Mobile: the new frontier for self-service

Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Artificial Intelligence on the service desk [Holly from RedDwarf]
Google searches performed on a mobile device outstripped desktop searches (in certain territories), according to figures released last week.

That’s an important milestone in the meteoric use of mobile.

Of course, the searches refer to global use of Google, including consumers searching for the nearest pizza joint, and are not necessarily reflective of enterprise IT – but we all know, since the introduction of the blackberry, iPad and then current smart phones, of the increasing business demands for mobile.

Will your service work on mobile devices? Will it provide a frictionless consumer-like experience, Does it matter who owns the device? And so on.

It doesn’t matter that we’re not delivering consumer services and that we might be delivering services in heavily regulated industries with back-breaking governance hoops to jump through – the demand for mobility and flexibility continue unabated.

Mobility promises the ability to avoid speaking to pesky humans, get things done, keep track and unlock me from the constraints of a physical office.

Avoiding speaking to people is an important point: In terms of human interaction it’s a case of quality over quantity. When I do (occasionally) speak with a human – I want a great customer focussed experience. You’ve only got to look at the growth (or is it a return?) of IT concierge desks resourced with IT staff especially selected for their more extrovert nature to witness this.

The premise: automate as much as possible, help the customer help themselves, if they do need to speak to us, make it a great experience (which doesn’t necessarily mean fixing everything).

With this in mind it has been great to see traditional ITSM providers innovating with mobile.

The future is here, just unevenly distributed

The terms artificial intelligence and augmented reality go hand-in-hand with the Jetsons, self driving cars and the fridge that knows to order more beer and lettuce. But look carefully, and it’s slowly permeating everywhere, including the humble service desk.

Smart-phone owners might be familiar with Apple’s SIRI, Google’s Voice Search or Microsoft’s Cortana as a personal navigator (Voice recognition to intelligent search / actions).  Similarly consumers might be familiar with Word Lens (Image to language translation) or Evernote (handwriting to textual search).

SnapIT from LANDESK promises smartphone image capture to knowledge base lookup. Sharing screenshots or remote sharing with end user customers to identify issues is a staple of the service desk toolkit – but what about cutting out the middle-man and connecting customers directly with help by snapping a picture of the issue on a mobile device?

Direct link to Video

LANDESK have offered this new capability with no extra charge to existing customers. It’s available via iOS, Android or simply via a browser.

I look forward to seeing this and other innovation at the ITSM show next month, we’ll be on stand 723 collecting customer reviews for TOOLSADVISOR.net (think trip advisor meets itsm tools). Come and say hi!

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The Top Five Worries for IT Service Managers

Stressing
What keeps you up at night?

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

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

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

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

Alert Fatigue

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

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

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

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

BYOD

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

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

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

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

Job Changes

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

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

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

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

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

Will I Even Have a Job?

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

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

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

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

M2M (Machine-to-Machine)

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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Service management for a more mobile world – is anything different?

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Don’t get lost in the mobile world

Ask any consumer what their favorite new tech gadget is, and odds-on it won’t be a new PC, but a tablet or smartphone. It’s the same in the enterprise: the number of traditional desktop machines being bought is continuing to slide according to Gartner, with a drop of around 8.4% in sales this year compared to 2012. At the same time, tablet sales for 2013 grew by 53.4% to an estimated 184 million devices.

This changing landscape not only changes the way we work, it also greatly impacts IT service management and support strategies. Gartner recently reported that the volume of requests for support of mobile devices will increase significantly, from less than 10% of help-desk requests today to more than 25% of requests by 2016.

This shift in device types and working locations will lead to changes in the type of support issues that service desk technicians will have to deal with. This will force the service desk to skill up around all those different platforms that will be in use, rather than just understanding traditional desktop operating systems, as well as handling requests in new ways.

To help service desks cope with this influx of calls, there are a number of things that service desk managers and ITSM professionals should consider.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Mobile Application Management (MAM) tools may not provide everything you need

MDM and MAM typically allow enterprises to secure, provision and manage mobile devices, whether they are company-owned or bought in by employees. Most of these activities are performed on a mass scale across groups of devices. But beyond remote locking and wiping features, most mobile management tools provide limited functionality for incident support.

Remote support refers to the tools and technologies that service desks use to access, troubleshoot and control remote systems, typically when an individual has an issue with one specific device or application. Basic remote support functionality has been used for years to access and fix traditional desktops and laptops, but many of the legacy remote access tools don’t work with smartphones and tablets.

