I’ve been wanting to write a blog post dealing more with “what we can really learn” from Social Media, and then I read this: Social ITSM – A Skeptical View. Needless to say, I immediately had two thoughts after reading the article. The first one went along the lines of “damn, this guy knows how to write well” and the second one was “I need to get off my tuches and post that article.”
While I don’t have any cool descriptions surrounding the hype currently in IT or ITSM (trough of disillusionment is a great one), I’ve already eluded to the fact that I’m tired of buzzwords in IT. I agree with the Skeptic that Social ITSM is in a hype cycle, but I also want to chastise my peers and colleagues for lacking creativity in the realm of applying elements of Social Media into our tools and processes. I’d also like to add that I should probably be included in my own chastisement and am not any more innocent than the others, but since this is my blog, I’m going to refrain from making this a self-deprecating article (I have an inferiority complex and do it enough anyway).
Have you stopped for a minute to ask “why is Social Media so widely used?” I’ll give you a hint; they don’t call it “Social” for nothing. But let’s not stop at a generic answer of “people want to be social.” Let’s take it to the next level and ask “why?” one more time. People want to be heard, helped and valued.
Being heard is not new. In the medical world, doctors aren’t sued for simply being terrible at their jobs. They’re more likely to face a lawsuit from simply not listening. The same is true in IT. I’ve worked on a helpdesk before and taking two extra minutes to hear the full details from the caller, instead of immediately jumping to what may thought to be the correct solution, is more of a critical factor for customer service than just resolving the incident.
Being helped on Social Media is one that I’m still getting used to, but it’s a growing trend so I can’t ignore it. As the Skeptic pointed out, Social Media (is anyone else getting annoyed at typing capital letters for that phrase?) is really just a communication tool. A while ago I tweeted out advice on my purchasing of an Android vs. iPhone. A few (very few) people responded, but it helped to give advice and by relying on a few people I know and trust I saved time hunting through hundreds of tech blogs on the subject. While I would never email spam my friends and colleagues with such a question, Twitter makes it very easy to send inquiries without feeling any guilt. For more in-depth questions that require more than 140 characters, I can post to the user groups in LinkedIn.
Being valued is a basic human need that lives in everyone’s psyche. It’s the same reason why positive reinforcement helps to shape our behavior far more effectively than negative reinforcement or punishment. I want to feel that my actions are valued and that I have a positive effect on the world. OK, so maybe it’s also narcissistic to feel like one person can sway the world in any manner, but why else would “president” be an answer for children when asked what they want to be when they grow up (or prime minister if you’re a Brit/Israeli/Kiwi/anyone in the rest of the world).
When it comes to planning the use of social media (damn the capitalization) with ITSM, not having all three of these elements means you’re probably not going to get anywhere. So where can social media/IT and ITSM get together and succeed? I think if that question was easy to answer the IT Skeptic wouldn’t be doubting the “fervor” of this particular buzzword (then again, his very nature means he’d be skeptical). Here’s my attempt at an answer: Give up. Not on the concept, but on expecting the user community to jump onto a solution provided by IT. Keep in mind, I’m stating a “solution provided by IT,” not social media in general. This means that if a social network is readily available in your work environment, tap into it and exploit as much of it as possible. If one doesn’t exist, don’t worry about trying to force something on your users. Start with the small groups of people that will utilize the communication tool and hopefully, one day, the value will catch on.
One last thought of where we can really get some value out of social IT. We should be looking at incorporating elements of social IT platforms into those used by IT. OK, so I get to gloat a little more of my work on a project to put gamification into a ticketing tool, but what other elements from social media? Best example; why not get rid of incident categories and use hashtags instead? If people already have behaviours of using hashtags from Twitter, why can’t we just build on those already existing habits and save time by not forcing the dreary practice of using drop-down menus? I don’t know about you, but I #love the #idea and I’m already used to using #hashtags each day anyway. Once again, I’ll point out that we can take how people work and conform our software to fit the people, not the other way around.
Unfortunately for my hopeful optimism, the IT Skeptic has a valid point that social media is pushing the boundaries of hype. In due time we may find that people simply don’t want to be social about IT. Really, when was the last time you saw millions of people Tweet about a new chipset that’s being released? According to trendsmap.com, boozer is on the top list of popular hashtags. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on that.