In part one of our guide to ensuring service desks don’t come last in the race to adopt mobile technologies, James West discussed the three crucial steps which must be followed: acceptance, listening to the business, and beginning to define the support services offered. Part two presents the final steps that will ensure the service desk not only meets the BYOD challenge, but also becomes a more respected and integral part of the business.
David Greene, European service manager for law firm DLA Piper, has extensive experience of BYOD, ever since a hardware refresh project made it clear that the lawyers wanted to use their own technology. (Read the full story of how DLA Piper has embraced BYOD, the steps it has taken to maintain security, while ensuring staff are able to work effectively with their own devices). There are many lessons to be taken from the DLA experience, but the main message is not to panic, and instead establish what the business requires from IT support and then work forwards from there.
Greene also points out that service desks almost certainly have resources in place that can make user-owned device support less daunting, which leads to the fourth step in our guide to BYOD.
BYOD step four: use existing knowledge and resources
“The majority of the support teams already use Android and Apple devices and they are able to guide our people to get the best out of these technologies,” says David Greene. The fear that customers are already so adept using mobile devices they no longer need support from IT is also dispelled by Greene. “A large number of the 9,500 DLA staff have not embraced these new devices, so support can continually push how to get the most out of them.”
If service desks are to remain relevant, it is crucial they encourage staff to use the same devices as the business before the knowledge gap does become a problem. “Service desks must be using Apple and Android kit today – that’s non-negotiable. Yes, the number of devices is increasing, but you probably have experts to cover all of these devices, whether inside or outside support, that are happy to be ‘champions’ of knowledge. People like being listened to, that’s what blogs and Twitter are about,” says Geoff Rees, sales director of service desk software specialist Sunrise.
Harnessing this existing pool of knowledge is crucial for tackling BYOD without making an unrealistic investment in support training. It is impossible for any service desk to know every detail about every smartphone, tablet and the various operating systems that power them. Happily, they don’t have to. “Your business already has extensive knowledge of apps, tablets and smartphones. Your staff already support each other, so take advantage of this fact and begin to formalise the knowledge,” insists Simon Kent, head of technical business services for ITSM software provider Cherwell Software.
BYOD step five – self-service and collaboration
“In my experience, the process of gaining support knowledge is very iterative and peer-to-peer – you learn by experience. The challenge is to take the informal learning that exists and broaden it, by using knowledge articles, self-service and blogs,” says Rees.
Most helpdesk products have self-service and knowledge management tools included in the package, but not all service desks are taking full advantage of them. The problem is the legacy of poorly implemented FAQs and unfriendly knowledge searching tools has damaged the reputation of self-service. Because these inflexible facilities have been unloved and unused, there is no incentive for the service desk to improve them. However, rather than try to document every fix for every incident the service desk has ever actioned, self-service can be introduced (or resurrected) relatively easily.
Pat Bolger, chief evangelist at ITSM technology specialist Hornbill, explains the starting point for creating self-service the business will readily use. “Post the top five fixes related to iPhones on your self-service portal. Once people find this knowledge, and incident volumes fall as a result, it encourages the service desk to add continue adding more knowledge, and the positive cycle continues.”
As the self-service portal begins receiving more attention, service desks can up the stakes and begin facilitating the collaborative learning that will ensure the BYOD support burden remains manageable.
“Your self-service portal won’t be able to fix everything, but if you have 53 people using iPads, allow them to post questions – there’s bound to be someone from the group who can help. Once these groups are working, service desks can start to see where they can add value and contribute,” says Bolger.
By creating an always-available facility that is able to answer a large proportion of support queries, you let the service desk bring its strengths to the fore. “Self-service should handle the simple stuff, service desk people should focus on building relationships with customers, finding out what they use technology for and how IT support can facilitate improvements. People are really good at relationships so allow that to flourish,” says Simon Kent.
Collaborative support will reduce the support burden and free up valuable resources, as Pat Bolger explains. “Let the community manage support of devices, and give them a mechanism for talking to you.”
While the service desk tool you use will not ultimately define the support you offer for BYOD, businesses saddled with client/server technology from the 1990s will find it difficult to create an effective self-service, collaborative environment, as Geoff Rees explains.
