Getting Rid of the Help Desk–a structured approach to KM 1

In a recent article in CIO magazine Tom Kaneshige argues that the rise of BYOD spells the demise of the traditional Help Desk.  He intimates that BYOD has now been overtaken by BYOS – bring-your-own-support!  The network-enabled user, with access to huge volumes of information, requires a new Help Desk. 

He is right that, ultimately, power-users need better, faster support delivered to them in a format and by people with a deeper understanding of the context and with more intricate solutions.

BYOS is the exception and not the rule. 

Although the IT function is becoming more commoditised, the larger fields of knowledge work isn’t, hasn’t and won’t be commoditised anytime just yet.  Otherwise, any 12 year old with a laptop would be in with a chance.  Help Desks don’t need to be expanded but they do need to become more mature, agile and integrated into the KM procedures of modern networked enterprises (ie those businesses with a heavy KM focus).  Expanding the remit of the Help Desk opens the door for colossal cost increases.  Internal knowledge management functions need to become more structured beyond simplistic portals.

INTERNAL KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

In a recent article in McKinsey Quarterly, Tom Davenport argues that organisations need to get a lot smarter in their approaches to supporting knowledge workers.  He says that greater use of social media and internet use will harm the business more than help it.  Lower level knowledge workers need more structured support to their processes.  On the other hand, high-level knowledge workers are better supported by an open platform of tools.  Getting the right balance is as much art as science.

BYOS is the wrong approach.  It’s a derogation of KM responsibilities.  Organisations need to focus on an approach to KM with the following structures:

  1. A good Help Desk function for knowledge workers involved in highly structured processes.
  2. An IT function which supports a flexible arrangement of tools for advanced knowledge workers.
  3. Knowledge Managers:  people who provide the focal point for certain areas of knowledge.
  4. Portals:  A single entry point for people seeking access to communities of interest.

So, be careful when thinking about Tom Kaneshige’s advice and “blowing up” your Help Desk.  IT can be a self-licking lollipop.  More tools and more information won’t necessarily improve productivity.  At the lower level, sometimes it makes more economic sense to support the process.  It’s only at the upper levels of expertise that it is more profitable to support the person.

Will CIOs Really Focus on the Business in 2013? Reply

“Whilst CIOs are predominantly drawn from the infrastructure segment of ICT there is unlikely to be a shift in focus towards proactive business initiatives.”

The CIO’s commercial prerogatives largely stem from CEO directives as they tally with other recent CEO surveys from McKinsey & Co etc.  It is likely, however, that need to increase services to corporate clouds through a myriad of new/personal devices during these times of severe cost pressures will keep CIOs occupied for the next year, at least.

Looking to the future, until business schools focus their corporate decision making modules on information management and technology enablers the dearth of IM savvy senior executives will continue and thereby the pull-through into the CIO role.  The solution is likely to come in one of two ways, namely:

  1. A cost/complexity inflection point will be reached.  Medium sized businesses will begin to outsource not only their IT but also their IM.  As better IM begins to solve business problems some people will naturally be pulled through into corporate CIO roles at FTE.
  2. Alternately, clever CEOs will shift the accounting of their IT departments towards Profit Centres.  CIOs will be forced to come up with innovative chargeback models and new services in order to compete beyond storage  for non-essential services.  The good will survive and the bad will move back to being small, in-house IT departments.

 

The Law of Mobility: The legal implications of BYOD 2

BYOD

The legal ramifications of moves towards corporate Bring-Your-Own-Device policies extend far beyond simple issues of IT security and the legal discovery issues of locally held commercial data.  The biggest challenge facing the commercial world is how far businesses will have to go in regulating the online life of an employee.

Most companies have a dusty old clause in their employee contracts which states that there is no privacy in the use of firm equipment.  Recent proposed legislative amendments in the US and cases in Canada (R. v. Cole, 2012 SCC 53) clearly show that the use of social media on corporate platforms is (a) increasingly permissible  and (b) restricted from company access.  More importantly, it highlights how corporate and personal data are being blended together in a socio-corporate online collage.

Previously, companies and government departments have been able to ignore personal cries for BYOD due to: (i)  enterprise security concerns, (ii) legal risks around e-Discovery (iii) a perception of limited utility in social media and (iv) cost pressures relating to IT support costs.  However, now:

BYOD,McKinsey.Graph

  1. Enterprise security is no longer an excuse.  Increases in corporate cloud-based applications and desktop virtualisation mean that limited data is stored or cached on local devices.  In addition, any security breaches can be isolated to a certain user profile.  In the end, Bradley Manning and Wikileaks highlight the fact that there is little that will stop a disgruntled employee if they are intent on data theft.  Heavily layered, holistic security is the only answer.
  2. Mobile connectivity and enterprise workflows reduce local data storage.  Previously, compliance requirements for eDiscovery have limited the ability to store data locally.  However, mobile coverage is now better and  costs have reduced for 3/4G  and wifi acess.  Coupled with cloud/virtual apps and the ability to sign-in/sign-out documents from company portals means that firms can reap the benefits of extended and flexible working along with greater Discovery compliance.
  3. The benefits of social media have extended the boundaries and time of the corporate workplace.  Corporate blogging has now, apparently, increased to 38% with two-thirds of companies having a social media presence (beyond the 50% level in 2009).  Social media not only provides additional channels for marketing but it also increases both external and internal customer/stakeholder engagement (and such engagement extends both beyond the doors and timeframes of the office).
  4. Multi-Device support does not require bigger IT departments.  In fact, support is far more user-friendly (e.g. Salesforce.com, MS 365 etc) and has not resulted in burgeoning IT departments.  Companies can specify what devices they do support and outsource platform support to infrastructure providers.

The fact of the matter is that companies and government departments must move to BYOD sooner rather than later.  In a recent article, Elizabeth Johnson of law firm Poyner Spruill LLP notes that in the US:

  • 87% of people confirm that they use personal devices at work.
  • 48% of companies state that they will not allow it.
  • 57% of the same companies acknowledge that employees do it anyway.
  • 72% check email on their personal devices.
  • 42% check email on personal devices even when sick.

In fact, many US college students claim that they would accept lower pay for the flexibility to use personal devices at work.  Whatever the case the creeping cloud of BYOD will take hold, if only due to the cost benefits of not having to pay for new devices enabled by better enterprise apps and improved enterprise security.

I would posit that much of blame for limited uptake can be laid on the fact that organisations are simply unwilling to deal with the additional layer of complexity.  BYOD lies at the nexus point of enterprise trust:  their data in your hands.  How far are companies willing to let go of their information in order to reduce costs and increase productivity?  Will the law protect commercial interests in data rather just IP? Or computer based personal records?  In the case of Phonedog v Kravitz the employers (Phonedog) set up the Twitter account “@PhoneDog_Noah”, which the employee used “to disseminate information and promote PhoneDog’s services.”  During his employment, Kravitz’s Twitter account attracted approximately 17,000 followers.  When he left he kept using it and gained another 10,000 followers.  Phonedog claimed that the account was theirs and sued for damages.  The court was satisfied that an economic interest was established and that harm was done.

In brief, the answer is that companies need to define the touchpoints where their data meets the social sphere.  If businesses are to reap the benefits of increased customer/stakeholder management through wider adoption of emerging social software platforms, enabled by BYOD then they need to deal with the added complexity at the nexus point of security, legal and information management.