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Service Desk 360 Hot Topic Series

Service Desk 360 Hot Topic Series: Shadow IT support and the future of the service desk (part two)

In part one of our investigation into Shadow IT Support, we established that the culture of avoiding the service desk is real and understood why there has been a shift away from internal IT support, plus looked at ways that service desks could embrace the change. In this second part, we explore the importance of exploiting and linking knowledge management with social media and consider what service desks will be like once the dust settles.

As previously discussed, the important of delivering relevant and accessible knowledge to customers has become more important that ever. Liam Murray, Managing Director of Cased Dimensions, outlines how a more formal approach to structuring knowledge is the best starting point.

It is this seamless connection between social and knowledge that will help raise the visibility of the service desk. "Users should see a common structure and common language to social help where the flow of advice is easy to follow once a user has utilised an initial article. To have different people in different countries structure social mean employees will find it painful to follow for different technologies," says Liam.

As well as organisation, technology integration is vital for ensuring knowledge is in the right place as Liam Murray explains. "The service desk should 'tag' onto the end result of social. So, if the user cannot resolve their issue, the ticket they open should feed off the social portal where a support analyst can understand the steps the employee has taken. In this way, the issue will be resolved quicker and the employee will not be irritated by having to repeat and retry the same steps over. Social needs to align to ITSM process."

This alignment may not require a radical rethink according to Toby Moore, community manager for ServiceDesk360, but perhaps instead brave use of existing and well-trodden tools. "Social media plays a big part, Googling an issue before asking TI is something that has been going on for years and years. But just tweeting a problem or reaching out to a busy LinkedIn group is now more likely to get you a prompt and validated response from a vast pool of intellectual wealth. This is either something IT can partake in and encourage, or just continue frowning at."

This soft approach will make it less jarring for customers previously forced to make a call or self-log an incident. In part one of this article, we established the futility of trying to force customers to take a prescribed support option. Jon Hall of BMC Software explains how to begin defining what issues require the intervention of the service desk, and which areas are potentially more suited to the self-help option.

"If it doesn't suit people to call the service desk, don't make them call. I want 90 per cent of my interaction with the airline to automated. It's only when to change flights five times, match up times and am unsure about the price changes, that I want a call."

An unlikely agent of change

Jon cites an unlikely example of an organisation that has accepted that the culture, and the way its customers want to deal with it, has changed. "Look at the way the NHS has changed, with walk-in centres, out of hours services, and NHS Direct to account for people's working lives and the difficulty of running to a 9-5 timetable. They've understood the demand and adjusted by putting themselves in the shoes of the customer."

This may be a radical notion, the idea of tailoring services to the customers, but it is important to at least think in those terms if the service desk is to remain an important business asset. Jon Hall continues. "The service desk can do a similar thing by offering either a drop-in or appointment-based. If you allow people to set up an appointment in a specific location, three things happen. Firstly, you give a physical presence to the service - which is important for humanising and adding to the perceived value because it's tangible. Secondly, you give you service desk a scheduled way of dealing with people, so they can assign resources in advanced to ensure that each customer receives a good service. Thirdly, your service desk will gain a much better understanding of the problems and technology challenges people have, so they can begin to see why sometimes people bypass them, and adjust services accordingly."

While it may be difficult for service desks to replicate the Apple Genius bar style of service desk, Jon's point is that in principal, it's not that far removed from the current approach, and perhaps a far more efficient way of delivering services.

Toby Moore agrees that service desks need to change and reposition themselves, and says there is already evidence of this taking place. "IT is now definitely moving in the right direction, there are more and more conversations going on around Business Relationship Management and the emergence of business engagement analyst as a job description in place of the traditional service analyst roles."

The future of the service desk

According to Jon Hall, we will gradually see a merging of front and back office processes to create a seamless, customer-centric experience. "I took a flight on BA and booked an emergency isle seat because I'm tall. The attendant pulled out an iPad, they knew my name, my flying history, they addressed me as me, they looked at seat availability, it gave a real time view of seating, and we simply spent a few minutes to switch seats."

Like the Genius Bar example, this BA scenario may prove to be prohibitively expensive for service desks. But as Toby Moore points out, the key ingredient to surviving Shadow IT Support is willingness to adapt. "Some services desk will always just be the same, do the same and look the same - and businesses will just go on with or without them, and I don't think it will even make much of a big deal for them. IT teams that are starting to recognise and look for new forms of skill sets from the ever approaching fleet of graduates and digital natives, will be the service desks that really transform in the next two years. IT will want people who can come on the first day in a new job and ask what the Twitter and Facebook passwords are, knock up self-service applets in an hour using HTML5 and Photoship...AND THEN deliver this alongside the basic telephone support of 'have you tried pressing ctrl + f5' that is required in first-line IT," concludes Toby.

Shadow IT Support is a very real threat, undermining the perceived value of the service desk. The challenge is taking some tools and concepts that have been around untapped for many years - knowledge management and social media - and use them to reconnect to a slightly jaded customer base. Once the dialogue and trust returns, the service desk can refocus on its true purpose, which is ensuring the smooth delivery and support of crucial business assets.

About our contributors

Jon Hall is a lead product manager for BMC Software's enterprise ITSM solutions. He is particularly focused on key trends in TSM, including mobility and consumerisation, and is also BMC's global product lead for enterprise IT Asset Management. He has worked in ITSM for 17 years, joining BMC in 2008 after a number of years consulting in a wide range of organisations, from small local enterprises to global blue-chip brands.

Liam Murray is a co-founder and managing director of Cased Dimensions. In four years, Liam has grown Cased Dimensions to operate in 20+ countries specialising in Microsoft Technologies for IT service management. Prior to Cased Dimensions, Liam grew a US MSP new-co in UK to be a multi-million pound business whilst outsourcing three data centres from BT and four core data centre platforms from the world's largest media group. Liam's focus is process efficiency supported, where possible, by automation.

Toby Moore is a former service desk manager and current community manager of ServiceDesk360.

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