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Tickets are dead: What's the future of IT support?

Moving past traditional ticketing, what does the future hold for IT support?

In 2018, I was on the marketing team for a popular ITSM platform.

One of the core problems that we were solving for IT organizations was ITSM technology adoption – especially, self-service adoption – with end users or employees.

In this article, I will be exploring the implications of low tech adoption in IT and discuss modern solutions to the problem.

Why is tech adoption an important problem for IT?

If most employees are still calling IT agents as opposed to raising tickets, which they are, the support team is busy firefighting rather than automating workflows using the technology.

This unplanned work is a productivity termite, nibbling away at agents’ time and bandwidth.

Scaling in this scenario means hiring more support agents, which is highly linear and expensive. Plus, it becomes inefficient as the organization grows and kills momentum.

The only way to solve this is to get adoption up again. Even a $10 million technology with advanced automation capabilities is practically worthless if the adoption is low.

If you’re an IT leader or senior manager, you know the pain of a tool that employees are not interested in using.
It’s killing your strategic time, budget, and efficiency.

How to solve the adoption problem?

To tackle scale, IT organizations moved from call centers to the support portal. But portals were, and are, an archaic way of contacting support.

IT teams are now using email as a stand-in for the portal, which means that the knowledge base that your team created so meticulously is collecting dust.

Plus, emails are still converted to tickets. The end-user and the IT agent need to engage in back-and-forth emailing to work on the ticket.

In this 5-year-old video, I suggested a few ways to drive adoption. The main ones were:

  • Bring your portal to where users already are – Your organization uses Slack etc. for internal communication and collaboration. Leverage this by providing support within the chat platform.
  • Use chatbots along with your knowledge base – Building up on the previous point, your knowledge base can be baked into a chatbot to provide fast resolution for trivial issues.

Fundamentally, these points are still valid. That’s the solution. But what I said back then was limited by the technology that was available at that time.

What’s changed in the last five years?

Let’s focus on the two massive tectonic shifts that have impacted the way we work.

1. Tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack have become ubiquitous in the workplace

Microsoft Teams joined Slack and surpassed it in terms of usage, particularly among enterprises, thanks to the Microsoft 365 integration. Slack is still popular in startups and mid-market companies.

Email, as a means of intra-company communication, is dead. Employees email vendors and contacts outside of the organization but typically “Slack” their colleagues. IT support seems to be stuck in the email era, which is perceived as slow. So, employees just pick up the phone, or worse, walk over to IT.

More unplanned work.

2. GenAI tools, like ChatGPT and Perplexity, have become a core part of how employees work

Chatbots have been a necessary evil. They help reduce the need to be manually programmed and are limited in range. They’re not great at employee experience either, unless an agent jumps in within minutes. Which explains why they didn’t catch on.

The popularity of ChatGPT has made non-AI bots feel frustrating. Employees are already using tools like ChatGPT to be more efficient at work. IT organizations will soon leverage secure GenAI solutions for employee support.

The service desk of tomorrow will live at the intersection of #1 and #2.

What can you do as an IT leader?

Nearly all of your employees have used ChatGPT for their personal use. A good chunk of them have used it for work without your knowledge.

This is a serious risk.

In April this year, software engineers at Samsung pasted confidential code into ChatGPT to test it for bugs. Of course, the bot happily used it as training data for future public responses.

There are multiple other incidents where unsuspecting employees inadvertently leaked company IP to AI platforms.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but the solution is the exact opposite of pushing back on it.

As an IT leader, you need to:

1. Be the enabler

If you block all AI tools and domains that end in .ai, employees will profile you as the ‘no’ team and sneak around security protocol. They will use the technology that helps them get work done faster and “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission”.

Work with the business to understand what they’re using AI for. If you have a dedicated AI team or resource within IT, see how they can solve major business problems. Openly seek requirements from leaders across business functions and help them procure the right solution if building it in-house is not an option.

2. Be the educator

Winning the trust of the employees is better than the alternative red-button approach. But giving them a free hand is obviously not an option.

Conduct training sessions on the risks involved in unauthorized AI adoption and share precedents to help them understand the potential impact. At the same time, share general details about any internal AI initiatives and let them access a high-level roadmap. Appointing an AI SPOC within the team will give employees a channel to share feedback. This will also help you keep an ear to the ground.

The service desk of the future would be based on GenAI and live within Slack or Teams or whatever your employees use to ask their colleagues a “quick question”. 

The only difference is that the know-it-all colleague will now be a GenAI bot that IT owns.

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