Next Generation Service Desk: Are you prepared?

Nev Wilshire keynoting at SDI
Nev Wilshire keynoting at SDI

Last week The ITSM Review was the Social Partner at the annual Service Desk Institute (SDI) conference. The tagline was “be inspired, take action, and be better” and I certainly get the impression that delegates left the conference with a big to-do list for improvement.

Despite the strong emphasis on the “future of technology” in the agenda, for me the primary message and theme running throughout the conference was the need for IT to stay relevant to the business. To put it bluntly, if IT doesn’t understand and share common goals with the business, then IT has no future.

From the sessions, to discussions in the bar, even to chatter in the lift (that was me earwigging on two delegates’ conversation), “the business” was a huge talking point. And correctly so in my opinion. And for once it was nice to step away from the process-driven IT service management (ITSM) conversations to look at the bigger picture.

With this in mind, rather than give you a running commentary of the event, I’ve chosen to focus on the advice given in two presentations which relate to this topic.

Kill Your IT Service Desk – Chris Matchett, Gartner

The primary difference between this presentation and most of the others is that Chris didn’t just tell us what the problems are and why we need to fix them, he actually gave us insight into HOW to fix them.

Chris discussed how most service desks are currently not meeting business expectations. This shouldn’t be news to most of you, as I think we all know that IT is struggling to cope with changes in customer behaviours and technologies, with an inability to meet consumer-driven employee expectations of service and support.  He further discussed how we’ve moved from “how do we stop Shadow IT”, to “how do we control Shadow IT” to “how do we harness Shadow IT?” Chris then outlined an improvement model to enable us to harness it and to get the service desk working in conjunction with the rest of the business.

Chris gave some excellent advice on how we need to move to a four-tiered support approach and how to develop an improvement roadmap for this.

In addition, Chris also highlighted how service desk analysts need to make the transition to become “business engagement analysts”.  A business engagement analyst has knowledge of business processes and is a leader with the ability to build partnerships and influence others.  He or she invests in softer skills, invests in design fundamentals, shadows the business, and engages the community.

Some extra pieces of advice from Chris:

  • Remember you need to control and embrace change or risk getting left behind it
  • Just because you’re performing well against industry standards this does not automatically equate to value to the business. Talk to your customers
  • Remember that one metric never tells the whole story. Place less emphasis on First Call Resolution (FCR) rates for example as the minute you fix the easy stuff like automating password reset your FCR will go down as the average incident gets more difficult. The automation is a good thing, but your FCR metric will make it look the opposite
  • Overwhelmed by password requests? Look to implement self service and give control back to your users
  • Remember that any new initiative needs management buy-in. Any change needs to be led from the top down.

Oh and then there was my favourite quote from Chris: “Is a password reset a request or an incident? Who cares, it’s just a pain in the arse”.

Service Catalog – Extending the Role Of The Service Desk – Olaf Van Der Vossen, CERN

Those of you who read The ITSM Review on a regular basis will know that Martin Thompson has written about CERN’s approach to service management before. So why am I repeating what he’s likely already said? That’s easy, because for me it was one of the stand-out presentations of the conference. Everybody is forever talking about how the IT will be dropped from ITSM and how IT needs to be better aligned with the business, only rather than just talking about it, CERN has actually done it.

CERN has implemented ITSM best practices across both IT and the rest of the business. This means that the service desk doesn’t just operate within IT but also manages requests and incidents from HR, finance, etc. They believe that you should make life simple for your customers by using ONE point of contact, ONE behavior, ONE tool, and ONE service description.

In this session, Olaf specifically looked at how a comprehensive Business Service Catalog is essential for success when extending service management beyond IT. You need to:

  • Know what you are supposed to be doing
  • Understand how these services are provided (and by whom)
  • Drive automation and smooth assignment and escalation

Olaf also spoke about how extending beyond IT can make things more complex. To address this you should:

  • Invest in training for your service desk staff
  • Provide extra coaching for non-IT support staff
  • Use a Service Portal to hide the complexity of your Business Service Catalog

I also want to mention a great question from a member of the audience:

“In such a large organization, how do you provide your service desk staff with the knowledge to answer every single request and incident that comes in?”

The answer was simple: You train dedicated teams of second and third line support in specific business areas. This then means that first line support teams can delegate the more difficult queries as required. You also need service desk analysts who can communicate well, as extra effort is needed here when dealing with enquiries on subjects you don’t understand (potentially from customers in other global offices with whom you’ve never had any interaction before).

Olaf also jokingly advised that teams should prepare for really random questions like  “I’m coming to Geneva tomorrow, what’s the weather going to be like?”

In addition to the content of the presentation, I also want to mention Olaf himself, primarily because he made me smile (much like Olaf in Frozen really!). He was very personable, made the audience laugh, and was very easy to relate to. I would have quite happily stayed for a further 45 minutes to listen to him present more on what CERN has achieved.

In Summary

The atmosphere was great, and the awards dinner was definitely one of the best I’ve attended recently (likely down to the brilliant finalist videos – here is my favourite). Congratulations again to all of this year’s winners.

Some of the keynotes I felt lacked the “wow” factor, but I really am the hardest person to please when it comes to keynotes (my favourite is still John O’Leary) as I literally want my socks to be blown off every time I see one (which probably is wrong on my part, nobody else’s).

That said I did very much enjoy listening to Neville Wilshire, even though he made me sing and dance to The Killers at 9.30am. His advice regarding looking after your employees and providing excellent customer service was spot on, plus he made me giggle when he told us we all needed BIG BALLS (yes I am a giggling 7 year old inside).

Mr Happy Man Alexander Kjerulf was not totally my cup of tea (sorry but he said it himself – it’s because I’m British!), but I thank him for providing us with entertainment long after he’d left (I don’t think I’ve ever high fived so many people or heard as many “you’re awesome” statements in my life before).

Overall it was a good conference, with what I think has great potential to be even better next year. For me the main thing that I felt was missing from some of the sessions was the “how”, but honestly this isn’t specific to SDI as I generally feel this way about all ITSM conferences. Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming cynical because I attend so many of these events, but upon chatting to delegates I definitely got the impression that focusing on the HOW would make the event even more beneficial to them.

Would I recommend that you attend this conference? Yes most definitely, but don’t just take it from this cynical, giggling 7-year old. Just look at what the delegates had to say:

2 thoughts on “Next Generation Service Desk: Are you prepared?”

  1. I agree with “Extending the Role Of The Service Desk” is the future of ITSM, dropping the IT and making it focus on wider audience and wider operations.

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