Why Self-service is the Future of IT Operations


It’s hard to imagine life before self-service. Grocery stores, gas stations, banks, restaurants, movie theaters, and many other businesses have adopted self-service for some time now, and many other industries are headed that way.

It didn’t all happen at once. Prior to the shift to self-service, many businesses were skeptical about adopting a new business process (i.e. self-checkout at grocery stores) that would require them to rethink how things were done, and in many or all cases restructure a business that had been running the same way for many decades.

Every business needs to adapt to consumer need, and self-service is part of a significant technology shift — for reasons we’ll explain in this post.

The enterprise faces similar challenges these days. We all are enterprise consumers now, and there is an increasing demand for IT and application support that better aligns with the way we work. We want immediacy, independence, and less disruption.

Not your traditional “Self-service”

Trouble ticketing systems originated in manufacturing as a paper-based reporting system. It was a process for tracking and prioritizing issues, just like the current web-based solutions. Similar to the paper systems, current systems have a queue, a way to track progress, and a way to prioritize.

However, the idea that every single incident needs to be logged into a ticketing system has not changed — although our way to do work, our technology, and our mentality has changed. This notion it’s not only antiquated, but it’s also hurting all IT team’s by not allowing them to move faster and better contribute to the bigger issues in their organizations.

The term “self-service” may be received with skepticism and resistance by IT Operations teams. But the self-service we refer to goes hand in hand with:

  • Knowledge sharing
  • Workplace collaboration
  • Context

By taking these three components into consideration, we get a new generation “self-service” system that is easily scalable and supports the needs of any growing organization. We don’t even call it self-service anymore, we call it “knowledge sharing”.

No more trouble tickets?

Incident tracking it’s not going away. Ticketing systems are a great tool for IT Operations teams, and play a big role in making sure that the many issues submitted to IT Ops are tracked, organized, and resolved. Without ticketing systems, communication between IT Ops and the rest of the organization would be madness.

It’s important to analyze the nature of the opened tickets, and the number of them being created over time. Let’s face it, you have redundant tickets, app support tickets, and specialized question tickets — and your team is probably not keeping up with all of the requests. In addition, there are other more complex issues that have a big impact on the business, these usually go untouched in favor of cleaning up the support ticket queue.

You don’t need to shift your entire IT and app support to self-service. But chances are, there is a very high percentage of incidents that don’t really need to end up as an open ticket, and that in fact would be better resolved by a subject matter expert in your organization.

A simple exercise of determining how many redundant tickets are submitted would help you determine if you could benefit from a different process.

You may find that there are tickets that are app specific, or department specific. For those, an actual app user within their department would be able to provide an answer that better fits their need. Another layer of detail can be provided by a subject matter expert, with deeper understanding about their team’s internal process. Most times, this type of support is tacit knowledge, which may be unavailable outside of that group.

Scaling IT Ops for Faster Resolution Times
We are heading towards —and in many ways are already in — a workplace where new technology shifts a lot of the burden of interaction, response and other actions to the consumer.

It’s not right to consider the old support model as adequate to service applications that were meant to behave as consumer apps.

As enterprise consumers, we demand immediacy, independence (we want to solve issues on own own) and less disruption — this calls for a simpler process that adapts to our pace. When an organization requires more support, the normal tendency is to question whether there is enough support headcount to support every employee.

The question really should be whether there is enough expertise in the organization for it to support the growth itself — more applications calls for more expert users, and this translates to more speed. Supporting an organization and the many applications it implements it’s not sustainable with the old “service desk” model, the only way to scale it is to leverage the expert users as front-line support, which is simply put “knowledge sharing”.

It’s basic, it’s an obvious solution, and it’s the future.

IT Ops and Using Knowledge Sharing as Tool for Growth

Employee expertise or knowledge can be leveraged by IT Ops teams to become a real partner to their business. This expertise has been kept in the dark for a really long time — or idly stored in a database somewhere, but that’s a story for another post.

It doesn’t mean that employees are not sharing expertise, many teams are super-stars when it comes to communication and collaboration. But let’s face it, this doesn’t come easy for most companies.

There is a very real need for a tool to capture and share expertise (also known as tacit knowledge) and IT Ops is one of the groups that can benefit the most from it, because:

  • Redundant or specialized support questions get resolved without ever becoming a ticket
  • There is higher app adoption and improved best practices across the organization
  • IT Ops teams can focus on the most critical technical issues

As a new generation of employees takes over, so does another way to do work — and self-service it’s not just an option, it’s expected. It’s the responsibility of every IT Ops team to make sure their strategy keeps up with the changes, because competitors won’t hesitate to do what’s next.

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Karen Chisholm

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