COVID-19 ushered in new ways of working, and Marian den Ouden says it’s time to leave a few old ones behind.
One of the fundamentals of skills training is the need for a compelling event to drive adoption. When it comes to IT adoption, there has been no more compelling event than the COVID-19 pandemic. Corporate plans to adopt Microsoft Teams or similar over a one-to-two year period were delivered in weeks.
The pandemic also changed staff expectations and the service they expected from their employers. Let’s examine a new set of fundamental requirements for service management in the post-pandemic era.
1. Standardise your tools
Working from home (WFH) turned from a nice-to-have workplace benefit to the de facto way of working almost overnight. Service organisations that were not able to support WFH when COVID-19 hit were forced to improvise and get collaboration solutions up and running as quickly as possible.
Last year proved that WFH works, so when the pandemic is no longer a threat, many office workers will want to return to the office only on a part-time basis.
The new norm is supporting a WFH workforce that is remote for a significant chunk of the working week. Temporary solutions that are ‘good enough for now’ need to be replaced by more durable solutions that make WFH just as pleasant and effective as working at the office.
Consider this example: what app do your employees use for video calls? They likely use MS Teams, Slack, Zoom or even Google Hangouts. They may even use all four in a single day. As such, if you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to standardise and properly facilitate your tooling. Otherwise, cross-functional collaboration will be chaos.
2. Employee experience and enterprise service management go hand in hand
A pre-COVID-19 study by the Employee Experience (EX) Leaders Network in the US found that “EX has exploded from its first appearance in 50 or so companies in 2017 to finding a place today in most Global Fortune 500 organisations, and a significant number of smaller companies as well.”
WFH has an enormous impact on EX. All organisations are therefore facing the same problem: facilitating excellent EX while everyone’s WFH. The traditional pain points around employee support will no longer be tolerated.
So, what’s the solution? An increasing number of service departments have realised that cross-departmental collaboration could be the answer. Collaboration between service departments, such IT, FM and HR starts with small practical agreements on how to handle requests to setting up a shared service desk that serves as the first point of contact for the entire organisation.
From an EX standpoint, it’s time for service departments to finally work together to give employees and customers the service they have always wanted.
3. Putting people and their well-being first
Until the beginning of 2020, the drivers behind taking care of employees were motivation, productivity and providing more value for your organisation.
COVID-19 has changed that dynamic, possibly forever. Working in this new environment is stressful. We need to take care of people, their health, and their well-being. We’re no longer talking about ‘How do I get my staff’s job satisfaction from OK to great?’. Instead, we’re talking about ‘How do I prevent anxiety, stress, or burnout among my staff?’
In addition, standardising your IT tools, as recommended above, is one less headache for your IT support staff and your workforce, many of whom will welcome the clarity around the specific tools they should be using from now on.
4. Agility as a must (but not everyone calls it ‘agile’)
Most organisations were forced to change their ways of working drastically due to COVID-19. Organisations that already embraced agile principles had the advantage of adapting quicker to the pandemic and having everyone suddenly working from home. But the pandemic had another interesting side effect: it has lowered our collective tolerance for slow, overly bureaucratic processes that mean well but in this new world are no longer fit for purpose.
COVID-19 has shown that when we need to, we can completely change our way of working in weeks. It was not all perfect, and some parts of our WFH experience still need improvement. But it is working. Some of your organisations will likely ask the question: ‘can’t we do this quicker?’ And you can, with a collective will. Whether or not you decide to brand it ‘agile’, however, is up to you.
5. Hyper automation or the end of AI for AI’s sake
AI has arguably been the hottest boardroom topic of the last few years. But the brutal reality is that the potential impact and practical application for service organisations are still somewhat limited. Automation, on the other hand, does not have so much hype, nor is it exciting. But it has always been instrumental when it comes to service management. The idea of automating simple, repetitive tasks – and leaving your staff to focus their energy on more complex work — is highly attractive.
Service organisations will stop asking their tool vendors, ‘Do you offer AI functionality?’ and will instead start asking, ‘Which tasks could you automate for us?’ Whether AI is used for automation should not matter in the slightest. From now on, more organisations will start implementing AI technologies instead of just reading up on its long-term potential.
Marian den Ouden is the AU/NZ general manager for TOPdesk.