When IT gets in the way of doing your job where do you go for help? The service desk? Someone in IT operations? Google? Phone a friend? Big problems such as an application outages or the most common password issues are typically covered. These are certainly an inconvenience but they either get the right level of attention or are easily to fix.
But what about poor performance when getting mail on your phone at the airport, getting access to a printer, or an inability to connect to wi-fi in a company facility? These situations can be temporary but have no obvious path of remediation and they can totally ruin your day. It’s the small stuff that is the hardest to deal with. Most corporate IT organizations are ill-prepared to deal with this level of end user interaction and the end user is hesitant to send an email into the help desk or spend 30 minutes queuing to talk to someone for what is considered a trivial low priority problem.
In the world of private IT use there is no central help desk or an IT department however people have learned to deal with issues. The option to send a complaint or send a problem description to someone believed to be at blame is always available, with mixed results, some solving the issue, some not and some ignored. Then there is search. Someone, somewhere must have had a similar problem. This approach works even though it may not provide the exact answer it will at least send you to interest groups with any number of smart people willing to provide guidance. For a large number of reasons (e.g. company regulations) this type of activity is not something a business would readily adopt internally.
Managing issues through crowd sourcing.
Applications have been available for years which allow people to comment on services, products, restaurants, etc. Recently this capability has taken a real-time aspect where guidance can be provided through experience and observation. An example of this is the ‘human’ GPS, Waze (http://www.waze.com). For the few people on the planet who have not heard of this application it allows drivers to share information on their mobile devices in real-time on traffic conditions (jams, police speed traps, accidents etc). This provides road condition awareness and allows the application to find you alternative routes.
Now, imagine using a version of this in business for IT. Going back to an example I gave at the beginning; you are at the airport trying to get email on your phone and it’s not going well. This can make you feel a bit of a victim and make you think – Is this problem something temporary? Is it just me? Have I done something stupid? Has someone else? However, what if you had an application that showed you your applications status, allowed you to see if anyone else is having similar issues, allowing you to immediately know if its a general email problem, a location problem or a device problem and if there are any workarounds. It would also allow you to see if the problem has been reported, report it yourself, add yourself to the problem list and track the problem. For the user it provides awareness and possible fixes. For the IT support organization it provides the ability to understand who is being affected, where they are and what they are using. With so many applications being sourced outside the datacenter, the avalanche of mobile devices used for business and people constantly moving around while still trying to remain working the only way to help the end user help themselves is through crowd-sourcing applications augmenting the businesses IT operations management tools.
Power to the people.