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Is Social Networking The New IT Help Desk?

End users turn to social networks, blogs, friends, and vendors for help. Will enterprise social media help improve IT pros' ratings?

Data from a new social networking-focused survey of IT professionals reveals some interesting insights into the way end users view the IT department, as well as into IT professionals' response to social networking in the enterprise and its impact on their roles.

The ServiceNow survey is slated to be released later this month. It was conducted among almost 1,000 IT professionals--most from companies that employ 1,000 or more--and end users located primarily in North America. ServiceNow provides a suite of cloud-based services for enterprise IT management.

More than half of end users who responded to the survey said they have gone outside the IT department for technical support. About 30% of them sought help directly from a technology vendor or manufacturer, 15% sought help from a co-worker, 18% sought help from a friend, and 7.6% looked for help from "other." About 30% said they looked from help from the Internet, which could include a multitude of sources, such as message boards, blogs, and public social networking sites.

End users gave many reasons for doing an end-run around their IT departments: IT is too slow, they have little confidence in the department's problem-solving abilities, they felt more comfortable working with people they knew.

Whether any of these concerns is valid is almost beside the point. End users clearly have lots of options when it comes to getting help, and they know how to use them. End users are increasingly tapping into social networks for support, and IT pros--and their companies--are seeing the value in increasing their use of (and presence on) internal and external social networks.

When IT pros were asked about their companies' stance on social media in the workplace, about one-third said social media is to be used "in IT and the business whenever possible," while another third said their companies cautiously support social media with policies in place. About 11% of IT professionals said their companies monitor employee use of social media, while 10% said their companies were just the opposite--no policies, "the wild west." About 11% of respondents said their companies block social media altogether, while the rest were unsure of their companies' stance.

IT professionals surveyed by ServiceNow didn't give themselves very high marks when it comes to responding to end user support issues. When asked about their ability to effectively deliver service and support, only 14.3% of IT professionals said they would rate their departments a 9 or 10. About 70% of respondents said their departments would rate a 6, 7, or 8, while 2% would give themselves a 2.

About 47% of IT pros said they are able to address end user support issues 75% to 100% of the time, with about 30% saying they can address issues 50% to 75% of the time. About 20% of respondents said they resolve issues 25% of the time or less.

Will social technologies increase their averages? About half of IT professionals said yes, while about 33% said maybe, and 13% said no.

If IT professionals don't seem overwhelmingly convinced of social networking's ability to improve their ability to provide service and end users' perceptions of them, they will still have to consider internal and external social collaboration as they hone their support plans.

How is social collaboration affecting help desk service and support at your organization? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/20/2011 | 1:03:13 AM
re: Is Social Networking The New IT Help Desk?
Thanks for the comment! Have you started to see a reduction in email? If so, how long did it take for the switchover to social to start happening?

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
User Rank: Apprentice
9/19/2011 | 8:48:01 AM
re: Is Social Networking The New IT Help Desk?
I think that Social Networking has huge potential for aiding IT helpdesks by making information accesible to the user. I believe its potential extends further than the IT helpdesk to the external organisation in the form of customers and their enquiries.
In our organisation we are currently analysing call trends with a view to making solutions to the most common problems available through social media to empower users to help themselves. We are also trying to change the mindset from email to collaboration using a social platform
The real challenge is to change the culture of organisations to one of self help and discovery. IBM have done some interesting work in this respect but are using what they refer to as Social Business internally in the organisation to great effect.
Tom LaSusa
Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/14/2011 | 7:56:21 PM
re: Is Social Networking The New IT Help Desk?
This is going to be an interesting trend to watch, particularly because of the ramifications. What if the outside obtained advice turns out to make the situation worse? I can see some IT groups clamping down and prohibiting users from tampering with their company issued machines.

Alternatively, if its a menial problem that a user -- armed with the right information -- could solve for themselves (like changing default printers or something else small), that could free up IT admins to focus on bigger issues that arise.
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