit complex.
 
Microsoft only solution. Microsoft vendor aligned.
Positives
  • Microsoft focus
  • Microsoft integration – eg with System Center, SharePoint, AD, Exchange & Lync
  •  Lots of pre-built processes
  • Bespoke/Consultancy approach – working closely to address customers requirements
  •  Microsoft Trusted Alliance Partner
  • High-end client solutions
Negatives
  • Microsoft FocusSmall client base (new entrant)
  • Product looks a little busy/complex
Overall view A niche offering for clients wishing to build process management and automation using the Microsoft platform.
 
Cased Dimensions has deployed Self-Service Portal to support not only IT Service Management Self-Service but also HR, Facilities Management and Finance Self-Service.
 
Vendor is also niche as a provider of solutions rather than simply software, so the solutions are high-end, bespoke and consultative rather than turnkey.

 Vendor information

download (1)Cased Dimension’s Self-Service Portal allows access to Self-Help from any hand held device – PC, Laptop, iPhone, Windows Phone, Android, MAC etc… Many other vendors lock users out due to a reliance on Silverlight, Flash or old HTML languages which do not work on Smart Phones or tablets.

Our focus is to enable a Self-Service platform similar to Amazon shopping or Internet Banking. Usability is easy for the typical employee with little or no training. We have had clients train 24,000+ plus employees with a 5 min video on “how to”.

Other Vendors deliver Portals which are typically technical / ’clicky’ and difficult for employees to use. Our portal is similar to an Amazon-Shopping Kart experience or online banking where features and usability aligns to ‘Journeys’ employees are already trained in.

Our platform supports Business IT, HR, Finance, Facility and other departmental Self-Service Portal Processes. For Managed Service providers, we support “client” specific Portals for Self-Service.

Standard Features exist including departmental home pages, help area categorization with easy to use menu’s. In addition, we also support Chat Integration, Asset Management Integration, Software Distribution, Password Rest and much more….

Cased Dimensions allows Enterprises to “GO DIGITAL” for all areas of their business in Self-Help (IT included).

For administrators, configuration is “type and save”. Our platform is a “zero code environment” from a configuration perspective. All features are configurable & updatable by administrators.

With clients ranging from 500 employees up to clients with 30,000+ employees, our platform is excellent for small and large alike.

Client references state a call logging threshold of 70%.

For further information, please visit Cased Dimensions or Contact Us.

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Review: SMTX Service Catalogue SSP

This independent review is part of our Self Service Market Review.

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor SMT-X
Product SSP
Version reviewed 7.1
Date of version Release October 2014
Year Founded 2009
Customers 45
Pricing Structure #End Users

Review

Elevator Pitch High End Service Catalogue and fulfillment engine, with a user-friendly front end. Suitable to be used in conjunction with legacy ITSM tools.Extensive functionality and control, plus integration experience. Also built to include other enterprise functions such as HR and Finance, room booking etc. Good front end to make an existing IT department engaging/accessible, without having to replace a legacy tool.
Industry areas Aimed at IT and back office functions in large enterprise organizations. Nice front end tool for big IT departments and service operations.
Unique points Nicely built and thought out applications for e.g. HR – requesting future managers, creating email addresses etc.
 
Asset functions built around good practical functions, e.g. lost and stolen kit.
Target market Enterprise organisations and their IT and back office functions.
Solutions/ issues solved For large Enterprise organisations – no coding, just configuration.Organisations to gain control over internal and external services.
Product/vendor gaps
  • Not an ITSM tool, so obviously doesn’t do ITSM standard functionality.
  • Workflow design looks a bit clunky and could be more visually appealing
Positives
  • Product looks good and is generally intuitive.
  • Well-presented pitch, approach and product
  • Planned feature to provide strategic business level Catalog views
  • Future Service Catalogue – ITIL
  • Can define multiple bundled business services, SLAs etc
  • Good functions about asset lifecycle – including lost/stolen status
  • Established links with ITSM tools – Assyst, ServiceNow, BMC, HP TopDesk
  • HR onboarding -some nice features around future roles and working relationships, creating an email address
  • Nice graphics showing progress bar
Negatives
  • It isn’t an ITSM tool, so obviously doesn’t do that standard functionality.   Workflow design looks a bit clunky and could be more visually appealing
  • Company is currently small and may have to make strong choices on direction and sales and marketing approach
  •  Small company at present
  • Workflow forms -looks a bit complicated, not beautiful graphics
Overall view
  • A good option where a front end and user collaboration tool is needed, but the ITSM tool is embedded and may take time to replace – this can sit on top of that and deliver relatively quick results.
  • Projects a professional image to the IT dept.
  • Currently most clients are on premise
  •  If they stick to their niche it could do well – may benefit from some strategic partnership approaches for targeting

