You’re welcome in advance for getting U.O.E.N.O stuck in your head. It’s one of the heavy rotation songs in my iPod now, courtesy of Rocko, Future and Rick Ross.
“This (is) a thousand dollar pair of shoes and you don’t even know it …”
Most I&O organizations have the foundation for Business Productivity Team initiatives in place, they just don’t know it.
Gartner’s Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference was an outstanding event. Sure, I’m a little biased, but the show served to validate the push IT organizations should be making to improve IT-business engagement, for the sake of being better aligned to and aware of business challenges and objectives. I presented twice (“Driving IT-Business Engagement From the Bottom Up” and “What Can Foursquare, Facebook and Final Fantasy Teach I&O Organizations”), moderated a compelling End-User Case Study with Bob McCarty and Julie Walsh of Fidelity (who told the story of their TechWorks Enterprise Guru Bar), and co-led a roundtable on IT Service Desk Practices. The common theme in each session was that attendees and participants fundamentally agree that their traditional IT service desk model is not working. The business moves faster than an asset-optimizing IT organization can sustain, and the IT help desk struggles to satisfy the business the best they can, with limited resources at their disposal. The results are predictable: customer confidence is low; performance metrics don’t demonstrate business value; burnout and subsequent turnover levels are high. Our IT Key Metrics Data 2012 shows that on average, an IT service desk Full-Time-Equivalent handled 1619 more contacts last year than in 2011 — contacts that were likely higher in complexity and presented with a greater sense of urgency.
Those close to the service desk know that the function they provide is critical. They understand that business leaders demand higher levels of personal productivity and throw money at tools to ease their anxiety — tools they expect to be easy to use, intuitive and work seamlessly across multiple devices. They also understand how workforce culture, consumerization and the cloud impact the traditional IT service support model, and know it’s imperative that they do something sooner rather than later. However, most importantly, they struggle with understanding how to define the roles, responsibilities, success criteria and ROI for the development of a business productivity team (BPT) concept; sentiments echoed in my round of webinars two weeks ago (see Gartner Webinar: “The Future of IT Service Support“).
What I find most ironic is that this role already exists in some shadow IT support capacity, and most IT organizations don’t even know it.
Take a visit I had with a customer two weeks ago, where certain members of the IT organization were often the victims of the drive-by/walk up/”Hey Joe!” support model we have grown to love and hate at the same time: Love because as the provider of walk-up support, we were able to connect with the user we were helping, get an understanding of their challenges, provide a solution and receive gratitude and appreciation in real time; Hate because we have all worked with a person who took this to the extreme, and would disappear for long stretches to help users, meanwhile never documenting any activities along the way and often contradicting the IT policies and processes upper management had been working so hard to establish. Also take into account the organization that outsources Tier 1 support to a third party, but employees refuse to contact them for support and assistance, preferring to call “Randy” anytime an issue occurs. Despite Randy’s best efforts to have users call Tier 1 half a world away, his attempts are futile so to help his business peers achieve their objectives, he will troubleshoot, triage and resolve as best as he can, even at the expense of the objectives he is tasked with completing day in and day out. Complicating matters is that if the withstanding rule of management is “if it isn’t written down or logged, it never happened,” then how can IT make the case that they do provide outstanding service on demand? If we want to satisfy customers to help demonstrate business value, why do we push customers away so much?
Where is the disconnect, and how can IT service and support organizations modernize to account for changes in IT service complexity and business expectations, if they are unable to demonstrate value to the business they are asking for resources and support from?
It starts with recognizing that IT service desks can do more than fix things when they break. I talk to hundreds of I&O organizations a year who want to benchmark their operational and technical metrics, but tell me that they are not able to capture customer satisfaction data because their users don’t fill out surveys. (I joked at a conference last month that when your users are not filling out surveys, it’s not that you don’t know how they feel. It’s the opposite — they are telling you exactly how they feel!) All jokes aside, the Catch-22 is real. IT organizations attempt to optimize around costs, processes and service at the same time and it does not work well. To optimize costs, we move IT away from business users. To optimize processes, we leverage standard, hard-coded scripts that we rarely deviate from. As much as IT organizations say they want better relationships with the business, most have a funny way of showing it.
This is not to say IT organizations should not optimize their resources around costs and processes – but more so, they should recognize that there are capabilities present that allow IT to provide personalized, context-aware assistance that not only allows the business’s favorite IT guy to provide that support, but to do it consistently, and to do it in a way that lets the business know that you don’t just feel their pain, but can actually work toward creating solutions and identifying alternative measures to alleviate it.
Ultimately, I believe that once business productivity teams start to track improvements in business outcomes that they are responsible for, they will start to be valued accordingly. In other words, if you improve what’s important to the business and attribute the cause to your presence, then your BPT becomes valuable. As BPT concepts are absorbed into the traditional service desk construct, it will be important for I&O organizations to get a handle on how much shadow IT support is occurring. In those instances, there is a good amount of valuable information and knowledge generated, and then subsequently lost. It needs to be managed better. It’s one thing to digitize the water cooler conversation or the ad-hoc walk-up support sessions, but it’s another thing to repurpose this knowledge to better understand how to improve the support and delivery of IT services to the business at large.
You may be closer to a BPT model than you think. Do you have unofficial BPT analysts in your organization who placed service ahead of costs and process optimization? Have you worked to quell these efforts, or see it as a necessary function for supporting the business?