The Future of IT Service Delivery

Don’t worry, it’s not another predictions post. The Innovating IT Service conference will be held in Melbourne on the 11-12 March. Gene Kim is keynoting, so of course, I’m going to be there. I was at the hotel bar, suffering oversupply-of-quality-sessions burnout at Knowledge12, at exactly the same time as the only other opportunity I’ve had to see Gene present. I will forever berate myself.

With Gene Kim presenting, there is a cohort of DevOps-oriented presentations on the bill, including an opening keynote by Nigel Dalton of REA Group, who wants to warn us that DevOps may break the business. We’ll also hear from Ed Cortis of BankWest discussing IT agility and resiliency; and there’ll be lots of talk around lean, continuous delivery and the transformation of legacy services.

What I like most about this upcoming conference are the built-in knowledge sharing and round table sessions driven by conversations delegates want to have with the attending industry leaders. It may well be a live-on-stage example of market research, but who cares? It’s not often that an IT conference allows delegates to participate in topic selection.

Early bird prices are in effect until this Friday, 23 January.


Introducing, new online training

New online training

 

Just in time for your new year training budgets, Knowledge Bird has partnered with Klever to bring you a fast and affordable course covering the fundamentals of knowledge sharing.

Share more—achieve a lot more

Become more effective with the people and technology you already have by using effective knowledge-sharing practices.

This is a self-paced, ~30-minute course, where you’ll learn fundamental skills on how to make searching, rating, updating, creating, and improving knowledge part of your everyday work habits.

Increase productivity and enable new team members to get up to speed more quickly.

But that’s not all. You’ll also find a selection of requirements-writing courses, because we all know how hard that can be. Click here for more details and contact me if you’d like to arrange some bulk pricing.

Happy holidays!

 


LEADit 14: Quicker, simpler, seamless

I’ve tried to capture the most distinct themes that emerged at this year’s Australian national conference for the itSMF in the title. As I predicted last year, our local industry did contract, but not in the way I expected. This year, we had one of our respected consulting firms go into liquidation, and another one acquire a ServiceNow partner. Best practices, frameworks, methodologies and vendors serving the IT service management industry continue to proliferate despite the bad juju of a quiet couple of years on the consulting front.

Just in case you haven’t noticed already, Agile is still at the top of the hype curve. We had more sessions devoted to the popular methodology than we’ve ever had. People want to move on from ITIL’s perceived bureaucracy and move more quickly. Axelos are doing their best to improve the reputation of best practice, but I think ITIL is sorely needing rebranding—Service Management Guidance, anyone? It might make consultants and managers apply more critical thought and discretion to process changes, then, which is exactly why ITIL has a bad rep. (You can pay me later, Axelos.)

Simplicity is an emerging theme this year, with a number of tool vendors jostling for the claim. The only counter to that is Cherwell who say that oversimplification of the interface makes it harder to track and push knowledge through the support workflow.

Something that was emerging last year, but is now squarely on the minds of many practitioners and boffins, alike, is service integration. The larger organisations are wondering how to go about keeping the lines of communication and expectation clear among multiple suppliers; the smaller organisations are wondering how to integrate multiple cloud and legacy systems efficiently, and leverage the data most effectively.

One other theme I haven’t yet brought up, because I wonder if I’m biased, is customer satisfaction over SLAs. The argument is that you could still have all your service levels met and still attract the ire of your customers. Conversely, you might have outages, but if you communicate well, your customers might still love you anyway. So, where does that leave SLAs when greater meaning can be found in customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores? What do you think?

In terms of the LEADit event itself, this year, there were more tweeters, new vendors, and a good number of international visitors. I look forward to seeing what comes from the itSMF over coming months as they look for new ways to reach a greater audience.

 

 


Now in Melbourne

A new year brings new resolutions for some, and new project plans for others. In your organisation, maybe the former will inspire the latter. If you’re looking at ways to improve your support organisation, consider following Zendesk’s 14 customer service resolutions and perhaps even contribute your own with the #resolve2solve hash tag. It’s a fun way to approach common problems with a fresh perspective, and they’re crowdsourcing #14, so you might find your contribution dispersed across the Internet.

Disruption must have been the word of 2013, so it seems entirely appropriate, albeit chaotic, for the Knowledge Bird to relocate over the Christmas/New Year break. Working remotely from the spacious, green, English-esque countryside of Bowral has been peaceful—which is great for the quiet-loving introvert, such as I am—but makes in-person meetings and site visits a logistical feat. Several parts of our universe aligned and the time seemed right to fly south for the hustle and bustle of inner-city living. So, the Knowledge Bird is now living in Melbourne. I’m still working remotely for my clients, but it means I’m much more flexible with on-site time.

