Picture this – your alarm clock goes off, you reach across the bed and take a look at your phone; it’s woken you up 30 minutes early – why? Well you have a meeting at 9:30am, but your car is running low on fuel so filling up will take 15 minutes, and traffic is a little worse than normal, so it will take an extra 15 minutes to get to the meeting. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT) a world where your phone can play your day ahead and your fridge knows when it’s running dry and orders the groceries itself.
IoT has captured the imagination of industry visionaries and the public for some time now; devices sending and receiving data, opening the door to a futuristic world previously the stuff of science fiction.
As the cities we live in grow into digital ecosystems, the networks around us will connect every individual device, enabling billions of new data exchanges. Industries will enter a new era, from medical devices that talk directly to medical professionals, to the emergence of smart homes that manage themselves efficiently, ensuring energy usage is checked and bills paid on time.
In the workplace it’s equally easy to see the potential advantages of the connections between devices, from intelligent service desk support through to printers, computers and other devices interacting with each other to deliver tangible user and business benefits.
The service desk is a key component for businesses in the digital age, acting as a communication hub for IT issues, a reference point for technology requirements and a tool for asset visibility. Organisations must ask themselves if their current service desk has the technological capacity and capability to manage the multitude of device and operational data in an efficient manner. An intelligent service desk can be the lifeblood of IoT implementation within businesses and enable automation to be realised.
A connected printer in a business ecosystem, for example, could effectively self-serve its own peripheral needs and order its own supplies when needed. However, the management of that data, effective registration and logging of the incident, as well as notification to the financial and technical teams would not be possible without an intelligent service desk – especially when you elevate this to an enterprise scale, with possibly hundreds of connected printers or devices.
When discussing the “connected office”, IT managers will understandably raise concerns around security. The more devices that are connected, the further the periphery is pushed, increasing potential entry points there are into a network.
An intelligent service desk will enable whitelisting to be integrated into communication protocols. This is a process which gathers and groups trusted individuals and their devices into a known category. This will enable any unusual requests from either IoT enabled devices or employee requests to be automatically flagged and questioned before action or access is given.
It is in this scenario that IT managers can reap the benefits of IoT, service desk and employee synchronisation. Through the IoT device communicating with the service desk, the service desk effectively managing all end points and the employee working in tandem with the service desk software, the minimisation of internal security risks can be achieved.
While much of this sounds quite out of reach, the benefits of IoT and service desk communication are already evident today, through use cases that are currently very fluid, personalised and often driven by an imaginative use of existing and sometimes emerging technology. Peripheral IT product vending machines holding keyboards and mice, for example, allow the realisation of this relationship to be seen.
However, with so much data being transferred and the IoT still very ‘new’, there are a number of challenges, the most critical being visibility of assets connected and operating under the network.
Communication between all end points and visibility should be fundamental considerations when planning for an IoT based implementation. Intelligent service desks, that can enrich the IT support experience as well as integrate and communicate with the business ecosystem, can host the technology capability to have oversight, communication and visibility of device end points communicating with a network.
While this may appear to be a straightforward concept, often enthusiasm to implement and complexity of service desk and technology transformation has a tendency to drown out and bypass the fundamentals – leaving potential backdoors open.
To ensure that there is a holistic approach toward securing connections with the IoT, organisations must challenge all stakeholders (vendors, integrators and consultants) to apply secure IoT principles to the service desk solution and IT operational unit, right from the “drawing board” phase.
In the quest for digital transformation and its numerous benefits, user adoption and behaviour is often overlooked as part of the transformation process. A clear understanding between organisational culture and technology is essential to ensure that tools, processes and systems realise their full potential and are not left by the way side as “another” failed initiative.
