In May 1997, chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s Deep Blue in a riveting game that triggered discussions pertaining to the battle “Man vs Machine”.
Exactly 20 years later, machines have firmly established a place in our world and dominate our lives at work and at home, collecting and exchanging information about the way we live, work, learn and entertain. It’s called “Internet of Things”.
This massive number of connected devices (Gartner estimates that 20.8 billion things will be connected by 2020, while 7.2 billion will be used by business) has generated new challenges for organisations that want to deliver great customer service. Security is one of them; perhaps the most crucial one, particularly for industries that primarily cater for people and their living environment, like Healthcare, Education, Logistics, Transport, Retail, Facilities Management and Manufacturing. By hacking and getting access to one asset only, cybercriminals can not only steal sensitive personal and corporate data, but also manipulate the information flow; causing serious damage to people and goods, delays to manufacturing and delivery processes, and leaving the business at risk. The impact of a security breach in a connected and interdependent environment is greater and can be anything from production delays to serious health and safety hazards, or even death.
Something very close to my heart, Change Management, has also become much more complicated in the Internet of Things (IoT) era. Changing just one connected asset can virtually impact a wide range of devices; therefore, it is imperative for the IT Team to have increased visibility and a clear overview of how this asset works and interacts with other assets and plan thoroughly.
Another common challenge for Service Desks is Incident Management, usually a straight-forward process, which is now impacted by the complexity and heterogeneity of the environment: IT infrastructure, applications, mobile devices and a wide range of new assets like sensors, diagnostic tools, smart building and temperature control systems, physical security systems or wearables, which require expertise in a wider range of technologies, good customer history and a super-functional knowledge library, to start with.
And then of course, there’s Asset and Configuration Management. Whether configuration items or human resources, Internet of Things has exposed and stressed the need for efficient asset management, as the number of connected devices, the required expertise level but also mobility and remoteness have all dramatically increased.
All the parameters above (security, change management, incident management, asset and configuration management) have a common denominator: cost. They can significantly affect the cost of service delivery, unless managed and executed diligently. That’s what makes feature-rich ITSM platforms a strategic investment for modern organisations.
Sophisticated ITSM tools help organisations ensure they make the most of their available resources to respond to the increased challenges and keep the operating costs low. How do they do that? By helping Service Desks adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. For example, by using sensors to identify potential performance problems and security breaches (instead of waiting for customers to raise the issue), Service Desks can accelerate their response time and eliminate the risk of system failure, boosting availability. Automated and real-time reporting can have a similar effect, by accelerating reaction to potential breaches and reducing time (and cost) spent on troubleshooting and maintenance.
Furthermore, connected things can actually self-diagnose and perform corrective tasks without human intervention; improving performance, mitigating the risk of downtime and releasing time for the Service Desk team.
Is Internet of Things taking over Service Management? Definitely not. Great service is always delivered by great people who follow proven processes and use great technology. ITSM tools provide a process-based approach which, when designed properly and followed religiously, helps Service Desk Analysts respond more efficiently and confidently, improving service delivery overall. With the increased complexity of the IT environment, processes can make a real difference to the way customers are served, and help organisations reach their most critical objectives: deliver a memorable service and improve customer satisfaction.
If there ever was a battle “Man vs Machine”, the winner is man, no doubt. People are an irreplaceable asset in service delivery; technology is only the vehicle used to make this delivery exceptional. It’s always people who create service experiences that are worth mentioning and remembering.
20 years later, we all remember Garry Kasparov as a pioneer champion. We remember the battle as a riveting and unique experience; but we may struggle to recall the machine’s model.
Greg Pritchett, Managing Director at Marval Group UK.