You don't need to be a Genius or a Guru to offer a Personal Service Desk

genius
A Genius Bar for the Service Desk, could it work?

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

it crowd
Don’t be the faceless IT Crowd

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.

  1. Reduced number of incidents received at the Service Desk, or, to be accurate, reduced number of incidents that  require traditional Service Desk attention.
  2. Increased employee/user/customer satisfaction.
  3. 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

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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:
    1. Advertise the existence of the Personal Service Desk
    2. Provide appointment booking
    3. Provide satisfaction surveys from each visit
  1. Appointment Booking – Yes it’s presented in Self-service, but it goes beyond that. It needs to provide:
    1. Presentation to the end user of available time-slots for appointments.
    2. Ability for the end user to request an appointment time slot and to fill in details of the reason for the visit.
    3. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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Integrations Group Test line up announced

Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the race with Team Sky)
Winning team: Which tool set will lead our Integration Group Test by Ros Satar (…and gratuitous shot of Chris Froome in his yellow jersey enroute to win the 100th edition of the Tour de France with Team Sky)

Absolute Software, BDNA, Bomgar, Cherwell, EasyVista, LANDesk, ManageEngine, Matrix42, Nexthink and ServiceNow are confirmed participants for our upcoming ‘Integrations’ review.

The review will delve into integration tools which compliment ITSM processes.

“Whether it be speeding up implementations by cleaning up the original data needed to set up the system in the first place, to incorporporating Systems Management data, we want to take a look at the supporting products that help us manage IT and business services end to end.”

The assessment criteria at a glance:

  • Pre-Deployment Set-up
  • Integrations to Asset and Configuration information
  • Event Management
  • Support Services
  • Resource Management
  • Any other useful data that supports ITSM

Full details of the assessment criteria can be found here.

Reviewer: Ros Satar

Confirmed Participants:

  1. Absolute
  2. BDNA
  3. Bomgar
  4. Cherwell
  5. EasyVista
  6. LANDesk
  7. ManageEngine
  8. Matrix42
  9. Nexthink
  10. ServiceNow

Publication

All results will be published free of charge without registration on the ITSM Review. You may wish to subscribe to the ITSM Review newsletter (top right of this this page) or follow us on Twitter to receive a notification when it is published.

Image Credit (Sky Wallpapers)

Reasons to be cheerful: ITSM in the ascendancy at #SITS13

I have just returned from the Service Desk and IT Support show held at Earls Court in London over the last couple of days. It has been great to catch up with industry friends: old, new and digital.

A snapshot of ITSM Industry sentiment from the last two days would be: Buoyant

  • If 2012 was about thinking/planning, 2013 is about doing
  • Many more organizations are looking to proceed with projects and have a green light on implementation
  • Visitors come armed with very specific requirements and needs rather than ‘we might be in the market for a new helpdesk’
  • Frameworks are a given, it’s much more than Service Desks – visitors have much broader, longer term ITSM objectives

But don’t take my word for it – Some pillars of the ITSM industry have kindly shared their views:

Peter Durrant, LANDesk
Peter Durrant, LANDesk

Peter Durrant, Enterprise Sales Director for LANDesk Software, who recently hit 150% of their European Sales target, reports new clients are increasingly approaching LANDesk with end-to-end ITSM requirements rather than replacing ticketing systems. In difficult times, customers see LANDesk as a low risk and reliable option with a strong reputation.

Colin Rudd, itSMF
Colin Rudd, itSMF

Colin Rudd, Chairman itSMF UK reports good interest in membership at the show. Echoing Peter’s comments above Colin stated the industry is maturing beyond ITIL and Service Desks into much broader ITSM requirements. Exciting times for the industry and to be part of the itSMF community.

Tony Probert, Cherwell
Tony Probert, Cherwell

Tony Probert, Managing Director UK and EMEA at Cherwell Software stated that SITS is a barometer on where the industry is going and his judgement from the last few days was a lot more positive. Projects are becoming unstuck, purse strings are being released and the industry is looking very positive. Clients are becoming very specific about their requirements and have moved beyond Incident, Problem and Change to Portals, Systems Integration and Advanced Reporting. Cherwell have put effort into building their partner community and have recently signed up new business partners in Spain, Russia, Hungary and Norway.

Emma Spear, SDI
Emma Spear, SDI

Emma Spear, Head of Marketing and Events at The Service Desk Institute broke with the norm with a relaxed and sociable ‘tea party’ presence at SITS. Emma reported the SDI Service Desk Certification was very popular and the team were preparing for the SDI Conference on June 18th – 19th in Edgbaston.

