If you had three wishes that would grant any IT improvements in 2020, what would they be? If you’re stuck in a support rut and can’t rattle off three things, this blog will help. It takes two support perspectives—that of the service desk and that of service management practitioners or process owners—recommending three things you can do to kick support up a notch and delight your customers.
If you had three wishes that would grant any IT improvements in 2020, what would they be?
For Service Desks
To set the context, remember the four pillars needed to realize awesome support:
With those pillars in mind, here are the three things your service desk can do next year to use technology to pull off easy, multi-channel support, yielding great service!
Thing #1: Walk-Up Centers—Concierge Desks
Apple introduced the concept of the genius bar and it’s taken off in the form of walk-up experiences. The walk-up center or concierge desk is a great way to enhance support and bring it right to your end users in any corporate campus, educational institution, or health care setting where everyone is on a single campus.
This idea is very simple. Instead of putting desktop support engineers in dark and musty supply rooms or workbenches and then have them run around to deliver support, bring a few of them to modern workspaces in common areas of the building or campus: in the lobby, in the lunchroom, near the gym—whatever works for you!
The walk-up center is simply a counter-style workspace (think hotel check-in desk in design) where the desktop support team can keep several technicians during working hours. People who need support for anything desktop or desktop application related can stop by at any time for support. There are several options to consider:
There will be busy periods: Your service portal can display wait times and allow people to sign up for an appointment or add their name to a list. When their slot is 10 minutes away, they receive a text to report to the walk-up center for service. If your product doesn’t allow for this, create a shared calendar and allow people to book slots.
There will be slow times: This isn’t a problem, techs can work tickets remotely or do bench-repairs during these times.
There will be costs to the logistics of setting this up: To make a business case, pilot the concept using long folding tables (think banquet tables) in a common location that offers power and network access. Market it as a pilot, gain adoption, and then gain funding to implement a more robust and permanent version.
Thing #2: Vending Machines and Lockers
With the rise of Amazon lockers and IT vending machines, there’s now a really great option for providing small accessories and consumables in main buildings or remote sites and a great way to supplement the walk-up center’s reach with lockers. These are worth looking at separately:
Vending machines have been spotted on the expo floor at the last several SupportWorld events. These are a great way to generate revenue and manage consumables and small items like headsets, cables, and toner cartridges without having to manage requests for them.
- People can select the item they need and “pay” for it with a cost center code, a code provided by a ticketing system, or a credit card, depending on the item and the agreement with end users. The great part is IT can offset some costs by offering personal items in the mix, paid for with a credit card (think headsets for music, pop-sockets, small speakers, mice etc.).
- Some vending machines are available with turn-key arrangements with vendors, offering an easy way to support accessory needs in remote locations. The vendors re-stock and manage the solution, at a slightly higher cost, but lower than dispatching a tech or shipping items one at a time.
Lockers make it really easy to handle repairs when standard laptops are the main equipment type. When a ticket is called in and a repair is needed, a working unit can be stashed in a locker (next to a walk-up center is a great way to manage this). The user is then provided a code and can pick up the loaner or replacement at their leisure, leaving their broken item in its place. There’s a certain level of maturity needed: including the ability to configure a like-for-like image on a new machine or communication methods to find out the software needed. This is a really great solution in companies with virtual desktops—really just a method to swap out equipment without the user having to wait on line or a tech having to visit a desk. They add convenience and shorten wait times for repairs.
Thing #3: Dash Buttons
Here’s an idea that works anywhere, including distributed support environments like retail. Use programmable buttons that enable workers to report shared equipment issues with the touch of a button. There are many ways to use these, from enabling people to report equipment or supply issues in corporate settings or getting innovative and enabling their use for malfunctioning hospital equipment, classroom or conference room technology issues, anything needing critical care or immediate support. This one may not save money and isn’t designed to. In an organization with good asset management and monitoring capabilities, it’s an alert that can trigger a human to look at the equipment logs and report issues to vendors without visiting the equipment OR log an incident, prioritize, and dispatch it appropriately without the end user needing to contact a service desk. It definitely can ensure they report issues with shared equipment promptly, by making it easier to do.
For Service Managers
Service managers are integral to creating a successful service and support environment. Here are the three things service managers can do to ensure success.
Thing #1: Update Your Training and Build an Improvement Culture
ITIL4®, VeriSM, DevOps, Agile…there are many opportunities for picking up new tricks and ideas. The one thing in common in these frameworks and operating models is an intense business focus. Even ITIL4, which sounds like a revision to an old framework, is much more under the covers, focusing on the delivery of value and co-creation of both outcomes and value along with it.
It’s not necessary to start over, follow ITIL4’s Guiding Principles and borrow from the other frameworks to help where needed:
Thing #2: Assess and Address Your CMDB
Speaking of automation, many organizations have given up on building and maintaining a CMDB due to the effort involved. This is an area of growth for many service management platforms, so it’s worth taking a look at what’s possible in your platform today. Leverage automation as much as possible, to discover and update the devices listed in the CMDB, as well as service mapping and use of patterns to build relationships between configuration items. Consider the following tips when starting (or continuing) your journey:
Automation truly is your friend: Leverage it to the greatest extent possible. It will pay for itself over time with faster time to restore service, proactive problem management capabilities when used with monitoring and improved vulnerability management (thus preventing security breaches).
Have a plan and work the plan: This is a large undertaking that has decisions along the way. Determine the scope of the initial efforts; lay out the roadmap before beginning. Especially with service mapping, consider starting with the most critical areas first, or those where the organization is in the most pain.
Ensure all changes are reflected in the CMDB: Whether through discovery or change management, the configuration data must be kept current to be relevant!
Thing #3: Right-Size Change Enablement (Formerly Management)—Ditch the CAB (sort of)
Many change managers missed the part of the book where change authorization was dependent on the change being made and the change authorities defined based on risk and/or scale of the change, going up to the CAB only when needed. They also missed the part about using standard changes to streamline the process. Take a new look at this old process and how change is done in your organization:
- If there’s opportunity to align authorizations in a way that enables normal changes to be approved by a line manager/director for low risk, small-scale changes or by a set of business stakeholders and of key technical teams (and security) without having to go through the CAB, then take it. Leverage the ability to automate approvals via the change management application to further streamline this approach.
- Reward communication and pre-deployment collaboration! Even high-risk changes can be reviewed/approved online by the members of the CAB and only reviewed in a CAB meeting when poor communication prior to planning the deployment prevents CAB members from approving it online. This will significantly lower the time spent in the meeting.
Phyllis Drucker is an ITIL® certified consultant and information leader at Linium, a Ness Digital Engineering Company. 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 HDI since 1997 and itSMF USA since 2004 in a variety of capacities including speaker, writer, local group leader, 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.