Successful IT Departments Engage with End Users
August 08, 2018

Tim Flower
Nexthink

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Over the years (decades if I'm being honest) that I have spent in enterprise IT, one of the long-standing criticisms of the service and support offered to users was that the technology teams didn't understand the business. We didn't know how users worked or what they needed. We simply identified a standard and did our best with inventory and delivery tools to keep devices in compliance and working as best we could.

The missing link is whether those standards were appropriate and satisfactory to the business, and if the updates applied over the life of the device had impacted the employee's ability to properly perform their job duties.

Here's the problem: IT teams are in the dark. The only information they have available to them is based on what users decide to tell them about through calls to the help desk.

I often talk about a great example of this that happened at my previous employer, a large financial services and insurance company in Hartford. After a visit to the San Francisco field office, our CEO came back with significant complaints from the business and wanted to know why we hadn't fixed the issues yet and what was going to be done. The only response that could be given to him was that we don't know they have problems unless they call us.

I'll spare you his specific response, but it wasn't good. The gist of the message was "Are you kidding me?! We have a professional IT organization and we don't know they have problems unless they stop doing their job and call us?!"

We opted not to mention that this has been the IT support model for more than 30 years (How old is the Help Desk, anyway?). In any event, we had support from the top to fix the problem.

We Didn't Start the Fire (Or Did We?)

In the old model, IT had no choice but to be an emergency responder or a firefighter. We respond to the biggest inferno of the day and clean up the small brush fires as they flare up, but we don't know about these fires until the user calls 911. And the bigger, unspoken problem with this model is that, more often than not, somewhere within the IT organization is an arsonist who lit that fire.

On top of these daily issues, IT teams have a ton of responsibilities to deal with as employees use more and more devices and applications to do their jobs effectively. I have written in the past about the significant benefits of proactively monitoring the end-user experience from the endpoint. With more environmental elements for the IT staff to monitor, real-time employee feedback adds a valuable point of view for the technology teams to fully understand how employees are being impacted by different technology changes, software roll-outs and general updates. Employee feedback and effective engagement between IT and end users can allow companies to be more aware of different IT issues, make necessarily changes and updates seamlessly, function as a collaborative team with other departments and no longer be a secluded entity of the business.

Don't Monkey Around

Feedback from users is vital but, unfortunately, IT has only found two ways to get it historically. The first is initiated by the user when they call the help desk, and the feedback is almost always negative because something is broken and the call is made under duress, so it's not always accurate. And the bigger issue is that to obtain this feedback you are completely at the users' mercy because they need to stop what they are doing and pick up the phone.

The second is initiated by IT in the form of an online survey with a link sent via email. Again, you are at the mercy of the customer and whether they open the email, read it and take time to complete the survey. Most analyses of online survey participation put the response rates around 3%. Plus, according to survey automation company Retently, most email open rates are only 25%, so the feedback audience is already smaller than it should be. And the numbers go down dramatically as the hours pass by.

Act and Engage

The solution is to leverage an analytics capability that includes both machine data collection AND user feedback that are assessed in conjunction with each other. When users are engaged in real time in the context of what they are doing at the moment, they are more likely to provide accurate and timely feedback. Response rates climb to 70% or 80%, with data flowing in almost immediately. Additionally, users are prompted for feedback independent of whether they called the help desk and without the need to open an email.

Here's the punchline: The users are no longer a dependency for IT's support processes, and IT is no longer in the dark! Instead of relying on them to call the help desk, it is now the IT teams who are engaging with users to ask clarifying questions or gather more information on what they are doing in the moment. Device satisfaction, success of a recent change and feedback on issues that IT may not be able to gather electronically can become possible.

When users believe that their feedback will lead to real results and improvements, they are more likely to provide that feedback. Unfortunately, we have trained our enterprise business users that their feedback doesn't matter because nothing ever gets better. Prove them wrong by transforming how your IT shop does business. Get proactive with the analysis of your device estate, and add in the practice of engaging with your end users in the context of what they are doing right now. Your employees will be thankful, and your business will flourish.

Tim Flower is Global Director of Business Transformation at Nexthink
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