Self-service: making it work

I recently had a great conversation with one of our suppliers discussing our work to make self-service a core part of the way we interact with and support our users. Providing online access to the helpdesk is only part of the challenge, and achieving a genuine shift in the way that people access our services needs more than just a website.

While I wouldn’t want to claim that we have all the answers nor that what we’ve done is perfect (it’s not! — yet…), we are really pleased with the progress we have made. And more importantly, it now gives us a foundation which we can use to make a real change in the way that we engage with our users — supporting our work to change the traditional customer | supplier relationship between ‘the business’ and IT to one of partnership, where we are working together effectively to support common goals. (see this previous post for my thoughts on how this can play a key role in making Bring Your Own Device a success)

Since we launched our DIY online helpdesk in the autumn of 2010 we’ve seen a real explosion in uptake. We deliberately started slowly and rolled out in phases over six months. Now, two years after we first launched, over 68% of user requests are submitted online and DIY has become a core tool for the organisation. Because people are used to using it, it’s now a platform we can use as part of driving a real change in the way that users interact with IT and other key services.


The ICT homepage on DIY

So, what have we done so far to make this happen?

  • we started by focusing on getting the basics right: we prioritised the stability and performance of the platform as we needed our users to trust it before we extended its use. This took a little time, but was essential to make sure we had people’s confidence.
  • we made it a priority: key resources were allocated to the work, and we complemented their effort with real focus across other teams (particularly the helpdesk team) to make sure that work progressed fast, and that we redesigned processes with self-service in mind.
  • we took a bold approach: after the first six months ‘bedding in’ we switched off email as a way for almost all of our c 4000 users to report requests (making exceptions for a very small group of users with very particular needs). This was the big step which moved us from less than 10% of requests being reported online, to over 40% — and we were surprised at how readily people took to the change.
  • we are thinking holistically about the role of self-service in our overall service delivery: we have baked self-service into our business model, and even ‘internally focused’ work such as managing the process of making changes to our systems is being designed with the impact on self-service in mind (e.g. automating the process of providing users with information about planned work etc).
  • a key part of this success has been thinking wider than just IT: DIY is becoming the place to go for online access to internal services, including facilities management and communications support. This has allowed us to adopt a genuinely user focused approach to service delivery and contributed significantly to the number of people who use self-service. It’s also allowing us to join up processes with the user in mind, for example letting managers request building access for new starters at the same time that they request IT access. This needs to be something that we do more and more of…
  • and the most important thing we’ve done is taking an iterative approach: we’ve carefully aligned our work to link in with organisational priorities, and released improvements rapidly over time. This has avoided getting caught in the trap of excessive complexity, which was a real issue for us the first time we tried to deliver self-service four years earlier.