The Tech-Savvy Employee
As a plethora of devices and applications continue to find their way into working lives, organisations need to create a dynamic workplace environment which fosters a self-service culture among employees in relation to technology. The more compatibility that enters an organisation, the more potential issues that may arise when using these on a daily basis, which all have to be managed and responded to accordingly. Organisational culture should be focused around making the employees feel supported and empowered enough to manage and resolve any issue themselves, especially when related to technology. Issues should be prevented in the first place, however when issues due occur, encouraging users to solve their own issues, results in a workforce that is agile and able to act faster and more effectively; to seize opportunities, resolve issues, improve quality, and ultimately exceed customer expectations.
Visibility of available supportive resources is important, and digital tools, such as mobile apps and intuitive web portals, ensure that employees are able to access the information they need, from a wide range of locations, at any time. This serves to drive overall operational efficiency, as employees can self-serve their own IT issues and gain knowledge articles or support, to future proof their device issues in relation to general issues, e.g. password resets or software upgrades. Over time this will deliver positive outcomes that will result in behavioural change, as employees will not be dependent on IT or technical teams to resolve the majority of issues that arise, minimising employee and system downtime. It also enables employees to collaborate across departments and locations, improve decision-making and critically reduce time-to-market.
The key thing to remember here is that successful digital transformation should enrich working lives, promote improved work/life balance and improve productivity and therefore results – a win-win for employer and employee.
Business Champions – Digital Transformation Leaders
As the IT service desk evolves, its role as the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace remains. However, the first step in a transformation strategy, is culture. Culture incentivises behaviour, and companies must begin by ensuring workforce behaviour is well-suited to the technology solution at hand, to truly maximise its adoption and use throughout the workforce.
One approach to ensuring desirable behaviour is instilled amongst the workforce is through the deployment of “business champions” when adopting new solutions or technologies. These are appointed members of the workforce who help foster change and act as a conduit for feedback from the wider workforce, ensuring behavioural change matches working needs.
A recent example of where this has worked is with Hays Recruitment who wanted to provide employees with a broader choice of engagement channels to interact with IT service teams. This was in a drive for increased productivity enabled through the minimisation of system downtime. Hays have historically been positioned as the leading digital recruitment agency, being the first in the industry to adopt truly digital recruitment selection and placement. Revenue generation at Hays is dependent on the productivity of its 2,200-plus UK sales consultants, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in the selection and placement of client’s, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly. If using webchat they can continue to work whilst getting help.
At the end of 2015, Hays became an early adopter of Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution. The NGSD offering was well positioned to manage the business needs of Hays, providing a consumer-like, user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and knowledge delivered via an intuitive online portal and mobile app.
Although the NGSD solution can be integrated to existing infrastructure, the success of the solution was not simply a silver bullet. Instead, Computacenter and the team at Hays needed to create a desirable business environment that would encourage the whole workforce to truly understand the capabilities of the technology, adopting the behaviour into their working norms. In order for this to take place, Computacenter offered a new approach to service desk deployment asking internal employees to agree, nominate or suggest business champions for each team, division or office.
Proof is in the Productivity
In the case of Hays, NGSD helped to transform the employer – through service desk interaction – and the proof is in the productivity. Hays reported over 60 per cent of transactions take place directly through the portal – well above the original target of 50 per cent.
What’s more, in an age of messaging apps, online chat capability remains imperative. Hays registered approximately 1,180 chats per month since the adoption of NGSD and over 370 self-logged incidents per month compared with 40 previously.
Importantly, self-service portals such as NGSD are 24/7, so employees in any location, working any particular hours can log incidents at all times instead of having to wait for the service desk to open.
The bottom line is simple – by taking a user-centric, digitised approach to IT support, organisations can maximise staff productivity, drive profitable growth, and both attract and retain the very best talent inside a cutting edge digital workplace.
Last month, we had the privilege of attending the 25th Annual IT Service Management (ITSM) conference in London. It was great to see so many energised service management comrades at the event, where we delivered a keynote presentation on Computacenter’s Next Generation Service Desk (NGSD) solution that we deployed with Hays recruitment. This was the first time presenting at the conference and it certainly lived up to expectations. I co-presented with Simon Gerhardt, who was the main lead on the NGSD project and acts as the IT Operations Director at Hays Recruitment.
