Optimizing the end-user experience has many dimensions to it, and one key element of them is ensuring that any issues from password reset, to application access, to support for multiple endpoints by a single user—are all addressed without your users feeling that they’re queuing up at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This blog leverages EMA research to examine how a truly efficient service desk can make itself all the more effective by becoming more transparent, less verbally visible, and yet ultimately far more end-user empowering.

To begin with, I’d like to make clear that all of the data-specific insights in this blog come from two research projects: “ITSM Futures” (2015) and “Optimizing IT for Financial Performance” (Q3 2016). Together these research efforts paint a fairly clear picture of what’s changing in optimizing end-user values—and what’s staying the same.

What’s New (and What’s Not)

First let’s look at strategic priorities for ITSM teams overall. In “ITSM Futures,” the top priority was to improve end-user experience internal to the business. This focus on user experience may not be surprising, and it’s also not particularly new. Similarly when we examined how IT measures its own performance in “Optimizing IT,” not surprisingly mean-time-to-resolve incidents was at the very top of the list. A focus on resolving incidents quickly is also not new or surprising.

On the other hand, when we look at functional priorities (also ITSM Futures), number one was enhanced automation for self-service, and a service catalog for self-service and cloud wasn’t far behind. This focus on automation does represent new trends and new priorities.

Putting two and two together, these findings strongly suggest that enhancing end-user experience is about investing in new levels of automation for self-service. This has also been borne out in our ongoing dialogs and consulting with actual ITSM deployments.

What’s Hot in Self-Service (and What’s Not)

If enhanced automation for self-service is a number one functional priority, it’s worth taking a closer look at how this plays out more broadly. When we asked about priorities for self-service management in general (“ITSM Futures”), we found the following:

1. More effective automation for supporting end-user access to services

1. Knowledge management

3. More effective automation for resolving end-user issues

4. Service catalog

5. Mobile access

6. Enhanced role-based visualization

7. Social media

I’ll be examining the importance of service catalogs and mobile access later in this blog, but in this section I want to focus on the stunning combination right at the top.

Automation enabling access to ITSM and IT application services, along with automation for resolving end-user issues, both underscore the growing need for a time-sensitive approach to caring for end-user support. In other words, organizations need to eliminate the “I’ll get back to you’s,!” with no end in sight, and speed up delivery and remediation.

Second in rank—right in the middle of the automation priorities—quite tellingly, is knowledge management. Speed is good, but without added visibility and wisdom, speed can lead to figurative (and sometimes even literal) train wrecks.

Service Catalogs, App Stores: Automated Access With Accountability

In both surveys, we saw a growing requirement for service catalogs, app stores, and the inclusion of both cloud and in-house services as ways of providing users with faster access that is also more flexible and satisfying. Service catalogs and app stores can also ideally create a full audit trail of usage, cost, and any SLA expectations for the ITSM team. In “Optimizing IT” we found a strong correlation between success and the inclusion of usage, cost, and pricing in service catalogs.

Looking at the success rates reported in both research areas, we also saw the value of integrating cloud services of various kinds (SaaS, IaaS, etc.) with in-house delivered services in service catalogs and app stores. And both surveys also underscored the value service catalogs can provide by giving internal users access to business services such as HR, facilities, legal, marketing, etc.—extending the “end-user experience” discussion to business as well as IT processes.

The Mobile Dilemma and the Mobile Opportunity

In “ITSM Futures,” nearly two-thirds of ITSM teams felt that they were significantly or completely impacted by mobile, upping the ante for end-user support. This is just one of many data points that underscores the rising importance of supporting mobile end users.  Mobile is indeed not only creating a new set of lifecycle management requirements, it’s also raising consumer expectations about the speed and efficiencies needed for acceptable IT support. A consumer population, in fact, far more digitally savvy and likely to seek alternate routes and alternate options when IT support isn’t as it should be.

But the “mobile dilemma” isn’t about “mobile-only.” It’s fundamentally about mobile as a part of an increasingly heterogeneous set of end-user devices. Managing a mixed endpoint population can present huge challenges, affecting everything from onboarding to ensuring high-quality service delivery. So not surprisingly, the vast majority of ITSM teams facing these challenges believe that a unified console for managing both mobile and non-mobile devices is critical. Moreover, when this is done effectively and mobile access can be shared between IT and its customers, the result, as both surveys show, is improved responsiveness to IT service consumers.

Wrapping Up

There are other trends in making the service desk less vocal and more efficient. Although it still scores as a low priority in much of my research, the need for social IT is definitely on the rise. Much of the low score there is due to still early and often crude vendor implementations—but these are picking up. On the other hand, the need for improved peer-to-peer dialog, which social IT can significantly accelerate, scores very high pretty much across the board—suggesting that social IT can and should play a greater role in optimizing end-user experience.

Finally, I’d like to stress that while I’m all for a less vocal, less bureaucratic, Motor Vehicles-type environment—I’m not for a voiceless service desk. There will always be, as far as I can tell, a need for human dialog when a labyrinth of automation and electronic forms leads the unprepared end users to a virtual high-tech Minotaur. What that will mean with cognitive analytics and bots, only the future can tell us. But right now, I for one am still quite happy when all else fails and I hear a wise, welcoming, and well-informed human voice ready to help me navigate my way through new levels of unexpected automation.