Is social media really a useful tool for ITSM? Can collaborative IT support complement rather than destroy our service desks? Maff Rigby of IT SmartDesk shows us why we cannot ignore the impact of social and what the future of support will be like.
IT was once regarded as the saviour of business – something that enabled us to become more competitive within a rapidly growing marketplace. IT was a bit of a mystery to most of the business, with only the IT department possessing the skills and knowledge required to understand IT and how to use it effectively.
This situation has changed dramatically over the past 5 years, as IT has become much more accessible and easier to understand by those in “non-technical” roles within the business. Anyone can set up a web server or an FTP server with a credit card and a few clicks of the mouse, as opposed to a project plan and an in-depth knowledge of PC hardware and network protocols.
It’s not surprising therefore that the speed at which business is moving has overtaken the traditional IT department, which is still trying to maintain control of the IT services it provides rather than embracing this new era and enabling the business to use IT in the way it chooses. This is a situation reminiscent of the music industry in its fight against internet piracy, and the dramatic and difficult transformation it has endured reminds us that ignoring new phenomenon is not an option.
IT support is just one of the areas that must change to keep up with the speed of business. The traditional service desk just doesn’t fit in with today’s IT-savvy organisations because IT users are increasingly bypassing the service desk and turning to faster and more user-friendly routes to IT support (often through search engines or social networking sites). The good news is that it’s pretty straightforward to change this by giving IT users the tools and freedom to embrace the ways in which they are becoming accustomed to working in.
Social IT support – what is it and how does it work?
Whether your focus is on corporate IT support or commerce-based IT Support, everyone needs help sometimes. While traditional IT support is built on a closed “one-to-one” communication between you and your service desk, social IT support is built on an open “one-to-many” communication between you and your community.
To illustrate how social IT support works, let’s think of a typical scenario. Jeff is a sales manager in a small organisation of 30 people, with one full-time IT support person, Derek. Jeff has an important meeting in an hour and he is having major problems printing the latest sales reports for that meeting (because printers never work when you need them to).
Traditional IT support:
Jeff raises an incident in the service desk portal. The service desk remains the owner of this support ticket until it is resolved. The communications go between customer and service desk. No one else is involved, and no one else has any visibility of the ticket and the issue being discussed. Derek sees the call arrive, but is working on something that is more important (the finance system has just crashed, and the month-end reporting is due today). Jeff’s printer problem isn’t resolved in time for his meeting, the meeting has to be re-scheduled and business productivity suffers as a result.
Social IT support:
Jeff raises an incident in the service desk portal in the same way as the traditional IT support model, except this time his incident is visible to the entire community (i.e. the 30 people in his organisation). Derek is still busy with the high priority finance system issue, so doesn’t pick this ticket up. Lottie (marketing manager who is on her coffee break) sees Jeff’s cry for help and knows exactly what to do, because she had that same problem yesterday. Lottie picks up and answers Jeff’s ticket, enabling Jeff to fix his printer problem. He attends the meeting armed with the sales reports, and productivity is unaffected.
Admitedley, this scenario is somewhat idealised, but it illustrates what is at the core of social IT support – people in an organisation can help deal with each other’s IT issues, because everyone has some knowledge or experience with IT anyway. It works in exactly the same way as Wikipedia or Yahoo! Answers – the knowledge is out there, you just need a way of harnessing it.
It’s relatively easy to introduce social IT into your business. Since most, if not all of your employees or colleagues will already understand the concepts of social media through their use of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, all you need to do is enable these ways of working within the workplace. There are a growing number of social IT service management platforms emerging, either built entirely on the concepts of social media, or integrating some of these concepts to enable organisations to embrace this new way of working.
Maff Rigby is the founder of IT SmartDesk.