As a leading recruitment services company Hays is dependent on the productivity of its employees, and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in streamlining the recruitment process, employees’ IT queries and issues need to be dealt with quickly. To give users greater choice about when and how they engage, we worked with Hays to help digitise their IT support through NGSD. The solution offers an online portal and intuitive mobile app which allows employees, to obtain a user-centric experience with anytime, anywhere IT support and a wealth of knowledge banks to self-serve their own IT issues.
We had a strong attendance during the presentation itself and it was great to see a wide range of engaged, seasoned professionals in one room, all willing to listen and pose questions. During our presentation, I detailed some common trends around service desk demand as well as workforce expectation in relation to technology, that allowed us to illustrate the vitality of intelligent service desk’s in modern organisations. We drew on a variety of research studies and customer feedback reports, that uncovered statistics such as 53% of employees are frustrated by a lack of flexibility in working practices and 41% of workforces will consider moving to a new role if they don’t get the support they require. Simon Gerhardt, did a great job illustrating the tangible impact that NGSD has delivered for Hays Recruitment.
It was fantastic to be able to relive some of the challenges, successes and outcomes of the NGSD project with Hays, to an audience completely unfamiliar with the solution itself.
A key highlight in the delivery of the project that raised eyebrows and encouraged positive feedback was focused around the implementation timeline. In the early stages of the project, we conducted a one day hot-house with the internal members of the Hays development team, that played a big part in the rapid implementation time of the project. By having a collaborative approach to the solution design and the onboarding process for the wider workforce, it fast tracked a number of weeks of traditional planning, meaning NGSD went live on time, in just eight weeks.
As well as implementation timeline, the lack of disruption to working norms during the implementation itself, stood out as a notable crowd pleaser. NGSD can integrate seamlessly into any IT service management platform, which removes a major challenge when transforming the key system of engagement for a given workforce. The existing platform that the employee interacts with remains unchanged as the underlying platform is being updated to the NGSD solution.
This means that no disruption is caused from the integration of the solution, maximising productivity and eliminating IT downtime.
Don’t take my word for it, Barclay Rae Interim CEO at ITSMF UK said when he awarded Computacenter with the SDI Best Managed Service Desk award – “The three finalists all demonstrated mature service desk operations plus excellent customer engagement and relationships. What marked Computacenter out was their practical focus on innovating for their customers’ customers. Their ‘next generation service desk’ showed how MSPs can lead for their customers and the industry by driving through solutions and innovations that deliver direct customer experience and continual service improvement. This is a great example for the MSP community”
I would certainly recommend all service management professionals to attend the ITSMF event, it is an excellent platform to meet with and network across the industry.
See you next year!
We’ve all been there – we’ve gone to book a holiday or shop online, filled in our information and entered credit card details, only for the connection to crash; or we need to update a plug in to latest version of Adobe to open PDFs.
When this happens at home, would you give up if you didn’t understand how to rectify the issue?
No, of course you wouldn’t. You would resolve the problem as quickly as possible, using your existing knowledge of software updates, reconnecting to local Wi-Fi networks or even switching devices to increase speed of response.
However, if we put the same individual in a professional environment with identical issues, using work-issued devices on a corporate network, the trouble-shooting nature of that person drastically changes. The tech-savvy, problem-solving ‘Super User’ that was actively resolving IT issues at home is now a shadow of their former self, relying on help desks, or IT teams, to take charge of the problem.
Why stay in the shadows?
This knee-jerk reaction to ask for help eats into both the employee’s and IT staff’s time. While the problem is being worked on, the user often can’t work, just as the IT team can’t focus on bigger, more challenging issues happening across the organisation.
I fully believe that the majority of employees have the knowledge when it comes to solving basic IT issues. However, many choose to rely on the IT team when in the office – perhaps out of habit or maybe even fear of creating a larger problem.
