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    BYOD step 5: self-service and collaboration

    My last blog post discussed the fact that business can avoid the need for the service desk team to have detailed knowledge of every device, environment and app by encouraging staff, including users, to pool their individual knowledge in collaborative spaces – for example shared online workspaces. Another way to do this is to provide users with self-service access to resources such as knowledge bases and blogs. Here I’ll focus on the issue of getting the most out of these facilities.

    Self-service has a reputation problem

    Most helpdesk products have self-service and knowledge management tools included in the package, but not all service desks are taking full advantage of them. One problem is that in many organizations, the reputation of self-service has been damaged by experiences such as poorly implemented FAQs and unfriendly tools for searching.

    These experiences have often created a negative cycle: the facilities are unloved and unused, and so there is no incentive for the service desk to improve them.

    How to get self-service on track

    It’s relatively easy to overcome these problems in an existing self-service facility, or to introduce a new one in the right way. Here are a few tips:

    Start small. Don’t try to create a workspace for every fix or technology area the service desk has ever worked on. Instead prioritize on issues with high incident rates and issues where expertise exists within the community.  For example, post the top five fixes related to iPhones within a workspace focused on iPhones. Users and support staff become more motivated to share and add more knowledge, setting up a positive cycle in place of the negative one described above.

    Promote collaborative learning. As the self-service portal begins getting more attention, the service desk team can facilitate collaborative learning. Encourage the people using iPads, for example, to post questions in a designated area – there’s bound to be someone from the group who can help.  Once people find and use this knowledge, they contribute solutions themselves, provide feedback, and rate solutions offered by peers. You should quickly see interaction between users develop and incident volumes fall as a result. The service desk team can monitor the workspace and jump in to add expertise or provide feedback or validate a solution to further assist those users coming to the workspace to seek help.

    Aim to have devices supported by the community. By creating an always-available facility that is able to answer a large proportion of support queries, you free the service desk team to focus on more demanding and value-adding tasks. One of these tasks is aligning what the support team does with the needs of the business, which means opening and maintaining a dialogue with business users.

    Make sure your service desk system and team are collaboration-friendly

    All this is a lot easier if you have the right service desk platform – one that should have collaboration and self-service at its core. Bolting these capabilities on to an existing platform is problematic because it makes collaboration into a separate task rather than simply a way to work.

    The platform should also have a user interface that resembles that of the social technologies that users are familiar with – this will instantly make people comfortable using it. It will also remind them of the way that they work in their personal lives, where most people naturally turn to friends or online contacts for help, only approaching vendors’ technical teams as a last resort – so that collaboration will quickly become second nature at work as well.

    The service desk team must embrace collaborative working themselves, or they will be sidelined and eventually ignored. Experience shows that they, too, are likely to prefer this way of working, particularly as it frees them up from routine jobs and empowers them to tackle more demanding and strategic tasks.

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