Monday, 25 April 2011

Putting Social Media into ITSM Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about how some of us are using social media to build a wider ITSM community. In this post I was going to talk about the much more interesting issue of whether we can use social media as an ITSM tool in the real world. Before I go rushing of into blue sky thinking though it is worth thinking about the ITSM lessons we can learn from those organisations that are using social media well. And lets first poke fun at a few people who just haven't got the hang of it yet.

You Can't Bury Your Head Deep Enough in the Sand 
-or "In the Twitterverse everyone can hear your scream"

Whether your organisation has a social media strategy or not your people and your customers are out there using it to talk about your organisation. It could be someone complaining about their boss on Facebook It could be a dissatisfied customer complaining baout poor service. And it could be someone trying to tell you what makes you great.

I just did a search on Twitter for the first company I could think of. It happens to be a British high street retailer. Actually, since the comments were almost all positive I'll tell you it was W H Smiths.Now if I was in marketing with them there would would be a while load of conversations I could be opening up with people  to build on that good basic vibe.

@WHSmith_UK follows 18 people and has tweeted 6 times. The last was in December.
@WHSmithLtf follows no one and has never tweeted.

Do I need to tell you about @WHSmithPLC, or can you guess?

OK that is a company, not an IT department, but you get the point.

Just because you aren't part of the conversation doesn't mean people aren't talking about you.

Now just do a quick Twitter search for "IT Department" and see what the ratio of negative to positive comments.Better still, try this Twitter search:

helpdesk :(

Another classic comes to mind here. @Patb0512 was waiting int he queue for breakfast at the Bellagio and tweeted an "observation" about the length of the wait and the probable quality of the breakfast if he ever got to eat it. The original tweet was quite amusing, but it was funnier still to see the Bellagio had a robot hard at work re-tweeting any tweets containing the hotels name, whether positive or critical. Incidentally based on Pat's tweet I didn't even bother joining the queue.

A word of caution here. What to one middle aged manager might appear a foolish approach to social media might actually be a very savvy approach as far as the target audience is concerned.  For instance in the SDITS11 panel discussion someone joked how ludicrous it is that packets of Pampers diapers/nappies have a suggestion that you should follow @pampers. Yet why on earth is that ludicrous? Look at that Twitter account and you'll see a fair share of marketing messages, but you'll also see near real time interaction with customers, dealing with their real life problems. In fact what you see emerging is something @barclayrae described in that same panel session as "an authentic persona"

The Secret of Success is Sincerity - Once You Can Fake That You've Got it Made
 - Jean Giraudoux

Personally I believe Barclay is spot on with his observation of how important projecting an authentic persona is, and also in going on to say that in the multi-threaded world of social media authenticity becomes hard to fake.Those organisations that use social media well recognize that, but it is a warning to IT departments with our tendency to hide behind technology.

In Part 3 I will finally get around to addressing specific ideas for the use of social media for ITSM, but for now let me leave you with

Finisters' Rules of  Social Media.

  1. Listen to what users of social media are saying - but in conjunction with traditional means of marketing and communication
  2. Listening means reacting in a way that makes the customer feel they are being listened to. My personal pet hates are automated DMs* from Twitter accounts with thanking me for following them.
  3. Talking of DMs, consider when to respond privately and when to respond publicly
  4. Remember in social media land everything becomes public
  5. Despite what Meg Ryan told you, there are some things you can't fake
  6. Be aware of the difference between tweeting as a company and tweeting as an individual, but recognize that it is a soft boundary. Don't use a personal account to constantly promote your company, but don't hide the fact you have a commercial interest either.
  7. Use humor, but use it appropriately
  8. Remember the large part of your customer base that isn't currently using social media
  9. Use different tools for different jobs. What works on Facebook won't work on Twitter but...
  10. ...use different mediums in combination, so for instance use Twitter to promote a YouTube video

*DM - Direct Message - a tweet sent privately that only the recipient sees.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Putting Social Media into ITSM Part 1

One factor that led to the great success of the Pink Conference this year was the use made of social media, primarily Twitter to create a buzz before, during and after the event. The use of social media by an active sub set of the ITSM community has been growing rapidly over the last two years, so I guess it is time I wrote a little about it, especially since it managed to simultaneously  be a hot topic and a non-event at this weeks Service Desk and IT Support show in London, England. See you can tell I'm writing for an international audience these days.

It was a hot topic because there were several well attended sessions on the subject, but a non topic in that the use of social media in the show itself, and the nuts and bolts of how it could support ITSM were largely lacking.

But hold on, before I go any further I suppose I should do a sense check. One of the sessions at SDITs began with the chair saying:

"Everybody knows what Social media is..."

 Now I happen to think that is a massive presumption.

My mother has a Facebook account and uses it to keep tabs on what the family is doing, but no way on earth could she be described as understanding social media.You'll find me on there as well, and I guess I understand it reasonably well, but only within the bounds of what I use it for. Then there are  my children who interact via Facebook in ways that I don't get, and probably don't want to know about. Yet those same Facebook savvy youngsters genuinely do not get the way I use Twitter. Not only that, but there are other Twitter users who have a totally different take on what Twitter is about. Where I see it as a tool for multiway interaction and communication the vast majority of Twitter users actually make very few tweets themselves, but dumbly follow celebrities.

A few of us tried to get Google Wave. What does that brief experiment tell us about social media? I suspect there is a book waiting to be written about that, and I also suspect that ideas Wave introduced will reappear in some other guise.

What else comes under the catch all title of social media? Blogs like this one, webcasts and podcasts, even wikis can all be considered part of the rich and ever changing mix.

