Sorry, the Help Desk Doesn't Cover That.

Sorry, the Help Desk Doesn't Cover That.

Summary: Dion Hinchcliffe has another good post up, this time on Cloud vs open source: there's a third dimension I'd like to expand on, and that's user support.After all the strategic planning is done, the plumbing hooked up and sawdust swept up, the doors of new environments are opened up for the users.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech, CXO

Dion Hinchcliffe has another good post up, this time on Cloud vs open source: there's a third dimension I'd like to expand on, and that's user support.

After all the strategic planning is done, the plumbing hooked up and sawdust swept up, the doors of new environments are opened up for the users.

Traditional IT, often denigrated as an inflexible behemoth, does have one thing going for it and that's someone at the other end of the phone or email when you need help. (This may prompt ironic mirth in some quarters but be fair, that's the intention).

IT service management is fundamental to users actually using software: just because you've mapped out a brilliantly sophisticated mash up of services doesn't mean your users will understand how to use it or its value.

While it's cost effective for open source and cloud companies to outsource their support to companies like get satisfaction, the sheer scale and complexity of some environments preclude meaningful external support; getting internal support up and running in this economy is challenging to put it mildly.

Dion says

It’s not that cloud-enabled services such as Ubuntu with Eucalyptus can’t provide cloud services; they can. However, they aren’t part of a finished solution and don’t create an ecosystem that create intrinsic economic or technical benefits in a situated setting. This is because a significant part of building a robust and successful computing environment is creating a compelling, finished solution that contains infrastructure, management, research & development, and support. All of these come together to create a service comprehensive enough that computing can take place, or significantly, can be an effective target environment for outsourcing. When a computing ecosystem consists of multiple stakeholders that depend upon it, costs and effort can then be distributed.

This support issue should be of fundamental concern to the Enterprise 2.0 community meeting for the annual US conference next week in Boston.

A handful of enthusiastic internal evangelists for an excitingly agile new way of doing things in a company don't cut it to help a confused team member attempting to navigate their way around a newly modified website - they need support help NOW to get their work done in time.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” - African proverb

For all the enthusiasm for grass roots viral adoption - which typically works particularly well for groups of engineers and technical folks who understand what goes on under the hood - the reality is most people need some hand holding before plucking up the courage to use new equipment of any type on the job.

I've seen cases recently where teams of engineers have learnt new tricks and crafted environments that are a little like amateur plumbing. Imagine a building where suddenly there are dozens of people tapping into the pipes to run their water powered constructions, some of which may spring leaks, and you get an idea of how the non technical sometimes see some of the more ambitious offerings to the greater workforce.

If you're a marcom person or other non technical employee, you expect to be provided with tools that meet your needs, and you typically have no interest what software generation it is or how it got on your monitor. What you do care about is that it fits your needs like a glove and that if you have a problem someone will be there to help you. That's great technology in their book.

While techies can get very excited about 2.0 technologies, most people couldn't care less. Their eyes light up if you show them tools them that help them get their work done better and which surfaces useful information that will save them time and make them look good. Most people want to be explicitly told about a new way of working their employer wants them to adopt, with tools supported by that same employer.

One of the reasons many experimental departmental collaboration environments never expand beyond their plot phase is due to the support issue: you can't easily scale up a system designed to meet parochial (and often vertical) needs to a broader userbase.

Where email and enterprise class applications are typically in the IT help desk portfolio, with if/then scripts, FAQ's and trouble ticketing systems aligned with users, too many 2.0 systems are ad hoc at best, whether dependent on someone's departmental credit card in the cloud or running under Jerry's desk in San Diego (he's in hospital right now - try calling him on Thursday when he's due back).

Dion's point about 'finished solutions' is a good one: for everyone in the tech bubble getting excited about their new environment, there's an end user looking for an email address or phone number to contact support.

Topics: Emerging Tech, CXO


Oliver Marks & Associates provides seasoned, technology agnostic independent consulting guidance to companies on effective Digital Enterprise Transformation business strategy, tactics, infrastructure & technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models and management.

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  • Well you might get a help desk...

    You might get a help desk, you might even get a dedicated single point of contact for each individual cloud company you do business with, however, expect to pay a premium. If you want a contact person that speaks English as their first language prepare for a massive fee.
    Otherwise, your business may have to either hire a technical person that can learn the cloud offerings and support your organisation. Hire a consultant to support your organisation. An alternative to this would be to have HR encourage a "Do it yourself, experiment until you get it right" attitude among workforce.

    I personally think that all cloud services will initially offer a nice price break but over time the prices for services and add ons will creep up. If consumers are smart and watch the cloud market than the prices will creep up so they are "one whisker" below doing IT yourself. If the cloud market feels they are not being watched, companies will end up paying even more money for IT than doing it in house.

    Journalism is rife with stories on how products overseas have total costs of under 10 dollars but USA consumers pay Hundreds of dollars for the product. Not all products have these high margins but enough do that if the IT outsourced market isn't carefully watched by consumers, they will end up paying much much more than traditional in house IT.