Give Your Employees Shoes, So They Don’t Walk

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the shoemaker’s children. The analogy of the shoemaker’s children having no shoes because the cobbler is too busy crafting footwear for customers is frequently applied to individuals, consultants, organizations, and businesses whose external expertise is notably lacking in their internal affairs.

Don't leave employees shoelessA classic example of this is described in a recent report from Gartner, Design IT Self-Service for the Business Consumer: (Jarod Greene, 19 February 2014): “IT organizations should employ the same self-service techniques consumer service providers use to increase uptake and satisfaction levels.”

Often,  enterprises that offer convenient and user-friendly self-service capabilities for external customers fail to adopt such systems or approaches for delivering internal IT (or other functional) services to employees.

The report also states, “The majority of IT self-service deployments are not designed with the end user in mind. IT organizations should employ the same self-service techniques consumer service providers use to increase uptake and satisfaction levels.”

Employees want the same type of user experience from internal systems that they get from consumer apps, ecommerce sites, and social networks; yet IT doesn’t design employee-facing applications this way. IT and other departments (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) too often design systems to fit their own preferences rather than users’ wants.  Enterprises can address this gap by designing employee-facing self-service portals which are more like customer-facing applications.

The Gartner report further predicts that “by 2016, 20% of I&O (Infrastructure & Operations Management) organizations will incorporate consumer self-service practices into their IT self-service strategies, up from less than 5% today.”  That’s heady growth, but still surprisingly low adoption.

On a larger scale, these observations apply as well to enterprise request management (ERM), a business process improvement approach to service delivery that provides employees with a single, intuitive  “Amazon.com-like” portal for requesting anything they need to do their jobs, from any internal department or function. The process of implementing ERM starts with redesigning services and processes from the business user’s perspective.

To improve request management and service delivery processes across the enterprise, four additional points are worth noting:

  • Not just IT systems, but IT support models must also evolve to reflect consumer offerings. In addition to self-service, IT help desks should offer walk-up and schedule-based support to meet the needs of an increasing mobile and remote workforce.
  • The success of self-service offerings depends upon utilization. If portals are too difficult to use, or simply automate poor back-end processes (i.e., doing the wrong things, but faster), employees will go around the system to get things done. This not only renders the technology investment a waste, but can actually decrease productivity.
  • Scope creep can often risk the success of enterprise projects—but it needn’t be a concern due to the agile approach of the strategy. An ERM implementation can start small, with just one or a few processes, and expand as it proves its value. The implementation is also scalable as process managers in business functions outside of IT can design, test, refine, and deploy their own service items with minimal technical assistance.
  • Moving from phone-based support to online self-service can both increase user satisfaction and reduce costs. As the Gartner report notes, “Self-service is both cost-effective and scalable. The 2013 average IT service desk cost per agent-handled contact is $17.88. Comparatively speaking, the costs of building, maintaining and administering IT self- service portal to manage contacts are much lower than the costs of people to support the same contacts.”

Evolving IT support, and internal business service delivery more broadly, to a more consumer-focused model can both delight business users and reduce fulfillment costs for the enterprise. Failing to do so, conversely, negatively impacts productivity and frustrates employees. With ERM, the figurative cobbler can make shoes for his children that keep them from walking out the door.

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