Business disruption. Innovative businesses are using new technologies and disrupting business as usual. Just as Uber and self-driving cars are disrupting the taxi industry by putting rides at the tip of our fingers, we can use these technologies to disrupt business as usual in the IT support profession.
Service as Usual
While incident management along with event and problem management can take much of the reactive nature of the process away from end-users, there are still many opportunities to make the process of reporting and reacting to incidents easier for the end-user, our customer. The service portal is one opportunity, particularly when it is designed in a way that enables self-service and use of knowledge to enable the customer to resolve issues before contacting the service desk. However, when these options don’t work, we often ask customers to provide a lot of information about the device encountering the issue, and we structure self-service forms poorly, making the experience frustrating. We also don’t often use the most current technology to help monitor and automate incident response (it’s the shoemaker’s children syndrome).
What if there was a better way? Using the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and bots to detect and manage simple repetitive issues, enabling operations personnel to work on more critical issues or extending their ability to scale up without staff increases, is a huge opportunity as is using these devices to improve the customer experience.
Enter the Future
The IoT and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can be defined as devices that can collect and transmit information, combined with technology that can analyze and/or act on the data without human intervention. Internet bots and chat bots are an extension of artificial intelligence that can act on data provided or execute repetitive commands, also without human intervention. Chat bots are being used by companies to provide interaction via the web or mobile apps.
Uber and Lyft utilize both technologies to power their enterprises:
- Mobile phones act as IoT devices providing information on driver and passenger locations via their GPS capabilities
- Internet bots process pick-up requests and transmit data to drivers/passengers, acting as an automated dispatch service
Self-driving cars are beginning to come into the mix as well, using both local and IoT sensors. Currently being piloted by Uber, they still have an attendant at the driver’s wheel to ensure customer confidence.
This example is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s being done in this fast-growing technology sector. Investment has increased significantly in these technologies and analysts indicate it will continue to do so. There are two reasons IT should get involved in these disruptive technologies sooner rather than later:
- Understanding and investing in these technologies enables IT to offer innovative solutions to the business, giving them a competitive edge (after all, would the taxi industry be so threatened if they had gone mobile before Uber and Lyft entered the market?)
- Using these technologies, IT can scale without increased staffing and lower operating costs through automation, while improving customer satisfaction with IT service and support
How IoT Works
There are five basic functions performed by IoT devices that enable them to do the work they perform:
This makes it clear that there are countless opportunities for IT to utilize technology to enable the shift-left trend, using technology to provide tier 0 support for a service desk. The idea is to look at how the IoT or IIoT and bots can be used to automate support through improved monitoring and response.
The idea is to look at how the IoT and bots can be used to automate support.
One Opportunity for Improved Support
While printers have had the ability to feed a console with data about printers for years, the ability to manage several manufacturer’s dashboards and manage the variety of alerts coming in can be daunting and would require a highly effective process for managing them. Additionally, just because a printer shows an alert doesn’t mean it’s something that needs IT’s attention.
Enter the Amazon Dash button. This device, especially when integrated with enabling software and ITSM tools can improve the user experience of reporting a problem or requesting paper and toner when supplies are out or low. The capability exists to integrate the button to the printer information and to the ITSM tool (even if done via email), enabling a simple yet effective way to report a printer problem or order supplies.
Imagine this experience:
- Jane goes to pick up a print job and finds out the printer is out of toner and there is no stock
- She presses the Dash button
- A few minutes later she logs into the service portal to see which other printers she could use until the toner arrives
- The portal knows her location and offers a Printer Status page, which she views. She then sees that all the printers on her floor are down
- She can review the status of each of the printers’ tickets and sees that the toner will be delivered within 4 hours, but the other repairs may take longer than that, based on SLAs
- She then accesses the toner request she logged via the button and requests escalation because all of the printers on her floor are down
- Twenty minutes later she receives an email letting her know toner was delivered based on her escalation and that the printer is now operational
In addition to configuring the IoT technology, changes that impact the service portal are also represented here:
- Adding the view to see printer status for her floor (based on her location) and then view tickets associated with each printer
- Adding the ability to escalate the ticket (with associated workflow and alerts to fulfillers)
Adding bots to this experience could have helped escalate the printer issue for Jane in one of two ways: an internet bot or other form of artificial intelligence could have recognized that all the printers on the floor were down and done the escalation for Jane, triggering an email to let her know about the escalation or a chat bot could have popped up when she went to view the status suggesting the escalation upon knowing all the floor’s printers were down. Either would improve satisfaction and confidence in the organization’s service providers.
The result of using new technologies would be a disruption in business as usual for IT: automation taking care of the issue and the customer, leaving the service desk with greater ability to focus on more complex issues that require their attention or support. This is only one use case for these new technologies. The possibilities are endless, being restricted only by the imagination of the folks in IT and the resources to perform the automation.
Phyllis Drucker is an ITIL® certified consultant and information leader at Linium. Phyllis has more than 20 years of experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT service management, as both a practitioner and consultant. She has served the itSMF USA since 2004 in a variety of capacities including volunteer, board member, and operations director. Since 1997, Phyllis has helped to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing her experience and insight on a wide variety of ITSM topics through presentations, whitepapers, and articles and now her new book on the service request catalog, Online Service Management: Creating a Successful Service Request Catalogue (International Best Practice). Follow Phyllis on Twitter @msitsm.