by Richard Sykora
Date Published June 26, 2020 - Last Updated December 10, 2020

There are costs associated with every case that comes in to your service desk. For every level—a case moves from tier zero, level 1, and so forth, even to your engineers—costs increase over the lifecycle of the case. Creating opportunities for your customers to use a tier of support that minimizes their efforts, your efforts, and overall costs, moving as much as you can to self-help, is the shift-left concept.

I would like to share an IDEA on how you can move forward, what to consider, and other aspects if you want to implement a shift-left strategy. Whichever components you use in a shift-left strategy, always remember to consider your customer experience and their perspective on how they consume these strategies. My operation is very different from a service desk or a retail payment call center, so you may need to adjust to fit your customer’s temperament on how you operate.

Large-scale projects need defined goals, objectives, and more. I had an IDEA. My IDEA gives you the steps you need to follow for a successful shift-left program: identify, document, execute, and assess. It explains what areas to explore to make your shift to the left successful and at the same time gives you my thoughts on how to actually do so.

Richard will walk through how to shift left at SupportWorld Live!
Join us!


You will need to understand what qualifies as potential to shift left. Determine what areas of your operation will give you the potential to deflect calls or push down towards tier zero. You need to ask yourself if you even have a data structure in place to properly capture and analyze the data to help identify areas, tools, or tasks that can assist in shift-left.

As an example, do you have a good case categorization system in place that can accurately tell you why people are contacting you in the first place? Understanding WHY they contact you is the biggest step in identification. You can also review data from other sources like your knowledge base. I have also randomly pulled actual case descriptions and reviewed case notes, chat transcripts, and more to get a fuller picture of the customer experience as they contact us.

And speaking of chat, do you also understand HOW they contact you? Channel usage could be a big factor on how to deflect, or at least serve up, additional information that may assist in shift-left.

For example, if you know the channels that are primarily used, and have an outage, can your system spin-up messaging to deflect incoming calls to inform users that you are already aware of the issue, thus allowing your agents to interact with users that are contacting for other reasons not related to the outage?

Another example of a system or tool enhancement could potentially be automated payment systems through the IVR to self-serve people who want to make a payment or password change reminders, password reset tools, and such.

These are all ideas to help identify what could potentially be in scope of your shift-left.


Document your project; this will provide a visual path of where you are going. It will give a structure to your project and allow for prioritization. If you identified the need to obtain tools, gather data, or even set up data structure to capture the data you actually want, these could potentially be projects within projects. Therefore, documentation is key to keep this all on track. It also makes for good content when your boss comes around once in a while and asks you, “How’s that shift-left thing going?”

As part of your documentation, I strongly recommend using the RACI method, not only because I love acronyms, but also for assigning tasks and responsibilities in order to keep the project moving forward. I have used this method on many occasions, and it is a valuable tool. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. These categories are used to define who is supposed to be doing what within the project.

Let’s face it, you cannot have six people responsible for a project and no one accountable to the six to make sure things get done. If everyone is responsible, no one is accountable. This method will ensure that there is one person who is that go-to person for each area or task. Without a RACI matrix, many a project has fallen on the wayside because no one was making sure the responsible parties were actually getting things done. I recommend doing some research online. There are many different templates out there that you can use to suit your specific process.


Once you have defined your purpose, goals, end state, and areas to shift, now it’s time to execute. Here are a few examples for this phase.

If you don’t have a knowledge base or are not using KCS methodology for self-help, build it out. If you don’t have communities for peer-to-peer, build it out. If you don’t have good case categorization, build it out. If you don’t have good FAQ documents within the products being used, build those out. These are only a few ideas on where you have to concentrate to make a difference in deflecting contacts and such shifting to the lowest possible tier.

As you can imagine, this is not a four-month project, but rather a multi-year project, and that is where people get hung up in the shift. They assume this is a quick fix. In reality, it is an investment back into the operation, and that takes time. That is a key takeaway to successfully implementing shift-left: understand the longevity of the process. All of the ideas I mentioned above are projects in themselves, and any of them can take many, many months, even a year to implement.


As you bring your updated processes, tools, and such into your daily operational engine, you will need to measure the impact each component has on the overall shift-left strategy. As part of any project, you should have already defined what success looks like as part of your project plan. In shift-left, you want to make sure you have configured your systems and data in a way that you will be able to take benchmark, baseline metrics, and measurements, then compare the change once you implement a shift-left system or tool.

For example, if I had 1,000 password reset contacts each month, but by the end of month two of the newly established self-service password reset tool my contact count is 500, you can make your own conclusions whether or not that tool was a successful part of your overall shift-left strategy.

One golden rule to follow about data points for success is that results from your assessment should create some sort of actionable response and should inform you to either adjust, stay on course, or close out the project and move on to the next. Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring. Rather, make sure you can act or react on these measurements of success.

Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring; make sure you can act on these measurements of success.
Tweet: Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring; make sure you can act on these measurements of success. @ThinkHDI #servicedesk #techsupport #ShiftLeft #ITSM

It’s All In the IDEA

Shift-left is a BHAG—Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. (Yes, another acronym.) You need to treat it as such, get organized around your documentation, and define RACI for your team. Large projects like this can also create opportunities by leveraging existing staff for career development. Years ago, I was assigned to be part of a project that really had an impact on my project management skills. I was able to contribute to a continuous process improvement task, and today I still use the skills I obtained. Lastly, don’t go at it alone. Shift-left is a BHAG that will involve multiple years, with multiple departments.

Richard Sykora has more than 25 years’ experience in customer service and call center operations. He has managed both national and global operations and has been a speaker at industry conferences and user groups, leading participants in industry best practices. Richard is Senior Manager, Support Operations at Blackbaud, and is Lean Practitioner Certified. He is a volunteer and currently Chair of ReStart Career Development program, assisting those in a career transition and helps connect participants’ natural skills to jobs and careers they were built for with purpose. Connect with Richard on LinkedIn .

Tag(s): supportworld, service management, service desk, support center, metrics and measurements, costs


More from Richard Sykora