Has anyone heard, talked or even went to formal training about the business value of IS/IT? Well, I thought so, this is of course an extremely fundamental aspect for the IS/IT service provider to really understand in order to maximize it. Now, how many of you are certain about what kind of value IS/IT brings to the business, how IT is perceived by the business? How many of you can say that you know how the business uses your services, what they normally ask about and so on? I guess you now understand what I want to talk about this time. There are of course several levels of business value much like layers of an onion, but for most business users you can boil it down to the actual use of services and the contact with IT, which in most cases is the Service Desk.
I claim that the easiest way for people in the IT service provider organization to quickly learn about business value is to start or at least spend some quality time in the service desk
The moment of truth for a service desk agent, no matter exactly where in the support chain he/she is located, is the actual interaction with the business, the users. In this interaction everything that this service desk agent has learned, all the internal support such as knowledge items, support scripts and the full lot is tested for real. This is it, we cannot fail our dear business users. Agreed?
Spending time in the service desk, no matter if it is a permanent role or simply a couple of weeks or even days, is extremely relevant for all people working in the IT service provider, for all roles. My personal favorite is the newly hired developer, technician or project manager.
I really think that the first thing that should happens to a newly hired person in IT is that they directly are put face-to-face with the business, using the tools, information and other aids at their disposal. It is get real very quick and this person will we forced to learn very quickly. This person will soon understand the value of collaboration in the IT service provider organization, the value of structure, process, documentation and all other tools and aids the service desk need to perform their job. More importantly, this person will understand what kind of problems and needs to the business user has, this person will get an insight about important business patterns. Of course this has to be done in a controlled way, simply offering a chair, a computer and a headset will endanger the Service Desk quality.
Being on the IT frontline stimulates humility, understanding of the internal support dynamics and, most importantly, understanding of the business users and their patterns of service usage and support needs.
Please let me return to my favorites to participate in the service desk, directly as newbies or just temporary in a later stage; the developer, the technician and the project manager. These people are extremely important for our ongoing delivery of service AND evolution of the same services. Furthermore, and now some people will get mad (I can live with that, we all have our perspectives), these roles traditionally are not big contributors, or fans, of the support task. IMHO, based on my personal experiences, these roles are more focused on getting their task done and move on, and then to make sure what they create really are established. Please go ahead, get mad and curse a little, but think about it, what are the main focus for a development effort and how often do we find ourselves with great time pressure and delivery is being made in a rush. I know, a lot has happened, with processes we all understand better how everything we do fits neatly together but still, there are absolutely traces of these “old” problems within IT, mainly between development and operations.
Therefore, imagine the lessons learned after a period in the Service Desk, seeing what unprepared deliveries does or the mess created by forgotten updates to routines and support scripts.
Please, read between the lines, I do not want to criticize anyone, we all have our tasks, our priorities and the choices we need to make to get ahead. Think of it, does it really matters how great we are at developing new things if we cannot support it properly? It is like having the best weapon system in the world in the frontlines but the ammo supply does not work thus leaving this army with a fancy and cool weapon that cannot be used.
Please try to include a week in the Service Desk for all new IT staff, no matter what role, in your onboarding program. And also create a re-visit program than can be used when people forget now it really is. After all, if we cannot make the users happy it really does not matter how good we are at all other things we do.