Enabling IT Self-Service with Intelligent Automation and Proactive Remediation

IT Self-Service with Intelligent Automation and Proactive Remediation

For over a decade I’ve spoken and written about the need to make corporate IT self-service capabilities more than simply a pretty front-end for capturing ticket information and serving up self-help-focused knowledge articles. Of course, this somewhat limited capability might save the IT service desk time (and relieve some of the pressure on it) but it doesn’t deliver the true benefits of self-service – for neither the IT department nor the employees it serves. So, what self-service improvements should your organization be aiming for? And what do its employees expect from modern-day IT service delivery and support? Please keep reading to find out the answers to these and other questions; plus the power of intelligent automation.

So, what self-service improvements should your organization be aiming for? And what do its employees expect from modern-day IT service delivery and support? Here @StephenMann explores. #servicedesk #selfservice Click To Tweet

When the industry called for Amazon-like self-service portals…

I remember this vividly, especially when getting product demos as an IT industry analyst. Self-service portals were a red-hot new addition to IT service management (ITSM) tools and a key selling factor – “give your employees an Amazon-like self-service experience, everyone benefits.” It sounded great, but it wasn’t always. In fact, few real success stories were told at the time, and then later.

The common failure point for self-service initiatives was pretty logical – that while there was now a pretty looking, Amazon-like, self-service portal in place, there was little to entice employees to use it. Little automation, let alone intelligent automation. Furthermore, the assumption that employees would use the self-service capability just because they did so in their personal lives was flawed from at least two perspectives:

  1. The importance of employee work-based needs and their personal-life needs are not necessarily equal
  2. The corporate capabilities just didn’t match the best-of-breed consumer-world self-service capabilities.

Realizing the benefits of self-service (or not)

A common theme here, beyond usability, was/is that these self-service capabilities often lacked back-end automation to deliver the immediacy that employees expect from self-service. Put bluntly, the self-service “of old” could be viewed as a web-based ticket-emailing system that gave slower service, and a poorer service experience, than simply calling the IT service desk for assistance. Indeed, according to recent research conducted by the endpoint management specialist, 1E, over half of employees think calling the service desk is still faster than using a chatbot.

There was little perceived benefit of self-service use to employees and no significant cost savings realized for IT – both per transaction and because of the resulting low employee uptake. A great snapshot in time related to this is a statistic from a 2017 Service Desk Institute (SDI) self-service report:

“… the number of organizations that have … achieved the anticipated return on investment (ROI) are few, less than 12% according to recent SDI research.”

Understanding the common issues isn’t rocket science – there was a need to invest more in factors that would entice employees to use the self-service portal and to keep them using it rather than the higher-cost traditional IT service desk channels.

This need has only heightened as a result of the mass move to hybrid working. In 2020, according to 1E research, three-quarters of employees waited hours, days, or weeks to get IT issues resolved and a third found it took longer to get IT issues resolved when working remotely. It sets the scene nicely for the use of intelligent automation.

Creating the right recipe for IT self-service success

Thankfully, IT-industry thinking has moved on significantly since the SDI report was published. The service experience, or employee experience, is increasingly becoming a key focus area for internal service providers, including IT departments. Recognizing not only the need for ease-of-engagement but also the employee-productivity impact of sub-par services and support. And, thus, the need for better capabilities and swifter resolutions.

To increase the probability of success, self-service capabilities need to first be built around employee needs and expectations – @StephenMann #selfservice #servicedesk Click To Tweet

To increase the probability of success, self-service capabilities need to first be built around employee needs and expectations, plus provide a better service experience and level of immediacy than simply picking up the phone to call the IT service desk. Returning to the failings of the Amazon-like portal, there’s a need to exploit automation at the back-end to deliver against these needs (plus the financial benefits that made self-service such an attractive proposition a decade ago).

Intelligent automation – automating self-service for “better, faster, cheaper”

Automation is nothing new for IT departments. Now the availability of machine learning and natural language understanding (NLU)-based capabilities offer a variety of beneficial capabilities to IT departments and the employees they serve. For example, chatbots and virtual agents can be accessed via a variety of channels – from portals, through mobile apps, to within work-focused collaborative apps such as Microsoft Teams and Slack.

Like IT support per se, while the choice and ease-of-use of the available access channels are important to employees, being able to work again quickly after an IT issue (or, even better, not being impacted in the first place) is where the real value is for both employees and the organization as a whole. With intelligent automation, organizations are now able to provide the required immediacy of resolution plus the opportunity for proactive remediation.

This article by @StephenMann looks at how service desks can benefit from intelligent automation in self-service. #servicedesk #selfservice #automation Click To Tweet

Benefitting from intelligent automation in self-service

This productivity and experience-improving capability can be provided in several ways – using a common platform of experience-related device data, machine learning and NLU capabilities, and orchestration to deliver intelligent automation. For example:

  • Employees are empowered to fix their own issues – with them alerted to issues that are affecting, or that will affect, device performance and their productivity, plus the ability to self-help by invoking the orchestration required to immediately deliver the most appropriate resolution.
  • An IT support chatbot or virtual agent, when engaging with an employee regarding their issue, can leverage the available device data to inform its decision making, plus can invoke orchestration capabilities to deliver the required resolution.
  • Service desk analysts can also access the experience-focused device data when working on their tickets, preventing a call to the end user for additional information, and equally benefit from the recommended actions and orchestration capabilities too.

Upping the employee experience through analytics

While the above three use cases offer benefits in their own right, there’s another opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you wish to view it as problem management, experience management, employee sentiment management, or something else, it’s the ability to use data trends to identify and address issues before they’re experienced and reported.

For example, a software upgrade might be causing performance issues for employees with the same OS or device type. Or there might be connectivity issues related to certain locations or management groups.

There’s much opportunity today, with experience-related data and intelligent automation, to improve IT service delivery and support. Here @StephenMann looks at some of the ways how. #servicedesk #automation Click To Tweet

Here, the same data and orchestration capabilities (as used in the reactive resolution use cases) can be applied to proactive remediation. Where possible, these capabilities provide the needed resolutions (or workarounds) “silently” such that employees never know that there was an issue that would affect their service experience and productivity. Alternatively, they can be added to the available, automated self-help capabilities available to the affected employees, such that they’re alerted to the need to invoke a particular action to prevent a future issue.

There’s much opportunity today, with experience-related data and intelligent automation, to improve IT service delivery and support. Plus, and more importantly, improving employee productivity, business operations, and outcomes is a reality given the right tools and data.

If your organization is already using digital experience management and end-point automation capabilities that help out as per the above, then I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know in the comments below.

Transparency statement – this article was sponsored by 1E following a demo of its ITSM Connect solution. Its content is the opinion of the author and has been written from an impartial standpoint.

Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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