How’s your IT service desk faring? Hopefully it’s meeting all the agreed service level agreement (SLA) targets, your end users and customers are happy, and so are your service desk agents. Or maybe they’re not and you need to improve your operations, performance, and the perceptions that people have of the delivered IT support capabilities.
Looking forward to IT support in 2019, the people who agreed with the former – that everything is great with their IT support capabilities – will still, in many ways, have the same challenges and opportunities as those who agreed with the latter. Odd, I know – with the key difference being that they might be better positioned to address them.
As to what these challenges and opportunities are, please read on as this blog looks at three of the key trends affecting IT service desks in 2019 and beyond.
If you’re thinking: Why “beyond”? My IT service management (ITSM) industry experience is finally telling me that one-year-based trend or prediction lists, while helpful and interesting, overlook the high probability that such changes will take longer than one year to come to fruition in the ITSM mainstream. If you want to know more about this opinion, I’ve written more about it in “ITSM in 2019 and What We Should Learn from Our Past” (warning, it’s a long blog). Otherwise, please read on...
Trend #1: Employee Experience Will Really Matter for IT Support
By the way, these trends aren’t in priority order – as this will vary by organization.
If you’re wondering what “employee experience” is, one approach to take is to think of it as customer experience (CX) for employees. Where customer experience was defined by Forrester in 2010 as: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
For an employee, working for an employer, this employee experience will be made up of a variety of experiences, including the working environment – which will include their physical work spaces, the company culture, and the work they partake in – plus the (corporate) services they consume while working as employees (which includes HR and IT services and support). Mark Levy, the former head of Employee Experience at Airbnb, stated that: “Anything that sets employees up for success or improves our culture should be a part of employee experience.” This makes sense.
Thus, if we focus in on the employee experience of internal IT support, it will relate to how end users or customers feel about the service and support your IT organization provides. This will be made up of factors ranging from the speed of resolution, through service desk agent aptitude and attitude, to the quality of the resolution.
The important thing to understand, as we head into 2019, is that employee experience is growing in importance. We can already see this in ITSM industry surveys. For instance, the 2018 HDI Practices & Salary report (and those of previous years) has the number-one key factor motivating new (IT support) technology implementations/upgrades as: improving customer experience (at 71%, ahead of continual process improvement at 59%, and where the HDI terminology includes employees as the customers of internal IT support organizations).
So, I’d like to think that our industry already knows that employee experience is important. But – to continue to meet rising expectations of IT service delivery and support – it needs to discover:
- How good the current employee experience is (and it doesn’t equate to the traditional customer satisfaction questions related to IT support performance)
- Which factors drive the employee experience (and adversely affect it), and
- What can be done to elevate the level of employee experience.
However, it all needs to start with the senior commitment to value, and to improve, said employee experience.
Trend #2: IT Support Organizations Will Start to Adopt AI-Enabled Capabilities
2018 was definitely a year of artificial intelligence (AI) hype. Much was written and said about AI – from its seemingly-magical powers, through it killing IT jobs, to the more realistic view that AI will make some IT service desk tasks and outcomes better for everyone.
This last point is really important as we enter, and then progress through, 2019. Why? Because not only does it provide the right focus (on AI) for ITSM pros, it also provides a much-needed levelling of our AI expectations. So, for instance, that the current capabilities of AI technology are very focused in nature (not magical) and that AI will replace tasks, and not roles (and thus people), in the main.
Another important thing to understand is that AI isn’t coming, it’s already here (even from an IT service desk perspective). With much of what we’re seeing, and will continue to see, driven by business-to-consumer (B2C) world advances in customer service and support.
As to what your IT organization needs to do about AI, the main thing is to do something, and now, rather than waiting until AI is the status quo (and you’ve left your organization with a competitive disadvantage). This something is definitely not just anything, it needs to be – as with any introduction of new technology – the use of people, process, and technology to solve a specific business issue or to take advantage of a discrete business opportunity.
Ultimately, AI adoption is all about creating additional business value rather than technology exploitation.
Trend #3: Organizations Will Reinvest in People Skills and Capabilities
How long has the ITSM, and IT support, industry been talking about the many people-related issues it encounters? The easy answer is: way too long. People and culture seem to have been a stalwart of ITSM industry event content forever and, especially given the importance of people and culture to Agile and DevOps, it does seem odd that we haven’t (collectively) done more to improve in ITSM and IT support already.
Right now, you might be thinking: “This is all well and good, but what makes you think that our industry will finally wake up to do something re people-related issues?”
It’s a very valid question and to answer it succinctly (well, hopefully) we need to look beyond the people and work backwards toward them.
There’s so much change happening within businesses and the IT organizations that support them. And it would be foolish to assume that this isn’t going to have a significant effect on the people that provide IT support. In fact, we can use the previous two trends to highlight the need for changes, and thus reinvestment, in people’s skills and capabilities.
Starting with employee experience – once your organization understands the gap between the current and expected employee experience, there will be a need for change. This might mean changes to IT support policies and processes. It will probably result in the introduction of new technologies. But it will also bring about the need to understand, and to assess, the skills and capabilities of those currently providing support.
As an example, the ongoing collection and analysis of IT support feedback by employee-experience-measurement company Happy Signals, not only highlights issues with certain technology-enabled contact channels but also that – when the underlying feedback is analyzed – the service desk agent’s attitude is the second highest influencer of employee experience (after speed of service and ahead of service desk agent skills). Hopefully, you can also imagine that any focus on employee experience will also need to improve the average level of people capabilities related to things such as: customer service skills, empathy, communication, etc.
Then, if we consider the expected rise of AI adoption in IT support. Once AI-enabled capabilities (along with automation, self-service, and knowledge management) are removing the simpler issues and requests from the service desk queue, what’s left will require a different type of service desk agent. Not only will they be faced with a constant stream of “more difficult” issues and requests, the capabilities required to deal with them are elevated. For instance, expectations management, problem management, time management, potentially greater technological knowledge, and even the ability to work effectively with AI-delivered capabilities that augment and enhance their own.
This third trend probably deserves a blog of its own, that dissects how the changing IT support environment will affect people, but hopefully I’ve done enough to make you question the current level of service desk agent capabilities and what needs to be done to adapt to a new working environment for IT support.
So, that’s three key 2019 (and beyond) IT support trends from me. What would you add based on your personal experiences of the changing business and IT landscapes? Please let me know in the comments.