 Vendor information

smtx logoSMT-X is a specialized software company, providing a state-of-the-art Self Service solution with a strong ability to integrate. Its flagship solution, SSP, provides a solid basis for any IT department wishing to provide an easy to use and easy to understand service catalog to their users. Through webshops, appstores, dynamic request forms, reservations, mobile apps, and workflows, SSP enables these IT departments to streamline even the most complex requests, removing complexity for the end-users, and providing end-to-end control to service owners, service delivery managers, service level managers, and department heads.

End-users can browse through their service catalogue showing only those services of interest to them. End-users will never be confronted with complex back-office solutions again and always know where to go for new orders.

By using out-of-the-box integration adapters existing IT service management solutions can be fully integrated with SMT-X’s SSP solution.

SSP offers service request templates containing commonly used forms, like employee onboarding, software distribution, file access management, meeting room reservations, and hardware ordering, making it easy to set up the relevant catalog(s) and start rolling it out.

SSP’s administration is fully web-based and doesn’t require any programming skills. Adding products to a shop and releasing them to any number of users is done in minutes. A complete new request form with dynamic question trees and approval workflow is realized within a single day.

Get in touch with SMT-X to learn how you can add more value to your customers by offering your customers a state-of-the-art request management portal.

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Review: Alemba vFire Core

This independent review is part of our Self Service Market Review.

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor Alemba Limited
Product vFire Core
Version reviewed 9.2.0
Date of version Release 2014
Year Founded 2007
Customers 350
Pricing Structure Currently vFire is sold as a perpetual licence for concurrent and dedicated agent users, the customer interface is supplied as an unlimited licence.

Review

Elevator Pitch ITSM functionality and user oriented product with simple and fresh interface.

Delivers most of the key functions and with simple intuitive editing and building capability.

Industry areas Aims to compete at enterprise level as a multi-function ITSM tool – also can provide a number of technical interfaces and views on virtualised environments – e.g. CMDB.
Unique points Alemba say their USP is their variety of plug in VMWare connectors – so they can provide technical insight and capability around highly virtualized environments.

Self Service function is provides standard-looking interface with extensive functionality.

Target market Enterprise and large IT and ITSM organisations – particularly VMware customers.

Positioned mostly at ITSM market.

Solutions/ issues solved Simple approach to ITSM – also some technical integration (in specific VMware market).
Product/vendor gaps
  • Little social interface or functionality
  • Could show more of a non-technical cross departmental builds – e.g. for HR –   but presentation is aimed at ITSM
Positives
  • Simple modern friendly interface
  • My IT world – nice simple dashboard
  •  Choice for users of logging via Service Catalogue or MY IT store
  • Extensive control and workflow integration – updating/creation drag and drop
  •  Multi-tenancy approach
  • Extensive control over KB creation and upkeep
  • Auto-provision Virtual desktop
  • Reporting – clear and simple
Negatives
  • Small company, now independent from VMware – still growing
  • Product still playing catch up in some areas as fully function rich ITSM enterprise offering
  •  Social interface missing
Overall view Looks to be a credible competitor in tier 1 and tier 2 markets – high end ITSM functionality for the enterprise.

May be playing catch up with other players in this area but the product has extensive functionality and also looks clean and quite fresh as an ITSM tool.

