You’ll surely be familiar with the ancient Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. Well, those working in IT these days are so beset with “interesting” challenges that they might be justified in feeling that they accidentally offended some Chinese ancestors in a previous life.
One thing about working in IT – it’s not boring and it keeps changing. Unfortunately it’s easy to develop a defensive mentality when faced with some of the challenges I describe below.
In this article I will describe one way that you could possibly rise to the challenge and innovate in a simple way to overcoming many of these interesting challenges – and hopefully have some fun too.
You may well be familiar with the Genius Bar in Apple Stores, and you may even have heard talk recently of IT Departments that are implementing the same concept. I’d like to describe some steps that you could take to offer your own version – a Personal Service Desk
First, let’s look at some of the more interesting challenges in corporate IT these days:
What Makes a Career in IT so Interesting Right Now?
- Windows XP goes end of life in April 2014. Many companies out there are still running XP for business usage and are trapped through legacy applications and beaurocracy, in a position where they cannot change to Windows 7 for the foreseeable future, certainly beyond 2014.
- Yet the employees, some still using XP, come to work carrying their shiny mobile devices, with their own-purchased cloud services, and an expectation of a level of service learned from the ‘consumer experience’. And many IT organisations struggle to match that expectation with technology, or service.
- And technology is driving forward at a startling rate. It may be becoming simpler, but there is so much more of it, everywhere, pervasive and dramatically changing.
- Oh, and most organisations see IT as a cost centre, constantly driving to reduce headcount, to do ‘more with less’.
I think a quote from a panel debate at the SDI conference earlier this year sums it up, Rob England summarised the situation that most IT departments are in when faced with demands from an employee/customer base for a consumer experience, yet are tied and hindered by a massive volume of IT project and firefighting work with tight resources and limited staff.
To quote Rob: “No you can’t have a bloody genius bar!”. Basically IT is too busy to rise to the challenge. Or is it?
Yet there’s something there isn’t there?
The ‘genius bar’, or the ‘guru bar’. I’d like to suggest – with respect to Rob’s experience – that it might not be that hard, and actually a closer look at this concept could help IT cope a little better in these “interesting times”.
First, I think I’ll call it the “Personal Service Desk”. It’s a physical location, with IT support staff visible and available, so employees / users / customers (use your terminology of choice) can walk in and bring their IT issues with them. Anyone that’s been in an Apple Store will be familiar with that concept.
It allows you to break down the barrier between the faceless IT “techies” – anyone seen the IT Crowd? – and move to a customer-facing model where you actually see the faces and actually speak directly to your end users . Scary? It shouldn’t be. Why should it be? Providing productivity through IT service is what an IT department exists for.
Benefits of Face to Face, Personalised Service
In theory, providing a service such as this should have a few clear and immediate benefits.
- Reduced number of incidents received at the Service Desk, or, to be accurate, reduced number of incidents that require traditional Service Desk attention.
- Increased employee/user/customer satisfaction.
- Increased perception of the value of IT by the business.
But it sounds hard. It sounds like a massive restructure and surely your IT technology cannot currently support this? It sounds like something fanciful that the clever industry analyst people talk about as happening in the future.
Lets scrutinise that criticism. Is it hard and heavy and complicated? I’m not so sure it is. Lets take a look at what you need to build and operate a “Personal Service Desk”?
The Personal Service Desk
- Location – OK, this is probably the hardest. You need space somewhere close to IT that can be opened up to allow end users to walk in. Tables, chairs, a ‘bar’, although not literally stocked with alcoholic drinks unless you really want to raise the IT experience to a new level. Tea and coffee is probably fine – well why not? Make it free. A few PC’s running common operating systems and standard desktops in the corner will be very helpful.
- Staff – Do you have people who are sometimes not covering incoming phones in your Service Desk? Working on resolving incidents or fulfilling requests. Great. Put a simple rota in place that allocates one or two people into the new space instead of at their desk. The important point here to remember is that a good Personal Service Desk has SCHEDULED APPOINTMENTS. There will be quiet times when there are no appointments, or times when the user is a ‘no show’. So your allocated IT staff can still do their work – at a slower rate – between appointments.
- Brand – Get a logo for IT. You’ve probably got one. Print some T-shirts and posters. Done. (OK, yes that’s a bit flippant, but it’s as hard a task as you choose to make it). Anyone scheduled to cover the Personal Service Desk must wear the t-shirt.
- Online Self Service – This is critical. You must have an online presence for your Service Desk. Just like every store has a web site, your Personal Service Desk should be tightly aligned with your self-service and even help you with the uptake of Self-service. Your Self-service should:
- Advertise the existence of the Personal Service Desk
- Provide appointment booking
- Provide satisfaction surveys from each visit
- Appointment Booking – Yes it’s presented in Self-service, but it goes beyond that. It needs to provide:
- Presentation to the end user of available time-slots for appointments.
- Ability for the end user to request an appointment time slot and to fill in details of the reason for the visit.
- Bookings into Calendars (Outlook or whichever is used in your business) for an appointment, so that the end user see’s the appointment time in their schedule of bookings for that day, with email reminders and the ability to cancel an appointment.
Obviously an appointment needs to generate or link to, or ‘be’ the start of a support process, which may require an incident to be logged, a request, or multiple. I’d recommend that an appointment is a process in itself, so it can conclude with a survey to the end user as a part of the same process.
- Mobile Support – Buy a couple of iPads. Staff in the Personal Service Desk can then view and update the appointments on their iPads. Why? So that they can move to sit at a table, or walk around and get away from the barrier of the ‘bar’. They must be social and visible and mobile in that space.
- Easy creation of tickets – During an appointment with a customer you are likely to need to create – and hopefully resolve – one or many incidents or requests. No one wants to be sitting around waiting while you fill in categories and priorities and impact and urgency. Template your most common incidents and requests and configure them to be created from a URL and then convert that URL into a QR Code (I use goo.gl). Then print out a sheet of the different QR codes so that your IT support technician in the Personal Service Desk need only scan the required code with his mobile device/iPad to create the required ticket. They’ll still need to put the user name in there but it’s a lot quicker. Push button ticketing. But make sure they have the option to go straight to resolved so that you can easily capture each thing done, and keep open those items that cannot be done.
- Reports – Not many. Just enough to show number of appointments, number of incidents, and number of requests all processed through the new Personal Service Desk. And don’t forget surveys. Basically enough to demonstrate the activity and value of the new function.
All of the above can be achieved with good ITSM tools, and the exact way you implement the above is up to you.
Is That It?
You could consider going further – one idea is the use of basic loan equipment immediately to hand so that you can just swap out a bad machine to keep the user productive. That’s harder to implement but the benefits there are clear. Laptop broken? Swap it out.
Then you’re ready to go. Advertise, drop flyers on every desk, put posters in the canteen, include an email footer on every support email, place an announcement on your Self-service site etc. Maybe even have a fun countdown every day to the launch. No one will discover this service by wandering around – they need to be told that it is there, and how to get there.
Above all… DO
But remember, all of this will fail unless you have the most essential piece of all – the willingness to act.
Get a team together in IT, brainstorm the above points, and work out your own version. Have fun with it, get IT people involved in the definition, creation and operation. Make it a team initiative. Enjoy doing it, and care about it! And don’t forget to let us know how you get on!
What have been your experiences in this area? Have you implemented a Personal Service Desk, a Guru Bar, an IT Genius Bar? What did you learn? Be brave and tell us all about it in the comments.