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Why it pays to provide a collaboration space for users and IT staff

In earlier blog posts, I talked about the reasons for adopting a collaborative approach to service management, and reviewed some of the benefits. This time, I’d like to dig deeper into some of the reasons for providing a virtual space for users and IT to staff to collaborate in.


Users are more knowledgeable than they used to be – so let’s make the most of it

Today’s typical user has grown up with IT. At home, they’re used to sorting out their own issues with help from friends or fellow-users they “meet” online in vendors’ user forums and so on. Contacting a provider’s technical support team has become a last resort for a lot of people.

There are several reasons users prefer to talk to their peers rather than technical support. On a user forum, they can often get advice almost instantly, instead of having to wait for hours or even days. That advice is expressed in language they understand and comes from people with the same perspective as them, whereas “official” solutions can be hard to understand, or even mildly insulting to the intelligence (these days, most people know to log out and in, or reboot, but technical support lines still sometimes ask the question).

Users have the same feelings and preferences at work. Your IT department should treat its relationship with users as a partnership rather than a one-way street, and encourage users to solve problems collaboratively – something that takes pressure off the service desk as well as pleasing users by helping them to feel part of a community.



Bring Your Own Device gets easier

There’s another sense in which this approach makes it easier to let users work the way they prefer. If you adopt a Bring Your Own Device or Choose Your Own Device strategy, for example, users can tap into the knowledge of others who have chosen the same device as them, reducing the need for service desk staff to try to be up to speed on all of them.



Providing your own collaboration spaces means you can learn from user conversations

In practice, your users are almost certainly collaborating to solve problems already, but using their own choice of hardware and software – usually instant messaging or cloud sharing solutions – which means that IT can’t easily see or participate in their interactions. One of the disadvantages of that situation is that you miss out on hearing about the small issues that could escalate to the point where they have a major impact on the business.

For example, a laptop that needs rebooting every two hours may have a virus on it that could spread. It may also mean that company information is being stored where you can’t control or secure it, and that people are relying on kit you can’t support.

By providing the collaboration space yourself, you can monitor for imminent problems so that you can take pre-emptive action to reduce impact and cost. You can also identify trends in “shadow IT” (IT systems and solutions being used inside an organization without IT approval) and incorporate them into your strategy. Your technicians can join in conversations between your users when it’s appropriate to do so.

We’d love to hear your experiences of providing a collaboration space for service management professionals and their customers to use. Please share them below, or email me. In my next blog post, I’ll be providing some tips about how to get the best out of a space like this.


Gerry Sweeney

Written by Gerry Sweeney

Gerry founded Hornbill in 1995 and has been responsible for the architecture, design, and planning of the products and technologies that form the core of Hornbill's solutions today.