Vendor information

thumbnailAt Alemba we understand that effective communication between the IT Department and its end users is essential to the success of any organization. Designed with user engagement in mind, vFire Customer Portal offers a modern,attractive interface that is highly intuitive.

vFire provides:

  • self-service logging for your customers
  • a Knowledge Bank, making it easier to find solutions to known issues
  • a recognizable and intuitive Shopping Cart function
  • Service Desk performance statistics with customer friendly dashboards
  • review of Major Incidents affecting the customer organization
  • up-to-date, relevant News Bulletins
  • the ability to personalize vFire Portal to reflect corporate branding
Key Business Benefits
  • Effective communication between Service Desk and customer base
  • Efficient cost and resource management
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Fewer calls, improving the efficiency of the Service Desk
  • Fewer logged Incidents by promotion of Knowledge Bank articles.

Screenshots

 

Review: Freshservice

This independent review is part of our Self Service Market Review.

Also participating:

Commercial Summary

Vendor Freshdesk Inc.
Product Freshservice
Version reviewed N/A
Date of version Release January 2015
Year Founded 2010
Customers 3000
Pricing Structure Per agent and per number of assets.

Review

Elevator Pitch This is a good product aimed at the SMB and mid-market primarily, with a lot of basic ITSM functionality at a relatively low cost.
Industry areas Small to medium business, internal IT.
Unique points The gamification capability is very straightforward, looks good and is simple to use. Also their general ITSM approach and UX is quite straightforward.
Target market SME, SMB, Medium and small enterprise.
Solutions/ issues solved Simple OOTB implementation and low cost.
Product/vendor gaps
  • Beyond basic configuration, the tool still needs tech skills to build or change
  • Product currently missing a social interface
  • Overall functionality developing but still behind market in some areas
Positives
  • Single sign on using AD – for access
  • Company is growing in numbers and continuing to develop product
  • Multiple portal capability
  • Knowledge auto-suggestions when entering data – liked by customers
  • Planning and developing a number of new areas:
    – SCCM integration with Patch management 2 / 3 months
    – MS Azure now released
    – Integration with Bomgar released March 2015- already integrated with password reset
    – Social (Yammer) interface
Negatives
  • Basic customization can be non-technical – advanced configuration requires some HTML programming
  • E.g. Process workflow can be amended although not with graphical interface
  • No direct provisioning / fulfilment at present
  • End user interface – basic options based on IT analyst/agent details
  • Knowledgebase help for end users – basic searching only. IT internal users can get access to articles
Overall view Freshservice have gained a lot of customers in a relatively short space of time, and are working hard to get the product up to a good broad level of ITSM capability.
 
They may also take more customers from larger legacy vendors when clients switching to cloud and looking for simple solutions at low cost.
 
A good option for low cost basic functionality with some excellent features – e.g. Gamification.
 
The Self Service Capability is functional if limited OOTB. This may be sufficient for the (Target) SME market.

 Vendor inlogoformation

Freshservice is an online ITIL service desk with a fresh twist. It puts a refreshing user experience on top of powerful ticketing and asset management capabilities, and is the most user-friendly app in the space.  In addition to core functionalities like Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Asset Management, Freshservice also lets you put your knowledge base on the cloud.

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Self Service IT: Not as Scary as it Sounds

Stuart Power Mar 2014This article has been contributed by Stuart Power, UK Sales Manager at Matrix42.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked for a number of companies at which, as a new employee, it has taken days or weeks to be given the technology I need to do my job. I’ve no doubt it’s still happening in many organisations today. But as the proportion of ‘digital natives’ in the workforce increases, that scenario is becoming less and less acceptable. More importantly, it is becoming a serious business risk, rather than just a temporary inconvenience. Why? Because today’s employees expect to be able to use technology at work in the same way as they do in their personal lives. That means switching between devices at will, and accessing software and services at their convenience, often through a central app store. If that’s not possible, they are more likely to look for employment elsewhere.

Giving employees this kind of control over technology is a scary prospect for many corporate IT departments. But with the right approach to enabling user self service, the reality can be more fulfilling than frightening.