So how are we using social media in the ITSM world?

It is a strange aspect of social media that it can both expand and contract your world view. You can feel involved in a social drama taking place on the other side of the world whilst ignoring what is happening in your street. I say this because what follows is almost of necessity based on my personal experience which is shared with an active, but still proportionality small, part of the global ITSM community. It is also hopelessly opinionated - then such is the nature of much social media.

Let me dispose of Linkedin as quickly as possible. It has its uses, but the main use it seems to have is in the self promotion of instant ITIL experts, dispensing advice to those who haven't RTFM.

There are forums and blogs a plenty. Some are better than others. Some, such as the IT Skeptic, manage that tricky act of both representing one individual's view of the world with the ability to create and sustain valuable debate.

Interestingly many of those who are to be found commenting on Rob's site, and Rob himself are also on Twitter, but tend to interact in a different way. If you are an ITSM Twitter newbie a good way of quickly working out who to follow is to start with a few key people and then watch who they interact with. Some of them have lists which can kick start the process for you. Mine, I have to confess, are a little out of date because these days I use streams within hootsuite to keep track of the different kinds of people I follow. Try searching for hashtags like #ITIL #ITSM and of course #ITSMWP and  #ITSMWPROW


No article on ITSM and social media would be complete without a reference to Chris Dancy . As well as being an extremely active tweeter Chris also gave the world the IT Service Management Weekly Podcast. Now as far as I know there is nothing else out there quite like it, except for the various regional spin offs. In a relatively short time these podcasts have established an amazingly high regular audience

Right, that hopefully has set the scene. In Part 2 I'll look at some ideas on how we can leverage social media and in Part 3 at how to deliver actual ITSM solutions.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Service Desk and IT Support Show

Just like buses, you wait for ages for one of my blog posts and then they all come together.

A quick reminder for those in the UK that next week is the Service Desk and IT Support Show in Earls Court.

I won't be speaking, in fact it is one of the shows I've never been invited to speak at*, hint hint, but I will be there for both days and we will be recording a special edition of the ITSMWPROW podcast live from the VIP lounge. So come along and join us if you can.

This year's programme of speakers looks particularly interesting.

*Following my comment to the organizer on a yet to be broadcast podcast that "the best thing about it is it is convenient for Infosec next door" it might be some time before I get an invite to speak.

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scot walk into a bar.... it isn't the start of a joke, but a scene in the Bellagio at the start of the Pink11 conference in Las Vegas earlier this year. The Irishman was Patrick Bolger and the Scot was Barclay Rae , two of my fellow presenters on the ITSM Weekly Podcast Rest of the World Edition. The Englishman was obviously me, there to present on ISO 38500 and take part in the CMDB panel discussion chaired by Rob "ITSkeptic" England.

Pinky goes to Vegas

Running into two such  great enthusiastic and  ITSM thinkers right at the start really set the tone for the whole event, even if I could have met them much more cheaply without leaving the UK. In fact in the next hour we were joined by a plethora of ITSM gurus. Those of you who have listened to our post Pink11 podcasts will have realised that Pat, Barclay and I came back buzzing with ideas, and again I want to spotlight some of these over the next few weeks.(Update - those ideas have morphed into the Back2ITSM concept)


OK, by now you will have gone away and checked the link to the conference and worked out that it took place way way back in February. So you'll have two questions.

Number 1 - When is the next Pink Conference?

Number 2 - Why has he only just got round to blogging about this?

Well there are two answers to that. The first is that I've been rather busy with the day job, and the second is that I've wanted to reflect a little before drawing conclusions.

Social Media 
Not only was this a hot conference topic but it also made a huge difference to the conference experience. A lot of facetime conversations were continuations of Twitter based debates. Not only that but in the main sessions there were live Twitter feeds following the #pink11 hash tag, and that hash tag generated a lot of interest. There was also a lot of activity in the blogsphere - Barclay Rae and Matt Hooper both got very excited.

Recording the podcast. Oh the glamour of it all

Here are some of my own initial thoughts, largely focusing on the difference between this event and similar conferences in the EMEA  region.

Back to Basics
I'm going to make a gross generalisation here. At UK ITSM conferences the presumption is we all know what the foundations of ITSM are so we don't bother questioning them, and the result is our thinking about the subject hasn't moved forward for years. At Pink there was an awareness that those foundations aren't as robust as we'd imagined. Some very fundamental issues, such as "What is a service?" and "Do you need a CMDB?" and "Do you really understand problem management?" were addressed. If you think they are trivial questions with answers enshrined in ITIl then I would suggest you probably don't understand the questions. Suffice to say at least one hastily conceived  CMDB project was publicly abandoned following the debate on their value.

Ceiling in the Bellagio's reception 

Not Being Scared to Ask for Help
This kind of leads on from my last point. At UK conferences speakers stand up and tell you what a great job they've done and that they've got all the answers. If you've read my ramblings on "The Halo Effect"  and "Cargo Cults" you'll know my view of that approach. Here there was much more of a dialogue going on between the speaker and the floor, and more discussion between delegates.

Perhaps the extreme example is the overwhelming response Pink and Hornbill have had to their ITSM Extreme Makeover initiative.

Personal Highlights

  • Meeting so many ITSM gurus face to face, too many to mention them all
  • Sitting on such a distinguished panel to discuss CMDB
  • Listening to Captain Mike Abrashoff talk about leadership
Who says Vegas is fake?

If you've never been before I really really recommend that you make the trip to next year's show.