IT service management going social

Social networking is emerging as a killer app for knowledge retention and sharing

IT professionals have to face the fact that social networking is no longer just the domain of families and friends trying to stay in touch with each other or businesses trying to reach out with enhanced customer intimacy. It is emerging as a potential killer app within IT teams striving for continual service improvement, collaborative effort and efficiencies in the way knowledge is retained and shared.

By: Chris Dancy, Bradley Busch and Kathryn Howard

If you have not observed the increasingly pervasive influence of social media on business activity, then you are missing a huge transformation in the way the people communicate with each other.

Facebook has more than 900 million active users. If it were a nation, it would be the third largest in the world. Meanwhile, Twitter has over 140 million users and LinkedIn is rapidly becoming a powerful business network for recruitment and knowledge sharing. That’s just the start of it.

Social media is also increasingly embedded into business processes through services such as Yammer, GoToMeeting and Skype. The good news for IT professionals is that all of these social media services can be applied to supporting IT’s core function of getting on with making sure the business gets the highest possible levels of IT service and the best possible bottom line returns on its technology investments.

Social media and ITSM

In relation to IT Service Management (ITSM) improvement programs, social tools are also emerging in some organisations’ core processes for ITIL staples such as Incident Management, Problem Management and Change Management. Internal blogs, chat rooms and searchable discussion forums for self help and peer support as well as file sharing functions, “like” buttons, comments, discussions, polls and “follow” author functions are all becoming far more common in relation to service delivery operations.

Meanwhile, vendors of ITSM toolsets and services are starting to recognise the explosive growth of social media by leveraging its direct communication benefits in the way they develop and implement solutions for their customers.

While there is always going to be some form of natural human resistance to these changes, many in the industry feel that social media tools represent a snowball that is rapidly gathering momentum. It is still in its infancy, so, perhaps the best innovations are yet to be discovered.

Chris Dancy, senior product marketing manager at ITSM toolset vendor, ServiceNow and regular conference presenter all over the world, is an evangelist for the role that social media can play in ITSM improvement. He feels there is a strong relationship between social media and ITSM, particularly since the introduction of newer versions of popular best practice frameworks such as COBIT and ITIL which facilitate closer collaboration between business and IT.

“ITSM has long been accused of lacking a customer-centric focus,” Dancy said. “While COBIT 5 and ITIL 2011 have moved much of the frameworks to focus on services and business value, the actual mechanisms to capture critical feedback and create engagement are still not addressed via process, nor in most tools.

“With the advent of new social tools, skills and metrics, the door has been opened to create a much richer environment of continual service improvement by embracing social elements at the service design level. I would go as far as to say that social media is the foundation of continual service improvement.”

Unleashing social IT’s capabilities

Dancy believes there are multiple “capabilities” that can be leveraged and designed into IT service processes that enhance communication, collaboration, resolution and continual improvement. At the top of his list were social profiling, activity streams, open feedback systems, commenting systems and mobility and location services.

“These core elements create new value propositions and data gathering capabilities that traditional ITSM tools and processes have been missing,” Dancy said. “It is all about knowledge management and knowledge sharing.

“The net result of the consumer and enterprise socialisation movement is deeper data assets which can be examined to extract meaningful analysis in regards to sentiment, reputation and influence of objects.

“Those objects can take any form and range in size from a hash tag to a sprawling enterprise documentation knowledge system to a server farm. The behaviours, tools and outcomes of social IT are very real and represent a shift in the way IT organisations and knowledge workers complete tasks.”

A great example of how the value of object-oriented database management systems is now better understood lies in the fact that both search giants Google and Bing are building huge databases of objects to improve the quality of queries. These allow better context for search engines to determine what the user is interested in when they search about a topic.

It’s all about customer intimacy

Bradley Busch is on the executive Board of Management for the Australian chapter of global independent industry association, the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF). itSMF is focused on sharing knowledge and building awareness about the value international standards and best practice frameworks bring to the governance and management of IT services.

He said that, at the end of the day, good ITSM is about customer intimacy and that the ITSM community is rapidly discovering that social tools have the capability to support this objective and can help to deliver IT services that “really work”.

With such a high uptake of social media and an enormous technology choice occurring outside the workplace, Busch believes it is just natural for customers of IT services to expect the same “delightful” technology experiences within the workplace.

“ITSM practitioners now rely on seamless tools that create customer value,” Busch said. “Customer expectations are increasing and their tolerance for failure is decreasing. This is because the whole industry has matured and user friendly tools and applications are abundant in their external social media communications.

“Effective ITSM is all about helping IT to meet ever increasing business and user demands and to embed a cycle of continuous improvement to keep delighting customers. It is totally reliant on good communication between those seeking support and those charged with delivering it.

“Leveraging popular social media tools and practices as part of the greater effort to deliver effective IT services makes good sense because it is a communication medium that creates more intimate interaction.”

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