Knowledge Bird

Create. Curate. Collaborate.

June 24, 2014
by Aprill Allen
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User-Centric IT: What it means to me and why I give a crap

User-centric IT

Let me level with you—great customer service doesn’t motivate me. Yes, I am a customer from time to time, but I really just want to transact and get the hell on with my day. Recently, a group of enterprise software providers formed a coalition with the goal of shifting the design of enterprise IT services to the user, rather than forcing the user (or the customer, or the employee, or whichever moniker you prefer) to adapt to the constraints thrust upon them.

I’ve worked in enterprise IT for 13 years and I’ve used lots of systems. Working in technical support and in network operations, I had 99 problems and the software I was trying to use every day to do my job shouldn’t have been one of them. Why shouldn’t I have nice looking software when I’m in the office? Why can’t I be offered the kind of user-experience of design-focused apps like this, this, or this? If you think looks and usability don’t matter, then I ask you, how many clicks does it take for your colleagues to be able to submit a request or incident? Do you have covert changes going on because your form is long and confusing?

I’m not motivated by customer happiness. Everything I do professionally is motivated by a desire to improve agent happiness. (Or advocate, or analyst, or whichever moniker you prefer.) Whether it’s through better knowledge management, simpler processes, or better software. I like to think I support the support. The people who DO the support are the people I think of when I talk about user-centric IT. Give them a better experience and the people turning to them for help will have a better experience, too.

I’m hanging out in the LinkedIn group. Find me there.

*Disclaimer: Zendesk are a coalition member and a client of mine.

June 18, 2014
by Aprill Allen
5 Comments

The Continual Service of Knowledge

ITIL and KCS white paperIt’s not often that anyone would bother to review a white paper. After all, a white paper is usually free (perhaps in exchange for your email address) and not that much of an investment in time to read. A white paper has come along that I really must point out to you, though. If you’re interested in improving your IT services, this particular one is valuable, and you don’t even have to pay with your contact info.

I’ve long believed that the parents of ITIL® and Knowledge Centred Support (KCS), (AXELOS and the Consortium for Service Innovation, respectively), should join forces in some meaningful way. This white paper looks like being a kind of first step. Though, I don’t know what might come after. AXELOS and HDI have come together to release Synergies between ITIL® and Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS℠). Written by Roy Atkinson, John Custy, and Rick Joslin, the paper explains that “together, ITIL and KCS can improve service management”.

ITIL® refers to the benefits of knowledge management (KM) at each stage of the service lifecycle and describes KM at length in the Service Transition phase. I’ve never understood why the authors of ITIL® placed the most emphasis on KM in Service Transition and not in Continual Service Improvement. This white paper goes through the history of both best practices and their shared challenges, but the meat of it is in the explanation of how KCS complements ITIL® throughout many of its processes, uncovering many opportunities for your own organisation to tap into the value of adopting the behaviours and processes.

Download from the AXELOS website.

March 4, 2014
by Aprill Allen
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Dear ITIL, it doesn’t have to be complicated

ZDguideDisclaimer: Most of my readers will know that I’m affiliated with Zendesk. Zendesk do pay me for content and consulting on ITSM and knowledge management stuff. This book review I’m about to do, which covers mapping Zendesk functionality to ITIL processes, has not been commissioned by Zendesk, nor endorsed by them. It is my objective opinion as an independent consultant.

A couple of weeks ago Crystal Taggart released a short guidebook to the Amazon Kindle store. This isn’t the first guidebook she’s released; there’s also a Quick Start Guide to using Axure 7 for rapid prototyping and 10 Secrets for Launching a Software Startup. Crystal describes herself as a technologist and entrepreneur who specialises in creating and implementing solutions that solve business problems. Her most recent book, a Zendesk Quickstart Guide is a step-by-step guide to mapping ITIL processes quickly and easily.

It’s no secret I’ve always liked Zendesk for how it looks, but I’m also a strong believer in their philosophy of “beautifully simple”. We have a tendency in IT operations to over-think things and sign off on expensive lifecycle solutions with All The Things where we’re likely to end up using only a fraction of the available capabilities. Crystal’s book describes an implementation of Zendesk that covers Incident, Problem, Change and Release to the requirements of her client. “The goal was to write a book that would take the reader 1 hour what took me 3 days (and 17 years of experience!) to do.” That’s a bit different from the months it can take to rollout a more complex solution.

She starts out by defining each of those processes and acknowledges that the set up she recommends made sense for this case, and that your mileage may vary depending on your own needs and circumstances.

Crystal maps ITIL terminology to the Zendesk ticket type terminology in the following way:

  • Incident = incident
  • Request for service = task
  • Request for information = question
  • Request for change (or enhancement request) = task
  • Change control = task
  • Problem (or defect) = problem

Tasks are used in place of incident tickets to allow for SLAs to be set up for different categories—a known issue vs an enhancement request, for example.

The book then goes through the step-by-step details on setting up groups that take ticket assignments and custom fields on tickets that feed macros, triggers, automations, and reporting for problem management. Crystal offers definitions for the different priorities of urgent, high, normal and low and designs automations accordingly.

After a brief explanation of how the Zendesk Help Centre can be used as an IT knowledge base, you can learn how to integrate Zapier to have change control notifications created to automatically populate a knowledge base article. This is a really clever, but kind of painful and complicated way of achieving something that should be able to happen natively. It’s the one significant bugbear I have with Zendesk—that knowledge creation is not a part of the native agent workflow, beyond searching for existing articles. The classic Zendesk forums, pre the launch of New Zendesk and the Help Centre, did have the functionality where you could create an article from a ticket with a single click, so I am confident that ability will return some day soon.

The book also provides a plan comparison, but do your own analysis there, because I’m not sure the details are completely accurate.

For not much more than $9, this is a great guidebook for any Zendesk administrator aspiring to meet some level of ITIL adherence in their organisation, or for any ITIL-aware organisation that is considering Zendesk. It’s a beautifully simple explanation (I only wish I’d written it), but it’s not the only way to approach it, so keep in mind that your workflows may change as your processes and organisation matures.