According to SDITS12 general consensus, topics don’t get hotter or more controversial than social IT support. Maff Rigby of IT SmartDesk proved to be voice of reason at the event, discussing strategies for making social IT a reality. In this follow up to his popular article introducing the concept of social IT support, he explains why the decision to ‘provide’ social support has been already made for you, and the changes you must embrace before you can begin enjoying the benefits that social IT can bring.
Social IT is all about breaking down the barriers that exist between IT and the rest of the business, bringing the two areas together towards a much closer way of working. By engaging with our customers in this manner, we can understand their needs better and offer a service that is specifically tailored to meet these needs.
The nature of social IT means that IT will lose some of its control over the support experience, and this may cause concern for some. However, the reality is that this control was lost a while back, and many IT users already seek support through alternative channels (they ask colleagues for help, search Google, or post their question in their social network of choice) – these users will come to the service desk as a last resort. By recognising this and enhancing the support process through the addition of a social IT environment, IT may win back some of those users that have lost faith.
By studying how social media platforms work and how the people using those platforms behave both individually and as a collective, I’ve highlighted seven concepts that define social IT support you must accept before you can proceed.
1) Social IT is open and transparent
The majority of information that people share within the social environment is visible and viewable by everyone else in that environment – the fewer restrictions you place on the visibility of information, the richer the social experience will be. However, users of the social IT environment should be in full control of their own privacy settings, so they can decide who sees the information they share. The more options available to them for controlling their security, the more comfortable they will be with interacting, and the experience will be much more rewarding for everyone involved. For example, users should be able to share private information through direct messaging to a single recipient (e.g. direct messages in Twitter) or to a select sub-group of people (e.g. posting a comment in a private group in Facebook).
2) There is no differentiation between agent and customer
All users of the social IT environment are created equal, with no role-related privileges or access rights. Again, the person submitting information to the environment decides who can see and interact with that information.
3) Anyone can contribute to any item
Anyone within the social IT environment can contribute their knowledge to any item raised within it. This could be in the form of answering a question, taking ownership of an incident, or engaging in a discussion. Their social reputation and influence will increase or decrease depending on the quality of these interactions, and will be decided by the user community. A clever organisation will take note of an employee’s contributions within the social IT environment, and find a way to reward them where appropriate.
4) Customers can help each other
Following on from point 3, social IT enables customers to help each other. Whether it’s your internal IT customers or your external customers, social IT utilises the concepts of crowd-sourcing to capture and exploit the knowledge that exists within these customer communities.
5) All information is captured and stored
Social interactions generate an enormous amount of information which goes beyond the obvious transactional data. They record what mood you’re in, your location, who you’re with, even what you had for breakfast. Once captured, this information should be analysed to discover trends that help us understand our customers and improve our IT services.
6) Knowledge sharing is implicit
Knowledge sharing is what creates a social experience. Whether that knowledge is a photo, a video, a link to an article – people share knowledge with each other on a continual basis. Social IT should enable people to constantly share knowledge in a simple and intuitive manner.
7) The customer is at the centre
While traditional IT service management has heavily focussed on theory, process and governance, social IT places the customer at the centre of the IT support experience. Social IT focuses on providing an excellent user experience through the use of intuitive technology and communicating with customers through the channels that suit them.
Social IT continues to be a much debated topic, and as always I welcome your feedback and thoughts. In the true spirit of social IT, please be honest, open and respectful – there won’t be any repercussions for any negative comments, and by contributing your knowledge you can help to shape this interesting and powerful movement. I will be continuing to write about this issue on ServiceDesk360, with the third in this series coming soon, please let me know if there are particular aspects that you’d like me to focus on.
Maff Rigby is the founder of IT SmartDesk.