UCISA Support Services Conference 2013: Day Three

Day 3: Thursday 4th July

Thursday morning started with a pair of shorter plenaries looking at two recent service desk initiatives.

The first was a Bomgar deployment at UCA. Being distributed over five sites led UCA to feel that a remote support solution was an absolute must – this would also help with the Senior Officer who uses a Mac at home and needed assistance in setting it up with his printer – a familiar story! They had introduced Bomgar as a tool to fit this need, in order to drive up first-line-fix rates and reduce load on second-level / technical teams. Their previous tools were tied to particular platforms, and therefore the quality / level of service available depended on whether a user was running Windows, OS X, Linux, or something else. Bomgar were also part of the supplier exhibition, and were promoting their recently developed direct integration with the Cherwell service desk tool.

This was followed by a review of the recent Service Desk Initiative (SDI) certification undertaken at the University of Leeds. They are a 14 FTE service desk, with distributed ITSS, handling around 80,000 calls each year. They had been trying to move from “catch and dispatch” or “break/fix” to a customer focussed model of working and were wanting an independent assessment of their operation. SDI was chosen for this. An initial 2-day assessment unpicked everything they did, and took a deep look at their documentation, processes, training, etc. The score wasn’t where Leeds had hoped, but this initial assessment is followed by a series of recommendations to help you acheive your target rating. After 6 months of hard work, Leeds made it through their certification assessment at their desired target level. This is the kind of work that a Service Desk Manager does, and it was hard. Leeds are now hoping to build on their score and go back for recertification at a higher level in future.

During the break I met with the head of the desktop PC team at Royal Holloway. They manage around 900 student PCs and a further 1200 staff machines – so a similar size of user base to Oxford and picking up similar deployment scenarios. Their organisation comprises 5 service desk staff and 5 desktop technicians, using WSUS/SCCM for management. Interestingly, student calls go to the service desk, and all staff calls go straight through to the technicians. The current push in this team is for collaboration tools – providing collaboration from the desktop using Microsoft Link and Yammer. This will be a move away from a plethora of self-selected tools currently in use.

The final session of the conference was a look at Social Media as a communication channel, and brought together many ideas that were raised in other talks. Six main types of SM were identified: blogs, networks (groups based on people’s affinities with each other), content communities (groups based on content type such as YouTube), bookmarking services, micro-blogging like Twitter, and wikis. Internal SM platforms – used for employees to communicate with each other – tend to get low take-up because these don’t build on existing networks / profiles / communities but require people to re-invest in a less established arena, often with little idea of the likely benefits. Working in SM requires us to think about “the 4 C’s”:

  1. Creation (of content) – what is relevant, existing, interesting?
  2. Context – how do people find our content (search engines, sharing, discovery)?
  3. Conversation – listening, interpreting, and responding to other SM publishers, and the reaction to our own content;
  4. Conversion – why are we doing this at all? We must have a goal, which will often be based on someone doing something (buy our product, solve a problem for themselves, find and use a new service, …)

There are lots of stories about SM faux-pas. Customer Service often features in SM scare stories. A video showing how to open a Kryptonite cycle lock using the cap of a bic biro stirred up a lot of chatter, and Kryptonite responded after about 10 days (with a refund/upgrade for customers) – however this incident is estimated to have cost them around $18m.

What is also important though is that the preferred SM platforms change rapidly. Even now, as businesses are getting to grips with blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, students coming up from school are using SnapChat and the Vine. In a few years these two will also be outmoded. Our approach needs to be to develop an overarching strategy that remains applicable as the platforms change, and recognise that flexibility can be powerful here.

The conference finished with a final chance to meet colleagues, and the starting of a journey round UK HEIs of a conference trophy, to be passed from person to person on a tour around the UK, and arriving back at next year’s conference with a series of photos of interesting things learned at each institution.

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