Last week I took part in a podcast focusing on the "Future of the Service Desk." Unsurprisingly, this is a hot topic at Forrester for the I&O role. The standard equation for measuring service desk performance is simply the highest possible quality or customer service over the lowest possible cost. While simple on paper, the challenge to try and achieve this equilibrium is a complex conundrum for many service desk managers.
Developments such as the "consumerization" of IT further compound this issue. Service desk professionals now operate in a business environment in which their end users or customers are "tech savvy." This leads to a potential conflict spark point where IT customers believe that they have more IT know-how than the service desk. In some cases, this could well be true and it would be dangerous to dismiss these customers and their knowledge. So what is the answer? Well, on the podcast I explained that the service desk and IT as a whole has to focus on becoming "customer savvy" to embrace these pressures.
Ciscoannounced today its intent to acquire NewScale, a small, but well-respected automation software vendor. The financial terms were not disclosed, but it is a small deal in terms of money spent. It is big in the sense that Cisco needed the kind of capabilities offered by NewScale, and NewScale has proven to be one of the most innovative and visible players in that market segment.
The market segment in question is what has been described as “the tip of the iceberg” for the advanced automation suites needed to create and operate cloud computing services. The “tip” refers to the part of the overall suite that is exposed to customers, while the majority of the “magic” of cloud automation is hidden from view – as it should be. The main capabilities offered by NewScale deal with building and managing the service catalog and providing a self-service front end that allows cloud consumers to request their own services based on this catalog of available services. Forrester has been bullish on these capabilities because they are the customer-facing side of cloud – the most important aspect – whereas most of the cloud focus has been directed at the “back end” technologies such as virtual server deployment and workload migration. These are certainly important, but a cloud is not a cloud unless the consumers of those services can trigger their deployment on their own. This is the true power of NewScale, one of the best in this sub-segment.
Every day we read about technology vendors making acquisitions and merging with their competitors. Some recent examples: Verizon acquired Terremark for $1.4B to take a leadership role in IaaS, NetApp acquired Akorri to move up the virtualization stack, and the highly popularized "storage shoot out" in late 2010 between Dell and HP for 3PAR (ending with HP’s winning bid of $2.4B). Since there is no evidence to suggest a decrease in the pace of these acquisitions, it’s important for infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals to keep a keen eye on these proceedings.
How do you schedule your service desk staff to ensure excellent staffing and achieve service-level targets? Does your service desk solution cover this?
The effective staffing of service desk analysts can be complicated. Leveraging historic volume levels for all of the communication channels is one way to plan ahead. Additionally, having insight into planned projects from other groups — e.g., upgrades of applications or other planned releases — is important as well to plan ahead.
Service desk teams should start automating the workforce management process as much as possible in order to meet the customers’ expectations. Some service desk solutions have the workforce management as part of their functionalities already. If this is a challenge for you today — make sure that you include this key requirement into your functionality assessment list. Use the ITSM Support Tools Product Comparison tool for your assessment.
In the past week I have been briefed by one vendor who has incorporated workforce management into their solution. helpLine 5.1 Workforce Management allows for optimized planning of the service desk team.
Almost every day I get the question: “We want to replace our ITSM support tool; which vendor should I look at?” There are many alternatives today and each vendor has certainly done a great amount of work to position themselves as the best. The success I had in consulting with these clients, and the knowledge I carry with me now, is thanks in part to the clients with whom I have discussed the ITSM space. They have all confirmed that the functionality across these vendors is very similar. This, however, does not help in decision-making — so I’m especially excited to have authored a three-piece research document which might take some magic out of the decision process when selecting ITSM support tools in the future.
Like many movements before it, IT is rapidly evolving to an industrial model. A process or profession becomes industrialized when it matures from an art form to a widespread, repeatable function with predictable result and accelerated by technology to achieve far higher levels of productivity. Results must be deterministic (trustworthy) and execution must be fast and nimble, two related but different qualities. Customer satisfaction need not be addressed directly because reliability and speed result in lower costs and higher satisfaction.
IT should learn from agriculture and manufacturing, which have perfected industrialization. In agriculture, productivity is orders of magnitude better. Genetic engineering made crops resistant to pests and environmental extremes such as droughts while simultaneously improving consistency. The industrialized evolution of farming means we can feed an expanding population with fewer farmers. It has benefits in nearly every facet of agricultural production.
Manufacturing process improvements like the assembly line and just-in-time manufacturing combined with automation and statistical quality control to ensure that we can make products faster and more consistently, at a lower cost. Most of the products we use could not exist without an industrialized model.