Mindsets, Skillsets, and Toolsets for The New IT

Part 1: A mobile-first approach

“When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you sir?” this fantastic quote is attributed to the economist Maynard-Keynes, on being confronted about a shift in his thinking. The quote is also attributed to various others (as all good quotes seem to be). No matter who said it, I think it highlights two contradictory expectations we often have: people must be both consistent in their point of view, and at the same time, agile in their thinking. Hmm, tricky…

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As IT service management professionals we often get this balance wrong, erring a little too much on the side of consistency, as we have often been schooled to do. Like the proverbial frog in a boiling pot, we generally miss the optimal time to act.

It’s pretty clear we’re at a critical juncture in the evolution of enterprise technology. With the inexorable rise of digitally-driven business, IT has become the primary service provider to the organization. Some IT departments have realized this and have shifted their alignment and philosophy, many have not.

New challenges, new opportunities

A greatly expanded role for technology, coupled with rocketing expectations from the business, is mandating a fresh approach: we’re witnessing a rare (and genuine) paradigm shift known as The New IT.

So what opportunities are you missing? Where are your consistency/agility traps lurking? How do you manage all these emerging technologies? How should you shift your thinking now that you are the primary service provider? What new skills do you and your teams need?

That’s the problem with genuine paradigm shifts, there’s no shortage of questions.

We’ll take on many of these themes in the coming months, but let’s make a start by looking at one of the most critical issues that the New IT raises and explore some effective human and technological responses.

What does it mean to think ‘mobile first’?

The continued adoption of mobile technology is impacting just about every aspect of IT service management and yet for many service management organizations ‘Mobile’ is just another sub-category to be supported, or in some cases a way of giving field technicians access to your key systems on the move.

It is, of course, WAY more significant than that, prompting some of the more far sighted teams to adopt a ‘mobile first’ approach to service management. I realize that for a good number of companies, the mobility and BYOD revolution is still a relatively minor part of the infrastructure, but in many cases tablets and mobile devices have become a highly significant percentage of the end user compute estate. Regardless of where your organization is on the spectrum of mobile uptake, hopefully some of the observations and guidance below will resonate.

Step 1: Understanding what is your mobile service management experience is like!

Do your mobile business users feel empowered or handcuffed by IT?

Put yourself in the shoes of someone that spends a great deal of their working life on the road. How easy are you to do business with vs. the competition? And by the competition, I mean the kind of self-directed support that many people favor in lieu of a good mobile-ready service from IT.

If you’re really serious about this, and you should be, try the experience for yourself:

  • What’s it like to use your web-portal to get support from a moving train?
  • Can you easily find and access the technology resources you need?
  • How do you interact with IT in remote or unfamiliar offices?
  • Do your support staff fully understand the needs of the mobile workforce?

You can also interview a few mobile employees to find out how they use technology on the move and how (if) they access the services you provide. This can be a real eye-opener…

Step 2: Getting some quick wins

Understanding the mobility mindset will allow you to build a shortlist of projects and behavioral shifts that will really help shift the perception of mobile employees. Many organizations find that this initial list is actually pretty short and fairly straightforward, with items such as:

  • Simplify self-service and make it mobile friendly
  • Train support staff in the needs of mobile workers
  • Improve knowledge repositories about mobile devices

For our own part, we’ve been thinking a lot about the needs of the mobile enterprise. Our MyIT solution was designed to make getting access to services easier for everyone, but especially for those on the go. The focus throughout was on simplicity and ease of use, optimized not just for the form factor, but also for the working patterns of modern employees.

Step 3: Mobilizing service management

And what about your own teams? are they empowered with mobile access to your primary service management platform?

There are many roles in service management where effective mobile access can be a real productivity boost. Especially for those who operate remotely from the core service desk team, or those who access your systems less frequently and who don’t need (or want) full desktop access.

There are also those on the periphery who find it helpful to get mobile access too, such as key process approvers, or those looking primarily for updates and information.

In some smaller organizations, there’s a growing trend to have an entirely mobile service desk. Armed with iPads, they respond directly to issues as they emerge or start to schedule their visits by appointment when the workload starts to mount. No more rows of swivel chairs and lanes of desktop computers, these cutting edge service desks are the very definition of a mobile workforce!

Salesforce’s decision to adopt a mobile first development approach with ‘Salesforce 1’ has paid real dividends for us too, with our Remedyforce solution taking full advantage of the advances made in the platform. Optimized mobile access is now a given with Remedyforce, meaning you no longer have to think about where and when you access the system and the device you choose. It will just work – and that’s the way it should be.  

Step 4: Getting app ready

How well adapted are you to support apps as opposed to more traditional enterprise applications?

Do you have a solid grasp of exactly which mobile apps your business has come to depend on? Or even an inkling? And of those apps how many are visible and under your control? And if they’re not managed by you, what is the minimum level of support you provide?

A quiet revolution has taken in enterprise computing. In many organizations, apps have stealthily become a business productivity enabler, in some cases the primary productivity enabler. I am still haunted by a conversation I had with a CIO from the corporate insurance industry last year. He didn’t know they even had a mobile sales management solution, until the first support calls started to come in from disgruntled sales people trying to access quotes, with minutes to go before a critical customer meeting. I’ve since heard many other permutations of this story and similar ‘Shadow IT’ nightmares.

Step 5: Getting app centric

Episodes like this often act as the wake up call to take a more focused and deliberate approach to mobility in ITSM. Maybe not going as far as adopting ‘mobile first’ approach but at the very least being ‘mobile ready’.

It’s also worth noting that you will never have full control over the app phenomenon. They’re ridiculously easy to find, install and use. The pragmatic approach seems to work best and involves striking a balance between enabling the business, while protecting the integrity of core systems and data.

The following is representative of how some organizations are taking this on:

  • Provide viable and highly usable apps for key business tasks
  • Make them as simple to access as commercial app stores
  • Promote your app capabilities heavily at all levels of the organization
  • Consider running internal education for non-IT managers on IT risk
  • Make sure you have sufficient governance and control over the apps and their data
  • Regularly review the uptake and relevance of what you provide

It’s equally important to be pragmatic about the outcome, you will never be the sole provider of this computing tier, but you should make yourselves the easiest to business with.

So how mobile ready are you? If you’re a long way down the road, please share your tips and tricks. If you’re hitting some roadblocks, I’d love to hear about that too. You can respond in the comments below or you can find me on Twitter as @messagemonger

See you next time

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

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Chris Rixon

Chris Rixon

Chris has worked in IT Operations Management technology since 1990, in roles spanning: IT helpdesk, software engineering, consulting, architecture, sales engineering and marketing. Chris joined the Remedy Corporation in 2000 and came to BMC during the acquisition in late 2002.