Service Desk AI, Please Meet OCM

Karen Ferris
Karen Ferris
October 13, 2021
The introduction of new technology into your organization requires us to pay attention to the people side of change. New technology can impact policies, process and procedures, roles and responsibilities, resources, and ways of working which all impact people. When organizations invest time and money in organizational change management (OCM) they get a return on their investment through rapid adoption, less delays, reduced need for rework, and earlier benefits realization.

Definition

Before I go any further, let's just take a moment to ensure we have a common understanding of what OCM is.

OCM is an approach that assists organizations implement change and transition from the current state to a desired state with the least disruption. It utilizes techniques including stakeholder identification and engagement, communication, training, resistance management and reinforcement.

OCM is a process that leads people through change and reduces the risk of poor adoption. Without OCM we are much less likely to implement change that drives better business results.

Service Desk Future

The Service Desk in 2021 and beyond is being asked to do more - better, faster, and cheaper. It must increase employee and customer satisfaction. Much of this will be achieved through the introduction of tools and technology that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). This includes chatbots, virtual support agents(VSAs), knowledge curation, incident and request routing, robotic process automation, and predictive analysis and modelling.

Is There an Elephant in the Room?

AI dominates headlines wherever you look. The response is either “AI will steal my job” or “AI will make my life better.”

The elephant in the room could be AI will take Service Desk jobs. It is my firm belief that it won’t.

There is one caveat. If your Service Desk has staff who have not been highly trained and all of their work is scripted, then they are prime candidates for replacement by AI unless you take a deliberate approach now to train them for other work that AI augments.

Most of this hype about job losses is scaremongering by the media. Research tells us that technology is not feared by Service Desk personnel. A report from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) states that 97% of service desk professionals surveyed said that technology had improved their working life, with 75% agreeing absolutely.

The trends in the Service Desk Future Trends report from Info~Tech Research Group all have AI at their core:

·       Adopt a shift-left strategy

·       Deploy chatbots

·       Deploy virtual assistances

·       Deploy robotic process automation

·       Improve self-service

·       Promote knowledge sharing

·       Introduce incident swarming

·       Omnichannel support

Are Service Desk personnel quivering at the thought or are they future-ready? A little history lesson should answer that question. When we introduced self-help and self-service portals, Service Desk personnel did not resist the change. They embraced the change because it made their jobs easier. They could focus on more important work rather than the low-value, high-volume work like password resets.

The SDI ITSM 2021 and Beyond survey found that only 9% of respondents felt their job was insecure due to technology advances.

The elephant is not in the room. It has left the building. 

Enter OCM

I believe that OCM has two parts to play in the introduction of AI into the Service Desk. It has the traditional role to ensure stakeholder readiness. It also has a role to advise the executive, IT and service desk management of the additional considerations and opportunities to be leveraged so that any reduction in personnel is minimized. This is a risk mitigation role.

Stakeholder Readiness

OCM will identify every stakeholder who is impact by the change or has an interest in the change. The degree of impact and interest informs the stakeholder communication and engagement plan. The message, medium, method and frequency of communication and engagement form the plan.

OCM will ensure that communication is a conversation not a broadcast. There will be channels for all stakeholders to ask questions, seek clarification and obtain information.

A crucial component of OCM is to ensure that everyone is aware of the strategy for the Service Desk and IT and the roadmap to achieve it. Resistance to change comes from fear of the unknown caused by a lack of communication.

The roadmap should inform every one of the education, training and support they will receive in readiness for the change. Regular readiness assessments will be conducted, and any areas of concern addressed in a timely manner.

Everyone will be ready and able.

Risk Mitigation

Undertaking risk mitigation and making sure everyone is aware that this is being conducted can only serve to allay any fears that may exist about job security.

This activity must be conducted in conjunction with People and Culture or HR, with whom OCM should have a close cohesion.

AI should augment Service Desk personnel – not replace them.

Preparation

The adoption of AI capabilities does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process.

There is preparation that needs to be undertaken. Process must be mature and there needs to be sound knowledge management. AI needs clean and labelled data. Event monitoring systems need to be finely tuned and provided with better data.

The business needs to be trained and supported to effectively utilize the new ways in which they can get support and fulfil requests.

All of these preparatory tasks can be carried out by Service Desk personnel.

Upskill

There is an opportunity to upskill staff and/or redeploy them. The SDI ITSM 2021 and Beyond survey reported 89% of service desk professionals would be prepared to learn new skills or move to another area within the business.

There is a great opportunity as the mundane tasks are removed through AI, to upskill Service Desk personnel to undertake more important tasks such as monitoring network health.

Clearly this has a knock-on effect to the next levels of IT support, but the approach should be just the same. Keep upskilling IT support personnel to do more.

The introduction of AI will require new roles and new skills.

AI can data mine and provide suggested support solutions that need human review before they get packaged and published as knowledge articles. Who is doing there view?

AI can identify gaps in the knowledge database. Who is addressing the gaps?

The Service Desk as The Hub

AI also presents the opportunity to do what many organizations have been talking about, but not achieving, for some time – the enterprise Service Desk.

As AI automates much of the mundane work of the traditional Service Desk, its role could be expanded to support the entire organization.

The IT Service Desk has well-defined processes and procedures, supporting technology and a wealth of organizational knowledge. It is perfectly positioned to support other areas of the business including facilities, finance, and HR. The same IT Service Desk process flows can be applied to an end-user reporting the failure of an air-conditioning unit to facilities, or an employee requesting information on workplace policies from HR, or a manager requesting a business credit card from finance.

Summary

Whilst the knee-jerk reaction is often to achieve cost reduction by headcount reduction, this is short-sighted.

Organisations have spent a considerable amount of money in recruiting, developing, educating, and training their Service Desk and IT staff. Why throw away that investment rather than leverage it for organizational advancement?

OCM not only ensures that everyone is ready for AI but also identifies the opportunities for Service Desk and IT staff to improve business outcomes.

The removal of the noise that Service Desk personnel deal with on a day-to-day basis allows time to rethink the roles within the Service Desk and the role of the Service Desk itself.

All these changes bring challenges that with OCM that can be overcome ensuring business benefits are realized.

This guest blog article is by Karen Ferriss.

Karen is a self-professed organisational change and service management rebel, WITH a cause! - who pushes the boundaries to explore and develop new approaches that are guaranteed to make things better for all.

She has written 4 books on leadership and organizational change management and is known for defying the status quo in both results and commentary. The recipient of many awards for her contribution to the industry she is a sought-after keynote speaker.

If you would like Karen to help you with your organizational change and service management endeavors get in touch with karen@karenferris.com or via her website karenferris.com.

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