The problem with the end-user computing environment

Eliminating “shadow IT” and end-user dissatisfaction with IT service desk support.

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Credit: Thinkstock

At Everest Group, we’ve been looking at the end-user compute environment, the IT service desk area. Why? Because end-user compute is the IT area that garners the most dissatisfaction among business users. Interestingly, it’s also the lens through which IT’s success and value is most often viewed by the business executives, as it indicates customer satisfaction. The problem is it just doesn’t work well; in fact, it doesn’t make sense. The end-user computing environment needs change.

At the heart of the problem is the service desk ticketing system, as it has fundamental constraints. Service desk systems are structured to respond cost-effectively to problems after they occur. Companies design processes and policies calibrated to various levels of service (with top executives getting gold-level service, of course). They then further constrain the system by introducing rules that try to end users to follow the processes in place — usually a call center or kiosk to report a problem.

Remember Hans Christian Andersen’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” about weavers who promise the emperor new clothes that will be invisible to people who are stupid or incompetent? When the emperor later parades around in his “new clothes,” no one (even the emperor) wants to admit they don’t see any clothes. No one except a child who unabashedly proclaims the truth — that the emperor is wearing nothing.

That story comes to mind when I think about what happens in nearly all companies’ end-user compute area: the truth is everybody cheats and goes around the service desk system, finding ways to avoid going through the intended structure and rules. They either develop alternate paths in relationships with IT to get service to resolve problems, or they build those skills within their departments, thus creating “shadow IT.” Since people don’t follow the policies and structure in this area the way the company intends to ensure cost-effective problem resolution, the system doesn’t deliver the intended cost point. This just doesn’t make sense. The CIO has no clothes!

If your company wants to introduce change to this area, what should that change look like? Here are three important aspects:

  1. Focus/perspective: It doesn’t make sense to design a process around problem resolution and allocate resources on the basis of reacting to problems by dictating the level of service and focusing on minimizing the cost to serve rather than focusing on productivity of the end users. The system should be structured to respond to users’ problems in their time frame, not in terms of ticketing.
  2. Personalized service: Services need to be personalized to individual users, not structured around “personas.” Companies need to use big data and analytics to build personalized profiles of individuals at scale. The tools exist today to do this cost-effectively.
  3. Data-driven service: The system/structure should not be designed to resolve problems after they occur. Companies need to use big data, predictive analytics and IoT sensor technology to predictively ensure employees have the right technology at the right time. Companies need to leverage these technologies to enable predicting where issues are going to happen. Issues such as knowing when networks are getting overloaded, software isn’t being updated or hard drives and servers are failing are classic IoT/analytics problems. But it means rethinking IT services.

Here’s another truth: We have the tools today to deploy against the end-user compute environment. What is fundamentally missing is the vision to deploy them. The emperor has no clothes!

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