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.

The Efficiency vs. Effectiveness – customer focus is the key | LinkedIn Reply

The Efficiency vs. Effectiveness Debate Continues | LinkedIn.

efficiency versus effectiveness. targetEfficiency is a key enabler of effectiveness.  Effectiveness goes towards value whereas efficiency goes towards cost.  Ask the question:  “if the enterprise was less efficient would it still be effective?’  The answer will give you an idea of just how important effectiveness is to the enterprise (i.e. government or corporate).

Efficiency is more critical depending on how far removed the task/issue is from the customer.  The customer does not care one jot how efficient your processes are.  The customer has not the slightest concern whether your systems are efficient.  Whether a corporate customer or recipient of government services, they want effectiveness.  Whether they will pay a premium for that will determine the price.

For back-office functions, however, efficiency is critical.  In the treasury-2-cash process the result should always be the same.  In procure-2-pay the result should always be the same.  Effectiveness is not an issue:  it must be effective and therefore efficiency is critical.

In a recent project with the good folk at Glentworth the team looked at Disaster Management and concluded that the key failing of disaster management was not the efficiency of the Emergency Services but rather the effectiveness of the function across the entire value chain.  Efficiency was the critical attribute of emergency response but that effectiveness was the missing ingredient in the current approach to Disaster Management.  In the 2010 floods in Queensland, the Interim Report by the Floods Commission Inquiry made (inadvertently) a good distinction between effectiveness and efficiency.  To paraphrase the Commission, they noted:

‘. . . of the 37 people who died, 22 of them would still be dead even if the Emergency Services had been as efficient as possible.’

VALUE CHAIN ANALYSIS

Efficiency is critical but as the above quote demonstrates it must work in tandem to deliver what Peter Drucker noted was the real purpose – Value.  Efficiency should be pursued where business units can be structured as modular units and deliver repeatable processes which are removed from the customer.  In customer facing activity it is vital, however, to ensure that effectiveness is the key.

ORGANISE INFORMATION FUNCTIONALLY NOT STRUCTURALLY

In order to achieve this businesses and government services need to manage activities right across their Value Chains (and possibly across their extended value nets as well).  Much like Disaster Management, it is good for businesses to achieve operational efficiency but fairly pointless if the product or service is ineffectively delivered or ineffective in the hands of the customer.   The structure of government highlights this point.  Government departments, like most businesses, act structurally not functionally.  Teams and departments are forced into ineffective outcomes through rigid structures which enforce inefficient workflows.

In days of yore this has not mattered but with the ubiquity of smart devices and with easier access to a more competitive array of services the need for a greater focus on effectiveness is becoming more apparent.  Recent articles on the move to a customer-centric focus highlights this.  In order to achieve the best possible blend of effectiveness and efficiency governments and businesses need to manage customer interactions functionally to achieve the best possible outcomes.  Both types of enterprise should structure their delivery business units modularly and manage workflows using experienced caseworkers.  This does not mean that work should be managed on a costly case-by-case basis but rather by exception.  

There should be no debate between effectiveness and efficiency.  Both are critical but to paraphrase Drucker it is only with the right blend that enterprises can achieve value.