A very interesting little article on ReadWriteWeb.com just caught my eye and got me thinking. You can read the article here. It talks about the poor state of support that people receive from the consumer, cloud and web services that we all increasingly rely upon. Examples of Facebook and Gmail are called out, and the author describes his struggles to get any reasonable response or support on a Gmail deactivated account issue. It's a good point, well made, and worth some thought from those of us in the IT support / help desk / service desk / ITSM world. I think it calls out a very important point that many have missed in the recent excitement over all things BYOD.
Firstly, to be clear, I'm a big supporter of all things BYOD and Consumerization. I think that we are all increasingly bringing our own expectation of a consumer standard of IT experience into the workplace, both with the devices we buy and the applications we use. It's not only the future, it's also the present in many organisations already. And it soon will be the norm for almost all of us. I wrote some rather passionate words about this here. In summary, to me, consumerization is an "expectation" that the employee brings into work from their home life. We are increasingly seeing a shift not only to BYOD and the use of personal devices for work purposes, but also - lets call it - BYOS (Bring Your Own Services) where personal-use software and services come with the employee in preference to using the "corporate tools." You know the one - "I'd rather use Gmail than my work mail." "I'd rather use Prezi than Powerpoint." "I'd rather use my iPad than this weird heavy black windows laptop from 5 years ago." And the IT industry is wringing it's hands and fretting over this sea change. Google "BYOD" and your screen is filled with Chicken Littles calling that the IT sky is falling in, and that the move to consumer devices and services is also a move away from getting value from corporate IT.
So far, so good. But here's where I'm now starting to wonder if the future of corporate IT support might not be quite as shiny and "consumer" as we all think. As the article points out, the downside of the free/cloud/personal consumer apps and services is a very very low level of support service. It's not surprising. Increasingly we are used to using "free" services to create, store and communicate, and as is occasionally pointed out, those service providers up there in the consumer cloud do make lots of money from their customers. But we - the happy freeloading consumer - are not "the customer." The customer is the advertiser or marketer who is paying megabucks to those cloud services for your search history, your email keywords, your Facebook likes and interests. Remember: If it is FREE, then the business providing it is making money by selling you to their customer. You are not the customer, you are the product being "sold."
Now, that's kind of OK. I don't mind. It's a fair trade. I'm not trying to get all antsy about the selling of myself to the "the man," and freedom and liberty. It's a deal I enter into to get that great email, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
And it's not just the free ones either. Ever tried getting personal support for your Evernote subscription? Your Dropbox subscription? Heck, even on your broadband? I have a horror story that would turn your stomach about the disdain and insignificance that public consumers receive from some broadband suppliers. Life is tough as a consumer. We don't want to pay much, and so, if things don't work, we are stuck.
But back to consumerisation and BYOD and BYOS. We may expect a consumer standard working experience, but we demand a corporate standard of support experience when things dont work. People may mock their internal IT support team struggling to cope with an influx of products and services from "out there," but when they contact IT Support they always get: A reference number, probably an email, usually a human voice, sometimes a visit, sometimes remote control, often advice and guidance. And in the corporate space, if they don't get that, they kick and scream because IT are not doing their job.
You see, the internal IT support may not know everything, they may struggle sometimes, they may drop the ball sometimes, but they remain very focused above all else on that one important point: Keeping the employee or enduser working and productive. And that is the trick of the tale in consumerisation. Although it brings great new technology and ability to the business, the business will absolutely refuse to accept a woeful "consumer standard" of support. They expect - need - a corporate/private/personal "traditional" level of care and support.
And that is why the heroes and heroines in the help desk and the service desk should all be able to sleep the good sleep at night. Their jobs and futures are very secure. Yes, BYOD and consumerization brings new challenges, but, hey, we love a challenge right? More importantly, it brings even clearer value and recognition to the IT support role. They need you, they need your help, and that is not going to change, no matter how shiny their next new toy is.