Using ‘Social Teamwork’ in client lifecycle management

In the IT sector, the traditional set-up means that the central IT team spend a lot of time doing routine tasks such as reinstalling computers, servers or software if errors occur. The requirements in this area are becoming more and more complex. Computers are increasingly diverging from the standard enterprise configuration. This is often because they are equipped with specialised software for managing peripherals such as equipment for use in industrial production or in hospitals. Language barriers and cultural criteria must also be considered, especially when it comes to international companies.

All too often, the user of the computer has to be consulted to agree a suitable time for the maintenance to be carried out. Last but not least, it is often impossible to know who to contact about the computer in question and to know which framework conditions apply. Who is allowed to decide whether the computer or a software component can be reinstalled? Who is on the night shift and will be able to react if there is an error at two in the morning? Who will be able to carry out maintenance on connected peripherals – such as a manufacturing robot or a device for administering painkillers – and then put them into operation again?

This problem cannot be solved using traditional strategies

Many client management projects attempt to solve this problem by means of maintenance windows, by delegating tasks using the role model in their client management tool, by using service desk tools to undertake integration projects or by developing their own solutions. In principle, however, these approaches merely modify the symptoms without offering a solution. The route that is often taken is to integrate the client management tool into the service desk tool or to develop bespoke tools. All of these strategies are based on the assumption that permissions are to be defined and allocated centrally.

This central team of delegators is not usually in the position to be able to decide who should be given delegated permissions. Do you think the central IT team at your company would know which trainee at a factory on another continent would have the technical capabilities to support the IT management processes? Would the central IT team at a hospital with 2,000 beds know that Martha, a nurse at station 15, would definitely not want the daily update to take place at midday? Would anyone who works in the central IT team want to give permissions to somebody that they have never seen or spoken to on the phone?

Turning IT users into administrators

How about a new approach? Why not give the people who are based at these locations the opportunity to undertake system administration themselves? It is in the interest of those members of staff who manage these critical systems that the right tasks are carried out at the right time. The only question is how to identify these people in order to give them the correct permissions. Let us ask the question in a different way: If I worked in the central IT team, who would I trust? As a rule, it would be those people that I personally know. Perhaps they would be my colleagues from the service desk, from the server administration team and maybe one or two IT colleagues that are based at my location. It is personal contacts just like these that form the beginning of a chain of trust.

IT = responsibility management

This idea can be further developed as required and over time it will result in a network of relationships. This network forms a new kind of IT management, focussing less on the concept of ‘tasks’ and more on the idea of ‘responsibilities’. All of a sudden, managing computers is no longer a purely technical challenge. It becomes something that is significantly shaped and driven by social components. In modern IT management, a lot of importance is placed on focussing more on system users.

The right tool

Companies need a tool that can rearrange the way permissions are granted to cater for these kinds of scenarios. The administrator of the client management tool would now only give permissions to a few people and would ensure that IT management gains a momentum of its own. Suddenly, instead of it being the task of the central IT team, it will be the employee responsible for IT at each location who will logically arrange computers into groups and consider which colleagues may be able to help manage these computers.

Suddenly it is the senior medical consultant who assigns the IT-savvy nurse with the permissions for controlling the computers during the night shift. And all of a sudden the central IT team no longer has to respond if Adobe Reader is not cooperating with SAP on the CFO’s laptop because there is assistant at hand who can solve the problem with a few clicks. When you are choosing a client management tool, be sure to check that it will support this kind of approach. Equip your users with the tools that they need to be their own administrators and do their jobs well. Armed with a cup of coffee and the intranet or PowerPoint, make use of the time you have saved to make your colleagues aware of these opportunities.

James Johnson, UK Country Manager, Matrix42

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Vladimir Gjorgiev