Apple prides itself on the user experience. They’ve built a technology empire based partly on functionality, but also on empowering the person in control of the device. This week at Jamf Nation User Conference, Apple users, admins, and IT leaders from organizations all over the world gathered to discuss IT support, system administration, automation, device integration, and a number of other relevant topics in the Jamf community, but most of the conversation eventually circled back to one thing — how do all of these things impact employees?
Yesterday, I participated in a panel on automation. We had a great diversity of backgrounds in systems engineering, software development, and even a 20 year veteran of Apple product automation. Obviously, my perspective comes from a service management solution, and many of the questions directed at me were about workflows, processes, and building integrations. Since my job is to help organizations implement these things, I was happy to discuss. But as all of us shared as much as we could in our fields of experience, we found that the discussion always returned to the pain points of the people in an organization, and value delivered to those employees through the ways we all try to automate.
Minding the User Experience
Emily Kausalik-Whittle, a Mac Systems Engineer at Home Depot, described automation as a piece of marble — complex on the inside but smooth on the surface. It’s easy to look at and practical to anyone who sees only the finished product. Sal Soghoian, a long time Apple automations guru, preached that you could build the most powerful Apple devices that users have ever seen, but if the user can’t harness it, it’s useless to them. Part of maximizing technology is creating shortcuts that people can actually find and use.
As for the service desk, yes, we spend much of our time building these meticulous backend workflows, language, roles, and customized routing and priority rules, but it’s important to remember that the reason we do all of these things is to make life easier on the employees in the organization. If they don’t experience the benefits of the automated processes we build, there’s no value to the organization. We’ve wasted our time.
The real value of the backend automations shines through for employees in the amount of time it takes to resolve their tickets and deliver their requests, the visibility you create for updates and statuses, and the ways you collect their feedback. These are tangible benefits to your users.
In addition to these automated delivery processes on the backend, it’s important to remember that there are also things you can do, as service providers, to create frontend automations at the average employee’s fingertips — the most basic of which is how they submit a request or find a solution. At Samanage, we’ve built AI-powered suggestions to connect them with digestible forms for requests, and also connect them to knowledge base articles to self-serve. But it’s not enough just to create the forms and the articles; we need to actually connect them with these resources. We suggest them through the search bar in the service portal, and also in the ticket itself as they type their descriptions.
This is the essence of automating processes: diagnose the pain point. Anticipate the user’s actions. Meet them there with a solution. You know where they’ll go when they have an issue, and you’re there to meet them with anything that could possibly help them solve that issue more efficiently.
How Can Automation Help You Improve?
There are nearly infinite ways to automate, and many of them came up in different forms during our time at Jamf.
I met developers writing their own automations for internal processes. I met systems managers who want to avoid the same data input in multiple places. Of course, workflows also came up repeatedly throughout the week. The most important thing to remember, as Sal repeated throughout the panel, is to identify the source of pain, and design the automation with that in mind.
At our Samanage booth, the most important question we can ask our visitors is what people are struggling with-in their organizations. It helps us give them some ideas on how to address those pain points. Based on our discussions, I think these types of automations can help a large number of organizations in a variety of environments.
Integrations – Many organizations integrate their service desks with single sign-on and provisioning solutions. Others use API calls back-and-forth with other applications that share user data. Some even create tasks throughout the various tools the organization uses (even outside of IT) to make it easier for service providers to deliver a streamlined service experience. One of the biggest advantages you can create as an organization is the ability for employees at either end of the service delivery to complete only one task or enter only one set of data, and automate it throughout the rest of the places they’ll need it.
Solve repetitive tickets – A number of guests at the Samanage booth wanted to see examples for tickets about devices. We added a custom field that the user will see when they enter a laptop ticket that simply says, “did you restart?” It resonates with almost everyone who works in IT. The point is, these repetitive tickets occupy a ton of time for many service desks. If you can suggest solutions directly to the user, or at least find out if they’ve tried some simple troubleshooting techniques, it can help provide an easy solution automatically.
Automate workflows – Where do tickets go when employees create them? How do you audit and escalate (when necessary) our service delivery processes? Many of the ways that you can automate begin with data collection from the requester. When you give them a user-friendly portal with a set of simple request forms, you can drive automated service delivery on the backend through that data you collect up front. Whether it’s routing tickets by category and keyword, or building an automated process behind a service catalog item, this will help you build super efficient workflows, ultimately driving a better user experience.
The bottom line with all of this is that our organizations all rely on employees who feel like they have the resources to do their jobs well. One of the ways we can provide that experience is by giving them easy ways to find what they need through automation and efficient service delivery for all of their issues. This week was a great reminder of all of the people working to build technology to meet those goals.