IT Support work and Enterprise 2.0

One of the hardest things about running an IT support team is that everyone wants to get help from the hotshots – those guys and girls they can trust because they know he or she will get to the heart of even the toughest problem and straight onto a solution that works. These gurus have a wealth of knowledge of the product, they can remember past problems and more importantly the changes that solved them; they don’t send customers around in circles trying to diagnose a known problem, and they don’t spend long periods trying to find the answer that may have already been found. The challenge is that the newbies take some time until they are as productive as these hotshots … and there are always less experienced team members in any support team.

IT support faces the problem of any knowledge intensive professional service work: the knowledge of employees provides value to the customer, and yet there are challenges in building this knowledge and even greater challenges in transferring this knowledge to others.

OSISoft, a software vendor servicing automated manufacturing companies, have seen the benefit of using an Enterprise 2.0 platform to solve customers problems faster by making it easier to access the knowledge being built within their support team. Their implementation of the socialtext application allowed engineers to build content through collating resolution information as well as through open discussions about open issues. When an engineer encounters an issue they can search through the tagged content that has been generated from all kinds of areas.

What’s interesting about the way OSISoft have implemented enterprise 2.0 is the way they’ve focussed on a well-defined problem: how to get their large team of support engineers collaborating to solve customers problems quicker without wasting time on non-value adding work. A goal that can be seen to be aligned to business goals with research showing that good customer service leads to more loyal customers who are less likely to cut their spending.

This implementation seems to have addressed the risks that enterprise 2.0 adoption can face: security is maintained with an in-house hosted solution and reputation is protected as information is provided to the customer by an engineer (not from the system directly), and the focussed purpose of the platform doesn’t reduce productivity the way that other social tools might. However the small number of users, when compared to the userbase of something like wikipedia, means they still need to mitigate against the risk of unreliable information being propagated through the organisations … what’s to stop an engineer mistakenly putting the wrong solution into the knowledgebase for everyone else to use?

There are risks and challenges to adopting a more open, more collaborative way of working within corporations. There is a lot to lose and yet there may be even more to gain: the benefits of being able to quickly and easily locate relevant information are evident on web 2.0 platforms like wikipedia and twitter. It’s not going to turn all the support engineers from “computer says no” types of cranky customer service representatives, but it can help passionate, customer-focussed engineers act as knowledgable and trusted support for customers.

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10 thoughts on “IT Support work and Enterprise 2.0

  1. Hi Amanda. You sample using IT help desks fits perfectly in the Enterprise2.0 collaborative environment. I don’t know you are familiar with ITIL. But, one stage of the ITIL cycle is called Service Operation in the IT Support (or IT help desk) is the key function to support that stage inside the organization. And to support the IT help desk ITIL defines the Service Knowledge Database with contains know issues, workarounds, etc. As you said some Enterprise 2.0 tools and the collaborative environment would fit to support the SKDB.
    Cheers
    Charles (https://charlestontelles.wordpress.com)

    • That’s a good point. ITIL has a structure in place fo sharing knowledge through the SKDB which has helped a lot of organisation improve efficience and effectivenss of their support teams. I think ITIL has moved things forward to the point where now the challenge is how to find the right information in the midst of the ocean of how-tos, cheatsheets and knowledgebase entries. It would be good to see the ITIL aligned enterprise tools (I’m thinking of apps like Remedy) implement enterprise 2.0 principles to deliver the benefit of being able to easily find the relevant information through a folksonomy rather than the current need for a structured taxonomy.

      • Yes. Remedy is indeed one of the most famous tools used by the help desk. An integration between Remedy and Jira for example is not difficult to implement (well, there is no automate plugin, but technically possible). And that would be very nice to see similar issues been grouped and discussed in a collaborative way.
        Let’s mature that idea, I can see an opportunity here 🙂

  2. I think Wiki is a good tool for gurus to share their knowledge. If you are an IT support, you have to solve the same problem from many users. If you could lead them to Wiki which has the solution to all past problems, it would help reduce the IT support work and the user will get their solution faster too. New employees can also use Wiki instead of having to ask everything from their senior which will reduce the senior work time.

    Cheers,

    Prapat W.

  3. Hi Amanda!

    As per another comment from Charles, ITIL fits perfectly with what you are talking about. It’s a known and proven system that works great with Enterprise 2.0

    One risk i find with is that is that some people still refuse to do their own research on a problem they have having and want to dial the IT Dept because “That is what they are there for”

    These are the people that need an answer right away and don’t have time to spend looking through a wiki or a discussion board trying to find a solution amongst hundreds of other issues. I’m not sure how to avoid that as a risk, especially if those people are high up in the organisation.

    how would you try to solve it?

    • From my perspective I think there are always a group of people who will need IT’s help from a personal connection. I don’t know that this will ever change. However I think that the people helping the high-maintenance users can benefit from enterprise 2.0 technologies in getting the information they need to help the person on the other end of the phone. But maybe this is old-shcool thinking. Certainly, if there was a google type search for my network problem I wouldn’t have called the helpdesk – so maybe it will change with greater enterprise 2.0 adoption, the proportion of phonecalls will drop even if it never entirely goes away. It would have to be a really good search though, rather than a trawl through a lot of wiki entries and unrelated discussion threads.

  4. Hi Amanda

    Completely agree with the relevance wikis have to knowledge intensive professional services. Personally, I am currently one of those newbies and immediately reflect on the countless times I have encountered a minor issue which, with previous experience takes seconds to solve. Everything would be so much easier if I could just quickly search a wiki for the solution and move on!

    – Matt

  5. Hey there Amanda, nice post and sorry for the late comment for this weeks post!. Good to see your posts are spot on as usual, always well formatted and easy to follow. I like the idea of these collaborative knowledge-bases, I have read a few articles detailing the success of company wikis where everyone collaborates online. I also remember the wiki activity from from Web 2.0 last semester, its always nice to see other peoples ideas from the comfort of you own home!. Thanks again for the great read, your posts are always informative

  6. Amanda touchĂ©’. Great post. Very in depth, feel like I’ve learnt something useful. Had to read over it several times to take in all the information.
    How did you find such quality information? I’m assuming you work in the industry?

    I appreciate the positive case study on incorporating external applications to control internal information solutions.
    A lot of emphasis in the industry seems to be placed on using external applications to build an internal knowledge base. This is as you mentioned opening the door for additional risks. Love how you touched on the security backup plan, by using an in house solution.

    Check out Asana, [http://t.co/4r0FOHVk] this is a cheeky collaborative application. Its a beautiful thing to see modern thinkers adding to these kinds of tools.

    I don’t suppose you read anything in regards to the costings of the OSIsoft implementation of social text?

    Thanks
    Caleb

    • Thanks Caleb! Asana looks good but I’ll have to play with it some more before I’m convinced to make the jump from workflowy.

      Unfortunatley no, I haven’t seen anything on the costings. It certainly would be interesting to see dollar figures for the costs and benefits they’ve seen.

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