Working in Melbourne? Let’s have coffee!


LeadIT13 conference wrap

My annual working-holiday is over for another year, with the conclusion of the itSMF’s LeadIT conference, held in Canberra. With the Under New Management sign still hanging above the Australian chapter, the event went off without a hitch and there’s a renewed sense of interest in what the itSMF can do to reach more members. New business manager, Bruce Harvey, is intending to get out and about to speak to all committee members, so I look forward to giving my two cents whenever that comes around.

Canberra were wonderful hosts for the conference and all the volunteers worked tirelessly over the three or four days to ensure all our sessions ran smoothly.

One can’t help but notice the common themes that tend to crop up through the content of any conference. LeadIT13’s overarching theme was service management in a connected world, but there was an undercurrent of disruption. While the services we support become more and more complex—with multi-vendor management and multiple user-devices, just for starters—there’s a growing sense of contraction within our industry. Yes, more with less, but even our frameworks and methodologies are beginning to shift with the rumbles. Rob England’s keynote discussed a need to find common ground between DevOps and ITSM. Dave O’Reardon brings Kanban to continual service improvement. Aale Roos provokes us to ditch ITIL processes left, right and centre. I want community management and knowledge management to come together in our business-as-usual to take advantage of the valuable knowledge of our user community. Where the agile movement is concerned, it’s not just an undercurrent, but a very strong rip. And those IT managers on the ground, who are constantly learning and iterating their checks and balances in their agile environments and sharing their stories (pardon the pun) with us, will be next year’s luminaries.

I saw a couple of great product demos in the exhibit hall this year and wanted to give a shout-out to one in particular. Early last year, I moaned all over social media that vendors with social activity feeds hadn’t built in any functionality to easily capture comments and turn them into structured knowledge for easy reuse. Frontrange’s Heat has a social service management component that does exactly that. So, thumbs up from me.

If you missed my session on community support in the enterprise, you can catch the TFT13 recording, which is only slightly different.

See you in Melbourne for LeadIT14!


Why You Should Crowdsource Your Help Desk Response

Today’s post is a guest post from Ashley VerrillAshley Verrill has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, GigaOM, CIO.com, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others. She also produces original research-based reports and video content with industry experts and thought leaders.

 

Recently, I wrote an article for GigaOM about customer service software that doesn’t exist, but that I think someone should make. I argued basically that companies need technology for crowdsourcing their response to customer service questions on social media in order to scale, reasoning that in some cases it can be more efficient and cost-effective than paying for additional social media manpower.

After chatting with Aprill (the Knowledge Bird herself), I realized that business-to-customer support on social media isn’t the only context where this community problem solving concept can be applied. In this article, I will describe why I think companies should use this model to solve internal corporate issues – essentially, enabling employees to help each other.

The Customer Community Concept

In my GigaOM article, I suggested that this hypothetical software crowdsources social customer service responses to customer community users. The term ‘community’ refers to brand advocates (mostly customers) who answer other customer’s questions in discussion forums. In these communities, customers can post a question publicly, where other customers who had the same issue can chime in with how they solved it. It’s been used successfully by many B2C companies. Take this HP community member, for example. He spends upwards of 30 unpaid hours a week responding to queries in their discussion forums.

The reason why I thought this would be a valuable model for solving internal employee issues is because it can effectively deflect tickets from the help desk. As we all know, each new trouble ticket costs the company money. I’ve reviewed a handful of help desk services that can reduce these costs through automation, but the company still has to pay for both the agent and employee’s time while the issue is resolved. With the community, problems can be solved faster in some cases than with one-on-one communication.

Let’s say, for example, you have a company-wide server issue. Every employee needs to follow the same step-by-step process to resolve it, so you blast out a mass email to the team. But any agent will tell you, there’s always going to be questions and user errors. This creates the potential for a flood of tickets to the help desk at the same time. This could be more than your help desk is regularly allotted to handle, so a lot of people are waiting.

If your company had a community, the help desk could simply post the step-by-step instructions in a discussion thread. As there are follow-up questions and answers, other employees with the same issue can just read the thread, rather than calling or emailing the help desk.

How You Get Them to Use It

I know what you’re thinking. That sounds great, but employees have a job to do. Why would they take time out of their day to solve a coworker’s problem?

