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Social media: boldly going beyond ITSM’s final frontiers

Patrick Bolger, chief evangelist, Hornbill Service Management, writes for CBR on why service management cannot ignore the social media craze

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Those of us involved in IT Service Management (ITSM) know all about best practice.

Following mainstream adoption at the turn of the millennium, ITIL has set the pace by providing a practical framework for delivering and supporting IT services, helping countless organisations achieve greater maturity in ITSM. However, this approach to IT can often contrast with technology’s own rapid pace of change.

There are countless technological developments, such as the management of virtual machines, the cloud and the increasing use of consumer devices in the workplace, which are not yet adequately covered by the current ITIL books.

History shows us that business needs will drive the adoption of new technologies: if the IT service desk can’t meet these needs it will see its reputation fall. Moreover, ITSM practice needs sufficient flexibility to quickly bring new technologies into the fold.

Disruptor fields: social media
Social media is a prime example of a technology causing significant disruption in the ITSM environment. Security, privacy or productivity issues related to the use of social media are now daily news.

Yet the use of these tools within business doesn’t seem to be on the wane. In fact, analyst group Gartner has predicted that by 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users .

As social media becomes the preferred way to communicate and share data, the service desk sees all sorts of problems emerge. Firstly it means yet another service to support. Yet it’s also inevitable that users will expect service desk staff to interact with them via social media with updates regarding service issues. In fact, service issues are already lying dormant within these channels. Just type a search on Twitter for the hashtag ‘#Helpdesk’ and see how many are end-users voicing their IT service frustrations.

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Small steps for men, giant leaps for ITSM
Monitoring social media might seem a task for a marketing or customer service team. Yet integrating this activity into the service desk can have multiple benefits. Predominately, the desk can spot potential service issues long before any call is logged.

Although monitoring tools can capture error messages to indicate that a server or application is failing, these often slip through the net: users are usually the first to notice and their first port of call is to check if others are experiencing the same issue. Early knowledge of this means simple fixes can be applied before an issue has a chance to escalate.

Most service desks have internal objectives to reduce the number of support calls. If IT can discover, react to and update users on service issues via social media channels, this could be a strong supporter of that objective. Assuming Gartner’s predictions around social media in the workplace are true, a proactive IT service desk might see 20% of calls beamed away.

With less time spent logging calls and more capacity for addressing service issues, service desks can focus their efforts on the age old challenge of addressing the disconnect between IT and the business. Instead of being the ‘caretakers’ who spend all their time performing mundane functions, IT staff can turn their considerable expertise to introducing or improving services that support broader business goals.

With social media’s meteoric rise, ITSM teams can demonstrate how the business itself can better use these technologies.

Companies are using social media to speak with their customers, but only a small number have so far realised that this is only a start: the real benefit comes from listening and reacting. The news is littered with examples of companies failing to apply good process around social media.

In particular, businesses will monitor Facebook or Twitter for unhappy customers, directly engage with them to understand why they are unhappy but then lack an adequate process for ensuring effective handling of complaints. It’s somewhat ironic that if these business and IT teams got together, they might just solve the problem.

Patrick Bolger, chief evangelist, Hornbill Service Management.

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