Part of the issue is that some mobile operating systems, such as Apple iOS and some instances of Android, limit screen-sharing functionality, but there are a number of remote support tools that let you view system information, configure settings, co-browse, and transfer files to and from the device, which all greatly improve the service desk’s ability to fix an issue. In addition, some solutions offer application-level remote support, where the service desk technician can view and control a specific application.

Users want consistency in their support experience, no matter the device

Unsurprisingly, another limitation with MDM and MAM tools are that they only work with mobile devices. But according to a recent report by Enterprise Management Associates, 87% of all business device users regularly use a PC and at least one mobile device. If users have a bad support experience on one device, this typically drags down their perception of the provider as a whole.

Since service desks normally provide support for end-users that are utilizing both traditional and mobile devices, they should have the ability to use the same remote support tools regardless of what the end user device is. This is important both for efficiency of the service desk – after all, having to run multiple tools to achieve a specific result is a significant drag on productivity – and it enhances the end-user experience if it is seamless and crisp.

New skills will be required for mobile support, and collaboration

As part of its research into service desks, Gartner reports that mobile devices have increased the service desk workload over the last two years for 81% of organizations. However, the majority of these have not increased their staff in line with this. While smarter use of tools like self-service portals, chat technologies and remote support have made service desk professionals more efficient in general, the rise in mobile devices will call for more training and a wider knowledge base across the team.

One way IT teams can boost on-the-job training is by using collaboration functionality and session recordings within remote support sessions. Some solutions allow a front line representative to invite an internal or external subject matter expert (SME) into a session so they can share the case history, do joint issue research, share screen control and ultimately help fix the issue.

Bringing this SME into a support session can help get a customer problem fixed faster, but it also allows the frontline representatives to see how to fix the issue first-hand. It’s even better if that session can be videoed for internal training or used as the basis for a knowledge base article. This means that those esoteric issues can then be dealt with by the first-tier team in the future, reducing costs and improving first-call resolution rates.

In summary

The influx of mobile devices into the work place will have an impact on what service desks have to provide to end-users. However, planning for this now should enable service to be consistent and efficient in meeting those ever-changing needs.

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The service desk shuffle: Collaboration trumps hot potatoes

Stuart Facey, VP of international at Bomgar Corporation
Stuart Facey, VP of international at Bomgar Corporation

When things go wrong with technology, organisations rely on their IT support teams to fix problems and help out. The traditional method for dealing with problems sees calls (or email requests) coming in and tickets going into the queue to be dealt with.

If a first level support rep doesn’t have the skills to handle an issue, then it gets passed up the chain, essentially being put on hold for response and evaluation. The current ‘hot potato’ approach leads to responsibility being constantly shifted between teams or individuals, dragging out resolution times.

This method of problem solving is extremely inefficient from the end-user’s perspective.

Users get very little visibility over how long it will take to fix their problem, and they can’t find out who is ultimately responsible for resolving their issue. User frustration is high when they can’t get clarity on support requests or have to repeat the details of their problem to multiple technicians.  This process becomes even more complex as businesses outsource parts of their IT services to third parties, who often provide even less visibility to end-users.

Swarming issues towards resolution 

It is time for support organisations to break down the walls between tiers and embrace a more collaborative approach to support, pulling in the right people with the right skills when issues occur. This requires disparate teams to share responsibility for resolving issues and work together to swarm around issues in real time.

This is a significant challenge for IT service desks to consider. Alongside looking at new ways in which to give customers information and new tools to make support easier, there is a potential shift in IT support culture that will also have to take place.

NOTE: This will involve changing from traditional service desk management and becoming more collaborative in problem solving.

Obviously, collaboration is not a new concept. However, applying it in the IT service space does mean thinking things through, as there will be changes in both how problems and tickets will be managed when collaboration is implemented, as well as how metrics on performance are generated.

 The support concierge service

One approach to improving service through collaboration is to position frontline tech staff as support “concierges” who guide the end-user through the entire issue resolution process, versus handing users off to higher tier contacts. Higher level experts should be accessible and be pulled into support issues as needed, helping to resolve problems as soon as they occur and providing on-the-job training to lower level reps. Finally, support reps should be able to securely bring in external vendors and experts as needed to assist with end-user issues in real time as well.

Getting an expert to immediately jump in on an issue has two benefits: firstly, it can improve first contact resolution rates as more difficult challenges can be solved at the first interaction with the end-user. Secondly, it helps improve the knowledge and skills for first line support, as they can watch how the experts solve those more difficult issues first-hand. This makes it easier to improve service levels overall on both a qualitative and quantitative basis.

