The number of connected ‘things’ is surging this year. James West says this is part of a revolution that means the service desk of 2017 will have little in common with its 2020 incarnation.
By the end of 2017, there will be 8.4 billion connected devices in use as the Internet of Things revolution gathers pace. Analyst Gartner says that this number represents a 31% increase in connected devices this year.
The Internet of Things will have a two-fold impact on service desks and the delivery of IT support. Firstly, as connected devices become more sophisticated, they will self-diagnose and seek help without human intervention. Printers and other devices using consumables will order new supplies automatically, while computers and niche devices such as security cameras and heating systems will connect to the help facilities of their manufacturer, and action the fix themselves when they sense something is failing.
The end result will be fewer ‘mundane’ support tasks for service desks to deal with. This accelerates a change that has been happening for a number of years: the shift from reactive support services towards delivering proactive technical advice. This is a huge development for IT support because it makes the service desk profession more valuable and interesting. Think about it: would you rather fix a printer, or would you like to take an active role deploying new technology that helps the business work more effectively?
Secondly, while the connected devices themselves will increasingly self-manage, there will be massive demand for integration skills. ‘Smart technology’ such as IoT is only smart if it is correctly deployed and integrated, and it will only deliver value if it is aligned in a tangible way to business outcomes. Technology for technology sake rarely delivers value – it must have a definitive purpose.
‘Smart’ lighting isn’t that smart
I’ll give you a great example. I’ve recently installed several Hue lightbulbs in my home, predominantly to stop my young daughter turning her bedroom light on and off through the night. Although it has solved my initial problem, I now have the inconvenience of finding my phone, waiting for the app to load and connect to the network – which it sometimes can’t find – just to action something that previously took a split second. “If only there was a switch near the light that I could press to activate it,” I’ve joked to my wife during these moments.
In my view, the role of the service desk is more than fixing something that goes wrong. As technology gets smarter, the service desk I would value helps me understand the pros and cons of technology. As IoT takes hold, the service desk I want to see learns about my challenges as a business professional – whether I work in marketing, product development, HR or senior management. It then researches the available tools and shows me which ones could help me, and how to best utilise them.
Does this sound like a massive departure from the traditional model of the service desk? It IS a massive change, entailing a fundamental shift in the perceived value of the service desk and how it behaves. But remember, business technology is almost unrecognisable from just a few years ago. Change is not a choice for service desks, it is happening now.
Not every service desk will change by 2020. But in my opinion, the ones that do change in-line with my description are the ones that will be most valued by their organisation and given the most support to continue developing their services. Businesses need to see value in all of their spending, so it’s the responsibility of service desks to show it.