Chicken ITle calls out the end of Service Desk

As part of my ongoing theme of Slow IT, I'm introducing a new character to the blog, Chicken ITle (how appropriate just before Easter). Yes that is spelt right. It is pronounced "ittle" or "eye-tee-il" if you want, and it is a conflation of IT and Little. Not what you were thinking. No trademarks involved here, oh noooo no no.

© Can Stock Photo

Chicken ITle draws our attention to those who announce catastrophic consequences for IT if we don't all rush off and do something. Usually these sky-falling folk are either analysts or vendors, because both profit from fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). Analysts generate uncertainty and hot trends, which require advice, explanation, and the supposed ability to see the future. Vendors benefit from urgency (the #1 sales tool), panicked decision-making, and peer-pressure.

Stephen Mann gets the credit for the idea, when I asked six months ago for ideas for a character. Stephen suggested Chicken ITIL, which I then morphed. Thanks Stephen! (The irony is that, as a leading ITSM analyst, Stephen may well attract the attention of Chicken ITle himself).

Chicken ITle joins his stablemate on this blog, Chokey the Chimp, who hates Crap Factoids. Chokey calls them out when they play fast and loose with facts and science; Chicken ITle calls them out for invoking panic and hysteria.

For this inaugural appearance of Chicken ITle, there are dozens I could pick on. I think we should start with the leading analyst firm and one of their top ITSM analysts. Let's look at a recent CIO article from Gartner analyst Jarod Greene on Killing the Help Desk Softly - or Blowing It Up (in his defence I'm guessing Jarod didn't get to write the headline).

...the help desk—the traditional face of IT—risks becoming irrelevant in three years. "It's time to blow up your service desk," Greene says...
By 2016, we'll see a 25 to 30 percent drop in user-initiated contact volume [unsubstantiated]... ll of the users are personal cloud-enabled, BYOD-enabled, consumerization-enabled—and IT loses its relevance.
I can't call my service desk if I have a Dropbox issue, because I'm not supposed to have Dropbox. If you look at iPads, I don't call Apple's service desk when I have an issue...
We're seeing organizations build peer-to-peer support models [oh really? where?]...
You're still going to have the traditional level-one, 9-to-5 IT services desk, maybe even offshored or outsourced. The types of issues they should be dealing with are one-off password resets, break-fix triage, high-level outage notifications.
But when it comes to opportunities to enhance the way people interact and work with IT systems, let's build the new face: enterprise Genius Bars and enterprise Geek Squads... In a survey of 350 companies, about one percent of organizations said they have fully implemented this model. Forty-two percent of organizations say they're currently planning this or in the process of implementing. They want to build some form of walk-in support.
By 2016, we think about 25 percent of organizations will have these types of interfaces [and the other 42-25=17% will have tried it and given up because it is so expensive?]

Here's one bit Chokey should look at

BYOD and other factors have led to a decrease in help desk calls... the need to continually call the service desk decreased ... Our IT key metrics data show that there has already been a decrease in customer contact year over year. Organizations cut IT service desk staff last year, from 7.9 FTP [full-time employee] to 7.2. IT service desk cost as a percentage of IT costs dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent. It's not huge, but the only way you cut costs for service desk is to cut labor. The annual contacts handled by the service desk per FTP went from 5,384 up to 7,003.

[Update 2013-03-28: the original article has been changed to say "IT service desk cost as a percentage of IT costs dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent" instead of FTPs. Given how much of the service desk's costs are FTPs, I'm not sure that changes the meaning much, but you can decide whether my original question is still valid:]
Um... 7.9x5384=42534 and 7.2x7003=50422 so it seems to me the total calls went UP quite a lot.

