Published on October 1st, 20124
How do we stop the service desk coming last in the BYOD race?
Bring Your Own Device threatens and undermines the very existence of IT support, yet those willing to adapt have the opportunity to refine and galvanise the service desk. In part one of the ServiceDesk360 guide to supporting BYOD, we reveal the three steps that must be taken to ensure IT support has a bright future.
Once the guardians of technology, service desks’ reluctance to support user-bought devices means they are relinquishing their authoritative technology position. If this shift is not addressed, service desks face the embarrassment of becoming the department with the least knowledge of technologies used by the business.
This two-part ServiceDesk360 guide to BYOD explains the enormity of the BYOD problem and why it is a microcosm for a dilemma that will define the future of the IT support industry. Beyond a call to arms, this guide will offer six clearly defined steps for those wishing to tackle BYOD. From the current starting point of fear and distrust those willing to follow the six steps laid out in this guide have an opportunity to create a service desk which is invaluable to the business.
Fear of the BYOD invasion
The scale of the BYOD invasion differs depending on which piece of research you read. A study from Hornbill, for example, shows that 40 per cent of the working population are already using unauthorised technology for work purposes. However, there is no need to rely on research when the evidence is all around us: tablets and smartphones, predominantly either from Apple or powered by Google’s Android, have become ubiquitous in business.
Few would deny that the speed at which these devices have entered the workspace has presented an IT support challenge. Yet while no one expected an expanded, well-defined support facility to emerge overnight, now that BYOD is here to stay there are fewer excuses for ignoring this issue.
Before we move on to the six steps for supporting BYOD, first we must tackle the factor that is holding most service desks back: fear.
Service desks most often cite fears over security and data protection as the chief reasons why they are reluctant to accept BYOD. Simon Kent, head of technical business services for ITSM software specialist Cherwell Software, says this is a smokescreen hiding service desks from the real problem that BYOD presents. “We’ve had security measures in place for data and restrictions on email and internet usage for years. The fear of BYOD is not security, the fear is there will be nothing left for the service desk to do if IT services and devices are procured and self-supported by users.”
Pat Bolger, chief evangelist for service desk technology specialist Hornbill, says that this fear of losing control is intensified by IT’s legacy of locking down technology. “The fear factor comes from the fact that we’ve spent so long in IT trying to establish control. We standardised desktops because when everything is the same we can apply a common approach to resolution. We’ve spent so long in this mindset but now the complete opposite approach is needed.”
Service desks hoping that BYOD is a fad need to look at how quickly individuals’ working habits are changing according to Bolger. “People are increasingly bypassing corporate IT. Take me as an example, I use an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, I have sourced productivity apps – I simply don’t need what we think of as ‘IT’ anymore. Listening to University of Sheffield on ITSMTV, they admit control was lost a long time ago. The job used to be break/fix, now customers call when they need help with IT usability and productivity issues.”
Building the type of proactive, customer-orientated service desk outlined by Bolger may seem a tall order, but unless positive steps are taken now, the very existence of an IT support department is under threat according to Simon Kent. “The mindset of many service desks – “you’re on your own (with BYOD), don’t come to us” – it sounds like the IT Crowd. If this attitude persists and the business is forced elsewhere for support, what CFO is going to maintain funding for the service desk?”
BYOD step one: acceptance
In just a few years, BYOD and consumerisation has undone 30 years of corporate IT planning. The knowledge gap which once existed between the IT department and users has been eroded at a shockingly fast rate, so pretending that it still exists makes service desks look arrogant and foolish. Geoff Rees, sales director of ITSM service desk supplier Sunrise Software, sums up the absurdity of the situation: “IT continues to wrap mystery around something that is no longer mystical.”
Accepting that the IT landscape has changed means letting go of the safety measures which technology departments have constructed. “IT organisations typically want to cover every ‘what if’ scenario and this mentality causes initiatives to run very slowly. IT has been trying to lock down and control for 30 years and, yes, there are issues around security and privacy of data, but to accept BYOD, IT needs to embrace change, not obstinate further,” says Rees.
Service desks must accept that BYOD isn’t going to change IT consumption, it already has. They must accept that many users now have more knowledge of business technology than the IT support staff. Above all, they must accept that the break/fix services they have offered for many years are now largely redundant, and that a customer-first mindset must take over.
Accepting these facts isn’t an admission of failure. Accepting these facts doesn’t mean the service desk has given up. On the contrary, accepting BYOD and embracing the implications of consumerisation is the first, crucial step for ensuring your service desk will continue delivering a meaningful business contribution.
BYOD step two: stop, look and listen
Service desks bold enough to overcome their fear and prejudice of BYOD quickly encounter another problem: where do we start? Whereas once IT support needed to master a relatively simple IT infrastructure, with PCs and laptops centrally secured and all software being given the corporate seal of approval, now with myriad devices, apps and cloud services entering the workplace, how can we possibly support them all?
