Why Has “Shift Left” Failed in ITSM – And Can IT Reverse That Trend?

By Pat Calhoun • March 27, 2018

“Shift left” in ITSM refers to moving the activity of providing resolution support as close to the front line and the employee as possible. The concept is simple. By moving resolution delivery to the front line, less expensive resources are used, and support activity is simplified. The desired result? Employees are happier as they get instant resolution and support costs are reduced.
The traditional way to help employees help themselves has been through self-service portals. Rather than having employees send emails or call a support desk, they are offered web-based support through a searchable knowledge base. The hope has been that emails and phone calls would slow down as employees realized they could quickly and easily find answers to their questions.

A Great Concept, Right? How Did It Do?

The figure below shows that there is a consistent pattern of adoption experienced by most organizations regarding self-service portals.

Quick takeaways from this chart include:

  • Initial adoption is strong at over 20%, but it declines steadily with adoption normalizing around 10-15% (consistent with ITSM Tools’ findings)
  • Adoption spikes are observed as a result of IT marketing a re-skin of the portal or new knowledge articles to support the launch of a new application, but these spikes are lower and the decline is greater within the first month
  • The most disappointing statistic is that knowledgebase searches never break 3% of the overall ticket volume

With relaunches, enterprises often spend considerable time and money rebranding it to have a friendlier interface, but the user experience continues to fall short of expectations. The issue is not the look of the portal – it is the overall experience. Employees want immediate answers to their questions or issues. When that doesn’t happen, they quickly revert back to old behavior.
Some of the most common reasons why employees give up on self-service portals include:

  • They are forced to read a number of articles to find answers
  • The articles are outdated and/or too complex to consume
  • They forget the URL from infrequent use
  • They are asked questions that expose the process of IT that they can’t answer

How Can AI Help?

Self-service portals have left employees frustrated. They would prefer to send email or call the help desk versus reading countless articles that do not solve their problems. Can IT turn that around? Yes – if the original issue is solved. Employees just want answers. They want them as easily and painlessly as they can receive them. They want someone else to do the research, so they can get back to their jobs.
Gartner named the initial phase of AI in ITSM the “chatbot.” A chatbot is a natural language processing (NLP) based virtual agent that responds to questions. Most chatbots are accessible via collaboration tools (e.g., Slack), and act as a search front end to knowledge-based articles. These chatbots typically ask contextual questions to reduce the number of knowledge base articles presented. While noble, it still relies on an approach that your employees have “voted” against – retrieving articles. Therefore, an investment in a chatbot based tool is likely to lead to similar results as self-service portals.
The next evolution of AI in the ITSM space was coined by Gartner as the “Virtual Support Agent” (VSA). A VSA behaves drastically differently from a chatbot in that it interacts with employees, providing them with specific answers based on their questions. And, if the VSA doesn’t know the answer, the VSA will do the research instead of asking the employee to do it. That experience is similar to what employees have come to expect in our consumer lives. When they experience it at work, they know exactly what to do and adoption rates start moving in the right direction!

Barista – the Espressive Virtual Support Agent

Our mission at Espressive is to build the best VSA in the industry so that ITSM can “shift left.” Barista, our VSA, is changing how employees experience IT self-service. Because Barista delivers on their consumer expectations and just solves employees’ problems, our customers are seeing high employee adoption rates. But what really moves the needle for them is they are experiencing call deflection rates between 30 to 50%. In other words, they are shifting left. We would love to introduce you to Barista to help cut your IT costs while you win over your employees. Click here to arrange a demo today.

Redefine How Your Employees Get Help

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