The answer is gamification. I want to point out a couple things on that customer community user’s profile I mentioned earlier. At the top of the page, “wb2001” has a badge that says “HP Expert:”

This is an indicator of how many questions this person has responded to, as well as how many of his answers received “kudos.” It shows other users that he is a leader in the community. This fosters competition and achievement among users. This is also monitored in real-time in the margin with “Recent kudos.”

 

These are the same kind of tools many help desk products use to increase agent productivity. They are just used to inspire employees to respond instead of agents.

Create a Sense of Unity Among Employees

My final argument for replicating the customer community concept for employees is the potential to foster team ideation.

If you spend time in any customer community, not all of the threads are about solving a specific problem. Many times, people use them as a soundboard for their ideas. The company can then use this for product development or marketing, based on which ideas receive the most comments and kudos.

In the corporate context, employees might start submitting their ideas for process development or inter-departmental alignment. Especially in very large companies, it’s difficult for marketing-sales-customer service and other departments to work collaboratively. The community gives them the venue for having these conversations.

The Technology Already Exists

Unlike the software I suggested in GigaOM, this kind of inter-office community platform already exists. Sometimes called “Social Enterprise Applications,” this includes products like Yammer, Chatter and Jive. Beyond potentially deflecting tickets from the help desk and solving problems faster, these systems have other benefits.

What do you think? Has your company effectively used community software to solve employee issues that normally would have ended up in the help desk? Join the conversation with a comment here.

 


KM Australia 2013

Coming next month is the KM Australia congress. Held at Luna Park’s Crystal Palace function rooms on July 23-25, the congress will be featuring some great international speakers and interesting workshops. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about Knowledge Centred Support, Simone Moore and I will be conducting a workshops in the afternoon session on the 25th. If you’re a knowledge manager, KCS is a methodology you can apply to any support situation to speed up resolution, bolster self-service, trim costs, and keep knowledge flowing between customers and operational staff.

It promises to be another great few days of learning and networking with other passionate KMers. This year’s Chair is Cory Banks, and I asked him what he expects the hot topics for 2013 to be.

“There are two sides to this. There is what I believe people want to know and what people need to know. I think people will want to know more about how to use social technologies to enhance knowledge sharing in organisations. I think in the current economic climate, people need to know how to communicate the value proposition of KM in their organisations context, focus on how it relates to business performance (bottom line) and how to get closer to the business through good stakeholder engagement and knowledge brokering.”

The format of the KM Australia Congress is conversational. The speaker presents for 20-odd minutes, and delegates at each of the round tables have an opportunity to discuss the content and how it applies to themselves. The presentation closes with each table presenting their feedback and then some Q&A with the speaker.

“The KM Australia Congress is a great opportunity to practice what we preach regarding learning and transferring knowledge. You only get so much from a ‘talking head’ standing up the front of the room and telling a story.
Far too often, a person with responsibility for KM in an organisation ends up in a team of one, without any peers or colleagues to collaborate with, bounce ideas off or learn from. The Congress is the biggest annual gathering of KM practitioners in Australia from across industry and around the world. It is a fantastic opportunity to hear from the speakers, but also tap into the experiences of fellow practitioners through conversations. The format allows for this conversation to take place and hear a number of different perspectives, rather than just the view from the podium.”

I enjoyed the format last year, and I think I retained more because of the discussions. When you’re there to participate, you’re less inclined to zone out and play with your smartphone. And you’ll be able to do something new at this year’s Congress, while you’re hovering around drinking coffee and scoffing pastries. I asked Cory to tell us what will happen in the KM Conversations.

“This year we are looking to focus some of the background conversations that would normally take place during the morning tea break. This is being done by assigning an experienced facilitator to a table to take the conversation down the rabbit hole around a topic.”

Over  the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you interviews with some of the Australian speakers who are involved with knowledge and change management in a variety of sectors.


Living and working in startup town…for a week

One might think the Knowledge Bird had flown the coop. Not so much. But, I did fly Stateside to spend last week in the office with my Zendesk homies.

I figured, why not take advantage of Mr Knowledge Bird’s trip to Startup Town (aka San Francisco) and go meet-and-greet the people I’d been working with remotely these past few months?

My San Francisco desk.

San Francisco has been billed as a city not at all representative of the rest of the U.S. And Zendesk is not at all like the normal corporate environment. Though, as a well-known startup going through an über-growth phase, what else DO you expect? Truth be told, I was reminded a little of the early parts of my career working in tech support at One.Tel—a telco startup, of sorts—back when it was just a massively risky thing to do and not at all cool. The only things different in the modern environment are the free food and drinks, the social events and a building full of empowered 20-somethings. So, really, I guess the only things in common with 16 years ago is the open plan and long tables.

