What Do You Mean "IT Support ?"
I see it as a starting point for end-user or customer interactions when performing self-help actions in order to solve a technical problem or to get an answer to a technical question. I use the term “IT” to indicate that the support being discussed is for technical or technology issues. I could have used the word "technical" or "technology" as well. The majority of our members are a part of the IT organisation, thus referring to the support as an IT seemed appropriate. Some of the concepts could also refer to non-IT or non-technical support as well.
Key IT Support Design Concepts
I want to focus on three design concepts that I think are important. Hopefully this will stimulate your mind and may even give some vendors food for thought on what to begin building.
1. My Personal IT support—," my personal agent on my workstation. The avatar will learn my interaction patterns and issues, configuration and connectivity history, mistakes, and maybe even attend "virtual meetings" with other avatars. I believe there will be hundreds or thousands of avatars meeting on servers and sharing the successes and challenges faced by their "real" personas. The avatars will discuss what environmental or interaction patterns preceded the real personas need to access the support .
My August 1st Report on Service Desk 2010 provided a number of predictions as to what the support organisation and technology might look like in 2010. I would like to delve a little deeper into what the IT support might look like in 2010. As many of you know large support centers. We meet quarterly and generally fifteen of the twenty participating support executives are able to attend. At our next meeting, September 12-14 at we will focus on what the group thinks the service desk / help desk / support center will look like in 2010. I know the group well enough to know that the IT support is and will continue to be of absolute importance. I would like to hear your thoughts and input. I suspect there are a number of vendors that might like to weigh in on this one. I will take all of the input that I receive with me to our September 17-19 Strategic Advisory Board meeting, which will also be addressing this subject.
Coming out of the meeting of avatars (and with input from real technologists), the avatars will monitor and take corrective action to keep me up and running. As the is personal to me, I will control what my avatar is allowed to communicate with others. I expect that some pesky little avatars will get out of control and face legal issues related to privacy or confidentiality, so a watchful eye will be needed to ensure all avatars follow the law.
2. "The People's Knowledge Base"—Knowledge is our understanding and implication of facts as we see them (my definition). The IT support will need massive quantities of knowledge, but it will need to be useful, findable, and current. Knowledge can exist in hundreds of places and in thousands of minds. The IT support in 2010 will need to improve, in order of magnitude, knowledge consolidation, findability, and currency. Many of these issues are addressed in the principles of KCS (Knowledge Centered Support) which we teach and can be read about here. I refer to the 2010 environment as the People's Knowledge Base because I see such a need to collaborate amongst everyone who accesses the knowledge base. Knowledge is not really owned and cannot be controlled by companies or people, it is to be shared to facilitate people interacting in their work and personal lives (with certain IP situation exceptions).
Consolidation—Organisations have hundreds of sources of knowledge, both from internal and external sources. There continues to be opportunities for vendors to enhance the manner in which these sources are linked and accessible within a single support . The vendors need to view the linkage as a two-way interaction as well. If I find knowledge that is obsolete, how does the technology communicate it back to an
originating source? You should also give my avatar access to your knowledge.
Knowledge that cannot be found is wasted. One of the hardest things for help systems in the past has been to provide key words to helpful information that would match the words that the end-user will use. Most of the capabilities to improve exist today, but are not common. By 2010, the tools for finding knowledge should improve and the processes for building and maintaining knowledge will have matured, so I predict that the percentage will reduce the incidents escalated to a live person by 30 percent or more in most organizations and some will do much better.
Currency—Knowledge is most valuable when it is learned sooner rather than later. That applies to all aspects of our lives as individuals, but it also applies to knowledge sharing at work and at home. In the ideal world, when one person learns something and documents it, it should be available to everyone. If someone saw the knowledge and wanted to add to it, they could. If a conflict arose as to whose knowledge was best, a resolution process would exist. By 2010, corporate knowledge release policies will be far more advanced. Release means providing access to knowledge to larger and larger groups (support section, support organization, IT, the internal end-user community, and eventually to individuals throughout the customer base or even anyone with access to the Internet). Fear of bad knowledge or incomplete knowledge or inadequate knowledge will become lessoned. We will still struggle but we will and must share more as a part of our everyday interactions with technology. As I always say, "All of us are smarter than any of us."
3. Ergonomics—This term is most often used for physical things (the study of how a workplace and the equipment used there can best be designed for comfort, safety, efficiency, and productivity). I believe there are best practices for human interactions with support systems. By 2010, we (HDI) will have helped to clarify these best practices. In doing so we will find answer to questions such as:
- Managed Networks
- IT Lab
- Network London
- IT Vet
- IT Support Now
- Century Computing
- ISN Solutions
- Should help systems be passive and only appear when requested or should our avatars be allowed to pop-up and make suggestions?
- Should a support interaction start with a Web site with lots of options or should the avatar be allowed to present different views based upon the situation?
- How do we ask questions quickly and easily that provide the avatar with sufficient input to be helpful?
- Do we require multiple fields for questions, context or environmental information (the avatar should know most of this), and knowledge domain clarification or should we all use Googlish search structure?
- Can we individualize information retrieved based upon our personal desire for text, pictures, videos, or links to individuals?
- How can we make it easy for everyone to be a part of keeping knowledge current?
Support cost will continue to be a concern. It is not an issue unique to IT or IT support, it is a concern for every area of your organisation. The cost of support will be less on phone and more on technology, openness, and collaboration. Thus the IT support will be a requirement in 2010.
Knowledge sharing may, by 2010, go outside the boundaries of your corporations or customer base. For more than a decade, people have discussed the possibility of knowledge being shared across the Internet. Such sharing does exist today, but generally only within topical or subject areas. The models general provide incentives for the providers of knowledge (from recognition via rankings to monetary rewards) and in most, but not all, models there is a cost to the consumer of the knowledge. I suspect that the pricing models will not be successful. Regardless of how broadly you share knowledge, your support must be simple, intuitive, deep, consolidated, and easily updated. Such external support models will be known to my avatar who will be able to use these sources of information to help me in my daily life at work and at home.
Best of luck in your journey to support excellence!