“Our Sostenuto service desk platform runs on Android, Windows, Blackberry and iOS. If you want to encourage self-service and collaboration, you will have a tough time if users are forced to use horrible forms or outdated forums. If your service desk works like their iPhone, service desk staff and business customers will adopt it more readily, build their knowledge and embrace the support tools available,” concludes Rees.
The way that support is sourced and delivered has fundamentally changed. Think of your own preferences, if you have a problem with a product or service, is your first instinct to find the phone number of the supplier, or do you ask a colleague? If you are unable to fathom settings on your home router, do you call the ISP, or do you search Google?
There is no reason to pretend that business customers are immune to this cultural shift. Service desks must embrace changing habits and facilitate self-service and collaborative working, or they will be side-stepped and eventually ignored.
BYOD step six – embrace the opportunity to transform ITSM
“BYOD, and the way that all IT services are consumed, are not just issues for the service desk, it’s the entire IT department that is in the spotlight,” says Simon Kent.
As Kent outlines, service desks are under pressure to get BYOD right. However, the good news is that if they follow the five steps outlined so far is they have an excellent chance of safeguarding their position by delivering cost-effective support for an expanded range of technologies. They will also have indirectly created a model for implementing any new technologies and services which will deliver the elusive business/IT alignment which has been a pipedream for many years.
“Talking about ‘IT’ and the ‘business’ as two separate elements suggests there are two trains running on two different lines, and that the trains occasionally stop and chat. In reality, you’re on the same train. IT has always been part of the business, but an awful lot of businesses are not using the IT group for innovating technology, they are using it to fix commodity services which don’t offer any value,” explains Pat Bolger.
Commodity IT is an important concept to grasp in the context of BYOD, as Bolger continues. “The value which British Gas traded used to be its ability to deliver gas and electricity into your house. Now energy is a commodity, they add value by giving me an app that lets me log my own meter readings. They tell me what my energy usage should be based on similar properties in my area and suggest ways I could reduce my bills. IT is the same, it is no longer ‘magical’, we expect to have a working phone, PC and network connection, so IT must find new ways to deliver value,” says Bolger.
“Personal devices run hand-in-hand with social media by accelerating the break up of the traditional working week – our personal and working loves are merging. BYOD is an opportunity for IT to bridge the gap with the business,” says Geoff Rees.
As these examples show, BYOD is not a daunting challenge, instead it offers service desks the chance to prove their value by demonstrating willingness to deliver the IT services the business needs to work more effectively.
“Seize the moment. The window of opportunity for the service desk to prove it wants to help the business will only stay open for a short time. These devices will soon be standard issue and if the service desk hasn’t reacted, it could be too late to contribute. Look at the last ten years in the service desk industry, the only truly unifying force people have flocked to is ITIL, but BYOD is an opportunity for IT to develop its own good support practices,” says Rees.
IT has a reputation for being aloof and unapproachable. Service desks have struggled to embrace the finer concepts of customer service because they are too busy firefighting. Simon Kent says this transition will happen for the IT support teams that invest in BYOD. “The more specialists that you have engaged in break/fix, the less resource you have for delivering the service the business wants. It annoys me when you hear people say: ‘the service desk is a great role for getting in development – it’s a path to something else”. It is one of the most important roles in the business, because it is the point of communication between the customers and development,” says Simon Kent.
Service desks which welcome the devices staff love using in the business will alter how they are perceived very quickly. “Our support volumes are not meaningfully larger than two years ago (prior to the BYOD project). If they have increased, it’s because people are more confident in contacting IT for help because they see we’ve tried to deliver what the staff want. We visited 5000 users when we carried out the refresh and got a clear view of what they wanted from IT - you don’t get that true customer feedback with surveys,” says David Greene of DLA Piper. With this point proven, service desks can begin applying the same principles which have guided BYOD – accept change, listen and plan accordingly – to other services.
“The progressive service desk will be more highly regarded than it is today. It may find that by ceding some of the support burden to the device manufacturers and users, it will free up the resources needed to develop more proactive services. Most importantly, it will have shown the business that it is serious about truly becoming an integral and valued part of the business,” concludes Geoff Rees.