For a remote worker, like me, the time in the office is extremely valuable. With meetings, lunch, meetings, breakfast, meetings, and then more meetings, one can get a greater sense of what needs to be done in a shorter space of time. And having finally been able to interact in person with many of whom I’d only ever Skyped or emailed with, the boundless enthusiasm of the whole team is obvious, and being around a group of such skilled and capable people every day was intense. (We’ve come home to the cat and the kids. They have a lot to live up to. I’m also certain the 9 year old must learn how to touch-type as a precursor to building his first app.)

The city itself is a lot to take in, too. In only a couple of blocks, from the office to Union Square, you can witness everything from homelessness to Macy’s. But so strong is the calling, to tech entrepreneurs from all over, that they’ll throw a few clothes and a laptop in a backpack and commit three months or more to working hard on their startup, scheduling meeting after meeting, and sleeping in their cheap Tenderloin hotel with a shared bathroom. Then wake up the next day to hit the keys again, chasing the dream and looking for the next VC opportunity.

When you walk through the city, the signs of “tech boom” are everywhere. Digital Zynga billboards, a huge Mailchimp painted on the side of a building, and I could swear I passed a guy on Third street with a pair of Google Glass(es) on his head.

It’s insane that so many ideas, so much opportunity, and so much success could be incubating in one city when the same technology these startups are building on is what makes our communities and our knowledge work have global reach. But it all comes down to the face-to-face and the feel of a handshake. And for a startup, San Francisco is the only place you can possibly plan to be.


If you make just one resolution for 2013, make it this…

It’s the first new day of 2013. What have you got planned for it? We’re going to the beach. But what have you got planned for the year?

This time last year, I had a feeling 2012 was going to be a big one. I challenged myself to present my Simple Guide to Creating a Knowledge Base to a real-life audience. Not only did I do what I set out to but I took that presentation internationally, to New Zealand and New Orleans, too. And online for the 24 hour, follow-the-sun, TFT conference.

With Mark, Karen, Adam, Farah, Jarod. Photo by Breed Lewis

I contributed two articles to the well-read ITSM Review.

I began connecting the dots of my focus areas and attended IT service management conferences, knowledge management conferences, and community management conferences.

Photo by Chris Dancy

In September, I was a guest on the Antipodean ITSM weekly podcast.

Along the way I’ve met some outstanding people. People who embraced me, encouraged me, and continue to advise me. A number of us were on the road together a few times over the year, and in this short time that I’ve come to know them, they probably know me better than anyone.

With Ian Clayton and Simone Moore. Photo by HDAA.

2012 has been the busiest year of my life. And it couldn’t have ended any better—starting an ongoing engagement with a vendor whom I’m proud to be associated with.

A year like this doesn’t come without its costs. The wrong balance affects health and home. But at Casa de Knowledge Bird we’ve all come through the other side. Our eyes are open, our hearts are stronger and our minds are open for 2013.

All this is to say, don’t waste those moments.

When it comes to knowledge, if you make just one New Year’s resolution, make it this: don’t waste any interaction. There’s more gold in those moments than you realise.


Is Forrester the Marriage Counsellor for KM and IT?

Maybe it’s the professional circles I’ve been moving in this year, but I’ve been feeling the last nine months or so has seen a rise in the profile of knowledge management, generally. It could also be an effect of bias.

However, I am really seeing the signs of a new relationship starting to blossom. At KM Australia, Felicity McNish, gave a presentation on KM and mobility. But there was one statement she made that has been replaying in my memory since: “we need to make friends with IT, so that we’re ALL empowered to do better.” Interesting, non?

So, why aren’t knowledge management and IT friends? A number of reasons, I presume. It could be that KM is viewed as a function of the business to automate IT and be done with those pesky basement dwellers. It could be that KM is impatient to enable the transfer of knowledge through devices that haven’t been signed off by IT as secure yet. It could be that IT are called on to assist with the Sharepoint techno-wizardry. I’m just guessing.

Forrester have been gabbing a bit about KM lately. There was this article from the start of August. Not that this particular Forrester decree was helpful as it focused on you should have a tool that lets you do this, rather than framing KM and collaboration as a way of working—behavioural, cultural. I was happy enough to see it mentioned, though. Yesterday, Forrester analyst Stephen Mann blogged about automation taking our jobs, (Yes, people. It’s not immigration you need to be worrying about.) and included parts from a Glenn O’Donnell research paper that outlines the hot tips for the IT employment lineup. Hello, Knowledge Engineer.

Maybe rebranding knowledge management as knowledge engineering will help IT get on board.

Whatever works.


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