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How ITSM and automation can ensure a highly productive remote workforce

(Image credit: Shutterstock / LStockStudio)

Remote working isn’t as simple as allowing employees to pick up their laptops and decamp to their homes, and this is often something that isn’t considered until remote working is necessitated.

The Covid-19 crisis has put massive pressure on businesses and caused a drastic shift in the way they work almost overnight. Some problems are easy to counter when it comes to working from home (WFH). For example, employees need to have access to the right hardware and devices, a well-designed working environment, good broadband speed and the ability to securely and reliably connect to their company’s network in order to access the documents and applications they need to do their jobs.

We may now be over the first hurdle, with employees now WFH effectively, however nobody knows what the next phase of lockdown will bring, or how long it will last. Despite this uncertainty, businesses must do all they can to keep their remote workforce productive and efficient for as long as they’re away from their desks.

The trouble with remote working

Employees will always have IT support requirements, which whilst office based can easily be met. However, when an entire workforce is home-based (often including the IT team), additional challenges can arise. This can cause normal IT support processes to become stretched, ineffective and unable to meet everyone’s needs as they battle to cope with both routine and unpredictable requests.

To meet these demands, service desk analysts will need to rely on their IT service management (ITSM) platform more than ever. By employing the additional assistance of automation and ensuring their best practices and support strategy are up to scratch, staff can effectively manage their workload and keep users happy while this uncertainty prevails.

Coping with the unexpected

Automation can provide a welcome helping hand during times of high pressure for IT service desk teams. When this innovative technology is combined with a seamless ITSM solution, service requests can be resolved quickly and accurately, often before they reach the desks of analysts.

The effectiveness of remote IT support can be maximised with an intuitive knowledge management system. This can prompt users to self-serve by feeding them suggestions when they are raising a ticket, so they can diagnose and resolve their issue without the ticket even being logged, ensuring that problems with simple fixes don’t clog the ticket queue. This is an ideal solution for certain requests (such as password resets), as users can be driven through a set of steps to follow that will allow them to resolve it autonomously by taking a standard password reset workflow and applying automation.

Adopting a ‘shift left’ approach – by bringing a resolution much closer to the end-user and empowering them to self-serve with automated technology – will reduce the need for incident escalation and take some of the workload away from IT staff. This will maintain user satisfaction, and therefore productivity, and reduce the time and resources spent on incident resolution.

Enabling self-service is especially important during the current circumstances as not only are employees away from the office, which makes communication more difficult, but many will have family commitments (such as children or elderly relatives to look after) that require them to work outside of normal office hours. Implementing solutions that allow for 24/7 access to IT support is crucial. In light of this, it’s also important to consider other ways for employees to access this support, such as with automated voice solutions. Automated telephony systems can enable users to submit, access and update their tickets over the phone at any time, even if remote internet connectivity is difficult. It also enhances the work of IT staff by helping them deal with incoming calls without increasing wait times or abandon rates.

Upholding best practices

Employing automated solutions is a great way to help both employees and service desk staff during times of high pressure, but IT teams still can’t afford to let ITSM best practices slip. Treating users as if they’re customers by striving to resolve issues quickly and keep them up to date is key here. This can be facilitated by ensuring announcements, such as system failures or services that are unavailable, are relayed to users as soon as possible to keep them informed.

It has also never been more important to keep a thorough and up-to-date service catalogue available as the service desk team has moved to work remotely as well as users, and so some of the services it provides may have changed. Ideally the service catalogue would be the same as when in the office, but where this isn’t possible it should always be clear to the user what they are able to request and how. Making this available for mobile devices is also important so users can access it easily anywhere, any time.

Taking a proactive approach and ensuring that IT support services are seamless before productivity takes a hit has never been more important than now, as both businesses and their workforces face unforeseen challenges. Implementing automation, self-service and ensuring ITSM best practices are abided by will maximise user productivity and take away some of the day-to-day pressure faced by IT support staff. This will allow them to better manage extraneous issues that might arise in these trying times.

David Shepherd is Area VP, Pre-Sales at Ivanti