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Stephen Mann | October 31, 2019

7 Proven Tips to Make IT Self-Service Work for Your Organization

Self-service is the “golden ticket” for IT support teams, especially those that are under pressure from an increasing volume of incoming calls and emails. It’s a capability that can help IT service desks across all three of “better, faster, cheaper” as well as deflecting a significant proportion of issues and requests from the desk to help relieve the ticket-based pressure.

Get your free eBook on how to overcome 8 common IT self-service obstacles.

However, to achieve IT self-service success, you need to understand that it requires more than the mechanics of introducing a new technological capability. And that there are many potential self-service pitfalls to avoid, plus proactive steps to take, to help ensure that employees, or external customers, actively want to use – and do use – your new self-service capabilities.

Please read on to find out more about the power of IT self-service and seven proven tips for IT self-service success.

Why is IT Self-Service Important?

As already called out above, most IT service desks are now caught between two key challenges:

  • The need to handle higher volumes of IT issues and requests (often with the same level of staffing and budget), and
  • Higher business expectations related to the quality of service and support, speedier solutions and provisioning, and cost efficiency (plus potentially value demonstration).

Automation and, increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) can help across all three of “better, faster, cheaper” but so will self-service capabilities, especially in conjunction with automation and AI. Such that the combined capability is able to deliver:

  • A better service experience
  • Quicker issue resolution, service delivery, or information provision
  • Lower transaction costs (in particular thanks to knowledge availability and the automated capabilities).

But this is very much an IT support view of the potential of IT self-service and we shouldn’t forget the people that use it – employees and potentially external customers. These are being offered omnichannel business-to-consumer (B2C) experiences elsewhere and will now expect the same from your IT service desk. Making self-service capabilities table stakes for both internally-facing and externally-facing service and support organizations.

Self-service capabilities in conjunction with
automation and AI are able to deliver:

Enhance Self-service capabilities with automation and AI


What is the Purpose of an IT Self-Service Portal?

There are a variety of ways for employees (or customers) to access self-service capabilities for IT-related assistance. However, the most popular route is via an IT self-service portal.

It helps that it’s a purpose-built vehicle for accessing assistance – whether this is in the form of:

  • Knowledge-based help (which can be text, video, or expert location)
  • The ability to self-log an issue or request
  • Access to automated remediation or service provision
  • Collaborative or peer-to-peer support capabilities
  • Simple information access – from opening hours to the available IT services and key service level agreement (SLA) parameters.

An IT self-service portal is ultimately a one-stop-shop for employees (or customers) who prefer to help themselves rather than to call, email, chat with, or “walk up to” the IT service desk.

From a service provider perspective, not only does it better cater to the expectations of modern customers (in terms of an omnichannel experience and speed), it can also offer significant cost reductions when done right.

An IT self-service portal might include some or
all of these capabilities:

IT self-service portal capabilities


7 Proven Tips for IT Self-Service Success

So, you’ve decided that a self-service capability is right for your IT service desk but what should you do to help ensure that it delivers against your expectations (and your anticipated return on investment calculation)? To help, here are seven tips that will help with your IT self-service success.

Tip 1: Look Beyond the Self-Service Technology

While self-service portals need technology to function, it’s important not to view IT self-service as simply the introduction of new technology. Instead, appreciate that self-service is a new way of working for employees (or customers) and IT support staff and, as such, it needs to be treated as a people-change rather than a technology-change project.

Tip 2: Don’t Make Cost-Saving Your Primary Motivation

When planning your IT self-service capability, it’s important to:

  1. Appreciate the logic of self-service benefit realization, and
  2. Understand what’s needed to encourage people to use any new self-service capability.

In terms of the former, any return on investment calculation for self-service is primarily driven by the level of use. Where, ideally, the more that self-service is used, the more money it will save. The available savings will then differ based on factors such as whether self-help is used (and tickets are deflected) and the use of automation in removing the manual effort and cost of remediation or service provision.

In terms of the latter, if employees (or customers) don’t want to use the self-service capability – because it’s more difficult to use than simply calling up the IT service desk, say – then it will be extremely difficult to realize the anticipated return on investment with this minimal usage no matter the level of knowledge articles or automation.

Tip 3: Use Organizational Change Management Tools and Techniques

Returning to the point that the introduction of self-service isn’t just the implementation of new technology, the fact that it’s a change to the way of working means that organizational itil change management tools and techniques are needed. These will help employees to buy into the change (with resistance managed etc.) and to ensure that everyone is able to use the capabilities when needed (thanks to intuitive capabilities and perhaps even training if needed).

Tip 4: Appreciate the Importance of Knowledge Management Capabilities to Self-Service Success

A primary use case of a self-service capability is self-help and the search for the information that will assist the user. Importantly, there needs to be a sufficient level of knowledge available for the self-help element of your new self-service capability, and thus the self-service capability itself, to work. Methodologies such as Level Zero Solvable (LZS) can help here by ensuring that the available knowledge is aligned to the likely user searches (for help).

Tip 5: Look to Proven Self-Service Technologies

While catering to people and their needs plays an important part in IT self-service success, the employed technology still needs to be fit-for-purpose. To help get this right, look beyond the detailed specifications, demos, and RFP responses to ensure that any potential technology solution has a track record of customer self-service success.

Tip 6: Remember That Consumer-World Self-Service Capabilities Are Your Benchmark

It doesn’t matter what your IT organization thinks related to “what good looks like” for IT self-service design and operation. The benchmark for highly usable self-service capabilities will be determined by your employees (or customers) and will most likely be influenced by the successful B2C company self-service capabilities they experience. With consumerization bringing these consumer-world experiences and the associated expectations into the workplace.

Tip 7: Start with the Right Motivations – These Should Be User Related

While Tip #2 articulates the issues with focusing on cost savings, it tells you what not to do rather than what to do. In the Service Desk Institute (SDI) report “Realizing ROI from Self-Service Technologies” the survey results identified the importance of having user-related, rather than service provider, motivations in order to prevent self-service initiative failures:

“…reducing cost alone is not enough to realize business value from a self-service solution. In comparison, organizations in the higher return on investment categories have achieved other motivations and, in the process, have reduced cost.”

Adding that, “The most successful organizations were those who benefited from a self-service solution designed with the customer at the heart of the service and realized higher customer preference rates.”

Start the Path for IT Self-Service Success by Understanding Your Challenges

Whether you have an IT self-service initiative in the works, or the one you have is failing, knowing the most common IT self-service obstacles can help you ensure long-term success. Get this free 8 IT Self-Service Obstacles eBook to better understand what you should be doing when implementing an IT self-service portal for your organization!

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Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.