I challenged Jarod over this article in a discussion on Google+. Here's the unedited exchange, leaving out some earlier discussion by Jarod with other commenters:


it always comes back to the fact the IT is here to enable the business to be productive - point blank. We spend millions on enterprise software to automate processes to drive revenues, every business case for every tool is built on that premise. But where has it gotten us? IT must play a role in productivity enablement that goes beyond fixing something when it breaks or isn't performing optimally, and who better than us because we have frameworks to leverage to get there. I think CEOs would favor this approach, so as long as it drove productivity. Get away from super user heroes who spend "all day" helping colleagues and instead think of the mass collaboration social media enables. Think of how that extends their reach from one on one to one to many. IT is going to have to lead this charge or get left behind.


Please stop confusing personal digital experience with corporate computing.

What proportion of service desk calls are incidents vs requests? And what proportion of those incidents are about the user's personal computing? if BYOD incidents go away, great, but I doubt that warrants headline-seeking descriptions like "Blowing up".

Even if a growing proportion of core systems are outsourced e.g. to SalesForce, only a proportion of "how do I..." questions can be resolved "externally" by the users without service desk support. Many will be requests for advice: "How should I... what is our policy about..." And of course lots will be "Oops i screwed up, can you reverse it" And even more will be "I need access to..."

user help communities will generate as many issues as they solve. No need to see a doctor, ask your auntie, right?

+Jarod Greene this kind of sensationalism reflects badly on analysts, generates hysteria amongst the IT community, and misdirects us from real issues that can't be solved with your clients' tech solutions. The service desk isn't going away, nor is it changing significantly (Your own predictions actually back that up).

Now can we please get back to work?

Jarod :

Ron [sic] this is about how IT organizations are going to demonstrate value beyond high FCR and low cost per contact. If you want to live in that world, go right ahead, you won't be alone. The fact of the matter is that the more corporate computing shifts to BYO, the more support needs to become personal. Stop thinking business relationship managers actually exist, and work where users do to understand their challenges and frustrations with IT, and stop pretending that this feedback is actually applied to make things better. Hell, stop acting like communities don't already exist in the form of user sneaker-net and that the end use costs (of downtime and lost productivity) aren't already as much as 50% of PC TCO.

Talk to the groups that are doing this and ask them has it made IT relevant again. Ask them if the CEO isn't saying that this is the best thing IT has done in a decade. This is happening - like it or not, and because it is, people CAN get back to work.


Hey I'm all in favour of tech bars, flying geek squads, social media connection to users, and engaging with the independent social media communities to try to prevent the sort of crap advice they generate. Explain to me who is going to fund that in a GFC. Maybe you work with service desks with funds to spare but I don't.

these are modifications to the channels. Not an "about-face", it's a refinement. All the taxonomy, ticketing, matching, knowledge, resolution, reporting and improvement stay fundamentally the same. is it a "death knell"? Don't make me laugh. Will the service desk become "irrelevant in three years." You said yourself it won't.
"from 7.9 FTP [full-time employee] to 7.2. It's not huge" Projecting such a trend linearly is bad science - the world doesn't work that way

is it time to "blow up" the service desk? What a daft thing to say. Makes good headlines. You said a few paragraphs later "You're still going to have the traditional level-one, 9-to-5 IT services desk"

On what basis does outsourcing mean " IT loses its relevance."? No need for people who understand the business and can but technology in context of goals, value and policy? Pfft. This is alarmist with no basis in fact.

Sorry but you go way down in my estimation with this "Chicken ITle" stuff. The sky's not falling. there are some interesting changes going on and some intriguing possibilities to improve our support. That's the facts, but that doesn't make attention-grabbing sound-bites.

© Can Stock Photo IncAllow me to rewrite Jarod's story:

    Genius Bars and Geek Squads are interesting, if you can afford improved service right now.

    If end users provide some mutual support and therefore reduce help-desk calls that will be nice. We've had super-users and local support for years. It didn't seem to help that much, but yes it is useful.

    The service desk isn't going away any time. Looks like we have to make do with less staff. oops there goes the Genius Bar.

Hmm, just doesn't grab headlines quite like the Chicken ITle approach of "blow up the service desk" and "IT will lose relevance", does it?

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