CategoryService Desk

Posts primarily about the Service Desk

..and what of your ITIL service desk in the shiny digital world?

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.

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Fear and Loathing in IT Service

I recently had a speaking gig at the offices of Zendesk in London.

Now I want to say that they are the vendors of an excellent service tool, which has a distinct focus on the customer, something that’s perhaps missing from their ITIL-compliant competitors. I also want to say that I had a conversation with one of the attendees who was an IT service delivery manager at a media firm, and was also a Zendesk customer. I asked him why he opted for Zendesk instead of one of the compliant alternatives. He said that in his media firm, customers (please don’t make me say users) frequently requested all manner of non-standard and bespoke arrangements. He said that the many of ITIL tools forced him down very trammelled flows. He said that Zendesk was more flexible.

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Control::Chaos

Content is good.

Isn’t it?

It better had be, because I’m producing a lot of it at the moment here on the Cxi blog. I hope that it’s worthwhile reading.

Interestingly, in all the stuff that I churn out – writing, talks or whatever – it’s always the same subject that I’m pulled up on. Particularly by my Scandinavian friends. That subject is control – or to be more specific the fear of what would happen when any abdication of control occurs.

For those unfamiliar with my writing on the topic of IT service, my deeply considered recipe for the improvement of front-line services is to drastically reduce control. As I’ve repeated often, ITSM is predicated on control; on the processes and the targets which reveal its rather ancient scientific management (1911) and systems thinking (1950s) heritage.

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IT Service – View From The Top

This one’s for the leaders.

Are you CEO or COO? Senior manager? Well-connected big fish in your enterprise? Then please, read on.

In truth, this post is for everyone else too, but it is leadership types whom I am hoping will be those who are most inspired by it.

So leaders – as individuals occupying elevated positions in the organisation, you are probably aware that your experience of IT service is quite different to that of the ‘regular’ staff. Right?

For instance, if you – personally – identify the need for a software application which might create efficiencies in your day-to-day job, or which might deliver considerable business benefit, then you’ll know how to get that utility into the business. If you are a CEO, you’ll probably harangue your CIO or CTO. If you’re a CIO, or another senior manager, you’ll more than likely be aware of the right person to talk to to make it happen.

But what if one of the other people in the organisation – that is, one of the ‘users’ – spots an opportunity for technological innovation? I’m sure you need no reminding of who exactly these ‘users’ are. They are the guys and girls who are the product of the carefully considered and expensive recruitment policy that you’ve implemented. So in this the information age, who do these ‘users’ turn to in order to turn their information technological ideas into reality?

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Beyond ITSM

In November of last year I spent a week in Sweden talking to IT folk about something which I termed post-ITSM. With this phrase my intention was to was to be provocative, yes; but also to suggest a future in which IT service departments work under a new paradigm, something that both encompasses and extends ITSM, while being based on a alternative premise.

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Deconstructing IT Customer Service

Some years ago I attended a talk given by the BAFTA-winning documentary maker Adam Curtis. You may have encountered some of his work on the BBC. His documentaries include All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace and more recently, Bitter Lake.

If you haven’t seen these, they’re well worth the time; you’ll find them highly informative and challenging.

At this event he talked about ideas that have become so much a part of the world around us that we cease to notice them – in effect we take them as self-evident truths. He used the phrase “the water in which we swim” to describe this. I think he was trying to convey the notion that an aquatic organism is oblivious to water in the same way that we’re oblivious to air despite the fact that we (and the fish) are surrounded by the stuff.

For this reason it may sometimes be beneficial to take a hold of these assumptions (or social constructions as sociologists would term them) and under examination we may find that they are not quite of the shape that our lazy heuristics suggest.

Take the phrase customer service. It is no doubt used many thousands of times a day in corporate environments. In IT departments, service managers will talk endlessly about “providing excellent customer service”. However, if one day you stopped one of these with that easy phrase between their lips, and asked them what it meant, they would probably regard you as a crazy person. Nevertheless, I have an inkling that many do not fully comprehend the real meaning of the term.

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Kill Your Service Desk

My recent LinkedIn connections might know me solely as a SQL data specialist. There are however, many former colleagues on that social media platform from earlier in my career, who will be aware of the years of graft that I put in as an IT support, IT service and IT management functionary. I also have a few connections from my time spent drowning in academic papers at the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield.

Quite a number of these contacts may be unaware that over the last five years I’ve spent a portion of my spare time writing, blogging and tweeting about the ways in which IT service work is organised and how it might be improved. In this I bring together my commercial experience and my work psychology education, as well as a good dollop of creative and maverick nature. I’m mainly critical of the status quo, and try to concentrate on looking ahead to benefits that may accrue from new models of work.

This writing activity began in 2009. The early pieces are remarkably similar to the stuff I am churning out now, although they were a little unformed and perhaps heavy on the work psychology. However, quite early on I hit a nerve (evidenced by the popularity of the post) when I suggested that we were witnessing the slow death of ITIL. Since then I’ve been arguing that the entire concept of ITSM is problematic in relation to good human service.

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