Lost in Mobility: How location, opportunity, skills and time changed IT

In the mobile revolution, modern IT organizations can take advantage of the big loads of data spilling out of phones and tablets to work smarter and faster. These clingy devices are highly efficient information aggregators. By adding context to each customer engagement, IT can pair a specific job with the best available service agent, based on whereabouts and situation, experience and schedule.

While most sensory data, such as voice pitch, body temperature and handgrip pressure, would overwhelm our analytic needs today, it’s easy to capture four variables with immediate impact on IT. By including context factors, such as geographical location, opportunity to add value, skill set and time of day, when dispatching assignments and managing operations, IT can thrill customers with unmatched service and optimize efficiency with smarter processes.

The benefits of context-based service engagements stretch from the front-office, where employees and customers request services, report issues and ask questions, to the back-office where requests are granted, problems fixed and queries answered. While tools already connect self-service portals with fulfillment engines, we need mobility to truly take advantage of a consumerized IT front-end and industrialize IT back-end.

Location is probably the most familiar mobile technology available. From Google Maps to Yelp, the GPS coordinates tell us where someone is and where they’ve been. We also can use geographic information to expedite IT services.

Front-Office: Jimmy, a sales guy, travels to his firm’s New York office for a customer meeting. Upon arrival, his mobile email stops working. He opens the self-service app on his smartphone and logs a ticket.

Back-Office: Because the ticket logged from Jimmy’s phone shows his location, the help desk assigns Sue, a nearby IT technician, who resolves the issue with ease. The help desk knew Sue was in the vicinity of Jimmy because of the GPS coordinates broadcast from her mobile incident-management app.

For help desks and service providers, location-based services is an easy way to manage service-level agreements. A Washington, D.C. firm even claims to never have missed an SLA since IT armed service agents with mobile apps seven years ago.

Opportunity is more elusive. When we are no longer tethered to a desk, we change the way we work. Away from the monitor, we act faster and smarter. With the right tools, we seize new productivity-boosting opportunities.

Front-Office: In New York, Jimmy is showing customers his firm’s latest gadgets. The monitor in the conference room works but the Bose surround-sound system doesn’t. Instead of panicking and calling the help desk, Jimmy opens his mobile self-service app and scans the QR code on the audio controller. This launches the Bose user manual on his phone. Within minutes, the customer presentation is back on track.

The demand for more Do-It-Yourself IT is discussed in a recent episode of the weekly broadcast  “Alf’s Zoo,” where Rob Otto explains why the next-generation of “extremely mobile” workers don’t want to pick up the phone and call the help desk.

Back-Office: Once done with Jimmy’s email issue, Sue is ready for her next assignment. But instead of calling or walking over to the help desk, she uses her incident-management app to search for other issues in the vicinity. She sees that the printer down the hall is out of order and that an executive with a corner office is having Wi-Fi issues. She assigns both tickets to herself, accelerating response time, eliminating travel time and optimizing her team’s time.

With skills, we refer to training and certification, experience and natural talent. Most IT support organizations are divided into three support tiers from junior help-desk clerks to subject matter experts. Assigning the right skill to the right situation is paramount both for IT and its customers, who nowadays want more service choices.

Front-Office: While Jimmy is a great sales guy, he’s no tech savant. He prefers desk-side support to solve issues like the email problem. But for simpler tasks, like a password reset, remote-access support and knowledge articles will do the trick.

Back-Office: When Sue arrives at the corner office, the executive’s Wi-Fi error is worse than expected. Sue needs to bring in networking expert. But fast, this is a VIP customer. In the incident-management app, she can see a list of T3/L3 technicians currently on call. She assigns the ticket to Tim, who’s right around the corner.

Time is one of the most underrated factors in our mobile world. Accustomed to the speed of Amazon.com, service of Zappos.com and personal touch of Apple Genius Bars, today’s business consumers demand 24/7 tech support in the work place too. With always-on access to the business, and the additional expectations it feeds, users argue IT should support them anywhere, anytime.

Front-office: Jimmy needs to upgrade his glitchy video card. He open the self-service app and schedule an appointment with the help desk. It’s late so he sets it for next Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. in his Miami office.

Back-Office: As Sue is wrapping up her day, she notices the last two items on her docket require more time than she has left on her shift. Instead of postponing, she assigns one of the items to a colleague who just started her shift.

“For example, from their smartphones, they go to their online banking sites and handle all of their banking business from a single access point,” Jason Frye of BMC’s CTO Office wrote in a 2012 whitepaper on enterprise mobility. “They view account balances, write checks, transfer funds, and perform a variety of other tasks. Or they may go to an airline site to make reservations, purchase tickets, select seats, and check flight status. The possibilities are endless.”

“It’s only natural that people would demand the same kind of experience in their professional lives. In fact, knowledge workers of the generation now coming into the workforce are called digital natives because they have grown up in a world in which technology is a natural part of their everyday lives. They expect the same kind of technology experience in their workplace.”

Now imagine you’d pull it together, leveraging the context factors in a super engagement. The help desk assigns a close by service agent, with the proper skills, who have sufficient time to complete the task – and ideally can capitalize on the situation by conducting proactive maintenance or pick up tickets in the vicinity.

While context-driven engagements allow the help desk to maximize its efficiency, it significantly alters the end users perception of IT. Chris Rixon recently wrote a critique on Forrester’s “Exploring Business and IT Friction: Myths and Realities” report, arguing that location-based service and support “is going to be one of the most important factors in genuinely transforming an end users experience (and perception) of IT.  You can ensure that the notifications you provide to Alice are timely and appropriate to her role and location.”

“You can offer her support that’s specific to the facility she currently finds herself in.  You can provide connectivity information, the location of key devices and how to connect them. You can even provide floor plans and maps of where everything so she can orient herself in unfamiliar surroundings.”

“Modern mobile computing devices are opening up new kinds of contextual information about their users. This information can now be used to massively enrich the IT experience and eliminate a lot of the wasted effort both sides expend in tracking down the right services at the right time.”

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Alf Abuhajleh

Alf Abuhajleh

Alf is an IT expert at BMC and the host of Alf's Zoo. Alf is focused on social, mobile and context-aware IT.