If an organisation has a group of skilled users and empowers them to address their own low-priority everyday problems, such as resetting passwords and lost files, not only would it increase the productivity of the employees, but also that of the IT team. These ‘Super Users’ should be embraced and encouraged by businesses, allowing IT to reinvest time and resources into other , more strategic areas, such as cloud enabled technologies and increasing security in an ever growing device driven office.
Empowering your employees
To enable employees to find their inner super user, organisations must prioritise the development and deployment of user-centric technology to encourage and incentivise employees to act when a problem strikes.
This means giving employees access to the devices they are used to using at home and empowering them with a sense of freedom to fixing problems and not dread. This will motivate them into acting when something goes wrong and quickly move their mind-set away from picking the phone up to call the IT team for help.
The expectation and demand for IT Service Desks are evolving beyond our imagination, creating a distinct need for agile, flexible and innovative solutions to meet rapidly changing business and individual needs.
Modern IT service desks are and will be positioned as the central hub for technological innovation within the workplace, offering and enabling users to empower themselves and their peers. Seamless integration between platforms, devices and applications are a desire for modern IT teams and by integrating intelligent service desk functions, this can be bolstered to maximum potential.
So with this in mind, I am urging management teams to find a way to uncover the Super Users in their workforce and enable those skilled individuals amongst us to step out of the shadows and start acting as they would when dealing with an IT issue outside of the office. That might be by pinpointing those who have a different device for every aspect of their lives, leaning on generation Z employees or just putting people on the spot.
Modern systems are designed and developed with the desire to be as user-centric as possible, as such meaning systems should work consistently and users shouldn’t experience issues of technological downtimes, however we are not quite there yet.
For these initiatives to become the working norm and adopted by all, it is down to the Super User champions in the workforce to drive the technology and functions. By working together, we can solve trivial IT issues, boost productivity and have a business full of IT superheroes.
Stay tuned for my next blog where I will explore our NGSD proposition in more detail, and the work we have done to create Super Users in organisations such as Hays. To find out more on the work to date, see the full case study here.
I remember the days when using awk, sed and grep on a log file was a really powerful way to extract useful data to help troubleshoot issues, or better plan a complex application deployment and management.
Now the amount of data that is generated by systems, applications and devices has proliferated to the extent that we are unable to use the old techniques to get information from the systems managed today.
A popular route for analysts is to download software on their laptops to help with this challenge and one of the more popular choices is visual analytics from Splunk. This personal need and learning has driven a “Shadow IT” style of adoption of the tool for Operational Intelligence in organisations. The Computacenter UK Infrastructure Operations team experienced some early success in this very manner. The initial benefits were amazing, but thought was needed on how to evaluate it as a corporate tool in order to drive operational efficiency and intelligence across the Global Managed Services Business.
On consideration of using a traditional approach for a proof of concept and pilot phase, which would take weeks to plan and more time to execute, it was decided to try a different approach. Something more agile was needed in order to benefit from quick results, the ability to test the software, its ease of use, and the other business benefits it could drive.
So with a little gamification and the flexibility of our Solutions Center, a competition was conceived…
The competition was to run for four-weeks only between teams from across the Computacenter Group. The challenge was to use Splunk’s visual analytics tool to address a Managed Services business problem in four weeks with just an afternoon’s worth of training. The teams were based in the UK, Germany, South Africa, Hungary and Spain, from both Service Desk and Infrastructure Operations.
All participants were given an overview of the tool and as mentioned before, half a day training which was run from the Solutions Center in Hatfield and broadcast across to the other countries via live presentation and video feed. A central infrastructure was provided with the software pre-installed.
The results were amazing, all the participants were data analysts so knew exactly what they wanted to get out of their data and were able to visualise it in the short space of time given to them. With varying help from Splunk experts, all were able to create compelling business-relevant dashboards, in just four weeks with very little training and while still doing their operational day jobs.
The results have allowed us to view what the art of the possible can be and now we can start further planning the use of this innovation driving software.