Despite the growing use of social media within enterprises for collaboration — and externally as a customer service and marketing tool — there have been few examples of its use to speed up response times and efficiency among IT service desks. I suspect this is because, for a long while, the aim of automation in the IT service management world has been seen as minimizing the time spent interacting with users, supposedly in the name of efficiency, but to the detriment of satisfactory outcomes for users, who have had to wait longer before their IT problems were resolved.
Fortunately, the ITSM vendors are now starting to introduce social tools into their applications, and the advances that I’ve been recording on this blog for several years already in the field of customer support desks are finally landing up on the IT service desk.
“It’s as much a cultural change as anything else,” David D’Agostino, EMEA product marketing manager for Service-now.com, explained to me in a briefing this morning. The ITSM vendor is introducing some new social media tools in the latest release of its SaaS application, which went live to customers last week [disclosure: Service-now.com is a recent consulting client].
‘Social IT’ comes in the form of two main components that are now available as part of Service-now.com’s ITSM suite. One adds online chat, which can be used as an additional channel by which users contact the service desk, or as a medium for internal real-time interaction, for example to open a virtual ‘war room’ while resolving an open problem.
The second is a live feed, similar to Salesforce.com’s Chatter stream, which can accept posts from people or from system objects, such as devices or open incidents. The stream shows up in a sidebar of the Service-now.com application window, and can be filtered using tags.
The new functions appear to be be meeting a pent-up demand. “I’m very pleased by the number of people that are wanting to get their hands on this and start using it,” said D’Agostino. “It’s actually quite interesting to see how fast it’s being adopted.”
In part the explanation may be that it’s easy to add these tools without disrupting or replacing existing processes. Another factor may be that people already have third-party tools in place but prefer to have these social functions native in the applications they use for core processes. Service-now.com was itself using the third-party chat tool Yammer internally, D’Agostino told me, which had helped to prove the use case. “It took that kind of staging process, using Yammer and demonstrating that it wasn’t wasting people’s time, [that] it was useful.”
Integration to other applications remains an issue, though. The ability to intersect with Chatter streams may well be something that Salesforce.com users will want, while customers are already asking about connecting Service-now.com’s XMPP-based chat with other chat services (not yet an option but in the roadmap, they’ve been told). This another example of the stovepiping of social streams within enterprise application stacks that I’ve written about before.
Not related to the social tools launch but still relevant to the topic, D’Agostino pointed me to an interesting account of how Facebook itself manages its own server data center using a lightning-fast application developed on top of the Service-now.com platform. Here’s just a flavor of how Facebook approached the task:
“The project was nick named 4-Clicks because it was the goal of the Director of Datacenter Operations, that each server repair could be identified, assigned, and have repairs completed in just 4 clicks of the mouse … Each server has its own wall so a tech can easily see current status, repair history and what the pre-determined diagnosis is for why the machine is not functioning as expected.”
If only all enterprise IT systems management could be as intuitive, efficient and fun. Maybe, one day, it will.