Bring your own helpdesk?

The consumerisation of IT is changing the way we support our users. In the ‘good old days’ IT were the experts. We knew our standard builds and applications inside out, we knew the idiosyncrasies, and we could provide the fixes and work-arounds needed to help our users do their work. (and often we even managed to do that quite well!)

Now that’s all changed.

In just the last month we’ve seen the arrival of new new iPads, smaller iPads, Windows 8, RT, Surface, another slew of Android devices, and it’s probable that within a couple of months BlackBerry 10 will arrive on the scene. After years of working to standardise and simplify the device landscape, consumer power and a technology explosion has given us a more complex scenario than we’ve seen for a generation.

And at the same time IT budgets are still under pressure and the drive to achieve ‘more for less’ has continued unabated.

So what do we do about it?

I think that the answer lies in the same forces that have created this conundrum, and actually has the potential to change the relationship between IT and our users. Along with consumerising IT we also need to consumerise support.

IT service managers have long worried about Knowledge Management, but I was struck by a recent tweet suggesting we should shift our focus to knowledge curation. By sharing the responsibility for identifying useful information, encouraging users to collaborate with each other (and with us), and making this a core part of our service delivery rather than a sideline, we might be able to harness the power of our user communities to meet the challenge of bring your own device. We’ll spend a bit less time writing up knowledge articles and a lot more time encouraging users to share their knowledge and helping other users find the advice they need.

This isn’t new. Most offices have someone who their colleagues turn to for help with IT, the internet has become a fantastic source for practical advice, and Cisco have been using this approach to support their byod programme.

Some steps we’re taking.

We realise that making this shift isn’t going to be a simple exercise. Gartner’s research into the ‘social organisation’ clearly demonstrates that successfully using collaboration for business benefit takes careful management and a focused approach.

Our key steps will be:

building on our existing success with self-service: over 60% of our helpdesk transactions are already online, which gives us a good start as people are used to dealing with IT issues through the web.

making it as easy as possible for users to access our online helpdesk service: providing access from any device, anywhere, any time.

giving more prominence to search of useful information: to encourage self-help, and make sure that knowledge (whether ‘official’ or user generated) is easy to find.

using a ‘gamification’ approach: to give users who contribute their knowledge to help colleagues the maximum sense of reward.

Previous tentative efforts have shown that this isn’t going to be easy, but the challenge of byod makes it essential that we succeed. And the rewards may extend well beyond providing more effective IT support, by helping to build a sense of connectedness and collaboration that could contribute towards more effective working generally.