On May 19, HDI fielded SupportWorld Virtual, with three Ask the Experts panel discussions and three webinars. The sessions featured industry standouts Julie Mohr, Valence Howden, Liz Beavers, Jeff Rumburg, Becky Roeman, David Cannon, Gina Montague, Doug Tedder, Brian Harris, Chris Chagnon, Ben Brennan, and Evan Carlson. HDI’s Associate Analyst Andrew Gilliam and I led the panels and moderated the webinars.
The day kicked off with a panel discussion of The Future of Service Management with Julie Mohr, Valence Howden, and Liz Beavers from the session sponsor, SolarWinds. We began with the question of whether IT service management is still IT Service Management, or if we have graduated from that. Valence, Julie, and Liz all contributed thoughts as to why service management is more relevant now more than ever, and how our focus, especially—as Liz pointed out—with the recent changes introduced in ITIL® 4, has shifted from processes to business value, perhaps just in time as the push for digital transformation kicks into high gear.
About emerging frameworks and methodologies, Julie reminded us about AIOps (Artificial Intelligence/Operations) and how important having good methodologies to build on really is. Valence echoed that good data management is critical for AI, and, rather than the emergence of new frameworks, aggregation of frameworks is likely to take place.
We had questions from the attendees around topics such as service recovery, self-help adoption, and intelligent swarming with regard to knowledge management. Julie emphasized that intelligent swarming needs to go beyond the realm of just IT and be incorporated in a broader sense across the organization. We wrapped up with a discussion of what digital transformation means, since there are various definitions, and Julie reminded us that part of the reason for that is that it means different things to different companies. Liz drew the parallel with our lives as consumers, which pointed out that the whole organization’s approach can and should shift, especially in light of the changes forced on organizations by the current pandemic.
Our next session, moderated by Andrew, was a webinar on CX Principles Every Service Desk Should Leverage with customer experience (CX) thought leader Becky Roeman, who began by reminding us that organizations are focusing on CX because it has impacts on the bottom line. Becky gave us a list—with explanations—of five principles:
- Understand the Customer Journey
- Serve the Customer on Their Channel of Choice
- Personalization Is Fundamental
- Importance of First Contact Resolution
- Employee Experience Matters
Becky reminded us more than once that supporting customers is not an easy job, and we should remember that when talking about the service desk.
Next up was ITIL author and strategic advisor David Cannon who told us about ESM: Moving Past the Hype. David defines ESM as “Using Service Management practices and tools to govern and manage an organization.” The hype revolves around what he calls “vague promises and wishful thinking.” These consist of assumptions that are made about ESM that will only be true under certain conditions, and perhaps not at all, including: “What we’ve learned in IT is what the business needs most,” and “ESM is a competitive differentiator.”
David went on to explain “What the Hype Doesn’t Tell You,” which includes that ESM projects are rarely enterprise-wide, and that “Not everything is a service.”
What you should do, according to David, is:
- Learn your business
- Build a portfolio (not a service catalog)
- Think strategically
It’s a well-spent, information-packed half hour.
For the second panel of the day, Andrew led Ask the Experts: The State of Customer and Employee Experience in Recovery, featuring Gina Montague, Doug Tedder, and Zendesk’s Brian Harris. Andrew began by asking the panelists whether the basics of CX and EX (employee experience) still apply, given the pandemic and all the circumstances around it. Doug stated that CX and EX are more important now than ever, and Brian pointed out that we find ourselves being more intentional about how we do things as we work from home.
Gina’s team went from 100% in-office to work-from-home (WFH), but she said that she had a strong team to begin with. Her job as a leader has been to focus on what they need. She also pointed out that we’ve all come to understand that the work-from-home environment isn’t perfect, and that’s OK. Doug added that we don’t have to overcompensate; pay attention and connect as needed to keep employees engaged. “Let’s be human,” said Doug.
Gina spoke to the question of how workforce management (WFM) has changed with people working from home. Some employees need more flexibility; others can maintain standard hours. She pointed out that peak hours need to be considered, and customers need to be taken care of. “My goal is to take care of the team so they can take care of the customer,” said Gina.
Leaders need to learn during this time as well. Having networks like HDI to lean on is helpful said Gina, who had not managed a remote team before. She added, “I trust my team when they’re in the office. Why am I suddenly not going to trust them now?”
“I trust my team when they’re in the office. Why am I suddenly not going to trust them now?”