The third way

From a logistics point of view, bringing in a third contact with experience on the same issue can help fix a problem sooner than shifting a ticket to a “new” queue. However, it does mean re-organising workflows, which can be a big challenge, particularly for situations where support resources will be required from a different location or from outside the organisation. Instead of being points along a line between the user and problem resolution, the first line “concierge” remains responsible for a problem until it is resolved.

Under the traditional service desk approach, there are often no chances for first line staff to expand knowledge of wider problems except for specific training – something that is becoming harder to justify for investment under current economic conditions.

For them, collaboration becomes an opportunity to up their skills and increase their satisfaction levels too. This can also help with morale on the service desk as staff feel better educated and more valued.

Same-screen collaboration

This collaborative approach is obviously difficult to implement if your support organisation relies solely on the phone to handle issues. From a technology perspective, it requires you to look at remote support tools and how they’re enabled, as well as other methods for providing support like chat sessions. To support collaboration, everyone has to view the same screen, pass controls back and forth and invite additional techs (internal or external) to join the session. Bringing in third parties has to be done in a secure and controlled way, so that they can have access to resources that they require in order to provide support.

The main aim for collaboration around IT support is that it can deliver a significant increase in customer service levels. Users have a higher chance of their problem being solved first time, while satisfaction levels should also increase as they feel that every issue is graded as important, whether it is a minor problem or a major one that requires multiple support staff to deal with.

This change in approach has to be supported by similar evolutions in culture and technology on the service desk. Collaboration does involve some standardisation in approach and tools so that teams work in the same way and know what is expected of them.

Similarly, support and service desk management will have to think about capturing and measuring their performance in different ways. For example, metrics like time to resolution will become less important as initial support sessions may take longer, but that should be counteracted with an increase in first contact resolution. More importantly, user satisfaction should go up as people with problems feel their issues get solved in a more efficient way.

By modernising their technology and processes to resolve more issues upon first contact, support and service desks can prove that they are focused on users first and foremost, which will help them improve their reputation and justify the budgets spent on them. At a time when IT strategies in general are continuing to change, the service desk can use these opportunities to deliver more high-value services back to the organisation that they support.

Never Mind BYOD – What about BYOA?

Bring Your Own Device, Build Your Own App?

Lots of chatter happening around ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and the ‘Consumerization’ of IT.

These issues seem to represent the convergence of a number of growing trends:

  • Consumers being increasingly IT savvy
  • Consumers being used to instant internet gratification and on-demand ‘Apps’
  • Smart efficient toys
  • Productivity and GTD in a world of infinite choice
  • Cloud based apps eating the lunch of enterprise software dinosaurs

The result? Support departments are either having to support a plethora of new platforms or are facing increasing pressure to loosen up corporate standards and traditional ways of thinking.

Some interesting figures published this week, firstly from LANDesk:

“(the) influx of mobile devices in the workplace, viewed by 96 per cent as vital to productivity, is resulting in huge pressure on service desks. Service desk managers are finding themselves swamped with calls to support mobile devices yet underequipped to deal with them.

The survey found that a massive 76 per cent of service desks claim that the extra support required has had a negative impact. This is due to the fact that the uptake of new devices has necessitated a rapid accumulation of knowledge and expertise to support them.”

This raises an interesting point; who says the service desk has to know everything? Shouldn’t the service desk be about support rather than encyclopedic knowledge of every device? If the service desk is to avoid collapsing under the burden of these devices organizations need to learn to work in partnership or participate in communities.

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.” Samuel Johnson.

The second piece of research came from systems management appliance vendor Dell KACE:

Key findings from the research are:

– 87 per cent of companies have users with personal devices that are being used for work purposes

– 62 per cent thought that they don’t have the tools to manage personal IT devices coming onto the network

– 64 per cent don’t think they know about all the devices that are coming onto the network

“New Research Reveals Growing ‘Consumerisation of IT’ Trend Fuelling Security Fears and Highlights Lack of Strategy to Manage Personal Devices.

According to the research, security needs top the list for IT managers when it comes to managing external mobile devices with 82 percent citing their concerns about the use of personal devices for business use, and another 62 percent specifically concerned about network security breaches.”

In terms of security, vendors such as Good Technology are providing some interesting technology in this space. It’s about securing the data on the device rather securing the device. So the choice of device becomes less of a security headache.

BYOA?

Discussions to date have been device centric. The bigger issue, which dwarfs BYOD, is Bring Your Own App (BYOA?)– When users become bored and frustrated with the glacial pace of enterprise software and use their own Apps to get the job done. One browser, one credit card, bye-bye dinosaur.

What do you think? How should organizations address BYOD and BYOA?

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