Can Social Media Make ITSM Fun Again?

Social interfaces are changing the very nature of IT service management, with internal toolsets and icon-driven service platforms helping users and IT departments manage the extended enterprise.

By Allen Bernard
Mon, June 24, 2013

CIO — In yet another example of consumer technology driving enterprise IT innovation, IT Service Management (ITSM) vendors are embracing Facebook-like social interfaces in order to connect customers with their constituents—employees, customers, partners and suppliers—in ways that fundamentally change the nature and meaning of service management.

"Like so many things today, it's being driven by the end user&hellup;comfortable with Facebook or Twitter or IM or Skype," says George Spalding, vice president of ITSM consultancy Pink Elephant and co-author of the ITIL V3 Continual Service Improvement core volume. "If IT blocks them, which some organizations do, then IT is viewed as the Luddites."

Longtime service desk players such as ServiceNow, BMC Software and FrontRange, as well as newcomers such as ITinvolve, are leveraging not just social interfaces but the entire concept of social to let people interact with IT and, in some cases, the rest of the organization. This Web 3.0 interaction—Web 2.0 plus social media—is something portals, FAQ pages and self-service Intranet sites could never do.

BMC, which rolled out its social ITSM platform, MyIT, in April, is betting that people will embrace object-orientated interfaces that literally use floor plans and maps to guide them. If a printer, copier or projector is having problems, for example, users can touch its icon on their iOS device (Android support is coming this summer), and up pops a list of action items such as "call service desk" or "get information about device." Whatever information—or people—the organization wants attached to a particular point of interest is what users will see.

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MyIT can also include location-aware services: Which conference rooms are free, where to find a particular ECG machine in a hospital, as well as whether it's in use, down for maintenance or on lease, or, for the Department of Defense, where a tank is hiding, says Jason Frye, CTO of Mobility for BMC.

The whole idea is to improve efficiency by reducing friction between users and the services they need to do their jobs, he says. "We pull together a whole series of discrete items and put them together for end users," he says.

ITinvolve also leans on the concept of objects to provide users with interactivity at the point of need. "The measurement of the value of this kind of approach to IT is around end-user satisfaction and the ability to proactively address end-user issues," CEO and cofounder Logan Wray says. "When people…follow an object in ITinvolve, they opt into all of the process activities that may impact that object."

Social ITSM Captures, Shares Knowledge

In older, ITIL-based ITSM environments, a configuration management database (CMDB) is often employed to connect assets to the underlying processes they depend on. This approach is great as long as the CMDB stays up to date, which is rare, and you care about only things, not the people that have to use them.

Social ITSM is not only about bringing together these two worlds. It's also about capturing and sharing knowledge across the organization. If Eric, for example, seems to always have answers to common Windows issues, then social ITSM will capture that knowledge (provided people contact Eric via the platform, not by tapping him on the shoulder).

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This does two things. It helps people resolve issues in the way they feel most comfortable—by talking to Eric instead of the service desk, which is more common than you'd like to think—and it lets IT uncover heretofore unknown repositories of knowledge inside and outside the organization.

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