It is vital at this stage not to succumb to the fear, for two reasons:
1) We have already established that fear and hiding is not an option; BYOD will not go away
2) There is a simple solution to the ‘what do we support‘ conundrum
Simon Kent says that IT has a tendency to pre-empt what the business wants but, in the case of BYOD, it simply needs to stop, look and listen. “IT doesn’t have to suddenly become expert in everything, but it must improve communication with the business. Service desks should ask the business: “we know you’re bringing your own devices, we know we can’t stop it, but we want to know what you use them for?””
By taking this approach, service desks may find the ‘problem’ is not really a problem at all. “Users might not want any help beyond hooking up to wireless. Or they might use a tablet predominantly for Facebook. If the latter is true, it’s not an IT issue. However, if they are using it to access SalesForce.com, there’s an opportunity for the service desk to practice good supplier management with Salesforce and build print integration into the workflow,” argues Kent.
BYOD is like the monster hiding in the dark which seems more menacing than it is because it is shrouded in shadow. “BYOD seems such a big issue because IT hasn’t a clue what’s out there and being used,” says Pat Bolger.
“There’s a chicken and egg element to BYOD – how do you know what you need to support until you start supporting it; well, there are ways to approach it. Most organisations have a self-service component, so why not add a range of devices to the support option drop down menus and see what are the most popular technologies,” concludes Bolger.
Whether gathered through a portal, a survey or face-to-face cconversations, establishing what technology the business uses is vital to the BYOD support process. Although every business will differ, it is likely that some of the support burden may actually reduce once it becomes clear what is in use. “The hardware used by the business is increasingly tethered by its owners with manufacturers or third parties contracts, so there is little need for support for the kit itself,” says Geoff Rees.
Just as the acceptance of user-owned devices offers service desks the opportunity to evolve, step two of our BYOD guide turns a problem into a positive. In the process of listening, service desks will almost certainly find there are services which are unused, and similarly that fixes can be easily created for common problems. The service desk doesn’t need to support every technology, it just needs to support the IT that users need help with. To find out what this is, just ask.
BYOD step three: begin to define what you support
ITSM, for better or worse, has largely been about creating an absolute structure for managing business services, e.g. if action X takes place, process Y kicks in and leads to a documented Z conclusion. Adopting the stop, look and listen approach to solving BYOD means this rigid approach no longer fits. Geoff Rees encapsulates the mindset shift which must occur for a BYOD strategy to be successful. “Stop measurement for the sake of measurement, IT deliberates too much. The key is to focus on what’s important rather than on everything.”
The future of the service desk, not just in the context of BYOD, will be defined by a flexible approach to solving technology challenges, as Simon Kent outlines. “Service desks exist to support the business, so once you’ve asked the business what it requires from you, list some services such as application support, print services, supplier management etc, and then build a mechanism so the users can tell you what they want ongoing. You may be surprised; instead of buying new PCs every few years, you might find that people just want a bluetooth keyboard and projector adaptor to go with their tablet,” says Kent.
The idea is that rather than providing a service catalogue of IT that may or may not be used, service desks can save themselves time and resource by zeroing in on what is important to the business. “The desks which will be successful will focus on the service, becoming like the hotel concierge. So if the marketing manager needs a iPad connector for a presentation, the service desk should be able to send it out this afternoon, and also check whether it needs configuring for a certain app, meaning the marketing person can focus on what they get paid to do,” concludes Kent.
The example by Kent shows the potential power of service desks which free themselves from the shackles of an ultra-controlled IT environment. Yet while the decentralised approach to delivering IT services is to be applauded, there are basic rules that must be adhered to which allow the service desk to prove its contribution to the business.
“The average service desk doesn’t know how much it costs to support the Office suite per customer per month. The problem is there are multiple factors around training, cost to deploy new versions, costs to support. Yet because we don’t know these costs, when the sales guy comes in and offers to take the problem away for £25 per month, the CFO takes it because it’s a tangible number,” says Pat Bolger.
It is important to measure not just the cost of new services, but also record any savings made by eliminating redundant support services. The beauty of following the six steps to supporting BYOD is that it crystallises what is important. This intelligence will allow the service desk to perform what looks like alchemy: offering an expanded range of support while reducing costs.
In summary, step three means you offer a limited range of services for BYOD based on the feedback from customers and begin to define the support offering based on further feedback. The key however is keeping the defined parameters fluid, with the option to change along with customer requirements.
Coming in part 2
The final three steps to supporting BYOD, looking at harnessing resources already in place, creating a collaborative support structure and using BYOD as a starting point for transforming the perception and contribution of the service desk, is available here.