Tom West-Robinson, Marval
Tom West-Robinson, Marval

Tom West-Robinson, Account Manager at Marval Group also noted that show visitors have a much clearer understanding of what they want and that projects are beginning to make progress. Tom stated that many organizations face high value maintenance renewals on their existing helpdesk software and are actively investigating better value alternatives.

Andrew Smith, BMC
Andrew Smith, BMC

Finally, Andrew Smith, Solutions Marketing Manager at BMC Software, expressed his surprise at the vibrancy of the show. He stated that although 2012 was good in terms of visitor numbers, this year has been particularly good for the level of engagement. Lots of companies were talking about projects in 2012; in 2013 they are starting to implement them. Andrew noted it was great to see new exhibitors and alternative technologies appearing as well as the industry regulars.

SITS visits Berlin in late September before returning to Earls Court in April 2014.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management Tools (ITSSM) 2012

The extra 's' - a genuine new market definition or marketing fluff?

Gartner have recently published their Magic Quadrant for IT Service Support Management (ITSSM).

The research includes Axios Systems, BMC, CA Technologies, Cherwell Software, EasyVista, FrontRange Solutions, Hornbill, HP, IBM, LANDesk and ServiceNow.

In a nutshell:

  • BMC came out on top, closely followed by ServiceNow
  • Everybody else is sat uncomfortably close together in the ‘must try harder’ niche players quadrant
  • Nobody made it into the ‘leaders quadrant’ (The RFP-shortlist-holy-grail)

What is ‘ITSSM’ anyway?

My first question when beginning to read this new Gartner Magic Quadrant was – what is ITSSM? Where did that extra ‘S’ come from and what does it mean?

The introductory text reads:

“IT service support management (ITSSM) tools offer a tighter integration of functions that correlates with the activities of the broader IT support organization. ITSSM tools leverage a business view of IT services, enabling the IT support organization to quickly resolve or escalate issues and problems, improve root cause isolation, and provide higher levels of business user satisfaction.”

I’m still none the wiser. Still looks like good old ITSM to me.

Marketing Fluff?

In the book ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing’ by Al Ries and Jack Trout we are introduced to the ‘Law of Focus’. The authors argue ‘the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in a prospects mind’. The most powerful evidence of this is when a product is so totally engrained in our vernacular that it becomes a verb. We ask for a Coke, we Skype, we Hoover the stairs etc (i.e. one product name dominates the entire sector). This begins to explain why technology companies dream up new and exciting ways to explain markets and cook up new acronyms, to try to own the whole concept for themselves.

Perhaps ‘ITSSM’ is a misguided attempt at this new sector definition.  I think it is marketing fluff and does little to help the market. Would it really be that dreadful to admit dropping the previous ITSM Quadrant was a mistake? If it is a genuine new market sector they’ve done an awful job of defining it and educating the market.

Only Behemoths May Apply

My other criticism of this report, and Gartner Magic Quadrants in general, is over emphasis on global reach.

Some of the global players have an international network of offices that span the globe, but how many of the people in these hundreds of offices know about your product? I would ague that is probably about the same amount of people as the total team of a smaller niche competitor. i.e. BigMegaCorp operates in 50 countries with 20,000 staff and 35 of these people worldwide know about ITSM, compared to the small niche competitor with 35 staff – all of whom know about ITSM.

Similarly, vendors in this report had to have revenues in excess of $10M. Isn’t this threshold cutting out the most exciting and innovative vendors in the sector? The target audience for this report is typically large enterprises – but are they really that risk adverse?

In Richard Stiennon’s recent article he stated that:

“Gartner’s 11,000 clients are the largest organizations in the world and Gartner acknowledges that 80 percent of them are late-adaptors. They are much more likely to buy from HP, IBM, or Oracle than from a start-up with the most cutting-edge solution.”

Is that really the case these days? The old adage of ‘You won’t get fired for buying IBM’ is being replaced by users who can search what they are looking for on Google, buy it using a credit card and get the job done in the Cloud without a second thought.

Rudderless Industry?

Finally, I believe the fact that there are no vendors in the Leaders quadrant is a good reflection of the industry. Once upon a time ITIL aligned processes were the key market differentiator, and then came the ability to deliver in the Cloud – the market is now looking for new leadership and new differentiators.

The report is available here free from BMC.