SDI Software Showcase: Here Comes the Sun

sun
No more cloud… please!

Wednesday 23rd October was SDI’s Service Desk Software Showcase held at ThinkTank Birmingham.

A crash on the M5 motorway and some technical difficulties meant that things kicked off a little later than scheduled, but it gave me a good chance to mingle and find out what other attendees were hoping to take away from the day even if that was just a nice Danish (which didn’t materialise).

Kick off

Ken Goff, Owner at K GOFF M LIMITED kicked off with his usual exuberance reminding everyone that this is ‘serious stuff’ as “you’re not buying a tin of beans” and to make sure you tackle this with a strategic vision. Your criteria should cover what you will need in the future not just what you need now.

He continued to say that it’s not just about finding a Vendor that’s right for you but about you being the right Client for the Vendor, and that on your hunt for the right tool you should be led by capability not money. Lovely sentiment, but as one of the attendees said, what’s the point of finding what you think is the perfect tool just for the man holding the purse, to say no?

Hornbill Systems

The first of the Vendors to present was Abdi Hamisi, Senior Sector Manager at Hornbill Systems who had apparently been dropped in it at the last minute to give a presentation. He drew the comparison between ITSM Tools and F1 cars. I personally know next to nothing about F1 but the point he seemed to be making was that like F1, ITSM Tools are built to the same set of standards but garner very different results. However this was hotly debated on Twitter by Greg Sanker, Field Services Unit Manager at Oregon Department of Transportation.

Abdi showed possible configuration of the tool and talked us through some of the available integrations, not forgetting of course to mention that it’s available on the cloud.

Sunrise Software

Next up was Neil Penny, Product Director and David Bullivant, Business Consultancy Manager from Sunrise Software showcasing their product Sostenuto ITSM. There was all the usual kind of stuff, but David spent some time going through the Wallboards which you can set up to give real time information to the business rather than having to send millions of reports. He also discussed how their tool incorporates Gamification to help with Reward and Recognition. David was clearly very passionate about the product, which frankly was missing from most of the other presentations.

I was taken with the simplistic buttons down the left hand side of the screen rather than the worded menu the majority of the other tools had. In my opinion these types of menus take up a lot of space and when you’re doing the same thing day in day out won’t a simple button/icon do? Generally I felt it just looked so much fresher than the other products, and left the other Vendor offerings looking dated and tired.

Oh and good news people… it’s available in the cloud.

TOPdesk

Luis Soares, Accounts Director from TOPdesk followed confirming that he is not the famous footballer and promising that he wouldn’t bite. I wish he would have as it would have made the experience at least a little entertaining.

One of the few things I took away from the presentation was the ability to book resources such as equipment and rooms from within the tool which seemed sensible. Oh and you guessed it… it’s available in the cloud.

Bomgar Corporation

William Culbert, Senior Solutions Engineer from Bomgar Corporation was up next with a cheesy video (his words not mine) of how Bomgar can help you remotely support your staff in a safe and secure way. I have used this product before in my previous incarnation but still enjoyed the show.

Frontrange

Chris Powell, Senior Pre-Sales Consultant from Frontrange opened with talk of the cloud but I persevered and tried not to hold it against him. The main area of interest to me was the ability for customers to rate KB articles that they have found useful to help you to keep relevant.

Cherwell Software

I unfortunately missed the name of the chap at Cherwell Software (though it wasn’t Tony Probert who was billed) who in a slightly ‘ranty’ (if this isn’t a word then I’m making it one) way stated that you always have to compromise with ITSM tools and that you will never be able to do everything.

He went on further to quote the University of Wolverhampton in their assessment that the tool is ‘Funky’. Presumably this is because of their colour coded screens and Dashboards, which are more like Powerpoint presentations than the usual graph filled spaces. Oh and guess what? It’s available in the cloud.

LANdesk

Andy Parker, Pre-Sales Consultant from LANdesk lambasted attendees for sending through reams of tender documentation when Vendors that are Pink Verified have already answered it. Perhaps this particular tirade should be directed at Procurement though Andy and not the people that don’t usually have any say in it?!

The interesting takeaway from this presentation was the concept of ‘Software Loading’, using the tool as a library to borrow what you need when you need it, keeping licencing requirements to a minimum. Nice idea.

HP

The penultimate Vendor was Eileen O’Mahony (no LinkedIn profile…) from HP and that’s pretty much all I can tell you as I fell asleep (well… almost).  It could be Eileen’s lilting voice that did it, as there were several people making their excuses and sneaking out. Or perhaps it could have been that people were leaving to avoid being taught how to suck eggs?

Autotask

The final Vendor was Aaron Gayle, Business Development Representative from Autotask who I assume had been given two minutes at the eleventh hour to prepare, as he looked somewhat like a rabbit in the headlights trying to sum up the tool quickly with no visual aids. It did however make me want to go and find out more about the tool, whereas the majority of the other presentations had not.

Finishing up

Ken returned to close with the reminder to take the holistic approach and not just concentrate on the tool and to involve everybody in the process.

Having not attended a software showcase before I was thoroughly expecting to be hit with the razzle dazzle and to have to really concentrate on picking up the differences in the tools from the slick and entertaining presentations. In reality the concentrating was mostly to avoid falling asleep and snoring in a room full of people (although judging by the attendees I have spoken to since I certainly wouldn’t have been the only one).  By the time I looked up at the end of the last presentation (I was just resting my eyes) the right hand side of the room had dwindled dramatically.

SDI do a great job putting on this very useful showcase, I just hope next time the Vendors treat it as the opportunity it is and put more effort into. Well done to Sunrise Software in being the only Vendor to keep me interested through almost the whole of their presentation, not much of a feat admittedly but more than the others managed by quite a way.

Oh and one final note… for the love of God people no more cloud talk, it’s pretty much the same as being able to log an Incident now it’s not a USP!

Image Credit

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.