Social IT support: Didn't we do this in the 1990s?

A lot continues to be said about the impact of “social” on IT support and for some it is now “so 2009.” To me, it was inevitable in 2009, and I wonder how far we have moved on in reality. Yes, some IT service management...

Share

A lot continues to be said about the impact of “social” on IT support and for some it is now “so 2009.” To me, it was inevitable in 2009, and I wonder how far we have moved on in reality. Yes, some IT service management (ITSM) tool vendors have added in shiny new capabilities inspired by the adoption of mainstream social facilities such as Facebook and Twitter; but how many IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations really understand social (and how social will impact IT support)? This, however, is the meat for another blog from the Forrester Community deli - today I only have time to drop a few sourpuss-thoughts in “virtual ink.”

So why am I being such a sourpuss?

Firstly, I am burdened by “the collective history of the ITSM community.” How often have we seen a great ITSM idea murdered in its execution? Consider the word “execution” here - it seems somewhat appropriate methinks:

  • What did we learn with the “knees-up” that was CMDB adoption in the late 2000s? It was an expensive party that many would love to forget.

  • How many I&O organisations are now buying service catalog technology rather than adopting service catalog management best/good practice that is supported by technology?
Are we not destined to follow suit and buy social technology without seeing the bigger, people and even process-encompassing, picture? Ooh shiny technology anyone? Followed by mass distraction? Ooh technology is a weapon of mass distraction.

Our inherent technology-bias aside, think about the potential adverse impact of social IT support on the business. Think about the knowledge management failures of the early 2000s (sorry, I know you don’t like to admit to them or any other IT-related failures). Think about the behaviors of, and impact on, people:

  • We did social IT support in the 1990s. We all hated contacting the “chocolate teapot” that was the IT help desk, so we would sidle up to the office “IT geek” to seek their assistance with our IT issue or “how to?” request. It worked. It worked well. The issue though is that all of us, including the office IT geek, are far busier than we were in the 1990s - by an order of magnitude. Can we really afford to distract people from their core responsibilities and activities?

  • I&O also needs to think about the business, rather than the IT, impact of social (and self-service). Consider this Mickey Mouse example: senior business exec ($200k p.a.) has an IT issue and it takes a seasoned IT support professional ($45k p.a.) ten minutes to resolve it. With social (or self-service) it takes the senior business exec one hour to resolve it. I&O saves money, but the business “loses” money (not exactly true as the senior business exec probably just works an even longer day than usual). What is true though is that his/her perception of IT is probably going to be worse.

I have also seen organisations destroy social. It all starts well enough then corporate busybodies (probably those that do little more than send and receive emails all day) think that it is necessary to tell people what they can and can’t do with social, or how they must do things, or that they must do things. It is a social-killer. Sadly, my bet is that I&O (without proper guidance) will do one or more of these.

Finally, I don’t believe I&O organisations can do social IT support if they don’t understand social. I always ask the attendees of my presentations (IT people) how many are using Twitter: it is rarely more than 5 percent. Who really does understand social?

Looking forward?

Notwithstanding the above, the business will demand (or at least expect some form of social IT). However, like a good Saturday morning TV serial I am going to leave you hanging. I will return, at a time of my choosing (and based on the discussions this blog initiates), to consider what needs to be done. If you want to contribute, please add your thoughts below.

A Jerry Springer-like final thought though: would it be too much a risk to unlock people’s corporate machines so that they can do more to help themselves when an issue arises? It would be nice for them to get better use of their business “hard-to-use-ware” before it is replaced with their personally-provisioned device(s).

As always, your thoughts, opinions, barbs, and financial donations are all appreciated.

Posted by Stephen Mann