Doug pointed out the need for leaders to be open and transparent, which allows employees to relax and do what they need to do. The same things that worked last week may not work this week, said Brian at one point. “Engagement is different.”
Next, Jeff Rumburg of MetricNet presented Brave New World: The Future of Service and Support. Jeff began by pointing out that IT is about 7% of the $85 trillion total global economy ($5 trillion) and the IT service management industry represents about $1.5 trillion. The global IT support industry is about $250 billion, employing about 7 million people.
More than 50 years ago, when the “help desk” was a rotary phone on a desk in a mainframe data center, Jeff pointed out, the most common call was for password reset. The same is true today.
Although we still look at three parts of the field of service and support—people, process, and technology—much has changed, said Jeff, including the types of skills recruiters are looking for in technical support people. Business skills are now more sought after than technical skills. ITIL® 4 is changing the way processes are thought about, and artificial intelligence (AI) is in every conversation about technology. There’s a tipping point, said Jeff. For the first time in his career, he sees things in all three areas advancing at the same speed. “We’re at an inflection point…and your jobs [in IT service and support] are going to look really different two years from now and especially five years from now.”
How can we prepare for the new world? Part of that preparation is looking at the past, Jeff said, and showed how the American auto industry was disrupted by lower cost, more economical imports. Robots saved the day, said Jeff. Assembly line workers of the past wore hard hats and carried wrenches; today’s workers in the industry are engineers with computers.
One statistic Jeff cited that might surprise people is that in the last three to four years, “reshoring,” that is, bringing Level 1 support organizations back to North America, has surpassed offshoring. Part of that has to do with the use of Artificial Intelligence that can handle some of the Level 1 tasks. The way you attain high customer satisfaction and ROI, said Jeff, is by maturing your processes.
One very interesting point Jeff made is that “ITIL hacks” have become more common than ITIL training and certification. Organizations are looking at the end results of knowledge management and problem management and then figuring out sensible ways to do those things within their organizations.
This was a fast-paced and information-packed session.
The final panel discussion of the day, again led by Andrew, was, Ask the Experts: What’s Next for Service and Support? It featured Chris Chagnon and Ben Brennan, as well as Evan Carlson of EasyVista.
Andrew started the conversation by asking—in light of current events—what role IT support should play in disaster preparedness and emergency management. Chris emphasized that support has always been seen as a cost center, but that when the stay-at-home orders began, support became very important. “I don’t think a single company doesn’t appreciate their IT right now,” he said. Ben said, “This is where IT teams lead.” He encouraged people to think about everything that could possibly go wrong and then come up with solutions. Evan pointed to an AP article about the NFL Draft as an example. Each team has their own IT, yet they coordinated every location and aspect so that the event was seamless.
About leading by example, Ben reminded us that, “If somebody doesn’t like you, they’re not going to help you,” so building relationships across your business is very important. He added that every word-class team he’s seen has not only been good at IT, but good at the other disciplines their businesses use. Chris pointed out that some other groups are very good at managing complexity, and they can serve as examples for IT as well as partners.
Chris brought up the idea of taking a pause when possible, “As things have slowed down a bit—I hope,” to review some of the wins and start to see how these can be incorporated into the way things are done.
Ben reminded us that to get things done, you might want to explore your team’s hidden talents and ambitions. They may want to design or build apps, for example, and that might help you for responding to and even leading transformation within your organization.
An audience member asked about launching a new service portal, and Chris urged, “Make it something you want to use yourself.” Evan added that most service catalogs are too complicated and user experience is very important. Customer Effort Score is a good way to measure ease of use. Ben gave a very simple piece of advice that is often forgotten: “Test it before you roll it out,” using employees, not just IT staff. In fact, he said, bring people in to pilot your project.
About people issues, an audience member asked about how introverts might not feel good about going back into an office environment. Evan said that if you’re being productive and getting the things done you need to get done, then propose working from home.
Ben suggested some ways to take care of ourselves, including taking a walk and maybe doing a five minute meditation. He returned also to the opportunities that are appearing now, like selling the management on easy to configure laptops to hand to people as they are heading out the door to work at home.
By all means take some time and listen to the words of wisdom from the experts involved in this virtual event. Write down your own takeaways; there are far too many for me to have noted all of them here!
SupportWorld Live is going digital!
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as Group Principal Analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson.