IT Service Management with a Social Twist

Ann All

Last month I wrote a post about the challenges of creating a customer-centric IT culture, focusing on the discomfort some IT pros feel with the vague and somewhat emotional nature of customer service. Also, I wrote, IT organizations tend to stress efficiency over empathy.


Automation is a primary goal of many IT service management (ITSM) programs, writes Phil Wainewright on the Enterprise Irregulars blog. Automation minimizes the time IT personnel spend interacting with users, he says, "supposedly in the name of efficiency, but to the detriment of satisfactory outcomes for users, who have had to wait longer before their IT problems were resolved."


Now, however, at least one ITSM vendor is following the broader trend of social CRM and adding features to its software that should make internal service desks a lot more customer-centric. The latest version of Service-now.com's software, which it introduced earlier this month, includes two social features: an online chat tool that can be employed by users to contact the service desk or by IT pros to collaborate on service issues, and a live feed that can accept posts from people or from objects such as devices or open incidents.


The information can be "shared, searched, tagged, grouped, subscribed, liked and linked," according to a Service-now.com news release about the software, which "creates an invaluable source of data allowing IT to track, analyze and act upon trending issues and topics in the first-ever IT zeitgeist."


The release also includes thoughts from Gartner and Forrester Research that underscore the need for social ITSM. From a Gartner report titled "Collaborative Operation Management: A Next-Generation Management Capability":

Today's IT service management (ITSM) tools provide little support for ad hoc interactions and other forms of collaboration among IT operations personnel. Typically, only well-documented processes can be transformed into structured ITSM flows, leaving a substantial number of IT tasks with little opportunity for conversion into reusable assets. This is exacerbated by the fact that much of the dialogue between IT staff in these and other areas occurs "out of band" of the management systems -- i.e., via e-mail, instant messaging, tweeting, IP phones, etc.

And from a Forrester report titled ""Empowered Users will Change How Business Software is Served":

When encountering performance or quality issues, users will select the most convenient port of call to register their complaints or service requests. Both business application software help desks and enterprise IT support desks can no longer assume that they will automatically be contacts. They must effectively compete for attention against all of the user's alternative communication routes. Success will depend on the quality of the service experience as perceived by the users and on the effectiveness of listening for, and responding to, relevant service dialogue happening across the social media ether.

As Wainewright notes, the Service-now.com release is also part of the trend of embedding social features directly into applications used for core processes such as ITSM. Before it created its own social tools, he says Service-now.com tested the microblogging tool Yammer internally to demonstrate the value of making ITSM more social.


But, Wainewright says, "integration to other applications remains an issue." Business process management vendors Appian and Tibco are promoting their integration capabilities as a key selling point for their social software. As Malcolm Ross, Appian's director of product management, told me when I interviewed him earlier this month, BPM is "a great starting point for social environments" because of its horizontal, end-to-end approach to enterprise activities.

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