Woman uses a self-service kiosks.

The Employee Self-Service IT Experience Just Got a Lot Smarter

22 Feb 2018 by Amanda Best

This article originally appeared on June 13, 2017, and has been revised to bring our readers the most up-to-date technology information.

When you think of a self-service IT experience, what comes to mind? Do you picture a 1990s-inspired dashboard with a user forum where IT requests go to die? Many of us can recall a time when a company program was rolled out internally with great intentions and a lot of excitement, but it didn’t serve the purpose of you — the end user.

This happens in the consumer marketplace too. Have you ever wanted to take the next step on a company’s website, such as buy a product or get your questions answered, but the button you were looking for was buried behind an unintuitive User Interface (UI)?

It’s time for businesses to learn from those experiences and move on to the next generation of IT self-help — the kind that’s transforming workforce enablement for enterprises and reducing IT costs. But first, let’s talk about what’s fueling the need for companies to consider these platforms.

IT help desk support is expensive.

Think about most of the calls your help desk support team receives. Something isn’t plugged in properly or needs to be restarted. Employees have trouble logging in and accessing files or the printer, or they face wireless network access or other network issues. Many of these problems can be resolved with level one support, but it still takes time to complete these and other repetitive tasks. And time is money.

Based on metrics from PortalGuard, the average cost per help desk ticket in 2014 was $25 to $30, assuming a worker used the company’s IT ticket system or help desk phone line. The more manual the task, the more expensive it is to complete.

However, if a user steps outside the self-service portal and, say, emails the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or a senior IT member, the problem becomes even more expensive to resolve. One of Insight’s directors of IT, Matt Skaff, jokes about how commonplace this practice actually is. In doing this, “you turn a 10-minute, $10 problem expense resolution into some tens of thousands of dollars of labor.”

That estimate may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but think of the opportunities lost while the CIO is overseeing the completion of this task. This may be why more organizations are starting to realize the value of time-saving, self-service solutions.

Self-service IT reduces costs.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has enabled the accessibility of repetitive task automation and chatbots, among other things. Repetitive task automation is an example of self-service IT that quickly meets the needs of end users, at a lower cost to the company. Brian Gatke, director of technical services at Insight, illustrates how this could work.

“Fifty to 100 Microsoft accounts are going to change each day. In a month, there are a lot of changes that can happen. So we can write AI and scripting that will take care of this repetitive work for us,” he explains.

In a situation like this, it’s a win-win for the end user and the company. The company saves money because the CIO and salaried and hourly employees are freed from taking care of something that can easily be handled by a computer, and employees are happy because their problems are resolved quickly. Not to mention, the IT department has more budget and bandwidth for innovation rather than fulfilling endless help desk requests.

This brings us to the next reason why IT self-service is an asset to companies that invest in helpful technologies.

Employees are bringing consumer habits into the workplace.

On any given day, employees will touch more self-service portals in the consumer space than we would have the patience to identify. Companies are making things such as apps and web-based logged-in experiences increasingly available due to the cost-saving benefits and customer engagement opportunities they provide.

This is evidenced by the increase in digital touchpoints offered by major companies. For example, the Starbucks mobile app allows coffee lovers on the go to preorder drinks prior to pickup. Panera Bread Company enables patrons to skip the line and order their soup and salad from a kiosk. And most airlines provide online flight booking with complete price transparency and the option to choose a seat.

For booking, most passengers used the website followed by a mobile app and then a kiosk. For check-in, passengers preferred the website, then mobile app then kiosk. For boarding, passengers preferred the kiosk, then website, then mobile app.
Figure 1

As shown in Figure 1, airports are using digital platforms such as websites, mobile apps and kiosks for booking, check-in and boarding. According to a 2017 study, nearly 70% of passengers are taking advantage of digital booking, slightly less than 40% are checking in online and approximately 30% are using a kiosk for boarding.

With consumer adoption of digital technologies growing, employees are already primed to use mobile and digital platforms. Not only are most employees totally comfortable seeking help digitally, but many companies feel employees are demanding it.

“We implemented chat, self-service portals and identity services for a biotech company that’s trying to attract the best talent,” Gatke notes. “So having the most dynamic end-user environment out there is important. They think that’s a differentiator for their employees.”

Next-generation and current IT self-service options

Some of the more common self-service capabilities employees can currently take advantage of include ordering supplies, requesting a move or changing cellphone services through most platforms. Other IT self-service options include:

  • Identity as a service: This involves features such as network visibility and security, single sign-on and password resets, as well as email distribution list workflows.
  • Repetitive task automation: With self-healing scripts, companies can identify common issues and automate resolutions to recurring problems — like the way Gatke’s team of experts is able to write scripts that remove and update email accounts.
  • Knowledge management tools: Insight, for example, creates and refines a company’s current knowledge database to provide workers quicker answers to questions. This includes an indexed smart search behind a user portal and live chat.

Research predicts conversational platforms will change the ways technology relates to users to achieve outcomes. According to Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018” report, “Conversational platforms will drive the next big paradigm shift in how humans interact with the digital world. They will shift the model from technology-literate people to people-literate technology.”1

Insight implemented a self-service IT chatbot for employee use that has significantly reduced ticket volume and boosted user adoption rates. We believe this commitment to innovation was a key component in being recognized in Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services.

A less conventional option on the market, currently offered by Insight, is a technology vending machine, which provides end users easy, high-volume dispensation of products such as keyboards, computer mice and jump drives. Instead of logging a request and waiting for assistance from a representative, employees can walk to the nearby machine to meet their needs, preventing downtime and reducing IT and procurement overhead.

The future of IT self-service

The exciting thing about IT self-service for workplaces is it’s still growing. In this emerging area, where IT helps enable workplace productivity and drive cost savings, as well as financial growth goals, we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg on what’s possible.

According to the Center for Data Innovation, as highlighted in an article about machine learning, AI is expected to generate more than $60 billion worth of productivity improvements for businesses in the U.S. per year.

A subfield of AI called Natural Language Processing (NLP) will offer a huge benefit to companies looking to drive efficiencies in the future. This is the algorithmic technology powering chatbots, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

In an October 2016 on-camera interview, Gatke speculated about how NLP might impact the workplace. “I love the innovation part [of my job]. I like watching the industry and trying to figure out where things are going next — and, specifically, how it might impact what we’re doing today. If natural language [processing] takes hold and we get rid of keyboards, what does that mean for us? How do you translate through what our teams are out there doing each day and what we need to do to go to market?” he ponders.

Looking at what’s currently available compared to the technology in the IT self-service space even five years ago, it’s evident enterprises are ripe for this kind of innovation. Can we even imagine what cutting-edge workplace solutions will be available in 2020? With today in view and transformation on the horizon, it’s exciting to anticipate what’s in store.

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1 Barros, D., Huntley, H. and Hobert, K. (2018, Jan. 23). Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Service, North America. Gartner.