What do you think of when people talk about service desk efficiency? Is it speed?—Doing things more quickly, ideally saving costs too? Or, is it cost efficiency?--Finding more economical ways of doing things? Regardless, as we make our way into what’s being called “the new normal,” which involves the expansion of remote work, these two dimensions are no longer enough.
There’s now a third dimension required – based on value and business outcomes. I like to think of this as “better, faster, cheaper”, replacing the decade-old ITSM mantra of “doing more with less.”
“Better, faster, cheaper” recognizes key modern business priorities such as the:
- Focus on value creation, and outcomes over outputs
- Need for agility
- Minimization of employee productivity loss
- Rising employee expectations of service and support
With all that said, many IT service desks are now facing budget cuts that reflect the drop in revenues experienced amidst the coronavirus crisis. To help, this blog, and an on-demand companion webinar, assess what you can do to improve your IT service desk’s efficiency. There are four key service desk areas to focus on:
- Improving understanding of the value of your IT service desk
- Empowering service desk analysts
- Empowering employees
- Measuring the right things
This blog covers the first two of these, whereas the associated webinar covers all four.
Better understanding the value of your IT service desk
Value needs to be considered at a business-value level. Here, both “people support” or “business support” might be more appropriate terms than “IT support” – if only to engender the right kind of thinking.
In today’s “new normal,” it’s important to know how your IT service desk helps create value. At a minimum, it will help your service desk from being viewed as a cost center that’s subject to cost-cutting--or even as a “cost of quality” caused by IT’s failures.
This value-seeking journey offers a number of benefits, in addition to what I call “justification.” For example, efficiency gains will drop out of the value-based conversations around service levels, costs, and value. Plus, there’s a better appreciation of the business impact of IT services and issues as a result. It’s also an opportunity to understand the real impact of employee experience issues. For instance, your service desk might reduce its average ticket cost with the best of intentions. However, if the business-level impact, in terms of employee lost productivity, is, consequently, far higher – this tradeoff represents sub-optimal decision-making at best.
So, what should you do? Here are four tips that will help you focus on getting the value piece right:
- There’s a need to understand what stakeholders perceive to be “of value.” Note that this is likely to vary across different stakeholders. Don’t assume that you know what they value. Maximizing IT service desk value will be a balancing act, not only of available resources, but also of stakeholder needs.
- Assess your service desk metrics against stakeholder value. A simple test is the question: “Do customers care that we measure this?” Then, conversations with key business stakeholders will help you to understand how they receive value from IT (plus, where they don’t). Work out which metrics to keep, change, and introduce.
- Remember that your operational improvements can also be viewed as value-creating. For example, the reduction in average handling cost per incident, while also achieving an increase in employee satisfaction or happiness.
- Ensure that your ITSM tool can both deliver and measure performance against the agreed-on stakeholder value needs.
Empowering service desk analysts
Our support people are key to delivering both service desk value and efficiencies. So, we need to consider how we can make them “better versions of themselves.” Four of the top facilitators are:
- Knowledge management
- Remote support capabilities
- Automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
I’ve expanded on #1 and #4 below—the others are also covered in the webinar.
When we look at the top-line stats, knowledge management is killing it. The latest HDI State of Technology & Operations report (a free HDI Community membership is needed for access) shows knowledge management as the second-most adopted ITSM process for IT support organizations – at 67% of organizations.
It’s unsurprising, because there are many benefits to reap from knowledge management that cover the spectrum of “better, faster, cheaper.” One benefit is that it helps your service desk and its people deliver better solutions more swiftly – with this improving efficiency as a result.
But, despite the high level of uptake, many service desks still need to do better. With the same HDI report finding that 40% of organizations only use knowledge articles for fewer than 10% of tickets, while 64% of organizations use knowledge articles for fewer than 30% of tickets.
Automation and AI
Automation and AI can sit on both the supply- and demand-side for IT support. For the supply-side, a good example is virtual agents, where machine learning augments service desk analyst knowledge and capabilities, making them better, more productive, versions of themselves. Or, intelligent ticket processing – the automated categorization, prioritization, assignment, and, potentially, actioning of incidents and requests based on historical data and patterns. This takes a high-volume, low-value task off the plate of analysts.
It doesn’t matter if you consider knowledge management (including self-help), remote support, chat, or automation and AI – there’s a very similar set of benefits, across “better, faster, cheaper,” related to driving efficiencies for your IT service desk. These include:
- Improvement at meeting new, heightened expectations of IT support
- Increased speed of resolution and provisioning – and the employee productivity and business impact of this
- Improved employee experience
- Improved IT support availability
- Removal of manual labor and costs, where it’s appropriate
So, what should you do?
Eight related tips are covered in the webinar, here are four of them:
- Learn from the industry’s technology-adoption failures. For example, the “people” mistakes of self-service. In particular, there’s a need to remove or reduce the barriers to change, including the very human fear of change.
- Remember that employee experience is also for analysts. So, ITSM tools must offer a consumer-like experience for both analysts and the people they serve – this means easy-to-use and frictionless capabilities.
- Knowledge management capabilities need to be embedded into business-as-usual operations. Knowledge sharing can’t simply be bolted onto existing ways of working. Otherwise, it will likely be seen as unimportant or something to do later.
- AI-capability delivery can be far more complicated than expected. This often arises due to the time, effort, and costs needed to get the technology working as needed as well as the need to update existing service desk practices to fully benefit from the technology. So, make sure that your organization is sufficiently prepared.
For more in-depth coverage, please check out my on-demand webinar: Driving IT Service Desk Efficiency in the “New Normal”. Also, for supplemental information, check out my prior blog: IT Support Tips to Improve Service Experience & Reduce Costs.
Stephen Mann, IT Service Management Expert and Principal Analyst and Content Director at ITSM.tools
Principal and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.
Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.