The strategy is in place.

Consultants and UXers are swarming like excited honey bees. Digital is the nectar.

Fresh mantras are replacing the dusty old ideas. Responsive! High customer experience! Peak user!

The steady murmur of buzzwords hum in the air like electric current – cloud shift, mobile, lightweight apps. Analytics.

This hive is primed and ready to fly into the new tomorrow.

But in this bright, new and shiny world, what of the ITIL service desk? When password resets are all self-service, and applications and infrastructure are in the cloud, how will the future unfold for this historical artefact of a department; they who were not invited to the fiesta digitale.

You’ll find these forgotten front-line folks sat at lonely desks next to phones that do not ring. Framed foundation certificates will sway gently in the same breeze that blows tumbleweeds between the cubicles. Sadder yet, these staff will be able to hear the sound of the distant carousing of the UX and CX types a little way off. The gaiety of the digital natives is palpable, soundtracking their joy as they create ever more easy-to-use offerings for the customer base.

Somewhere in the building, in an over-illuminated meeting room, a question is raised.

“Just what are we going to do with the service desk team?”

Some respond with answers sharply focused upon severance. “We don’t need them”, one particular executive might suggest. “We’re thriving under the new paradigm”.

Another individual with a more considered view might intervene in an attempt to nip that train of thought in the bud.

“Yes our transformation has gone really well, but continuous innovation is the name of the game. We still need a technical consultative function, not so much for us senior execs, but for the guys and girls out there.” She motions in the direction of the open plan office. “When they have an idea or want to innovate, they can’t do what we do – hassle the IT execs or bring the consultants in. They too need accessible technical experts to collaborate with”.

“You mean digital consultants for the workers?”

“You could put it that way, yes.”

“But the IT helpdesk people have been doing low-to-no value stuff for years. Password resets, log-and-flog – they don’t fit with the new world. We might have to go out and hire a new team of consultants.”

“Not so fast Louis.” She smiles charmingly in an attempt to defuse any tension. “We don’t know that. It is us who made them work in that way with our earlier ITIL initiatives and top-down ideas. Before going crazy with the axe, let’s see who we’ve got in that department first.

An unenthusiastic silence hangs in the air. Our forward-thinking exec continues.

“There’s an outfit called Cxi who are all over this stuff. They help companies such as us to create the kind of collaborative technical support function which is perfect for the digital era”

A sarcastic comment is fired across the room – “How do they do that?”

“I don’t know. Magic maybe?” – the unspoken touché. “I’ve read that Cxi are psychologists as well as technical and management types.”

The sharp voice rings out again. “And what’s the end game?”

“For us?”

“No, for the good people of Papua New Guinea”. Giggles around the room.

“A collaborative function. Our people have ideas. They are bright people, who we’ve spent a fortune recruiting. They understand digital, but are not technical”. She begins to warm to her oratory. “For example, the engineering guys need a cloud database – quickly. Who do they go to to make this happen? Not project teams. Not expensive consultants, but the new digital technical support department”

“If you mean the service desk lot, they could never perform such a role”

“You’d be surprised. There are people in that team who know a great deal about technology. I know of open data obsessives, AI junkies, even the odd proto-statistician amongst our service desk workers. There are also psychologists, product designers and artists in the team, all simply doing service desk work to earn good money until their dreams work out”

“They don’t know how to consult”

“Oh, they do. The Cxi gang say: find the values of your people, and give them the freedom to express those passions and you have the start of something amazing”

Silence. This time however, it is of the thoughtful variety.

Our positive executive, whose name is Cheryl, smiles in the manner of one about to seize the moment. “I’ll take the responsibility of transforming the old ITIL service desk into the digital solutions hub”

“And if you fail?”

“I won’t fail. We won’t fail. The problems of innovation and service are not technical they are human. And I believe in people”.

The executives leave the room, engaging in the usual small talk. There is an excited air, as if in the midst of all the digital transformation buzz, there is something else about to happen. Something deeper and a little more permanent.

“Are you trying to start something?” one of Cheryl’s allies whispers. “I hope so” Cheryl counters quickly. She then stops for a moment and turns to face her colleague. “For all of us. Buzzwords come and go but innovation never goes out of fashion.”

“Get this right and we’ll not only be sailing over the waters of digital transformation, but over all the other transformation initiatives to come in the years and decades ahead”

The other executives are a good way down the corridor now. Cheryl however, remains where she is, surveying the activity of the hive. She’s inhaling the future – the honeyed scent of digital organisation. She’s also envisioning the times beyond that; looking down the ever-shortening telescope of human progress. She can’t name the the next big thing that will appear once digital is over, but she knows that free, passionate human workers will be able to surf whatever that tomorrow may bring.

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