 

Start with the User, Not the Technology

Enabling your employees with self service access to the technology tools they need requires a fundamental shift in the way you deliver IT to users. Rather than the IT department acting as a local supplier of heterogeneous hardware and software, it needs to become a provider of standardised services – all delivered and managed from a central IT service/workspace management system. The process starts with the definition of a service portfolio (the needs of the business that the IT department must fulfil) and a service catalog (the actions required in terms of technology delivery to meet the business need). Importantly, both the service portfolio and the service catalog must be built around the needs of your employees, not the established capabilities and processes of the IT department. Once these needs and services have been defined, they can be realised within your chosen ITSM/workspace management solution, which should ideally feature an app store interface that gives users a consumer-style experience when choosing and consuming corporate IT services. That solution should also automate every service-related process, from order to approval and delivery, right through to on-going maintenance and management.

 

Standardise Services, Establish Value

Automating processes is all well and good. But automating a bad process is often worse than leaving it alone, because in an integrated ITSM system, the consequences will automatically impact other processes. That’s why it’s so important to standardise the processes within each service as much as possible, and thereby minimise the potential for error.

Equally as important is ensuring that users understand the value of the service they receive. If no cost or value is attached to a service, users will consume it at will, creating additional and uncertain cost and workload for the IT department. Equally, if a price is attached to a service without defining every aspect of the service being provided, business users and managers will invariably see only the hardware or application they are consuming. The accompanying admin, networking, security, support, management and maintenance work will be invisible. As a result, they may try to circumvent the service catalog because they will perceive the service to be expensive and believe that they can get it cheaper elsewhere. Both of these scenarios can be avoided with a centralised service portfolio and catalog that provide clear price/performance definitions for each service.

 

Five Steps to Self Service Success

So, you’ve made the decision. You want to give business users the consumer-style IT experience they expect, and prove the value of IT to your business. At Matrix42, we believe there are 5 essential success factors to be aware of, however you choose to implement user self service.

1. Define and standardise services

Efficient self service in corporate IT requires every service to be standardised around particular usage scenarios, such as the onboarding of a new sales person, and automated at every stage of the service lifecycle. Once this has been achieved, it becomes easier to make small adjustments that may be necessary for specific locations, such as linking PC orders to a local hardware supplier.

2. Integrate all the necessary processes

Ideally, users, managers and IT departments should all be using one IT service delivery and workspace management system that integrates all the IT and business processes required to order, approve, deliver and manage an IT service. This ensures cost and status transparency for all, and maximises IT service management efficiency.

3. Give everything a value

Services without costs attached encourage users to consume them freely, regardless of whether they are actually necessary for their work. To avoid unnecessary expenditure and workload, every IT service must be clearly and realistically described and priced. This ensures the cost of service consumption and expected service quality are transparent and predictable for users and approvers.

4. Ensure compliance

Your ITSM system should enable you to create and manage the relevant license agreements for each service centrally. This requires that your service catalog is integrated with your compliance solution, which should proactively alert managers to any over or under licensing. This will enable them to avoid compliance failures and continuously optimise costs.

5. Make it accessible from any device

Many of your users don’t work in one place on one device, so they expect to be able to order and use a service from wherever they are, and on whichever device they are using at the time. A complete, centralised IT service and workspace management solution will ensure that each service only needs to be ordered once for it to be made available on multiple devices.

 

Conclusion

With device and software diversity increasing all the time, and an ever-more demanding and sophisticated user base, greater IT complexity within organisations is almost inevitable. Introducing user self service into ITSM is one of the most important tools at your disposal for simplifying the management of that complexity.

Podcast Episode 10 – Self Service & Automation

In Episode 10 of the podcast Barclay Rae discusses the Self Service and automation with Simon Kent, Chief Innovation Officer at Sollertis Limited, Doug Tedder, ITSM Consultant at Tedder Consulting LLC  and Eddie Vidal, Manager of the UMIT Service Desk at the University of Miami.

Topics include:

  • What is self service?
  • The disconnect between domestic self service and ITSM self service
  • Self service beyond IT
  • Customer experience
  • Keeping up with demand

View all our podcasts on SoundCloud or iTunes.

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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.

 

Transforming User Experience Seminar – Why Attend? [Video]

Want to know more about Transforming User Experience? Barclay Rae explains why you should attend our seminar on 6th March at the BCS in London.

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