Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
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7/16/2014
09:06 AM
Jeff Brandt
Jeff Brandt
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7 Ways To Avoid Self-Service IT Pitfalls

Moving routine work from IT to end users can increase efficiency and save serious money. But too many projects fall flat.

Robots Rising: 7 Real-Life Roles
Robots Rising: 7 Real-Life Roles
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A few years ago, one of my clients implemented a web-based self-service request system, hoping to reduce overhead by shifting some service desk work back to employees. Instead of relying solely on service desk agents, the self-help system allows users to complete online forms requesting many items that can be planned in advance, such as computer upgrades, move requests, and acquiring or changing cellphone service. Once a request is approved, the system initiates a series of tasks tied to a single ticket. The organization also revised nearly every knowledge article to be more user friendly -- a big factor in the program's success.

This company has more than 16,000 users in the US, and adoption has been extremely high. Immediately after rollout, calls to the manned service desk decreased by 10%. Over time, calls dropped by about 30%. In the most recent month, out of about 75,000 support requests, more than 42,000 (56%) were handled via self-service. The system yielded significant savings in staffing costs over and above improvements in worker productivity resulting from faster issue resolution.

A growing number of organizations realize that such "shift-left" strategies, in which users are asked to take a crack at solving their own problems in return for quicker results, can lower support costs. In one Help Desk Institute survey, the 13% of respondents reporting decreased ticket volumes attributed the drops to improvements in knowledge management, customer competency, or self-service.

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However, before everyone rushes out to reap the rewards of a self-help strategy, I'd like to offer a few words of caution borne of experience helping firms introduce -- or salvage -- these programs.

Unfortunately, in far too many cases, service desk self-help attempts fall flat. When I think back over the scores of conversations I've had with IT service desk managers who unsuccessfully implemented some form of service desk self-help effort, their comments have a common theme: "We rolled it out, but employees wouldn't use the system."

Even though new technologies have made creating self-help portals easier, the problem of low user acceptance persists. The culprit is usually not the technology; it's poor implementation and planning. When people don't find answers to their issues quickly, not only do they stop using the self-help portal, but they often share their experience with co-workers and suggest that they not waste their time using the site. Poor implementation sets off a chain reaction that's sure to doom the effort.

What I've found is that the most successful self-help approaches result from getting into an end user mindset. Think about when you've had to use the service desk of your cellphone carrier or cable company. What would you have liked to be able to do yourself that you couldn't? What really bothered you? What worked?

If all you plan to do is provide a few FAQ answers for your end users, don't waste your time. A good self-help site, whether it's a simple SharePoint site or a full portal module, takes preparation. You've got to make an effort to

Jeff Brandt is solutions director of technology support services at Randstad Technologies. View Full Bio
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Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 9:40:04 AM
Re: User perspective
Lorna - Great point if you are locked up there is no self help except on antoher device.  A great cloud application which is what I am seeing from most IT based support companies.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/29/2014 | 9:33:26 AM
Re: User perspective
There's also the fact that people in general are more tech savvy now and don't call IT unless the problem is severe -- like being locked out of your system and thus unable to go to a portal anyway. I think the best bet is tiered support via portal, then email, then phone for emergencies.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 11:28:41 PM
Re: User perspective
Lorna - Your comment  " If I call IT it's because I am at a standstill and unable to get my work done. I'm in no mood to go search through a self-help portal, and if IT asks me to, I'm probably going to react poorly!"  That is a fair statmement non IT employee's need to focus on what they are doing and maintain uptime.  The availabilkty of skill IT support teams is there and easily achievable and a worth while investment.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/16/2014 | 1:37:12 PM
Re: User perspective
Password resets. Now that is something that could easily be done in self serve but is a natural Catch 22: If you can't get in to your computer, you can't request a password reset. Now at application level, like a website that needs credentials, they have all automated password resets. But at o/s level, the initial signon, what choice is there but make a call.

Thanks for the great example. Interesting topic.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/16/2014 | 1:26:29 PM
Re: User perspective
As a matter of fact, just yesterday I ran into an issue where a credentials problem locked me out of my PC just as I was looking for the dial-in info for a meeting. Dialed helpdesk and was only 10 minutes late.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/16/2014 | 1:20:14 PM
Re: User perspective
What type of event would put you at standstill and unable to work? I know you are speaking hypothetically but in my long experience out here, that event is not going to be something fixed from a tip in self service portal. If you are that down, you aren't getting to any self service portal anyway, unless you have an application problem. And self service won't fix that.

Other than doofy stuff like getting and hooking up a new mouse/keyboard, which you could have Googled anyway, this doesn't sound that useful. Makes me wonder what kind of calls they actually eliminated from Help Desk? Stuff like "Can't get site to work in browser", which self service site tells you to clear Temp Internet files, try Compatibility mode, etc? I guess I could see that, especially in company of 16,000 users.  Be interesting to see if this idea expands to more companies.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
7/16/2014 | 11:15:22 AM
User perspective
Speaking as an end user, I see both sides here. If I call IT it's because I am at a standstill and unable to get my work done. I'm in no mood to go search through a self-help portal, and if IT asks me to, I'm probably going to react poorly! That said, if I already have experience with the system and it's very well organized, I can see using it for less-urgent matters. However, at the same time, I'd be leery that success of a portal will result in fewer IT people there to help in those emergencies.

And, shouldn't routine items like moves, adds and changes already be automated?
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